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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: It’s Heart Month – Moderation is the Key to Healthier Choices

by Sherrie Norris

It’s that time of year again when comfort foods such as casseroles, gravies, cakes and pies start to reappear over the healthier choices that welcomed in the new year.

While we might not have ready access during these winter months to the healthier food items that many of us love to grab from the garden in the summer, or pick up at the farmer’s markets on Saturday mornings, we can opt to make better
choices at the indoor markets, grocery stores, in the restaurants and at the special gatherings where we dine.

Ironically, it seems, for several months during the fall/winter and early spring season, we are deluged with “food events” that keep us easily distracted.

We’ve conquered Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year,
and most recently, Valentine’s Day. Easter is on its way and
once again, we will be faced with multiple opportunities to
consume more than we need of those delectable seasonal
delights. And as we all know, few buffets are filled with just
healthy choices.

We must make conscious decisions not to over-indulge, and in
many cases, it has to happen before we arrive at the special
dinner at mom’s, before the office party begins and before
going out to celebrate a memorable occasion.

We shouldn’t have to deprive ourselves, but we need to remember
that the key is balance and moderation.

Try to overcome the urge to overeat and think about those
“’triggers” that can be avoided. Don’t just stand by the buffet table
— the temptation is too great. Make sure to watch portion sizes
and select one or two of your favorites from the myriad of
tempting foods. Leave those extra calories behind — limit your
intake of foods high in fat, carbohydrates or added sugar. If you
drink alcohol, do so in moderation.

Instead of making poor choices, think about the familiar
adage:” Nothing tastes as good as thin feels.” That’s the motto
I am trying to adapt. I hope it will work for you, as well.
In the meantime, here are some ideas to help us through the
winter season as we crave those familiar foods in anticipation
of a more healthy and active spring ahead. Think “comfort”
without all the fat, calories and carbs.

Chicken Stew
8 chicken pieces (breasts or legs)
1 cup water
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1 ½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp. parsley, chopped
¼ cup celery, finely chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 small carrots, chopped
2 bay leaves

Remove skin and any extra fat from chicken. In a large skillet,
combine chicken, water, garlic, onion, salt, pepper, tomatoes and
parsley. Tightly cover and cook over low heat for 25 minutes. Add
celery, potatoes, carrots, and bay leaves; continue to cook for 15
more minutes or until chicken and vegetables are tender. Remove
bay leaves before serving.
Makes 8 servings.

Hearty Healthy Soup
1 lb. uncooked ground turkey
1 cup chopped celery
½ cup thinly sliced carrots

2½ cups tomato juice
1 (14 ½ oz.) can French-cut green beans, drained
1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced ¼ in. thick
½ cup chopped tomato
1 Tbs. dried minced onion
1 ½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. dried basil, crushed
1 tsp. dried oregano, crushed
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. sugar
¼ tsp. pepper
1 bay leaf
In a large skillet, cook turkey, celery and carrots until turkey is
done; drain. Place in a Crockpot. Stir in other ingredients.
Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 6 hours. Remove and
discard bay leaf. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Marinated Baked or Grilled Salmon
½ cup pineapple juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. low-sodium soy sauce
¼ tsp. ground ginger
2 salmon fillets, about 4 oz. each
¼ tsp. sesame oil
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup diced fresh fruit, such as pineapple, mango and papaya

In a small bowl, add pineapple juice, garlic, soy sauce and
ginger. Stir to mix evenly.
Arrange salmon fillets in a small baking dish. Pour pineapple
juice mixture over the top. Marinate in refrigerator for about
an hour, turning salmon periodically.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly coat two squares of aluminum
foil with cooking spray. Place marinated salmon fillets on foil.
Drizzle each with a little sesame oil. Sprinkle with pepper and
top each with ½ cup diced fruit.
Wrap foil around salmon, folding edges down to seal. Bake
until salmon is opaque throughout (about 10 minutes each
side). Serve immediately.
To grill: After wrapping salmon in foil, grill for about 10
minutes on each side.

Bran Muffin Breakfast Trifle
3 medium low-fat bran muffins, coarsely crumbled
4 cups assorted fresh fruit chunks
2 cups nonfat or low-fat vanilla, or fruit flavored yogurt
Place half the muffin crumbs in a 2 ½ quart glass bowl or
airtight container. Arrange all the fruit on top. Cover with
remaining muffin crumbs. Spoon yogurt evenly over the top.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Vegetable Stir-Fry
1 lb. fresh broccoli
1 Tbs. (Smart Balance) margarine/butter
1 tsp. peanut or olive oil
1 lb. carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
¾ lb. mushrooms, thinly sliced
5 medium green onions, thinly sliced
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbs. cooking sherry (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. thyme
Rinse and trim broccoli. Separate florets, cut into uniform
pieces. Peel stems and cut into 2-inch lengths. Set aside.

In a large skillet or wok, heat margarine and oil over medium
heat. Add broccoli, carrots, mushrooms and onions. Cook and
stir 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender-crisp. Stir in
lemon juice, sherry and other seasonings. Serve immediately.

Cinnamon Apple Bread Pudding
4 slices whole grain bread, cubed
2 eggs
2 egg whites
¾ cup unsweetened applesauce
½ cup skim milk
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ cup low fat vanilla yogurt
1 small apple, cored and diced
Ground cinnamon
Sprinkle bread in sprayed baking dish; set aside.
In bowl, whisk together eggs, egg whites, applesauce, milk and
cinnamon. Pour over bread and press bread gently into egg
mixture. Bake in oven at 375° for 30 minutes or until golden,
puffed and knife inserted in center comes out clean.
Serve each piece with dollop of yogurt, apple and sprinkling of

Power Smoothie
4 large strawberries
½ cup low-fat plain yogurt
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 medium size banana
½ tsp vanilla
1 Tbs. honey
Remove stems from strawberries and wash. Blend all ingredients
in blender until smooth.
Makes two 8 oz. servings

Low-Fat Brownies
¾ cup sugar
½ cup flour
½ tsp. baking soda
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Combine
ingredients in large mixing bowl, blend well. Pour batter into pan
and bake in preheated oven 20 to 30 minutes until done. To test,
insert a toothpick. If it comes out clean, brownies are done.
Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes in pan. Gently
remove from pan; place on wire rack to cool.