Your Wallet Versus Your Waistline?

Get yourself ready for that New Year's resolution with this post on the worst offenders on the fast-food value board.

Worst (for you) fast-food Value Menu items - Fast Food Maven -

There’s a list for everything these days. Today’s Top 5 is dedicated to the Unhealthiest Value Menu food, according to the Cancer Project.

The report looked at value menu items because these cheap eats are driving fast-food sales during this recession.  Most food items, however, are high in fat, saturated fat, calories and cholesterol, according to the report released today.

Don't worry: You don't have to give up on the resolution to save money to keep the resolution to get healthy. Making a commitment to making your own food will take care of both.

Making the Old New Again

Pretty good article on repurposing leftovers over at The Simple Dollar:

Nine Creative Ways to Utilize Leftovers from Common Meals

One of the best ways to really extract the value from a meal is to utilize every bit of the leftover food instead of merely throwing it away. Not only does this reduce waste, it also drastically reduces the cost per meal in your household, and over the long term, that can add up to a lot of money.

The only problem with this philosophy is that leftovers are often not exactly the most tasty thing for the palate. . .

My approach is a little different. I try very hard to find ways to use leftover food in interesting and substantially different dishes a night or two later. This way, the new meal doesn’t seem like a stale re-hash of the first one.

I followed the same sort of method he uses for pot roast to transform my Thanksgiving leftovers. If you're like me and find it's a rare meal you want to eat twice in quick succession, you might want to check this out.

Merry Christmas!

Here's hoping Santa brought you everything you wished for.

Health and happiness, right?

OK, maybe an iPod, too!

If you have some time to kill before heading out to a Christmas soirée today, check out this blog post from the Epi-Log, "Healthy Eating at Holiday Parties." It's a nice round-up of articles on Epicurious that offer tips to keep your appetite under control during the festivities.

I hope to be able to follow all the advice at least a little today, as I really don't want to discover that Santa's stuffed some heartburn in my stocking this year.

Still, it's Christmas! Cut loose a little bit today, and make up for it tomorrow with some nice, cleansing soup and veggies. And don't forget the Pepcid.

Soup Showdown! Chicken with Curly Pasta

I photographed this recipe in Slovakia, so you'll notice a lot of incomprehensible words on my packaged products below. However, none of the ingredients I used are exclusive to Europe. I first published this on another blog I kept a year ago, but it's still m'm m'm good enough to share.

Though I was raised on canned soup, I've come to detest the stuff over the years. Can after can of mushy veggies, disintegrating noodles, and questionable meat, all soaked in a broth that tastes like nothing but liquefied salt, left me disappointed and disillusioned.

Today, soup is a frequent meal in our home, but with a key difference: It is always homemade. I cook up a big pot of the stuff, which provides a low-cal but filling dinner and then stretches to fill several lunches throughout the week.

Of course, the soup companies are always coming out with new varieties that sound enticing. So why not take a bit of inspiration from their product lines and create some soups truly worth supping on?

And so here it is -- the Soup Showdown!

In one corner, we have a contender from Campbell's, the granddaddy of canned soup companies: Campbell's Select Roasted Chicken with Rotini & Penne Pasta Soup.

A9CA6EBF-9614-47E4-A615-404327359696.jpgRoasted Chicken with Rotini & Penne Pasta Soup

A delightful twist on traditional chicken soup. Our chef created a memorable soup that is chock full of generous pieces of oven-roasted white-meat chicken, chunky-cut vegetables and a combination of whimsical pasta shapes, all simmered in a rich chicken broth aromatic with savory herbs that will soothe your soul and delight your taste buds!

Campbell's entrant offers a mere 100 calories per one cup serving, but watch out -- there's 860 mg of sodium in that same one cup! No wonder the stuff tastes so salty. And to think I used to eat almost the whole can at once.

Checking the ingredients, it's clear that this is your typical chicken noodle soup, albeit with pasta replacing the usual egg noodles. Chicken, celery, carrots, dehydrated onion, garlic, and herbs, broth, seasoning -- pretty simple stuff, and easy to improve upon.

Now, I wouldn't claim that my recipe for this is the ultimate version of chicken soup. I'm not simmering a whole chicken for hours or spending more to buy a bunch of herbs that will rot away in my crisper after I make the soup. I'm certainly not above using a few shortcuts, true, but I also need to think contextually. I'm limited by my time (which I don't want to spend all of in our kitchen), my grocery budget (which is small), and the availability of ingredients at normal grocery stores.

Still, following my guidelines here will definitely result in a soup that's fresher and tastier than anything you can get out of a can. It will take more time and effort upfront, but not any more than you would normally spend on cooking dinner. Plus, this recipe will make a huge batch that, when cooked as a dinner for two, will provide a quick-as-canned and satisfying lunch later on.

Let's get cooking!

I like nonstick spray for many reasons, but right now I'm mostly using it to save a handful of calories in everyday cooking. I coated the bottom of my soup pot with a quick spray before I turned the heat on to low.

Peel each carrot (or scrub them well, if you don't mind the nubbly outsides), trim off the yucky ends, and then cut them in half lengthwise so that you have a flat surface on the vegetable for nice, stable slicing. Next, chop them into half moons that are, oh, somewhere between 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch thick.

Drop all your carrots into the slowly heating pan as you chop them. They'll start to soften and get a little color as you chop the rest of the vegetables, but they won't burn as your heat here is very, very low.

Tip: If things do threaten to get smoky, just add maybe half a cup of water to the pot as needed to keep the veggies from turning to charcoal. A touch of oil to coat the veggies as they cook will also prevent burning, but you'll be adding calories.

I used a nice, big onion in my soup because I enjoy the sweet flavor of cooked onions. But like any of the ingredients, you can adjust the amount as needed to suit your taste. My chicken soup is kind of heavy on the vegetables because they are low-cal and nutritious filler.

Just dice the onion as small as you like. Cut off the tip of the onion, cut the whole thing in half top to bottom, then peel off the outer skin layer. Lay it flat and slice against the grain (but not through the root end -- you want to keep it together for now) to divide the onion into . . . columns. Yeah. And then slice crosswise to produce a dice. Don't worry, the layers come apart as you cook so you don't end up with enormous chunks.

Looks better than dehydrated onion, no? Dump all the chopped bits in the pot and stir.

Take four cleaned and trimmed celery stalks and . . .

. . . magically turn them into eight by slicing them in half lengthwise! Then chop 'em up and throw 'em in the pot.

Mmm . . . mirepoix.

Now I really like garlic, so I used five cloves. The soup doesn't get an overwhelming garlic flavor, but it does add good depth to the broth. If a bunch of little pieces of garlic floating around is going to disturb you, then just smash the cloves, pull off the skins, and dump them straight in without mincing. That way, you can easily pull them out at the end, once they've given their flavoring all.

But me?

I mince. Or sometimes use a garlic press.

Now that everybody's in the soon-to-be bath, I season with salt . . .

. . . and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Use less if you don't want it too spicy. Use more to really clear out that congestion.

Two cubes of this bouillon here make one liter of chicken broth, which is about four cups. Or, if you have chicken base in a jar, use four teaspoons for four cups. I add the chicken base directly to the pot and turn the heat up to medium high.

Next comes one cup of water . . . and a steam bath.

I now get aggressive and scrape up the fond from the bottom of the pan. That's all the browned bits stuck to the bottom that will help make your bouillon taste like real stock. Or your broth from a box, if you're not so cheap as me.

See what a nice, rich color the water is now? Go ahead and add three more cups of water.

Now, when it's all wet like that, I toss in the dried herbs. Dried herbs are fine for anything you plan on cooking for a while. Can you guess what these are?

One teaspoon of dried dill, 1 tablespoon of dried chives, and 2 bay leaves enter the pot. I love dill. Mmm.

Here is the diced chicken I saved from the previous night's stir fry. It's disturbingly similar in color to my hand. I only had one spare breast piece, so I cut it extra small to stretch it. You could always add more chicken if you're not cheap like me.

The chicken will start to turn white as soon as it hits the hot tub. Let it soak in there for about five minutes before you add the macaroni. It may need more time if you used bigger pieces.

We like whole-wheat pasta, but if you don't, well, I'll never know that you used a less virtuous noodle. The nutritional difference for pasta is relatively minor, and I have been known to buy the white stuff.

Add about 1/4-1/3 a pound of fusilli or whatever curly pasta you picked up.

I decided here that one liter of broth wasn't going to cut it for cooking all that pasta. I added two cups more water for the fusilli to drink up. You could use broth instead, but unless you use low-sodium, it will make the soup saltier.

Let the pot boil gently for as long as it takes for the macaroni to turn tender. Then . . .

. . . you'll have this lovely pot of soup here. Mmm!

M'm, m'm, good, you might say.

Chicken with Curly Pasta Soup
Source: Pennies & Pounds
Yield: 7 to 8 one-cup servings

  • Nonstick spray

  • 4 medium-sized carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced

  • 1 large onion, diced

  • 4 stalks celery, halved lengthwise and sliced

  • 5 cloves garlic, minced

  • A few shakes of salt

  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper (use less for less spice)

  • 4 cups chicken bouillon, prepared

  • 2 cups water

  • 1 teaspoon dried dill

  • 1 tablespoon dried chives

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1 chicken breast, cut into a small dice

  • 125 grams fusilli (or other macaroni)

Put a large soup pot or Dutch oven over very low heat. Add the vegetables to the pot as you chop them, stirring with each addition.

Once all the veggies are in the tub, season them with some salt and the 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Give the mix a good stir to distribute the seasonings, then turn up the heat to medium high. Add one cup of the bouillon and scrape the bottom of the pan firmly to bring up all the browned bits (this provides both depth of flavor and a cleaner pan for your significant other to wash!).

Add the rest of the bouillon and the water. To this, stir in the dill, chives, and bay leaves. Let the soup come up to a simmer, then add the chicken pieces. Allow the chicken to poach for about 5 minutes. Turn down the heat if the soup starts to boil rapidly.

Next, stir in the fusilli. Cook this at a gentle boil for as long as the package instructions say, until the pasta is tender. Fish out the bay leaves and serve.

You can shift around the proportions as you see fit. This produces a very chunky soup. If you prefer a thinner soup, add another pint of chicken broth.

Download Chicken with Curly Pasta Soup into MacGourmet.

Food to Feed a Family of 20

67D9121F-DDCC-4A4C-8A6D-4395BF43BC4D.jpgHave you seen TLC's new "Family Night" show, 17 Kids and Counting?

I tried not to watch after catching an episode following Jon & Kate Plus 8 some Mondays ago, but the craziness has sucked me in. I don't necessarily seek the show out, but if it's on, I can't help but watch.

What makes this family so nutty? You may have guessed the chief reason: 17 kids, with more on the way! Come 2009, Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar will have a brood of 19, if you count their new daughter-in-law and the baby on the way. [Edit: Just born a few days ago; there's a special about it on tonight.]

Assuming you aren't familiar with the show and are now wondering how that happened, suffice it to say this is a strongly religious and conservative family. They homeschool; the girls wear long skirts; everyone wears extra-modest swimsuits; they don't kiss before marriage; and they watch little television (ironic, no?).

Much as their insistence that humans and dinosaurs co-existed makes a more progressive-minded person such as myself cringe, the open-minded way TLC produces the show and the humor and enthusiasm exhibited by the family members manages the seemingly impossible and makes this left-field clan relatable.

Watch the show sometime, and you're bound to notice how trim and healthy everyone in the Duggar family is. It's not necessarily good genes: Episodes featuring aunts, uncles, and cousins show the extended family comes in a variety of sizes. That tells me that people within the household must be instilling a message of exercise and healthy eating as well as praying and Bible reading.

The Duggars have posted a collection of their favorite recipes on their family web site (the address flashes onscreen during the opening credits for the show). Scroll past the directions for homemade cleaners to find the food.

The recipes feature ground turkey and turkey bacon rather than beef and pork. The pancakes feature whole-grain oats, and most of the dishes include vegetables or beans (cheap and healthy, remember?). There's definitely an emphasis on simple, homemade foods that can feed a score of people daily without overly straining the budget (less than $2,000 a month) or chaining the girls (yes, the girls) to the kitchen.

The downside is that the recipes feature a lot of traditional convenience ingredients (canned soup, Velveeta, Cool Whip), plus the mysterious Liquid Amino (basically a sauce that contains a variation on MSG). Still, with a family that size, you can't blame them not wanting to make everything from scratch.

There's a marathon of 17 Kids and Counting on TLC on Christmas Eve. Anyone up for some Tater Tot Casserole?


Preview New Products with Reviews from Supermarket Sampler


If you are among the dying breed who still subscribe to a daily newspaper, you may be familiar with the weekly syndicated column "Supermarket Sampler." If not, read on to learn about one of my favorite sources of info on new products hitting the grocery store shelves.

I have a lot of sources for product info. Hungry Girl devotes every Monday newsletter to new low-cal foods, and I do check manufacturer web sites from time to time. And of course, the advertising I see on TV, in magazines, and in my Sunday paper keeps me pretty up to date.

Still, Supermarket Sampler is the only resource I've found regularly offering detailed, critical takes on new products. Importantly, they publish reviews even when they don't like the product, so they don't come off as PR shills.

The best part, though, and the reason why the column may interest you if you're here reading this web site, is that co-author Bonnie Tandy Leblang is a registered dietitian. She looks at all these (mostly processed) products through the eyes of someone who dislikes artificial ingredients and flavor enhancers and who prefers products to offer good nutrition with less fat, sodium, and calories.

Her advice can guide you to convenience products that are worth your time and won't wreck your healthy diet. At the same time, her partner Carolyn Wyman, as the junk-food fan, can tell you honestly whether your perhaps less health-oriented family members will be willing to stomach a low-sodium or "natural" branded product.

If your local paper does not carry the column (or you don't subscribe), you can read each week's edition online for free at uExpress.

If you like what you see, you can also check out the authors' other work. Leblang, along with her sons, keeps a blog at Bite of the, and Wyman has published several books about America's favorite convenience foods. I've read her book Better Than Homemade: Amazing Food That Changed the Way We Eat, and if you like shows like Food Network's Unwrapped, you'll really enjoy this easy read.

Picture: Screenshot of

Observe and Learn

corn-chips.jpgA member of my family is on a doctor-recommended diet to lose weight and prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. Basically, the doctor told this person to avoid all white foods: white bread, sugar, and potatoes. It's a simplified version of the low-glycemic, South Beach-style of eating.

Old habits die hard, though. When meat and potatoes are on the menu for decades, it's hard to switch to green vegetables and whole grains. Heck, it takes a whole lot of education to even get to the point where you can reliably identify which foods are healthy and which are not.

We all have to start somewhere.

And I've seen my relative start. Instead of a grabbing the whole bag of potato chips to munch on during the movie we watched, this person took a small handful of corn chips and never went back upstairs for seconds.

Sure, corn chips, made with refined corn, may not be as healthy a choice as whole-grain popcorn, but like I said: we all have to start somewhere.

I'm always glad to see someone start.

Low-Fat Oatmeal Applesauce Cookies

iced-oatmeal02.jpgFYI, for a tasty low-fat Christmas cookie recipe, check out today's post on The Cookie Book:

I will give Martha Stewart's folks credit for creating a decent oatmeal cookie so low in fat. This svelte Iced Oatmeal Applesauce Cookies recipe calls for a mere half stick of butter. As you might have guessed if you have familiarity with low-fat baking, the applesauce replaces the moisture lost to fat cutting, in addition to adding its subtle flavor.

A glass of milk, an oatmeal cookie - a classic, homey dessert!

How Do You Handle Holiday Parties?

Here's the word from Good Housekeeping's Constant Dieter:

Avoiding the Dangers at Holiday Parties - “I've been trying to adopt what I did for Thanksgiving -- relax about it all and zoom in on the stuff I really want.

Rather than stressing about every little morsel, I just focus my cravings.
When I arrive at a party, I first scope out the situation by taking a slow, unobtrusive walk around the party to survey what munchies are being offered. And I look for THE thing. THE thing that I want to eat so badly I know I can't resist. (Last night, it was warm brie and crackers.) Then I make the decision to zoom in on that particular thing. And I go for it.”

I know I can't (yet, at least) look past the delicious food set out at a party. Frankly, I look forward to parties for the food, as I'm not much of a social creature.

To reduce the deleterious effects of my party-snacking habit, I first make sure to keep a calorie-free drink in my hand at all times. If I can keep my mouth filled with diet soda, I don't have to entertain it with cheese as much.

Second, I nibble my noshes. If I take small bites of a chip with creamy dip, it will last me longer and I can relish it.

Finally, I rely on the classic strategy of zeroing in on the veggie tray. However, I really like raw vegetables with dip, so it still seems like a treat to me. If you can't dig the crudités, you might want to attempt the Constant Dieter's strategy.

The Easiest Ever Bean Patties: No More Pricey Frozen Veggie Burgers!

I wrote this for my old cooking blog, but I simply must share it again here. If you have never tried the recipe for bean burgers in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, then you are missing out! They are simple to throw together (even in less than 30 minutes); they taste great; the recipe allows for endless variations; they're cheap; and being bean- and oat-based, they're scandalously healthy. You can eat them on bread as burgers, or you can serve them like I generally do, as a substitute for a meat cutlet right on the plate.

Garbanzos make for the best patties in my experience. If you use other beans, be especially careful about the amount of moisture in the mix, adding more oats if necessary to firm it up.

Oh, and as it's just about holiday time, I thought you'd appreciate a glimpse into Slovak holiday traditions. St. Nicholas Day, when presents are exchanged, is past, but the carp is yet to come. I wrote this on New Year's Eve, Dec. 31, 2007.

Meat is a difficult proposition here in Slovakia. Well, at least for me.

The Slovaks are a pork-loving people. I am decidedly anti-pork (with the exception of bacon and occasionally sausage). The Slovaks also are fond of many meats that are uncommon in American supermarkets, such as goose, venison, and duck. I just can't face any new meats.

Not to mention the tradition here of buying a live carp for Christmas dinner, keeping it alive in the bathtub until that fateful supper. Thank goodness those vendors are gone for the year.

Anyway, this long-winded dissection of foreign culinary habits is meant only as a justification for my looking into ways to create protein-packed main dishes without resorting to cultivating a taste for pigeon.

For everyone not living abroad, bean burgers are still a great idea for everyday dinners as they are high in fiber as well as protein and, oh yeah, they're cheap. Even if you do find chicken or ground beef for $3 a pound on sale, it doesn't beat a can of beans at about $0.50 to $1 [more like $1-plus these days, but now, with my slow cooker handy, I can opt for a whole pound dried for $1.50 - Ed.].

I found this recipe on the site promoting Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything series of cookbooks. Specifically, it comes from the new book, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, which was on my wish list for this Christmas.

I had an extra can of chickpeas in the cupboard from a side dish I forgot to make, so that became the base for our patties. Because this was the first time I was trying this recipe, I didn't go with any of the suggested variations such as adding cheese (I've made veggie patties from scratch only once in my life, and the result was nearly disastrous).

On the other hand, I didn't have any cheese to add. In fact, after I'd already started adding things to the mixing bowl, I realized that I did not have an egg, either. I'd used the last ones the night before to make French toast, forgetting I was supposed to reserve one. Oops.

I ended up adding a tablespoon of mayonnaise to the mix, figuring that at least that spread contains egg. Bittman does suggest some vegan alternatives for binding, but it seemed odd to add another half-cup of oatmeal and too much trouble to make mashed potatoes or rice from scratch just for this recipe. The mayo turned out to work just fine as a binder, fortunately.

I also had to vary the recipe slightly as far as the method went. I don't have a blender or food processor here, so instead I chopped the onion as finely as I could and then had at the mixture with our potato masher. It took a good bit longer than the food processor would have, but with enough effort it became a uniform mush.

The patties we ended up with perhaps could have used some more seasoning, but we enjoyed them with sauces that provided the extra kick. Scott spread his with ketchup and whole-grain mustard, whereas I dipped mine in tartar sauce as if I were eating vypražaný syr (fried cheese). We ate them without buns or bread this time, but they are solid enough to be used as hamburger substitutes.

I'm going to try making some with kidney beans soon. And this time, I'm so going to remember the egg.

The Simplest Bean Burger
Source: Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
Yield: 4 to 6 patties

  • 2 cups well-cooked white, black, or red beans or chickpeas or lentils, or one 14-ounce can, drained (I used chickpeas/garbanzo beans.)

  • 1 medium onion, quartered (I used half a large onion, chopped fine.)

  • ½ cup rolled oats (preferably not instant)

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder or spice mix of your choice (I used taco seasoning.)

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 egg (I used one tablespoon of light mayonnaise.)

  • Bean-cooking liquid, stock, or other liquid (wine, cream, milk, water, ketchup, etc.) if necessary (I added a little water.)

  • Extra virgin olive oil or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, as needed (I used nonstick olive-oil spray.)

1. Combine the beans, onion, oats, chili powder, salt, pepper, and egg in a food processor and pulse until chunky but not puréed, adding a little liquid if necessary (this is unlikely but not impossible) to produce a moist but not wet mixture. Let the mixture rest for a few minutes if time allows.

2. With wet hands, shape into whatever size patties you want and again let rest for a few minutes if time allows. (You can make the burger mixture or even shape the burgers up to a day or so in advance. Just cover tightly and refrigerate, then bring everything back to room temperature before cooking.) Film the bottom of a large nonstick or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet with oil and turn the heat to medium. A minute later, add the patties. Cook until nicely browned on one side, about 5 minutes; turn carefully and cook on the other side until firm and browned.

3. Serve on buns with the usual burger fixings. Or cool and refrigerate or freeze for later use.

Simplest Vegan Bean Burger. Many options: Omit the egg, obviously. Add 1/2 cup Mashed Potatoes; or 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal or short-grain rice (white or brown); or 1/4 cup miso or 1/2 cup tofu.

Bean-and-Cheese Burger. As a flavor-adder, cheese can't be beat, plus there are two bonuses: You don't have to mess with melting cheese on top of the burger, and-for the most part-it acts as a binder. Add 1/2 to 1 cup grated Parmesan, cheddar, Swiss, Jack, mozzarella, or other cheese to the mix (you can omit the egg if you like).

Bean-and-Spinach Burger. Of all the veggies you can add to a burger, I like spinach. You can leave it uncooked and just shred it if you prefer (figure about 2 cups), but this gives better results; it's great with a little garlic added: Squeeze dry and chop about 1 cup cooked spinach (you'll need about 8 ounces of raw spinach to start, or you can use frozen spinach); add it to the mix and proceed with the recipe.

Bean-and-Veggie Burger. Many options, but don't overdo it or the burger will fall apart: Add up to 1/2 cup carrots, bell peppers, shallots, leeks, celery, potato, sweet potato, winter squash, zucchini, or a combination. Cut into chunks as you do the onion and grind with the beans or shred or mince and add afterward.

High-Protein Bean Burger. The soy gives it just a little boost: Instead of rolled oats, use rolled soy (soy flakes).

13 Ways to Build Delicious Veggie Burgers

There are more ways to vary the burgers in this section than I can imagine, but here are a few ideas. The basic rules are to make sure the mixture is neither too dry nor too wet (if you find yourself in the first situation, add a liquid ingredient; in the second, add some oats, ground rice powder or flour, cornmeal, flour, bread crumbs, or the like). But as for flavors, the sky's the limit.

1. Fresh herbs. You can almost not go wrong with fresh herbs, as long as you don't use overwhelming amounts. Add up to 1/2 cup parsley, basil, or dill leaves; somewhat less of mint, cilantro, or chervil; a tablespoon of oregano or marjoram; or only a teaspoon or so of fresh thyme, tarragon, or rosemary.

2. Dried herbs. Use by the pinch; to really get the seasoning right, taste and adjust it (you can cook a little bit first if you don't want to taste it raw).

3. Spices. The spice mix-chili or curry powder, for example-is an easy way to go, but you can combine fairly small amounts (usually 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon) of various spices as you like. Try, for example, smoked paprika, cumin, and ground chiles; coriander, cumin, ginger, and cardamom; or anything else that appeals to you.

4. Garlic. Can't go wrong, really. Add 1 teaspoon or more minced garlic to the mix, or a tablespoon or more Roasted Garlic, with a little of its oil.

5. Chiles. For heat, you can simply add cayenne, hot red pepper flakes, or the like. But if you want some texture, you might include 1/4 cup or more roasted (or canned) green or red chiles.

6. Soy sauce or miso. Just a tablespoon or so of soy sauce, but up to 1/4 cup of any miso; you can omit the egg if you like.

7. Ketchup, salsa, or mustard. Up to 1/3 cup of ketchup or salsa (both of which are pretty good); 1 tablespoon or so of Dijon or other mustard.

8. Nuts or seeds. The nice thing about nuts is the crunch. Add 1/4 cup or so of sesame or sunflower seeds and up to 1/2 cup nuts or pumpkin seeds toward the end of the processing so they don't become too powdery.

9. Lemon, lime, or orange zest. The slight acidity brightens the taste.

10. Tomato paste. A tablespoon or two will give the burgers nice color and a more complex flavor.

11. Mushrooms. Add a tablespoon or so of dried mushrooms, soaked and cooked, as you would any other vegetable (see number 12). Or use up to about 1/2 cup raw, trimmed and added along with the oats and beans.

12. Cooked veggies. Milder flavor, softer texture than raw veggies: Add up to a cup of cooked vegetables- onions, greens, broccoli, potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, zucchini-whatever you like. If you use potatoes and add them to the food processor along with the beans, you can omit the egg and oats.

13. Cooked grains. All-grain burgers tend to be mushy and uninteresting, but adding a bit of grains to other burgers results in a terrific light texture. Feel free to add up to a cup of cooked grains, along with the beans. Omit the oats and, if you like, the egg.

Fill Those Empty Hours with More Food TV - Online

New post on Edible TV:

Do you hate how Food Network insists on going off the air every night between the hours of 4:30 and 9:30 a.m. Eastern?

Do those measly five hours feel like a poke in your faces, Food Network addicts of the world?

Then get your TV-lovin’ eyes over to, where you can find full episodes of your favorite cooking shows online, free for streaming 24/7!

Unfortunately, Healthy Eating with Ellie Krieger and other, no longer airing shows with a healthy eating focus (Low Carb and Lovin' It, Calorie Commando, Weighing In, and even the old Sara Moulton shows and 30-Minute Meals) are not among the programs available online. So sad.

Still, if the programs available there do interest you, go ahead and take them in. If the demand is there, surely Food Network will meet it by offering more shows.

Holiday Dinner Planner


Yes, it's still early in the month of December, but if you want your holidays to be fun rather than harried, now is the time to get your big party meal planning out of the way.

I've created a template for planning a big holiday meal, potluck-style. You have space to fill in who is bringing what dish, as well as the name of the dish if you choose. The template provides dish categories to guide you and help you plan a well-rounded meal.

That is, a meal which doesn't end up featuring five kinds of potatoes alongside the baked ham.

Download the planners for yourself!

Dinner Party Planer PDF
Dinner Party Planner for Apple Pages (in ZIP file)

Economical Holiday Dinner Plans

The Well blog has an extensive roundup of links to articles offering tips for planning a festive holiday meal without busting your budget:

Holiday Feasting on a Budget - Well Blog - “The budget-conscious dinner party is getting a lot of attention these days as home cooks search for affordable foods to serve holiday guests.

The Boston Globe offers a particularly interesting meal for less than $8.50 a person. Health-conscious revelers will like the gingered mashed sweet potatoes and the interesting cabbage and pomegranate slaw. The glazed braised pork shoulder looks delicious and will be a hit with low-carb eaters.”

Check the original out for more. We'll be making our own Christmas dinner more economical through making the main meal mostly a potluck (how else could you feed more than 30 people?!).

I'm also selecting recipes for my holiday cookie extravaganza based on how exotic and expensive their ingredients are. This year, I'm leaving nut-based cookies off Mrs. Claus' list, and I drew the line at two extracts beyond what was already in the pantry. Altogether, I've spent $20 (on top of what was in the pantry anyway) for ingredients enough to make 10 cookie recipes using this method, leaving me more for spending on presents.

Meringues and Handling Cookies at the Holidays

Check out this post from my second, cookie-themed blog:

12daysofcookies.jpgA new and interesting offering today!

Meringues typically fall on the healthy end of the cookie spectrum. They use no flour and, in pure form, no fat. Like angel food cake, the base of these cookies are whipped egg whites, with cream of tartar for stability, sugar for sweetness, and an extract for flavor. Simple, light, yet tasty, too.

If you're trying to make it through the holidays without putting on extra pounds, meringues are one cookie that you can pop several of, guilt free. You won't feel left out of the merriment, and you won't have to leave a trail of half-eaten cookies in your wake.

Still, watch out for the chocolate that coats the bottom of Tyler Florence's spin on the classic meringue kiss. While a plain meringue packs a mere handful of calories, the chocolate coating makes these Snow Peaks more indulgent.

But hey, it's dark chocolate. That's supposed to be healthy these days, isn't it?

Check out today's recipe on Food Network's site, or download Chocolate Covered Snow Peaks into MacGourmet.

Visit The Cookie Book for daily cookie recipes and pointers this December. It's decidedly less healthy than what I post here, but there's a secret: I eat very few of the cookies I bake, especially at the holidays.

I love to bake cookies, so I stockpile them in the freezer to put out at parties and on Christmas Day. The rest then go into gift boxes for friends and family. It's a great deal all around: I indulge my hobby, get a reasonable number of baked goods to indulge in myself, and my loved ones get a homemade gift I've put a lot of thought and effort into producing. A joyous occasion, indeed!

Holiday Programming Hits the Airwaves on Food Network

Is it temptation around the corner on Food Network?

Set your TiVos, fellow food TV lovers: Food Network’s annual Season’s Eatings slate in full swing, offering tips and recipes to get you ready for the holiday season.

Saturday night, tune in for the programs that get me in the Christmas spirit on Holiday Cookie Night. Following a Yuletide-themed episode of Paula’s Party at 7 p.m. Eastern, we’ll be treated to three hours of cookie-baking mania.

Be still my heart!

Read the full post, with details on Food Network's upcoming holiday cooking programming, on Edible TV or Well Fed, if you're interested in planning the next big party.

How do you cope when faced with an onslaught of recipes for rich, festive fare?

First, I look for healthier recipes I can incorporate into the menu. True, roasted vegetables slathered in olive oil aren't particularly low in calories, but the extra calories provide special occasion indulgence while still packing you full of vitamins, minerals, and heart-healthy fats.

Look for holiday recipes that feature healthy ingredients without being bland, compromised "diet food."

Second, I find ways to make heavy recipes a little lighter or more nutritious. This year, for example, I substituted some whole wheat into my stuffing and roll recipes, I used reduced-fat cream cheese in the gratin, and I blended turkey bacon into the cheese ball. I also sautéed using oil rather than butter where I thought the flavor wouldn't be missed to cut down on saturated fat.

Substitute healthier ingredients when it's possible to do so without affecting the integrity of the dish.

The last bit is key - fat-free cheese, for example, makes sacrifices too great in the texture department for my taste. And the taste of many others - a serious compromise may just lead to everyone neglecting that dish.

Third, I plan on putting out appetizers. I love a big tray of veggies and dip myself, but consider your personal tastes. Reduced-fat cheeses work well if you buy most of your cheese from the case dominated by Kraft anyway, and a flavorful jerky can replace cured sausages. Popcorn is plenty festive, too, and you can dress it up with strong flavors (grated parmesan, garlic salt, herbs, and so on). I tend to fill up on hors d'ouerves long before dinner, which helps me implement the most important strategy: Eat less dinner!

Plan to fill up before you hit the buffet.

Finally, don't forget it's the holidays. This time comes only once a year, so please, allow for some indulgence! As long as you don't eat yourself sick every night, you can maintain your healthy lifestyle even while enjoying some December cheer.

Eat Less Meat - Lose More Pounds (and Fewer Dollars)

We had visitors here from Thanksgiving to yesterday, and today I'm working hard getting ready for Christmas travel. Please enjoy this post I wrote a few months ago for another blog, which is new here and still contains eminently relevant thoughts.

A new article from Mark Bittman at the New York Times just popped up in my newsreader. It continues a theme the Minimalist has been pushing a lot lately, that of eating less (but not no) meat.

The reasons to cut back on meat consumption are many and are covered in various past articles. Some important ones are improving health (as meat is generally high in saturated fat), cutting costs (because meat is more expensive than grains and produce, even with rising costs for grain -- animals here are fed grain, after all), and reducing environmental impact (in several ways, including this weird yet true bit: Cattle flatulence is a source of air pollution).

We've cut down our meat consumption considerably while living overseas. Our egg sandwiches are baconless, and our burgers are often made out of beans. The ultimate reason for us is that we are on a tight budget, what with the currency having tanked this year. Subbing beans for beef is economical and healthy.

Still, I've also reduced meat portions in straight-up meat-and-potatoes meals. Now, we share one boneless, skinless chicken breast piece between the two of us rather than each having our own, for example. (I do pound them flat and cut them into cutlets first, though, so it looks like a normal size).

But even though this is ostensibly "less," I find it's better this way. Growing up, we were never big meat eaters in our house. I don't know why, but the habit of cutting up a portion of the meat dish into small pieces for the kids to take never left my mom. Thus, even as a teenager I was putting maybe six small cubes or a chunk smaller than a deck of cards on my (American-child-sized, European-adult-sized) plate and considering that a full portion. I never grew to like big meat portions much, always preferring the side dishes.

In a way, then, I feel like I'm getting back to normal rather than moving away from it.

When Food Attacks!

I'm in the thick of Thanksgiving prep today, but on my lunch break I found this story waiting in my inbox. As someone who can end up sick for days following the euphoria of feasting, this comprehensive look at trigger foods hits close to home.

I can say from personal experience that dietary change can profoundly affect your overall feeling of wellness. I wouldn't claim a change in how you eat will prevent you from contracting a disease or open your mind, but no question, it can relieve you of the distinctly uncomfortable symptoms of things like acid reflux, heartburn, bloating, indigestion, gas, and so on.

I've identified spicy foods, raw garlic, and coffee as three triggers for my unpleasant digestive symptoms, and an overabundance of citrus can do me in, too. Eating too much food also brings me pain -- something to keep in mind for tomorrow, I suppose.

Read on to learn what foods might be causing your pain.

ABC News: 10 Foods That Bring on the Pain: “While an estimated 40 million Americans live with what they describe as chronic pain, many more suffer from acute bouts of pain, such as acid reflux and headaches. But be it chronic or acute, pain is something we'd all like to live without.

Dr. Neal Barnard, founder and president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and president of the Cancer Project in Washington, D.C., believes that pain-free living could be a dietary change away.

"What we know is that when people eliminate certain foods from their diets, their symptoms are eliminated or reduced, so we know that there is a link here," says Barnard, who is an outspoken advocate of vegetarianism. The link could be a number of things, ranging from a reaction to certain proteins found in particular foods, to an increase in cholesterol, which can irritate the lining of our arteries, he says.”

Monday Meal Planning: Thanksgiving Madness Edition

I'm finally getting this out there, but I'm crazy-busy this week with Thanksgiving prep, so there's no guarantees of more!

I'm also somewhat uncertain of the menus for post-Thanksgiving. A lot will depend on the amount of leftovers, as I'll be feeding five instead of three for a few days.

Chicken schnitzel
Parsleyed potatoes

Scrambled eggs with cheddar
Home fries

Tomato soup (if I feel ambitious)

Deep-fried turkey
Jellied cranberry sauce
Herbed mashed potatoes
Sweet potatoes with pecan streusel
Sage sausage and cranberry stuffing
Broccoli gratin
Creamed corn
Roasted carrots and onions
Fresh-baked rolls

Turkey stew
Stuffing or rice

Turkey croquettes
Baked potatoes?

Spaghetti with turkey bolognese
Garlic bread

Healthy Thanksgiving Roundup

Ready to start planning for the big day? It's less than a week away . . .

Hungry Girl offers a list of must-have holiday ingredients to slim down your festivities. Some are the usual branded, processed goods, but you'll also find out the benefits of plain puréed pumpkin and natural butternut squash. One surprise for me: Campbell's 98% Fat Free Cream of Celery soup has fewer calories than either the Mushroom or Chicken varieties.

Also on offer from Hungry Girl is today's holiday hit list - and I don't mean the Top 10 kind. She offers suggestions for cutting calories from the worst Thanksgiving table offenders. Sure to make hesitant holiday cooks sing with joy is the advice to go ahead and use gravy mix. You'll save loads of calories and fat while being guaranteed no lumps on the big day.

health-nov08.jpgHealth Magazine put together a collection of recipes for a healthier Thanksgiving. The cornbread stuffing, cipollini onions, and apple galette all look especially attractive to me. You can read more about the holiday fun at Health at my post on Fit Fare. Go try your hand at that Thanksgiving foods quiz and see if you fared any better than I did!

While you're at Fit Fare, you can keep on the lookout for more healthy holiday eating advice. Right now, you can find a recipe for vegan Pumpkin Tofu "Ricotta" to help you through the upcoming office parties. I know when I was teaching in Las Vegas that the mini-quiches were my downfall at our holiday teachers' lounge parties. At least I won't have the temptation this year!

Good Housekeeping also went the healthy route with its Thanksgiving recipes this year. Check out the healthy variations from the November issue using the links below.

The New York Times' Recipes for Health series has focused on a classic holiday food, sweet potatoes, this week. You can check out recipes for Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Soup and Sweet Potato Purée with Apples, as well as an article on their nutritional wonders.

If you follow the South Beach way of eating, Kalyn's Kitchen has an ever-expanding list of low-glycemic Thanksgiving recipes to keep you on track through the holidays.

Is it stress more than meal planning that gets you down during the holidays? The Beauty Eats blog by the people behind the Real Age site offers a top-five list of foods to keep you happy at this time of year.

Hungry Girl sneaks back into the roundup on her Yahoo! Food blog with a list of 7 Ways to Avoid Thanksgiving Weight Gain. Check out some of the recipes linked on this page to follow her advice and bring your own guilt-free contribution!

Finally, if you still can't find just what you were looking for, check out Cheap Healthy Good's exhaustive list of more than a hundred Thanksgiving links. It wears me out just looking at it!

Have a delicious holiday (prep) weekend!

Less Now Means More (Variety) Later

pastitsio.jpgAt lunch today, I dug eagerly into some leftover pastitsio, one of my favorite pasta dishes. It's dusted with sharp pecorino cheese, stuffed with cinnamon-scented ground meat, and topped with a rich, eggy crema.

Excuse me while I drool.

I cut a generous piece, but I knew before I was even halfway through that I would be left craving more. I loved every decadent bite, but even with the need to clear out the fridge before Turkey Day, could I justify a second slice?

I knew the answer, and so should you by now. But how could I change my perspective so that I wouldn't spend the rest of the day dreaming about stuffing my face with Greek pasta goodness?

What I needed to remember was that eating less food now means leaving more room for other delicious foods later.

Think about it. What's so great about eating? The variety of tastes! No one would get excited about food if chocolate cake was all there ever was to eat. No matter how much you love fudgy confections, they would lose their appeal after days of nothing but.

Surely you've been told more than once in your life to "leave room for dessert." That's simply a more specific way of saying "don't overeat now - there's still so many other enticing tastes you could spend those calories on!"

What happened with my lunch today, then? Well, I reminded myself that I had a fridge full of foods other than pastisio, many much healthier yet still yummy.

I elected to grab an orange instead to fill the space left in my stomach. A great choice for me - I haven't had one in months, so the juicy, sweet-tart flavor excited my tastebuds in a way another plateful of pastitsio never could. Plus, I knew the orange was both low in calories and full of vitamin C and fiber to keep my body healthy.


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Tuesday Meal Planning: Husband's Birthday Edition

Kind of forgot to post the meal plan yesterday, but I did have one in place ready to go. In fact, I planned nearly every meal up until Thanksgiving at the beginning of this month in hopes of saving money and shop time before the feast.

That hasn't been working out so well, by the way. I don't seem to have spent any less so far this month, and I have the huge Thanksgiving bill yet to come - huge mostly because it entails buying three gallons of frying oil for the turkeys!


I planned the first meals of the week to feature some of my husband's favorite foods, as today is his birthday. Yeah, the meals were kind of rich, but hey, it's a celebration!

Pastitsio is basically Greek baked ziti. You layer pecorino cheese, tubular noodles, cinnamon-scented meat sauce, and an eggy custard in a huge baking pan. It's labor-intensive, much like homemade lasagna, but it's delicious!

But I certainly wouldn't recommend the work (or the two sticks of butter) for everyday eating.

On special occasions, though, like today:

Happy birthday, Scott!

Twice-baked potatoes


Broccoli casserole

Grilled cheese
Tomato soup

Black bean salad

White whole-wheat pancakes
Turkey bacon

Chicken and rice with veggies

Managing Cookies for Christmas

New today on Edible TV:

13D114A6-C39E-42E0-A9CE-091290F55E3B.jpgHoliday baking fans, start your mixers!

Food Network’s annual sweet-treat bonanza, the 12 Days of Cookies newsletter, comes out of the oven starting December 1. That’s less than two weeks away, cookie monsters!

I know, I know . . . cookies?! How can they be part of a healthy diet?!

I obsess over cookie baking during the holidays, so I need to find ways to incorporate them into my healthier diet. And you know what?

We can bake our cookies and eat them, too!

All in moderation, of course. Moderation, as always, is the key to a healthy diet. Moderation can mean many things -- for big trigger foods, it can mean only eating them outside of your home (so you are inherently limited in the amount you can consume); for unhealthy but not necessarily crave-able foods such as butter, it might mean finding ways to substitute at least some heart-healthy oil or nonstick spray in your recipes. Of course, it can just mean eating less.

You have to decide for yourself what route you need to take with cookies, but here are my tips for keeping the cookie monster under control:

1. Spread the wealth. I bake up to a dozen batches of cookies each holiday season, but I would never eat them all myself. Ugh, you'd be rolling me to the Christmas tree . . . Anyway, I utilize my love of baking to create gift boxes of homemade cookies.

It's a fairly frugal gift (that is, if I find good sales on butter and nuts!), so I can make certain to recognize everyone I care about at the holidays, plus since it's a homemade gift, everyone knows I put in plenty of time and effort to make it special.

The healthy eating bonus is that I get my bounty of baked goods out of the house so my family isn't so tempted to binge!

2. Use the freezer. Most cookies freeze superbly. Pop a well-wrapped dozen in the freezer, and you'll have fresh-tasting cookies at the ready throughout the holiday season for unexpected guests. I store my cookies for gift boxes this way, too.

It's an excellent strategy for batches you plan on eating yourself, too. The freezer keeps the cookies from going stale, so you don't feel the pressure to eat handfuls at a time so they won't go bad.

3. Try healthier recipes. I have King Arthur Flour's Whole Grain Baking book, which offers a number of cookie recipes punched up with, as you would expect, whole grains. For Thanksgiving, I'm planning to make Sparkling Cranberry Gems, which offer the option of using white whole-wheat flour and are relatively low in fat. If you're not ready to make the leap into whole-grain desserts, consider classic healthier cookies like meringues, oatmeal cookies, and ground nut-based macaroons.

And remember, baking is light exercise. My shoulders feel the burn of lifting sheet pans after hours on my feet as surely as my fingers feel it if I forget the potholder.

Picture: Food Network 12 Days of Cookies Newsletter

Homemade Light Paprika Vinaigrette Recipe

I have to apologize for focusing so much on healthy recipes lately, but food is about all I think about in the run-up to the holidays!

I threw together this vinaigrette back when I made the Italian dip for our election-night party. I ended up making two batches as I spilled half the first batch all over the kitchen counter (that was fun), so we had homemade vinaigrette in the fridge for the next week.

And surprise of surprises, it went fast. Even my "I'll take Italian, please," brother elected to put some on his salad. How's that for an endorsement?

I made the vinaigrette using a stick blender and the beaker that came with it, but naturally it would come together just as well in a regular blender.

Keep in mind also that the more raw garlic you add, the more pungent it will become. It also gets more pungent over time, so keep that in mind when you taste the freshly blended dressing.

Light Paprika Vinaigrette
Source: Pennies & Pounds
Yield: about 1 to 1¼ cups of dressing, about 10 servings

½ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup water
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons dried parsley (or 2 tablespoons fresh parsley)
1 teaspoon dried dill (or 1 tablespoon fresh dill)
1 tablespoon paprika
½ teaspoon celery salt
½ teaspoon Lawry's seasoned salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 or 2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ medium onion, chopped
¼ cup vegetable oil

1. Put all ingredients except the garlic, onion, and oil in the beaker or pitcher of your blending unit. Pulse to combine.

2. Add the garlic and onion. Purée the veggies into the vinaigrette.

3. Add the oil and let 'er rip. You'll end up with a lovely red emulsion. Enjoy on salad or mixed into your favorite recipe.

Approximate Nutrition Facts (2 tablespoons): Calories: 66; Total Fat: 6.05g; Total Carbs: 2.20g; Dietary Fiber: 0.38g; Sugars: 1.47g; Protein: 0.23g

Roasted Vegetable Sandwich Spread


I despise cold cuts.

There, it's out. Hungry Girl may adore them, and may recommend the salt bomb of a slice of turkey wrapped around a pickle as a good low-cal snack, but I cannot stand the slimy sheets.

I do eat dried, cured sausages such as pepperoni and salami, which are often lumped in with cold cuts, and on occasion you can get me to eat a sandwich made with some sort of cold beef, but for the most part, I would rather choke down a quart of boiled cabbage.

Thus, I have to get creative with sandwich fillings. While I enjoy chicken salad, egg salad, BLT, and grilled cheese sandwiches, I can't eat them every day: One, I need variety, and two, well, they're awfully rich. I like egg sandwiches (whole or whites only, with light cheese), too, but they require prep time I'm often not willing to give at lunch time.

Now that I have oven access and a renewed appreciation for vegetables, I decided to finally try out Alton Brown's recipe for roasted vegetable sandwich spread.

Yum. Numnumnum yummmm!

I've altered the recipe each time I've made it. You can throw in just about any vegetable you like, and when you purée them in the food processor with a block of light cream cheese, you'll end up with a delicious, slightly sweet yet savory spread.

I go heavy on the vegetables, which doesn't negatively affect the texture but does make the spread calorically lighter and more nutritious.

By the way, don't confuse this with vegetable-flavored cream cheese they sell in tubs at the supermarket and bagel shop. This spread has way more flavor and nutritious goodness.

sandwich-spread.jpgRoasted Vegetable Spread
Source: Adapted from Alton Brown

2 red bell peppers, sliced
1 medium-to-large onion, cut into chunks
8 cloves garlic, peeled
2 carrots, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon oil
8 ounces light cream cheese or neufchatel cheese

1. Toss the vegetables with the oil. Roast at 400 degrees in a toaster oven or regular oven until the vegetables turn soft and brown at the edges, about 45 minutes. Allow the vegetables to cool.

2. Pulse the cooled vegetables with some salt and pepper in a food processor. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the cream cheese. Run the processor until you produce a smooth purée. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary.

3. To serve, spread on toasted soft sandwich bread. Lick fingers. Enjoy.

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The Joys of Junk and More Hot Links

New York Times - Money Is Tight, and Junk Food Beckons
My, this sounds familiar. I am not yet making tortillas from scratch, but I do bake a lot of our bread, muffins, and sandwich rolls. I've switched to dried beans and never buy pre-cut or washed produce. It takes a little more work, but it saves us enough money that we can actually eat more than just grains.

Honestly, though, I have to wonder where all this cheap junk food is. A pound of chips costs more than a pound of any of the raw vegetables I bought at the grocery store today, even including the vegetable oil I might use in cooking them.

If you want to talk fast-food versus grocery-store prices, I suppose it's less clear cut. Still, I think fast food wins out for most people because of its convenience, not its cost.

New York Times - Stretching: The Truth
Punning headline aside, read this article to learn the correct way to stretch as part of a warm up. Hint: Not the way you probably learned in P.E.

ABC News - Ten Foods to Fight Colds and Boost Your Immunity
I get sick less often when I stick to a healthy diet (including avoiding foods that trigger my digestive issues). I don't know for sure it's my diet and not some other factor helping my immune system, but surely eating healthy is also good in its own right.

New York Times - Calories Do Count
It's hilarious how restaurants are spinning their scramble to offer lower-cal menu items as solely due to giving the customers what they want, not AT ALL due to legislation forcing calorie counts out of the shadows. They have to promote that agenda to fight off further calorie-posting laws, but the truth is, consumers wouldn't be demanding less caloric items if they hadn't been confronted with JUST HOW MANY calories are in their favorite dishes.

Well Blog - Still Spooked by High-Fructose Corn Syrup
Now you can respond to those silly commercials.

Health - Heart-Healthy, Cost-Conscious Recipes and Food Tips
A roundup of some of the latest healthy eating news from a conference.

Monday Meal Planning: Gone Crazy Edition

Not so much crazy as ill, actually, but that makes everything else go crazy in the kitchen. Last week's meal plan ended up mixed up as I let things slide when my appetite abandoned me.

But the thing is, a meal plan is more a help than a hindrance when my schedule gets messed up. I know I have the fixings for several meals ready to go in the kitchen, so I don't have to leave home to go to the store when I'm not feeling so hot. If I'm really out of commission, everything is ready for someone else in the house to pick up and cook.

This past week, I ended up moving one meal later in the week when I didn't make it home until late, eliminating a side dish that I couldn't get an ingredient for, and knocking one meal off the menu in favor of sandwiches.

Flexibility is the spice of meal plans. At least when you're out of Lawry's.

French dip sandwiches
Oven fries

Pasta with sun-dried tomato sausage, broccoli, and roasted red peppers

Cheese frittata
Green beans with shallots and vermouth
Confetti slaw

Broccoli-cheddar casserole

Roasted boneless chicken breasts
Sweet potato casserole

Tofu stir fry: onions, garlic, ginger, carrots, broccoli
Yakisoba noodles

Mashed black beans
Mexican rice

Short programming note: Pennies & Pound's RSS feed address has changed. If you have subscribed already and want to update to the new address, go ahead and change to

A Psychedelic Thanksgiving, Courtesy of Saveur

Anyone else find these girly green beans and potatoes in their November 2008 issue of Saveur?


I was looking through for side-dish inspiration when I came across this recipe for Green Beans with Pancetta and Mint.

saveur-nov2008-03.jpgI wondered if perhaps the color was a reaction with the milk you cook the beans in.

Naturally, I also wondered why anyone would eat them.

The nuts and the bacon don't look that bad, actually. I suppose you could pick around the purple beans. Or you could simply plan on inviting Barbie to your Thanksgiving dinner.

After all, she could stand to put a little meat on her bones.

I bet Barbie would love this potato and celery root purée -- in bubble-gum pink.

saveur-nov2008-04.jpgI do love the taste of celery root in my potatoes. I ate heartily the year my grandma tried spicing up the standard mashers this way.

But these Whipped Masted Potatoes with Celery Root just don't look right.

They appear to need some marshmallows.

Or maybe strawberries would be a healthier garnish? The mash does look a bit like that strawberry mousse salad thing they put on buffets sometimes.

OK, so maybe Saveur was not trying to push us all in a very new direction for our holiday meals. I checked their web site and found that indeed, the beans are green and the potatoes white:


Maybe someone more familiar with publishing can explain the weird colors? The rest of the magazine was less trippy.

saveur-nov2008-02.jpgCheck out the November issue for some surprisingly light holiday fare:

Sweet Potato Casserole: The recipe accommodates the marshmallow crowd while also making room for those of us who prefer the healthier option, nuts. Also, this casserole is made with evaporated milk instead of heavy cream.

Roasted Cranberry Sauce: If you don't go for the traditional sliceable jelly from a can, then you might be interested in this walk on the wild side. With cardamom, jalepeño, and heart-friendly extra-virgin olive oil, it's both healthy and odd-sounding.

And of course, don't miss out on the actually totally normal Green Beans with Pancetta and Mint and Whipped Masted Potatoes with Celery Root. The green beans do feature butter and cured pork, but the hazelnuts provide healthy fat in this rich holiday dish. As for the potatoes . . . well, celery root has less than half the calories of potatoes. Otherwise, there's not much redeeming health value here.

But they are a lovely shade of pink.

Photos: Saveur

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