Tuesday, April 29, 2008

0 What's Your Favorite Healthy Snack?

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Today, as I was making up my usual grocery shopping list of last-minute items for my main squeeze to pick up at the local supermarket on his way home from work, it occurred to me that I'm often stumped by his usual question, "So, any snacks you want me to pick up from the store?"

For some reason, I can never think of a good answer unless I'm currently craving something & it happens to pop into my head while I'm compiling this "shopping list." If I'm not currently hungry, sometimes I just can't predict what I'll be in the mood to eat in a few hours or days from now. And I don't want to waste food because I'm not hungry for whatever was purchased or likewise, eat it just because it happens to be sitting there in the cupboard or fridge. :) And furthermore, I've found that when I eat things that I really don't want for one reason or another, it usually doesn't diminish the craving for the things that I actually wanted to eat at the time but didn't have it in the house. :)

Now while I can come up with meal ideas at the drop of a hat, I'm often at a loss when it comes to snacks. It's probably because the bar for my "snack expectations" are set a tad too high. :)

A lot of times it's not so much that I don't know what I want, but rather that I'm doing my best to make healthy choices but also still want to feel "satisfied" by something that tastes yummy. And since a snack is bite-sized & momentary (unlike a meal, which typically lasts a whole lot longer!), it has to live up to a tall order in a short time frame. :)



So, if you've got any good ideas for healthy, tasty snacks, I'd really love to hear them. Thanks!

Some brief "snack" criteria (Yes, I'm kinda picky!):
1. The snack should be something tasty, healthy, & relatively low-fat, or if it's higher in fat content, then it should atleast contain mostly "good fats" (like Omega-3s, etc.), which are typically vegetable or nut-based fats (i.e., mono- & polyunsaturated fats).
2. I'm not really into eating meats for snacks, so please don't suggest them. Thanks! I do eat meat on occasion, but it's mostly a lunch or dinner thing. I think I might've once eaten left-over steak for breakfast (several years ago!), but it was most likely because I'd probably gotten up around lunchtime. I wonder if this was a memory from my days at university. :) At any rate, it's not exactly a recent trend.....
3. I like salty, sweet, sour, & savory flavors, (& often like combinations of these multiple taste sensations) but tend to stay away from things that taste out-&-out bitter. In other words, I won't be eating Bitter Melon again anytime soon. But hey, give me credit, I did try it. :)
4. It'd be great if the snack could be easily portable, but it doesn't have to be.
5. I'm a huge fan of crunchy snacks, but again, the snack idea doesn't have to be crunchy. :) Speaking of which, please don't suggest carrot & celery sticks, rice cakes, or air-popped popcorn. Let's be a bit more creative than that, OK?
6. Also, I don't mind cooking or baking, or an elaborate assembly/preparation. What I'm looking for is something that I can preferably make in advance & eat later as a snack. :) Taste & health are of paramount importance.

I know it sounds like I'm stating a lot of preferences here, but sometimes it's easier to think of ideas when the critera isn't so wide-open. It helps to focus the mind on specifics. :)

So, if you've got any great go-to snack ideas that make your tastebuds scream with delight, now those are the kinds of snack suggestions I'd like to hear!

Thanks so much in advance for your suggestions!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

3 Recipe #37: A Very Vibrant Vichyssoise

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This is vichyssoise like you've never had it before! Not only is it more interesting & flavorful than the traditional version, but I've also reworked it so it's also lower in fat. It's so incredibly creamy & delicious that you won't believe that the recipe doesn't contain any cream.

I made it earlier tonight for dinner & it was delicious! Hope you enjoy it too!


A Very Vibrant Vichyssoise

Ingredients:
2 leeks, sliced (crosswise) into 1/4" rounds
1 Tbsp. butter
3 c. water
2 large red potatoes, peeled & cubed
1/2 pint mushrooms, sliced into quarters
2 Tbsp. sherry
1/4 c. lite nonfat creamer (i.e., I use low-fat, plain-flavored "Coffeemate")
1/4 c. low-fat plain soymilk (i.e., I use low-fat, plain-flavored, refrigerated "Silk" soy milk)
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. chopped chives (fresh, if possible)
salt & pepper to taste

Directions:
(1) Toss butter & leeks into a sauce pot & cook gently until they soften, for about a minute or so. Leeks will cook very quickly, so watch them carefully & do not let them brown or burn.
(2) Add water & cubed potatoes & cook for 15 minutes.
(3) Then add mushrooms & sherry & cook for another 15 minutes.
(4) Remove sauce pot from heat & transfer contents to blender. (Don't use a food processor, or mixture will become gummy.)
(5) Add creamer, soy milk, & lemon juice.
(6) Season with salt & pepper.
(7) Blend mixture until smooth.
(8) Pour mixture into soup bowls, & garnish with chives.
(9) Serve & enjoy!

Yield: Makes 2 servings.

Chefs Suggestions: If you'd like to give the soup a bit more "zing," then just add several springs of watercress (about 1-2 c.). A little bit of watercress goes a long way; too much & the soup will taste bitter. So easy does it. ;-)


0 If You Like This Blog, Please Consider Subscribing to the Feed! ;-)

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0 You've Got To Check Out TasteSpotting.com!

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OMG, I just discovered the pantheon of all foodie sites, TasteSpotting.com. Have any of you ever heard of this site before?! It's absolutely amazing. It contains links to a zillion recipe sites -- mostly blogs -- & has the most amazing pictures of food I've seen.

It's more or less a composite recipe site in which you can register (for free) & submit recipes from your blog to share with the foodie community at large. In addition to being a great place to exchange recipes, it's also an excellent place to discover new recipe blogs & of course showcase your own recipe blog.

The pictures alone will make your mouth water. After looking at this site, you'll want to dive into the kitchen & take these recipes for a test drive. So be sure to check it out! You'll be really glad you did!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

3 Why Exercising & Eating Healthy Are Only Part of The Equation

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OK, so you eat healthy foods & exercise regularly. That's great & I applaud you for it.

And you limit the amount of fat, caffeine, alcoholic beverages, & refined sugars in your diet. Again, excellent work. Pat yourself on the back & give yourself a cookie. Er, well, perhaps I should rephrase that. ;-) Well, you know what I mean.....

And now let me ask this, how many of you who eat healthfully & limit your refined sugar intake wonder why you still get cavities? Anyone?

Well, for those of you who want to know the answer to that question, I'm here to clear up that little mystery. ;-) Even if you don't have cavities, you might still want to read this article, to learn ways to stay cavity-free.

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Limiting the amount of sugar in your diet doesn't mean you won't get cavities. (While genetics & other biological issues can certainly be factors in determining one's likelihood of getting cavities, for now let's just focus on factors within our immediate control. ;-)

You might be surprised to know that sugary foods aren't the only source of cavities. All carbohydrates -- and not just sugar -- can contribute to the situation. And that means even foods like milk, pasta, rice, & fruit!



Right about now you might very well be wondering: "So, if even the most basic carbohydrates can cause cavities, what the heck am I supposed to eat that's good for me?" Or, maybe you're thinking: "Why exactly is this so & what can I do about it?!"

Well first, it might help to understand how a cavity is formed: The bacteria in your mouth combines with the carbs you eat to form dental plaque. This substance accumulates on the surfaces of the teeth, between the teeth, & sometimes even on your tongue. Yuck!

But the real culprit is the acid formed by the carb-plaque combo, which attacks your tooth enamel & can cause tooth decay. The acidic plaque eats away at the enamel, dissolving the calcium in the tooth. If enough calcium disappears, the surface breaks & forms a hole. And that's how cavities form.


Of course, if follows that the more often you eat carbs, then the more often this pesky cavity-causing acid's going to hang out on your teeth. So what can do you do about it? Easy. Whenever possible, brush your teeth & floss after meals! ;-) Aside from being a mark of good hygiene, regular brushing & flossing is absolutely essential for cavity prevention. Even if you can't brush or floss, at the very least, it's a good idea to rinse your mouth with water, to dislodge food particles from your teeth.

There are several other things you can do to combat cavities. Aside from suggesting ridiculous ideas like eating less often (Eating several small snacks & meals a day actually helps regular blood sugar & is also a good deterrent to eating imbalances, to avoid overeating or gravitating towards unhealthy foods, etc.) or going on a no-carb diet (Hahahaha! Don't worry, I'm not going to suggest that! We all need to eat some form of carbohydrates for health & nutritional balance; veggies also contain carbs, BTW!), here are some other, more realistic recommendations:

  • Choose snacks that are less likely to get caught in your teeth. ;-) (Low-fat cheese or apple slices with peanut better are some good examples.)
  • At the very least, brush your teeth a minimum of twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss atleast once a day to remove plaque & food particles from teeth & under the gum line.
  • Go the dentist regularly.
  • Eat a balanced diet.

Now that you are armed to the teeth with information (Pun intended! ;-) ) & perhaps even a newfound respect for dental hygiene, it's time to show those nefarious pieces of plaque that you mean business, just like our cavity-fighting hero pictured here on the immediate left. "Yeeee-haw!" ;-) So go get 'em, tiger. It's a show-down at the OK Corral, with you wielding your toothbrush like a six-shooter & your floss like a lasso. ;-)

0 Dr. Frankenstein's in the Kitchen! ;-)

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"It's, it's ALIVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" ;-)

So, I was just wondering: How many of you out there in the blogosphere enjoy concocting new creations in the kitchen? Do you ever create your own original recipes, or mostly just put a new twist on existing ones? Just how experimental ARE you?! ;-)

Friday, April 25, 2008

0 Bloggers, Get Your Blog Listed At The Million Blog List!

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I just wanted to encourage my fellow bloggers to join the Million Blog List Project. (BTW, if you're curious, this blog is #1042 on the list.) Of course, the goal is to reach 1 million blogs, but it's also a directory where you can get more visibility for your blogs. So check it out!



Also, I just wanted to encourage the rest of my blogger pals out there who aren't already connected to me via Facebook or some other social networking communities (you know who you are), to befriend me on these communities, if you haven't already done so. To find me on these social networks, just click on any of the links on the Wink widget at the bottom of the left sidebar of this blog & that'll take you to the corresponding profile page where you can befriend/link to me.

Another great idea for bloggers is to use this blog's Wink bar as a checklist for the social networking communities you'd like to join! ;-) The more places to list your blog(s) the better, right?! ;-) Just thought you might find this tip helpful!

Speaking of which, if you have a particularly good blog directory resource you'd like to share, one which isn't already mentioned here on this blog, you're more than welcome to share it with us here in the comments section of this post. I'm sure that the bloggers who hang out here would certainly be grateful for the tips! Thanks!

Friday, April 18, 2008

0 How to Conquer A Sugar Addiction

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I'm not going to deny it. I love sweets. Most people do.

However, I also realize that if I were to eat a diet high in refined sugars, I wouldn't exactly be doing myself any favors either.

Of course, the trick is to eat it in moderation.

Too much sugar over prolonged periods of time can have deleterious effects upon your health & physiology, as most of you already full-well know. It can wreak havoc with your skin (i.e., prematurely aging it!), teeth, and waistline, etc., to name just a few areas of the body. And of course, there are more serious medical consequences, like diabetes and reactive hypoglycemia. Refined sugar has even been linked to increased risks for various diseases and cancers.

So, it's clear that regulating one's refined sugar intake is a crucially important health matter indeed. Even regulating one's intake of natural sugars is equally important in maintaining health. The point is not to replace a "refined sugar high" with a natural one, but to find balance in your dietary plan. And that's such an essential key to health & well-being. After all, they don't call it a balanced diet for nothing. ;-)

It's not exactly an earth-shattering conclusion to recognize that most health problems, and life problems in general, are caused by imbalance. So, it makes sense that the more balance in your life, the healthier & possibly even happier you will hopefully be!

But I'm not here to scare you witless; I'm here to offer some helpful suggestions & alternatives.

[I loathe fear tactics: Giving people a good scare rarely usually only has a temporary effect upon people's consciences, unless they are facing immediate mortal danger, like a serious health crisis, etc. Rather, my point is this: Why wait until it gets that dire? (Physicians, and people in general, need to put more emphasis on practicing preventative medicine!)]

So, if you know you are eating way too much refined sugar in your diet, it's probably worth reconsidering your eating behaviors & making a concerted effort to limit (note, I didn't say completely eliminate!) the amount of sugar in your diet, so that you can enjoy good health & stay on this earth for as long as possible.

The big problem is that many people find eating refined sugar incredibly addictive. And like a junkie, it takes greater & greater concentrations of the substance to achieve the same effect.

In specific, there's been a lot of recent debate over whether or not high fructose corn syrup (or HFCS as it's mostly commonly called) is really the "crack of all sweetners" out there. It's been linked to increased sugar cravings & also an increase in obesity (as per studies done of female & male subjects in the United States).

But putting all of that aside for a moment, let's just focus upon a common sense point: HFCS is a molecularly-altered, chemical compound not found in nature. And do you really want to put something into your body that we still apparently doesn't know that much about?

Some of you might hedge your bets & take your chances, but I'll stick to eating whole foods as much as humanly possible, thank you very much.

Of course, I'm certainly not immune from the "sugar addiction" phenomenon either, but I've worked out a "deal" with myself so that things don't get out of hand. So to keep the sugar cravings in check, I have a "weekend fun food" guideline, where I allow myself the weekend to indulge in "reasonable amounts" of sugar/sweets. When the weekend ends, so does the bulk of my sugar/sweets-eating. While I'm not always successful in keeping the "deal" -- it honestly depends upon my larger motivations -- it certainly does help immensely to have a food "guideline" for managing the cravings. Note, I didn't say food "rule," which would imply an immutable rigidity. ;-) When I'm not in training, this weekend guideline might also include an occasional alcoholic beverage as well.

Realistically, I know that sometimes it's not always possible to always eat organic, whole foods especially when I'm not the person preparing the food & cooking meals. But I'm still going to try to do my best.

Basically, if I were to have an "eating credo," the tenets would be the along the following lines:
(1) To eat a full & balanced diet of whole organic foods, rich in lean proteins & Omega complex fatty acids, non rBST (i.e., bovine growth hormone) dairy foods, legumes, vegetables, fruits, & whole grains, etc.
(2) To eat consciously, slowly savoring my food -- & to enjoy the experience of eating. This means that when I eat, I am ONLY eating, not simultaneously watching TV or reading.
(3) To eat whole organic foods & to avoid putting chemicals in my body. After all, the body is a temple. ;-)
(4) To eat consciously & free myself from the crazed notion of having to be a "health-food saint" 24/7 & instead enjoy the occasional treat (i.e., french fries, chocolate, etc.). At times, I give myself permission to eat what I want & not just "what I think I should eat." This doesn't mean that I consume unlimited amounts of food, but rather that I've got some established guidelines concerning portion sizes, to help maintain nutritional balance, as well as a healthy weight & body fat percentage.
(5) To create meals & original recipes that follow the above guidelines, to serve as a complement to my nutritional/health goals. ;-)

So, in keeping with tenet #5, you'll notice that I frequently feature recipes on this blog that use healthy alternatives to refined sugar. Yes, you might occasionally still see a recipe here or there that happens to contain refined sugar -- usually in limited amounts, but whenever & wherever possible, I will also include suggestions for sugar substitutes & ingredients which are "natural sweeteners" like honey, stevia, etc.

You'd be surprised how yummy recipes can taste with other naturally sweet ingredients. If you tasted these recipes without knowing the ingredients beforehand, you might not even notice the difference! You'll find it hard to believe that they contain not a smidgen of refined sugar. Yes, my new catch phrase for this post is "I can't believe it's not sugar!" ;-)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

0 Have Some Cookies, And Munch On The Label While You're At It!

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Now check this out! Now you can read the nutritional content of your cookie on the actual cookie. Yes, you heard me correctly. And no, I'm not making this up.

Design company Andrew Andrew is selling these 4" x 5" cookies at a cost of $25 per 2 cookies. Whoah. I wonder how many they've sold (especially at that price)?

It could be a good idea from the consumers' perspective. After all a good customer is an informed customer, etc., etc.

Who knows? Maybe people will eat a cookie like this. That is, if reading the contents doesn't stop you dead in your tracks first. But maybe people won't stop long enough to read the label because they're too busy eating it! ;-)

My question is this: Will printing the nutritional information directly on the cookie deter people from actually eating the cookie? There are 13 grams of fat in a single cookie. Hmmm, that'd make me think twice before eating it. ;-)

Also, I don't know about the overall appeal of this cookie: Aside from turned off after seeing how many fat calories I'd potentially be pasting onto my hips, these cookies frankly aren't that aesthetically pleasing to the eye. That's part of the delight of eating desserts, after all. (And of course, if you're going to blow the calories, it'd better taste good too!) A big rectangular cookie with a giant label on it? Sounds more like a sales gimmick that Andy Warhol would have a field day recreating as a tongue-in-cheek joke (i.e., he'd probably do a silk-screen mosaic of the cookies in 10 different colors!), rather than a seriously viable marketing concept.

Just what we've always wanted, edible labels, right?! LOL. What will they possibly think of next?!

But what I want to know is this: Do they factor in the label when they're counting calories & other such nutritional data? ;-)

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(Apparently, this isn't exactly breaking news, but since it's the first I've heard of it, it's certainly news to me! After all, it's not exactly the stuff of headlining, front pages news. ;-) But one can never tell with so many info-tainment news programs these days!)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

0 Recipe #36: North Indian-Style Omelette -- Eggs For The Adventurous!

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Don't know about you, but every once in a while, I get tired of eating the same kind of omelettes with the same old ingredients. Most omelette recipes you'll see in typical American cookbooks or online recipe archives will have ingredients like tomatoes, cheese, & vegetables (i.e., usually onions, spinach, mushrooms, peppers, and the like). The origins of these recipes are typically American (particularly Continental and Southwestern American), Spanish, English, and French. There's nothing wrong with that, but sometimes it just gets a little.... predictable. So every once and a while, I like to shake it up and toss in something unusual. ;-)

I realize that not all of you will fancy the idea of the below recipe, as it's undoubtedly different from what many of you might be accustomed to eating, but I ask that you keep an open mind and give the concept a chance before you dismiss it. You never know, you might discover, that by trying this recipe, that you've found a new favorite dish to make.

It's been taste-tested in my household (I made it last night for dinner), and it came back with a green light. And those of you who regularly follow this blog, already know that my household has some fairly discerning "customers" to please. ;-)

So, if you are an omelette lover, enjoy Indian dishes & spices, have an adventurous palate & are up for something a little bit out of the ordinary, there's a very good chance you'll like this recipe. The great thing about this recipe is also super-fast & easy, & takes less than 5-10 minutes to make. And with that introduction, I give you the recipe for an "North Indian-Style Omelette"!


North Indian-Style Omelette

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp. butter
3 eggs
1 dried red chili, crushed
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 Tbsp. raw almond slivers
1 tsp. garam masala (or if you don't have this, you can use red curry powder instead -- i.e., "McCormick's Gourmet Collection Blends" makes a decent version)
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh cilantro
salt & pepper, to taste

Directions:
1. Crack eggs into a bowl, & beat together.
2. Add all remaining ingredients -- save the butter -- to the bowl & mix together thoroughly.
3. Heat nonstick skillet (or omelette pan) to medium-high heat & add butter.
4. After butter melts, pour egg mixture into the pan. After omelet starts to solidify, fold over & cook until golden brown. Serve & enjoy!

Yield: Makes a single serving. (If needed, double, triple, or quadruple recipe, etc.)

Chef's Notes:
Tips for the health-conscious: You can also add a bit of Lite non-dairy creamer to add richness. It's a great way to add a fuller flavor without the fat calories. Also, if you'd like to reduce fat calories, you can make an egg-white omelette or leave out the butter. Of course, if you leave out the butter, you'll need to make the omelette in a non-stick pan; Calphalon makes great non-stick pans that aren't made with Teflon. As many of you already know, Teflon pans contain a chemical known as perfluorooctanoic acid (or PFOA), which is potentially unhealthy, especially since it's been known to peel off & bond to food. Now while the verdict's still out on PFOA's long-term effects, it's probably best not to chance it. Think about it. Would you want a substance like that in your stomach? I certainly wouldn't. In general, I try to steer away from ingesting chemical compounds whenever I can help it, whether they be found in food, the air, or household objects. ;-) )

On that note, I don't use non-stick aerosol sprays like PAM & the like, for the very same reason.

IMPORTANT: If you aren't used to cooking with hot chilis or high-heat spice blends, I'd particularly recommend using a mild garam masala the first time you make this dish, especially since this recipe also calls for a red chili, which already gives the dish plenty of heat. You can always add more spice to the dish after you are done cooking it, by sprinkling some red pepper flakes on top. Or, alternatively, if you want to use a hotter garam masala, there's always a next time around. ;-)

After all, you want to make sure that the dish is still edible! That reminds me of the first time I ever cooked with chilies: Several years ago, (it's probably been more than 10 years at this point!), I made an atomically hot daal dish that practically took my fiancé's head off. I'll give him credit: He's stuck by me & by my food, through thick & thin. Even after surviving some of my worst culinary catastrophes. ;-)

I'm telling you this story not to scare you (LOL!), but rather to humble myself before you & tell you that even the most experienced & creative chefs have a few dynamic disasters every now & then. I firmly believe that, you've got to live on the edge & push the boundaries every now & then, especially if you want to be exceptionally creative in the kitchen. Even if you've been cooking for 40 years, you still have to experiment if you want to discover new & exciting combinations. For as much as you do know, it's what you don't know or haven't yet discovered that'll keep the prospect of cooking fresh & exciting.

So, if you're gonna go for it in the kitchen, do it with a grand relish. Even if that means you'll clock up some potentially embarrassing, marvelously heinous creations every now & then. When you fail, fail fantastically & do it without remorse or excessive apology. It's simply a way to learn what works & what doesn't. It's also the pathway to achieving extraordinary things in the kitchen, & in life in general.

And in this life, it's rare to have grand successes without experiencing grand "failures" along the way. Otherwise, if everything was all safe & perfect all the time, how would you truly learn? What would be the point of living without the unexpected & a little adventure? So live a little.

0 Cowgirl, You Got Something "Yummy!" ;-)

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I happened to be poking around the web researching some things for my JCrewaholics blog, when I came upon this really cute & clever blog written by a woman named Tara called "Cowgirl, You Got Something." Tara writes in a very entertaining manner, & her blog is sprinkled with amusing anecdotes, recipes, & fashion.

Of course, the primary reason why I'm mentioning her blog here is, of course, because of the recipes. She recently posted a fantastic-looking recipe entitled Moroccan Chickpea Salad. YUM!

I happened on her blog quite randomly, after doing a search for pictures of JCrew items from the previous season (i.e., Winter 2007). I first saw the above recipe on her main page (as it was a fairly recent post), but then found more after browsing her archives.

Her recipes look great & I was so delighted to find more! Another delicious-looking recipe of hers that I'd like to reference here in this post is a recipe for (Slow-Cooked) Thai Chicken. Not sure if it's an original of hers or not, but nonetheless, it looks absolutely DELICIOUS!

I hope she posts more!

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