How to Cook Beautiful Asparagus

If you’ve been eating canned asparagus all these years, you’re in for a real treat! Canned vegetables have little, if any, nutritional value because they are cooked out in the high-temperature cooking process they get at the canning companies. Besides that, you can often find fresh asparagus on sale, therefore saving your money and nutrients all at once, not to mention that they taste better too! Here’s a few tips for picking and cooking those tender spears to beautiful perfection.

Pick fresh looking asparagus spears that aren’t wilted or damaged in any way. Look for pretty tops first, then look for the size stalk you want.

If you use the larger spears, you will have to peel the stalks with a vegetable peeler, but if you use the thin ones, you won’t!


* Rinse the spears and place in an inch of boiling water, laying about half of the batch down flat, depending on the size of your pan. Do NOT cover, or they will lose their pretty bright green color.

* Cook the spears until they are fork-tender, about 5 minutes or less. There’s no need to pierce every spear to test if they are done, if a few of them are ready then they all will be.

* Immediately place all the cooked spears into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process, then remove them from the ice water and place on a serving plate.

* If serving time is still a bit away, you can reheat them in the microwave for 30 seconds without changing their color or texture. Continue to cook the rest of the batch in the same way, and be sure to taste one as soon as it comes out of the ice water… they are sooooo good!

Side Dishes, Salads & Soups, Soups

Pumpkin and Leek Soup

We aren’t so sure about this recipe, but wanted to provide it for those who love soup and are willing to try it… if you do take the challenge, please let us know how it turned out!

1 average size pumpkin
1 large red onion
2 large potatoes
Garlic to taste
2 large leeks
Ground black pepper to taste
1 can of chicken stock, low-fat
1 carton of skim milk
Some VERY low-fat grated cheese


Chop and skin the pumpkin into large chunks. Spray with a small amount of low-fat spray and add a small amount of water. Microwave until the pumpkin is soft. 

Microwave the potatoes keeping them whole, so they cook quicker, using the low fat spray and only a minimal amount of water, until soft. Skin is optional. 

Chop the red onion and leek finely and place in a microwave container. Spray with low-fat spray adding the garlic and pepper. Microwave until soft. 

Place all of the above into a bowl and mash the mixture until it looks like “mashed potato”, adding skim milk, gradually, and the grated cheese (not too much cheese). 

Slowly add the chicken stock, combining until you have the desired thickness of the soup. If you run out of chicken stock you can add a small amount of water to the mixture. Continue to stir or blend this mixture until you have the texture your prefer.

Salads, Side Dishes, Salads & Soups

Sinfully Delightful Pasta Salad

Helle’s own words about this recipe… “Anything tasting this good has to be a sin… there is no way it can be politically correct!”

I hate healthy food… Hate it, hate it, hate it! But this salad is really quite healthy and possibly even low-caloric, so… how can it still taste so good? Got to be something wrong, right?

This recipe serves two persons and can be prepared in 20 minutes…


½ cauliflower head
½ head of lettuce
10 medium-sized mushrooms or a glass jar of sliced mushrooms
½ – 1 cucumber
10-15 radishes
1/3 to ½ bag of small pasta shells
2 medium-sized garlic baguettes (French-style white bread)
4 large slices of good-quality ham or other low-fat meat (turkey leftovers comes to mind…)

Garlic Dressing:

20 cl (cc) crème fraiche 9% (clabber cream)
3 fresh garlic cloves or 6-8 cloves of garlic in oil (w. chili)
Basil, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper to taste


Exchange any of the vegetables…. Try to keep a high level of fiber.
Serve the dressing on the side instead of with the pasta. Serve cold.


Start by heating the water for the pasta and turn on the oven. Remember to add oil to the water to avoid clinging. Boil the pasta according to instructions found on the bag. Remember that the pasta has to be boiled al dente – ie. it should still require teeth to eat it.

Put the baguettes in the oven and bake according to instructions on the package. About 10-12 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius (400 degrees Fahrenheit) is recommended.

Clean all the vegetables under running water. Take out a large glass or see-through plastic bowl. Start with the cauliflower. Tear it into “bouquets”. Add lettuce torn into small pieces. Add chopped up cucumber. Add sliced mushrooms. Add sliced radishes.

Drain the pasta. Fold it into the dressing, ensuring that all the pasta is covered with the dressing.

Take two leaves of lettuce and arrange it on each plate. Add two large slices of ham. If you feel creative, then cut a radish rose to decorate each plate.

Salads, Side Dishes, Salads & Soups

Peach and Walnut Salad

Peaches are still abundant where we live in the South, and what a delicious treat this recipe is! With low-fat or even fat-free cream cheese you’ll create a fruit salad topping that’s just heavenly!


1 extra large can sliced peaches packed in heavy syrup, undrained and chilled
3/4 cup low-fat or fat-free cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup walnut, coarsely chopped
Curly-leaf lettuce leaves
Ground cinnamon


1. Drain peaches in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup syrup. Combine reserved syrup and cream cheese; stir well with a whisk. Stir in walnuts.

2. Line 6 bowls with lettuce leaves and divide peaches among them. Drizzle 3 tablespoons cream cheese mixture over each serving; sprinkle with cinnamon.



Easy Substitutions for a Low-fat Diet

Here’s a list of food substitutions you can use for reducing the fat in your daily diet. I’ve also included some healthier substitutions for refined sugar. They are all simple and easy to use, it’s just a matter of incorporating them into your daily life.

Low-fat Substitutions

Replacing the Fat:

* Use low-fat or non-fat yogurt in place of sour cream.

Low-fat or non-fat buttermilk in place of whole.

Skim milk or fat-free instead of whole and even 2%.

Applesauce can be used in place of butter when cooking foods, as well as substituted for the oil used in baking. Use 2/3 the amount of applesauce in place of the fat originally called for. (Some recipes may require a little less or a little more, you may need to experiment. You can also add 1 T. of oil for each 1/4 c. of applesauce when baking cookies so they won’t turn out mushy.)

* In addition to applesauce, you can also use pureed fruit and vegetables (bananas, prunes, pumpkin, squash and others) as a fat substitute. Don’t be shocked, but these items can be used in the form of baby food!

Apple butter is great in spice cakes and muffins, and fruit juice (orange or apple) can even be used to replace the fat in some recipes, like carrot cake.

* Instead of vegetable oil use olive, safflower, sesame or flaxseed oils.

* Forget the butter and oils, kick up the seasonings!

Replacing the Refined Sugar:

Of course, along with eating a diet low-in-fat, cutting back on sugar will improve your health as well. I realize not everyone is willing, or able, to use artificial sweeteners, including yours truly. So, if you must use a sweetener, as with baked goods, try using one of these healthier options instead…

* Apple butter

* Fruit juice concentrates

* Fruit spreads

* Honey

* Pureed prunes

* Pure maple sugar

* Molasses

Eggs and Meat:

* 1 large egg = 1 1/2 large egg whites

* 1 large egg = 3 T. egg substitute

* Use ground turkey or a vegetable meat substitute in place of beef, just add more seasonings and you’ll hardly be able to tell the difference. After a while, you’ll adapt to the milder flavor of the turkey or vegetable meat substitute and probably dislike the strong flavor of ground beef.

* Another option is to rinse the ground beef after browning it, although this won’t work for hamburger patties, since most of the fat is sealed inside. But if you’ve used the ground turkey or vegetable meat substitute, this won’t be a problem.

* You can still have beef on a low-fat diet, but moderation is the key. The general rule is to have it only once or twice a week, and the serving size should be approximately the same size as the palm of your hand.

* Of course, FISH is the best healthy choice! And chicken or turkey is probably second in line. I am not an expert on vegetarian diets, but I do know that there are many protein substitutes such as soy, beans, legumes, and certain nuts. (Peanuts are considered a lugeme, and all nuts are best eaten in the raw form. Almonds are the most healthy, but, as with all nuts, a small amount goes a long way because of the fat content and high calorie count.)


* Use natural peanut butter only, not the solidified kind we all love and grew up on, they are filled with hydrogenated fat… very, very, bad stuff!

* Try these additional flavorings in place of fat to spice up vegetable, fish, poultry and meat dishes…

Vinegars – balsamic, raspberry
Mustards and horseradish
Fresh lemon or lime juice
Hoisin or teriyaki sauces
V-8 juice
Cocktail sauce, BBQ sauce, ketchup

Cheese – you can use the low-fat substitutes available at the store, or make your own yogurt cheese. Drain a container of low-fat plain yogurt in a strainer lined with coffee filters, or cheesecloth, overnight. (May require a longer time to reach a firm texture.) I wonder if this would be good for a cheesecake? I bet it would, will have to try that!