Keeping It Healthy For MidWeek Readers

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - July 22, 2009
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For me, it’s all about people and what we all have in common:

We like to eat!

The question I get asked the most is: Where do you get your recipe ideas?

I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but into a food-obsessed family. My father had a deli in New York, and I worked there when I was a kid, watching the salads, soups and takeout items being prepared. My father could make a lettuce and tomato sandwich on rye slathered with mayo look like a gourmet treat, and I realized good food can be simple and taste great if the freshest ingredients are used.

Most of my recipes come from experimentation with different ingredients. I tweak the recipes to make them healthier but still taste delicious.

I was teaching nutrition at Kapiolani Community College in 1988 when the Sun Press and Windward Oahu News asked if I wanted to write healthy food columns.

At about the same time, I accepted an offer to produce a weekly Hearty Cooking segment on the KHON morning news, which focused on chefs cooking healthier items and preparing them for the viewers.

I then wrote for the Star-Bulletin until 1996, when I received an offer to move over to MidWeek. To introduce the column, like many other of my colleagues, I was featured on the cover with special Thanksgiving recipes.

Getting back to the people aspect, I met some wonderful folks doing my television segment, and I decided to dedicate my column each week to celebrities and chefs, community organizations, charity and local events, and overall just plain folks who had interesting stories to tell. The dedications are so popular that I get lots of e-mail requesting to be in the column, and sometimes I am backlogged for months.

My husband, Gary, had heart problems the year I started at MidWeek, and we were featured on the cover, telling our story of how I modified recipes to include healthier choices to prevent and help in the control of heart disease. I could not believe how many people read that story. I was getting calls for weeks afterward, which proved to me how widely read MidWeek is.

Many people have commented on how they like to see who I am featuring each week, and enjoy the food information and history, in addition to the actual recipe. I try to choose recipes relevant to holidays, seasonal fruits and vegetables available, and requests I receive from readers. One of my most memorable reader experiences was a woman who had lost one of my recipes that she had clipped out of the paper. I did some research and got a copy for her. She was so appreciative she sent me a “thank-you bean” in a gift can, which grew and is still in my garden!

Because we are now online, readers can access an archive of my recipes that goes back a few years and print them out.

I find that I am stopped quite frequently in the supermarket with people peering into my shopping cart to see what I am buying, so I have to be good, for the most part.

But as I always told my nutrition students, everything is OK in moderation!

MidWeek has evolved into a thought-provoking publication with a wide variety of columnists and features, and has something for just about everyone. That’s why I am proud to be on the MidWeek team!


• 3 cups chocolate wafers, finely crushed
• 1 cup 10X powdered sugar
• 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
• 1/2cup chopped almonds
• 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon melted Smart Balance margarine (no trans fats)
• 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
• 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1/3 cup rum or bourbon
powdered sugar and very finely chopped nuts to roll the cookies in

Mix crumbs, 1 cup powdered sugar, nuts, margarine, corn syrup and cocoa in large bowl. Stir rum or bourbon into crumb mixture until evenly distributed. Let mixture stand 20 minutes to meld flavors. Shape mixture into 1-inch balls; roll half the balls in nuts and half in powdered sugar.  Put in airtight container placing waxed paper in between layers to prevent sticking.

Makes about 50 balls.

Note: These are better if you let them rest overnight to enhance their flavor.

To serve, place on plate lined with a fancy doily, or put the individual cookies into mini cupcake cups.

(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

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