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Week 7: A Walk on the bright side

February 21, 2012

The last few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind. I started this column seven weeks ago with the intention of making some changes in my life that would make me feel better, look better and live longer. About two weeks ago, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure, and it became a whole new ball game. Since then, I’ve been on a bit of a rant about sodium and food that tastes like cardboard, and all that negative talk can’t possibly be helping my blood pressure.
As part of my litany of changes, I’m adding one more to the list: I’m going to try to be more positive.
For instance, many people have stopped me at my gym, the grocery store and even while I’m out covering stories to ask me how much weight I’m trying to lose. It’s a subject I’ve avoided for two reasons –– first, what woman in her right mind wants to discuss her weight, and second, I really wanted my goal to be more than just a jean size. However, I can report, with much happiness, that I have indeed lost a little weight. About 1/4 of what I’d like to lose, so I’m a quarter of the way there.
My blood pressure has been holding steady at a high number since I first began taking it myself at home. The stress of that number, in fact, was probably part of what was keeping that number so high. It had gotten to the point where I dreaded taking it –– I just didn’t want to look at those numbers that in my overactive imagination spelled out a life of “being sick.” However, yesterday afternoon, as the sun finally showed its sunny face again, I grabbed my husband and our two dogs and declared it family walk time. We walked, laughed, enjoyed the sunshine, each other’s company and some much-needed relaxing time together. After returning home, I didn’t think twice about putting that cuff on my arm, and it was the lowest it’s been since before Christmas. I did a little dance on the inside and jumped on the computer to share the good news with my family.
As for our cardboard-tasting diet, I found what I can only call a cookbook of miracles. When I first learned I would have to drastically change my diet, I immediately thought of my gracious husband who cooks nearly every meal we eat and felt sad that I would undoubtedly be ruining his fun in the kitchen. I came home from work one night and got on Amazon to search for low-sodium cookbooks, hoping that something mighty actually get some semi-decent reviews. Then I struck gold in the form of “The Hasty Gourmet: Low Salt Favorites” by Bobbie Mostyn. It by far received the best reviews, so I ordered it on the spot and waited patiently for it to land on my doorstep. This past Tuesday, it did. So far we’ve tried two recipes (listed below.) Those two dinners this past week are probably my two favorite things that my husband has ever cooked. He was just as pleased as I was. We agreed that not only are we loving our new way of eating, but we’re going to save a bundle on not eating out, and my husband’s love of cooking is just getting stronger by the meal.
Positive thinking is hard to force, but the rewards thus far have made it much easier to keep thinking that way. From now on, when life gives me lemons, I’m going to squeeze them over some fish and throw them on the grill –– lemons are a lot healthier than salt.

Roast Leg of Lamb with Mustard-Rosemary Crust
(Sodium per serving 154 mg) 
1 (3 lb.) boneless leg of lamb, excess fat trimmed, and lamb tied
1/2 cup red wine, such as Merlot
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/2 cup beef stock or canned low-salt beef broth
2 T. chopped fresh rosemary or 2 tsp. dried
1 tsp. (or 1 envelope) low salt beef bouillon granules
1 T. no-salt-added coarse-grain mustard
1-2 tsp. cornstarch, mixed with 1-2 T. water to make a paste
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1-2 T. unsalted margarine or butter
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Adjust shelf to middle of the oven. Place lamb in a shallow roasting pan. Mix garlic with rosemary, mustard, garlic powder and pepper; rub all over lamb. Roast lamb, uncovered, in a preheated oven until thermometer reaches 140 degrees, about one and a half hours. Transfer lamb to a cutting board and let stand for 15-20 minutes. (Roast will continue cooking as it sits; internal temperature will rise to about 150 degrees for medium-done. For medium-rare, remove roast when the thermometer reaches 130 degrees. Slice lamb and serve with gravy. For the gravy, pour off all but 1 T. fat from roasting pan and place pan over medium-high heat. Add wine; stirring constantly, deglaze pan by scraping up any brown bits of lamb. Add beef stock and bouillon; cook, stirring frequently, until sauce has thickened to a gravy consistency, two to three minutes (if necessary, slowly add cornstarch paste, stirring constantly, until thickened to desired consistency). Just before serving, remove from heat and stir in margarine

Pork Chops with Raspberry Sauce
(Sodium per serving 53 mg)

4 (4 oz.) boneless pork loin chops
1/2 tsp. dried sage
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. garlic or onion powder
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1 T. olive oil
1/3 cup fruit sweetened raspberry jam
2 T. orange juice
1 T. raspberry or balsamic vinegar
2 T. dry sherry
2-3 drops hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco (optional)
1 T. unsalted margarine or butter
Combine sage, thyme, garlic powder and pepper; rub over pork chops. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add chops. Lightly brown on both sides, four to five minutes per side. Transfer chops to a platter and keep warm while preparing sauce. For the Raspberry Sauce, in same skillet, stir in jam, orange juice, vinegar, sherry and hot pepper sauce; bring to a boil. Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce has thickened to a gravy consistency. two to three minutes; stir in margarine. Serve over pork chops.

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