Thursday, December 18, 2008

Final Product: Thumbprint Cookies

I got 25 cookies from the recipe. They are like jewels. See previous post for recipe.

Evelyn Cera's Thumbprint Cookies Recipe

I made these this morning...I chopped up the walnuts in the food processor attachment that my blender has. Worked like a charm.
See the bowl of nuts, the bowl with the egg white?
I made 25 balls from this recipe and laid them on a cookie sheet. Then I took each one and dipped it in the beaten egg white and then rolled them in the nuts. It is kind of tricky to do this without getting lots of egg white and nuts sticking to your fingers. Half way through, you have to take abreak and wash your hands and start over. Then you press your thum into the middle of each unbaked cookie.

Evelyn Cera's Thumbprint Cookies
(Do read recipe thoroughly first)

1/2 cup butter, softened at room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg, separated
1/2 teasp. vanilla
1 cup flour
1/4 teasp. salt (optional..usually there is enough salt in the butter)
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

350 degree oven

Cream butter and sugar together. Add egg yolk and vanilla. Add dry ingredients. Roll into balls (teaspoon size). Beat egg white until frothy in small bowl. Dip ball in egg white, roll in nuts. Place cookie balls 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Press thumb gently into middle of each cookie before baking. Bake 10-12 min. or until set. Cool, fill with jam (use the tip of a teaspoon to spoon your jam into indentation) or candied cherries. (sometimes, you have to make the indentation with your thumb a little deeper after they are out of oven...because they puff up a bit and lose their indentatation somewhat.) Joan likes to use 2 kinds of jam: Strawberry jam (red for christmas)...and apricot pineapple jam (Makes cookies look like golden jewels) These cookies, with 2 dif colored centers look so good on a plate. If you use candied cherries, just one or one half in the center of the cookie is fine. The nuts on the outside and fruit-y center give good contrast to the tender melt in your mouth body of the cookie. Joan's all time favorite Christmas cookie.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What I Did While I Was Snowed In

I promised Larissa I would experiment and make tamales to see if I could maybe make them for our Xmas Eve dinner. Our tradition the last few years has been to have tamales on Xmas Eve. I lately found out that the traditional tamales that we buy every year from the Mexican restaurants, have 1 and 1/2 cups lard per 5 cups of masa. I went on the Internet and found a recipe that substitutes ricotta cheese
and a bit of canola oil for the lard.
This was my first time ever making tamales. I made vegetarian tamales
with a filling of black bean, butternut squash and goat cheese. I also made some with shredded turkey meat and diced green chilis. They needed to be steamed one hour. Our house smelled so good.

What I learned:
Make your ties twice as long (by tying 2 together with a square not)
and ahead of time so you can easily wrap and tie each tamale.

Soak more than enough corn husks to make sure you have enough good ones...some rip in the middle as you handle them, some are too small.

Take a break now and then from the busywork or you will get tense back muscles.

Making tamales is not for whimps!
Here is the recipe I used:
Squash, Black Bean & Goat Cheese Tamales
Makes 16 tamales
4 ounces dried cornhusks (see Note)

1 ¾ cups masa (see Note)
1 ¼ cups hot water
1 ½ cups part-skim ricotta cheese
¼ cup canola oil
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups quick-cooking grits or cornmeal
½-¾ cup vegetable broth or reduced-sodium chicken broth

20 ounces frozen winter squash, thawed (about 2 cups; see Tip)
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed
1 4-ounce can chopped green chiles, drained
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ cup crumbled goat cheese

Squash, Black Bean & Goat Cheese Tamales Instructions

1. To prepare wrappers: Place cornhusks in a large bowl, cover with hot water and weight with a heavy plate or pan to completely submerge them. Let soak for 30 minutes.

2. To prepare batter: Put masa and 1 1/4 cups hot water in a large bowl; stir with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. Beat ricotta, oil, baking powder and salt in another large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed for 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add grits (or cornmeal) and mix until combined. Add the ricotta mixture to the masa mixture and stir until smooth. Stir in broth 1/4 cup at a time until the batter is very moist and spreadable, but not runny.

3. To prepare filling: Place squash puree in a fine-mesh sieve and gently press on it to extract excess liquid. Transfer to a medium bowl and add beans, chiles and salt; stir until combined.

4. To assemble tamales: Drain the cornhusks and pat dry. Sort through and pick out 16 large, unblemished husks to use as wrappers. Cut about 2 dozen thin, long strips from the remaining husks to use as ties (or use kitchen string instead). Cover the husks and ties with a damp towel to keep moist.

5. Working on a clean surface, unfold one of the large cornhusks so its completely flat. Spread 1/3 cup of the batter in the center of the husk in a 4-inch square, leaving a wide border at the top and the bottom. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the filling in a thin strip down the length of the batter. Top the filling with 1 rounded teaspoon goat cheese.

6. Bring the two long sides of the cornhusk together, causing the batter to completely surround the fillingbut dont fold the sides over the tamale yet. Fold the cornhusk ends in, then fold the sides around the tamale. If a cornhusk splits while youre folding the tamale, just wrap a second husk right over the first and finish rolling. Tie the tamale closed using a thin strip of cornhusk. Repeat with remaining ingredients to make 15 more tamales. (You may have a little batter and/or filling left over.)

7. To steam tamales: Fill a large Dutch oven with 1 inch of water. Place a steamer basket in the pot and loosely place the tamales upright in the basket. Cover and steam over medium heat for 1 hour. Check the water level periodically and add more boiling water if necessary. The tamales are done when the batter is firm and easily pulls away from the wrapper.

Squash, Black Bean & Goat Cheese Tamales Tips
The batter (Step 2) and filling (Step 3) will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Steamed tamales will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Reheat tamales in a steamer or in the microwave on Medium power.

Notes: Cornhusks are traditionally used as tamale wrappers. They are sold dried and need to be reconstituted in water to make them pliable enough for tamales.

Masa is ground dried corn treated with lime, sometimes called masa harina or instant masa mix; it is used for making tamales and tortillas. Masa can be found near the cornmeal or flour and dried cornhusks in the produce department of most well-stocked supermarkets or Mexican grocers; both can be found on

Tip: To make your own squash puree, halve and seed one medium acorn or butternut squash. Place, cut-side down, on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 375°F oven until soft, about 50 minutes. Cool, then scrape out the flesh with a fork. Or simply use frozen (thawed) or canned squash puree. Find frozen squash puree near other vegetables in the freezer section and canned squash near the canned pumpkin.

Squash, Black Bean & Goat Cheese Tamales Nutrition Information
Per tamale: 232 calories; 7 g fat (3 g sat, 3 g mono); 10 mg cholesterol; 35 g carbohydrate; 8 g protein; 4 g fiber; 612 mg sodium; 130 mg potassium.
Nutrition bonus: Vitamin A (25% daily value), Calcium (15% dv).
2 Carbohydrate Servings
Exchanges: 1 medium-fat meat, 1 fat

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Dedicated to Molly 4

The Art of De-Boning.

See the wishbone on the edge of the platter? It takes a few days to really dry it out, if you want 2 kids to make a wish on it.

Since I was doing this turkey so I would have lots of sliced and chunked turkey in the freezer for future meals of urkey sandwiches,turkey burritoes, turkey curry, turkey tetrazini, etc. I had quite a bit of turkey to take off the bones. After your feast on Thanksgiving Day, you are sure to have some leftovers. Sit down, relax and get your crockpot out! Take the meat off the bones and place this meat in storage containers to put in the fridge..Put all the skin, and bones and weird looking pieces of stuff...put it all into the crockpot. Add chopped carrots, celery, onion and a few cloves a garlic and a half a bunch of parsley or more and put water in to almost cover everything. Plug in crockpot and put on a few hours, your mouth will be watering in anticipation of some wonderful broth. After 4 or 5 hours, I strained all the stuff in the crockpot by ppouring it through my colander into a big kettle. After it cooled a little, I put it in big contaer in fridge. Next day, I skim off the fat and make muyself a hot bowl of broth. Yummy. Black pepper and pinch of salt if you wish. You can use this broth for lots of things....

After I strained all the stuff in the crockpot, I put it back in, add more water and put it on low overnight and in the morning I get some more broth. Now that is using the bird down to the last drop!

Dedicated to Molly 3

Are you the kind of Thanksgiving cook who just bring some sliced white turkey breast to the table, or do you present the whole beautiful bird in all its golden splendor, adorned with parsley and maybe cranberries or grape clusters?

When I was doing this I went out and looked for grapes at the store. I thought small clusters of red, green, dark purple grapes would look good nestled in the, you and your guests can nibble on them while you are carving the turkey...I only bought dark purple, the other ones were too expensive...but it would have looked so much better with 3 kinds of grapes. On this picture, there are some loose cranberries in with the dark grapes.

At the end of the day, if you serve this, your kids will know they just had a real authentic Thanksgiving!

Dedicated to Molly 2

Taking a peak in the oven ...almost done. The little pop up thing is up...but I give it more time anyway, just to make sure. Besides, the alloted time is not up yet.
MMMmmmmm.....!!!!!!! Now isn't thismore fun than a boring turkey breast. How are your kids going to know if they prefer a wing, a drumstick, some breast meat, or some really nice tender dark thigh meat??? Kids gotta learn this!

Dedicated to Molly 1

When I heard that Molly is planning to serve just a turkey breast for Thanksgiving, I gave her a little pep talk on how kids need to really think it is Thanksgiving and you do that by bringing the big golden bird to the table for all to see. Afraid of carving it? It is easy...go look on the Internet for instructions. I think it is cool when the dad at the head of the table carves it.

Now here is my story. I bought a turkey that weighed 15 1/2 pounds last Friday and paid $4.03 for it...a Norbest turkey. (Go to I let it that in its wrapper in the fridge for 4 days. I took it out and put it in a clean sink, and unwrapped it, rinsed it, patted it dry with paper towels, preheated my oven to 325 degrees and lowered the rack.(all these instructions were written on the turkey bag itself). I then prepard some carrots, onions and celery to put inside the cavity. I took the giblets (I always throw out the neck) and put them in a pie tin to bake (for the dogs). This is all so easy to do.

Baking a turkey is easier than making scrabbled eggs!

I put it in the oven and didnt' look at it for 2 1nd 1/2 hours. I used a glass 10 x 14 oblong, and when i checked the turkey, the juices were bubbling away almost to the top! So I used a measuring cup and scooped out half of the juices into a bowl. This juice/broth can be used for gravy. By the way, I used no slat at all...did not salt the bird, not even in the cavity. I did not slather the bird with butter.

You can see from the picture that thebird turned nice and golden..I did not even tent it with foil at the beginning like the instructions on the wrapping said to do.

SO...To Review:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Rinse and pat dry thawed bird
after removing neck and giblets from cavity.
3. Put some chopped carots, celery
and 2 onion halves in bird cavity
(we do this for a nicer smell when it is baking)
4. Put bird in pan (tie legs together with dental floss)and place in oven.
5. Check on it after a few hours and
scoop out any excees liquid so it doesn't overflow.

On the package it tells how many hours for how much bird.
My 15 pound turkey took 4 1/4 hours.

The fun part of Thanksgiving is have kids wander into the kitchen and take a peek in the oven as it gets more and more golden!!!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Rachel's Recipe:Chipotle Smashed Yams

This is from my sister who really is a great "foodie". I tried the recipe and found that I have to modify it in the future to maybe 1/4 teaspoon sauce...and not any of the chopped chilis. This recipe was "out of orbit" hot for me and John. Wait. I just realized I did not put any butter in it..I wonder if that would have cut the heat a bit. Good things I have some more yams in the cupboard. I will do a re-make!

"Chipotle smashed yams"

Of course I can handle a lot more of the sauce and peppers..
but this is the basic.. it is so good.
2 large yams..peeled, cubed, cooked
2 tablespoons butter
cut up one chipotle pepper from can
use a tablespoon sauce from can
little salt
mash all together while yams are hot.. yummy..

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Cote d'Or Dark Chocolate

I was at BigLots the other day and saw these dark chocolate bars for sale for $1.00 each.
This is for 3.52 oz. of 86% cocoa solid chocolate ! Other bars of different brand names average $1.99 to $2.99 or more for this much dark chocolate.
The expiration date was 1/24/09 so I bought just one so I could open it and see it and find out if it was already starting to go bad. It was perfect. (By the way, if you have some chocolate slightly old -it'll have some white streaks and will be crumbly) you can melt it and make nut clusters or just plain chocolate drops...they turn out nice and dark and fresh looking after they cool.)

John and I prefer this dark chocolate, as well as the Lindt 85%. The Ghirardelli 60% cocoa chocolate is too sweet for us now.
During this time of Thanksgiving, I am very thankful for chocolate!
By the way, I went back and bought 7 more! Gotta have a chocolate stash, you know!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Secret of Life

At the end of the movie "Last Holiday", Gerard Depardieu asks Queeen Latifah, "Do you know what the secret of life is?" "What?" "Butter"

Friday, November 7, 2008

Individually Wrapped Prunes!

Now what will they think of next?! These will be easy to grab and throw in your purse on the way out the door so you can have a nutritious snack when you get the "munchies". I discovered these on the Internet...I have not yet seen them in stores. I wonder how much they cost. I wonder if the wrapping will give them more clout...and if kids will be more likely to eat them, since it is fun to unwrap your little treasure.

Why I Now Eat 9 Prunes a Day

Maybe I just am a "believing" soul, but this week I have added nine prunes to my daily food because lately I have read in several sources that they help build bones and are good for the digestive tract. They have lots of iron, too, and since I am usually anemic, this should help.

I have also just read(while I was searching for a good picture of prunes) that the boron in prunes inhibits growth in cancer cells in CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia) patients after treatment. Hey, that's my husband! He just finished treatment for CLL. Now I need to get him to eat 9 prunes a day! Maybe that will help put him into permanent remission! What good fortune is mine to have made this discovery!

Monday, November 3, 2008

How I Like to Eat My Salt

I am saving my iodized salt for...

1. Sprinkling on my own oil popped popcorn ( I never use microwave is always too salty and I don't think they use iodized salt). If you use an air popper, the salt does not cling to the popped kernels, so you may want to drizzle a little melted butter on it first, then sprinkle on your salt.

2. Mashed sweet potatoes! Just a touch of salt does the trick.

3. Boiled or soft boiled eggs...just a few grains of salt on it...Mmmm.

Iodine and Your Thyroid

I am doing research on iodine and iodized salt.

See the side of this page: I have a link to an article and its accompanying youtube video.

While at my physical therapist's place today, I picked up a "First" magazine dated 9/22/08 and, lo and behold, an article (on page 31) on this very topic was in it. I borrowed the magazine so I could type the concepts discussed into this blog. Here goes:

~One in three women is tired, heavy and blue as a result of a poorly funtioning thyroid. The cause: "Millions of women are unknowingly deficient in iodine", says Ann Haiden, D.O., an internist in Kentfield, California. "This mineral enables thyroid cells to synthesize the thyroid hormones that regulate cellular metabolism."

~So called "healthy choise" are contirbuting to the epidemic as wome cut their use of table salt (fortified with iodine) and consume more soy and cruciferous vegetables (which contain iodine flushing compounds) and eating more leafy salads (a source of the iodine-blocking toxin perchlorate).

~This means doctors are increasingly prescribing thyroid medication, but in many cases their patients could be cured simply by consuming more iodine.~Follow these iodine guidelines.
For most women, aiming for the recommended daily allowance of 150 mcg of iodine will restore energy, says Dr. Haiden. She advises taking a multivitamin (most contain this dose) and eating iodine rich foods like eggs, unpeeled baked potatoes, shrimp, tuna and cod. Women who don't feel better within a month can supplement with 150 mcg of iodine daily. (One product is Now Kelp, $3 for 200 tablets, at

~Boost absorption with Vitamin A. Vitamin A enhances the absorption of iodine and its ability to synthesize thyroid hormones, says Dr. Hayden. Sources include eggs, pork and turkey, as well as foods rich in carotenoids (which the body converts to Vitamin A) such as oranges, carrots, redpeppers, pumpkin, squash and yams.

Canned Soup?

I bought a can of this soup last week because it was on sale for $1.50 and usually it is $2.29.

Here is the problem, though. One cup of this soup (which will not really fill you up) has 870 grams of sodium. The salt that is added to canned food products, I have read, is never iodized salt. For thyroid health, you need a bit of idoine in your diet. So if you are going to have salt, make your own soup and add iodized salt.

If I ate this whole can today, I would have consumed 1740 g of sodium. Someone my age should have 1500 g of sodium a day. When will manufacturers start really caring about our health????

A Teaspoon of Salt

If you ever wanted to know....


AHA Recommendation

Healthy American adults should eat less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day.
This is about 1 teaspoon of sodium chloride (salt). To illustrate, the following are sources of sodium in the diet.

1/4 teaspoon salt = 575 mg sodium
1/2 teaspoon salt = 1,150 mg sodium
3/4 teaspoon salt = 1,725 mg sodium
1 teaspoon salt = 2,300 mg sodium
1 teaspoon baking soda = 1000 mg sodium

Can't Get THIS At A Restaurant

This weekend, I made the most incredible beef needed only a pinch of salt. There are natural salts in the beef.
Here is how I did it...

I got a chuck roast, very lean, 1 3/4 pounds for $3.50. I put it in the bottom of the crockpot. On top of it, I had one sliced onion, 1 diced tomato (I did not want to use canned tomatoes because they all had so much sodium), and a sliced red pepper. The I sprinkled it with black pepper, freshly ground. I put no liquids in at this point.

I let it cook on high for 1 1/2 hours or 2 hours or until it started to get browning on the edges of the meat and the sides of the crockpot inside. Then I added about 3-4 cups water and the nicest, darkest brown liquid resulted. Then I finished cooking it on high. You should never go more than 5 hours on high for a hunk of meat.
Then I strained it, and refrigerated the broth after adding a tiny pinch of salt, sliced up the meat (after it cooled) to save for sandwiches later, and ate the veggies. Yum. The next day, the broth had a layer of fat on it that I removed. I put the broth in a pot on the stove, added cooked kluski noodles (they are a thin eggy noodle)and sliced green onions and warmed it up. Delicious, nutritious John really liked it, too. What a difference from beef bullion cubes or even canned beef broth. A bonus to doing this is that you will experience wonderful smells wafting out of your kitchen (If you are a vegetarian, you may think otherwise.)

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Here is an article from LA Times that I feel is very important!

Salt and high blood pressure: New concerns raised

For years, Americans have heard, and largely ignored, urgings to cut salt intake to lower blood pressure. Some experts say it's time to get tough.
By Emily Sohn

October 27, 2008

Ah, salt. It gives personality to chips, balance to bread and flavor to scrambled eggs, guacamole, tomato sauce and just about everything else that comes in a can, jar or squeeze bottle. Salt is such a mealtime staple it can be hard to imagine life without a shaker on the table.

But as far back as the 1960s, physicians linked salt to high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Today, more than 65 million Americans have hypertension -- repeatedly high blood pressure -- according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and 59 million more have pre-hypertension, a level higher than normal that can also lead to health problems.
For decades, the American Medical Assn., American Heart Assn., American Public Health Assn., the Institute of Medicine, the World Health Organization and others have been telling people to eat less salt. Cutting 50% of the salt in our diets could save 150,000 lives a year, the AMA estimates.

These entreaties -- which have taken on renewed vigor of late -- have so far fallen on deaf ears. The average American adult consumes twice the 2,300 milligrams (about a teaspoon's worth) recommended for most adults by the Institute of Medicine and the Department of Health and Human Services' Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

To help people do what they can't seem to do on their own, in the last few years a consumer advocacy group and several medical organizations and health experts have been pushing for legislation that would regulate sodium content in the foods we buy.

They say that more than 75% of the salt we get comes from processed foods and restaurant dishes, making it easy to blow a day's allotment in a single meal without even picking up the saltshaker.

A McDonald's bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit contains 1,250 milligrams of sodium. Frozen entrees in grocery stores can easily top 5,000 milligrams. A typical serving of jarred tomato sauce packs more than 700 milligrams -- even bread often has a couple of hundred milligrams per slice.

A few researchers studying the link between salt and health say salt has been unfairly villainized. They argue that only a fraction of the population is sensitive to salt's blood-pressure-raising effects, that our fixation on salt distracts us from focusing on what's really responsible for our nation's epidemic of heart disease, namely, obesity. They say for some people, lowering sodium intake might be harmful.

But the vast majority of such researchers believes the science indicting salt overconsumption is clear. "There's very broad consensus on this," says Dr. Darwin Labarthe, director of the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. "Excess salt is clearly bad for us."

Effects of diet

Strong evidence of this comes from a series of studies called DASH, for "Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension." Funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health, the studies set out in the 1990s to discover how diets affect blood pressure.

Blood pressure measurements use two numbers to indicate how hard it is for the blood to get through the arteries, veins and smaller blood vessels. A reading of 120/80 or less is ideal. Hypertension is defined as blood pressure that is consistently higher than 140/90. Pre-hypertension lies between.

In the first DASH study, for two months, researchers carefully controlled what went into the mouths of more than 450 people. One group ate a normal American diet, that is, one with typical amounts of fat and cholesterol. Some ate the same diet with extra fruits and vegetables. And a third group ate what became the recommended DASH diet: full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy foods, and low on red meat, sweets and saturated fats. All diets contained about 3,000 milligrams of sodium.

Within two weeks, researchers measured a reduction in blood pressure among the second group, but the third group experienced a drop that was twice as big -- a decrease of 5/3 mm Hg -- suggesting that a healthful diet can have a large effect on heart health.

Statistics zero in

Armed with that information, the researchers embarked on a second version of the study that aimed to quantify what salt contributes to the blood pressure equation. More than 400 participants ate either a regular American or a DASH diet for three months. For a month each, every participant's food contained either 3,300, 2,300 or 1,500 milligrams of sodium.

(A limit of 1,500 milligrams is recommended for African Americans, anyone middle-aged or older and those with high blood pressure and other health problems -- groups particularly sensitive to salt's influence on blood pressure.)
Results of the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2001, were dramatic, says Eva Obarzanek, a registered dietitian and research nutritionist with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and a coauthor of the study.

"It showed in a stepwise fashion that if you reduce sodium, you reduce blood pressure," she says.

Specifically, switching from a regular, high-sodium diet to a low-sodium (1,500-milligram) DASH diet resulted in a blood pressure dip of 8.9/4.5 points. That's about the same reduction achieved by blood pressure medication, Obarzanek says, and it often takes two or three drugs to get similar results.How salt raises BP

Chemically known as NaCl, salt crystals have two parts: sodium and chlorine, which break apart when put into liquid. The chlorine component doesn't do much, but sodium is an essential nutrient that helps keep our hearts beating, nerves firing and body fluids at healthy levels.
When it comes to blood pressure, consuming extra sodium causes the body to retain fluids and boost blood volume to maintain an optimal concentration of sodium in the bloodstream. The heart then has to work extra hard to squeeze all that extra blood through veins and arteries, and blood pressure rises as a result.

The Salt Institute, a trade group in Alexandria, Va., does not think that salt is guilty of everything it's blamed for. "People don't know the whole story," says Morton Satin, a molecular biologist and director of technical and regulatory affairs for the institute. "There are so many questions left to answer."

Dr. Michael Alderman, professor of medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, is also unconvinced of the danger of salt for most people. "The body has a mechanism of maintaining normal blood pressure over a wide range of sodium intakes," he says. "It's a wonderful system."

Only in people whose kidneys aren't working properly, Alderman says, does excess sodium lead to a rise in blood pressure. Sensitivity to salt, he says, affects just 25% to 30% of people.

But for the majority of health experts, the data linking salt to hypertension are strong enough to recommend that everyone start cutting salt intake -- now. Even if salt raises blood pressure in only some of us -- and the concept of salt sensitivity remains controversial -- there is no reliable way to determine who those people are, Obarzanek says. (For a more detailed discussion of the science of salt, go to

The question, most health experts say, is not if we should lower our salt intake, but how. It's a tough question to answer because salt is a tough habit to break. Because the human body needs salt to survive, we appear to be born with a powerful desire for it. Studies show that infants as young as 4 months old prefer sodium-enriched formula. (Recent studies also show that even kids experience a blood pressure rise when they eat more salt.)

Hooked on salt?

And when people are given increasing amounts of salt, they rapidly develop a preference for it -- the saltier the better, says Gary Beauchamp, director of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. It only takes a couple of weeks to ramp up the salty tooth, he says, even for people from cultures that have traditionally eaten a low-sodium diet.

Getting used to less salt, on the other hand, often takes up to three months, Beauchamp's research shows, and the process can be unpleasant. When you're used to eating regular potato chips, sauces and fast foods, low-sodium or sodium-free foods can taste like cardboard at first.

"In almost all the studies I know that reduce salt abruptly, people were very miserable," Beauchamp says. "In our studies, it is easier to go up than to go down."

But, he adds, "People can change," and studies suggest that maintaining that change is possible -- albeit not easy, because salt is so abundant and passes unnoticed in so many of our processed foods. "I would say in our society, it requires constant vigilance."

Changing our eating habits also requires willpower and motivation, which most of us don't necessarily have in abundance when it comes to salt. Surveys show that Americans just aren't that concerned about sodium, says Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group.

And even when we do try to cut down, our best efforts often fail to make much of a difference. How many people know that there are more than 4,500 milligrams of sodium in a Dunkin' Donuts salt bagel or that two slices of Pizza Hut's Thin 'n Crispy Supreme Pizza have 1,460 milligrams? "Awareness stops at the saltshaker," Jacobson says. "People might say they try not to add too much salt to their food without realizing that the vast majority of sodium we swallow comes from packaged foods or restaurant foods that are pre-salted."

In fact, the saltshaker accounts for just 6% of the sodium we consume and the salt we add to recipes makes up just 5%, according to Jacobson's group. Twelve percent occurs naturally in our foods, and a whopping 77% is hidden in processed foods.

Regulations urged

In 2005, the Center for Science in the Public Interest issued its most recent petition demanding that the Food and Drug Administration act to regulate sodium content in processed foods. The group also wants warning labels on high-sodium products, sodium levels listed on restaurant menus and brochures, and target levels set for a variety of manufactured foods.

Some countries have already taken similar steps, including New Zealand, France and Ireland.

In the UK, which has launched one of the most massive sodium-reduction campaigns anywhere, the British Food Standards Agency puts strong pressure on manufacturers to meet sodium limits on 85 categories of processed foods, such as bread, cereal and pizza. The industry has responded with significant reductions in their products.
In Finland, which started its own campaign in the 1970s, labels must announce that a product is high in sodium if the content is higher than a set level.

Since the campaign began, Finns have lowered sodium consumption by an average of 30%. In that time, there has been a 10-point nationwide drop in blood pressure, more than a 75% reduction in cardiovascular disease in people younger than 65 and a more than six-year increase in life expectancy. (Several health measures were taken during that time, so salt reduction is a suspected, though not proven, contributor to those trends).

The Center for Science in the Public Interest is pushing the FDA to consider salt a food additive -- and regulate it as such -- instead of maintaining its current classification, "generally recognized as safe." The group is also urging the food industry to voluntarily reduce sodium in packaged products and restaurants by 50% over the next 10 years.

Such demands are not too much to ask, Jacobson says. Many manufacturers and restaurants already make two versions of their products -- a saltier one sold in the United States, and a lower-sodium one sold overseas. Kellogg's Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies and Special K cereals, for instance, have about 36% more sodium in the U.S. than in the UK, according to analyses by Jacobson's group.

Chicken McNuggets, French fries and Big Macs have 46% more sodium in American McDonald's restaurants than in British ones. People there seem to have adjusted to the reduction without difficulty.

For now, the only regulations that exist here allow "low-sodium" labels on products with less than 480 milligrams per serving. "It's moving in the right direction, but it's hardly enough," says Labarthe of the CDC. "The fact is, there is too much salt in our food and too much salt on the market shelf."

The FDA agreed to hold a public hearing in November 2007, at which the Center for Science in the Public Interest and a variety of health organizations and public health officials argued their case for more salt regulation. At the hearing, among other testimony, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health commissioner Dr. Jonathan Fielding reported that the county's rate of high blood pressure increased from 18% to 25% between 1997 and 2005, and said that salt regulation is a necessity.

As research continues and legislation lags behind doctors' urgings, consumers wanting to avoid salt are on their own.

It may be worth the effort, Labarthe says -- for your taste buds as well as for your heart. On a trip to Italy a few years ago, he and his wife stayed with a friend who was eating as little salt as possible for health reasons. She cooked for them during their stay.

"On the first night," Labarthe says, "my wife and I looked at each other with the same thought: 'What is the matter with this food?' " By the third day, they could begin to taste the tomatoes in the tomato sauce. By the end of the week, they didn't miss the salt at all, and were appreciating their food more than ever.

"Ever since," he says, "We eat less salt than we ever did."

Sohn is a freelance writer.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Yams right now are 79 cents a pound at King ranch Supermarket and 1.49 a pound at my nearby Stater Bros. market. I bought these 2 big ones... which ended up weighin 3 pounds all $2.40. The 4 pictures here are

1.the whole yams,

2. then how I cooked them...I scrubbed them and sliced them in thick chunks and steamed them. You can bake them but it takes an hour, whereas steaming goes faster.

3. after they cool, take off skins and slice them and put them in a container to be stored in the fridge.

4. And here is breakfast today (sliced tomatoes, yams, and some hot chili beans!) I love having cooked yams always available in my fridge. I will be using them in my meals all week.

I look forward to Thanksgiving season when these wonderful tubers will be on sale.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Warm Lemon Water in the Morning

Over 30 years ago, I read about a famous model who drank a glass of lemon water every morning. So, I decided to do the same and actually followed through. It has kept me, I believe, from getting colds in the winter. Since then, I have read many sources about how this is good for you..good for your body's Ph level, good for cleansing the liver, etc. I recently read about how it helps your body get ready for the day...

I have been reading a fascinating book: The CR Way (published 2008), by McGlothin and Averill (you can look it up on CR means calorie restriction and it is about how you can live longer, have a stronger heart and avoid or keep cancer and diabetes under control by restricting your daily calorie intake. It is not about starvation or anything, just about eating really good food that is nutrient dense, the right amount of finer and fats, etc...and not going over certain set number of calories (depending on your body type and activity)

Here is an excerpt: from p. 36

"Regardless of how early or late you finished eating the night before, the overnight period before breakfast will almost always be your longest time away from food. During this fasting period, your insulin is likely to fall to low levels. When you break your fast, you are asking your body to make a 180 degree reversal from this low insulin state to the normal range for processing food and keeping glucose low. You want to help ease your body back into this normal state. Otherwise you are likely to not have enough insulin to process the glucose, leading to a spike in the level of glucose in your blood. Insulin will often respond by spiking, too. The sudden need to process food having shocked your system into producing more than necessary.
"Break your fast as gently as possible-with a tablespoon of lemon or lime juice in a cup of warm water. Both of these juices, as well as vinegar, fit into the category of acidic foods that are known to lower glucose levels.
"The lemon juice in warm water needs only 15 minutes to work its magic. Warm water facilitates digestion."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Quick Easy Guacamole

Lately John has been bringing home big avocados from the Saturday's Swap Meet. I get about 2 cups guacamole from each typical avocado. In this post I show one method I use:
~Just dice a tomato (I used one Roma actually)
~Chop some cilantro to make about 1/4 cup
~Finely chop part of the onion...and use maybe 2-3 Tablespoons of this chopped onion
~Scoop out avocado and chop it with sharp knife. We do not like to mash it...we like chunky guacamole.
Gently stir all these ingredients together.

Use lemon if you like. It preserves the color (in case you plan to not eat it all at once and store it in fridge.)...but I found out John DOES NOT LIKE any lemon in his he had to endure this batch. I often add some fresh ground pepper and maybe a dash of iodized salt. I do not ever put garlic in my guacamole...I do not want to mask the flavor of the avocado.

Since this particluar day, we were out of chips, I fried some up on the stove.
MMMmmmmmm....I am getting addicted to avocadoes!

Prices Vary!

See this lovely array of produce I purchase at King Ranch Market (a local Mexican grocery store) today?
What do you suppose the total price was for all these items?


We have here:
7 gala apples 2.55 lbs. @.69/lb. = $1.76
celery = $0.79
3 tomatoes 1.52 lbs. @.50/lb. = $0.75
4 brown onions 2.06 lbs. @ .33/lb. = $0.68
bunch of cilantro = $0.50
7 Valencia oranges 3.36 lbs. @.10/lb.= $0.33
1 huge grapefruit = $0.33

If I would have purchase these items at another grocery store like Stater Brother's or Von's I would have paid between 15 and 20 dollars total for these same items...believe me, I know my prices.

This is one of the perks of living near a lot of Mexicans!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Armenian Yeast Bread

We were given a loaf of this flat, airy Armenian yeast bread to take home with us. So big. Measured maybe 20 inches long. Delicious with a bit of butter.

Some Traditional Armenian Food

Saturday (yesterday) we went to Newport Beach for a Mushegain Family Reunion.
Here is a picture of our hostess Nancy Mushegain Gabriel getting ready to put
Lahmahjoon (also called Armenian pizza- made with finely ground lamb, tomato sauce , spices, herbs)into the oven to warm up. She purchased these at a local Armenian store.

The other picture is of some very delicious, fresh string cheese..the bowl was huge...nearly 24 inches across. Well, there were 80 people to feed. People would just grab a handful of this cheese and put it on their plates.

They also had a huge platter of humus and a monstrously big bowl of pita bread and a pink bulgar salad and lots of other salads. They grilled big savory meat patties that looked like oval mini meatloaves. Lots of platters of appetizers, too. A big round dessert table under a grandiose chandelier had the best apply cobbler and choclate mousse cake, etc, etc.
We ate out on their big veranda overlooking the harbor.

The word to describe this home, the feast here: OPULENCE. All the people were happy and friendly and we seemed to just be eating for a long time because we were visiting a lot and there was so much food spread out everywhere you looked.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Tuna Stroganoff

Amber wanted to make David some Tuna Stroganoff (the way I make it) for his birthday. So I thought I would share my recipe here...

Tuna Stroganoff

Make a white sauce.....

First make a roux with

3 Tablespoons butter
6 level Tablespoons unbleached white flour

You melt the butter in a pot -low heat to med. low heat- and add the flour and whisk with a whisk until it all clumps up together and starts to cook a bit. Then slowly add and whisk in ...

2 cups milk (do not use vanilla soy is too sweet...use reg milk or plain soy milk)

You will continue whisking this mixture until it gets thick...about 5-10 minutes or so. I will stop whisking maybe 20 -30 seconds at a time so I can do other prep squeeze the lemon, or dice the celery...or open the cans of tuna... But basically, you need to pretty much keep whisking or it will begin to burn on the bottom.

When it is thick and creamy (will look like melted ice cream) add ...

a few grinds of fresh black pepper
1 cup sour cream (I use light)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup very finley chopped celery
2 6 oz. cans of tuna (that have been drained)

Stir with spoon. Serve over cooked wide egg noodles (I call the ribbon noodles) and sprinkle with a grind of fresh pepper.

Also, since this is a pretty colorless dish, I serve brightly colored crudites on the side: Carrot sticks, celery stick, cucumber slices, red and green bell pepper strips...

Have fun! Call if you have questions. (760)241-1420

cell (760)217-9368

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Special Sale!

I sent Kelsy to King Ranch Supermarket(a Mexican Supermarket) today for a seedless watermelon, advertised for 9 cents per pound and some bananas at 4 pounds for a dollar.

This is what she came home with and the total shepaid for all of this was $2.34. The watermelon weighed 14.21 lbs.
We have 11 bananas (4.30 lbs.) We are getting spoiled.

Soluble and Insoluble Fiber

Ever since my colonoscopy last week, I have been thinking about fiber. The dr. removed one polyp. They sent me away with this advice: eat lots of fiber. I always thought I ate plenty of fiber every day, but actually, I have never kept track. I have never made a list of how many grams of fiber I was eating every day.

I went on the Internet and found the best description of soluble and insolube fiber I ever saw. And it tells how much of each we should eat every day. Here is the article. By the way...the picture above shows both kinds of fiber. The salad is insoluble, the beans are soluble. After the artcile, you will see the recipe for those yummy looking beans. The photo came from the same website as the recipe.

Soluble and Insoluble fiber

Q What is fiber?
A Fiber is found in plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils, etc). Fiber is the part of the plant that our bodies CANNOT digest. That means, our bodies don't break down fiber and don't use it for energy or calories.
Q If my body doesn't digest fiber, why do I need it?
A Fiber is very important and helps our bodies stay healthy. Fiber helps our digestive tracts (stomach and intestines) work properly. Fiber also helps our bodies process cholesterol and hormones.
Q How can fiber do both of these jobs? They seem very different.
A Fiber can do both of these jobs because there are two different kinds of fiber: SOLUBLE and INSOLUBLE fiber.
Q How can I tell the difference between soluble and insoluble fiber?
A Picture in your mind what a food looks like when it gets wet, for example with milk or water.
Soluble fiber is the type of fiber that gets very gooey and sticky when it gets wet. The best example of soluble fiber is oatmeal. Picture how oatmeal looks and feels after it gets wet. It feels sticky and gooey because it contains a lot of SOLUBLE fiber.
Insoluble fiber is the type of fiber that doesn't change at all when it gets wet. A good example of insoluble fiber is the skin of an apple. If you put an apple skin in water, 3 hours later it still looks like an apple skin. Tough, stringy pieces in celery are insoluble fiber too. An apple skin or piece of celery contains a lot of INSOLUBLE fiber and this is why it doesn't change when it gets wet.

Q What does soluble fiber do for me?
A Soluble fiber does a lot of good things for our bodies, such as helping to lower cholesterol. So, if you have high cholesterol, eating a lot of soluble fiber may help you bring your blood cholesterol levels down.
Also, if you are going through cancer treatment and have diarrhea, soluble fiber can help minimize your diarrhea. Choose foods from the soluble fiber list below; this may help slow your diarrhea down.

Q What does insoluble fiber do for me?
A Insoluble fiber also does a lot of good things for our bodies, such as helping eliminate waste more quickly. Insoluble fiber helps prevent constipation. If you are going through cancer treatment, you may be taking medications that cause constipation. These include medications that help with nausea and pain. If you are constipated, try eating foods with a lot of insoluble fiber (choose from the list below). Just be sure to drink a lot of water with these foods. This will help cut down on gas production and move the waste through your body more quickly.

Q How much soluble and insoluble fiber should I eat every day?
A For good health, experts recommend that we eat at least 25 to 35 grams of fiber every day. This fiber should be a combination of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Most Americans don't even come close to eating this much fiber. Most people eat about 8 to 12 grams every day. That's less than half of the fiber we should be eating!
Start meeting your fiber goal today by choosing a wide variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.) as part of every meal and snack.


Pinquito Beans

NOTES: Pinquito beans are packed in a seasoned liquid. If using pinto beans, drain beans before using.
Prep and cook time: 30 minutes

6 ounces sliced bacon, chopped
3 onions (1 1/2 lb. total), coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced or pressed
3/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 1/4 cups red enchilada sauce
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
5 cans (15 oz. each) undrained pinquito beans or drained pinto beans (see notes)

1. In a 5- to 6-quart pan over high heat, frequently stir bacon until crisp, about 4 minutes. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain on towels. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings from pan.
2. Add onions and garlic to pan. Stir often until onion is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add green pepper, enchilada sauce, tomato paste, sugar, mustard, beans, and bacon. Stir often until boiling, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until flavors are blended, 5 to 10 minutes. Pour into a serving bowl.

11 to 13 cups; 10 to 14 servings
Nutritional Information
CALORIES 181(16% from fat); FAT 3.2g (sat 0.8g); CHOLESTEROL 3.5mg; CARBOHYDRATE 38g; SODIUM 927mg; PROTEIN 9.5g; FIBER 8.5g
Sunset, JULY 2004

Monday, June 16, 2008

99 Cents Store Finds

Today I bought these 3 food items for a total of $2.97
~1 pound big red strawberries from Santa Barbara, CA
~5 pound bag of Russet potatoes from Idaho
~4 huge yellow onions.

I write about this because I feel very grateful to have stores nearby with such good prices for good food.

The potatoes will be used in several meals for the 3 of us here.
(I will make latkes one day, another day I may make potato salad or mojos (oven fries)

The strawberries we will eat out of hand or slice them and mix them with plain yogurt. Mmmm.
The onions...did you know that the sulfur in onions helps your body absorb calcium?

When I make bean burritoes, I first dice an big onion and saute it in olive oil, then when they are soft and sweet, I add a can of refried beans.

I like to use lots of cooked onion in frittatas.

I like to pile a lot of fried sliced onions on our Boca burgers.

It's the simple, natural foods like this that I love.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Mid East Meal

Today I had a craving for humus! So I quickly made some. Then I went to the store to get whole wheat pita bread. While I was at it, I made some seasoned bulgar, sliced up some cucumber and washed some grapes. Here is a picture of our mid-day meal...and the recipe I used to make the humus. This humus is excellent!


1 clove garlic, cut in pieces
1 can garbanzo beans (15 oz.), half the liquid reserved and save about 8 beans for garnish
4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons tahini
1/2 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Put all in blender and blend until smooth.
Spoon into a low flat bowl and drizzle some olive oil on it. Sprinkle with paprika, a bit of black pepper, and chopped parsley or cilantro,. Garnish with the garbanzo beans and some black olives. Serve with the freshest pita bread you can find.

Enjoy! Serves 3 or 4 people.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Unleavened Bread

We eat lots of tortillas in our family. These are healthier than the white flour tortillas which are made with hydrogenated vegetable oil. These are made with vegetable oil and whole grains,and chilis, etc. Yummy!!!!Usually we fill them with fried onions, refried beans and gaucamole.


One day last month we got a flyer in the mail:BUY ONE 6 DOLLAR BURGER FROM CARL'S JR., GET ONE FREE. They are 3.99 plus tax actually. Well, I resisted, but I instead went to the nearby grocery store: Stater Brother's, and bought a big fat Italian beef burger patty(1/2 pound)raw for $2.00 and went home and cooked it and served it on a whole wheat bun with my favorite add-ons. It was so good! John doesn't like beef and Kelsy is a vegetarian, so this as a special treat just for me.

Let Them Eat Popcorn

So we hear about wheat prices going up! Some stores now have to put a limit on the number of pounds of rice you can buy at one time because people are fearing a shortage and are trying to buy so much to stock up. I say: Stock the most delectable of all grains: Popcorn! Some people call popcorn instant bread. do not have to grind it, or make a dough with it after proofing your yeast, etc, etc. Bread is carbs. Rice is carbs. Popcorn is carbs. But popcorn is a good whole grain carb for sure! All that yummy fiber. White rice and white bread have basically no fiber. So if you like white and quick- nothing beats popcorn

So here is a picture of a 2 pound bag of popcorn I bought for 99 cents at Food-4-Less grocery store here. On the back of the package, it says 24 servings in this bag. So 5 cents a serving. One serving is 3 Tablespoons of popcorn grains...which yield 4.5 cups of popped corn containing 5 grams of dietary fiber. I used 9 Tablespoons of popcorn grains in my skillet and popped them and ended up with a lovely bowl of popcorn . That's 15 grams of the most delicious fiber! I use a touch of melted butter and a very light sprinkling of salt. Cost: 15 cents worth of popcorn and 15 cents worth of butter..and maybe 10 cents max for the oil. So: 40 cents to fill up on one of the most nutritious and quick whole grain meals available to man.
This bowl can serve 1-3 people or more, depending on how hungry they are. 13 cups of popcorn!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Round MoJo's

I got a phone call from Tommy at 3:00 pm Friday:"We are leaving Santa Ana now and will be there by 4:30pm" I invited them to supper...but did not know what to fix. Then I decided on: Turkey burgers on whole wheat buns, steamed broccoli and steamed carrots, and mojos. I dashed to the store for the ingredients. 5 lb. bag potatoes for 99!
This time, I decided top do rounds intead of "steak fry" shape. I peel and cut the potatoes, soak in water, pat them dry with paper towels, add olive oil, paprika and Italian seasoning, toss to oats (they will all look a bit orange from the paprika) and bake on oiled baking sheet in 425 degree oven until golden brown (usually 35-40 minutes depending on how thick the potatoes are cut.) I used all the potatoes ecept one and filled two baking sheets. They are so good with ranch dressing or ketchup or any dipping sauce you prefer..or plain. The secret is enough oil and a very hot oven...and baking them long enough.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Ideal Refrigerator

True confession: I tend to over pack our refrigerator. It gets frustrating because then you cannot see what you have and sometimes, things go bad. This is a picture of Elizabeth Hulihan's (John's mom) fridge on a typical day. Her fridge is neatly organized and sparkly clean. I sure wish I could have my fridge looking like this.

And I ask you who are reading this:
Do You Know What Is In Your Fridge?

High Fiber Candy (Chocolate Easter Eggs)

A rare treat. Very rare. They are so good, I dare not make them often.
I used to make these at Easter time because John especially liked them. I made some when David and Amber visited. They are really satisfying.

Chocolate Easter Eggs
1 and 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa (I use hershey's)
3/4 cup milk (soy milk is fine)
1/4 cup butter (that is one half of a stick)
1/2 cup peanut butter (all natural, of course)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 or 4 1/2 cups quick cooking oatmeal.

~Combine sugar, cocoa, milk and butter in saucepan. Bring to a boil over med. heat. Boil for one minute only. Remove from heat. Stir in remaining ingredients, mixing well. Let mixture cool awhile in saucepan. Shaoe spoonfuls into egg shape (or round balls) and roll in shredded coconut (the unsweetened finely shredded coconut you get at health food stores.) Store in covered plastic container in fridge.