Monday was a big day — HUGE! We picked our first red tomatoes of the season, the first purple bell pepper we’ve ever harvested here, chard, basil and squash. Our sweet corn is tassling. I squoze into a pair of size 18 white summer slacks (never mind that one of my good friends told me in April that she knew it was time to lose weight when she had to move up into an 18 — I’m thrilled to move down), and I can avoid cholesterol-lowering drugs for at least another six months and, I hope, forever.

About a year ago my total cholesterol number was 327. Today it’s 245. Still not great, but better. More importantly, my bad cholesterol number went from a whopping 183 three months ago to 158 today. Yee-haw! That’s with diet and exercise and a weight loss of 31 pounds. No reason why I can’t continue until the numbers are really good.

Basically, unless I screw it up, I’ve been blessed with good health, and it’s waaay past time to quit tossing away that blessing. The tough part — or one of the tough parts — is that this isn’t something to be fixed and forgotten. I can’t eat well until I reach my desired weight and then dive into the chips and chocolate. This has to be the way I eat and exercise for as long as I can manage. Which should be longer if I maintain the daily baby carrots, 9 to 11 glasses of water, etc.

So, in order to be successful at healthy eating, we need to find healthy foods that taste great, that we can look forward to while pedaling our bikes uphill in swampy heat and humidity.

We grew chard this year for the first time, a nutritional powerhouse that I’ve never used in cooking. I thought it was a small, cold-weather leafy vegetable. Apparently, we planted the Amazonian version because ours is knee-high and flourishing in days of 90-plus-degree heat.

And in the July issue of Better Homes and Garden magazine is a recipe for Garlic Bread with Chard, pretty much your standard garlic bread with a nutritional kick. Using a 1-pound loaf of good-quality bread, make your usual recipe. Rinse and chop enough fresh chard leaves to make 3 to 4 cups coarsely chopped chard.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Toss the chopped chard in 1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons good olive oil** and stuff between slices of prepared bread. Wrap the loaf in foil and set on a baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes or until heated through. Makes 8 or 9 slices.

This would be terrific with the summer’s first marinara sauce and whole-grain pasta.

**If you like, you can throw chopped chard in boiling water for 3 minutes to reduce oxalic acid content (before draining and tossing in oil), but roasting time and small amount per serving also make the sturdy leaves very tasty.



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