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‘A’ is for awesome choices

January 5, 2009
by Mary Ann Menendez - Staff Writer

It is a brand new year and time to think good health and good food.

It was 20 years ago that our family physician in Jamestown, N.Y., said the diet for me was one of grains, vegetables and fruits. What prompted this conversation was my high cholesterol levels. It was after the birth of my daughter that my cholesterol numbers went upward to the point that was a bit alarming.

I can remember telling the good doctor that I would have no problems adhering to such a diet but my husband was a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy.

Over the years, I have managed to reduce the number of meat-based meals at our house. I limit my own intake of red meat and do my best to center my meals on the fruits, vegetables and grains.

Did I win the cholesterol battle?


But with a good prescription, proper diet and ongoing exercise, my doctor is thrilled and so am I.

Do I ever indulge in something that really tastes good but isn't the healthiest choice?

Sure I do. But I try to watch and pay attention to what my choices are.

This food page for 2009 will feature healthy recipes every week in a new presentation. Each week four food choices beginning with the same letter of the alphabet will be featured with a few recipes. The only exception will be during special events and holidays.

So being the first food page in the New Year, today's letter, obviously is the letter "A" with emphasis on albacore tuna, anchovies, apples and asparagus.

Albacore tuna has just 70 calories in a 2-ounce serving. While total fat is 2 grams, saturated fat is a mere .5 gram. It packs 13 grams of protein with 25 milligrams of cholesterol and 200 milligrams of sodium.

Hot Albacore Tuna Dip

1 can of albacore tuna

1 8-ounce package fat-free cream cheese

1 tablespoon milk

One-half teaspoon horseradish

2 tablespoons chopped onion

Salt and pepper to your liking

Mix all ingredients, and then spoon into oven-proof dish. Drizzle 1/4 teaspoon olive oil over the top and bake at 375 for 15 minutes; serve with crackers.

Don't turn your nose up at anchovies and say, "Ugh." The anchovy is actually rich in Omega-3 acid. Related to the herring, it is a small fish in silver and green which travels in huge schools of its own kind. A popular way to incorporate the anchovy into the diet is with pizza or salad. But here is a pasta dish with linguini, veggies and the anchovy.

Linguini with Anchovies

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

6 cloves garlic, chopped

Three-fourths cup finely chopped broccoli florets

One-half cup sliced mushrooms

6 ounces anchovy fillets, chopped

1 cup water

One-fourth cup chopped green onions

One-half cup diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 (16 ounce) package linguine

1tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 pinch black pepper (optional)

Heat 6 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then stir in garlic, broccoli and mushrooms; cook until lightly browned. Add anchovies and water, cover, and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in green onions, tomatoes, and parsley, cover again, simmering until vegetables are soft, about 3 to 4 minutes. While the vegetables are cooking, bring a large pot of water and one teaspoon of olive oil to a boil. Add linguine and cook until al dente, about 7 to 8 minutes; drain. Toss with anchovy mixture and crushed red pepper flakes. If desired, season with black pepper. Serve immediately.

What has 81 calories, soluble and insoluble fiber, iron, potassium, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Folate, Phosphorus, Calcium and is a great-tasting choice?

It's the apple, of course. Plucked right from the tree and or the grocer's bin, the apple is still an inexpensive fruit choice. It is also easy to pack in the lunch bag for your midday meal.

Start your day out right with this recipe for Apple Muffins which includes cereal, skim milk apple juice and of course, apples!

Apple Muffins

2 and one-fourth cup oat-bran cereal

One-fourth cup brown sugar

1 and one-fourth teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon baking powder

One-fourth cup chopped walnuts

One-fourth cup raisins

One-half cup skim milk

Three-fourths cup frozen apple-juice concentrate

2 egg whites

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium apple, cored and chopped

Mix dry ingredients. Mix milk, apple-juice, egg whites, and oil in bowl or blender. Mix together. Add chopped apple. Fill 12 lined muffin cups. Bake 425 degrees for 17 minutes.

Asparagus is a nutrient-dense food that does not contain fat, cholesterol and is very low in sodium making it a triple crown winner! It is high in Folic Acid and offers a good amount of potassium, fiber, vitamin B6, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and thiamin. Each spear contains a mere 3 calories. This green veggie has a good dose of rutin which is a compound known for strengthening capillary walls.

Sunny Asparagus

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

Pinch freshly cracked black peppercorns

2 pounds asparagus stalks, washed and trimmed

In a jar or bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper. Store, covered, in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.

Blanch the asparagus in lightly salted boiling water for about 3 minutes or until crisp-tender; do not overcook. Remove from heat and refresh under cold water; drain well. Toss asparagus with enough lemon vinaigrette to lightly coat. Arrange asparagus on serving platter or individual serving plates.



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