Retired pharmacist shares healthy recipes
Guess where Charma Konnor and I met? At World Gym, of course. If I didn’t belong to World Gym, where I meet so many good cooks, maybe I’d have to stand on a street corner with a placard that reads: “Will work for recipes!”
I refer to Charma as “Charma the Pharma who has good Karma.” (Good thing she has a great sense of humor, right?) Charma, a retired pharmacist, got interested in pharmacy because she didn’t have the financial means to go to medical school.
“While a practicing pharmacist in hospitals and community pharmacies,” she said, “I held office in national, state and local professional pharmacist associations.” She also taught student nurses and medical residents and gave presentations to community groups.
“After several years of pharmacy practice,” she added, “I began work at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) headquarters in Rockville, Md., and served there in various capacities – some including advising commissioners on drug and medical device health policy and enforcement and directing programs responsible for enforcing laws relating to clinical research conduct, counterfeit drugs and drug quality, to mention a few.”
A few? Whew! That’s quite a list of responsibilities. Having retired from the FDA and pharmacy practice, Charma is currently a regulatory consultant.
She has many interests, including working out at the gym, volunteering at South Coastal Library, gardening, reading (including pharmacy clinical journals), watercolor painting and photography.
“Our backyard birdfeeder is a source of interest and entertainment,” she added, “with various types of birds visiting and competing for the seeds.”
She and her husband, Charlie, also enjoy riding their bikes from Ocean View to Selbyville, stopping for lunch, and then biking home – approximately 25 miles round-trip! They often go out to dinner with their nextdoor neighbor, who is a life-long Ocean View resident.
“She has many interesting stories to share,” Charma said.
Charma’s interest in cooking began when she was in elementary school. She often baked with her mother and especially enjoyed baking and decorating Christmas cookies. She wonders if licking the frosting bowl was her prime motivation for wanting to bake.
“My sister and I made taffy years ago,” she said, “pulling it between us, a back-and-forth activity trying to avoid: (1) dropping it on the floor, and (2) getting tangled in it. We survived!”
Although Charma credits her mother for teaching her to cook, she had a required cooking class in junior-high school where she learned to make Welsh rarebit (that’s rarebit, not rabbit), although she never made it again. But after college she took a gourmet cooking class and learned the tricks of making good lasagna and Caesar salad, and she’s enjoyed cooking ever since.
Although she was born and raised in Michigan, work opportunities later took her to Illinois and then to Northern Virginia, where she and Charlie lived for 34 years; they both worked in the Washington, D.C., area.
“Our son, Dan, was born in an Illinois hospital where you could view white-tailed deer romping in and out of the nearby woods,” she said.
They currently live in Ocean View, “having escaped the madness of the D.C.-area traffic jams and the NASCAR-type racing on the Beltway.”
Charma prefers to cook a variety of healthy foods and meals – primarily those that do not take lots of time to prepare.
“I like to do healthy cooking for main dishes, she said, “but not to the extreme so that everything tastes like cardboard. I don’t have a lot of time to experiment with food, although I am known to modify recipes to improve their taste and make them healthier, such as reducing the amount of sugar and introducing wheat flour as part of the total amount of flour in a recipe.”
Like many of us foodies, Charma collects recipes.
“Every so often, while leafing through recipes,” she said, “I come across one of my son’s recipes that he used when cooking or baking at a younger age. Dan’s written notations on these recipes bring back happy memories of when he was a child and enjoyed experimenting with food.”
Both Charlie and Dan enjoy Charma’s Turkey Chili. “They both have discriminating palates,” she said with a laugh. “In other words, this is an easy-to-please recipe.”
Turkey Chili (not spicy)
? 1 (1-pound) package low-fat ground turkey
? Small amount of olive oil
? 1 medium-size white onion, coarsely chopped
? 1 large green pepper, coarsely chopped
? 1 to 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
? 4 cloves garlic, minced
? 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes or tomato puree
? 1 can (16 ounces) tomato sauce
? 3 to 4 cans (16 ounces each) canned beans (select from kidney and black beans), rinsed and drained
? 2 teaspoons chili powder
? Pinch of cayenne pepper
Method for Turkey Chili:
In a large pot, brown the turkey in a small amount of olive oil. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Simmer for 30 minutes. Yield: Enough for more than 4 servings. Also freezes well.
On the day I met Charma and asked her if she liked to cook, she began telling me about her versatile Basil Pesto recipe and the many ways in which she uses it. She shares some of those recipes with us today. She grows her own basil, planting right after Mother’s Day each year – garlic, lemon and Italian basil (Italian is her favorite). She usually triples this recipe and freezes small portions in baggies. Charma uses Romano cheese rather than Parmesan. “It has a sharper flavor,” she said.
? 1 cup snipped basil, firmly packed
? 1/2 cup pine nuts
? 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
? 2 cloves garlic, quartered
? 1/3 cup olive oil
Method for Basil Pesto:
In a food processor bowl, add basil, pine nuts, Romano cheese and garlic; chop/pulse to a fine mixture. Then drizzle in the olive oil as the food processor is running and process until a paste is formed. Pesto can be frozen in individual portions – small packages for future cooking needs.
Uncooked pasta (e.g., spaghetti or cappellini)
Basil Pesto (3 tablespoons per 1/2-pound uncooked pasta)
Method for Pesto Pasta:
If Basil Pesto is frozen, place the pesto in a large saucepan and allow to defrost before you cook the pasta. Do not heat pesto to hasten defrosting, as the cheese in the pesto won’t like that. Once the pesto is defrosted, add extra virgin olive oil to the pesto in the pan and mix well. The amount of olive oil will vary according to your preference; you will be mixing this with the cooked pasta. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and add to the pesto/olive oil mixture, stirring well to combine. Serve.
Pesto Pasta with Chicken
If you have leftover chicken, cube it and warm it in a microwave; stir into pesto/olive oil sauce mixture just before adding cooked pasta to the mixture.
Pesto Chicken without Pasta
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
? Boneless chicken breasts (select quantity for the number of people you plan to serve)
? Garlic powder
? Basil pesto (one tablespoon per each chicken breast)
? 1 to 1-1/2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
? Salt and pepper to taste
? Grated Parmesan cheese
Method for Pesto Chicken without Pasta:
In a single layer, place chicken breasts in a baking dish. Spread 1 tablespoonful pesto on each chicken breast. Sprinkle chicken with garlic powder, salt and pepper according to taste. Top each chicken breast with mushrooms. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes; remove from oven and sprinkle breasts with Parmesan cheese. Place chicken back into the oven and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes until chicken is tender and fully cooked. (Note: Baking time will vary according to thickness of chicken breasts.)
Lemon Squares (modified)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Ingredients for crust:
? 1/2 cup butter
? 1/2 cup Smart Balance (Smart Balance Original can be used for baking purposes.)
? 1/2 cup 10x confectioners’ sugar
? 1 cup wheat flour
? 1 cup white all-purpose flour
Method for Lemon Squares Crust:
Soften the butter and Smart Balance. Mix with rest of ingredients. Spread this mixture in a 10x15x1-inch jelly-roll pan (or a cookie sheet with sides), forming crust on bottom and halfway up sides of pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 17 to 20 minutes; remove from the oven; do not turn off the oven. While the crust is baking, prepare the topping.
Ingredients for Topping:
? 4 eggs
? 2 cups granulated sugar
? 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
? 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
? 1 tablespoon shredded lemon rind or peel
Method for topping:
After crust is removed from the oven, wait a few minutes and pour topping ingredients onto the crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 22 to 25 minutes. Cool. Sift confectioners’ sugar on top. When cool, cut into bars. These bars freeze well.
(Editor’s note: If you have recipes to share, or recipes you want, contact Marie Cook, Coastal Point, P.O. Box 1324, Ocean View, DE 19970; or by email at ChefMarieCook@gmail.com. Please include your phone number. Recipes in this column are not tested by the Coastal Point.)