Quickest Best Antipasto EVER! and Easy

Antipasto, Antipasti (plural), translated as “before the meal”.  In Italian cooking it means an appetizer typically consisting of olives, anchovies, cheeses, sliced sausage, peppers, artichoke hearts and various meats.  Many Americans also believed it was the course served before pasta.The most hearty and daring of guests may enjoy Peprocini, anchovies and roasted garlic cloves in their antipasto. For Allergies or dietary preference*****omit meats for vegetarian. *****check all ingredients for wheat/gluten free. A low calorie option, omit meats and add ingredients that are oil free, and fat free. Most items can be purchased water packed.antipasto2

Holidays tend to be complex.  Delicious Appetizers are a treat to give and to serve. Quick appetizers that relieve the load might even taste better. I have received more compliments on this easy recipe than any other.

Quick, Easy, One dish Antipasto, Great for traveling, 5-10 minutes prep time.

Ingredients to mix together in nonmetallic dish. You can assemble in minutes for a quick pull together take along or marinate a day ahead for melding of all the flavors. Preserve cheese if making ahead do not add until just before serving.

  • 1 large jar, 28 ounces of roasted peppers, sliced into strips
  • 1 can or container of olives; Black, Kalamata, green or mixed, pitted  may be prefered
  • 1 Jar marinated mushrooms
  • 1 can of Artichoke hearts cut to bite-size or two jars of marinated
  • Have the supermarket deli cut  a half pound each of provolone and Genoa salami,  into 1/2 inch slices , cube at home into 1/2″
  • 1 dozen cherry tomatoes halved, or 6 shredded and minced sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 tsp  dried oregano or basil, or both.
  • dress with premium olive oil. Omit to cut calories

There is no wrong ingredient, add these optional favorites to your audience’s taste, or serve as sides.

  • pepperocini
  • pepperoni
  • mortadella cubes
  • Italian Capicola, shredded or cubed.Various cheeses, Blue, Feta, shredded or flaked Parmesan
  • 1 Cup of your favorite pasta cooked and chilled before adding, penne, rottini, farfalle bows or Orecchietti, **** gluten free options are available
  • anchovies
  • red raw onion
  • roasted garlic
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • shredded prosciutto di parma, sliced and shredded thin
  • hot pepper flakes
  • roasted Asparagus, Zucchini or Eggplant
  • Capers for a salty bite

Serve with Crusty breads, or varried  lettuces to make quick salads

  • a crusty loaf of bread

 

 

Homemade Old Fashion Boston Baked Beans from Scratch

Had a craving for bake beans and natural casing franks the other day.  We opened a can of B&M, the original standard. What a disappointment. That set the stage for a craving that wouldn’t go away until we made a REAL batch from scratch.

Rich Grandma’s Brand Molasses, bacon, brown sugar, hmmm, I could taste them before they were cooked.

There is no wrong way to prepare beans, vegetarian, spicy or extra meaty. Read all ingredient labels to keep it gluten free. Many prepared sauces add wheat including barbecue sauces and soy sauce. baked-beans-2

Ingredients

  • 1 cup tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce or 1/2 cup or ketchup
  • 1 large diced onion
  • 1/2 cup of molasses
  • 3/4 cup of any sugar, brown, white, honey or agave
  • 3-4 cups of favorite broth. Beef, Chicken or vegetable broth to make meat free
  • 1/2 lb salt pork  or bacon, slab bacon works best****omit to keep vegetarian
  • 1/8 cup brown mustard
  • 1 lb of your favorite dried beans for 4 cans of  beans rinsed and drained
  • salt and pepper to taste as you cook

Instructions to Prepare beans

  • For canned beans, rinse and drain, and proceed to cooking
  • Dried beans,  start by rinsing in a colander, pick out any debris. Boil beans for 3/4 of an hour, rinse and drain. Place beans in a dutch oven pot on the stove or a crock pot. An alternate method to reduce the gassiness that beans can display naturally, is to soak overnight.

Cooking

  • Rinse and score salt pork in 1″ cuts add to the bottom of  the pot or crock pot, add beans, or add  1″ pieces of bacon
  • mix well all wet and dry ingredients preserving 1 cup of broth
  • Add mixture and enough broth to cover beans.
  • keep liquid high enough to cover beans at all times.
  • on stove top, bring to a soft boil , turn down to simmer. In a crock-pot start on high, reduce to low when it bubbles.
  • cook until tender and yummy,  8-12 hours*******canned beans reduce time to half.  Dried beans take at least 6-8 hours to become tender.

Adjust seasoning as you go, many variations include; BBQ sauce, maple syrup, garlic,Worcestershire, Soy sauce, Bourbon, sweet or hot peppers and  even diced carrots for sweetness.

Enjoy

Chimichurri Sauce

chimmi steakHaving steak and want to perk things up? Pretend you are just back from Miami, whip up a Miami favorite, an Argentinian Chimichurri sauce over Beef.  The sauce is great also with Pork, lamb and Chicken.

Make this sauce ahead, great for sirloin, ribeye, flank and skirt steaks.

Its a Cilantro/parsley pesto like sauce.  I am going to experiment with the ingredients listed  for the best taste, any suggestions? Steffie prefers straight Cilantro  without the parsley.

Basic Combo of the items below,   add all in a food chopper or  processor

  • 1 bunch approx. 1 cup of either Cilantro or fresh Parsley or a combination, washed and trimmed of stems.  Towel dried before processing
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon  Vinegar, lime or lemon juice, aiding in preserving green color
  • 1/2 cup of your preferred oil, olive, canola or vegetable
  •  1/4 tsp of salt and pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Pepper flakes optional
  • Fresh or jarred garlic to taste, optional.

Spoon over steak right off the grill, add a wedge of lime to each plate

 

Short Rib Chili – Winter Pleaser

This may be the most decadent chilli you will ever taste, Rich, Savory, and you can  make it as spicy as you would like. Great for a holiday party or football tailgating. Serves 6 or more. If you are calorie counting it isn’t for you.  Take multiple opportunities to remove fat, once after roasting, and once after the long cooking. The  rendered fat can be preserved in the freezer as a starting base instead of using oils and other fats. Just remember it will have a spicy kick.srib chili

To cook this delicious, satisfying chili you need  5-10 hours of cooking minimum, but it’s worth every bite.

  • 5 pounds of short ribs, meaty beef back ribs, or combination of 1lb marrow bones and  4 lbs. well marbleized chuck
  • 1 very large onion  sliced
  • 1 large carrot chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • Spice mixture, Fajita spice, taco mix, prepacked Chili Spice or make your own blend  with Chili powder, garlic powder, Paprika, cumin
  • 2 whole jalapenos or pablano peppers  ** substitute with a small can of Goya brand chipoltes in sauce
  • 1 can 28oz  kitchen ready tomatoes,  sauce, puree, or 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoon fresh Cilantro optional
  • salt and pepper
  • 4-8 cups  stock, Beef chicken, or vegetable
  • 1 cup mixed green peppers  in 1 inch pieces
  • 2 cups of  cooked mixed beans, black, white,or red,  for an option to an all meat chilli

preheat oven to 350 degrees

in large roasting pan,  place onion, garlic cloves, carrots and whole jalapenos on the bottom,

evenly distribute and coat spice mixture on all sides of meat and bones,  place meat and bones In one layer on top of the  base of sliced onions and carrots.

roast in oven for 1 1/2 hours  turn frequently to brown,  the more the beef and onions are caramelized the richer the flavor.

Remove from oven until cool enough to work with.  Remove all gristle and cartilage. At this time you may want to keep the bones, to increase flavor.

Place all ingredients from the roaster into a large dutch oven/stock pot or crock-pot, except  whole jalapenos/pablanos.  Seed and preserve for final step.

Add crushed tomatoes, Cilantro, green,red and yellow peppers and enough broth to cover the meat. Skim fat before next step. Simmer on low for 1 hour on top of the stove.  If using crock pot 2 hours on high.

Remove from heat, remove all bones and excess fat. Meat should be at a point where it can be easily shred. If you want to have beans in your chili now is the time to add them. Finely chop the jalapeno or pablanos that had been seeded. Simmer an additional 2 hours to 4 hours on top of the stove or 8 hours  in crock pot on low. Add salt and pepper and spices to taste. If mixture is too dry add more broth to reach the consistency of chili, if mixture is too wet, allow to simmer with lid off until liquid is reduced. The longer you cook the better it tastes.  This may be a two day process. **** continue to add spice salt and pepper to taste.

Serve as an entree with Rice, creamy Polenta, taco shells, or crusty rolls, Gluten free eating?  Try Udi’s new line of hotdog and hamburger rolls, they are  the best find! How about Gluten-free Corn bread.

If you have additional time you can chill between steps and skim chilled fat. A pressure cooker can be used  to speed up the first simmering process. instead of 1 hour,  use pressure cooker 30 minutes with 3 cups of beef broth as the liquid.

Grilled Balsamic Sundried Tomato Pesto Chicken

This entire dish is less than 350 calories. Waist line friendly, taste bud joy!

Flecks of basil and sundried tomato cling to the chicken after grilling. The Balsamic vinegar sweetens as it grills. We served it with 3/4-1 cup of Steamfresh Brown & Wild Rice. Undressed heirloom tomatoes on the side, balanced out the meal.

Ingredients for dinner for Four

  • 1 pound of boneless skinless chicken breast, Purdue breast slices are best
  • Prepared pesto or  make fresh pesto
  • 4 sundried tomatoes, preferably not packed in oil which increase calories
  • 4 tablespoons sundried tomato

To prepare chicken other than thin slices, butterfly open to flatten, or pound to 1/8 thickness between 2 pieces of wax paper or plastic wrap. The back of a large metal spoon works great. If you substitute other bone in chicken, take into account the longer cooking time.Remember chicken should never be served until it has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees as recommended by the USDA.

The day before or at least one hour before grilling, use one tablespoon of pesto per breast. Due to salmonella concerns do not handle raw chicken unless you wash your hands prior to handling other ingredients. I use a rubber spatula to spread pesto on both sides.If using prepared pesto, mince sundried tomatoes fine, add to pesto and mix. Sundried preserved in oil adds 100s of calories to your dish. Dry-packed sundried tomatoes are  generally stocked in the produce department. Cover and chill one hour or overnight.

While grill is heating, drizzle 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar per breast. All balsamics are not  equal, an aged Balsamic has a sweeter taste. Investing in a good premium bottle is well worth it. You may find a premium balsamic can replace dressings on salads.

Grill and serve. Grilling times vary per BBQs.

The leftover chicken is great served in sandwiches and salads.

 

Featured Tomato-Goldman’s Italian American

Italian paste tomato

Goldman’s Italian American

Goldman’s Italian American Tomato was named by Amy Goldman for her father’s grocery store in Brooklyn after she found this at a roadside grocery store in Cernobbio, Italy.

In Amy’s book she says…”voluptuous, red-ribbed, and very heavy in the hips-makes sauce as thick and rich as any tomato I’ve ever grown.”

Goldmans’ Italian American keeps up a steady production of large, red, pear shaped, paste tomatoes with exceptional flavor and few seeds. Nearly one pound per fruit! Makes one of the creamiest tomato sauces you’ll ever cook. “Excellent, sweet and luscious.”

Goldman's Italian American@ 2.5 lbs

Goldman’s Italian American@ 2.5 lbs

The fruits are generally 1 pound. In South Windsor CT. during the 2010  growing season we had a tomato 2.5 lbs. 6.5 inches across. Seeds were saved for this years plants for 2013.

How Tenderized Beef Could Make You Very Sick

If you enjoy a nice juicy steak when going out to eat, be sure to read this article.

Apparently the process used to tenderize and marinate steaks can actually lead to more bacteria inside the steak then would normally be present.  And if the meat is not properly cooked, as often happens at restaurants, people eating it could get very very sick.

Hollow needles are sometimes used to inject flavorings, or what the industry calls “digestive agents.” Marinades also may be added to meat, which can add to contamination risks.

Surveys of beef producers by the USDA found that most use mechanical tenderization to improve quality.

A large percentage of mechanically tenderized meat – the industry produces at least 50 million pounds a month – winds up in family-style restaurants, hotels, hospitals and group homes.

But a more recent study published last year in the Journal of Food Protection found that bladed and marinated steaks were two to four times riskier than those that had not been mechanically tenderized.

For example, some in the beef industry acknowledge that they do not test their mechanically tenderized steaks for E. coli, as they do ground beef, because they believe the risk of illness is lower.

Plants that do test meat must make results available to federal inspectors if asked, but they are not required to alert the government of results that are positive for pathogens.

Don’t eat undercooked meats and when in doubt, throw it out. Or ask the chef how the meat was really prepared.  It’s your life and it’s too important to risk it on bad food.

Want To Live to Be 90? Eat Like a Greek Islander!

On the Greek island of Ikaria the residents are twice as likely as the rest of us to live to be 90. How do they do it? A healthy diet and laid-back lifestyle apparently does the trick. And what islanders are eating is different then in the West:

[A] breakfast of goat’s milk, wine, sage tea or coffee, honey and bread. Lunch was almost always beans (lentils, garbanzos), potatoes, greens (fennel, dandelion or a spinachlike green called horta) and whatever seasonal vegetables their garden produced; dinner was bread and goat’s milk. At Christmas and Easter, they would slaughter the family pig and enjoy small portions of larded pork for the next several months.

Islanders also enjoy a warm beverage which translates as “mountain tea,” “made from dried herbs endemic to the island,” a rotating, seasonal list that includes wild marjoram, sage, mint, and dandelion leaves. They also drink a lot of wine and coffee, and eat far less meat then we do.

Their diet does not include processed foods that are a common staple of our western diets. They also take naps in the afternoon, stay up late, and sleep in on most mornings.

If this is what helps get people to age 90 or beyond, we’re all for it. Sign us up for a Greek Island cruise!

Grilled Watermelon with Feta & Balsamic Drizzle

This seems like it would be unappetizing, But it is incredible delicious and light. For lower calories, skip the olive oil and go for fat free feta.

Watermelon  cut 1″ thick

  • Aged Balsamic Vinegar
  • Olive Oil or Pam spray
  • A pinch of Salt optional
  •  fresh  greens
  • Feta or goat cheese crumbled,Fatfree Feta for low calorie option
  • Pepper to taste

Pam Spray or lightly oil watermelon before Grilling. Grill on hot grill pan or BBQ for 1-2 minutes until grill marks appear. Place on bed of greens, sprinkle with  cheese, and drizzle your favorite aged balsamic, salt and pepper to taste.

 

Glitter’s Miracle Rice with Brussels Sprouts, Brown Rice and other Goodies

From my friend Anna O’Brien the super weight-loss blogger http://www.glitterandlazers.com


Via Glitterandlazers.com

Glitter’s Miracle Rice

  • 1 C Whole Grain Brown Rice
  • 1 C Lima Beans
  • 1.5 C Chopped Mushroom
  • One Half of a Large Spanish Onion
  • 1 Tbsp Brummel and Brown
  • .5 Tsp Cumin
  • A Pinch of Garlic Powder
  • One Cube Chicken Stock
  • 1 lb Brussels Sprouts

Chop mushroom and onion into medium size pieces (there is likely a fancy cooking term for this. Sadly,  I am unbearably unfancy)

Cook whole Grain according to the directions on the package With Broth, substitute chicken Bouillon for Veggie for a Vegetarian option. Add Lima beans, mushroom, onion, Brummel & Brown and seasonings into the rice once it reaches it’s initial simmer.

Halve Brussels sprouts and then cut them into thick slivers. Using a hot skillet and the wonders of Pam, saute the sprouts until they are light brown, set aside.

When the rice mixture is completed cooking, fold in the Brussels sprouts. The resulting yield is 4 servings at 297 calories a pop. Put on your crown and enjoy this rice like the Carb Queen you are.

Summer Harvest Time For Winter Squash

It’s that time of year again, Winter squashes are making their way to Farmer’s Markets, Farm Stands and supermarkets. Acorn, Butternut, Spaghetti, and Delicata. Great baked, boiled or Microwaved. When the weather gets chilly theirs nothing like a Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Summer Harvest Time For Winter Squash

Farmers Market Cornucopia

  • Best way to peel a smooth winter Squash.  prick with a fork on all sides, microwave for 2-3 minutes, remove, easier to peel easier to cut. From here you can
  • cut in half diagonally, and roast whole for 45-50 minutes @350 degrees , skin side down, or up, make sure you  use non stick spray either way
  • cube and roast @ 350 degrees for 30 minutes,  serve mashed or as savory soup see recipe
  • cut in large chunks, boil for 25 minutes, or until fork tender, drain, and mash, use your favorite herbs, and a hint of brown sugar optional if low calorie is not mandatory

Ribbed Small squashes like acorn and delicata, pierce  with fork,  microwave 2 minutes, cut in half and seed

  • microwave 12 minutes on high for 2 halves, face down, remove from microwave, serve 1/2 per person,  for  a  nice presentation,  fork fluff, add a topper of caramelized onions and apples, a  center filled with rice,  the  ideas are endless
  • Roast in oven the same way as above for 45 minutes at 375 to prepare for whole, cut off the stem and 1″ of squash to use as a lid, scoop out seeds. If you are baking a small whole squash per person, cut a little flat spot on the bottom, Serve as a whole baked,  maybe with a surprise under the top, such as rice,  cooked apples, caramelized onions
  • cut in 1″ wedges and oven roast like oven fries. Use cooking spray on top and bottom to brown to save calories or drizzle olive oil  to crisp, 25  minutes at 375.

Large Squashes, like pumpkin and spaghetti

  • A jumbo winter, like Hubbard or pumpkin,  prepare as other squashes above, roasting whole will be an hour or more, due to size. Cutting in half and seeding speeds cooking time. Squash is done when fork is able to penetrate easily
  • Spaghetti squash is an adventure, to microwave whole, pierce deeply all over microwave on high for 20 minutes, steam should be apparent, pierce  to see if tender,  cook another 4 minutes if necessary, let sit  for 10 minutes before cutting. Cut in half, remove seeds,  pull strands into a serving bowl, for a low cal pasta meal, serve  as a pasta replacement or a 50/50 swap. 1/2 seeded squash can be treated the same way,  for oven roasting cook 1 hour at 350. To with Parmesan for a quick side dish

pleas submit your favorite recipe, for Steffie to add!

Spaghetti Squash Guilt Free Pasta Alternative

I just heard a big thunk, I guess I didn’t poke a big enough knife holes in the Spaghetti squash. The microwave will need another cleaning tonight. Puncture a spaghetti squash deeply with a fork or knife. Microwave a very large squash for 20 minutes. Steam should be coming out of the holes at the end of this time. If not, microwave for another 4 to 5 minutes. Let squash sit in the microwave for 10 minutes after cooking. I did an extra small for 8 minutes. Pull threads into a bowl, and dispose of seeds, toss with your favorite sauce or butter 42 calories per cup. You can purchase at farmer’s markets for a pretty low price. Yummy Yummy. For  more quick ideas follow us on facebook!

Mcdonald’s Under 400 Calorie Menu

This is the new menu that will appear at Drive ups and Counters at McDonald’s

restaurants. The long and the short, they say that 80% of their selections are UNDER 400.

I know its hard to believe! The one thing missing is the FAT,  If something is 200 calories and mostly from fat,  that will not impact your body the same way as 200 fatfree calories will. Many thanks to Hungry Girl for posting on her website.

Buyer beware. For more Cook Me This, Follow us on facebook.

 

Fresh Corn on the Cob vs Canned-The Cost Myth

Decobbing and freezing is the way to go.  Buy the Fresh Corn on sale throughout the summer. 2012 is the year of the cornfield drought in the Midwest. Currently  the media is saying it will drive up prices on not only corn but other products derived from corn.

All summer long through October’s final harvest, corn on the cob ranges in price as low as 10 cents an ear to $5.99 for a dozen for Farmer’s Market native. Corn is made into Ethanol for fuel, Corn Syrup, Corn Meal, Popcorn, you get the idea.

Will the price of frozen and canned corn go UP?  Definitely! Even if we had a bumper crop, the production costs to harvest, frozen and canned most likely will never drop. Decobbing is the Frugal, healthy way to go.  Buy the Corn on sale throughout the summer. Here’s the reason why? A can of Niblets, drained says it has 3.5 servings, 1/2 cup each or One & 3/4 cups total.  A bag of Steamable vegetables says it contains four  servings of 2/3 cup. The math is hard but its Two and 2/3 cup.
Four medium ears of fresh corn yields just about 2 1/2 cups when taken off the cob.
When corn is  $6 a dozen or below it’s the ultimate bargain. Cheapskate mathematics; 12 ears=7.5 cups or the equivalent to 4 1/4 cans or 2.8 bags of Steamable frozen.  The corn on the cob is the Better choice, its fresher, tastier and Cheaper than prepackaged supermarket items.. It wasn’t so long ago frozen corn was 99 cents and cans were 3/$1.  Last I checked it was $2.19 for frozen bags and up to $1.59 for a can of Delmonte. If you don’t catch it on a weekly sales ad in can really be expensive. Frozen veggies still pop-up on sale from 99 cents and cans often are 2/$1 for store brand. When the pricing is low DO stock-up. .

BUT! Kids love to peel corn!!! Its portable food. Why not have summertime all year round at the table? The USDA  says the average ear of corn is 80 calories 17 carbs 1 gram of fat and 3 grams of protein.

You can freeze ears whole, cob chunks, or de-cob and bag the kernels.  To strip corn off the cob, first peel and rub off the corn silk, use a sharp knife or decobbing tool. Hold the cob upright with the tip in the air, and slice downward. Prepare a large pot of boiling water for blanching and a bowl of ice water for chilling after blanch. It’s suggested that sweet corn should not be salted while preparing. To blanch, plunge the corn in the boiling water for 2-3 minutes, remove corn and immediately place in an ice water bath. Blanch and chill times should be equal. Drain and seal in Ziploc type or a vacuum bag. Portion by your family meal size. Eliminate as much air out of the bags as possible for freezing. To reheat, boil or steam for 5 minutes, or microwave for 4 minutes. The blanching process has already partially precooked your corn. You won’t be just saving money; you will be enjoying the freshest taste and nutrition. If you’re lazy like me, toss peeled corn or kernels in bags without blanching and freeze, it’s still going to taste better than canned.

If you cannot take advantage of freezing from fresh, take advantage of sales on frozen and canned, stock up then. It applies to all veggies not just corn. Also be generous, don’t forget to donate to the local food bank, when the prices are low.

The choice is clear, when the seasonal veggies are abundant, buy fresh and freeze, when the stock-up sales at the grocers pop-up, take advantage.

 

Gluten Free Cornbread or Muffins

This recipe can  be made with regular flour if Gluten Free is not a necessity. Flours are available at most grocers, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Amazon.com and now Walmart  Online.  I tried this in a Silicone Muffin Pan

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Use nonstick spray on large muffin tins, or 8×10 metal, silicone or foil shallow baking pan.

To make Muffin/bread batter

  • 1 cup Gluten Free cornmeal, all corn meals are not created equal
  • 1 cup alternative Gluten Free Flour, Bob’s Redmill Pancake flour adds a lightness. Rice Flour, Amaranth, Quinoa flour, Chick Pea flour will do. A combo flour like Arrowhead Mills Gluten Free has a better than average outcome.
  • 1/2 cup sugar or alternative, Agave and Honey reduce to 1/3 cup
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder-gluten free
  • 1 cup liquid, Milk, soy, almond or apple juice/cider
  • 2 eggs fork beaten or 1/2 cup substitute of egg beaters or whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt optional
  • 1/4 cup melted butter or vegetable oil, avoid margarine
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • Options can include, Raisins, cinnamon,  dried fruit, pumpkin pie spice,  ginger.
  • Mix all dry ingredients well, for a grainier more hearty muffin  use a 1 1/3 cups corn meal to 2/3 gluten free flour
  • Whisk in wet ingredients, mixture should not be lumpy
  • Add optional spices and fruits

Fill muffin tin equally, or spread into non glass baking pan. Bake 22 minutes, makes 6 large muffins, or one small tray of 12 pieces of cornbread when divided. For small muffins reduce time to 18 minutes

Serve warm, or cool and store. Freezes well.

301 each calories based on using agave method and apple juice.46 carbs  11 fat, 5 protein

******This is a gluten free recipe, not diet friendly

 

 

Diet Changes & Weight Loss Can Help Reduce Hot Flashes

A new study from the Kaiser Permante Women’s Health Initiative has shown that dietary changes and modest weight loss helped significantly ease the occurrence of hot flashes and night sweats in study participants. Of the over 17,000 post-menopausal women studied, those who ate a low-fat diet high in whole grains, fruits and vegetables and also lost weight during the year-long study experienced the highest reduction of their symptoms.

While previous studies had shown that weight gain and high body weight were most associated with increased symptoms like hot flashes, this was the largest survey to date that attempted to answer the question of whether eating a healthier diet could help women reduce the level of symptoms they experienced.

“Since most women tend to gain weight with age, weight loss or weight gain prevention may offer a viable strategy to help eliminate hot flashes and night sweats associated with menopause,” said Bette Caan, DrPH, a research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research and the senior author of the study.

“Weight loss, especially loss of fat mass but not lean mass, might also help alleviate hot flashes and night sweats,” according to the study’s authors.

Other studies have shown similar symptom reductions in breast cancer patients when weight gain is prevented after their initial diagnosis.

 

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Pesto

Heirloom tomatoes are my obsession!

There is nothing better on a hot  summer day than a lunch or dinner with a great tomato salad. This particular picture was an entry for a fundraiser cooking contest. The salad was an honorable mention, and is featured in the Rockville Bank 150th anniversary charity cookbook.

White, striped, pink, & green tomatoes are all represented on this plate. Markets  such as Trader Joe’s and Wholefoods carry heirlooms year round. If you are unable to find in your local market, try summer time farmers markets. Not only will you find colorful tomatoes, but purple potatoes, fresh herbs, local melons, unusual squashes and delicious native corn. The flavors of local summer veggies is outstanding compared to super market fare. A red perfect tomato from the supermarket is grown for beauty and durability for transport, The taste and nutrition had been bred out! Scientific American had a recent report on how taste has become diminished.

What you need

  • 1 lb or more various tomatoes, cherry to beefsteak, caution do not refridgerate
  • Fresh log of mozzarella cheese like BelGioioso cut into 1/8″ slices
  • A Bunch of fresh basil about 4 cups of leaves, washed and all stems removed, you can combine Sweet Italian, purple or Thai depending on taste preference. Save  some leaves for garnish.
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup Olive oil or other neutral preferred oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional squeeze of lemon to preserve Basil’s color
  • Garlic  cloves optional
  • Pine (pignoli) nuts optional or Walnuts if pine nuts are unavailable
  • Aged balsamic vinegar

Combine fresh basil and optional garlic and nuts with 1/2 of the olive oil and pulse in a food processor. Add oil as needed to create a paste. If leaves do not grind it is an indication you may need more oil, you may need to use a spatula to move all leaves into the blade. If paste is runny add more basil. The paste should be green and smooth. I do not add salt until after adding cheese. When pesto is smooth add Parmesan and pulse gently.  over processing can COOK the cheese. The ratio should be 8:1, Basil to oil.

Slice  Beefsteaks, slice or quarter all your medium tomatoes, leave cherry tomatoes whole or halve. Remember do not refrigerate fresh tomatoes if it can be avoided.

Just before serving, assemble your platter with larger tomato slices at the base, separate slices with mozzarella. I tiered my salad with 3 layers of  beefsteaks and decorated the platter with  alternating colors and sizes. Garnish with basil leaves.

Drizzle pesto on salad or serve on the size. Serve Balsamic as a side as well.

This salad does not need to be dressed, the olive oil in the basil  combined with balsamic to taste, is the perfect dressing.

This is my Favorite summer time meal!

 

What to do with Squash Blossoms?

All those huge beautiful male squash blossoms go to waste on the plant. Only the female blossoms that already have a squash started on the base will develop into a squash.  Summer or Winter,  both are tasty treats if you think outside of the box.

Pick them either at night before they open or first thing in the morning. Picking them at night prevents  surprise guests from your snack, like bees, spiders and other crawlies.

You can store unopened blossoms for several days if stored gently,  I wrap in paper towel in a sandwich bag or plastic container.

My favorite recipes includes

  • Goat cheese, sundried tomatoes & basil
  • Feta, mint & pine nuts or olives
  • Low fat spreadable herb cheese
  • Ricotta, Parmesan, basil and sundried tomato

Pre-mix the cheese with minced additives

Closed Squash blossoms can be gently blown open to fill, check for critters, some prefer to snip the stamen before filling

Fill each blossom with a tablespoon of cheese, and close by running fingers up from the base of flower. you may fix ahead and cook  later in the day

Preheat oven to 325, make a wash of egg or egg substitute , gently coat with  your favorite breadcrumbs, we use gluten free. Spray a baking dish with Pam, bake 15-20 minutes.

Serve on a bed of field greens as an appetizer, or  as the main ingredient of a salad

You can pan fry or deep fry. When calorie counting baking is best.