Whole Grains

This was my forth In the Kitchen column from 2014. One difference I have made between then and now, I use canola more often than I do olive oil. Canola is grown here in Oklahoma and according to many is healthier for us.

I wrote about beans being an excellent source of protein last week.  They are also a great source of unrefined complex carbohydrates.  My heart healthy diet recommends that I eat at least five servings per day (one-half cup cooked equals one serving) of unrefined complex carbohydrates.  They help stabilize blood sugar levels for several hours after eating them.

Another good source of unrefined complex carbohydrates is whole grains.  Whole grains include oats, wild rice, quinoa, whole-wheat couscous and bulgar wheat.  It is strongly recommended that we limit or completely cut out refined grains like white bread, white rice, and white pasta.  So when cooking or eating those items, be sure they are whole-grain bread, whole-grain pasta, whole-grain tortillas or brown rice.

We have to be savvy shoppers when looking for healthy products at the grocery store. There are no regulations on food marketing; companies can basically claim anything they want to sell their products.  But there are regulations dealing with listing ingredients.

When shopping for whole grain products, be sure to check the ingredients section very closely.  USDA regulations require that ingredients be listed in order of volume by weight.  So make sure the first word in the list of ingredients is the word “WHOLE” on any product claiming to be “whole-grain.”   If the first ingredient listed is not “Whole Wheat Flour,” “Whole Grain Barley,” or some other grain with “whole” in front of it – the product is not truly whole-grain.

Whenever we cook spaghetti, we always have left-over noodles.  Save them for a heart healthy spaghetti frittata!  Place the leftover whole-grain spaghetti noodles in a container with cold water and keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Spaghetti Frittata

4 cups of cooked whole-grain spaghetti

4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion chopped

1 large bell pepper chopped

6 egg whites

½ cup skim, or 2% milk

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

2 tablespoons chopped basil

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 tomato, diced


If you have just cooked the spaghetti and it’s not leftovers that have been refrigerated, cool it off in cold water and drain it.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until golden, about 10 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl and wipe out the skillet.

Whisk the egg whites and milk in a large bowl.  Stir in the cooked onions and bell peppers, Parmesan, parsley, basil, salt and pepper.  Add in the spaghetti.

Coat the skillet with cooking spray (preferably olive oil spray) and place over medium heat.  Pour in the egg mixture and distribute evenly in the pan.  Cook until the underside is golden, about four or five minutes.

Invert a large platter over the skillet and carefully (with oven mitts) turn it over.  Spray the pan again with cooking spray and slide the frittata back into the pan and cook the other side until the bottom is golden.  When finished, slide the frittata onto the platter, cut it into six slices and garnish with diced tomato.  We also like to eat ours with homemade salsa on top.

You can eat this with a piece of whole-grain toast and some fruit or I like low-fat cottage cheese with peaches.   Here you have another heart healthy and filling meal (with no meat) that helps to stabilize your blood sugar!

A Favorite Dessert (super foods!)

This was my heart-healthy cooking column almost a year ago in the Minco Millennium.

In an email I received from the AARP this past Friday, there was a link to their website with a story about the top 15 superfoods for people over 50 years old. The first item on the list will make lots of people I know happy – Dark Chocolate.

They said that the antioxidants in dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cacao) may help prevent heart attacks. Apparently these dark chocolate antioxidants protect our arteries from becoming clogged! They said small amounts of dark chocolate eaten on a regular basis can lower our blood pressure and help decrease the rate of stroke in women.

Some of the other superfoods included: Blueberrys, which they say can help lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure; Apples, which are a great source of soluble fiber, potassium and Vitamin C; Asparagus, which can help reduce the risk of prostate cancer; Broccoli, which I wrote about last week; and my favorite – Coffee, which a study by the National Institute of Health found that people who drank coffee, regular or decaf, “were less likely to die from heart and respiratory diseases, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes and infections. The remaining items on their list includes Butternut Squash, Fava Beans, Greek Yogurt, Green Kale, Oatmeal, Olive Oil, Pears, Quinoa and Salmon.

The recipe I’m including this week came from health.com and four of its five ingredients are on this list of 15 superfoods. The fifth ingredient – walnuts – was one of the two nuts recommended to me at the Oklahoma Heart Hospital cardio rehab. To make this Greek Yogurt, Chocolate, Walnut and Wild Blueberry Parfait you will need:

½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed

2 cups nonfat Greek Yogurt

2 ½ tablespoons mini dark-chocolate chips

½ cup oat granola

Chopped Walnuts

The oat granola is not on the list of 15 superfoods, but it is made from oats which is on the list – so I counted it!

This recipe makes four servings. To make it start by placing 1 tablespoon of the blueberries in each of four parfait glasses. Then spoon in ¼ cup of the Greek yogurt on top of the berries. Next, place 1 teaspoon of the dark chocolate on top of the yogurt. Add one tablespoon of the granola over the chocolate and then sprinkle the top with chopped walnuts. After you done that, do the same thing again so there are two layers of each ingredient. Serve immediately.

One serving of this healthy dessert is only 243 calories (about – depends on how many walnuts you sprinkle on each serving – this is if you use about a tablespoon on each). But this dessert also gives you 93.8 mg of Potassium and 14.8 grams of Protein. Of the daily recommended vitamins and minerals, it will give you 33.1% of your Manganese, 13.8% of your Calcium, 10.8% of your Vitamin E, and good amounts of Thiamin, Phosphorus, Selenium, Magnesium, Copper and Zinc.

Beans, Beans the wonderful fruit…

“What about protein? We need protein and you said we can’t eat meat or much of it anyway!”  That’s right, we do need protein and for a heart healthy diet it is recommended to limit the amount of animal protein we intake. But there are other, healthier ways to get the protein we need.

It reminds me of a poem my daddy taught me as a kid: Beans, beans the wonderful fruit, the more you eat the more you … oh, never mind. But seriously, beans are a wonderful source of protein that we can eat every single day. And there are so many different ones to choose from: Pinto, Navy, Kidney, Black, Lima, Cranberry, Soldier, Fava, Northern, and the list goes on and on.  And dried beans are very economical on your grocery budget.

One of my favorite meals now is one I got sick and tired of as a kid: Pinto beans, corn bread and fried potatoes. I could eat almost any kind of beans and be happy as long as I have some good corn bread and fried potatoes to go along with them. But, sigh, I’m not supposed to have any fried foods so that cuts out the fried potatoes. But these are almost as good.

Cut up potatoes just like you were going to fry them in a pan. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spray a pan lightly with olive oil and dump the potatoes in. I like to cut up an onion and bell pepper as well and include. I spray it all lightly with the olive oil and sprinkle it with some Mrs. Dash Original or Onion and Spice blend. Cover it with foil and let it bake for about an hour. I usually stir it once or twice while it is cooking.

And I’ve created my own healthier type of cornbread. I love this stuff.

Brent’s Whole Wheat Salsa Cornbread

Mix together dry ingredients of

¾ cup Corn Meal

1 ¼ cup WHOLE wheat flour

¼ cup sugar

2 teaspoons Baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

Add in

2 egg whites

½ cup low fat sour cream

½ cup skim or 2% milk

½ cup salsa

¼ cup olive oil

Add in

½ cup frozen corn

1 cup shredded low fat, skim mozzarella cheese


Divide into 12 muffin cups spayed with olive oil

Cook 20 minutes in pre-heated 400 degree oven


Eat this healthy cornbread with some oven-baked-fried potatoes and a pot of good old beans and you’ll be getting your protein, your fiber and all sorts of good tasting flavors on your tongue and you won’t be clogging up those arteries.


That little poem my daddy taught me ends, “…the better you feel, so eat some beans at every meal!”  That’s some good advice right there!

Eating Meat

The following column was only my second for In the Kitchen.  As you’ll see, the original recipe called for Tilapia. Since this column originally ran, I’ve read several articles about Tilapia and the way they are raised. A couple of those articles claimed that because of the way Tilapia is raised it is not a healthy fish to eat. One article even claimed that bacon was healthier than Tilapia. Wild caught fish are much healthier for one than farm raised Tilapia, according to much of what I’ve read. So you may wish to switch to something like wild-caught Alaskan cod, or some other wild-caught fish.

We Americans love our meat, and here in Oklahoma where so many of us raise or have raised cattle and hogs – we love our red meat.  Every day I see at least one pickup with the “Eat Beef” sticker.  But I’ve learned that it really can be hard on your heart, your arteries and your body to eat too much meat, especially red meat.

The heart healthy diet I was placed on calls for only one serving of animal protein a day and by one serving, they mean 3.5 to 4 ounces of meat.  That is about the size of a deck of cards.  I’m supposed to only eat one serving of red meat once per month, if at all.  And red meat does not just mean beef.  The National Pork Producers did a splendid job in marketing with their “Pork, the other white meat” campaign, but it is just marketing.  Pork is considered red meat, as is duck, lamb, and veal.

I can have white meat poultry (chicken or turkey) once a week, and I can have shrimp, crab, lobster or crawfish once a week.  They told me I could have fish every other day, to include oysters, mussels, scallops and clams.  My problem is I don’t care for most fish or water based life as food.  I loved fried catfish but that was about it.  But I’m not supposed to have any fried food!

The good thing about fish is that they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help protect against heart attacks and reduce inflammation.  So, I am learning to like fish in a few different forms.  Here is a recipe that I do like and it is healthy.

Oven Baked Blackened Tilapia

1 pound tilapia fillets (I buy frozen)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Blackening Rub

3 Tablespoons Paprika

1 teaspoon Salt

1 Tablespoon Onion Powder

1 teaspoon Black Pepper

½ to 1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

1 teaspoon Thyme

1 teaspoon Oregano

½ teaspoon Garlic Powder


Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  Combine the ingredients to make the Blackening Rub.  Line a sheet pan with foil and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Brush the oil over the foil where the fish will be laid.  Rinse and pat dry the fish fillets.  Brush with olive oil.  Cover the fillets with the spices and rub it in on both sides.


Place the fillets on the foil and spray them lightly with PAM (or something similar).  Place in the oven and cook for 10 to 11 minutes.


I prefer to eat mine with Tartar Sauce.  This is a simple homemade recipe.  Combine 1/3 cup of mayonnaise, 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of sweet pickle relish and ¼ teaspoon of onion powder.  Mix it up well and you are ready to eat some healthy, baked blackened tilapia!  Add a fresh salad and a baked potato and you have yourself a heart healthy meal!  Well, if you leave off the butter and salt on the potato.  I eat mine with salsa!

My first food column

This was my first column (it’s called In the Kitchen with Brent in the newspaper) about eating a heart-healthy diet. This column ran in October 2014. As of last count, I’ve written 123 columns that had to do with heart health, food and exercise.

Continue reading “My first food column”