Grandma's Healthy Eggplant Casserole

I remember, my Grandma, serving eggplant casserole on special occasions. She didn't make it all the time, but it was one of my favorites. My dad had a garden most summers, and we'd use his home-grown eggplant. I didn't make it very often as an adult because it's quite fattening and not too healthy. I've figured out a way to adapt the recipe to make it less fattening and a lot healthier. I now enjoy this comfort food more knowing it won't add to the waistline.

Grandma's Healthy Eggplant Casserole

I usually make large batches at one time. I have 5 in my house. Two of them are teenage boys. They eat a lot! You can cut the recipe in half if you only have 3 or 4 in your house. I always say, adapt your recipes to suit you.

2 Eggplants~ I like mine eggplants firm, dark purple, and blemish-free. I know that's a tall order, but I'm picky. You can use a slightly older eggplant as long as it's not mushy and spotty.

Salt~ Use several tablespoons. I'll tell you what to do with it later.

½ a Small Onion~ Finely chopped

1 cup Cheddar Cheese~ This is where the recipe can get dicey. You could use regular full fat sharp cheddar cheese. Since this is a recipe for Healthy Eggplant Casserole, we'll have to make a change with the cheese. You have a couple of options. 1) You can use skim cheddar cheese. 2) You can use shredded veggie cheese. I like to use the veggie cheese it has a better flavor to me than the skim cheddar cheese, but the choice is yours.

Black Pepper~ To taste

2 Eggs Beaten~ You may use regular eggs, but I like to use Eggland's Best or any brand that is hormone, antibiotic, and cage free. You may also use egg beaters if you'd like less cholesterol.

Cracker or Bread Crumbs~ There are several options for this one. My grandma used Ritz Crackers or the French's Fried Onion Rings, both, not so healthy. I have used toasted Genesis Bread Crumbs. I love this bread. It's whole sprouted grain bread. You can find it in the freezer section of the health food section of the grocery store. Ritz now has a whole wheat cracker that tastes really good, and is not as unhealthy as the regular Ritz. What ever choice you make for crumbs make sure you have plenty on hand. I can't give exact measurements, but you'd probably be fine with 2 cups or so.Preparation:

Peel eggplant and cut in chunks. I use a paring knife. The skin is too tough to use a vegetable peeler. Get a bowl and put the chunks in a bowl. Cover the chunks with water and lots of salt like Anne Burrell from the Food Network does. Soak the eggplant in the salted water for about15 minutes. Dump the eggplant in a colander and rinse in cold water. Boil the eggplant in water for about 5-10 minutes until tender. Take out a casserole dish and the eggplant, salt to taste, onion, pepper, cheese, and some crumbs (Make to save some for the top.) Pour beaten eggs over all and top with the remaining cracker crumbs. Bake 30-40 minutes at 350° or until the crumbs are golden brown.

Makes about 6-8 servings.


Fantastic Health Apps for an iPhone

Health apps are not only a neat addition to your iPhone but they can also help alter your life for the better. From knowing how much nutrition you're getting every single day to how many reps you need to finish burning off the chocolate cake you ate last night, there is an app for any aspect of living a higher quality life. If you need some good health with excellent service, here are five of the best apps you can find regarding your health.

Organic Eating

Organic food is gaining more and more popularity every year and many people will swear by the health benefits of eating foods that have been raised without harsh chemicals or pesticides. There are two apps that are relevant to those who are trying to consume foods that are better for you.

One simple app that is free to download comes from the Environmental Working Group's fruits and vegetables that are the best and worst as far as pesticides go. If you can't afford organic food there is at least a way to buy fresh foods that are better for you as far as your consumption of pesticides.

Another great raw food app is the Eco Chef app from Bryan Au. You can download it from the iTunes store for $1.99 and see his videos and recipes for making very quick and healthy meals for your family with the best ingredients with no cooking.


Two apps are at the forefront of nutrition intake if you are looking to try to have a healthier lifestyle on the go. The perfect app for eating out comes from a free version of the Restaurant Nutrition app from the Foundation HealthCare Network. The app is truly interactive in that you can find the nearest location of a restaurant and the nutrition information of menu items. The true usefulness of this app comes when you decide how many calories you want to eat and then the app produces which menu items at the restaurant fall into the specified criteria.

For something more comprehensive, iHealth Ventures has an app for $2.99 that involves popular foods in the supermarket as well as restaurants. Visual representations of the information mimic those of the black and white food labels on store bought foods for an easy-to-read format.

First Aid

Jive Media's Pocket First Aid and CPR app has a comprehensive list of what to do in most emergency situations involving health. From choking and bleeding to heart attacks and electric shock, Jive put together the app in conjunction with the American Heart Association and covers hundreds of pages in book form.

The app truly is a lifesaver as one man trapped in the rubble of the Haiti earthquake of January 2010 saved his own life with this app on his cell phone according to Discovery News. Whether you are trying to save someone else's life or your own, the app costs $3.99 and has gotten tons of great reviews. I use it on my phone in case someone in my store is having some kind of issue that requires immediate medical attention.

Air Quality

As parents of an asthmatic, air quality is always an issue. Breathing should be a regular occurrence without any pain or hard labor. To that end, we always want to know if there is pollen, ragweed, or even smog where ever my family goes.

Allergy Alert from allows you to input any location and get up-to-date pollen counts and ultraviolet radiation. You can get daily alerts when things get rough and four day forecasts if you plan a family outing. This is great for when we plan a weekend and we decide to either go to the zoo, the park, or stay indoors and watch movies. The app is free and very handy.

Exercise Tracker

There are tons of exercise trackers available in app format for the iPhone. Perhaps the most comprehensive is FitReach from LogicNow. You can input your daily food intake, how many calories you've consumed, and then how much and what kind of exercise you engage in to get a look at how your workouts help you manage your fitness level.

FitReach allows you to log in to their website and keep track of your fitness goals and dietary needs over the long term. This particular app has been around for over two years so it's fairly well used.

The iTunes store, Discovery news, and some of the company's respective websites provided information for these applications for iPhones.

The Contributor has no connection to nor was paid by the brand or product described in this content.


Healthy Grilled Eggplant with Italian Salsa Recipe

Eggplant is a member of the nightshade family, which includes peppers, tomatoes and potatoes. Eggplant is high in antioxidants and fiber. Select fruits (yep, eggplants are fruits!) that have some weight for their size. Look for the skin to be firm, shiny and blemish-free. You can find eggplants in the traditional dark purple-black color, as well as lavender and light green. Try the other color varieties for a fun change. I like to purchase eggplant and prepare it the same day for maximum freshness. Look for fruits that are firm and spring back to shape after a slight squeeze.

This recipe can be served as a side dish to grilled steak or you can prepare as I do: the grilled eggplant is the main event for a delicious and different vegetarian meal! I try to find younger, smaller eggplant for this recipe to avoid any bitterness.

Grilled Eggplant Recipe
2 eggplants
Extra virgin olive oil
Finely ground sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste

Prepare your outdoor grill by cleaning and use medium high heat. Wash eggplant thoroughly. Cut off blossom and vine ends. Cut in half lengthwise. Brush on organic extra virgin olive on both sides of the eggplant and season with salt and pepper to your taste. I am generous with the pepper for a spicier dish. Place on the pre-heated grill, cut side down. Grill on cut side for 4 minutes and then flip to the skin side for 4 more minutes. You want to see grill marks and the cut side take on a lovely, light golden brown appearance.

You may use a panini press for convenient indoor grilling any time of the year. When you use a panini press, you do not have to flip the eggplant, simply remove when the eggplant take on the light golden brown appearance. But the kicker is the Italian Salsa. Prepare the salsa before grilling the eggplant — then you'll be ready to dig in!

Italian Salsa Recipe
4 Roma or other Italian-type tomatoes
¼ cup fresh mozzarella, cut into half-inch cubes
2 tablespoons fresh basil, cut chiffonade*, or Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon organic extra virgin olive oil
Juice from half of a lime
Finely ground sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients together. Let all ingredients sit for 10 minutes so the flavors can marry and gain some complexity. You may make the salsa without the salt if you are watching your sodium intake. Serve as an accompaniment to the grilled eggplant, or use as a spread on any Italian bread.

*To chiffonade basil, simply lay the leaves flat on top of each other to create a stack. Roll leaves into one roll, short end to short end, just like a tiny cigar. Then cut the roll as you would a jelly roll. This will result in long, thin strips of basil that look – and taste – beautiful in the salsa.


Easy and Healthy School Lunch Ideas

We all want to send our kids to school with nutritious and well balanced lunches. But there are several concerns. We want to make sure our kids actually eat what we pack and don't trade it with other kids for food they perceive as "better." Kids are notorious for doing this, although they may not want to admit it. Also, we don't want them to feel slighted when they watch the kids who are buying lunch eat hot dogs and pizza and mac and cheese. Parents know many school lunches are not healthy, but kids don't always know that or even care.

So finding good school lunch ideas can be tricky. We want to make sure the lunches are appealing enough for our kids to eat and healthy enough to benefit them. And we don't want them to get bored with the same food. Following are some delicious and healthy school lunch ideas.


What kid doesn't like burritos? You can use whole wheat tortillas as a healthier choice than white tortillas. You can fill it with anything your child likes – chicken, vegetables, beans, salsa, etc.


Leftover cold pizza is a food that kids enjoy. And if you really want to get the kids excited about this lunch idea, try making a homemade pizza with them that you can cut up and pack for a few days. Keep it simple. Use a pre-made pie crust like Boboli. You can use pizza sauce or alfredo sauce or pesto sauce or some combination thereof. Then have your kids pile on vegetables, cheese, meat, etc. This is a great way to get kids to eat vegetables!

Chicken and Fruit Salad Sandwich

Kids love chicken. We're all familiar with chicken salad sandwiches. Now let's add some fruit for a healthier lunch idea. Chop up cooked chicken. Cut apple slices into small chunks. Mix together chicken and apple with a small amount of mayonnaise or salad dressing. Make a sandwich on whole wheat bread.

Trying to make tasty and healthy school lunches that kids enjoy can be a challenge. I hope these recipes are helpful. Please feel free to leave me comments with any other creative ideas you may have.


Top Five Health and Wellness Magazines

I'm a real magazine junkie, always pulled into to the headlines, but often disappointed by the same old, same old articles. The following five magazines are different, and each of them has a website that offers a plethora of free information. I am thankful for my health conscious family who often resorts to subscriptions as gifts. Out of all the possibilities, and there are many, my picks for the all time best health and wellness magazines are as follows;


Not only is the magazine a well rounded source for women's health, their website is chockfull of great information as well. Their online system checker is a handy tool. Intelligent articles written with flair offered at a great price.

Body & Soul


Martha Stewarts magazine that focuses on alternative health practices and healthy living. There are always original articles, not leaving you with the feeling you've read them somewhere before. Little fluff, lots of good information. The website is another great resource, with a library full of relevant news on healthy living, recipes and product reviews.

Yoga Journal

This is the source for yoga information and inspiration, covering lifestyle, meditation, poses and life issues. It's extremely helpful for both the newbie to yoga as well as the yoga instructor. The web site features comprehensive pose finder, articles and a teacher directory. Two free trial copies are offered with every subscription, so readers can see if it's something they want to continue receiving.

Natural Solutions

Formerly Alternative Medicine, this magazine is a trusted source. Their inspiring stories and practical solutions and natural remedies are invaluable to me. Their web site is another go to resource for healthy recipes and life affirming stories.

Experience Life

This publication continually impresses me with its quality. There is depth to the articles and they offer you more than just, 'get a bikini body in 5 days', the focus is on building a healthier mindset and a healthier body with practical ideas that deal with the whole person.

Visit their websites for a good taste of what they are all about before committing to a subscription, but do subscribe, the cost is much less than the newstand and it provides happy mail. A nice alternative to bills.


Blackstrap Molasses Health Benefits: Which Blackstrap Molasses is the Best?

Some products regularly consumed by past generations should be revisited. One of these is blackstrap molasses. Once a common household staple in the mid 20th century, it has now fallen out of regular use.

I recently discovered blackstrap molasses when I tried a recipe for an energy drink. The recipe gave a choice of several sweeteners. I didn't have maple syrup or stevia. I only had blackstrap molasses. So I gave it a try. Since then, I have faithfully mixed this simple concoction and have taken it first thing every morning.

Without a doubt, I definitely have more energy since using the blackstrap molasses. I no longer begin to sort of fade in the late afternoon. The difference in my energy level is quite remarkable. Another change that I have noticed is that I don't crave sweets as much. Hopefully, as I keep taking the blackstrap molasses, I will shed a few pounds. With the increased energy, I have been exercising more.

I started searching for more information about molasses to see what other benefits it has. According to anecdotal stories, there are many more benefits to blackstrap molasses that I am experiencing. Some have claimed that blackstrap molasses stopped the growth of gray hair. Others have claimed relief and even cures from serious and chronic health conditions.

I am just about out of the jar of blackstrap molasses that I began with. As I prepare to purchase more, I want to make sure that I use the absolute best molasses for what I want to accomplish.
In my research I have found that there different types of molasses. Apparently, there is a difference in the health benefits that they deliver.

Blackstrap molasses is a natural byproduct of the boiling of sugar cane to produce table sugar. It is the result of the third boiling. Even though it is the waste product of this process, blackstrap molasses is ironically healthier than sugar. There are many other types of molasses besides Blackstrap molasses. Yet it is the most nutritionally impactful.

It is better to buy sulphured than unsulphured blackstrap molasses. Sulphured must be added when molasses is made from green unripe sugar cane. Sulphur is a chemical that is best not consumed. Unsulphured molasses is made from ripe, mature sugar cane. No sulphur is needed in the boiling process.

Consuming blackstrap daily has become a lifestyle change for me. It's convenient and the strong taste is offset by the vinegar that I take with it. If you desire to take blackstrap molasses for a serious or chronic health condition, you should consult your doctor who can give you direction about adding blackstrap molasses to your healthcare routine. I wish you well.



Do Americans Want Universal Healthcare?

ANALYSIS The Merced Sun-Star reports California legislators are currently debating a universal healthcare bill, Senate Bill No. 810, which brings up the question why Congress is not debating the issue at the national level.

According to ThinkProgress, Americans overwhelmingly support universal healthcare in poll after poll, but there may be a lack of political will to address the problem. In other words, our elected representatives don't want to take on the insurance industry in such a sweeping way.

Americans are divided on President's Obama's piecemeal approach to reforming the system, but no one is too sure about the Republican response that it is better to privatize the system with vouchers and tax credits.

Following are some of the arguments for and against universal health care.

Those who support it argue that under a universal healthcare plan:

* Everyone would have health insurance coverage. This is proper because adequate health care is a fundamental human right, not a commodity to be bartered on the free market.

* Everyone would have the same access to comprehensive coverage and necessary procedures, according to Physicians for a National Health Program.

* Likewise, everyone would be able to choose an insurance provider and hospital from a large list that would include all insurance companies and all hospitals since everyone would be a part of the same plan.

* Spending would not be increased; to the contrary, costs will be reduced, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Even President Obama's piecemeal reform approach has savings in the budget. It's the current system that is spiraling out of control, not government intervention.

* A single payer system would eliminate the middle man. The insurance company would no longer dictate what you must do because the doctor and patient will make that decision together. This will restore a closer, more traditional doctor-patient relationship.

Those who oppose it argue that under a universal health care plan:

* There would be no free market reforms, according to the New York Sun. For example, costs have decreased in past years for non-essential medical procedures such as lasik eye surgery and cosmetic implants because they are subject to a competitive market.

* While we may not see the benefits right away, transferring health care tax benefits to individuals from employers and giving more tax credits to individuals will result in more affordable coverage in the long run, as noted by U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

* Universal healthcare is a form of slavery. According to Reason, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., believes that under a universal health care system, he will be forced out of his home by doctors into hospitals to undergo procedures he opposes. This has been derided as absurd by most pundits.

* Universal health care is a government takeover. According to Hot Air, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., repeats the warnings of Ronald Reagan from 30 years ago that healthcare reform will destroy American freedom. It didn't happen then or now, but the results are not yet conclusive.

* Forcing people to pay into a universal healthcare system is unconstitutional. At least two dozen lawsuits have been filed in federal courts challenging President Obama's version of reform on this issue alone. The courts are divided. As of mid-May 2020, three states have ruled Congress did not exceed its powers by ordering mandated premiums, and two have ruled it is unconstitutional. All are on appeal to higher courts, and the issue will likely reach the U.S. Supreme Court next year.

It seems likely that if President Obama's healthcare reform measures are overturned in the near future by the Supreme Court, there may well be a genuine push for universal healthcare as costs continue to spiral out of control, or we may fall back on a true free market approach.


What Are Health Incentive Programs?

Health incentive programs provide monetary compensation for preventative, wellness, and good health habits. The programs are usually employer or insurance provider sponsored and essentially pay members for being healthy, seeking preventative care, and maintaining wellness. Preventative healthcare, or preventative medicine deals with preventing illness and disease; whereas, curative or palliative healthcare cures the disease or illness or treats the symptoms, respectively. Wellness refers to the absence of disease or illness and involves the person's total well-being, including mind, body, and spirit. Practicing good health habits refers to a person's overall lifestyle, such as tobacco use, physical activity, diet, drug use, sleep habits, and alcohol consumption.

How Health Incentives Work

The concept of offering monetary compensation as a health incentive is fairly new in regards to employers and insurance providers. For example, say you have a $500 deductable on a single participant insurance plan that offers a health incentive program. Depending on how your policy is written, your deductable may be less if, for instance, you are a non-smoker, gym member, or low cholesterol. In contrast, your deductable may be higher if you are a tobacco user, overweight, or have high blood pressure.

Other factors come into play with health incentives as well, such as annual physical exams, health screenings, immunizations, and alternative medicine. Some providers will pay more for these wellness and preventative measures than they do for curative or palliative healthcare. For example, say you are overweight and have high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol because of being overweight. Standard insurance coverage pays 80% of doctor visits and pharmacy costs while you pay 20%, now under the same coverage that provides health incentives, insurance will cover 90 – 100% of bariatric surgery, lap-band surgery, or other means in order to facilitate weight loss, thus reducing the need for prescription monthly medication and you, the patient pays 10% or less. In addition to a lower percentage cost, you may also have no deductable or co-payment.

Healthcare Reform and Health Incentives

Beginning September 2020, all health insurance plans must provide full coverage for preventative healthcare that is deemed necessary. This means that you, the patient has no co-pay or deductable in regards to preventative care, such as recommended immunizations, mammograms and pap-smears for certain groups of women, well-child visits, and annual exams for children who are covered. In addition, by 2024, employers may provide additional wellness and preventative care coverage for a much lower cost.

Providing health incentives encourages people to get preventive care, strive for wellness, and practice good health habits. It is not so much charging people for not doing these things, but rather rewarding positive behavior that reinforces healthy habits that help preserve and maintain the health of the individual. Although much disease and illness are the result of genetics, you may prevent many illnesses and diseases with recommended screenings, annual physical exams, and lifestyle choices.


Society of Human Resource Management

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Harvard School of Public Health


Health Care Matters Most in Southwest Virginia

Ask anyone in Southwest Virginia what issue they are most concerned about this election season and nine times out of ten they will say healthcare. With the Virginia Employment Commission reporting a 4.4 percent unemployment rate for Southwest Virginia, it is no surprise that Southwest Virginians are concerned about healthcare. If people do not have jobs, they do not have health insurance.

Evidence of the healthcare crisis in Southwest Virginia can be found in the success of the Remote Area Medical Program (RAM). In 2016, 188,000 Southwest Virginia residents attended a RAM event to receive free health services. According to the organizers of RAM, in 2016, over 200 patients received audiological, medical, and hearing aid evaluations. The Dickenson Star, a local newspaper in the area, reported that the 2017 RAM event was even more successful. What must be realized though is that the success of programs like RAM shows the failure of the health care system in the United States.

Many of the people who attended the RAM health fair did so because it was the only time that they would be able to receive healthcare all year. Participating healthcare providers saw patients for hypertension, arthritis, poor dentition, depression, heart disease, diabetes, pulmonary disease, domestic violence, and illiteracy. Patients who have heart disease should not be receiving healthcare one time per year, they should have access to life saving healthcare everyday of the year.

I, personally, have been affected by the poor healthcare system in the United States. The day I graduated from college, I was dropped from my dad's health insurance plan. As is the case with most college graduates, I did not have any type of employment lined up for directly after graduation. Luckily, my parents took out an insurance policy for me and have been paying the premiums while I have been searching for gainful employment. Had it not have been for my parents, I too would be one of Southwest Virginia's unemployed and uninsured population.

During this election year, the people of Southwest Virginia and I will be paying close attention to the stands that Barack Obama and John McCain make where healthcare is concerned. Southwest Virginians will be looking to see whether or not the Republican party can reevaluate their healthcare infrastructure or if the new ideas brought to the table by the Democrats would be the better choice. In my opinion, Southwest Virginia can be won or lost by either party based on their ideas regarding the healthcare system in the United States.