Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, but home cooks and professional chefs can help fight this disease by preparing healthier meals.
The American Heart Association estimates 43 million women in the United States are affected by heart disease. One in four men die of heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
These statistics give new meaning to theadage, "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach." Eating and cooking healthier should be everyone's mantra, and it starts with simple dietary changes.
n Using more spices to season foods helps curb the need for salt.
n Switching from white bread to whole wheat, regular pasta to whole wheat or sugared cereals to whole wheat and whole grain ones is a way we can make a difference.
n Increasing fiber in the diet helps with a variety of diseases -- not just heart disease -- such as digestion and gastrointestinal issues. A high fiber diet can help lower cholesterol and reduce the risks of diabetes, coronary heart disease and certain types of cancer.
More fiber in foods also makes a person feel fuller longer, helping in weight loss, which also benefits the heart.
In my kitchen, I have
switched to whole wheat pastas. At first, these seemed a little chewy to my family, but I learned that whole wheat pastas require extra cooking time. If the package directions say 10 minutes, I cook it 12 minutes. Those two minutes make a big difference. Now, even my pickiest eater likes the whole wheat pasta.
I also plan at least one meatless meal every week, usually one with whole wheat pasta and portobello mushrooms, which add the flavor of meat. Sometimes I use portobellos in vegetarian wraps or chicken burgers.
We also use whole wheat breads and whole wheat cereals. I'm the person in the cereal aisle reading the boxes to see which has the lowest sugar and the highest fiber content. Again, even picky eaters come around when the taste is spot on.
Remember, too, that high-fiber cereals are not just for breakfast with milk. I have been playing with some recipes for vegetables, muffins and snacks that are made with cereal. The basic recipes come from Post Foods and from Better Homes and Gardens test kitchens, but I've added my own touches. The muffins make for a quick breakfast and the sweet potato snacks, a lunch box or after-school treat. The winter squash recipe is ready in only 20 minutes. The wraps have only 257 calories.
BANANA CRUNCH MUFFINS
1-1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 medium ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup Cherry Vanilla Grape-Nuts Cereal
Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Beat egg in small bowl; stir in bananas, yogurt and vanilla. Add to flour mixture; stir until moistened. Batter will be lump. Stir in cereal.
Spoon batter into muffin pans which has been spraying with cooking spray, filling each cup 2/3 full. An ice cream scoop works well to fill the cups. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.
Note: The original recipe was made with plain Grape-Nuts, but I decided to use the new flavor. The bananas and cherry cereal pair well.
CRUNCHY SWEET POTATO OATIES
1 can (29 ounces) sweet potatoes, drained and mashed, or 4 to 5 baked sweet potatoes
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter, melted
2- 1/2 cups Honey Bunches of Oats Crunch with Greek Yogurt, coarsely crushed
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix sweet potatoes, flour, sugar, pecans, cinnamon and butter in large bowl. If using fresh sweet potatoes, bake potatoes in microwave or conventional oven and scoop out the meat of the potato to use in this recipe. Stir in egg. Mixture will be soft.
Place cereal crumbs on large plate or in shallow dish. Drop rounded teaspoonful of the sweet potato mixture onto cereal; gently shape into ball while rolling in crumbs until evenly coated on all sides. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Repeat with remaining sweet potato mixture and remaining crumbs.
Bake 20 minutes. Serve warm or cover and refrigerate to serve chilled. Store any leftovers in airtight container in refrigerator. Makes 25 servings, about 2 oaties each.
20-MINUTE STREUSEL BAKED WINTER SQUASH
2 packages (12 ounces each) frozen winter squash, thawed (use cooked fresh squash when in season)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup Post Original Shredded Wheat Cereal
3 tablespoons pecan pieces, crushed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons margarine, melted
Mix squash and 1 tablespoon brown sugar; place in 8-inch square baking pan sprayed with cooking spray. Mix remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar with cereal, pecans and cinnamon. Add margarine; mix well. Sprinkle over squash mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until squash mixture is heated through and top is lightly browned.
GRILLED PORTOBELLO AND RED PEPPER WRAPS
4 portobello mushrooms (1 pound total), cleaned, stemmed and gills scraped, if desired
1/3 cup bottled light clear Italian salad dressing
1 large yellow or red sweet pepper, stemmed, seeded and quartered
Nonstick cooking spray
4 whole wheat wraps
2 tablespoons purchased basil pesto
8 lettuce leaves
1 medium tomato, sliced
In large resealable plastic bag or an airtight container, combine mushroom caps and dressing. Seal bag or container; turn to distribute dressing. Marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
Lightly coat pepper quarters with cooking spray. For a charcoal grill, grill mushroom caps and pepper quarters on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium-hot coals for 6 to 8 minutes or until tender and grill marks form, turning once halfway through grilling. Remove mushroom caps and pepper quarters from grill; set aside and cover to keep warm. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium-high. Place mushroom caps and pepper quarters over heat. Cover and grill as above.)
Note: I cooked mine on an indoor grill about 3 minutes per side or until tender.
Lay whole wheat wraps flat on counter, Spread wraps with pesto. Divide lettuce and tomato slices among wraps, arranging them evenly across the lower third of each wrap. Slice mushroom caps and pepper quarters; place slices evenly over tomatoes.
Tightly roll up wraps; secure with toothpicks. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings. From Better Homes and Gardens.
Wanted: Trilby's recipe
"Years ago, my wife and I ate at Trilby's in Ocean Springs, Miss., fairly often. One of our favorite dishes was Chicken in a Pastry Shell," Dr. Tod Holman said. "This was a gourmet chicken pot pie in a white roux, covered in a pastry shell and baked in the oven in a round ramekin. Most patrons would eat the dish by approaching it through the pastry shell from the top.
"There were, however, a number of us contrarians who would have the waiter turn the ramekin upside down on a plate and scoop out the contents into the shell. Either way, it was delicious," he said. "The contents of the chicken pot pie included diced pieces of chicken breast, onions, mushrooms, celery, carrots, and a wonderful, creamy white sauce (roux), to the best of my recollection.
"I would be most appreciative if you could locate this recipe and share it with your loyal readers," he said.
Readers, do any of you have this recipe? If so, please send it to me. Perhaps the owners will share the recipe; I will ask.
Tomato soup recipes
"After reading about tomato soup cake, I wonder if you could get recipes for old-fashioned homemade tomato soup from your readers?" asked a reader from the North, who did not want his name used.
Readers, please send me your tomato soup recipes like you did for the tomato soup cakes. This is the second call for tomato soup recipes; please search your recipe files.
Andrea Yeager, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Send contributions or requests to Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.