An Ode to Tim Russert and healthy eating

Tim Russert was a devoted dad, son, husband, political giant and NBC's "Meet the Press" host. With a mop of hair, infectious smile and heart of gold he was beloved from coast to coast.

Sadly that big ol' heart was smothered in life-threatening plaque. He used to gorge on fried eggplant, pizza, hot dogs and junky snacks. Tim sustained himself on diet Coke and licorice then had a fatal heart attack.

The Lipitor and blood pressure pills didn't help his condition. He needed a diet low in fat, sugar and high in nutrition. To save some lives in honor of this true American treasure, here are some healthy food tips to celebrate the Fourth of July and other summer pleasures…

Just around the corner is the 232nd anniversary of America's divorce from Great Britain - July 4 - the day the calendar gremlins chose to commemorate this event. It's the country's largest secular holiday when folks pig out at huge or intimate barbecue shindigs, ooh and ahh over spectacular fireworks displays and just have a good old-fashioned brouhaha. Most people stick to a traditional menu of some serious oink and moo slathered in barbecue sauce - baby back ribs, pork butts, burgers and dogs (some soy boys added to the mix to appease the vegans) and baked beans and deli salads to break the monotony. Try something unique and healthy this summer like a beefless bratwurst and burger buffet including chicken sausages blended with amazing flavors of fennel, sun-dried tomato and basil, and turkey, salmon and veggie burgers. If you must have red meat, lamb is the best alternative. My fave is a vegetable patty solidly packed with brown rice, barley, roasted peppers, red onions, shiitake mushrooms and beets - it is dessert yummy. The turkey burger can be dressed all-American in grilled red onions, fresh vine-ripened tomatoes and smoky barbecue sauce served between a whole-wheat onion bun. I give my salmon burger an Asian twist by topping with scallions, daikon radishes, wasabi mayo and sandwiching it between a sesame bun.

Along with dishing up some healthy suggestions, I have my 10 Culinary Commandments for safe and fun summer eating:

  • Never let different food groups share cutting surfaces or knives. They must honor each other's space to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Hot foods should be kept hot and cold ones cold also to avoid the food kooties.
  • Meat, fish, fowl and mushrooms need to be prepared like Goldilocks' porridge - just right. Burnt offerings can be carcinogenic, including "blackened Cajun." Also foods should be thoroughly cooked, especially Portobello mushrooms which can be toxic if eaten "rare."
  • Dress the burger or bratwurst, not the bun to avoid a soggy dog.
  • Condiments should be applied starting with wet ones followed by chunky ones.
  • The use of ketchup on hot dogs is forbidden except for children under 10.
  • Use mayonnaise sparingly as it is not hot-weather forgiving.
  • Fuhgetabout the utensils, fine china and cloth napkins. Use recycled paper plates, napkins and your mitts.
  • Chill any leftovers in airtight containers immediately after you've finished eating.
  • You can lick your fingers and enjoy, so long as you use wet wipes afterwards to avoid contamination of communal utensils and condiments.

My contribution to the Fourth of July celebration and the summer grilling season is a healthy beefless beauty - the all-American turkey burger that is so scrumptious you could practically eat it for dessert. Your guests will surely salute you!

The Dessert-Delicious Turkey Burger

  • 1 pound of ground turkey or chicken (medium lean)
  • 1/2 sweet yellow pepper
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1/2 small sweet onion
  • 1 Granny Smith apple
  • About 1/4 cup of bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon of peach chutney
  • 1 tablespoon of spicy mustard
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive or grapeseed oil
  • Sea salt and cayenne pepper to taste

In a food processor, puree the vegetables and apple to a coarse chop. Heat the oil on low in a small fry pan and saute the mixture until tender.

In a large mixing bowl combine the turkey, sauteed veggies and apple, sauces and spices. Start adding the breadcrumbs until the texture is firm enough to form patties. Form into desired size, about 1/4 to 1/2 pound each.

Slather grapeseed oil on the grill and cook till done, about 8 minutes on each side. Dress with your favorite toppings and condiments and serve with a heap of baked root or vegetable chips.

Check out the Kitchen Shrink and Company's healthy eating blog at www.FreeRangeClub.blogspot.com.

If you want to chew the fat, talk turkey or beef about something, email kitchenshrink@san.rr.com.

   
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