Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Make your lunches healthier -- not to mention satisfying, and thrifty too!

It's not that hard to accomplish: lunches that will fill your tummy (and help avoid vending machine lapses later in the afternoon) but also help you keep the pounds off. And lunch should be inexpensive enough not to break your budget, whether you're bringing your own or eating out.
All you need to do is remember to include these three ingredients!
1. Vegetables. Be sure to find ways to load up with veggies, whether it's a baggie full of cut-up raw ones, piles of lettuce or (better) raw spinach and tomatoes on a sandwich, or a veggie-rich salad with some protein added. Which brings us to....
2. Lean protein. This is the stuff that will keep you satisfied for hours and less likely to grab a candy bar or chips. Chicken, turkey breast, tuna, tofu, peanut butter are all possible choices here.
3. Whole grains. The easiest choice is whole grain (such as whole wheat) bread, which also can help you stay full. If you're avoiding bread, try salads made with quinoa or whole wheat couscous, or perhaps cereals such as oatmeal. Brown rice is another good option, as well.

Build most of your lunches around these foods, and you can feel good about your midday meals.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Loving springtime -- and this salad

No spring ingredient rings my bells more than asparagus -- OK, maybe strawberries -- and it won't be long before the local crop starts showing up in our farm markets.
Get ready to enjoy the new crop by stocking your pantry and fridge with the ingredients for this lovely, healthy and delicious salad. You can cut the recipe in half if necessary, but it also keeps well and is great as a leftover.

Recipe: Shaved Asparagus and White Bean Salad
Serves 6-8

  • 2 bunches fresh asparagus (about 1 lb each)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

  • 3 1/2 cups cooked cannellini beans or 2 15-oz BPA-free cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed well

  • 2 tbsp fresh orange juice

  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

  • 1 tbsp champagne vinegar

  • 1/2 cup chopped unsalted walnuts (2 oz), lightly toasted

  • 1/2 cup shaved pecorino romano or parmesan cheese (2 oz)

  • 1/4 cup slivered basil

  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

  • Instructions:
    1. Hold each spear of asparagus by its thick stem and lay it down on a cutting board. Using a vegetable peeler, shave asparagus into long ribbons. Place ribbons in a large bowl and discard remaining stems. (You should be left with about 1 lb shaved asparagus.) Drizzle oil over asparagus and toss to coat.
    2. Add onion, beans, orange and lemon juices, and vinegar. Toss to combine.
    3. Fold in walnuts, cheese and basil. Season with salt and pepper. This salad can be served immediately or prepared in advance; chill, covered, for 4 to 6 hours in refrigerator.
    Source: Clean Eating magazine

    Wednesday, March 21, 2012

    "Mad Man" Don Draper's Go-to Cocktail

    Like a lot of my friends, I've gotten pretty fond of mixed drinks over the past few years -- both the latest creations of talented "mixologists" and classic libations such as Manhattans and Bloody Marys.
    One cocktail that's gotten a whole lot of attention in recent months is the Old Fashioned, thanks probably in no small part because it's the drink of choice for the suave but caddish lead character of the TV series, "Mad Men."
    In the New York Times' Dining section 3/21/12, there's a feature about the current popularity of this drink, the variations (some over the top and frowned upon by serious bartenders) on it, and some ideas about how to make a good one. Click here to read the piece.
    I find it a difficult drink to make. A few months ago, I started searching online for some info about the Old Fashioned and how it different from a Manhattan. It was hard to find anything definitive, and the Times article helps to explain why that is. The Times does not include a recipe, in fact.
    It does link to a site that has a nice, step-by-step instruction about how to make an authentic (or so the site claims) version. Click here to check that out. Pretty simple: bourbon or rye, sugar and bitters -- with or without ice, and add a little water if the drink seems too strong.

    Monday, March 19, 2012

    As meaty as meat -- ?

    Depending on how you prepare tofu, its texture and taste can be quite meaty.
    My friend, Mary Ann Barnes, is a whiz with "meatless meat," and this is one of her many tasty dishes using firm tofu.

    Recipe: Marinated Tofu with Crispy Parmesan

    Serves 4

    1 package (14 ounces) firm tofu, drained, pressed between paper towels to remove excess water, and sliced into 8 slices
    ¼ cup lite soy sauce
    ¼ teaspoon minced fresh ginger
    1 clove fresh garlic, minced
    1/3 cup shredded Parmesan, divided

    Arrange tofu slices on a rimmed baking sheet.  Combine soy sauce, garlic and ginger in a small bowl.  Pour soy mixture over tofu, allowing it to soak in.  Sprinkle half of the Parmesan over tofu. 

    Broil on high until tofu is browned and cheese is slightly hardened.  Remove from oven and turn tofu slices over.  Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan.  Broil until browned. 

    Serve on sandwiches, in salads, or as a garnishment for soup.

    (In this photo, the tofu was served on a bed of red leaf lettuce, with dried cherries and miso dressing.)

    Friday, March 16, 2012

    Lose winter weight with these in-season spring foods

    Although it was a wonderfully mild winter for most of the U.S., the darker, colder months tend to be times when we pack on a few pounds.
    Here are four foods that have their peak season in spring, and all have properties than can help you drop some of those extra layers of you.
    You can find all of these foods all year long, but look for locally grown or farmed varieties over the next couple of months. These foods will be tastier, fresher and retain more of their nutrients than those you find in the supermarket.
    Click HERE to read an Eating Well article about the health benefits of:




    Sunday, March 11, 2012

    Sad time in my life

    My dear mother, who turned 91 last month, is on her deathbed after a stroke a week ago. She is  back at the nursing home where she's lived for the past couple of years, surrounded by a loving staff and assisted by Hospice care. She will die a natural death, although nobody can say how long before she goes. The Hospice nurse told me it averages 2-3 weeks, but that is just a guess.
    She lived a long and good life and was here with me (moved up from North Carolina after she was widowed) since the summer of 2008.
    But even so, my grief is profound and it is so, so hard to let her go.
    I probably don't have many readers of this minor little blog effort, but for those who are with me, here is a photo of my beautiful mother. Pray for angels to take her to heaven, and for the comfort of those she leaves behind.
    Thank you.
    The second photo is the two of us, just a week before she was stricken, when we had a lovely time together.
    Her name is Wilma Mason, nee Brown.
    Pama and Wilma

    Thursday, March 8, 2012

    Can you be "fat but fit" -- and healthy?

    Check out this article summarizing research about whether and how exercise can have significant health benefits even for people who maintain too much weight.
    It reports a rigorous, longer term study indicating that while being overweight has (as we know) many negative ramifications on the length and quality of life, exercise can mitigate those effects.

    Monday, March 5, 2012

    Wine-lovers haven

    It had been a couple of years since the Mainstrasse (Covington KY) restaurant, Bouquet, made it into my dining rotation. Last weekend, two of my friends and I had a delicious dinner and some wonderful wine there. All three of us enjoyed our entrees (photos here), cocktails, and a bottle of marvelous zinfandel.
    We each started with a salad, then our entrees were (top to bottom) the evening's special fish (paddlefish) on top of a hearty bed of barley studded with chanterelle mushrooms and leeks (two of my fave ingredients); sea scallops; and rack of lamb.
    The only false note was dessert -- we split a warm brownie almost ruined by off-tasting spearmint ice cream. But when we complained, the waiter brought us a big dish of his favorite ice cream flavor, chocolate cinnamon, which made up for it.
    Of course, meals like these don't help with losing those couple of pound (see previous posting)....
    Paddlefish special

    Sea scallops

    Friday, March 2, 2012

    Gaining weight (oops) -- what to do?

    Doggone it -- a couple of pounds have crept up on me. When I hit a certain number on the scale, it's time to get things under better control. Otherwise, 2-3 pounds becomes 5 pounds or more, and that much weight is a lot harder to lose, at least for anyone over 40.
    What strategy works best for battling a slight weight gain?
    Increasing my exercise significantly is not an option -- I'm already close to maxed out with daily cardio and 3x week concentrated strength work. Besides, most recent research verifies that exercise isn't what makes people drop weight, although it's necessary for keeping the pounds off once you have lost them. (And exercise has so many other health benefits that it's a no-brainer to do it as much as possible for the rest of your life!)
    So my strategy is all about calories in, and the first thing that has to go is alcohol. I love wine and cocktails, and giving them up temporarily is no easy thing, but it's an easier sacrifice for me than near-starvation would be.
    Otherwise, I try to eliminate foods that I know are empty calories (most sweets) and/or calorie-dense foods that aren't filling or satisfying but just taste good. (I don't have to list those, do I?)
    As everyone who struggles with weight control knows, it's so easy to gain and so hard to lose. Wow, those few pounds came on quickly but (also wow) they will not come off anything like as fast.