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Healthy Living: Sucralose


Crustless Pumpkin PieWe’re caught between a rock and a hard place these days. Natural sugar is highly caloric; artificial sweeteners are, well, artificial. However, sucralose, often sold by the brand name Splenda, is a non-caloric sweetener first introduced in 1976. It is a good substitute for sugar in baked goods because it’s heat resistant and shelf stable. It doesn’t cause cavities; it’s safe for diabetics as a substitute for sugar and does not affect insulin levels. Sucralose is used as a replacement for other natural sweeteners such as aspartame, acesulfame potassium or high-fructose corn syrup.

This recipe uses Food Club Brand Sucralose instead of sugar, and when you serve it this holiday season, you won’t be able to tell the difference.

Crustless Pumpkin Pie
Prep Time: 15 minutes, plus chilling
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Serves: 8

Ingredients:
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
1/3 cup Food Club Sucralose
2 Tbs honey
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup evaporated fat-free milk

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray an 8-inch springform pan with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, combine pumpkin, sucralose, honey and spices. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat lightly until just combined. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Pour into pan. Bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until center appears set when gently shaken. Cool for 1 hour on wire rack. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

Calories Per Serving: 72, Fat: 1 g (0 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 42 mg, Sodium: 46 mg, Carbohydrates: 12 g, Fiber: 2 g, Protein: 4 g.

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Healthy Living: Healthy Halloween Treats


Healthy Halloween TreatsHalloween is all about candy, right?

 Wrong!

Yep, I’m the mom who gives out the individual serving-sized bags of pretzels on Halloween. Laugh all you want, but in our house, we toss probably 85 percent of the candy. We just don’t eat it – or need it.

This year, instead of trick-or-treating, I’m hosting a backyard movie night for my boys and their friends. They’ve gotten to that age where trick-or-treating is a bit passé, but they still want to celebrate the holiday.

So, they will dress up, likely as zombies because that’s way cool, you know.

They’ll come here for dinner, pizza most likely because that’s delicious, you know.

Then, we’ll go to a haunted house.

Finally, we’ll come back to my house. I rented a projector to show a movie outdoors, so we’ll spread blankets in the backyard, watch a movie and enjoy some treats that are healthier than pizza.

I love the ghost bananas and the pumpkin tangerines! They’re super simple.

For the ghosts, peel a banana and cut it in half across the middle. Using chocolate chips, make a ghostly “face” on the banana, pressing the chips lightly into the fruit. For the pumpkins, peel a tangerine and insert a small piece of sliced celery into the top for a “stem.” Enjoy!

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Healthy Living: Cucumber Vegetable Cups


HealthyLiving_CucumberDipCups_228x173I’m throwing a bridal shower next week. My best friend’s daughter is getting married.

Did you read that correctly? My. Best. Friend.

If she’s MY best friend, this means I’m also old enough to have a daughter getting married.

Oh.

No.

I’m

Not.

For real.

Mostly.

It’s hard to acknowledge that we’re old enough to have children getting married and having babies, but we are, mostly.

I haven’t been to a shower in a while, I must admit, because my crowd is busy navigating the waters of middle school. We’re in that weird limbo between our own bridal showers and our children’s showers.

However, I DO have to admit that in all the showers I’ve been to recently, there hasn’t been much healthy food. Don’t get me wrong. I love me some cupcakes and some meatballs, but it’s always good to have a healthy option for a group gathering like a bridal shower or work event. So many people are eating gluten-free these days that it’s also important for them. These are a fun way to serve something artful and deliver a fun and healthy option, all in one.

Cucumber Vegetable Cups

2 large cucumbers (about 3 cups)

1 cup ranch dressing

2 cups carrots, sliced

Directions:

Peel cucumbers.

Slice into 1/2-inch rounds.

Scoop out seeds, leaving a shell at the bottom of each round to be filled.

Fill with a teaspoon of ranch dressing.

Place carrot sticks inside cucumber cups.

Serve immediately.

Serves 12

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 35, Calories from Fat: 2, Fat: 0.2 g, Trans Fat: 0 g, Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 251 mg, Potassium: 194 mg, Carbohydrates: 8 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 4 g, Protein: 1 g.

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Healthy Living: Crunchy Corn


Crunchy CornIt’s the season for candy corn. However, this is the Healthy Living blog, and we don’t recommend serving up a side of candy corn along with dinner. Yummy, yes. Healthy, no.

This roasted corn snack isn’t bad for your waistline, and it provides a big, bold taste and a satisfying crunch. I have a weakness for chips, and this is a great treat to have in place of calorie-laden potato chips or corn chips.

Of course, it’s gluten and dairy-free, as well.

Crunchy Corn

Ingredients:
2 cups dried corn
2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs chili powder
1 tsp salt

Directions:
Soak dried corn in water overnight and then cook in a pressure cooker for 30 minutes.

Pat corn dry well.

Heat a nonstick pan and add olive oil.

Toss in corn and sprinkle chili powder and salt over corn.

Roast corn over high heat until crunchy and golden, shaking the pan occasionally.

Serves 1

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 512, Calories from Fat: 281, Fat: 31 g (5 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 2405 mg, Potassium: 862 mg, Carbohydrates: 64 g, Fiber: 10 g, Sugar: 10 g, Protein: 9 g.

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Healthy Living: Sweet Potatoes


Sweet PotatoesIf you could only eat one thing again and still stay healthy, a sweet potato is a pretty good bet.

Often called nature’s perfect food, sweet potatoes have a significant amount of beta carotene and can provide almost a day’s worth of the U. S. Recommended Dietary Allowance of vitamin A.

They are a complex carbohydrate and a good source of dietary fiber. Sweet potatoes also contain vitamin B5, vitamin B6, manganese and potassium.

You probably don’t want to eat a sweet potato raw, but that’s okay because cooking them actually gives them a higher level of vitamin C.

Sweet potatoes are great baked, roasted, sautéed and pureed for soups and stews.



Healthy Living: Flu


Sneezing ChildIt starts with one sneeze, in an enclosed office.

Or a cough, in a classroom.

Suddenly, before you know it, the flu is everywhere.

People use the term “flu” to mean almost any sickness from a stomach ailment to a severe cold, but the actual illness is from the influenza virus. The most common symptoms are chills, fever, runny nose, sore throat, muscle pains, headache (often severe), coughing, weakness/fatigue and general discomfort. Nausea and vomiting may occur.

Typically the flu is transmitted through the air, by coughs and sneezes, but also through direct contact with the mucus membranes (ie, someone coughs into their hand, then shakes yours).

A blood test is used to determine if it’s actually the flu or not, but many physicians go ahead and treat the symptoms.

Flu vaccines are offered each season (flu is more virulent in the winter), but strains of the flu are constantly changing and becoming resistant to vaccines and medications.

The flu is treated with plenty of rest and fluids and over the counter medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

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Healthy Living: Brussels Sprouts


Brussels SproutsMy kids recently discovered a new favorite vegetable: Brussels sprouts.

It’s more accurate to say that I recently INTRODUCED them to Brussels sprouts. I was lazy and took it for granted that they’d hate them because all kids hate them, right?

Nope.

My kids LOVE them now, as do several others I know. Brussels sprouts are a cultivar of German cabbage. One cup contains only 38 calories but has 342 grams of potassium, 3.3 grams of protein, dietary fiber and 3 grams of protein, plus 124 percent of the USDA for vitamin C.That’s a lot!

In addition, Brussels sprouts help you out with some cholesterol-lowering benefits, if you use a steaming method when cooking them. The fiber-related components in Brussels sprouts do a better job of binding together with bile acids in your digestive tract when they’ve been steamed.

So, steam them, roast them, grill them, bake them or enjoy them any way you like: they’re good for you!



Healthy Living: How to Soothe Coughs Naturally


Warm Tea with HoneyIt’s that time of year. My older son and I are both home sick today with coughs. My son, the hypochondriac, is convinced we both have enterovirus 68.

Luckily, we’re not that sick, but coughs due to the common cold are hard to treat. They also tend to linger. Doctors have different advice on medications: You don’t want to suppress a cough that is productive, but you don’t want to be wracked with pain every time you cough either.

Here are a few ways to help soothe a cough naturally.

First, stay hydrated. An upper respiratory tract infection like a cold or flu causes post-nasal drip. Extra secretions trickle down the back of your throat, irritating it and sometimes causing a cough. Drinking plenty of fluids helps to thin out the mucus in your body, helping to alleviate that while keeping mucous membranes moist.

Warm drinks and lozenges soothe the back of the throat, reducing the cough reflex. Try warm tea with honey and natural lozenges in a sugar-free variety, if you can find them.

Hot showers and humidifiers can also help by loosening secretions in the nose. Make sure that your humidifier is clean, though, so you aren’t spreading more bacteria.

If you don’t want to take a hot shower yourself, sit in the bathroom with the door closed while your little one showers. You’ll get the same benefits.



Healthy Living: Chili Lime Burgers


Chili Lime BurgerWho doesn’t love a good burger? I love to nosh on a delicious burger, but I can’t always afford the calories and fat.

Chicken burgers are a great alternative to beef, but sometimes they get dried out. With this recipe, the addition of bell pepper and garlic helps keep the chicken moist.

The guacamole on top adds flavor and moisture as well. I add jalapeño to mine, but you can skip that if you don’t like the extra spice.

Chili Lime Burgers

Ingredients:
1 lb ground chicken
2 green onions, chopped
1 jalapeño, diced (optional)
1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped
2 Tbs cilantro, chopped
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 lime, cut in half
4 slices pepper jack cheese
2 large pita bread slices, cut in half
For the guacamole:
1 avocado
garlic powder
salt and pepper

Directions:
Combine chicken, green onions, bell pepper, cilantro, garlic, jalapeño, salt, red pepper flakes and juice of half a lime in a large bowl. Mix until thoroughly combined, then form into 4 patties and spray each side generously with nonstick spray.

Heat a large grill pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Grill burgers for 3-4 minutes per side, or until cooked all the way through. Place a slice of cheese on top of each burger, then cover with a large pot lid. Allow to melt for about a minute. Remove burgers to a plate, tent with foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Place each burger in a pita half, then top with guacamole.

For the guacamole, mash all ingredients together with a potato masher or fork.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 523, Calories from Fat: 249, Fat: 28 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (10 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 131 mg, Sodium: 724 mg, Potassium: 623 mg, Carbohydrates: 25 g, Fiber: 5 g, Sugar: 2 g, Protein: 44 g.

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Healthy Living: Rainbow Salad


Rainbow SaladThis salad had me at “rainbow.”

I was the kid with the Rainbow Brite (did I just date myself?) backpack, the rainbow striped socks and the rainbow throw pillow. In art class, I wanted to draw rainbows and was a stickler for the (former) ROY G. BIV mnemonic device.

The rainbow is also good for eating, as Asian influence suggests. Different colored natural foods impart different vitamins, nutrients and minerals to our diets.

This salad is as beautiful as it is healthy, and I’m still obsessed with the dressing.

Rainbow Salad

Ingredients:
For the salad:
2 tsp olive oil
8 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp chili powder
2 cups grapes, halved
1 cup fresh blueberries
3 cups curly lettuce, chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup almonds, chopped or crushed
For the dressing:
3 Tbs almond butter
1 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs freshly squeezed orange juice
3 Tbs water
1 Tbs stone ground mustard
1/2 Tbs raw honey
1/4 tsp salt, more to taste
1/2 tsp garlic

Directions:
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the chicken with the salt, pepper and chili powder. Sauté in the oil for a few minutes, flipping the chicken now and then to cook through and get a nice golden color on both sides. When the chicken is cooked, remove from heat and set aside.

Cut and prep all the vegetables and fruits. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut into bite-sized pieces. Place the salad ingredients in a large bowl. You can either arrange the bowl by ingredient, like pictured, or toss everything together. Refrigerate to chill.

For the dressing, puree all the dressing ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Taste and adjust to your preferences. Pour dressing over salad and serve.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 349, Calories from Fat: 196, Fat: 22 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (5 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 54 mg, Sodium: 582 mg, Potassium: 634 mg, Carbohydrates: 20 g, Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 13 g, Protein: 21 g.

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