COOKING 101: Appealing recipes, pregnant or not

I have never been pregnant.

So I have no firsthand experience with the crazy cravings that drive women to put something like pickles and ice cream into their mouths. At the same time.

I would think that weird pairing alone would be a recipe for morning sickness.

Sure, I’ve sampled some silly concoctions that seemed like a good idea at the time. And, sure, I’ve suffered from cravings, although I think they were more on the normal side of the hormonal scale – a sudden, overwhelming need for dark chocolate, for example, or potato chips.

My motto, when overpowered by such urges: Give in.

But, as with everyday diets, the idea is to give in without giving up on healthy eating.

Parent Magazine lists more than a dozen foods pregnant women should eat to get the extra iron, calcium, protein, folate and other vitamins they need for themselves and their babies.

It’s a no-brainer list, but worth repeating: Fortified cereals, oatmeal and wheat breads; vegetables like asparagus, fruits like oranges and bananas, starch like dried beans, eggs, dried fruit, nuts, leafy greens, lean meat and cheeses like cheddar and mozzarella, nonfat milk and soy products.

You can make some good stuff with that: A trail mix with nuts and dried fruit, a lean steak or a salmon filet with an orange sauce, a big batch of macaroni and cheese with whole wheat pasta, a creamy batch of cannellini beans with avocados and olive oil, even a spinach salad with hard boiled eggs.

Pretty tasty stuff, and maybe even tasty enough to redirect any wacky cravings that involve pickles.

And you don’t even have to be pregnant.

GRILLED SALMON FILET

Salmon filets

Maple syrup

Grated orange zest

Citrus pepper

1 cup orange juice

1 cup cream

Sprinkle filets with spice and zest. Brush with maple syrup. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, until fish is no longer raw in middle. Turn on broiler and broil quickly to caramelize top.

Sauce

Bring OJ to a boil until it starts to thicken. Add cream, turn down heat and simmer until it reaches the consistency of a cream sauce, until it coats the back of a spoon. Pour over salmon filets, or a lean steak. Sprinkle with additional zest.

CREAMY MACARONI AND CHEESE

2 large eggs

1 12-ounce can fat-free evaporated milk

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1?2 pound whole wheat elbow macaroni.

4 tablespoons butter or olive oil (I use butter if serving right away, oil if holding it for later)

12 ounces shredded cheese (mix of cheddar, Monterey jack or other flavors, even spicy if you want to jazz it up).

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix eggs, milk and spices in small bowl. Boil water and cook macaroni until it is al dente, or firm. Drain, return pasta to warm pan and toss with butter. Pour egg mixture over macaroni in pan. Add cheese and stir over low heat until smooth and creamy, about 5 minutes.

Serve immediately. Or, pour mixture into casserole dish, top with buttered crumbs and run under the broiler until crumbs are golden brown.

BUTTERED CRUMBS

Stir 1 cup of fresh whole-wheat bread crumbs into 2 tablespoons melted butter. Sprinkle on pasta before baking.

CREAMY WHITE BEANS

1?2 package dried white cannelini beans, cooked according to package directions with 1 large clove of chopped garlic

6 ounces shaved Parmesan cheese

1?4 cup fresh sage, chopped

1?4 cup olive oil

1 avocado, peeled and diced

Drain cooked beans and put in bowl. Immediately toss with other ingredients and toss until cheese begins to melt. Salt and pepper to taste.

HOMEMADE GRANOLA

6 cups dry oatmeal

1?4 cup each almonds, pecans and walnuts, chopped if desired

1/3 cup each maple syrup and honey

1?2 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon almond extract

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1-2 cups dried fruits like cranberries, apricots, pineapple

Mix oats, nuts, honey, maple syrup, orange juice, cinnamon and almond extract in a large bowl until well coated. Spread on a large cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking oil. Bake in 300 degree oven 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from oven and stir in dried fruit. Great as a snack, a cereal with milk or to top a bowl of Greek yogurt.

BANANA BREAD

1 cup each white and wheat flour

3?4 teaspoon baking soda

1?2 teaspoon each cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg

1?2 cup sugar

1?4 cup melted butter

2 eggs, beaten

4 bananas, mashed

1 container Greek yogurt (banana or vanilla is good)

1 cup soy or almond milk

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 cup lightly toasted walnuts

Beat sugar and melted butter until well blended. Stir in mashed bananas, yogurt, milk, vanilla and beaten eggs. Whisk flour, baking soda and spices together and add to bowl. Stir in walnuts. Pour mixture into greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees until knife inserted in middle comes out clean. Let cool before slicing.

Great spread with peanut or almond butter for extra protein.

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