This salad was a Sunday dinner staple at my grandparents’ house when I was growing up, and I still think of it as comfort food.
I took the classic recipe and removed some of the calories, fat and sugar content by using fat-free cottage cheese, sugar-free jello and pineapple canned in its own juice rather than syrup. And the salad is still delicious.
Small .3 ounce package sugar-free lime jello
1 cup water
1 cup ice cubes
8 ounce can crushed pineapple in its own juice (no added sugar)
1 cup fat free cottage cheese
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Bring the water to a boil and add the powdered jello, stirring until dissolved. Remove from heat and add the ice cubes, stirring until all the cubes have melted.
Drain the crushed pineapple and add to the jello.
Add the cottage cheese, then the chopped nuts, and stir until well blended.
Refrigerate for at least four hours, or preferably overnight.
Makes approximately 6 servings.
Serving size: 2/3 cup | Calories: 85 | Carbohydrates: 9 g | Protein: 6 g | Fat: 4 g | Saturated fat: 0 | Cholesterol: 2 mg | Sodium: 195 mg | Potassium: 140 mg | Fiber: 1 g | Sugar: 7 g | Vitamin A: 0% | Vitamin C: 7% | Calcium: 3% | Iron: 2%
But alas, the store-bought variety is often chock-full of unhealthy ingredients – refined sugar, saturated fat and salt. And did I mention that most granola is a veritable calorie bomb? Some store-bought granolas have as many as 250 calories per 1/4 cup serving.
So I decided to make my own. This version replaces the unhealthy fat with omega-3-rich olive oil and eliminates both the added sugar and added salt. The recipe can be made gluten-free as well. (Just make sure the rolled oats are certified gluten-free.)
What’s left is good-for-you protein and fiber and about half the calories.
Now I’m going to confess: I just go ahead and allow myself a more realistic 1/2 cup serving rather than limiting myself to 1/4 cup if I’m eating my own granola as cereal. And I add 1/4 cup rather than the recommended two tablespoons to my yogurt if I’m having a fresh fruit parfait. That means I’ll end up consuming the same number of calories, but I get to eat twice as much.
This recipe makes approximately 4-5 cups of granola, depending on whether one adds the optional dried fruit. I generally make some with the fruit to enjoy as cereal with nonfat milk, and some without the dried fruit so I can add it to a fresh fruit parfait.
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup sugar-free maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup unsalted sliced almonds or chopped pecans
1 cup unsweetened raisins or dried cranberries (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the oil, syrup, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl. Use a stick blender if necessary to mix thoroughly.
Add the oats and nuts and stir until completely coated with the oil and syrup mixture.
Spread the mixture onto a large baking sheet sprayed with nonstick cooking oil.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until golden brown.
Add the fruit after removing from the oven.
Allow to cool completely before storing in an air-tight container.
Nutrition information for plain granola
Serving size: 1/2 cup | Calories: 200 | Carbohydrates: 19 g | Protein: 5 g | Fat: 13 g | Saturated fat: 1 g | Cholesterol: 0 | Sodium: 20 mg | Potassium: 90 mg | Fiber: 4 g | Sugar: 0 | Iron: 3%
Nutrition information for granola with dried fruit added
Serving size: 1/2 cup | Calories: 245 | Carbohydrates: 32 g | Protein: 5 g | Fat: 13 g | Saturated fat: 1 g | Cholesterol: 0 | Sodium: 20 mg | Potassium: 90 mg | Fiber: 8 g | Sugar: 5 g | Iron: 3%
Sometimes I just pour skim milk on the granola and enjoy. But on mornings when I have a little time to relax, I figure, “Why stop there?”
One of my favorite breakfast treats is a fresh fruit parfait. I start with about 3/4 cup of fat-free plain Greek yogurt, pile on a generous layer of fresh fruit such as strawberries, raspberries or blueberries, add about 1/4 cup of my homemade granola, and top with a dollop of sugar-free whipped cream.
Nutrition information for Fruit Parfait
Calories: 235 | Carbohydrates: 25 g | Protein: 20 g | Fat: 8 g | Saturated fat: 1 g | Cholesterol: 10 mg | Sodium: 75 mg | Potassium: 395 mg | Fiber: 4 g | Sugar: 11 g | Vitamin C: 50% | Calcium: 15% | Iron: 1%
One of my best-loved comfort foods is homemade soup, and vegetable beef barley is one of my favorites.
As I almost always do with home-cooked meals, I’ve tweaked the traditional recipe to make it healthier. I leave out the teaspoon or so of salt the recipe usually calls for, use reduced-sodium broth and no-added-salt tomatoes, and substitute a bit more spice to retain flavor. I also cut the amount of meat in half to lower both the calorie count and the cholesterol/saturated fat levels and double the veggies. The result is nutritious as well as delicious.
The soup is super easy to make. As a bonus, it freezes well, and therefore lends itself to batch cooking. This recipe makes approximately 10 one-cup servings.
1 pound lean beef, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
32-ounce carton reduced-sodium beef broth
3-4 cups water
28-ounce can no-added-salt diced tomatoes
6 carrots, peeled and sliced
6 stalks celery, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup barley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2-3 small bay leaves
Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and allow to simmer for 1½ to 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the meat, barley and vegetables are tender. If the soup begins to get too thick, add a cup or two of water.
Serving size: 1 cup | Calories: 168 | Carbohydrates: 17 g | Protein: 12 g | Fat: 5 g | Saturated fat: 2 g | Cholesterol: 31 mg | Sodium: 244 mg | Potassium: 477 mg | Fiber: 3 g | Sugar: 5 g | Vitamin A: 128% | Vitamin C: 24% | Calcium: 3% | Iron: 6%
I’ll confess: Sometimes I give in to that irresistible urge to nibble between meals. And I’ve found that having fresh cut veggies in the refrigerator – celery, carrot or zucchini sticks, cauliflower and broccoli florets or mushrooms – reduces the chance that I’ll snack on junk.
Alas, raw veggies tend to taste much better with dip, which itself can add too many calories if I’m not careful. So I’ve created some dips that make the crudities more appealing while reducing the guilt factor.
These dips also work well on baked potatoes as a replacement for butter or margarine.
The secret is a “base” that cuts out the fat without sacrificing flavor. I use the base to create a variety of delicious dips. Here I’ve included directions for making blue cheese dip and feta cheese dip.
The following recipe makes approximately 2 cups of the “dip base,” which lasts up to 10 days in the refrigerator.
Ingredients for dip base
1 8-oz. package fat-free cream cheese
1 5.3 oz. individual size container non-fat plain Greek yogurt
1 cup fat-free mayonnaise
Soften cream cheese in the microwave for about 30 seconds to one minute until softened and easily stirred. Add yogurt and blend until smooth. Then add mayonnaise and blend until smooth. I use a hand-held “stick” blender when making the base to achieve the smoothness I desire.
Blue cheese crumbles and feta cheese crumbles both come in reduced-fat varieties, and make delicious dips when added to the above base.
When blending in the additional ingredients, I recommend stirring them in by hand rather than using a blender or food processor because I like preserving the original consistency of the crumbles.
Blue Cheese Dip
Mix together equal parts dip base and reduced-fat blue cheese crumbles and stir until well-blended. For example, I might mix together ¼ cup of the base with ¼ cup blue cheese crumbles, reserving the rest of the base for another use.
1 Corinthians 6:19 reminds us that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. To me, this means God expects us to practice good self-care. So as part of my Lenten discipline, I resolved to develop a new habit of including at least 3-5 servings of fruits or vegetables in my diet each day.
Even though I was usually lucky to get in one or two servings of fruits/veggies per day prior to Lent, adding the extra daily servings turned out to be less of a challenge than I thought it would be. Fortunately, I’ve found all kinds of ways to sneak fruits and veggies past my lips. I can:
Add a glass of orange juice to my breakfast (one fruit serving).
Add a small salad to either lunch or supper (one or two veggie/fruit servings, depending on what I add to the salad).
Turn a ho-hum sandwich into a Dagwood by piling on lettuce and slices of tomato, onion and cucumber (one veggie serving).
Cook up enough vegetables for each meal to ensure leftovers. This means I can create a veggie plate from time to time (several veggie servings in one meal).
Snack on raw vegetables rather than chips (one veggie serving). Baby carrots dipped in hummus makes a great snack when I have that irresistible urge to nibble.
Replace my afternoon soda with an 8-ounce glass of V-8 juice (two veggie servings!).
Throw chunks of frozen fruit and yogurt into a blender – adding some Splenda if necessary – for a delicious smoothie (one fruit serving).
Sip a “Baptist sangria” (one fruit serving). To make this yummy drink, I fill my glass with equal parts cranberry or pomegranate juice and sparkling water, then garnish with orange, lemon and lime slices.
Although restaurant meals tend to include only one vegetable, I can usually order a second one a la carte for a small “upcharge.” I’ve actually persuaded food servers to replace fries or chips with a serving of coleslaw, fresh fruit or no-sugar-added applesauce. Some lovely restaurants even offer a veggie plate as a complete meal.
Going to a buffet-style restaurant with a good salad bar allows me to load up my plate with all 3-5 servings of veggies/fruits at once if I want to. Of course, it also allows me to load up my plate with all kinds of fattening junk, so I’ve found I need to practice considerable self-discipline here.
When attending family gatherings or church potlucks, I’ve found that bringing a plate of fresh fruit or veggies with dip gives me something to nibble on instead of the fat and sugar-laden hors d’oeuvres usually offered at such events. This helps me sneak in an extra veggie serving as well.
At first, I was afraid this Lenten “3-5 Challenge” might cause some weight gain, but I’ve actually dropped a couple pounds over the past month.
This makes sense now that I think about it. When I add a small salad to my meal at a restaurant, I’m less likely to mindlessly nibble on the crackers, bread or dinner rolls. Raw veggies have replaced the chips I often snacked on at home in the afternoon. V-8 juice, a frozen fruit smoothie or my “Baptist sangria” have completely replaced my afternoon soda. And I put smaller portions of potatoes and pasta on my plate in order to accommodate the extra veggies.
Not only has the “3-5 Challenge” turned out to be easier than I thought it would be, but 30 days into Lent, this “add-on” has already become a habit. Definitely a keeper.
“Cardiac event” was most definitely not on my To-Do list.
Following an extended pull-my-hair-out busy patch that seems to happen for at least two weeks each month despite my retirement, I was looking forward to a short stretch of downtime. Instead, I began a beautiful October weekend with a ride in the back of an ambulance.
The good news: My radiating chest pain and rapid heart rate (200-plus beats per minute) turned out not to be a heart attack. The bad news: After an overnight stay in the hospital spent hooked up to a Holter monitor, I left with a diagnosis of A-fib and “diastolic dysfunction.”
The upshot: My eagerly-awaited downtime this past couple of weeks has been supplanted by a round of follow-up doctor visits. I’ll need to add three new heart medications to my ever-expanding drug salad, and a lot more salads to my increasingly restricted diet. And veggies.
Alas, since I prefer chocolate-covered peanut butter cookie bars to celery, it is even harder for me to adhere to a healthy eating plan than it was for me to quit smoking 15 years ago. Add to that, the challenge of finding recipes my husband and I can both stand. We each have veggies we like and veggies we loathe. Problem is, the ones I like are on his “loathe list” and vice versa.
But the cardiac event that hijacked my calendar has reminded me of my need to keep “self-care” on my list of priorities – after all, 1 Corinthians 6:19 says my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. It’s past time to stop taking my health for granted.
So I’d love to have readers of this blog share their irresistible veggie recipes. Or yummy salad recipes. “Quick and easy to prepare” is a plus.
Count on my husband to add a bit of levity to a tense situation. While waiting for me to be released from the hospital, he and I were discussing the health issues we’ve both been experiencing this past year.
I said, “At our age, we probably need to get used to this. It’s going to be the new normal.”
To which my sweetie pie replied, “You mean the new abnormal? We were NEVER normal, my dear!”