Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Composed Taco Salad

A Composed Taco Plate is more  stylish than plain old tacos - and is so quick to assemble.

     If you like to entertain but live with arthritis or other painful problems, three words should become your new mantra: Lower My Standards. 

     Really, it's OK - even if you have enjoyed a reputation as a terrific cook - to make very simple dishes. Better to cook easy stuff and  still have people over rather than to avoid guests because it takes too much energy to prepare/serve and clean up.
    Instead of spending a lot of time fussing in the kitchen, pay more attention to the presentation of food.    
    For instance, plain old tacos on a plate looks pretty ordinary; arranging the components of taco on a large white plate looks more stylish - like you put a little thought into it.
   The following "recipe" for a Composed Taco Plate is a sure thing to serve for a casual lunch or light dinners. Unlike the traditional taco salads that call for a ton of crushed tortilla chips, this version  is healthier, so suitable for friends who are watching their weight, who avoid gluten or who like to eat lower carb.  Kosher keepers can sub soy crumbles for meat.


  • Lean ground sirloin or turkey, cooked and drained, or soy crumbles ( a pound will serve 4-6)
  • Taco seasoning spices (or use a seasoning packet)
  • Shredded reduced fat Cheddar (from a bag, of course :) )
  • Bagged romaine lettuce
  • Taco Shells (one per person)
  • Optional garnishes: sliced avocado, black olives, reduced fat Catalina or Ranch Dressing


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Put taco shells in loaf pan or regular pan, and bake for 5 minutes.
3. On large plate, scatter Romaine lettuce leaves, leaving a margin of about 2 inches from edge of plate.
4. Put about 1/2 cup meat/meat substitute over center of the leaves.
5. Scatter beans on lettuce and meat. Add halved cherry tomatoes.
4. Top meat-bean-tomato mixture with shredded Cheddar.
5. Add optional toppings of black olives, chopped onions or light sour cream.
6. Break up taco shell into large pieces. Put around edge of plate.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Book Review: Treat Your Own Hand and Thumb Arthritis

     I can't stand reading information about arthritis that makes me feel sorry for myself. Yes, it's a chronic, often painfully debilitating condition, but I don't want to dwell on this thought, because if I do, I get in a funk and that only makes the pain worse.

     That's why I love this 80 page book, Treat Your Own Hand and Thumb Arthritis, written by physical therapist Jim Johnson, who is also a clinical instructor of physical therapy at Emory University.
Johnson's message is one of hope: In fact, he titles his first chapter, "Arthritis is Not a Hopeless Cause" and shares research findings supporting his optimism.

     He provides simple exercises that should be performed daily. Since the exercises are shown in large photos, they are easy to follow even for those of us, like me, who have a lot of trouble following diagrams in books.

     Johnson also reviews the basics of joint protection - showing the right way to use your hands to minimize stress on the smallest joints.

    Finally, there are  "tracking pages" so that users can keep a record of exercise routines and frequency. The pages can be photocopied.

    Johnson does not promise miracles; he urges readers to try the exercises consistently for three months to see if improvement is noticed.

    The book is in print; and can be ordered via Amazon.com. Better yet - try the library!

Note: I purchased this book and received no money to promote it -  I just like it! And, while I feel comfortable using these exercises without consulting my physician, that doesn't mean you should, too. 
Use your own judgement.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Brownies (When You Have to Bake)

am  that mom who always was eager to bake for school functions and family events. Or, at least I was that mom before I developed chronic pain. Now, when I've promised to make something and some part of me hurts, I'll  doctor up a mix to make my addictive Peanut Butter Cup Brownies.

They are so well-received, I wonder why I used to go to all the fuss of making scratch brownies.

Ghirardelli is THE mix to doctor up,
      The key is to use a very high quality mix: I will only use the Ghiradelli brand. It comes in both Dark Chocolate and Double Chocolate versions. The mix costs a bit more than the usual brands, but it has no "packaged mix" taste,  fewer additives  and no hydrogenated fats.  
      Prep is 10 minutes or less, and the brownies freeze fantastically well.

1 box Ghiradelli's  Brownie mix
1/3 cup oil
1/4 cup water
1 egg
About five Reese's peanut butter cups (substitute York Peppermint Patties or Rolos chocolate-filled caramels.)


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  2.  Spray 8x8 inch pan with cooking spray, add a lining of parchment paper cut to fit bottom of pan if desired. Unwrap and chop candy into large pieces.
  3. Mix brownie mix according to package directions.
  4. Spread about 1/2 of batter in pan. Add layer of candy over top, spreading evenly. Next, spread remaining brownie batter evenly over top.
  5. Bake at minimum time specified; Do NOT overbake; brownies will look underdone when ready.
  6. Remove from oven, cool pan on rack. Brownies can be sprinkled with a little confectioner's sugar for a more finished look. Cool for several hours; then cut.