A gift that gives more than once

Finally, a book which helps the medicine go down – with humour of course. Mairlyn Smith’s Healthy Starts Here! is a breath of fresh air. No fuddy-duddy business, simply information, as I said, with a spoonful of humour to make it digestible. Of course, the gorgeous photographs act like eye candy and get you salivating while browsing through the pages. Next thing you know, you are wondering if you have all the ingredients to make that great-looking recipe.  And this is on a bad day, when you thought you were never going to cook again.
For those of us who have been cooking a long, long time and feel a tad jaded, this book will get the inspirational juices flowing again. Even if you only read it and did not cook from it, you would have some fresh ideas and a smile on your face.
Yes, I am going to go out and buy a pile of these to give as gifts, and I think it would be a great Mother’s Day gift, not to mention a present for newly weds.
However, just to entice you a little more, I am giving you three of Mairlyn’s recipes from Healthy Starts Here!

Pea and Mint Salad
This salad is the epitome of spring with the just picked flavours of garden peas, chives and fresh mint. If you don’t have fresh mint or chives and peas in your garden, go to the supermarket for mint and chives. Use snow peas or frozen peas quickly thawed with hot tap water to replace garden peas.

1 1/2 cups (375 mL) cooked, chilled fresh peas or thawed frozen baby peas.
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
3/4 cup (175 mL) finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup (50 mL) finely chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup (50 mL) snipped fresh chives
Orange Dijon Dressing
1 tbsp (15 mL) canola oil
1 tbsp (15 mL) frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 tbsp (15 mL) cider vinegar
1 tsp (5 mL) Dijon mustard
For the salad, toss together the peas, celery, parsley, mint, and chives in a large bowl. For the dressing, whisk together the oil, orange juice concentrate, vinegar and Dijon mustard in a small bowl. Pour the dressing over the salad, and toss well. Serve right away. (It still tastes great the next day but the vinegar turns the peas a terrible-looking grey-green, just warning you.) Makes 2 1/2 cups, 1 serving = 1/2 cup (125 mL).

Asparagus Salad
Have you ever seen asparagus growing in a field? They look like rows of little green soldiers standing at attention, ready to do battle. Good thing for us that they’re fighting for our good health. For fans of raw asparagus, this recipe is just as good using uncooked asparagus. And it’s even quicker to make!
1 lb (500 g) fresh asparagus, washed and trimmed
1 tbsp (15 mL) extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp (15 mL) white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp (2 mL) grainy Dijon mustard
cracked black pepper to taste
1/2 large sweet red pepper, seeded and diced
1 6 oz/(170 mL) marinated artichoke hearts, well drained and coarsely chopped
2 tbsp (25 mL)    finely chopped parsley
Steam the asparagus until it’s crisp-tender, going heavy on the ‘crisp’ part, about three minutes. Don’t overcook it; grey-green droopy spears of overcooked asparagus are a sin in the culinary world. Immediately plunge the asparagus into a clean sink of cold water to stop the cooking. Drain the asparagus in a colander. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, Dijon, and pepper in a large bowl. Add the red pepper, artichoke hearts and parsley; and toss well. Cut the asparagus into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces keeping the tips intact. Add the asparagus to the bowl and toss gently. For the best flavour, cover the salad and refrigerate it for a couple of hours; although it’s still great if your eat it right away. Makes about 4 cups, 1 serving = 1/2 cup (125 mL).

Double Chocolate Banana Muffins
These muffins are a spin on my family’s favourite Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin from Ultimate Foods for Ultimate Health…and don’t forget the chocolate! They now have natural cocoa powder and wheat germ, making them a whole-grain muffin that’s yummier and more heart healthy than before. Be warned; each muffin contains 6 grams of fibre, which is about six times more than a commercial muffin, so don’t go pigging out and eat half a dozen. To put it mildly, about 12 to 24 hours later, you’ll be in for a big surprise!
1 cup (250 mL) whole wheat flour
3/4 cup (175 mL) wheat bran
3/4 cup (175 ml) ground flaxseed (high in fiber)
3/4 cup (175 mL) natural cocoa powder
2 tbsp (25 ml) wheat germ
1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) baking powder
1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
1/4 cup (50 mL) chocolate chips with at least 60% cocoa mass or chocolate chunks with at least 70% cocoa mass
1 1/2 cups (3 large) very overripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup (175 mL) packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) 1% plain yogurt
1/4 cup) 50 mL) skim milk
1 omega-3 egg (heart healthy)
Preheat oven to 400˚F (200˚C). Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners. Whisk together the flour, wheat bran, flaxseed, cocoa powder, wheat germ, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl. Stir in the chocolate chips. In a medium bowl, beat together the mashed bananas, brown sugar, yogurt, milk and egg. The mashed bananas really need to be mixed well. Add the banana mixture to the flour mixture and mix just until combined. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups (I use 1/4 cup /50 mL ice-cream scoop with a release lever.) Bake until a toothpick comes clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Let the muffins cool in the pan on a wire rack for five minutes. Remove the muffins and let them cool completely on the wire rack. (Store the muffins in an airtight container for up to two days or freeze them for up to two months.) Makes 12 muffins.

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