Healthy Living Houston: Visit Our Parks Along the Bay

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Dr. Anne Hecht, a Texas Master Naturalist, recommends discovering our bays, bayous and estuaries as our healthy outdoor activity for this time of year. Sunset on Galveston Island, photo by Brent Blackett

This month we got in touch with Dr. Anne Hecht, a Texas Master Naturalist, to get her recommendations about healthy outdoor activities for this time of year.

Anne had three great suggestions, all of them related to discovering our coastal bays and bayous.

Galveston Island State Park

First on Anne’s list is Galveston Island State Park (GISP). What’s particularly special about this park for nature lovers is it spans a full cross-section of west Galveston Island –  from Galveston Bay on the north to the Gulf of Mexico on the south. Admission is $5 dollars per adult, 12 and under free.

If you want to learn about the bays and marshes, meet at the Nature Center at 10 a.m. on Sunday mornings for a free bay walk tour (included with your $5 admission). If you want to learn about the beach, that tour is conducted on Saturdays, also starting at 10 a.m. at the Nature Center.

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Seining demonstration on the bay at Galveston Island State Park. Photo by Nathan Veatch.

New to GISP is a “Car/Hike or Bike Tour” developed by Frank Bowser, who is an active member of The Friends of Galveston Island State Park. Frank made a guide map showing how you can navigate the two miles of paved roadway and the five miles of manicured grassland hiking trails. So get ready for a scenic walk — or bring your bike — to discover all the interesting wildlife in the prairie grasses, brackish marshes and seaside dunes. The map and the companion computer disc are available at the Ranger’s Desk at the entrance to the park.

If you want a guided kayak tour of the bay side, once again Frank Bowser is your man. Give him a call at 409-737-5567 and he’ll get you set up on a kayak tour. Launch times are timed to hit high tide, so that determines when you go out.

Artist Boat

Anne’s second suggestion is to get in touch with another group of outdoor enthusiasts who go by the name Artist Boat.

Artist Boat has a really cool concept: they take kayakers out into the waters of Galveston Bay for an art lesson (painting for example) under the supervision of certified kayaking instructors — who also happen have a professional background in science or art.

If you have no experience kayaking, don’t worry. Most first time Artist Boat participants don’t have any experience either.

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Artist Boat offers an exciting way to discover Galveston Bay: you can go out in one of their kayaks for an art lesson (painting for example) under the supervision of certified kayaking instructors. Photo courtesy Artist Boat.

All the instruction and gear is included in the price of your tour, which ranges from $35 for a short two hour experience (not enough time for an art lesson) to $60 dollars per person for 4 hours, which includes an open air art lesson.

Not only is this great fun, it’s for a great cause too. Not that long ago one of the very last significant tracts of un-built land on Galveston’s West End was slated to be turned into a housing development.

But when those plans fell through due to the recession, Artist Boat was able join forces with other organizations to acquire a 160 acre parcel of coastal property on west Galveston Island to establish a new Coastal Heritage Preserve.

So when you support Artist Boat, you are also supporting a worthy cause that is protecting open space along Galveston Bay. You can friend Artist Boat on Facebook and see more photos of activities they have going on.

Armand Bayou Nature Center

Anne’s third suggestion is the Armand Bayou Nature Center, which is along the west side of Galveston Bay. At 2,500 acres, Armand Bayou is the largest urban wilderness preserve in the entire United States.

We can enjoy it today thanks to a visionary campaign started in the late 1960s by Mr Armand Yramategui, a Basque electrical engineer who ran the Burke Baker Planetarium at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, right across the street from our Museum District office. In 1970 Armand (he went by his first name) was tragically killed in a what we would today call a ‘carjacking’ incident. The preserve opened in 1974, and Middle Bayou was re-named Armand Bayou in his memory.

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Armand Bayou is the largest urban wilderness preserve in the entire United States with over 2,500 acres. Pelicans gather on a tree stump along the bayou. Image courtesy Wikimedia

Armand Bayou has been celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. They received a grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to rejuvenate some of their hiking trails; this construction activity is nearly complete by now, but you might want to touch base with the office to get the latest details.

The three most popular trails– the Martyn Trail through the forest and along the bayou, the Prairie Interpretive Trail and the Discovery Loop Trail — will remain open during the construction work.

One great way to get an overview of the park is to ride the pontoon boat called the Bayou Ranger. These boat tours start early on Saturday mornings. Enjoy a light breakfast on board as you silently drift down the bayou and catch early morning activities of the park’s wildlife. The boat departs from Bay Area Park boat launch and costs $25 for adults. Become a member and save five dollars on your ticket. Make reservations at 281-474-2551 x10.

Another tip is visiting the park on the second Saturday of each month (next one coming up is July 12th, 2014) for two special programs: Photography and Canoeing

You can take a guided photography hike each second Saturday; the start times alternate between early morning and late afternoon. Reservations required, call 281-474-2551 x10 for more information.

You can also take a guided canoe trip (8 a.m. to 11 a.m.) on the second Saturday of each month. Reservations are required, so give a call on 281-474-2551 x10.

Useful Links for Planning Your Healthy Living Houston Outdoor Adventures

Galveston Island State Park

The Friends of Galveston Island State Park

Artist Boat

Coastal Heritage Preserve

Armand Bayou Nature Center

Houston Museum of Natural Science

 

Take a Look at Houston Events for July 2014

Summer is definitely here, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get out and enjoy what Houston has to offer. We present our top tips for events and activities in July.

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Houston has lots of events and activities to offer in July. Let’s go!

 Houston Events for Friday July 4, 2014

Revolutionary Celebration at Bayou Bend

Try something different this Fourth of July: Join the Texas Army Fife & Drum Corp, Betsy Ross and other period re-in-actors at Bayou Bend for a historic afternoon celebration. Free. 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. Learn more at Bayou Bend event page.


Houston Events for Saturday July 5, 2014

Paddle down Buffalo Bayou

Paddle down Buffalo Bayou in a kayak and see the downtown Houston skyline in a whole new way. Make your reservation by Thursday, July 3. $60. Kayak Trip event page.


Houston Events for Sunday July 6, 2014

Bike around Houston Bayous, 8 a.m.

Meet at Market Square Park for a 25- to 40-mile bike ride exploring the bayous of Houston. Mountain bikes or bikes with fat tires are necessary. Free. Market Square event page.


Houston Events for Friday July 11, 2014

The Big Show at the Lawndale Art Center

Lawndale Art Center’s annual open-call, juried exhibition since 1984. This year juror Erin Elder, Visual Arts Director, Center for Contemporary Arts, Santa Fe, selected 115 works from nearly 1000 pieces submitted. Free. Learn more at lawndaleartcenter.org


Houston Events for Saturday, July 12, 2014

Galveston Art Walk, 6 – 9 p.m.

Every six weeks you can join art lovers from the Island and beyond on a convivial crawl through Galveston’s art galleries, antique shops and more. Wine and hors d’oeuvres served by many establishments. Free. Galveston ArtWalk event page.


Houston Events for Wednesday, July 16, 2014

37th Houston World Series of Dog Shows

This five-day extravaganza at NRG Park (the big low-rise convention center north of the old Astrodome) is a great way to learn about different dog breeds. But the secret is it’s really about the people watching. Free on Wednesday only, otherwise $15 (cash only). houstondogshows.com/visitors/tickets/


Houston Events for Friday, July 18, 2014

Mixers & Elixirs at the Houston Museum of Natural Science

The Houston Museum of Natural Science cuts loose after dark for this Comic-Con-themed monthly get-together. Enjoy a live band and food from some of the best of Houston’s food trucks (bring cash for food trucks) Doors open at 7 p.m. until 10 p.m. $20 or $12 for HMNS members. Press Release

Beyoncé and JAY Z: On the Run

Houston’s own Beyoncé and husband Jay-Z are on the run, from what were not sure; possibly the Kardashians after they skipped Kimye’s Big Italian Wedding. $96.80 – $800+ Event page


Houston Events for Thursday, July 24, 2014

BCO Pub Stroll and Scavenger Hunt

Here’s a great way to get to know the people at the Bayou city outdoors club: join them for a pub stroll and scavenger hunt starting in East Downtown Houston at Lucky’s Downtown Pub (on 801 St. Emanuel). This group has dozens and dozens of outdoor activities throughout the year across Houston. Event page


 

Houston Events for Saturday, July 26, 2014

Houston Museum District: The Museum Experience 2014

Four times a year the Houston Museum District Association organizes special programming with its member museums in different zones. This time the focus is on zone three: The Jung Center of Houston, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and The Museum of Fine Arts Houston. (These are all an easy walking distance from Dr. Brewton’s office on Hermann Park Drive.) Visit the event page.

Battle on the Bayou Beard and Mustache Competition

It’s time to get your fuzz on for a good cause. Super Happy Fun Land hosts this charity event benefiting Shriner s Hospital for children, brought to you by the Houston facial hair club. Visit Facebook event page.


 

New Food Safety Tips for Cooking Raw Chicken

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New food safety recommendations urge cooks to NOT wash chicken in the sink before cooking it. It’s safer that way. Learn why in our update below. Image courtesy Steven Depolo, CC License.

It’s important to teach young cooks just learning about food safety how important it is to use one set of plates and utensils for preparing and transporting uncooked protein (fish, meat, poultry) to the oven, stove or barbecue grill — then using fresh, clean plates and utensils to serve the cooked food. This avoids transferring bacteria to the cooked food. Now researchers have a new tip specifically for cooking chicken: It’s better not to wash your chicken before cooking it!

 

New Food Safety Recommendation: Don’t Wash Raw Chicken in the Sink Before Cooking It

By now, nearly everyone knows that when cooking raw protein like fish, chicken, hamburger or steak, the best practice is to not mix utensils and plates that touch uncooked food with those used to serve the final cooked meal.

What’s new is a recommendation from the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) urging people to avoid washing chicken before cooking it. That’s right. Don’t wash your chicken. It’s safer that way.

This seems completely unhygienic and counter-intuitive to most people!

Why Should We Skip Washing Chicken Before Cooking? That Sounds Crazy!

But there is sound scientific logic at work. Here is the back story: Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK, outranking the more commonly known salmonella, E. coli and Listeria bacteria (all of which cause food poisoning).

The FSA estimates that four in five of the food poisoning cases they have identified came from contaminated poultry. Why is illness from eating chicken so common?  Well UK food safety scientists have discovered a key contributing factor. It turns out the step of washing the chicken in the sink before cooking it — which seems so hygienic — actually causes the Campylobacter bacteria to spread around and make you sick.

How does this occur? Scientists discovered that washing a typical chicken in the sink causes a large number of very small liquid droplets — chock full of active Campylobacter bacteria — to splash all over the kitchen sink, adjacent countertop work surfaces and other cooking equipment near the sink. These tiny droplets also end up on your hands and your clothing. So that’s how you can unwittingly give you or one of your guests food poisoning.

The irony? If you cook chicken properly to a safe internal temperature of 165 F degrees, the campylobacter bacteria on the chicken that you were trying to remove by washing will be killed off by the heat. Thus, there’s no need to wash it beforehand.

Related Food Safety Tips for Buying, Transporting and Storing Chicken

Next time you purchase a whole chicken at the grocery store, take a few precautions.

Take advantage of plastic bags (many stores provide them nearby or you can ask the butcher) and double bag your chicken before you put it into your cart. It’s also a good idea to wash your hands at the store.

Once you are home, take more precautions.

If you plan to put the chicken in the freezer, it’s a good idea to put it inside a freezer bag (even if it’s already in a wrapper) to avoid contamination.

Take care when removing chicken from the freezer. When it’s time to defrost your chicken, the refrigerator defrosting method is considered the safest. (It may take a day or two to defrost this way)

Always defrost your chicken by placing in a bowl underneath that’s large enough to capture any liquids that might otherwise get transferred to other foods in your fridge. (This is critical for those fresh foods you might eat uncooked, like lettuce or fruit.)

When you’re ready to cook a chicken, be sure to clear away any other dishes from the sink. Place the chicken in the center of the sink, and slice open the plastic wrapping with a paring knife or kitchen shears. Drain the liquids. Avoid splashing. Remove the the plastic wrap carefully to avoid drips when transferring it to the trash.

Following these simple steps can help you and your guests avoid a painful bout of food poisoning.

 

Healthy Recipe for Zucchini Hamburgers

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We received very positive comments on our article “3 Healthy, Low-Fat Recipes to Substitute for Pizza and Pasta” we presented in our last edition of It’s a Matter of Health, so we’ll continue with the substitutions theme again as we present our “Healthy Zucchini Hamburger Recipe”.

Try a Healthy Recipe at the Fourth of July Barbecue

As we look forward to Fourth of July Barbecues, it’s hard to fight those cravings for a really juicy hamburgers, pork-chops or grilled chicken.

But this recipe for Zucchini Hamburgers tastes great and it’s not all that hard to make. It is a recipe that calls for frying, but if you’re careful, you can cook it with a minimum amount of canola oil.

Our recipe is set up to make four burgers, you can double up the recipe by making multiple batches if you want to serve a bigger group.

Let’s Start the Quick Prep

First, you’ll want to hard boil three eggs in a pan, 8 minutes is plenty. When the eggs cooled down, peel the shells and remove the egg whites, then chop up the whites coarsely and set them aside. We won’t be using the yolks in this recipe.

While the eggs are boiling, you’ll want to shred 2 cups of zucchini using a mandolin or one of the other clever tools we mentioned in our last recipe. Drop the shredded Zucchini in a colander and squeeze it by hand or with a spatula to remove the liquid. This will make it easier to mix and cook in the following steps.

Find a small bowl and add all the zucchini, along with a finely chopped up medium onion, half a cup of dried breadcrumbs, two lightly beat whole eggs, a dash of salt and a dash of cayenne pepper.  After that’s mixed together, you’ll gently stir in the cooked egg whites that you made in the first step.

Now it’s time to cook up our Zucchini Burgers

Take a skillet and put it on the stove over medium low heat. Add a tablespoon of canola oil. When the oil starts to shimmer, it’s hot enough.

The next steps are little bit tricky — it’s like making drop cookies right on the stove — so you’ll need both a spoon and a spatula at the ready. Using the spoon, drop your zucchini mix into the skillet, about two thirds of a cup is perfect. Flatten it into a burger shape with your spatula, and fry it until it’s golden brown on both sides (about 5 minutes in total should be good).

If you’re an experienced cook with a large skillet, you can probably fry all four at one time. But, if it’s the first time you’re trying this recipe, you might want to cook one at a time to get a feel for how long it needs to cook on your stove. Also, you may need to add a little more canola oil as you cook the second, third and fourth burger.

Fully Dressed Hamburgers?

The next step is really up to you, it depends on how you like to eat your hamburgers. Before slathering on a lot of mayonnaise or other high-fat content spreads, you owe it to yourself to give it a try without a lot of condiments— maybe just some lettuce, a slice of tomato and a slice of onion on a nice whole-wheat or gluten-free hamburger bun would be perfect.

We think you’ll find this an excellent low-fat alternative to regular hamburgers and hope you’ll try it at your next Fourth of July Backyard Barbecue.

Here are the ingredients you’ll need the recipe:

Shopping List

3 to 5 Fresh Zucchinis (Enough to Make 2 Cups of Shredded Zucchini)

Five Eggs (Three to Hard Boil, Two to Cook with.)

1/2 Cup Dried Breadcrumbs

Dash Salt

Dash Cayenne Pepper

2 Tablespoons Canola Oil

Optional Condiments

Four Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns

Four Lettuce Leaves.

Four Slices Tomato

Four Slices Onion

 

The Normal Heart premieres on HBO this Sunday May 25th at 8 p.m.

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The Tony award-winning play, The Normal Heart, which first appeared off-Broadway in 1985, makes its motion picture debut this Sunday, May 25th, on HBO.

Three years ago “Glee” co-creator Ryan Murphy optioned the rights to Larry Kramer’s passionate, angry and confrontational stage play about the apocalyptic AIDS health crisis faced by the New York City gay community in the nineteen eighties. Filming for the project began last summer on location in New York City.

Murphy chose to cast Hollywood A-list star Julia Roberts in the role of Dr. Emma Brookner. According to playwright Larry Kramer, this character was based on the life of Manhattan physician, Dr. Linda J. Laubenstein, who in 1981 discovered some of the first mysterious cases of what would then become known as HIV/AIDS.

Dr. Laubenstein and co-author Dr. Alvin Friedman-Kien were first to publish their discovery of an unusual outbreak of skin lesions (caused by Kaposi’s sarcoma) among young gay men in New York City. An outspoken and brash fighter, Dr. Laubenstein fought tirelessly against public and private institutions whom she felt stood in the way of containing, treating and curing the AIDS epidemic. Incredibly, she herself suffered terribly from another epidemic–childhood polio—which left her a wheel-chair bound paraplegic from age five. In 1992 she passed away from complications of a recurrence of polio; she was only 45 years old.

The Normal Heart resonates with me because I was active at the front lines of the battle against HIV/AIDS during these years. I was on the faculty at M.D. Anderson working at the AIDS Hospital here in Houston when the stage play premiered. I even got a call from Larry Kramer once, talking about our activism here in Houston and our protests when the AIDS Hospital was closed.

I look forward to seeing the movie version of The Normal Heart. Having seen the original play, I know that it’s a powerful reminder of the traumatic early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The playwright Larry Kramer said it best in the printed pamphlet which accompanied the original off-Broadway production, a portion of which we’ve reprinted below:

Heartfelt Plea from Larry Kramer

Please know that everything in The Normal Heart happened. These were and are real people who lived and spoke and died, and are presented here as best I could. Several more have died since, including Bruce, whose name was Paul Popham, and Tommy, whose name was Rodger McFarlane and who became my best friend, and Emma, whose name was Dr. Linda Laubenstein. She died after a return bout of polio and another trip to an iron lung. Rodger, after building three gay/AIDS agencies from the ground up, committed suicide in despair. On his deathbed at Memorial, Paul called me (we’d not spoken since our last fight in this play) and told me to never stop fighting.

Visit HBO’s The Normal Heart web page for more information and showtimes.

 

Dog’s Best Friend: Where can you find Houston Dog Friendly Restaurants, Cafes and Pubs?

Haji and Ranger are Korean Jindo dogs that love to walk to the cafe and to the beach. Both were adopted into their 'forever home' thanks to dog foster listings on Petfinder.com.

Haji and Ranger are Korean Jindo dogs that love to walk to the cafe and to the beach. Both were adopted into their ‘forever home’ thanks to dog foster listings on Petfinder.com.

“Taking your Dog for a Walk” is this Month’s Houston Healthy Outdoor Activity.

That’s right. Take your dog for a walk. And why not? The weather has been reasonably cool and those doggies aren’t going to walk themselves! Walking your dog to the dog park, around the neighborhood, or over to the local cafe or pub is a blend of exercise, social interaction and relaxation that can’t be beat.

An article in this week’s Washington Post reminds us that play is just as important for the mental health and physical well-being of dogs as it is for ourselves. Colorado University Professor Marc Bekoff, who wrote the book “The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy – and Why They Matter” has conducted years of in-depth research on how animals, like our pet dogs, express the full range of emotion, from anger to empathy and caring. He explains how animals show their emotions:

 

Professor Marc Bekoff looks into the behavior and emotions of animals.

Of course if you are a dog lover, you don’t need a PhD to know when your canine friend is smiling. And if he or she is not smiling, just pick up that leash and get walking. You’ll both be happier and healthier for the exercise.

Thanks to Paws on Patios for Helping Make Houston Dog Friendly

We’ve really got to hand it to the good folks behind Paws on Patios (find them on Facebook), our hometown grassroots movement for allowing pets on outdoor patios at Houston restaurants, bars and cafes. Not that long ago, the Houston Public Health Department forbade restaurants from having dogs on restaurant patios. But thanks to Paws on Patios, there is now an approved process through which local businesses can get certified by the Houston Health Department to provide a clean, safe and convivial place for canines and their people to hang out together.

We’ve included the full list of Houston dog friendly restaurants, cafes and bars that are certified by the city at this end of this article. If your favorite hangout isn’t on the list, tell the manager to consider making an application with the city.

Top Houston Dog Friendly Tips from our Houston Dog Owner Friends

But first we’d like to share a couple of tips from our dog-loving friends. Number One: check out the Bone Yard Drinkery on Washington. They have a fully enclosed 7000 ft.² dog park for your canine friend to run around in while you socialize with other Houston dog lovers.

Secondly, if you haven’t heard, there is an ongoing concern about pet treats, particularly those manufactured China. The FDA has been investigating a large number of suspicious pet deaths but have not yet been able to link them directly to these imported pet treats. However, in an abundance of caution, Petco has announced they will quit stocking Chinese manufactured pet treats.

Fortunately, we have many options for pet food and treats sold at locally-owned Houston stores. In the Rice Military neighborhood, there is the famed Wabash Feed on Washington. And on the east side of The Heights neighborhood (on Main Street just west of I-45 North Freeway) we recommend the Quality Feed and Garden Company, which features Victor dog food — made in Texas from Texas ingredients. And don’t forget to check out Natural Pawz, which stocks raw bones and other treats for your pets.

If you can’t get a house-sitter when you need to travel, Mollie’s Mutt House pet hotel comes well recommended. And when your dog needs a checkup or treatment for illness, we consistently hear great things about the veterinarians at the West Alabama Animal Clinic.

Finally, if you’re looking for a pet, consider adopting one. This Memorial Day weekend is a perfect time, as Houston’s Pet Shelter BARC is offering a “Name Your Price” Adoption Special. Hundreds of animals up for adoption are also on display online at Petfinder.com. And if you’re living situation doesn’t allow you to take in a pet forever, there are many ways to get involved, such as volunteering for the Houston SPCA or other dog fostering programs. If you are a fan of a particular breed, searching on Petfinder.com can help you get in touch with fostering groups dedicated to particular dog breed or other pets, such a cats, birds, even horses and farm animals.

Now it’s time to grab that leash, get outside, get active and have fun!

Do you have Houston Dog Friendly Tips to Share?

Leave us a note in the comments below!

Current List of Houston Dog Friendly Food Establishments
(with HDHHS Approved Dog Patios)

Antidote Coffee 729 Studewood, 77007
Baba Vega Express 2607 Grant Street, 77006
Back Street Cafe 1103 S. Shepherd Dr., 77019
Barnaby’s Cafe 1701 S. Shepherd, 77019
Barnaby’s Cafe 5750 Woodway, 77057
Barnaby’s Cafe 801 Congress #175, 77002
Barnaby’s Cafe/Baby Barnaby’s  604 Fairview, 77006
Berryhill Baja Grill 3407 Montrose, A-8, 77006
BlackFinn American Grill 1910 Bagby, Suite 100
Boulevard Cafe 1030 Heights Blvd., 77008
BRC 519 Shepherd, 77007
Brick House Tavern and Tap 12910 Northwest FWY, 77040
Canopy 3939 Montrose Ste C, 77006
Celtic Gardens 2300 Louisiana, 77006
Christian’s Tailgate Bar & Grill II 2000 Bagby, Suite 106, 77002
Christian’s Tailgate Bar & Grill Ill 2820 White Oak, 77007
Coco’s Crepes & Coffee 218 Gray, Unit A, 77002
Cottonwood 3422 N. Shepherd, 77018
Eleven XI Resturant & Bar 607 West Gray Street, 77019
The Front Porch Pub 217 Gray St., 77008
Gratifi  (was Ziggy’s Bar and Grill) 302 Fairview, 77006
The Grove 1611 Lamar, 77010
Hugo’s  1600 Westheimer Rd, 77006
Inversion Coffee House 1953 Montrose, 77006
J. Black’s Houston-Washington Avenue, LLC 110 S. Heights Blvd. 77007
Jimmy’s Ice House 2803 White Oak, 77007
The King’s Head 1809 Eldridge Parkway, 77077
The Lake House 1500 McKinney, 77010
Liberty Kitchen & Oysterette 4224 San Felipe, 77007
Little Big’s Montrose 2703 Montrose, 77006
L’Oiivier Restaurant and Bar 240 Westheimer Rd., 77006
Lola 1102 Yale Street, #300, 77008
Lucky’s Pub Heights 2520 Houston Ave., 77009
Mia’s Table 3131 Argonne St., 77098
Mission Burritos 801 2245 W. Alabama, 77098
Mission Burritos 802 1609 Durham, 77007
Natchee’s Supper ‘n Punch 3622 Main, 77002
Petite Sweets 2700 W. Alabama, 77098
Pluckers Wing Bar 1400 Shepherd, 77007
Porch Swing Pub 69 Heights Blvd., 77007
Pub Fiction 2303 Smith St., 77006
Ruggles Cafe & Bakery 2365 Rice Blvd . Suite A, 77005
Saint Danes, LLC 502 Elgin, 77006
Shade Cafe LLC 250 West 19th, 77008
Starbucks 2050 West Gray, 77019
Starbucks 2029 West Gray, 77019
Taco Milagro Kirby 2555 Kirby, 77019
Tila’s Restaurante & Bar 1111 S. Shepherd, 77019
Winston’s on Washington 5111 Washington, 77007
Ziggy’s Bar & Grill Downtown 702 Main

3 Healthy Low Fat Recipes to Substitute for Pizza and Pasta

Spaghetti Squash is the star ingredient in the first of our three low fat healthy recipes this month.

Spaghetti Squash is the star ingredient in the first of our three low fat healthy recipes this month.

If you are addicted to pizza and to pasta, try these healthy low fat recipes to increase the variety of vegetables in your diet and reduce your consumption of carbohydrates from pizza dough and pasta dishes.

Healthy Low Fat Recipe #1: Roasted Spaghetti Squash

If more people knew how easy and tasty spaghetti squash was to make, they’d eat it all the time. Uncooked squash also has the benefit of a long shelf life, no refrigeration is required.

To cook this lozenge-shaped yellow squash, start by turning the oven on to 400 degrees and place a rack in the middle of the oven.

Next, cut your squash in half lengthwise. Use care when doing this, particularly if the squash has been in storage for a while as it may be a bit tougher to cut through. Use a sharp knife and cut on a stable surface. You can also roll up a small wet towel and curl it under the squash for more support.

Once it’s cut in half, remove the seeds from the center with a spoon. Leave the flesh on the perimeter intact. Brush or hand rub a couple of tablespoons of olive oil on the insides of both squash halves. You can season them with liberally with ground pepper and a little salt. Try it first without salt, you might not miss it.

Now put both halves of the squash (with the cut side up) onto a baking sheet (covering the sheet with foil makes cleanup easier) and let them bake for 50 minutes. You’ll know they are done when you can stick a fork in them and the flesh separates easily.

Remove the squash from the oven and let them cool down for 30 minutes or so. That way  you can handle them easily without burning your hands.

Now, using a fork, scrape at the flesh inside each half. If you have never cooked spaghetti squash before, you’ll be surprised that the spaghetti squash flesh turns into long strings, just like its namesake. You can remove the long strings at this time and set them aside. (Some cooks prefer to serve the final version in the squash skin, that’s up to you.)

Now you can make a garlic and shallot ‘sauce’ for the squash. Heat up about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan for two or three minutes until it begins to shimmer. Meanwhile, chop up 2 cloves of garlic and cut up some shallots (young onions or thoroughly washed leeks would work as well) and add them to the pan when the oil is nice and hot. Season with pepper. Add salt if you must. Cook this mixture for 3 minutes or so until it’s softened and slightly browned.

Now you can mix your garlic and shallots ‘sauce’ with the reserved squash from the previous step. Serve the final mix in a serving bowl or transfer it back into the original squash skin and serve it that way.

If you can eat dairy, add a little bit of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on top if you want. It’s delicious.

 

Healthy Low Fat Recipe #2: Zucchini Spaghetti, also known as Zoodles

Zucchini is another vegetable that you can cook up like pasta. You’ll need to cut the zucchini into very thin strips to simulate pasta. This is easier to do if you have a mandolin in the kitchen that can cut very thin julienne strips or — even better — you invest in a spiral slicer — also known as a “spiralizer” — which will make these zucchini noodles in no time.

Once you cut the zucchini into very thin strips, about the thickness of spaghetti, you’ll have a raw ingredient to try in your favorite pasta recipes. But instead of boiling them, you can try putting them into the microwave for 2 minutes in a covered dish. Don’t overcook or they will be soggy. The microwave approach will give the most spaghetti-like texture and flavor. Try them with your favorite marinara sauce (and other favorite toppings).

What about using zucchini noodles in asian-style recipes? No problem. You can also stir fry these zucchini noodles. Before cooking them on the stove, seasoning them with ground pepper and a little salt and let them rest for 20 minutes before cooking. This will soften and dry the noodles a bit before you finish cooking them in a wok or a pan. It won’t take long to cook them, you can stir fry them with an oil of your choice for maybe 1 or 2 minutes on a high heat.

We hope you try zucchini noodles. It’s great way to add more vegetables to your diet while satisfying your cravings for carbohydrate-rich pasta!

Healthy Low Fat Recipe #3: Grilled Eggplant, Tomato and Goat Cheese

Our third suggestion this month is a vegetable alternative to pizza dough.

Pick up an eggplant (we are talking about the regular-sized eggplants, although the smaller Japanese style ones could work as well) at the store and give it a try.

Eggplants used to be very bitter, so the old method was to slice them into disks and salt them liberally to remove the bitterness, then wash the salt off. But growers today generally sell varieties that are less bitter. You can probably skip this step nowadays and reduce your salt intake to boot.

Another tip: when you are picking eggplants at the store, you may want to select ‘male’ eggplants, which are said to have fewer seeds and a less bitter taste. Look at the bottom end of the eggplant (opposite end from the green stem). The male eggplants have a rounder disk-shaped spot while the female eggplants have a longer, oblong spot.

Once you’ve picked out your eggplant, it’s time to get cooking. If you plan to grill these outside, now is a good time to get the fire going so it’s nice and hot when the ingredients are ready. If you are cooking your eggplant on the stove, you can wait a bit.

Cut your eggplant into disks, somewhere between a quarter of an inch to half an inch thick.

Transfer your eggplant disks into a bowl and coat them with 4 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Season liberally with ground pepper (and a little salt, if you must).

Arrange the sliced disks on a tray. Put a slice of tomato on each disk. Add a slide of goat cheese to each one as well. Now you have little eggplant ‘pizzas’ to set on the grill. If you want perfection, use toothpicks to keep everything tidy.

(If you use diced tomatoes, flipping the eggplant over during the grilling process will be problematic, but it will still taste great. You will have to reassemble everything at the end.)

Now it’s time to grill our eggplant ‘pizzas’. Oil your grill (or prep your ridged griddle or frying pan if you are cooking on the stove.) Put the eggplant ‘pizzas’ on the heat and remove the toothpicks if you are using them. Cook each slice of eggplant with the toppings for about 7 to 8 minutes, then (this is hard!) flip them over and cook for another 6 to 7 minutes. (Don’t worry if they fall apart the first time your try this — they will still taste great.)

This recipe is another healthy way to eat more vegetables and less pizza dough. Once you perfect flipping them over, they are also a great dish to bring to a party or potluck.

Do you have other suggestions for healthy low fat recipes?

Leave us a note in the comments below!