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Alice Lauritzen farms near Weeping Water, Nebraska, with her husband, Ken. During planting and harvesting, you'll find her working side by side with him. But when it's mealtime, she takes charge. That suits her – and Ken – just fine.
Busy lifestyles today increasingly make convenience and processed foods a mainstay of family menus. Meal preparation is quicker and easier, but often not healthier. That's a sticking point for the Lauritzens. “It's important to eat right,” Ken says. “I've been watching my cholesterol intake for about 20 years.”
Alice says her genetics include links to heart disease and cancer. “We try to have a healthy lifestyle to combat these issues,” she says. “There are ways to make food tasty, healthy, and appetizing, as well as filling, without loading it with sodium, fat, and processed ingredients.”
She adds “My meals include garden and fresh produce. Although I use very little salt, my foods have flavor. People don't reach for the saltshaker.”
Ken agrees. He says he doesn't notice the low-sodium diet. “Alice has ways of making it taste good,” he says.
“People need to look at the labels of specialty seasonings, as there can be 300 mg of sodium per serving. I've found good-quality, name-brand seasonings at Sam's under 100 mg,” she says.
Like many women, Alice has a few menu shortcuts up her sleeve. “When I cook a roast, I pour salsa on it, cover it with foil, and bake at 300°F. for about five hours,” she says. “I use the leftovers in vegetable soup in the winter. When you slow-cook a roast, there are lots of juices that make nice broth. Add carrots, potatoes, and vegetables for a quick supper.”
Alice also alters cooking methods. If a recipe calls for sautéed onions, she puts onions in a glass bowl, adds water, and covers it with plastic wrap. “I leave a vent and sautée it in the microwave,” she says.
She also steams vegetables. “People don't realize how fast it is vs. microwaving or boiling,” she says. “You retain nutrients and vitamins better.”
The Lauritzens don't sacrifice desserts. “I use a pie crust recipe from B etter Homes and Gardens cookbook with canola oil,” she says. “It's fast and turns out nicely.”
Alice and Ken scout recipes in farm magazines and often find room for improvement.
If you're looking for time-saving convenience paired with nutritious, dollar-stretching food choices, consider Healthy Meals in a Hurry. It's a 40-page booklet from Iowa State University Extension, featuring 14 main-course recipes that can be prepared ahead of time and frozen.
Recipes feature beef, fish, pork, and poultry. Each recipe has a nutritional analysis, and most comply with dietary guidelines as well as the DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) recommendations.
Healthy Meals in a Hurry (PM 2035) sells for $2.50 per copy from ISU Extension's online store (www.extension.iastate.edu/store/).