Having grown up in the post depression years, I was taught to eat what was set before me.  Money was scarce, and my parents struggled to put food on the table for their 4 children.  We learned to eat “variety meats” such as hearts, liver, and kidneys.  I still have a fondness for those meats, even though I wouldn’t dare serve them to anyone in my family. But, the times, they are a changing.  Vegans are  sprouting up everywhere, from ages 9 to 90. What should you do when they come to dinner? How to please a vegan?

First, you will have to find out what type of vegetarian you’re talking about.  Strict vegans eat nothing that comes from a mother—including butter, honey and cheese.  Those are the toughest to cook for if you don’t understand that basic rule.  Easier to please vegans are those who will eat eggs, cheese and fish. It’s important to know what their diet allows.

Balck bean, corn & avocado salad is a dish vegetarians enjoy
Black Bean, Corn & Avocado Salad will please vegans.

If you’re cooking for a strict vegan who lives with you, it means you’re going for the long term.  You will have to find ways of providing  plenty of good protein for growth and maintenance of body tissues.  These will come from grains, nuts and legumes. 

Now, what should we old folks do about all of this?  Our own parents would have been horrified at the idea of indulging a vegan child , grandchild., or even a friend coming to dinner.   But as a dietitian, I can’t adopt that attitude.  I know that a vegan diet is a healthy choice, which will lead to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. It won’t necessarily keep your weight down since  vegan diets include lots of carbohydrates in the form of fruits, breads, etc.  But I respect a vegan’s choices. After all,  they are taking responsibility for their own health..

I went on a vegan diet a few years ago, after visiting a cattle feed lot in Nebraska.   When I saw a cow lying dead  from heat exhaustion, I was nauseated with the thought of eating an animal. It was months before I could stand the sight of beef on my plate. But then, my old meat  addiction kicked in, and I started ordering steak at restaurants once again. However,  that experience gave me a new understanding of the vegetarian mindset.

I served this easy recipe at a family gathering that included just one strict vegan. But guess what?  Everyone at the table had seconds!


Black Bean, Corn and Avocado Salad



1 (15 1/2 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 (8.75 oz) can whole kernel sweet corn

1 medium avocado, chopped

6 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1/4 cup chopped onion

juice of 1 lime

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1/8 tsp. each salt and pepper


Mix all ingredients together in a medium size bowl.  (The lime juice helps keep the avocado from turning brown) Refrigerate for 2 hours and serve.



This July was  a bummer for sweet corn in Indiana.     Just a couple years ago, there were farm stands all over the city, with piles of corn just picked that morning. You didn’t have to wonder if it was fresh, because you knew the guy who sold it, and trusted his college age kids who were bagging it and ringing up your sale.

It’s been a bad year for Hoosier farmers.   It rained so long and hard that they  weren’t able to plant corn in May.  Even at the first of June, the ground was still too wet.  They were finally  able to plant in the middle of June, but this was not good news for corn lovers.  The grocery stores had sweet corn over  the 4th of July,  but they imported  it from someplace else, and it was old and starchy.

Seet corn should be fresh picked and cooked for 10 minutes
Serving good sweet corn starts with choosing fresh ears, then cooking to perfection

Serving a delicious ear of corn  on the cob is a two step process.  First, and most important, is making sure that the corn you buy is fresh.  If it’s not, don’t even bother putting it in your basket. I’m always surprised at supermarkets that  sell sweet corn with dried husks and moldy tassels.  More surprisingly is that people will buy it.  Do they not know how good sweet corn should look, and taste?  You don’t just buy sweet corn, you choose it.  The husks should be green and almost damp to the touch, not dry, shriveled, or slightly yellow.

Fresh sweet corn is a heavenly treat, especially when cooked to perfection and slathered with honey butter.  Once you’ve purchased your ears of corn, you must know how to cook it. Over boiling will make it hard and starchy, so it pays to use a timer.  Boil  between 4 and 10 minutes.  

 Sweet corn on the cob is a perfect accompaniment to any entrée—especially salmon.  And it’s easy on the cook.  No peeling of potatoes or steaming of rice.  It’s one of the best things about summer.


Last night, as I was dishing up strawberries while watching the fireworks, I hit the panic button.  We’re almost out of whipped topping.  If I don’t get to the store today,  we will be watching “Washington Week In Review” tonight with unadorned ice cream or fruit.  Help! I’m addicted to whipped topping.


It all started many years ago, when  milk was delivered to our door with a layer of cream at the top. My parents used it for their coffee, but there was plenty left over for whipped cream.  We had it on pudding, mostly, because that was cheap and easy . And we always had whipped  cream on pie.  I was skinny then, and so was my hard working mother.  But later, it caught up with her, and my older sister, too. The introduction of Dream Whip in 1957 gave them hope.  Dream Whip had only 10 calories in a serving  as compared to 50 calories in whipped cream.

By then, we were buying our milk at the store, and didn’t have the  extra cream, anyway.  My mother was thrilled to have this low calorie substitute.  In addition to using it as a topping,  she had recipes for cheese cake and cream pies and many other desserts. Still, it required some effort to get out the massive mix master and dirty up the bowl and beaters just so we could enjoy ersatz whipped cream.

The best thing that happened for dessert lovers  was the introduction of Cool Whip in 1966. .  No mix master required.  In fact, no mixing at all.  Just scoop it out of the container and enjoy.  A bowl of fresh berries  tasted so much better covered with a cloud of whipped topping. It wasn’t quite as calorie saving as dream whip, but it was low fat, with half the calories of whipped cream.  Now, we have lite whipped topping, which tastes just as good. It dresses up a plain old bowl of sugar free ice cream, even if you’re out of fresh berries.

Whipped topping It’s great for icing cakes, too.   My daughter loves this recipe for pistachio cake, using whipped topping for the frosting.

Pistachio Frosting made with whipped topping is easy and delicious
Pistachio Cake frosted with pistachio whipped topping is easy and delicious

Pistachio cake

1 package yellow cake mix

1 small  (3/4 oz) package instant pistachio pudding mix

4 eggs

1 ¼ cup water

¼ cup oil

½ teaspoon almond extract

7 drops green food coloring.

Mix all ingredients together and pour into a greased Bundt pan.  Bake at 350 degrees, 45-50 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly pressed. Let cool 15 minutes before turning onto wire rack.  Frost  with pistachio whipped topping right before serving.

Pistachio Frosting:

1 small package (3/4 oz)instant pistachio pudding mix

½ cup cold milk

1 8 oz. container whipped topping

Mix the pudding mix and cold milk together in a mixing bowl.  Be sure the mix is dissolved in the milk before adding the whipped topping; ; otherwise the frosting will be gritty.

This frosting is great for holidays.   Sprinkle it with red sugar at Christmas.  Make it pink at Easter with some red food coloring.  Or serve it just plain green on St. Patrick’s day.

Hooray for whipped topping!


Back in the 60’s, I was a full time housewife in suburban Chicago.   I drove my husband to the commuter train each morning with the kids in the back seat, then returned home to take care of my children and keep house.  There weren’t many working wives in those days.  Needless to say, I did much more cooking from scratch.   But even after I became a working mom, I still fixed batches of spaghetti sauce on the weekends and stored what was left in the freezer.  It only needed an hour of simmering, but I liked the way it filled the house with a delicious fragrance, so I kept it on the stove for 2 hours or more.  Here is my  recipe for Mama Lucia’s Spaghetti Sauce.

You could make it with ground chuck, but I prefer using very lean ground beef.  It’s a  bit more expensive, but the low fat health benefits are worth the cost.  What gives the sauce its special flavors are the red wine and a pinch of cinnamon.


One batch of this spaghetti sauce will make three or four meals
Red wine and a pinch of cinnamon makes this Spaghetti Sauce special


1  lb.  94% lean ground beef

¼ cup olive oil

1 half  onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 Tablespoon oregano

2 Tablespoons  basil

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 28 oz can stewed tomatoes

2 6 oz cans tomato paste

1 8 oz can tomato sauce

1 bay leaf

½ cup red wine

Crumble the ground beef into small pieces while you saute in olive oil with garlic and onion.  Add rest of ingredients, and simmer 1-4 hours.

If you simmer the sauce longer than 2 hours, it may begin to thicken too much.  If that happens, stir in a little water to thin it down.

Don’t forget to remove the bay leaf before serving over cooked pasta. .

There will be a lot of leftover sauce..  Spoon it  into quart zip lock freezer bags and ,lay them flat so that you can stack them neatly after frozen.   Now, you have 3 or 4 quick meals to pull out of the freezer on busy days.

Once you taste this heart healthy recipe,  you will never buy bottled spaghetti sauce again.


Are you tired of serving tossed salad every night? Looking for something fresh and different?  As a senior fixing dinner for two, I don’t want fancy recipes that take too many ingredients.  I’ve been making  easy asparagus pimento salad for years, especially in the springtime when asparagus is plentiful.

Five ingredients are all that’s needed:

Looking for an alternative to tossed salad? Try asparagus pimento salad.
Asparagus Salad needs only 5 ingredients and it’s super easy to assemble

Lettuce leaf

Half a pound  asparagus

Two teaspoons diced pimentos,

Bottle of 1,000 island dressing,

One sliced, hard boiled egg.

Preparation  takes only a few minutes:

Wash the asparagus, then trim off tough ends. I use about five spears for each individual salad .  Don’t bother steaming or boiling; just place the asparagus in a shallow bowl  with a little water.  Cook in microwave for about 3 minutes or when asparagus is crisp/tender. Run under cold water. Pat until dry..

On two salad plates, arrange  lettuce leaves topped with asparagus spears.

Sprinkle about one teaspoon of diced red pimento over spears.

Top with egg slices.

Provide a bottle of 1,000 island dressing, and let each person help themselves, according to their taste.

The salad itself is a mere 20 calories.  1,000 island dressing adds extra calories, depending on the serving size.

If you want something a little more unusual , you can find many asparagus pimento salad recipes on the internet.

For a healthy meal, serve with baked salmon and new potatoes.



The winter solstice will occur at the same time all over the world today, and at 5:23 p.m ET.   Why celebrate?  It’s the shortest day of the year, the end of darkness and the beginning of light.

Relax and enjoy the wintersolstice

The winter solstice has  been celebrated from ancient times throughout the world.  Why is it a cause for hope in this modern world of ours?  For many,  it means the end of all the holiday worries and madness.  You’ve baked yourself silly making Christmas cookies.  You’ve stressed out over pleasing  each and everyone on your holiday gift list.  The tree is up, and the kids are coming for Christmas.  When that’s all over, it’s time to start thinking about #1 again.

You can open your seed catalogs and  start thinking  about your spring garden.  You needn’t feel guilty about getting a massage, a new hairdo, some new clothes, and maybe get started with a  fitness/weight loss program.  It’s all about you in January and that feels pretty good.  You have a few more months to get yourself back in the shape you were before you got so worn out over the holidays.

Now is the time to enjoy indoor activities such as sewing, painting, writing, and crafting.  Make a scrapbook. Sew some new slipcovers.  Get out those art supplies and paint  a picture.  Enjoy the peace that comes from sitting in a warm house and watching the snow fall.


You don’t have to worry about last minute meals.  There’s nothing so delicious and fragrant as a pot of vegetable soup.  Just open a can of V-8, and pour it into a big pot;  throw in some beef cubes, dice up a few potatoes, carrots, and whatever vegetables you like—maybe some cabbage.  Let it simmer all afternoon, warm up some crusty bread, and you will have a supper that’s low in calories and high in nutrition.

Celebrate the Winter Solstice tonight!

RICH, FLAKY, COFFEE CAKE ROLL (corrected recipe)

Update:  just realized I had left out the 2 sticks of margarine in my recipe.  So Sorry!

I first tasted this  rich, flaky, coffee cake roll while living in Chicago,  when a German  neighbor brought it to a kaffeeklatsch in our building.    I had always avoided recipes with yeast, because they required a lot of kneading and the problem was, you might either over knead or under knead, and that would ruin the whole thing.

easy coffee cake

But this  was so easy that I made it every year on Christmas and Easter for the next four decades.  Friends and family asked for the recipe, and soon, they were claiming it as their own.




1 package active dry yeast

¼ cup warm water

¾ cup warm milk

3 egg yolks

4 cups flour

2 sticks (1/2 cup) cold margarine

1 teaspoon salt

¼ cup sugar


1 stick margarine

1 cup powdered sugar

½ cup finely chopped walnuts


¾ cup powdered sugar

Enough milk to make a thin paste


In a large bowl, mix flour, salt, and sugar.  Using your hands, mix in margarine until your have pea-sized pieces ( as if you are making pie dough),

In separate bowl: dissolve yeast in warm water according to package directions; add  egg yolks and warm milk.

Combine all ingredients and stir until smooth. Do not knead. Cover dough and refrigerate overnight.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Divide in half. Roll each portion into a 13 X 9 inch rectangle.  Stir filling  ingredients until fluffy.  Spread over rectangles. Roll up jell-roll style, starting with a long side.

Place rolls  seam side down at the edges of a 13 X 9 inch baking pan. Cover and let sit until doubled, about 3 hours. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until brown.  Make glaze and frost the cakes while they are still warm..