Healthy Eating

Remember my post about my mom cooking it up in the 1950’s with margarine, Velveeta cheese, tang, and Spam? Well guess what the new rage was in the 1960’s? It was a new support group called Weight Watchers and my mom was nearly a charter member. After all that “healthy” high fat food in the fifties, Weight Watchers was a timely shift in lifestyle.

In my younger days I thought all meat had to be prepared in a skillet, via flour dredge and oil. Now, with Weight Watchers on the scene, out came the BBQ and we actually discovered the broiler in our oven. Meat could actually be grilled and broiled! And a salad, wow, it became more than iceberg lettuce and a tomato with thousand island dressing.

This was great timing for me personally because I was in my teens and just learning to cook. Thus to this day, for the most part, I have an aversion to fried foods (well, except for French fries). I really credit this in part to the change in my mom’s cooking habits during these years.

Now even though my mom made this great change, old habits are hard to break, and since my mom was a great cook and could deep fry the tastiest chicken around, Weight Watchers came and went more than a few times in our home during the next couple of decades. But, I am still thankful that my mom, by example, taught me good nutrition and healthy cooking, a great deal of which she learned at Weight Watchers.

Here are just two of the early Weight Watcher recipes that my mom brought home from meetings. I believe these were before the days of any sort of printed Weight Watchers cookbook.

Vegetable Lasagna

2 medium zucchini sliced lengthwise 1/4″ in thickness (like a lasagna noodle)
1 1/4 cup low fat ricotta cheese
1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach defrosted and well drained
1 tablespoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
dash pepper
1 cup cauliflower steamed and pureed
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon garlic powder
4 ounces mozzarella cheese sliced thinly

Par broil zucchini until slightly brown turning once to grill each side lightly.
In a small bowl mix ricotta cheese, spinach, parsley, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Spray 9×13 inch glass dish with non stick spray. Line bottom of dish with zucchini, then spread ricotta mixture evenly over zucchini followed by a layer of cauliflower, mushrooms, and mozzarella cheese. Finally, top with tomatoes and garlic powder. Bake at 375 degrees until warm and bubbly through out. (30-40 minutes).

Broccoli and Cauliflower Soup

2 cups steamed broccoli
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons minced green onion
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
dash of salt, pepper and nutmeg
1 cup steamed and pureed cauliflower
1 cup skimmed evaporated milk

Remove stems from broccoli and puree coarsely. Melt butter and saute green onion, add flour stirring constantly, making a rue. Using a wire whisk,add broth, spices, and then gently stir in with a wooden spoon the vegetables and milk. Stir well, heating slowly, but do not allow to boil. Serve with a sourdough roll.


When my girls were little we loved watching and reading the Little House on the Prairie series. One of our favorites was from the Little House pilot which included the scene where Mr. Edwards walked through a snow storm to deliver Christmas presents to the Ingalls. The story ends with Ma finally warming up to the uncivilized Mr. Edwards and Laura and Mary finding heart shaped Christmas cakes in their stockings.

Heart-Shaped Christmas Cakes

Mary and Laura pulled out two small packages. They unwrapped them, and each found a little heart-shaped cake. Over their delicate brown tops was sprinkled white sugar.”

– Little House on the Prairie

You will need:

½ cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
Flour for sprinkling
Granulated (white sugar) sugar for sprinkling

Measuring cup and spoons
Large mixing bowl
Mixing spoon
Floured board
Heart-shaped cookie cutter, about 2 or 3″ across
Cookie sheet
Pot holder
Wide spatula
Wire rack

Heat the oven to 325°.

Beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla together until they are light and fluffy. Stir in the flour.

On a floured board, pat the dough out in a circle about 1/3″ thick. Cut out shapes with the cookie cutter. Sprinkle the tops with granulated sugar. Put the heart shapes on the cookie sheet and bake them for about 15-20 minutes, until they are lightly browned. Take them out of the oven and sprinkle more granulated sugar on the tops. Carefully remove the cakes from the cookie sheet with the spatula and put them on the wire rack to cool.

Makes about 12 cakes.

Recipe taken from The Little House Treasury by Carolyn Strom Collins and Christina Wyss Erikson.

This is a great tea or breakfast bread good anytime but especially during the holidays. I got this recipe from a dear friend, Gwen Hill. Gwen was my pastor’s wife during the early 1980’s and was a fun loving lady with a great laugh. She was the mother of two beautiful daughters, Melissa and Danya. Gwen went to be with the Lord a few years ago, but is not forgotten. I remember that Gwen got this recipe from an Avon decorator plate entitled Blueberry Orange Nut Bread, made in 1982.

I loved finding this recipe in my file in her hand writing.

Blueberry Orange Nut Bread

3 cups flour
3/4 cups sugar (I changed this to 1 cup)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup melted butter
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
2/3 cup orange juice
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup of chopped nuts

Mix well and bake in a oiled and floured loaf pan at 375 degrees until a toothpick comes out clean in center of loaf.

Great friends are hard to come by and ones that are exceptional cooks are even more rare. Cheri Gray was a great friend and a great cook and I am hard pressed to post just one recipe that came from her. I chose this recipe because it is one that is decadent, yet uncommon. Also, I think that this recipe came by way of Cheri through her grandmother-in-law Mrs. Williams.

In addition to being a great cook,Cheri was also a great mom and when her children were young she was very mindful of their nutrition. I recall that Cheri was once frustrated because her mother-in-law, Martha Williams Gray, served her grandchildren cake for breakfast. Cheri questioned her mother-in-law on this to which Martha replied,

Cake has all the ingredients for a well balanced breakfast, milk, eggs, and flour.

Cheri now resides in Washington state and is still cooking for her children and grandchildren.

Thank you Cheri for the many wonderful meals we shared and for this great recipe.

Coconut Pound Cake
1 cup Crisco
2 cups granulated sugar
5 eggs
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoon coconut flavoring
1 can flake coconut (canned if you can find it is sweeter and mositer than regular flaked coconut)

Cream shortening and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Sift together dry ingredients and add to sugar alternately with buttermilk. Add coconut and flavoring. Bake in a stemmed or flutted pan at 350 degrees for 50 minutes to one hour.

I used to have trouble choking down the pills I have to take for controlling my cholesterol, but it’s a lot easier now that I wrap them in bacon.~ Brad Simanek

Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts-from my mother-in-law, Juanita Williams

One can of whole water chestnuts
½ pound of uncooked bacon
one cup of ketchup
one cup of granulated sugar
cookie sheet
oven heated to 400 degrees

Place Ketchup and sugar in a small saucepan and simmer about 20 minutes on low heat until a clear sticky sauce is formed. Cool and continue assembling the chestnuts.

Wrap one half strip of uncooked bacon around a whole water chestnut and then place a toothpick through center securing the bacon around the chestnut. Repeat until all of the water chestnuts are wrapped in bacon.

Dip bacon wrapped chestnuts in sauce and place on a baking sheet. Bake about 30-45 minutes until the bacon is brown and crisp. Remove from oven cool slightly. Leave toothpicks in for serving and transfer to a serving platter.

These are really, really good. I would double the recipe!

Good Morning sweety. Oh my God, is that bacon? I love you, I love you, I love you. Grace – Will & Grace

Posh Playdough

If you are looking for a simple and inexpensive Christmas gift for young children or just a recipe for fun try this play dough recipe. I have the recipe card from my mom’s file and it has a note that it is from Lena Jackson.

Lena was our pastor’s wife during the 1960’s and with three children of her own and a preschool teacher at First Southern Baptist Church in Reedley, Ca, I am sure this recipe came in handy.

My mom used this recipe while serving as a preschool teacher at church, but we also made this recipe many times for my nieces and nephews. I pulled this recipe out of my file for my daughter Sarah to make party favors for my granddaughter Kennedy’s first birthday.

Play Dough

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar (stabilizing agent)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon cooking oil
food coloring (your choice of color)

Mix flour, cream of tartar, and salt in a pan. Mix desired coloring with water, add with oil to dry mixture. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until ingredients stick together in a ball. Cool to touch and knead on wax paper. Store in a airtight container or a zip lock bag.

Lena Jackson

Irish Teacakes

When my brother Harry was in high school he had a great idea that the way to meet girls was to enroll in a homemaking class. Harry liked to cook anyway and this would just be an added bonus to cook with a class full of high school girls. My mom was very proud of Harry academically and the fact that he had an interest in cooking was another plus. One of the recipe cards in my mom’s file is for Russian teacakes and she notes that it was given to her by Harry.

Of course, my mom said since we were Irish (and Scottish, and German) and not Russian, we would call them Irish teacakes.

These cookies became a Christmas cookie tradition and we all still love them today. If my mom was able, she would be making these this Christmas season. I will make them for her and for my brother, Harry.

Irish Teacakes (call them what you want)


1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar for decoration

Cream butter, sugar and vanilla until smooth in a large bowl. Add flour and nuts continuing to mix well.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Roll dough into small 1 inch balls and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from oven and when able to touch, but still slightly warm, roll each ball in additional confectioners sugar. Place to cool on parchment or waxed paper. Makes about 3 dozen.