Friday, December 30, 2011

Healthy New Year's Eve Recipes

Because I plan on having a very low-key New Year's Eve at home with my husband and some friends, we've decided to whip up a meal to ring in 2012 that's not only delicious but heart healthy too! Below are a couple of the recipes from that we're thinking about cooking up:
Carmelized Onion & Shrimp Bruschetta - the only switch I plan on making to this recipe is using soft margarine to saute the onions instead of canola oil.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

John Besh's Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

IN honor of my hubby's 29th birthday today, I made a huge pot of chicken and sausage gumbo. This belly-warming dish is worth the time it takes. It's definitely not one of my heart healthy dishes, but as they say, all things in moderation!

John Besh’s Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

from My New Orleans

■1c. Canola Oil
■1 c. Flour
■2 onions, diced
■1 large chicken, cut into 12 pieces
■2 Tbsp. Basic Creole Spices (I used Tony’s)
■2 lbs. spicy smoked sausage, sliced 1/2″ thick
■2 stalks celery, diced
■2 green peppers, diced
■1 tomato, seeded and chopped
■2 cloves garlic, minced
■2 sprigs fresh thyme
■3 quarts chicken stock
■2 bay leaves
■6 oz. andouille sausage, chopped
■2 c. slice okra
■1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
■Filé Powder
■4-6 c. cooked rice


1.Make a roux by heating the oil in a heavy bottomed pot over high heat. Whisk the flour into the hot oil. Reduce the heat to medium and continue whisking until the roux turns deep brown, about 15 minutes.

2.Add onions to the roux and stir with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to medium low and continue until the roux is a glossy dark brown, about 10 minutes.

3.Season the chicken with the Creole Spices. Add the chicken to the pot, raise the heat to medium, and cook for about 10 minutes, turning the chicken pieces as you go.

4.Add the smoked sausage and stir for a minute.

5.Add the celery, bell peppers, tomato, and garlic. Cook, stirring for three minutes. Add the thyme, chicken stock, and bay leaves. Bring the gumbo to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally and skim off the fat.

6.Add the andouille, okra, Worcestershire, and season with salt and pepper, several dashes of filé powder and Tabasco. Simmer for another 45 minutes, continuing to skim the fat off the top.

7.Remove the bay leaves and serve over rice.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Stolen Margarine Truck Still Missing!

Here's an update on the stolen margarine truck debacle from the Sacramento Bee

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Authorities say a thief who slipped away with $50,000 worth of margarine remains at large even though the truck that carried the payload has been recovered.The trailer was parked awaiting delivery to a Target Corp. warehouse in Cedar Falls when it was stolen Dec. 10 from a parking lot near Waterloo. It was found Dec. 15 in a parking lot more than 500 miles away in Fowler, Mich.But the thief and the margarine are nowhere to be found. Waterloo police Capt. Rick Abben says the theft was the latest in a series of semitrailer thefts in the area during the past 18 months.He says the others included a trailer filled with beef jerky, one loaded with dog food and one carrying dental hygiene products.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Breaking News Alert: Thief Makes Off with $50,000 Worth of Margarine!

What a hilarious story!

Margarine thief gives 'em the slip in Iowa, makes off with truckload, $50K worth

(CBS/AP) CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - Authorities in eastern Iowa are searching for a thief who slipped away with a trailer filled with $50,000 worth of margarine.

The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports that authorities say a semitrailer packed with the spread disappeared during the weekend from a truck stop in Elk Run. The margarine haul was bound for a Target warehouse in Cedar Falls.

The Black Hawk County sheriff's office says the driver left the trailer at the truck stop to wait until the warehouse had space. Another truck was slated to pick up the trailer for the last leg of the journey.

Authorities say before that could happen, sometime Saturday night, a thief hooked up the trailer and drove off with the margarine.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Movin' on up!

Sorry for the lack of posts this week but Brandon and I have been busy packing to move into...our first house! We have been doing a lot of work on the house, most of which is still not complete (the painters will be there all night tonight) but no matter, we're moving in. I promise to be better about posting next week.
In the meantime, happy almost Friday!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Creamy Confetti Corn Recipe

This recipe from Detroit Free Press is low in calories, looks delicious and will be quite festive at your holiday party!

Creamy Confetti Corn

Serves: 8 / Preparation time: 10 minutes / Total time: 1 hour

Vegetable oil cooking spray

1 tablespoon soft margarine

1/2 cup diced green pepper

1/2 cup diced red onion

1 clove garlic, minced

2 (10-ounce) boxes frozen corn kernels

3 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup skim milk

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch quiche pan or pie plate with vegetable oil cooking spray.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat margarine over medium heat and cook the green pepper, onion and garlic until slightly tender, about 3 minutes. Add the corn kernels and continue to cook for 3 to 5 minutes. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the cream cheese and milk until smooth. Add the thyme, salt and pepper. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the corn mixture and gently stir to combine.

Spoon the corn mixture into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with Parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Place the oven on broil and continue cooking until the cheese topping is golden brown, about 2 to 4 minutes.

Created by Darlene Zimmerman, MS, RD, for Heart Smart and tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen. 116 calories (31% from fat), 4 grams fat (2 grams sat. fat, 0 grams trans fat), 17 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein, 159 mg sodium, 10 mg cholesterol, 52 mg calcium, 2 grams fiber. Food exchanges: 1 starch, 1 fat.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Which is MOre Important - Your Weight or Level of Fitness?

This interesting article from TIME examines which is more important when it comes to living a longer life - how much you weigh or how fit you are. What are your thoughts?

Fit Versus Fat: Which Matters More for Longevity?
By Alice Parker

Most of us are all too familiar with how much we weigh — but how many of us know how fit we are? And which matters more?

When it comes to lowering our overall risk of death and dying from heart disease, fitness may be just as important, if not more so, than weight. That's what researchers concluded after studying fitness, weight and mortality among 14,345 middle-aged men in an 11-year study.

Most studies that have previously linked weight gain, overweight and obesity to higher mortality risk have focused only on BMI, or body mass index, a ratio of height and weight. That's because weight can indirectly affect a number of different metabolic processes that contribute to mortality, such as how we burn calories or process sugars, and how high our blood pressure is. But weight may also be masking the effect of another factor that could protect or propel us to an early death: how efficiently our hearts and lungs are working, or, in other words, how fit we are.

Duck-Chul Lee, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of exercise science at the University of South Carolina School of Public Health, and his colleagues decided to focus specifically on the role of fitness in overall mortality rates as well as deaths due to heart disease. So they recruited a group of men aged 20 to 100 and had them run on a treadmill to measure their heart and lung function. The researchers compared the participants' maximum fitness levels — how long the participants could run at increasingly steeper inclines — taken at two points during the 11.5-year study, to death rates among the group, and factored in changes in the participants' weight as well.

The men who maintained their fitness levels between the two measurements lowered their risk of dying from heart-related or any other causes by up to 30%, compared with those who lost fitness. Those who actually improved their fitness lowered their risk even more, by up to 44%. In fact, for every unit improvement in fitness, measured as metabolic equivalents (METs), there was a 15% decrease in death from any cause, and a 19% decrease in dying from heart-related events.

All of these changes occurred regardless of how much weight the men gained or lost. When it came to BMI, fluctuations during the study period weren't linked to any changes in all-cause mortality, though men whose BMI went up had an increased risk of dying from a heart event compared with those whose BMIs went down.

"Regardless of weight change — some lost weight, and some gained, while some remained stable — loss of fitness was associated with a higher risk of mortality," says Lee.

It's a confusing concept — after all, isn't weight a reflection of how fit we are? Well, yes and no. To a certain extent, yes, the more weight we gain, the less fit we tend to be. In fact, when Lee and his team looked at who in the study lost fitness, they were the sedentary men who started smoking and developed conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. And those who were the least physically active also lost the most fitness.

But that assumes that a high BMI is primarily due to extra fat tissue, which in many cases it is. But muscle also contributes to a person's weight, and people who are more active may also develop more muscle tone, which may add to their weight — and their BMI — without necessarily harming their health. That's why the researches wanted to tease apart fitness from weight to pinpoint how each contributes to mortality. "When you change your body weight, you have to consider whether you become more fit or not," says Lee. "If you gain weight, but become more fit, then that might be okay regarding your mortality risk. We have to start considering other factors when we talk about weight change and health outcomes."

Lee stresses, however, that the results don't completely absolve weight as a potentially health-harming factor. He notes that the study included white upper-middle class men who were close to normal weight or only slightly overweight. Previous studies have shown that among the obese, weight loss can have a much more dramatic effect in lowering risk of dying from heart events of other causes.

The findings do suggest, however, that lowering your risk of early death may be more complicated than simply watching the scale. If you're trying to stay healthy and to lower your risk of dying from a chronic condition, you might not need to shed pounds, but you'll still have to exercise — the best way to stay fit, says Lee, is to be physically active.

Alice Park is a writer at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @aliceparkny. You can also continue the discussion on TIME's Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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Friday, December 02, 2011

Study Indicates Calorie Restriction Helps Fight Heart Disease, Diabetes in Obese

We already know that following a low-calorie diet can help people to lose weight. But besides weight loss, researchers are now learning that calorie restriction can also do amazing things in the bodies of obese people, including improving heart function and helping with type 2 diabetes.
Researchers recently presented their results at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America and said that lifestyle interventions — such as calorie restriction — may be more powerful and beneficial for heart health and reversing diabetes than medication. Diabetes affects 25.8 million people in the U.S., and type 2 is the most common form of diabetes, representing 90 to 95 percent of diagnosed cases among adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Now, the study was pretty extreme. Researchers gave 15 obese patients just 500 calories a day for four months. The calorie restriction decreased the patients' average BMI from 35.3 to 27.5 and the visceral fat around their hearts went from an average of 39 milliliters to 31 milliliters. This fat is detrimental to cardiac function. Fourteen months after the study, the patients' BMI increased to 31.7, but the visceral fat around their hearts only increased to 32. Therefore, researchers concluded that calorie restriction improved heart health, even when some weight was regained.
With calorie restriction so drastic in the study, researchers caution that it is to only be done under a doctor's close supervision. Not to mention that most low-calorie diets recommend that you eat no fewer than 1,200 calories a day — let alone only 500.Do you eat a lower-calorie diet? Will you follow this research on calorie restriction?

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Double Chocolate-Mocha Cookies

These Double Chocolate-Mocha Cookies are to die for!!! I've modifed the recipe a bit as the original recipe used both butter and margarine. To make it more heart healthy I replaced the butter with additional margarine. No need for butter when you can have better - margarine!

Double Chocolate-Mocha Cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, slightly softened

1/2 cup (1 stick) margarine, slightly softened (see notes)

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/4 cups lightly packed all-purpose flour (12 ounces)

3 tablespoons European dark or Dutch-process cocoa powder

2 tablespoons instant espresso powder (see notes)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon table salt

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup white chocolate chips

1. In a large bowl, beat butter, margarine and sugars until light. Add eggs and vanilla; beat for a few seconds, just enough to break the yolks.

2. In a small bowl, stir together flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda and salt. Add to butter mixture and combine well. With a spatula, stir in chips. For easier handling and flavor development, cover dough and refrigerate overnight.

3. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with parchment. Using a Number 60 scoop or three tablespoons of dough, shape into balls and arrange about 1 inch apart. Bake 16 minutes or until cookies are no longer moist in the center. Do not overbake or cookies will be dry. Let cookies cool, then remove from baking sheets.

Per cookie: 200 calories; 10g fat; 5g saturated fat; 20mg cholesterol; 2g protein; 26g carbohydrate; 17g sugar; 1g fiber; 225mg sodium; 5mg calcium.

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