Archive for April, 2011

Chow Bella – The Mediterranean Diet

April 28th, 2011 No Comments Tags: , , , , ,

There are some diet regimens deep rooted in the fundamentals. Although the Mediterranean Diet has been around a long a while, its sound principles never get old. I introduced this topic last week on April 17, 2011 and plan to devote more “air time” to it for the weeks to come.

The Mediterranean Diet epitomizes the naturally nutrient rich principles (outlined in post April 19, 2010) by being chocked full of veggies and fruit, nuts, seeds and whole grains along with lean meat, fish, poultry and game. Talk about covering all of the food groups in spades. This regimen’s got it covered and then some.

The food preparations are straightforward making the food taste divine while cooking with olive or canola oil. It is generally higher in “good fats” and lower in “bad fats” offering general disease protection to major risk factors for heart disease, stroke and cancer. It can also protect against obesity and type 2 diabetes with the inclusion of 5-10 fruits and vegetables each day (written about on May 9 and December 7, 2010).

Research published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that seniors who led a healthy lifestyle — defined as not smoking, eating a Mediterranean-type diet, drinking alcohol in moderation, and engaging in 30 minutes of daily physical activity — significantly increased their life expectancy.

It is truly never too late to change and adopt new positive ways of eating and living. There’s no time like the present to take positive steps in that direction. Hmmmm, I’ll drink to that!!

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Cooking with Loretta – Food Revolution Roasted Carrots

April 27th, 2011 No Comments

Continuing on the theme of watching my dinner unfold at my friend Loretta’s house posted April 7, 11 and 19, here is the side dish of the main course. I was treated to a lovely dinner by my friend Loretta. The food she served was so tasty I wanted to share the details with you.

Loretta did the prep on these before I came and popped ‘em in the oven when the visit began.

3-5 carrots washed, peeled and cut into 3 inch “sticks”
3-5 peeled, garlic cloves cut in quarters – the more the merrier!
olive oil
powdered Rosemary
sea salt and pepper to taste
white wine

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare carrots and garlic and put in a roasting pan. Toss with olive oil, Rosemary, salt and pepper and combine so that the carrots are coated. Cook for about an hour (until tender) checking and stirring every 15 minutes or so. After the first 15 or 20 minutes, pour some white wine over the dish and pop it back into the oven and turn the temperature down to 375. Keep checking and adding more wine to make the carrots nice and roasted. Again, this wine bottle emerged from nowhere and poof, a perfect addition! Serve when tender and hot.

I was amazed how easy, beautiful and tasty this was. I’m an closet orange colour lover. Ok, anyone who knows me, knows it doesn’t need to be Halloween for me to dawn orange. No sir-ee. And the same goes for my love of orange vegetables, carrots included.

Loretta told me a funny story about her Mom’s cooking tip “for doneness” of any particular dish. “Well, it’s done, well, when it’s done, you know, done. It’s done, when it’s done.” Somehow I understood!!

And after I finished eating I was WELL done…. in a good way!!

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U-Turn on Salt – Be Picky About Processed

April 26th, 2011 No Comments

I started this blog-series “U-Turn on Salt” on April 20, 2011 to equip us all to be more mindful to choose foods with less salt. Preparing your own food and being the gate-keeper to use less salt is one way to have less. Be aware that studies show that ~70% of our intake of dietary salt comes from eating processed foods. Processed food are the packaged goods we buy at the grocery store AND the food we eat when we dine out or order food in.

Companies are in the process of reformulating products to contain lower sodium. For packaged goods, as was outlined in the post on July 30, 2010 get in the habit of reading the Nutrition Facts Panel on the food label. Look and compare products and brands for lower sodium options. When you get in the habit of doing this it’s really not all that difficult spot check your usual brands occasionally.

Eating out may pose more of a challenge because this sector is not currently mandated to provide nutritional information of what’s in their food offerings making. This information may not be as readily available. Review one of my “Monkey Business” posts on lunching strategies on November 30, 2010. However, where the’s a will there’s a way!!

A number of restaurant chain establishments have these details available on their corporate web-sites. Like I often say, knowledge is power, don’t ya think?? Take a look at the overall nutritional content, including sodium per serving of your usual fare. You might just be surprised and overwhelmed by what you’re putting into your body. Find alternative choices that taste just as good, but are better for you. If it means changing the places you order food from, so be it. Loyalty shmoyalty.

As consumers, how we spend the money in our pocket book has more power than we might realize. One order at a time, one customer at a time, day by day, week by week, the small “pebbles of change” can and will turn into a rushing avalanche of healthier choices available when we the consumer have spoken with the choices we make. START TODAY.  The choices we all make drive the industry. Don’t ever doubt it.

Choose to turn the corner to “Better Eating Drive”, beep beep, beep beep – YA!!

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Stress-Induced Obesity – The Cortisol Conundrum

April 25th, 2011 No Comments Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Who have you bumped into lately who doesn’t feel stressed – at work, on the car-clogged freeways, at the gas pump, in the family – you name it everyone pretty much experiences it. There are some extreme circumstances in life that stress is experienced for long periods of time. It is one health epidemic that is certainly an elephant in the room, don’t you think?? Too much stress can induce obesity, as if we need another reason to put on extra weight – good grief.

I did some reading in earnest about the bodily hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that our bodies make naturally. Cortisol can be released in the body in response to a number of circumstances including psychosocial stress. Cortisol can directly affect fat storage in people experiencing extreme stress for a prolonged time period. To add insult to injury deep abdominal fat cells have four times more cortisol receptors than subcutaneous fat cells. Cortisol is associated to overeating, craving high caloric fatty and sugary foods and relocating fat from the circulation and storage depots to the deep internal abdominal area. Oy veh.

So NOW what?? Finding ways to mitigate stress and release life’s pressures are an integral part of dealing with this. Not only will it help to release the pressure valve even just a little, it will also help to put the brakes on further weight gain. Yoga or Thai Chi are two examples that are helpful. Deep breathing, meditation, relaxation and visualization are ways to deal with stress as well. Combining these measure with tips to eat right and get enough rest will help your cause even more.

Although it sounds easy to play close attention to your eating during challenging times, for many it certainly is not. If you can try to tighten the screws on your attention to detail, that will certainly help. Give a re-read to the post on November 11, 2010 along with the “Successful Loser” category. Every little tip helps. At the end of the day, gaining weight because of stress can cause even more stress and who needs that??

The bottom line is regular exercise with effective stress management are keys to helping with this cortisol conundrum. Regular exercise is a stress reliever as well and a place you can find refuge. Cortisol is one of our body’s hormones that we need for normal function. We can’t turn the “off switch” on this, but trying to get the upper hand on it will certainly help.

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Long Weekend Revival

April 24th, 2011 No Comments Tags: , , , ,

We’re inundated with stress, with time constraints, with competing commitments. We juggle many balls in the air. Can we ever create a perfect harmony?? We live in a social construct that dictates what we need to do in terms of immediate family, extended family, community, work and the like. Trying to measure up can surely wear you down. I say let all the balls fall where they may…..

When everything’s said and done, when you have time to think deeper on this long Easter weekend consider making your our construct. Make a song and march to your own beat, with or without a drummer. Who cares what everybody else thinks? On this long weekend I’m going with the flow. I welcome the dust bunnies as I welcome Easter.

Earth Day, Good Friday, a day off, free time, gotta love a long weekend. A perfect time to catch up on your z’s; to linger over the newspaper and cuppa jo; to lounge in your jams ’til noon, to do what you want when you want. You can work in your workout whenever. You can putter, read, write, golf, walk, cook, garden, wash the car and take your time making each decision. For the love of a long weekend with one extra coveted day off.

I welcomed family to my place for an easy breezy Good Friday dinner. There was no kicking up a fuss. There was no stressing over the menu, the food, the wine selection, the table setting, the music, the dust management. Because what I know at the end of the day, once you sit down together, break some bread and pour some wine the stories will flow along with the love and connections to one another. We welcomed the dust bunnies with the Easter bunnies and eggs and all of the enjoyment in-between and we had the most perfect Good Friday and Easter weekend.

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Cracked UP – Wonders of Walnuts

April 21st, 2011 No Comments Tags: , ,

Yes, walnuts are all that they are cracked up to be and more. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids and high on taste, not to mention the crunch. I LOVE a crunch now and then, don’t you? Not only are walnuts a food for the gods, but food for the brain. Acting like any good door-man they allow nutrients into brain cells while letting out wastes. Talk about getting the lead out. Ok I can use just a couple more…..

Some years back when the world went mad (again) and went on it’s ultra low-fat craze, I did the same to some degree. When I started to add up all of the saving I was doing I assessed that I came up short “in the fat department”. Fat phobia has never been in and it’s not a good thing. We all need healthy fats, just not too much of them because they pack a calorie punch in spades. You STILL need them nonetheless.

I thought about it and understand full well that old adage “you can’t just eat one” phenomenon can apply to walnuts and all nuts. So I decided to reintroduce salt-free nuts into salads and the like, walnuts included. I do take mini-packages of nuts with me when I travel as they help me out of a hunger bind as I have described in the “Business Travel Bupkiss” series on September 14, October 18 and November 3, 2010.

One of the gifts my parents bestowed on me for my 50th birthday back in March was a lovely dish of my Mom’s. A keepsake. It was put out after family dinners with walnuts seen in this photo, so I proudly do the same on my table. Hmmmm studies show that ending a high fat meal with walnuts improves artery function and plays an important part in the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet in promoting heart health. Well who knew?? With many partaking in family Easter celebrations you might want to put a bowl of walnuts on the table after the meal for pleasure and good measure.

It’s a perfect tradition to begin if you haven’t yet or carry on if you’ve been doing this for decades. Happy Easter!!

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U-Turn on Salt – Pepper on the Paprika

April 20th, 2011 No Comments Tags: , , , ,

I thought I’d delve into different ways to flavour our food sans-a salt in a new blog series “U-Turn on Salt”. I don’t know about you but I have come to the realization that my love affair for “the white stuff” has got to cool down. Yes folks, getting used to having less salt takes a little getting used to but the health benefits abound by doing so. Taste is certainly king for many consumers, including moi so what I’m suggesting is a flavour change-up. What better way to do this than to cultivate a culinary change-up and fast.

Last year I wrote about the issues about consuming too much salt with some practical tips to decrease your use on July 28, 2010. I wrote about how to use the food label to help you get a handle on your intake on July 30, 2010. You and I are not alone on this because consuming too much salt is a global problem. In North America alone we’re eating about double of the upper limit of what’s recommended while most are way over this – not good. But our love affair for taste is strong, so it’s not about taking the bland, ho-hum route and sacrifice taste, but to shift things gradually so no one even notices.

If we try to decrease salt gradually in the foods we eat and prepare at home our taste buds actually adjust and get used to having less. That’s the magic of Mother Nature with this adjustment. You’ll notice the stark difference if you revert back and eat something salty and it won’t taste very good.

This week’s suggestion is to get you thinking about incorporating some Paprika in the foods you prepare. Paprika is used as a finely ground powder from dried red peppers. The taste ranges from sweet and mild to a speecy-spicy hot. Buy it in smaller quantities to start and get into the habit of “peppering” it on your roasted and bar-be-qued meat, fish and poultry, roasted potatoes, fried eggs and even in your salads. At the same time, use less salt and see how this flavour change-up works for you and your family.

If you’ve tried to cut back on your salt usage, drop a line so we can all learn from and be encouraged by each others experiences. Happy taste shifting!!

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Cooking with Loretta – Food Revolution Pork Tenderloin

April 19th, 2011 No Comments Tags: ,

I wrote about the visit to my friend and fab cook Loretta’s posted April 7 and 11. She turned entertaining into a spectator sport. I got to sit there and watch and sip and sip and watch my memory and nibble on happy appy’s as well. This recipe was served as part of the main course. Presto, in a few short minutes this was ready to enjoy.

Entertaining doesn’t need to be onerous and turned into an olympic competition. That would only make me and many others not want to do it very often. The KISS principle applies here in spades.

pork tenderloin cut width-wise into medallions
powdered Rosemary, garlic powder, sea salt and pepper
olive oil and a dab of butter
white wine

Season each piece of pork with Rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper. Flour each piece by patting each side in a dish of flour. In a heated fry pan, add olive oil and butter allow to heat up over high heat. Add in all of the pieces of floured pork and allow each side to brown slightly (for about 1 minute each side). Add white wine to the pan and turn down the heat to low. Cover and simmer to finish cooking.


If you need to add more wine, go ahead. I don’t know all of a sudden, Loretta whipped out this bottle of wine
seemingly from nowhere, then poof she added a little more, like magic, it only took a few minutes to cook through. We sat down to eat in no time.

Well, truth be told I had some wine already, so it only felt like a few short minutes….

Loretta served this with roasted carrots (to be posted next week) and a nice green salad after the Stracciatella Soup (posted on April 11). As expected she kept telling me to “eat, eat, you need to have MORE, LET me serve you”!! Ahh how sweet, just like eating at my Grandma’s in the days gone by.

Are you planning to have company over soon? We’d love to know your plans…..

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Don’t Take this SITTING DOWN

April 18th, 2011 No Comments Tags: , ,

What one position binds many of us throughout the day? While we drive, while we fly (on a plane that is), while we dine, while we work at a desk, while we watch television…not to mention while we answer Mother Nature’s call…… It’s sitting. Dr. James Levine is a researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. He has done extensive research on how much people move. I read the New York Times Magazine on Health and Wellness on Sunday and felt the need to break into a set of jumping jacks after reading the article “What’s the most unhealthful thing you do every day?”

Usually I feel virtuous when I read many health articles, because I reflect and say “aha, yep, got a handle on that”. But boy oh boy, I am guilty as charged on this “sitting front” that’s for sure. Once I rise from sleep, my day is strung together by a series of “sit ins” linked by short walks except for my 1 hour walk each day. What gives?? Excessive sitting, he claims, is considered a lethal activity. Good grief…..

Alas, Dr. Levine feels; however, you can reap benefits from many minor movements. He suggested to just move, any movement will do. It all adds up and can make a difference. Whew, that’s a relief as I sit her nodding while doing a fist pump….

I remember reading an article decades ago when I was trying to solve my own personal weight dilemma. It was about a woman who, like me, didn’t want to go on a restrictive diet but wanted to simply burn more calories to lose weight. She embraced the fact that every muscle movement you make burns calories and some movements burn more than others. She started her very own “Movement Movement”. I wrote about starting a Movement Movement on April 14, 2010. Within a year she managed to lose a significant amount of weight. Oh for the love of tipping the energy balance scale….

This notion has stuck with me to today from finding 5 minutes to move here, 10 minutes to move there, putter around in-between, fidget or do the hokey-pokey. You name it there is power in movement. This day marks my 300th blog post. I wrote about starting a Movement on Moving in the Work Place in the “Monkey Business” series posted November 8, 2010. If you work in a desk job why can’t you unchain yourself occasionally to get your circulation moving?? You might feel more productive upon your return, don’t you think??

This weekend I made a “Dance Song” folder in my i-Tunes before reading that article. I feel I’m ready to crank up the tunes a few times a day to shake my booty in light of this sobering information. Who couldn’t use a little adrenaline rush a few times a day??

So, sitting like many other things in life can be hazardous to your health….rise up and start a movement!!

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Chow Bella! The Mediterranean Diet Synergy

April 17th, 2011 No Comments

I’ve been thinking more about the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet lately. I’ve been doing reading about saturated fats and they might not be as “bad” as we originally thought, hmmmmm. I have never believed that any one food can solve our dietary dilemmas despite how “super” it might be. Whether it’s blueberries, olive oil, pomegranate, acai, salmon, walnuts and more. I do believe in this age-old diet regimen. With the resurrection of Easter, I thought I’d resurrect the wisdom of the Mediterranean Diet.

The most profound fact about this regimen is not about any one part of it, but the synergy between all of the foods within the lifestyle context. When you take a 40 thousand foot view – it accounts for what you eat, how and when, how long and how much you eat and your relationship with food. How’s that for a diet in 3-D??!!

When I think about fab food I’ve eaten from this part of the world, I don’t only recall the food itself but the enriching context of the meals including the connections during the meals:

  • Spaghetti vongole in Venice, Italy
  • Beef Goulash and rye bread in Budapest, Hungary
  • Roasted duck, potatoes and red cabbage in Berlin, Germany
  • Freshly caught trout and potatoes in Tigur Mures, Romania
  • Seafood paella in Barcelona, Spain
  • Cheese fondu with meat and bread in Geneva, Switzerland
  • Sole menuere with rice in Paris, France
  • Gravlax with vegetables and rice in Copenhagen, Denmark

All meals were accompanied with local wine in great company over a prolonged period of time. Often ended with a sweet of some sort. Many meals were routinely consumed after 8 or 9pm, sometimes later. Talk about “breaking all of the conventional diet rules”!! Many of the days were spent walking to and fro seeing sights, meandering through markets then getting enough rest including an afternoon cat-nap siesta if needed.

There was no rushing of meals, no skipping of meals, no gobbling of meals, no drive-throughs with eating on the run of meals, no arguments or stress at meals and no “no-no” foods of any kind at meals. All foods fit. You would eat until you’ve had enough and move on with your day. You see, there are no tricks, no gimmicks, no catches, no special products or potions, no surgeries and no being “on” then “off” a diet. Some days you eat more. Some days you eat less. The whole eating experience fills you up. How profound is that??!!

I will write about aspects of the Mediterranean Diet in the weeks to come.

Until then Ciao & Chow Bella!!

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