Friday, February 21, 2014

Heart Healthy Eating

February has been designated as American Heart Month but realistically every month should be heart month. Keeping our hearts in the best condition possible is essential to living.

This week I led a Healthy Hearts food demo at Piedmont Fayette Hospital's Cancer Wellness Center. Each of the recipes used had the hallmarks of a Mediterranean diet, one with fruits and vegetables and grains and low on fats.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating primarily a plant based diet, replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil, using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods, limiting red meat to no more than couple of times a week and eating fish and poultry at least twice a week.  Nuts are also a part of the Mediterranean diet. While nuts are high in fat, most of the fat is healthy.  As they are high in calories, they should not be eaten in large amounts - generally no more than a handful a day. And it is best to keep away from candied or honey-roasted and heavily salted nuts.

One of the recipes prepared was Mediterranean 7-Layer Dip. It was a refreshing and healthy change from the traditional recipe. We served it with yellow and red bell pepper strips and baked pita chips. It was an overwhelming hit!

Mediterranean 7-Layer Dip

8 ounces hummus
1 tomato, diced
1/2 cucumber, diced
1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp paprika
2 canned artichoke hearts, chopped
2 roasted red peppers (4 halves), diced
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 Tbs minced flat-leaf parsley
Kalamata olives, chopped, for garnish

1. In an 8x8 square serving dish, spread the hummus evenly on the bottom. Layer the tomatoes and cucumber over top.
2. Dollop the yogurt over the vegetables, then gently spread. Sprinkle the yogurt with salt and paprika.
3. Top the yogurt with the artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers and feta cheese. Sprinkle with parsley and garnish with olives.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Butternut Squash, Cranberry and Goat Cheese Crostini

I just love these! They are such a fun twist to the variety of ways to make a crostini. I have gotten a great deal of mileage out of this recipe this fall and winter. I know it is almost spring, but it's not too late to try this. It's a simple and easily prepared and I think you will like it too.

Butternut Squash, Cranberry and Goat Cheese Crostini

2 ½ tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 (12”) sourdough baguette, thinly slice (1/4” pieces)
3 to 4 ounces goat cheese, softened
1 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, minced
 1 ½ cups peeled and diced butternut squash
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cups dried cranberries, roughly chopped
2 ½ tablespoons minced thyme
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375F.  Brush each side of sliced baguette with oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Bake for 5 minutes, flip each crostini, and continue to bake for an additional 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside.
For topping: Pour oil into a heavy bottom skillet and place over medium-high heat. Add shallots and sauté for 2 minutes.  Add squash and continue to sauté for 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add garlic and 2 tablespoons of thyme and stir together; season with salt and pepper. Cook mixture for 5 minutes, add cranberries. Continue to cook for 4 or 5 minutes for until squash is fork tender. Stir in remaining thyme and adjust seasonings.

To assemble: Spread a small amount of goat cheese onto each crostini and top with a spoonful or two of squash mixture. Serve.
NOTE: A couple of things I do - I cut the butternut squash into 1/4" dice. I also cover the skillet after I add the cranberries. I find it a better way to finish cooking the squash. I have substituted soften cream cheese for the goat cheese and it worked well.

*I honestly don't remember where I found this recipe so I cannot do due diligence other than to say someone "out there" gets the credit.* 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Snow Day, Beer Bread and Friends

About every ten years or so Atlanta and its southern neighboring counties gets a real snow storm. One that puts a halt to doing anything except staying home, building snowmen, drinking hot chocolate, and watching the kids sled Peachtree City style...on a boogie board tied behind a golf cart! Unfortunately I did not get a photo of this, but I am sure that you can visualize the scene. I did however get a couple of pictures taken early this morning from the warmth of my house and one of the Beagle Boys as they venture out for a their insistence.

Given that I wasn't going to make it to the grocery store as planned, I rummaged through my freezer and found a container of "Everything but the Kitchen Sink" soup. Perfect for the day that would not get above freezing. I love fresh bread or hard rolls with my soup. Unfortunately I had neither.  Then it hit bread! I haven't made beer bread in years but knew just where to go for the recipe.

In the late 70's and early 80's we lived in Clarksville, Tennessee while my hubby was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. We bought the first home built on Victory Drive and soon the other new  homes were occupied, each and every one of them by a military family. My across the street neighbors were The Grays. Like us they were fairly newly married with no children. Our husbands were in the same unit and we wives were both teachers so we had a lot in common. The five years there were wonderful! We shared births, deaths, deployments, home break-ins, and many meals and happy times together. Also shared were recipes and beer bread is one that she shared with me.

If you look closely at the upper right corner of the card you will see the year 1982. Where has the time gone since our carefree days on Victory Drive?

The recipe is much like other beer bread recipes that you can find on the Internet or that you may even have yourself. What makes this different is that it came from a friend. Someone who I have not seen in 30 years but still consider a friend. Those who have ever experienced the military life know that just because someone moves to a new duty station the friendship does not end.

So as we enjoy our soup and beer bread this evening I will be reminded of my dear friend and the wonderful times we had so many years ago.