Healthy choices for dining in

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Americans are eating healthier, using food nutrition labels, cutting calories and fat, and adding more fiber to their diets, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Eating out less is responsible for 20 percent of the progress we have made in these areas.
It’s certainly beneficial to make good choices in a restaurant or when taking out fast food, but eating at home remains the best option most of the time. Make home meals even better by using healthy recipes or tweaking your own to make them healthier.
To start, take a look at the recipes you regularly use or dishes you regularly make. Adapt them to the American Heart Association’s dietary guidelines by reducing calories and fat and adding fiber.
For example, make recipes with eggs using just the whites, not the yolks. Use two egg whites for each whole egg. For dishes with dairy products, try low- or fat-free versions. Also, trim visible fat from meat and poultry prior to cooking.
Add fiber by substituting whole-wheat flour for up to half or more the amount of white flour called for in a recipe. Substitute raw oats as part of the flour in baking. Love that Southern favorite, cornbread? Make it with whole cornmeal. Also, use whole-grain pasta and brown rice.
Here are a couple of heart-healthy recipes to get you started.
Warming Winter Vegetable Soup
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin
olive oil
• 1 large onion, roughly chopped
• 2 tablespoons finely chopped
fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon
ginger powder
• 3 cloves garlic
• 2 ribs celery, chopped
• 1 small hot fresh chile, seeded
and finely chopped (Scotch
bonnet is very good but HOT!)
• 11/2 to 2 pounds of roughly
chopped root vegetables like
sweet potatoes, parsnips,
celery root, carrots and
rutabagas (also winter squash
is good, or even substitute
canned pumpkin)
• 5 cups vegetable or chicken
• 2 bay leaves
• 2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1
teaspoon dried (if fresh, add at
end. If dried, add at beginning)
• 1 teaspoon turmeric
• 2 teaspoons fennel seeds,
lightly toasted and finely
ground (optional)
• 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
• 1 to 1 cup reduced- or nonfat
sour cream (optional)
• Season with salt and freshly
ground black pepper
• 1 teaspoon cayenne
(garnish, optional)

Cooking instructions:
Heat oil in Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and celery. Cook about three minutes until soft but not brown. Add garlic, fresh ginger and hot pepper and cook for one more minute. Stir in stock, vegetables, bay leaves, thyme, fennel, turmeric, brown sugar and dried ginger, if used. Bring to boil, and reduce heat to medium-low to simmer 25 to 30 minutes until vegetables are very soft. Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaves.
Puree soup with immersion blender or transfer to regular blender (in batches if necessary) until smooth. Return to pot and add sour cream if using (substitute plain yogurt but do not allow to boil) and simmer for three minutes. Adjust seasonings. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream topped by a sprinkle of cayenne pepper.
• 5 cups chopped apples with
or without peel
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 cup unsweetened apple
• 1 cup raisins
• 1 cup pecans or walnuts,
chopped (optional)
• 1 cup vegetable oil (I use
extra virgin sunflower oil)
• 2 teaspoons vanilla
• 2 egg whites, well-beaten
• 21/2 cups white whole wheat
• 11/2 teaspoons baking soda
• 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Cooking instructions:
Preheat oven to 350o F. Lightly oil a 13x9x2-inch pan. In large mixing bowl, combine apples with sugar, apple sauce, raisins and nuts. Mix well. Let stand 30 minutes.
In another bowl, mix together oil, vanilla and egg. Add flour, soda and cinnamon. Stir into apple mixture about a third at a time, just enough to moisten dry ingredients. Turn batter into oiled pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool slightly before serving. Makes 20 servings, 31/2 inches x 21/2 inches.