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October 24, 2008

Cookbook Corner: Healthy meals from health care workers

<i>Originally published in the Oct. 17, 2008, print edition.</i>

OK, so “health food” doesn’t have the greatest reputation for flavor in all the categories of food. You hardly ever see baby-back ribs, stuffed-crust double-pepperoni pizzas or deep-fried anything on the heart-healthy menus, and for good reason: The best-tasting stuff seems to be the worst for our bodies. As columnist and wit Calvin Trillin noted, “Health food makes me sick.” But it doesn’t have to be that way.

(Trillin also wrote, interestingly, “The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for 30 years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.”)

Here are some honest-to-goodness goodies with a twist: They’re all good for you. Thanks to the employees at Immanuel-St. Joseph’s Hospital-Mayo Health System in Mankato, who put together a “healthy choices” employee cookbook this year, for the following recipes you’re sure to enjoy — even if they are healthy.

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From appetizers to desserts, healthy cooking is an attitude: Be bold, be beautiful, be delicious. Here ripe cherry tomatoes and spicy jalapenos meet cool, creamy low-fat cheese in bite-sized treasures for a savory first course or half-time snack.

Cherry Tomato Poppers

32 cherry tomatoes

32 jarred, pickled jalapeno slices

4 (4-inch) low-fat mozzarella cheese sticks, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Slice off the very top, stem-end of each cherry tomato. Use a small grapefruit spoon to spoon out and discard insides, leaving the walls intact. Place one jalapeno slice inside each hollowed-out tomato. Add a piece of cheese and press gently into place.

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My family loved this simple yet elegant recipe for parmesan-encrusted chicken breasts, and doubling the recipe was no problem as the leftovers were also delicious the next day (thinly sliced on a bed of mixed greens with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkles of parmesan and pepper). Four out of four yums.

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