Monday, July 30, 2012

Dining out used to be for special occasions only, but now it is a part of many Americans’ routine. Americans are eating out on a regular basis. Many grab breakfast or lunch on the go or pick up dinner on the way home. Also meeting friends for dinner rather than inviting friends over for dinner has become increasingly popular.

As a whole, many restaurant choices are less healthy, and some customers select food lower in nutritional quality when dining out. However due to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, all chain restaurants will be required to provide nutritional information in their menus and on menu boards. Hopefully this will encourage Americans to make better choices when dining out at their favorite place.

A few years ago, the book “Eat This, Not That! The No-Diet Weight Loss Solution” started flying off shelves. Americans are interested in what to order at their favorite restaurants and what to buy at the supermarket. The book and website have been featured on numerous television shows and in countless magazines. Many are shocked to find out how many calories are in some of their favorite foods.

The following recipes are some healthier alternatives to enjoy this summer.

Greek Shrimp Salad

Summer salads should be refreshing, cool and light. Here is a spin on the classic Greek salad. It includes shrimp and tons of flavor — perfect for a lunch or dinner on the patio.

2 (6 oz) pkgs cocktail shrimp or small, fresh cooked shrimp
2 medium tomatoes, cut into pieces
1 cucumber, unpeeled, sliced thin
½ red onion, sliced thin
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
¼ cup prepared Italian or herb dressing
½ teaspoon dill weed
½ tablespoon parsley, chopped
black pepper to taste
1 (2¼ oz) can sliced black olives
Add thawed and drained shrimp to all other ingredients. Mix gently. Serve chilled in a bowl on lettuce, spinach, or red cabbage leaves. Serves 4.

Skinny Fettuccine Alfredo

Ask any dietician and they will have nothing good to say about fettucine alfredo, laden with fat and calories. Rachael Ray has created a way to reduce the fat and calories of this traditional dish.

My high school classmate, Monica Kellogg, of Philadelphia, shared this recipe with me. Monica enjoys finding recipes that allow her to enjoy the foods she loves. Monica and her black Lab, Frank, live an active lifestyle taking long walks and playing on the beach.

8 oz fettuccine
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage, plus small whole leaves for garnish
2 tablespoon flour
1 cup fat free chicken broth
1/2 cup 2% milk
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1 pinch ground nutmeg
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

 In a pot of boiling salted water cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and transfer to a larger serving bowl. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over a medium-low heat. Add the garlic and chopped sage and cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the flour until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the chicken broth, milk, pepper, and nutmeg. Bring to a low boil, stirring constantly. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring gently, until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss. Stir in 3/4 cup parmesan cheese. Top with the sage leaves and more parmesan cheese.

Chocolate Cream Pie

Delayne Morris, formerly of Carroll now living in Ottumwa, enjoys keeping in shape by staying active any way she can, even skydiving. She also likes to find recipes for sweet treats that taste good, but aren’t full of calories and sugar.

For a twist on traditional chocolate pie, Delayne suggests adding 1 tablespoon instant coffee or ½ teaspoon peppermint or almond extract.
2 envelopes Dream Whip whipped topping mix
2¾ cups cold skim milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 small boxes sugar-free instant chocolate pudding (or any flavor)
Beat whipped topping, 1 cup of the milk and vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer on high speed for 6 minutes or until topping thickens and forms peaks.
Add remaining 1¾ cup milk and pudding mixes; beat on low speed. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes scraping bowl occasionally. Spoon into a pastry shell, graham cracker crust or Oreo pie crust.

Refrigerate at least for 4 hours. Garnish as desired. I always top with Light Cool Whip.

Chocolate-Cherry Heart Smart Cookies

There is nothing wrong with the standard chocolate chip cookie, but if you would like to change it up a bit, try a healthier version found in Cooking Light magazine. These cookies include dried cherries and bittersweet chocolate. Each cookie has only 94 calories and 3 grams of fat per cookie.

1½ oz all-purpose flour (about 1/3 cup)
1½ oz whole-wheat flour (about 1/3 cup)
1½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup dried cherries
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 oz bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
cooking spray
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours and next 3 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat; add brown sugar, stirring until smooth. Add sugar mixture to flour mixture; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add cherries, vanilla, and egg; beat until combined. Fold in chocolate. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. Cool on pans 3 minutes or until almost firm. Remove cookies from pans; cool on wire racks.