Friday, September 29, 2017

Recipe: Thanksgiving Harvest Time Stuffing

Anyone who knows me well, knows my family traditions are sort of a huge deal to me. Especially when it comes to holiday family traditions.  It sort of goes like this:

Once it's been established, it never ever ever changes. Ever. It remains a tradition, forever. And ever. (More or less). So when hubby had a heart attack last month and the doctor basically said "change your lifestyle or you will die" (he actually did say that, he just said it in a different way), that meant changing the way we eat. Big time.  So for the last 4 weeks we've done a major overhaul on literally everything we eat - to low fat, low sodium, low sugar, low everything-bad-for-you and it's been a great change.

One big challenge though was the idea of holiday cooking coming up so I've been on the hunt for a great, heart-healthy stuffing and I think I may have just come up with the perfect answer that sort of blended several different ideas into one. My own holiday stuffing always gets rave reviews (it's cornbread/sausage stuffing, it's kind of insane how wonderful it is) but bottom line? It's terrible for a heart-healthy/low-sodium diet.

So... without further delay, here's a stuffing recipe I made today that was a BIG hit.

Harvest Time Stuffing

1 pound whole wheat bread, cut into 1 inch pieces (I used a cranberry/pumpkin seed bread - and it was amazing)

3/4 c. raw, unsalted walnuts, chopped

2/3 c. dried, unsweetened cranberries

1 T. Canola oil

1 c. finely chopped sweet onion (about 1/4 of a large onion)

1 celery stalk, chopped (about 1/2 c.)

1 c. chopped, fresh mushrooms

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced

2 T. ground parsley

1 T. ground sage

1 T. ground thyme

No-Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 c. no salt added chicken broth

Olive oil spray

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place cubed bread on a cookie sheet and toast for about 10 minutes, tossing half-way thru. (I had to do 2 batches so the bread cubes lay flat on the cookie sheet without overlap). Once they're all toasted, toss into a large bowl with walnuts and cranberries.

2. In a large, non-stick skillet, heat oil over medium. Add onion, celery & mushrooms and saute for about 5 minutes. Add apple and saute for another 3-4 minutes. Add parsley, sage & thyme and toss quickly just until fragrant. Remove from heat and salt (No-Salt) and pepper to taste.

3. Add the onion-apple mixture to the bread in the bowl & stir to combine. Add chicken broth 1/2 cup at a time to evenly coat the bread mixture without making it soggy. Once evenly coated with broth, spoon the stuffing into a greased (sprayed with olive oil) casserole dish. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover the dish and lightly spray the top with olive oil and bake for another 20-25 minutes until the top is crispy and golden brown.

(I served this tonight with baked apples & sweet potatoes, lemon-rosemary baked chicken, and homemade fat-free, low-sodium chicken gravy - which everyone also loved. I haven't posted those recipes yet but I can if anyone wants them.)

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

When Life Does "The Thing" And Freaks You Out

There are certain things in life that happen to people, that you always hope and pray will never happen to you. Never. As in... never ever ever.

One of those things is "that phone call" at some ungodly hour where most normal people are sleeping but... someone isn't, because someone you love dearly is in distress, and you're getting a phone call about it.   That was my house last Tuesday morning. I think it was around 5:30-ish?  It could have been earlier, I'm not really sure. I just heard it ringing, realized it was still an ungodly hour and braced myself for whatever the message was about to me, when I picked up.

"There is no easy way to say this, but Kev has had a heart attack and he's in ICU".  Said the voice on the other end of the line. Immediately my brain went into auto-pilot.  

When, where, how, how bad, which hospital, what floor? All I needed were the facts, as I was getting dressed while asking and hearing the answers. In the back of my mind and from the deepest place in my heart I kept hearing a voice that sounded oddly like my own: "please Lord, let him live, please Lord, let him live".  He answered that plea, and indeed did let him live. The next 4 days were kind of blur, but they included numerous trips down the freeway, a lot of crying, a lot of hugging, a lot of praying, a lot of conversations that started with "what if..."  and a lot of drive-thru dinners. To say it was an extreme emotional rollercoaster is truly the understatement of the decade. For our family, it was a massive face-plant into a concrete wall. 

By His grace and mercy, God chose to bring Kev back from a potential deadly situation and place him in the care of some brilliant and wonderful cardiac experts. He was released a few days later and he's been home recovering for the last 5 days.

For those regular readers, you already know I once had a crash course in malignant melanoma and became a sort of medical expert on signs, symptoms and treatments, and in this case, it's sort of the same thing. It's what you do for those you love - you consume every word, every definition, every potential side affect of every drug, whether you can pronounce the name of the drug or not. 

I've spent the last several days learning all about good cholesterol, bad cholesterol, stents, blood thinners, beta blockers, symptoms, side affects, cardiac rehab, stress tests, and about a hundred other things I'm not even thinking about right now.

Interestingly enough, one of the most important things I've learned in the last week is just how critically important nutrition is, for those with heart disease.  Good nutrition and a healthy, balanced eating schedule is so important, it ranks right up there with any and all prescription meds and taking them on time every day.

It's no surprise to me and really shouldn't be to anyone else but as it turns out, natural, home cooked meals with fresh veggies and lean meats, poultry and fish,  fresh fruits and good old fashioned oatmeal, beans, nuts and seeds...  is still the very best thing for anyone, but especially those with heart disease.  Fast food & pre-packaged store bought trash? Yeah, both are a recipe for disaster. They always have been, no matter how convenient they are. At the end of the day, if they're contributing (and they are, trust me) to clogged arteries and potential heart attacks... they're not really all that convenient, are they?

Our family has done a fast and hard core 180 on the food issue. We've gutted the pantry, spice cupboard, fridge and freezer and literally going back to the basics. 

Thanks to the recipe section at the American Heart Association,  we're one family that has made the choice to dump the trash and eat clean, and healthy.   I've been posting some of the things we've been making and eating on my FB page here. 

Kev has a long way to go to get back to a genuinely healthy place, but him and I are both committed to seeing him get there, on every level.  Your prayers would most certainly be appreciated in our new journey.