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How are the diets holding up?

Yesterday, a lady was telling me that she was already ready for some good ol’ fat foods with it only being a couple weeks into the New Year, and asking me for some fattening recipes.

If you notice all the ads and articles are still pushing diets, low-fat foods and plenty of exercise. February is just around the corner and as soon as the month of January is over, most people will be concentrating on buying chocolates and flowers for Valentine’s Day.

I hope you do not get frustrated with me with all the low-fat recipes I list, plus talking about exercising, but I do admire people that can stick to a diet and exercising of their choice. Unfortunately, I personally find any and every excuse possible not to exercise or go to a gym on a regular basis.

I guess there is time for everything and before one holiday is over, you see advertisements and displays of the next upcoming event with all new gift ideas and with birthdays and anniversaries etc., it just keeps people buying and buying almost all year round. Of course, that may be hard on your budget, but on the other hand, good for the economy.

If you have older children, then most likely they have outgrown asking for toys, but rather electronic items and games.

I mentioned last week that I would have another police story I experienced. Around 30 years ago, my friend and I took the day off to go to Columbus to shop. My friend was driving and we were having a good time laughing and talking, not realizing just how fast she was driving until we saw the red lights of the police car pulling us over.

Of course, many of you realize that feeling and the police told my friend driving that she was speeding, plus she did not have her seat belt on. At that time I felt relieved and saved until he turned to me and told me you also do not have your seat belt on and proceeded to write out tickets. Our thoughts went to our husbands as to what we would tell them and what they would say. We had a choice of either paying the seat belt violation which was only $15 (LOL) or attending an hour session at the Marietta Courthouse and watch a tape. We made the mistake of telling the officer that we would attend the session, but when we walked in the room and saw all the hippies and that type of people there also attending the session, we offered to just pay the fine and leave but they would not let us so we were stuck.

Believe me, that was a long hour and we were happy when the time ended and we got out of there. Needless to say we did put our seat belts on when we got in the car and it is now a habit with me as soon as I enter my car.

Till next week!

***

Parsnips Au Gratin

1 pound parsnips, peeled and sliced

vegetable cooking spray

1 cup chopped sweet red pepper

1 tablespoon reduced-calorie margarine

1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup skim milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

3/4 cup shredded reduced-fat Swiss cheese

1 tablespoon fine, dry breadcrumbs

1/4 teaspoon paprika

Place parsnips in a medium saucepan; add water to cover. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer 8 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain well and set aside.

Coat a small nonstick skillet with cooking spray; place over medium-high heat until hot. Add sweet red pepper; saute until tender. Set aside.

Melt margarine in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat; add flour, stirring until smooth. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk; cook, stirring constantly, until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat; add salt, nutmeg, ground red pepper and cheese, stirring until cheese melts.

Arrange half of parsnips in a 1-quart casserole coated with cooking spray. Top with half of peppers and half of sauce mixture; repeat layers.

Combine breadcrumbs and paprika; sprinkle breadcrumb mixture evenly over parsnips mixture. Bake, uncovered at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until throughly heated.

***

Sesame Snow Peas and Red Peppers

3/4 pound fresh snow pea pods

vegetable cooking spray

2 large sweet red peppers, cut into thin strips

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

1/2 teaspoon salt-free herb-and-spice blend

Wash snow peas; trim ends and remove strings. Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray; place over medium-high heat until hot. Add snow peas, pepper and onion; saute until tender. Add sesame seeds and herb-and-spice blend, stirring well.

***

Grilled Eggplant with Fresh Herbs

1 large eggplant

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

vegetable cooking spray

Cut eggplant lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices. Place eggplant in a large shallow baking dish. Combine lemon juice and next 6 ingredients; stir well. Pour over eggplant, turning to coat.  Cover and marinate in refrigerator 1-2 hours, turning once.

Remove eggplant from marinade, reserving marinade. Coat grill rack with cooking spray; place on grill over medium-hot coals.

Place eggplant on rack and cook 3-5 minutes on each side or until done, basting frequently with marinade.

***

Seasoned Green Beans

1 pound fresh green beans

1 cup canned no-salt-added beef broth, undiluted

1 medium onion, chopped

1/3 cup chopped lean cooked ham

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Wash beans; trim ends and remove strings. Cut beans into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Combine beans, broth and remaining ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer 25 minutes or until beans are tender, stirring occasionally.

***

Sweet-and-Sour Green Beans

1 1/2 pounds fresh green beans

vegetable cooking spray

1/3 cup chopped onion

1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 cup water, divided

1/3 cup white vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

3 whole cloves

1 bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon salt

dash of pepper

Wash beans; trim ends and remove strings. Cut beans into 1 1/2-inch pieces; arrange in vegetable steamer over boiling water. Cover and steam 10 minutes or until crisp-tender.

Coat a nonstick skillet with cooking spray; place over medium heat until hot. Add onion; saute until tender.

Combine cornstarch and 1/3 cup water, stirring well; add to onion mixture. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in beans, remaining 2/3 cup water, vinegar and remaining ingredients; bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes or until beans are crisp-tender. Remove and discard cloves and bay leaf.

***

Crispy Oven-Fried Okra

1 3/4 pounds fresh okra

1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup nonfat buttermilk

1 egg, lightly beaten

vegetable cooking spray

Wash okra; trim ends and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Combine cornmeal, salt and pepper in a medium bowl; stir well and set aside.

Combine buttermilk and egg in a large bowl; stir in okra. Let stand 10 minutes. Dredge okra in cornmeal mixture.

Place okra on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450 for 40 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally.

***

Kiki Angelos is a food columnist for The Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

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