Moderation Maven Dishing Up the Best Ingredients for a Healthy Lifestyle Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 Recipe Rescue: Cheesesteak Sandwiches Thu, 11 Jun 2015 12:00:00 +0000 Meat and cheese piled high on an oversized hoagie roll... delicious, but over the top on fat and calories.

Here's how to make a cheesesteak at home and enjoy, the Moderation Maven way:
  • Use top round steak (a relatively lean cut)
  • Add flavor without calories: Caramelize the onions and season the meat with herbs and spices
  • Use one skillet to make the most of the yummy browned bits (and fewer dishes in the sink!)
  • Rein in portion size with 5-6" rolls
  • Choose whole grain rolls for better nutrition
  • Broil the sandwiches open face to get the cheese brown and bubbly

Cheesesteak Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions (Printable PDF Version)

Makes about 6 sandwiches

  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • Beef broth as needed (up to about ½ cup)
  • 1 ½ pounds top round steak, raw, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon each of:
    • Garlic powder
    • Onion powder
    • Cumin
    • Chili powder
    • Paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon dried basil
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 medium bell peppers, sliced into strips
  • 5-6" whole wheat hoagie or sub rolls
  • 6 ounces (slices) smoked provolone cheese


  1. To make caramelized onions: In a skillet, saute sliced onions in ½ tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Stir occasionally and add a bit of beef broth every so often and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Let cook, stirring occasionally, for up to 30 minutes. Add pepper slices after about 10-15 minutes. While onions and peppers are cooking, mix the sliced steak with remaining ½ tablespoon oil, Worcestershire, and spices in a mixing bowl. When onions have reached desired caramelization, remove onions and peppers from the pan and set aside.
  2. Increase heat to medium-high and add the sliced beef to the skillet. Saute meat until browned on both sides. Add enough broth to the skillet to help deglaze the pan (about ¼ cup), using the wooden spoon to again scrape brown bits from the bottom. Add the onions and peppers; lower heat to a simmer and cover.
  3. Meanwhile, set oven to broil and lay out hoagie rolls, open faced, on a baking sheet. Broil until toasted (about 1 minute) – be careful not to burn the rolls!
  4. Pile beef, onions, and peppers on top of each sandwich half. Cover each with ½ slice of provolone cheese. Return to the oven and broil for an additional minute or until cheese is browning and bubbly.
  5. Fold the sandwich halves together and serve.

Nutrition Facts (1 sandwich): Calories 480, Total Fat 19g (Saturated 8g), Cholesterol 90mg, Sodium 770mg, Total Carbohydrate 40g, Dietary Fiber 6g, Protein 38g, Vitamin A 4% DV, Vitamin C 0% DV, Calcium 20% DV, Iron 20% DV

Recipe Rescue: Bacon and Cheese Quiche Thu, 04 Jun 2015 14:37:00 +0000 With eggs as the best known ingredient, quiche sounds like it would be healthy. But add a pie crust, heavy cream, bacon, and cheese, and you've got a lot more fat and calories than you bargained for.

Here's I did to make this recipe healthier:

  • Swap out the bland pie crust for one made from hash browns - this cuts fat and calories while adding fiber, potassium, and vitamin C (yay for potatoes!)
  • Use center-cut bacon (which is lower in fat than regular) and decreased the amount
  • Add spinach and onion for nutrients and flavor
  • Sub reduced-fat cheese for full fat and whole milk for heavy cream to lend creaminess and richness without going overboard

Hash Brown Crusted Quiche (Printable PDF Version)

Makes 8 servings


  • ½ (30 ounce) package frozen shredded hash browns, thawed
  • 8 large eggs, divided
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 (12 ounce package) center cut bacon
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon oregano, dried
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 cups fresh spinach, torn or chopped
  • 1 cup reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Prepare a 9" pie plate with nonstick spray.
  2. Squeeze out as much moisture from the thawed hash browns as you can (this will help the crust get crisp). In a large bowl, mix the hash browns together with melted butter, 1 egg, salt, and pepper. Press hash brown mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of the prepared pie plate, packing the mixture firmly against the edges. Bake in the preheated oven until the edges of the hash browns are lightly browned, about 25 minutes.
  3. While the crust is in the oven, cook the bacon in a skillet until crispy. Remove bacon from skillet and drain on paper towels (reserve the rendered fat). Chop the bacon into small pieces.
  4. Add sliced onion to the skillet with the rendered bacon fat and saute over medium-high heat until softened (about 3 minutes). Add garlic and oregano and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
  5. Layer the spinach, onion/garlic mixture, bacon, and cheese in the bottom of the prepared crust. The crust will be very full (the spinach will shrink as it cooks).
  6. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining 7 eggs and milk. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Pour over ingredients in the pie plate. Reduce heat to 375°F and bake until set (knife inserted near center will come out clean), about 45 minutes. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before cutting to serve.

Nutrition Facts (1/8 recipe): Calories 270, Total Fat 15g (Saturated 7g), Cholesterol 240mg, Sodium 470mg, Total Carbohydrate 15g, Dietary Fiber 2g, Protein 14g, Vitamin A 30% DV, Vitamin C 15% DV, Calcium 30% DV, Iron 8% DV

An Ode to Watermelon Wed, 03 Jun 2015 09:00:00 +0000 Watermelon has always been one of my favorite summertime treats. I mean, not that many foods can work as a snack, dessert, and hydration source. Seriously, watermelon lives up to its name at 92% water.

But the fruit is much more than sugary water. It's full of important nutrients, too.

-You might immediately think of carrots when I say vitamin A, but watermelon is a lesser-known supplier of the nutrient needed for eye health and immunity.

-In particular, watermelon also has a type of vitamin A called lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant that may play a role in preventing heart disease and prostate cancer.

-Adding further to watermelon's immune-boosting power are vitamins C and B6. The latter is also needed for brain health and forming red blood cells.

-Also, watermelon supplies some potassium to help regulate blood pressure.

You probably wouldn't be too surprised to know that as I'm writing this now, I'm savoring a bowl of sweet seedless watermelon chunks, with just the right amount of bite.

Cut-up watermelon really is an excellent, refreshing choice for a snack (pair with some cheese or nuts for protein) or as a light pick-me-up after dinner. But there are many other ways to make use of my favorite fruit. Try these tasty recipes from the Watermelon Board (!

Tropical Cilantro Salsa

Makes 8-12 servings


  • 2 cups seeded and diced watermelon
  • 1 cup diced fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup diced fresh mango
  • Juice from 4 limes
  • 1 cup trimmed and chopped scallions
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Toss all ingredients together in a mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper just before serving.


Fresh Mozzarella Salad

Makes 6-8 servings


  • 2 cups seeded small watermelon balls
  • 2 cups fresh mozzarella pieces
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil (purple or green)
  • 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and chopped
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Dash of balsamic vinegar as desired


Toss together the watermelon, mozzarella, basil, scallions, and oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over a bed of baby greens. Drizzle a bit of balsamic vinegar over the salad if desired.


Mediterranean Salad

Makes 6 servings


  • 6 cups torn mixed salad greens
  • 3 cups cubed seeded watermelon
  • ½ cup sliced onion
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper


In a large bowl, mix all ingredients except oil and pepper. Just before serving, toss salad mixture with oil. Garnish with pepper.


Watermelon Pineapple and Peach Smoothie

Makes 2 servings


  • 2 cups chopped seedless watermelon
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple, drained well
  • 2 cups peach yogurt
  • Dash ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract


Blend all ingredients together in a blender until smooth and serve immediately.

Recipe Rescue: Blueberry Lemon Pound Cake Thu, 21 May 2015 10:00:00 +0000 Blueberry and lemon are a natural duo, with the bright, tart citrus complementing fruity sweetness. It's no surprise, then, that the two are often combined in cakes, adding another dimension of buttery goodness. But don't be fooled by the healthy-sounding name! Pound cakes pack in the fat and calories, even when fruit is involved.
So here are some options to enjoy this tasty treat, Moderation-Maven style:
  • Try my tweaked recipe to save 150 calories and 14 grams of fat compared to the original
  • Skip the glaze to save another 30 calories
  • Enjoy half a slice (with glaze) along with a dollop of whipped topping and more fresh berries for a light, summery dessert under 200 calories
  • You can even enjoy a slice as your grain option at breakfast! Leave unglazed and include a protein-rich food such as eggs, nuts or nut butter, dairy (yogurt, milk, or cheese) and additional fruit if desired

Blueberry Lemon Pound Cake (Printable PDF Version)

Makes one 9x5" loaf


  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1-2 cups fresh blueberries
  • ½ cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 5.3 ounce cup lemon Greek yogurt

For glaze:

  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9x5" loaf pan.
  1. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar using an electric mixer until blended. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in lemon zest and vanilla extract.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together the flours with baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter, sugar, and egg mixture and beat until combined. Add ½ of the yogurt and beat until combined. Repeat with remaining dry ingredients and yogurt.
  3. Pour 1/3 of the batter into the prepared pan, then sprinkle some of the blueberries over the batter. Pour the next 1/3 of the batter over the berries, and sprinkle more blueberries on top. Repeat with remaining batter and berries.
  4. Bake 60-75 minutes; around 60 minute mark, place aluminum foil over the top of the loaf (to prevent top from getting too brown before center is cooked through). When a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, remove pan from oven. Cool in pan 10 minutes before transferring to wire rack. Cool completely.
  5. To make glaze, mix together powdered sugar and lemon juice until smooth. Drizzle over cooled loaf.*

*To serve for breakfast, enjoy a full slice (no glaze) as your grain option. Include a serving of a protein-rich food such as eggs, nuts or nut butter, dairy (yogurt, milk, or cheese) and additional fruit if desired. To serve as a dessert, glaze the loaf and serve half a slice with whipped topping and additional fresh berries.

Nutrition Facts (1 slice, unglazed): Calories 295, Total Fat 11g (Saturated 6g), Cholesterol 88mg, Sodium 265mg, Total Carbohydrate 44g, Dietary Fiber 3g, Protein 6g, Vitamin A 7% DV, Vitamin C 4% DV, Calcium 5% DV, Iron 8% DV

Nutrition Facts (1/2 slice, glazed): Calories 160, Total Fat 6g (Saturated 3g), Cholesterol 44mg, Sodium 130mg, Total Carbohydrate 25g, Dietary Fiber 1g, Protein 3g, Vitamin A 4% DV, Vitamin C 3% DV, Calcium 2% DV, Iron 4% DV


Food Trends are Driven by Consumer Hopes, Fears Tue, 19 May 2015 09:13:00 +0000 Within the past few months, the airwaves have been filled with news that big companies are moving away from scary-sounding food chemicals and additives. Kraft is removing its trademark yellowish orange dye from boxed mac and cheese. Panera announced that by 2016, artificial preservatives, colors, sweeteners and flavors will no longer be on the menu. Chipotle decided that "when it comes to [their] food, genetically modified ingredients don't make the cut."

Many of the companies making these changes are doing so in the name of better health for their customers and being good to the environment. We all want those things, so I'm not arguing against that.

But even if all of our food was made in the most environmentally sound manner with the highest quality ingredients, would it be enough to heal the world and our bodies?

Here's the thing. Food trends are shaped by consumer demand. Consumer demand, in turn, is driven by our needs and wants as well as hopes and fears. As wonderful as the internet can be, it allows information – truth and rumors alike – to spread like wildfire. When I get questions from readers, callers, and people I meet, they often stem from something they saw on Facebook or discovered through a Google search.

In the past few years, this has had an undeniable effect on the food industry. Walk into any grocery store and pick up a box of fruit snacks. Chances are, the front of the box will advertise all of the ingredients the fruit snacks don't have – gluten, artificial sweeteners, GMOs, cholesterol, trans fat, preservatives, and who knows what else.

And why? Companies of all sorts are constantly jockeying for customers – to gain new ones and maintain their regulars. They'll invest lots of time and money in rebranding, reformulating, and repackaging if their customers demand it and profits depend on it. They may even further contribute to misinformation, continuing the cycle.

On their website, Chipotle says that we're likely to encounter GMOs "just about everywhere," because "it's estimated that more than 80% of the processed foods consumed in the U.S. contain genetically modified ingredients. If you're consuming food or beverages containing ingredients derived from corn or soy (which is just about all processed foods), you're likely to be eating GMOs."

In this case, Chipotle may be going so far as to prey on consumer ignorance. In truth, the amount of GMOs found in most processed foods can't even be detected. Genetically modified DNA is destroyed with the high temperatures used during processing. As for syrups and oils coming from corn and soy, they are highly purified. After distillation, any genetically modified DNA and proteins are gone. The final product is chemically indistinguishable from ingredients made from non-GMO crops.

Besides, is a sandwich piled high with grass-fed beef and hormone-free cheese, slathered with artisan aioli really healthier? I'm much more concerned about excess fat, sodium, and calories than the all-naturalness. It's easy to go overboard when you think you're putting better ingredients in your body.

The ingredients being removed from our foods have long safety records, are backed by scientific consensus, and are FDA-approved. Further, they tend to be cheaper than their more "natural" alternatives. It may be a challenge for chain restaurants and food companies to make palatable changes to their items without raising prices. Ultimately, they may end up losing customers who can no longer afford their feel-good eats.

As cynical as it may sound, there is a bottom line, even for the companies that make a show of their philanthropy. So be aware of advertising and marketing tactics that aim to make you feel better about parting with your money. In the end, you're still spending. And fruit snacks will always be fruit snacks.

Recipe Rescue: Cinnamon Rolls Thu, 14 May 2015 15:00:00 +0000

Nutrition Facts Face-Off!

The differences are shocking when compared to an oversized bakery cinnamon roll. Notice that despite our homemade roll's more petite portion, we retain the fiber (thanks to our whole grain flour). Meanwhile, the calories, fat, carbs, and surprisingly, sodium are drastically decreased.

The keys to enjoying a cinnamon roll as part of a healthy diet:
  • Smaller portion
  • More whole grain flour in the dough (I promise, you won't even notice) for added fiber and nutrients
  • Count the cinnamon roll as the grain portion of your breakfast
  • Include a serving of fruit and lean protein (e.g., eggs, nuts, cheese, yogurt, milk)

Sinless Cinnamon Rolls (Printable PDF Version)

Makes about 24 rolls


  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 packets rapid-acting dry yeast
  • 1 cup low-fat milk, warmed to 120°F
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 ½ - 2 cups all-purpose flour


  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup butter, softened


  • 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-2 tablespoons low-fat milk


1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together white whole wheat flour, 1/3 cup sugar, salt, and yeast until evenly distributed. Add warm milk, ¼ cup butter, and egg. Beat with an electric mixer on low until combined, then increase speed to medium and beat for 1 minute. Scrape batter from sides of bowl as needed. With a wooden spoon, stir in all-purpose flour, ½ cup at a time, until dough is slightly sticky but easy to handle.

2. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface. Knead for 5 minutes, sprinkling with additional all-purpose flour if dough starts to stick. When dough is smooth and springy, transfer to a large oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for 1 ½ hours, or until dough has doubled in size.

3. When dough has finished rising, punch down to release excess air. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and roll out into a 15x10" rectangle. Spread ¼ cup of butter over dough. In a small bowl, mix ½ cup sugar and cinnamon, then sprinkle evenly over the buttered dough.

4. Roll up dough tightly, and pinch the edges to seal. Stretch and shape roll until even and approximately 15" long. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut into 24 slices (each about 5/8" thick).

5. Place rolls in two greased 13x9" pans (12 rolls in each). Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes.

6. Remove plastic wrap and bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes or until golden. Transfer rolls to a cooling rack.

7. While rolls cool slightly, mix together powdered sugar, butter, vanilla extract, and milk to make glaze. Spread evenly over rolls and serve.

Nutrition Facts (1 roll): Calories 160, Total Fat 5g (Saturated 3g), Cholesterol 21mg, Sodium 105mg, Total Carbohydrate 27g, Dietary Fiber 2g, Protein 3g, Vitamin A 3% DV, Vitamin C 0% DV, Calcium 2% DV, Iron 6% DV

Pico de Gallo and Guacamole Fri, 08 May 2015 07:04:00 +0000

Guacamole (Printable PDF Version)

Makes about 3 ½ cups