Sunday, November 4, 2012

Yum Yum Veggie Sandwich

It's been a while bloggies!

New York City is slowly recovering from Sandy and I thought I'd post my lunch from today just to have some sort of return to normalcy.

Italian Bread (or any loaf that you enjoy - French, wheat, etc.)
Olive Oil (I use extra virgin)
2 Cloves of Garlic
Handful of Spinach
2 oz. Mushrooms
1 Tomato
Herbs de Provence

As I don't have a toaster oven, I had to use my oven's broil feature. I set that to "lo" as I prepped the rest.

It's important to prep everything before putting the sandwich together so the bread doesn't get soggy. Chop the garlic and slice the mushrooms and tomato. Cut bread into a 6" slice and cut it in half. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and place the bread on top. Drizzle olive oil onto the bread. Be careful with this step! You don't want to put too much on or the bread will be soggy and the oil will spill out while you're eating. Immediately top the bread with garlic, herbs de provence, spinach, sliced mushrooms and tomatoes.

Pop into the oven for 3 minutes. The bread should be crisp, but not burnt.

Serve open face or as a sandwich. (I ate it open face, but folded each section like a pizza to stop the toppings from falling off.)

Enjoy! I did. :)

Feel free to add any other veggies that you want. Peppers, onion, olives -- whatever you like!

I bought everything for $13.77 and it should make about three sandwiches. That comes out to $4.59/meal.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

"Organic, Schmorganic"

Last Monday the Times posted an article about the findings of a new meta-analysis comparing 237 different studies of organic and conventional foods. The analysis found that there is no significant nutritional variance between the two groups. Basically, a tomato is a tomato no matter how you grow it.  The article goes on to say that there are some nutritional benefits -- organic milk contains more Omega-3s, for example. Unfortunately, it seems, people stopped reading at the headline.

Among them is the Times' own Roger Cohen, a British-born journalist whose specialty is economics and international politics. I mention his background to emphasize the fact that his opinion on questions of nutrition is as valid as the homeless man I saw urinate on a croissant two years ago. Yet the Times saw fit to publish his opinion for millions to read: "organic, schmorganic."

His arguments are fraught with inaccuracies so laughable that one has to wonder if he actually read any of the information available, even an article written by his own peer. For one, he states:

"To feed a planet of 9 billion people, we are going to need high yields and not low yields; we are going to need genetically modified crops; we are going to need pesticides and fertilizers and other elements of the industrialized food processes that have led mankind to be better fed and live longer than at any time in history."

Where to start? Yes, we would need higher yields to feed a global population of 9 billion. That's why we need more organic farms than industrial. In a 2011 speech delivered by food activist and farmer HRH The Prince of Wales, Prince Charles states, "Yield increases for staple food crops are declining. They have dropped from 3% in the 1960s to 1% today." One percent, mind you, is less than the annual increase in population. What we're doing right now with industrial farms is not going to sustain us in the long run. For shame, Mr. Cohen, contradicting your own prince.

Then there's the oversight of stating that mankind is "better fed and [will] live longer". Twenty percent of the global adult population is obese. Fourteen percent is starving. Obesity is the fifth leading cause of death in the world and almost 5% of the entire world has diabetes. Bringing these numbers home, 64% of adults in the US are obese, but the incidence of diabetes in the UK is increasing at a faster rate than in the US. Your generation will live longer, Mr. Cohen. Mine will not.

Speaking of elitist, marginalizing a movement of people concerned with eating better as being "pseudoscientific" or indulgent seems myopic given the state of our waistlines. And if you think that wanting to limit the amount of pesticides pumped into your body is romantic then I feel sorry for your wife.

The fact is, if you had read the Times article written by Kenneth Chang-- or even Stanford's interview with Dena Bervata (the senior author of the meta-analysis) -- you'd know that there are various reasons people pick organic. Not merely for nutritional value, but for a reduction of chemical intake (which the study corroborates), better treatment of animals, as well as environmental factors. Given the choice between higher yields and environmental benefits or underproduction paired with the depletion of our environment, I can't see someone struggling with this question.

You do make one valid point, though your citation of Whole Foods as a go-to for organic foods is the equivalent of someone shopping for a cheap Mother's Day present at Cartier: organic food tends to be more expensive than its conventionally grown counterpart. But, as in my example of Cartier, there are cheaper places to shop: a farmer's market, a CSA, or your local food store. Buying fruits and vegetables in season is paramount in the search for a deal and any broke Organic knows that conventionally grown is okay as long as it's not part of the Dirty Dozen.

Behold the vanity of man, who holds an apple, grown by Nature, and says, "I can make this better."

Sources: World Health Organization

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Exercise Bitchslap

I've been bad.

My butt has been on the couch using a side project as an excuse to not go for my daily run. Too busy is not a very good excuse, but it's so easy to trick yourself, so I did. And I'm totally paying for it.

I decided I needed to reprimand myself for slacking. That meant waking up at 7AM and heading to Bikram (hot) yoga. I do yoga just about everyday just to stretch, but I haven't done hot yoga in almost two years. I totally paid for that too. About 30 minutes into the 90 minute class I thought I was going to be sick. I was overheated and I knew if I drank water it would "come back to haunt me". At one point I almost ran from the room, but my teacher told me to wait. I spent 20 minutes trying to not be sick. Then  my inner drill sergeant shouted: "Stop being such a lazy [expletive] and start working you cry-baby!" I finished out the remaining half hour-ish doing every move and actually started feeling better toward the end. Though savasana (the pose where you just lay down) was the worst part. Just sitting in the heat was awful.

I've never been so happy to walk out into 80 degree weather. All I could think was "Ah, cool air."

On a side note: as a not-morning person, I didn't feel as good after my workout as I would have if it was in the afternoon. I'm glad I did it though, since I do have housework to do.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

And Then It Hit Me...

Yesterday I was talking with a friend who has two young children about the state of nutrition in America. I told him that this generation is in danger of having a shorter life expectancy due to poor nutrition, childhood obesity, the increased rate of diabetes, and other health problems that arise as a result of poor eating and inactivity. "Well, I don't care what happens to other kids," he said, "but my kids are eating well, so they'll live good and long."

And then it hit me...

I've known him and his kids for years. I see them all the time. We have lunches and dinners together. I've never once seen those kids eat something green (besides cupcake frosting). I've never seen them eat any fruit. Not one vegetable. In fact the only thing I've ever seen the kids eat are hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, french fries, and mac and cheese. No, not homemade macaroni with cheese on it. That chemically enriched stuff that has neon yellow cheese. I've never seen them drink water. Only soda. When they go over someone else's house, they bring food for the kids because they only eat junk. Just junk.

How can he say his kids are eating well? There's nothing balanced about what they're eating. It's all just garbage. And the worst part is that he doesn't see that it's garbage. He sees it as good food. "At least he's eating" my friend said to me once, when his oldest was much younger.

Eating's good. Eating right is better.

The only reason I can pinpoint for why he thinks his children are in good health is because they're not putting on weight. They're really active kids and they don't eat very much, but what they do eat is bad for them. This behavior is definitely going to catch up with them and it's going to be at the child's expense.

So how do we break down the myth that skinny = healthy?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


I've been reading Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World by Michael Lewis during my "stay-cation". This book details the events leading up to the global financial crisis through interviews of experts in Iceland, Ireland, Greece, Germany, and the USA. In other words, this book is as far away from nutrition as you can possibly get.


In the chapter on the US, Michael Lewis interviews Dr. Peter Whybrow, a British neuroscientists at UCLA. Whybrow claims that the reasons behind our collective financial problems are the same as the reasons for the obesity epidemic. Evolutionarily, he postulates, we were not prepared to be American.

"The human brain evolved over hundres of thousands of years in an environment defined by scarcity.  It was not designed, at least originally, for an environment  of extreme abundance... '...our passions are still driven by the lizard core. We are set up to acquire as much as we can of things we perceive as scarce, particularly sex, safety, and food.' " (Page 203-204)

This same idea was brought up in the posts about HBO's show "The Weight of the Nation" where they explain the survival aspects of overeating and eating badly. Eating fat means storing fat, means storing energy. Our survival depended on having fat available to us. Of course, we've taken things to the extreme with ice cream sundaes equalling more than one's recommended daily caloric intake.


That's our national driver. I know I'm guilty of the same wants. Here I am, typing on a perfectly functional computer, and all I can think about is the newest version.

New. New. New.
More. More. More.

I can spend my time scrounging and wishing and hoping or I can be content. Content with my apartment that honestly doesn't have space to fit anything else. Content with my wardrobe, which has recently had the hole-y vestments purged. Content that I can sit here and preach about nutrition while I munch on a bunch of M&Ms. Content that I'm not starving. I have clean water. I have a home. I have a job. I have family and friends. My body will not be sold to traffickers. I can choose who I want to marry. I will not be imprisoned for having a dissenting opinion.

That's what America was supposed to be: freedom. Not this slavery to excess.

Monday, July 30, 2012


Okay, I'll admit I've said I'm changing a lot on this blog and really haven't followed through.  I'm still pretty lazy and have a Diet Coke addiction that I can't kick for the life of me.  It's my crutch!*

Regardless, I have made some changes for the better.  For one, I have cut my food budget in half!  I make smarter decisions at the store, only buy what I know I'm going to want and not what I think I'll want, and the results are definitely welcome to my wallet.  I've also begun working around my morning terribleness.  Lunch made it to work with me!  And I didn't eat it all at 10AM only to starve for the rest of the day.

Instead of the sandwich and one snack that I had been bringing (or forgetting as was usually the case) I brought snacks that I knew I'd want to eat, that would give me the protein and carbs to power through my day, and enough of them so that I didn't feel like I was starving.  I replenished my snack drawer at work with oatmeal and granola bars so if I do get hungry, I'm not out of luck.  Interestingly,  having that much food around actually made me eat less!  It wasn't a question of survival, but of what I actually wanted.

I also stopped yelling at myself.  You would be surprised at how low my fat intake has been lately.  I've been totally depriving myself of yummy things because they have ::gasp:: fat!  That mentality only makes me want more and only makes me binge more on them when I do give in (which was more frequent than is probably acceptable).  If they're around me, I don't need them.  I took away the taboo and now I'm just happy with my choices.

Also an important lesson learned this week was multitasking.  For instance, I'm writing this post as dinner is cooking in the oven.  My job (and mentality) force me to focus so hard on one thing at a time that I honestly forget I can do two.  No wonder there was no time in the day for me.  If you have four tasks to complete in one hour that each take thirty minutes to finish, you won't succeed unless you find a way to do at least two tasks at a time.   Right now I'm writing and cooking.  When I finish eating and reading, I'll go for a run and plan out my next story or lesson.  If you bury your head in one thing, you miss everything going on around you, silly ostrich.

Enough of the preaching.  In upcoming news, next week I'll explore bagels!  I realized I live in New York and haven't talked about bagels at all.  And they're probably the best thing that ever happened to carbs after the chocolate chip cookie.

Spoiler alert: there will be a pizza bagel day.

*I have significantly cut down my intake of the soda.  Just not cut it out entirely yet.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tissue? I Don't Even Know You!

Since I moved into my apartment, I've been buying Puffs plus lotion cubes.  They're great tissues and the boxes are adorable.  The sale price is usually 98 cents and one box will last me a while (unless it's the winter). Today while wandering through Rite Aid, I saw Kleenex tissues (with lotion) on sale for 5/$5.  More than I'd spend on the Puffs, but then I looked at the contents.  70 3-ply tissues for $1.  I looked at the Puffs that I usually buy.  56 2-ply tissues for 98 cents.  The Kleenex offers 20% more tissues with a thicker ply for 2 cents more.  That means the Kleenex are about 1.4 cents a tissue and Puffs are 1.8 cents per tissue.

On an aesthetic note, the Puffs box is much cuter than the Kleenex, but it's just not worth the added expense.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

My Two Cents

When I first thought about starting this blog, my intention was for it to be a supplement to a book I wanted to write.  "My 'Growing Up' book," I called it.  See, I had entered into the adult world (not the porn industry, in case you're wondering) a bit too naive.  I went from working a full-time job, living with my parents, and not having many bills to contend with to living on my own. 

I wouldn't change 99% of the decisions I made.  There were just some things that I wish I had known prior to my grand exodus from the island (which I still technically live on).  I thought that my tough lessons would benefit other people, so they wouldn't have to make the same mistakes, but I've sort of given up on the concept of a "growing up" book.  Too many people met me with too many confused stares.  I still want the message out there though.  So for any of you poor schlubs who actually read what I write, here are my two cents on my two cents.

1. Budgeting is the devil. 
Before I moved out, I worked out the math.  I made a list of every bill I would have: rent, food, phone, cable & internet, gas, electric, and student loan.  I made sure that this list, subtracted from my monthly earnings, still produced a positive number.  Savings, I thought naively. 

Before I begin on what was wrong with this list, I'd like to just note that insurance and transportation are automatically deducted from my paycheck so that never had to be taken into consideration.  Also, water and heat are provided by my landlord.

Now, problem #1 with this budget, as I quickly learned, was that I didn't budget for cleaning supplies.  And I clean my apartment a lot.  Fueled by nightmares about cockroaches, I keep my apartment pretty darn spotless.  (Organization is a totally different beast.)  Dish soap, Brillo pads, Tilex, Pledge, Windex -- I didn't plan for any of that.  I bought a vacuum, but that was pretty much it.  Obviously, you don't have to buy Windex every month, but a minimal allocation to a miscellaneous budget would have been better.  Maybe $5 to replenish cleaning supplies.  Not a huge mistake, but a mistake nonetheless.

Problem #2: I didn't budget for fun.  Here's a little tidbit for you: if you are single, you're going to spend more money than if you are dating someone.  Just a fun little fact for you.  When I moved out, I was dating someone.  We rarely went out, so I thought things would pretty much stay the way they were.  Shortly after moving out, I was single and was now going out and doing things and, unfortunately, spending money I didn't have.  Not a lot, mind you, but still money that I shouldn't have spent.  When making a budget, it is so absolutely important to be honest with yourself.  If you drink 2 beers every night, budget for that.  Don't move out thinking you're suddenly going to be healthy and cut back on drinking.  That's not what we do, so put a little bit away for the rainy, drunken nights to follow.

Problem #3: Things wear out.  Before I moved out, I made sure I had everything: plenty of clothes for work, clothes for hanging around, shoes, things I needed to be a person.  A year later, my entire wardrobe has been worn down to mostly rags.  I've walked holes into my shoes (and pants) and worn a hole into pretty much everything I own.  While this speaks volumes about the quality of products produced in our modern society, I'm still left with the dilemma of what to replace first?  Around the house I don't really care what I wear, but my work wardrobe is unprofessional at best.  But is it more important to wear nicer clothes to work or shoes that don't have holes?  Quelle énigme.  Still trying to figure that one out, but add about $100 to your miscellaneous budget just to be safe.

Problem #4: Sadness.  With such a tight budget, I've gotten very good at saying no to myself.  No, you can't have new shoes.  No, you can't go out tonight.  It's tiring to hear no so much.  When you constantly walk past stores and remind yourself that you can't possibly buy anything or get anything new, it's pretty depressing.  You do need a treat every once in a while.  Not every day or every week -- maybe not even every month-- but once in a while you need to say yes.  Tight budgets don't let you say yes though.  So add $30 to your antidepressant miscellaneous budget.

Problem #5: I need a freaking haircut.  Ugh!

2. Your credit card is not your friend.
Before I got my credit card, I saved money with every paycheck.  Why?  Because I had to have money in the bank to pay for whatever I wanted to buy.  Anything equal to or greater than my weekly check wasn't doable.  With a credit card in my pocket, I suddenly had the freedom to lay out money as I saw fit.  Want new shoes?  Buy them!  Want that new dress?  Buy it!  Want to go to Brazil?  BOOK IT!  My credit card made me a consumer whore.   I loved him and he loved me, but our love was not to be.  (::cringe::)

It seems innocent enough.  You put your groceries on your credit card.  Then your bills all go through (because you thought it was a good idea to put all your utilities on there).  Next, I promise you, something will break.  Either your deadbolt, or your tv, or your leg.  Something always breaks when there's a balance on your credit card.  Next thing you know, you can't pay it off and you're stuck with a balance for months. 

Sometimes you just forget you bought something with your credit card and since it's not directly taking money out of your bank account, you spend the same amount twice.  I've definitely fallen into this trap more times than I care to admit.

My two cents: pay with cash as much as possible.  Hook your bills up to your checking account.  It will force you to be more careful about how much you spend since getting spanked with overdraft charges is worse than late fees nowadays.  Use your credit card only in dire straits or when you already have the money in your other accounts to pay it off immediately. (Y'know, for the points.)

3. Pay your student loans back, then move out.
Smooth move, Ferguson. 

I'll try to mock up a little table to make budgeting easier in a little bit.  Hope this helps someone.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Exercising and I Didn't Even Know It

Well, that's not entirely true.  My muscles were very aware of what I was doing all weekend, but the fun outweighed the pain.

I spent this past weekend in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania.  Every Fourth of July my family heads over for some rest and adventure.  Saturday we went hiking at Bushkill Falls: one of my favorite places in the country!  The trails are great, the views are beautiful, and you don't have to be in tip top shape to do it all, so it's great for a family of mixed adventurers.  Two hours hiking in the 100 degree weather, was pretty difficult, but totally worth it.  I'll have to post up my pictures once they're loaded on  my computer.

On Sunday, my dad, brother, and I went kayaking down the Delaware River.  My dad and I (while riding tandem) actually got stuck about half-way through our ride due to insufficient water levels, but we made it out and back on our way with minimal effort.  We rowed 6 miles in about 2 hours.

Livestrong says: "According to the American Council on Exercise, a 125-lb. person burns 283 calories per hour of kayaking..."  Burning 566 calories doing something I love is okay by me!  That's my big exercise secret.  I don't go to the gym.  I play.  I have fun.  I roller blade with friends, go swimming with my dad, go for walks.  It's not something I have to do.  It's something I want to do and that makes all the difference.

I'm a dancer, a yogi, a swimmer, a kayaker, a hiker, a half-marathon hopeful, and, happily, healthy.  What are you?

Read more:

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tips from the Gastro Gnome: Red, White, and Blueberry Cake

On my trip home to celebrate Independence Day with my family, I had an idea for a patriotic dessert: Red, White, and Blueberry Cake. The idea was to make a layer cake of angel food with a strawberry layer in between, icing on top, and blueberries lining the top like little pearls. Unfortunately, the recipe didn't quite pan out.

There was nothing wrong with the flavors, but the presentation. See, angel food cake is extremely bubbly and rises much more than other cake batters. I thought I had been skimpy enough in filling the tins, but it was still too much. The tins overfilled and the bottom of the top layer was bigger than the top of the bottom layer. Usually an easy problem to fix if you just cut away the excess cake, but I was without my usual tools and my mother's steak knife just wasn't cutting it in the cake-shaping department.

My cake was a (tasty) wash, but would have been fine if I just made a white or vanilla cake. This is what I get for trying to for e my family to make better dessert decisions!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

First Couponing Adventure

This past Sunday I started clipping coupons!  I'm clearly not ready for TLC's Extreme Couponing, but for all my NYC people, I thought I'd share a pretty sweet deal.

In the P&G brand saver, they have a coupon for $1 off two Charmin products.  At Rite Aid, they have a sale going on where one 18 pack of  Charmin Ultra Strong toilet paper is $10.  If you buy 2 at $10, you get a $5 +Up coupon back.  So I grabbed two for $20 and used my $1 off coupon (down to $19), giving me a $5 +Up reward.  I used that +Up reward to buy a bottle of Herbal Essences Shampoo & Conditioner (on sale for 2/$6 - $1 off coupon from P&G brand saver as well) for just a few cents.  Woot Woot!

Retail price on the Charmin packs is about $10.97/pack.  Retail price for the Herbal essences is $3.99/bottle.  Total retail for my purchase was $29.92.  I paid $20.84.  The $9 savings went into my food fund and now I have enough toilet paper to last me a year. 

I wish I had taken a picture of me fumbling down the block with those giant packages in arm.  Such is the single life.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Warm Weather and Cold Treats

These hot temperatures mean enjoying cold treats to cool off, but how many times have you been hit by the dreaded "brain freeze"?  Scientific American explains:
There you have it!  Enjoy (with caution)!

Video found via: Dropping the Science

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Waste Not, Want Not

I've been thinking about my Grandpa a lot lately.  He died May 24th, 2010 and was my very first cooking buddy.  It was the Extreme Couponing that brought on the nostalgia.  Born in 1925, my grandfather soldiered through the Great Depression.  He sold fruits and vegetables on the streets in Brooklyn as a little boy and, needless to say, was the first to tell me I couldn't leave the table until my plate was clean.  He didn't waste anything.  Everything was used until there was nothing left.  That went for clothing, technology, or even sauce on your plate.

Now, as an adult, I look at my life and can't help but think he would be ashamed of me.  I take everything I have for granted. I go grocery shopping and then decide I don't like anything I bought, so I buy more (and waste more).  Reducing what I use is good for me, but doesn't help all the guilt-inducing thoughts: the have-nots that are all too prevalent in our country now.  I'd really like to start a food donation box in my apartment building, but have no idea where to begin.

Any thoughts?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Cookies and Rainbows

Sounds like everything awesome in the world, right?  That's because it is.  Yesterday Oreo posted this picture on their facebook wall:
Nabisco is one of an all too small group of companies showing support for marriage equality.  They're also one of the companies currently under fire for their political stance.  Here I thought that cookies could only inspire anger in dieters and diabetics, but the number of hateful posts that Oreo received yesterday is truly shameful.  I don't want to get preachy on my blog.  That's not my goal.  I was raised a staunch Catholic and every Sunday I remember hearing Jesus' word of love.  And in Catechism class I remember learning not only the ever popular, "Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself" but the seemingly forgotten "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone."

Remember: " others as well as you love yourself."  Spreading hate speaks volumes of your own feelings of inadequacy.  And always "Judge not, lest ye be judged."

Monday, June 25, 2012

Extreme Couponing

I've been watching TLC's show "Extreme Couponing" and I can't help but feel that if the government would just employ these OCD people, we could feed the entire country.  My mind boggles when I see their totals go from $1000+ to under $10.  I have a hard enough time getting my lunch total under $12.  Clearly I need to work on my savings.


I will be fishing through my Sunday paper and trying to figure out a way to save money while simultaneously eating right.  Oy, I might have just bit off more than I can chew.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

File This Under: Health

Ogilvy Thailand created this PSA to make smokers think about their choices.
I love how the tables turn on the smokers as they try to educate the children.  As a little girl, I watched my grandfather die of lung cancer.  I vowed, at three years old, to never smoke -- and I haven't!  It's baffling that people privy to the inevitable painful demise of smokers should purchase their own death.  I've never understood it, so I asked a smoker friend why they started when they knew what it would do.  "Because my friends were doing it," he answered.

Pardon me while I explode.

To relate this to food, it is very important to take social aspects into consideration when pondering health issues.  You cook (if you do cook) what your family made.  You learn your eating habits from them.  Then you go out with friends and choose food that will please your conditioned palate.  Your friend orders a drink, so you order a drink.  Your friend lights up a cigarette, so you light one up or take a drag or simply stand outside and suck up the secondhand smoke.   But this isn't a tirade against smokers.  Diets, for example, work much better when you're not the only one on them.  (Misery loves company.)  The same holds for exercise routines. 

It is much easier to be motivated when you're not alone.  We are such social creatures.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mmm Mmm Monday: Milk Designs!

This is amazingly awesome.  Anke Domaske, a German Fashion Design/Scientist, has created a new natural fiber cloth from milk.  The process involves no pesticides, no chemicals, and takes only an hour to create.  Environmentally friendly AND it's super soft.  Plus it's cheaper to create than silk, though prices are still relatively high ($186-377).

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A litle bit of awesome for your day

I love love love this graphic!  Thank you to the artist (Aaron Kuehn) and School of Fail for hosting it.  I'm going to go study the skeleton.  No bones about it!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Food Where It's Needed

A few years ago I spent a bulk of my free time in Bed Stuy.  While it wasn't the most glamorous of neighborhoods, we made do with what was available.  I remember the first time I ever walked down Myrtle Avenue, I turned to my then-boyfriend and said, "I've never seen so many fried chicken restaurants."  Literally every block had one.  Every restaurant featured fried food.  I don't remember ever seeing a sandwich shop or anything remotely fresh available.  I do seem to remember an incident of the accidental purchase of rotten apples from the one grocery store in the neighborhood.

This is why I was so excited when I came across the Bed Stuy Campaign Against Hunger (BSCAH).  "In 2011 [the] SuperPantry served over 1.2 million meals to the hungry families of New York City. [They] serviced all Boroughs and neighborhoods, and currently over 11,000 unduplicated clients shop at [their] pantry each month, with more people joining [the] pantry every day." 

 Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.
Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

Besides offering food to the hungry, BSCAH also offers educational support, which really makes the difference.  They help members with resume writing, job referrals, computer and interview training, GED preparation, and college advisement. 

BSCAH performs health screenings for high blood pressure, blood sugar, and HIV as those with poor diets who cannot afford to see a doctor are at the highest risk for unchecked obesity, diabetes, and other associated complications.

On top of all this, they have a farm where they produce 2500 lbs.of fresh produce.  They really do it all.

They have entered "Twive and Receive" a fundraising fundraiser!  The top 3 fundraisers get a bonus share of $30,000 on top of the money they raised.  You might have noticed a new button on my sidebar.

I'd like to help BSCAH and I hope you will too!  Click the button on my page or here to donate through the website. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Debate Abounds over Bloomberg Ban

Last week's announcement by Mayor Bloomberg about new soda restrictions in New York City has the entire country aflame.  Having heard nothing but arguments against the proposed policy, I thought I'd take a stab at playing devil's advocate.

First, the government should not get to choose what I put into my body.
Here's where we need to clarify.  The bill put forth by Mayor Bloomberg does not ban soda.  The bill limits the vessel in which soda can be sold by fast food companies, movie theaters, and restaurants.  You can still go to the supermarket and buy 2 liters of Coca Cola.  You can still run to 7-11 and buy a Big Gulp.  You can still buy 2 or more drinks to get as much soda as you want.  Heck, the bill doesn't even cover free refills.  He's not taking away your right to drink as much sugary nonsense as you want.  He's telling the companies that they have to be more responsible about what they sell consumers: just like how food sellers have to provide a list of ingredients, nutrition facts, or even, simply, safe products.

And food sellers feel the threat.  Pepsico does not care about your health problems.  In fact, the more people in the country who have diabetes, the higher their profits (since sugary drinks are the #1 contributor of calories to the American Diet.)  Coca Cola went so far as to run this full pull page advertisement in the New York Times (pictured above) to smear the mayor's efforts.  They don't want you drinking less soda, so they'll frame this as an attack on your personal liberties rather than their business.

Let's pause now for a brief anatomy lesson.  The human adult stomach has a capacity of 32 ounces.  That means if you don't eat anything else, you can fit one large McDonald's soda in your stomach (which will then take 2 hours to leave said organ).  But people don't do that.  The soda accompanies their food and if you're drinking a large beverage, chances are you have a large order of fries sitting next to you.  Never mind the fat, never mind the sodium, the sheer amount of food and drink you are stuffing into your body is more than it can handle, causing the stomach to stretch beyond its capacity.  Stretch your stomach often enough and you will no longer feel that you are overeating.  Your stomach gets used to taking in massive amounts of food and you feel full later and later into a meal, making overeating par for the course and directly contributing to obesity.

Moreover, the decisions you make do not only affect yourself.  For instance, this newest crop of adults is the first generation to grow up "without mothers".  We are the first kids to grow up on Burger King diets because mom and dad both worked and there was no time or energy for anyone to cook.  I was taught how to cook when I was 7, so there was always someone around to make dinner, but I was the only one of my friends with that sort of lifestyle.  Every one else had parents who bought dinner every single night.  We are the first generation who, as a whole, did not grow up eating right, who did not learn how to cook.  Aside from a smattering of people here and there, my Facebook profile is inundated with friends who never cook.  They don't know how and they have no desire to learn.  My mom always said, after cooking a big dinner for the whole family, "Food tastes better when someone else has to make it."

We've created these lives that are unsustainable.  It is just about inconceivable nowadays to have one partner out of work voluntarily.  The days of the stay-at-home mom are over and replaced with a society of people who have to work their fingers to the bone just to get by.  I don't blame them for coming home and wanting someone else to cook.  I feel the same way, but I always (grudgingly) get it done.  Businesses will never self-regulate and people don't make good decisions when they're so exhausted, so the only answer seems to be to force a healthier choice.

How, exactly, will this work?  57% of hamburger business (Burger King, McDonalds, etc.) is conducted at the drive thru.  A whopping 12.4 billion fast food transactions occurred at the drive-thru window in 2011 alone.  With this new policy, that means 12.4 billion meals with a downsized drink.  Assuming people are not interested in buying more cups than they have cup holders, that would be at least a 180 calorie decrease per transaction or 2.232 billion calories cut (that is a very rough estimate though since not all transactions will have had a drink and some will have had multiple drinks while still more will have had diet drinks with no sugar in them).

The scary part is that I'm friends with people, with babies, who don't cook.  What chance does that child have if it's eating garbage every day?

It's a slippery slope to a dictatorship.
In the realm of public health, there has to be restrictions.  In 2002, reforms were put in place that banned smoking in public areas such as restaurants.  Within 9 years, the number of smokers in New York City declined from 22% to 14%, a decrease of 450,000 adults.  People fought that policy.  They used the same argument then as they do with this issue.  And that was even more of an "attack" on personal liberties since it did affect where you could use a product.  Looking back, does anyone miss walking into smoke-filled restaurants, choking on the smell of tar and nicotine?  The US also has one of the highest drinking ages in the entire world.  But that's not the federal government being a nanny.  All 50 states agreed individually to this drinking age because too many young people were dying.  The drinking age was raised in 1984.  The government did not go on a tear, stripping citizens of their rights. That's not what America is about-- and that's not how you get re-elected.  We saw a problem and fixed it as best we could.  That is what this new policy is.

Without government intervention, companies would still be able to sell us mystery meats and contaminated products while us work in unsafe conditions.

I'm not suggesting it is the company's duty to fix the nation's waistline.  Business is business.  You don't want to lose customers or profits.  At the same time, people are not making healthy choices and it's costing the nation $147 billion annually to pay for obesity-related health care issues.  We're already in a multi-trillion dollar debt.  Let's "trim the fat" where we can.  This is a public health crisis and something needs to be done.

Stomach Wiki
The Gazette
Washington Post
Washington Square News

Photo Source:

Monday, June 4, 2012

5th Avneue Festival!

It's summer, which means street festivals in Brooklyn.  Yesterday, I stumbled into the 5th Avenue Festival in Bay Ridge.  Local vendors and store owners came out and displayed their wares.  They were selling everything: jewelry, handbags, clothes, plastic swords -- I even saw a guy taking a nap in a Thor helmet.   Since it's a street festival, it's free to wander around and the prices on everything were so reasonable.  The most expensive vendor I saw was the perfume stand (at $20+).  I picked up a mini poster for $4 and noticed the stand was selling prints I've seen at big chain stores, but for 75% less than the "big names".  I'm down with saving money.

Anyway, I specifically wandered through to check out the food situation.  There were a lot of sausage trucks, fried calamari, and corn on the cob (which was sadly one of the healthiest thing I saw at the festival).  Rocco's Pizzeria was hosting a pizza eating contest, the thought of which makes my lunch want to come back for an encore.

I was intrigued when I saw fruit sitting on this stand.  This is a crepe station and the fruit was for fresh smoothies.  I so wish I hadn't eaten before heading out to do chores.
There were also multiple bands playing on different sections and some stands talking about health.  I saw a chiropractic station, a group raising money for diabetes awareness, and this band that, apparently, had something to do with Pancreatic Cancer.  I didn't hear the introduction, but they did a mean rendition of "Downtown", which made me happy.

My local farmer's market is opening up so I'll be writing about that next week.  What else should I check out in Brooklyn?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Recipe: Ginger Carrot Cookies

I worked off a recipe I found on the Food Network's website and made some substitutions.  1) I got rid of the butter.  I hate baking with butter!  2) Instead of using 1 cup light brown sugar and 1/4 cup molasses, I used 1 cup dark brown sugar.

3/4 cup applesauce
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg
2 cups flour, divided into two parts
2 tsps baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 carrot, shredded

Mix applesauce, sugar, egg, and one cup flour in a medium bowl until creamy.  Add baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and last cup of flour.  Stir in carrot. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and put mixture in refrigerator for 15 minutes.  When the time is up, spoon the batter into little balls on a greased cookie sheet.  (I used a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.) Bake for 10 minutes.

These cookies are light, but air on the dry side, making them great for dipping!  A yummy treat to have with your morning coffee! I might try using only 1 tsp of baking soda.  In this recipe, the baking soda counteracts the acidity of the dark brown sugar, but the down side is that it leavens the cookie.  I was going for a crispier cookie than I got.  Note: you'd have to use the baking soda even if I didn't substitute the molasses for the dark brown sugar.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Food Crutches

I will be posting recipes soon (promise!), but I just wanted to address something that I've been thinking about a lot lately.

I can't remember a time where I haven't been indirectly on a diet thanks to one or more family members trying to lose weight.  Through my years of watching people try and fail at diets, I've learned one thing in particular.  It is so absolutely essential to be honest with yourself.  Food can enhance your mood and it's so easy to keep eating those "good mood foods" and self-medicate, but it comes at a price.  You have to step back and really look at what you're eating.  What is your food crutch?  For me, it's chocolate.

Chocolate has been shown to increase serotonin (or happiness) levels.  When I'm stressed at work and pulling out my hair, you better bet that lunch doesn't feel like a meal until I've had some chocolate.  But I recognize that and have made efforts to reduce my chocolate (and sugar) intake.  I've seen diabetes.  There's no amount of chocolate, however pure or delicious, that's worth the risk.

So what's eating you?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

It's Gettin' Hot In Here!

But please keep your clothes on.  I don't know about the rest of the country, but it's so hot and humid in New York City that just walking one block leaves you dripping in sweat.  So please remember to stay hydrated since we already talked about how important water is for us!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Mmm Mmm Monday: Memorial Day Barbecue

In America, Memorial Day is a time of appreciation for our troops...and hot dogs.  When I think of barbecues, I see sausages sizzling on the grill, burgers blackening (no offense Dad) and toasted buns.  There's marshmallows, beer, and good friends everywhere, but this isn't technically "barbecue".  For that, you have to head down south.  See, what we do with hot dogs and hamburgers on our barbecue is actually grilling: a quick method for cooking meat.  Barbecue, as a verb, refers to a slow method of cooking meat using indirect heat or smoke.

This cooking method is believed to have originated in the Caribbean, entering the English language as barbacoa, which translates to "sacred fire pit":
"Traditional barbacoa involves digging a hole in the ground and placing some meat (usually a whole goat) with a pot underneath, so that the juices can make a hearty broth." -- Wikipedia

Note: if you are the in UK, all of these terms are incorrect since your grilling is our broiling.  More confusion to come!

Further Reading: Barbecue Wiki
Photo Credit: Hedwig Storch

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Oh, Thursday

You've noticed, I'm sure, the lack of recipes posted lately.  It's been nothing but stress by me and by the time I get home all I want to do is crawl in to bed and pretend the day never happened.  ::Big sigh::   I'm determined not to let this rule my life so I'm making a promise that there will be recipes posted next week!  (Just give me this weekend to sulk, k?)

On the bright side, I did spend a bulk of my night tonight learning a programming language.  Science!!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Better Breakfast

This morning I got off the train at Union Square so I could get a nice walk in before work.  I had completely forgotten it was Wednesday, and by extension, market day in the square.  The Greenmarket opens at 8AM, offering a variety of stands selling everything from organic fruits and vegetables to fresh baked breads to yummy preserves.  There's even a wine stand for those interested.  I picked up a nice bunch of strawberries and headed to work, but my mind has been buzzing with the possibility of making a weekly farmer's market run.  It would probably be a better idea to go after work (for refrigeration purposes), but at 8:30AM there were hardly any people shopping so I was able to pick up what I wanted and head out.

The prices are extremely reasonable.  For example, I saw $1.50 for a head of lettuce, and $6 for a carton of strawberries (there's also a 2 for $10 deal).  That's better than the genetically modified junk they sell me at the supermarket.

If you haven't already, please avail yourself of the market.  It's healthier, more environmentally sound, and doesn't cost anymore than you'd normally spend.  How can you beat that?

For more information on the who, what, when, where, why, and how, visit GrowNYC's page.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I'll Googa Your Mooga!

Saturday found me at the Great GoogaMooga Festival in Prospect Park. GoogaMooga is, of course, a nonsense word that I believe was created to mean "stand in a bunch of lines in the blazing sun."  But of course, my etymology is a bit rusty.  The festival is free, though you do need a ticket to enter (and those sold out an hour after they went live).  I was lucky enough to grab two of the last general admission tickets.
My trick was bringing someone along who I enjoy talking to on a normal basis, so standing in line and making conversation was fun.  If I had gone alone I would most certainly have taken a few pictures and high-tailed it out of there.  What's it like?  There are musical performances, occasional workshops and demonstrations, and food stands set up EVERYWHERE.  But every last food stand has a fifteen minute long line.  

The food wasn't as healthy as I would have expected.  Most of it was fried.  I thought there would be more of a veggie/fresh fruit presence than there was.  I did however enjoy everything I had.

My brave friend and I arrived at about 1:15 and were faced with a mob of people, though getting in was a surprisingly uneventful and easy process.  If you recall, it was ridiculously hot on Saturday, so the first stop was Wooly's Ice.
They were serving two flavors: Mango Tango and Strawberry Brownie, so, of  course, we had to get one of each!

Here's a good GoogaMooga tip: if you're sweating buckets and haven't eaten all day, for the love of macaroons, do not let something so sugary be your first bite to eat!  A few bites in, I started feeling woozy and faint.  I ended up eating the fruit and having to forego the vanilla ice and brownie-- and I never give up brownie!

But did I learn my lesson?  No!

Next up was macarons from Mille-Feuille (552 Laguardia Pl, New York, NY).
We had their chocolate, rose, and lemon flavors.  The chocolate pastry had a mousse-like middle and was rich, but not too sweet.  The rose flavor -- well, to be honest the first time I ever ate anything flavored with rose was in Turkey when I tried my first Turkish Delight, so the rose macaron just tasted like Turkish candy (which isn't necessarily a bad thing).  The lemon flavored macaron made my lips pucker.  I must have looked like quite the sucker (Get it?  Get it?)  All three were very tasty, but the truth is they seemed a bit underdone.  I love macarons, and perhaps it was just the batch mine came from, but they did seem a bit mushier than one might expect.
Onwards, through the food orgy, to Dirty Bird To-Go for some protein, finally!  They offered Buttermilk-Dipped Chicken  Fingers and watermelon lemonade.  The buttermilk provided a thicker coating, lending to a less crispy, more solid skin.  Now, I love chicken fingers.  Aside from waffle fries, they are my fried food weakness.  Were these the best chicken fingers I've ever had?  Not particularly, but the portion of food was good and they really hit the spot when I needed to cool it on the sugar.  As for the watermelon lemonade?  It was outstanding.  I'm a sucker for lemonade. (Get it?  Get it? -- Fine, I'll stop with the lemon sucking jokes.)  

Honesty Hour: I have been to multiple anime/video game conventions.  I am familiar with SWAG (Stuff We All Get).  GoogaMooga takes the cake on weirdest SWAG.

All in all, I had a really great time.  It wasn't the craziest festival I've ever been to.  People were generally polite and respectful.  I enjoyed dancing to the Louisiana Jazz Band while waiting for my chicken fingers and munching on macarons in a sea of people, beneath the shade of a tree, in the middle of Prospect Park.  I'd expect nothing more from a Saturday in New York City.

If you're thinking of attending next year's festival here's some tips:
  • SUNSCREEN!  I was wearing SPF 50 and still tanned like crazy. 
  • Bring bottled water.  This saved my life.
  • Buy Googa Moula early.  Googa Moula is how you buy alcohol in the craft beer tent.  They actually ran out of beer in the general beverage station, so the tent was the only area serving beer towards the end of Saturday.  
  • Bring someone you really love with you.  This would make a terrible first date (or second or third).  
  • Be patient.  If you don't dig waiting in line, you'll have a miserable time. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Kick the Can!

We spent last week talking about HBO's series "Weight of the Nation" which really got me thinking about my own consumption and that of those around me.  According to Margo Wootan, sugary drinks our the #1 source of calories in our diet today.

"There is nothing in a soft drink that is good for you.  A Twinkie or a potato chip or a candy bar has at least a little nutrition.  These sugared beverages have none at all." - Kelly Brownell

I had never really thought about the calories I consume in my drinks.  Admittedly, I've been a diet soda drinker since the early '90s so the calories on the bottle always read 0, but what I'm putting into my body is more than just calories.  It's chemicals that I don't need or want.  When I heard the above quote, my first thought was, "I really have to cut this stuff out.  No more soda.  Only water and juice."  Then came the next truth bomb.

"Juice is just like soda...there is no difference.  The juice is nature's way of getting you to eat your fiber." - Robert Lustig

D'uh.  Not that I'm equating fresh orange juice to the chemical-ridden dregs of a cola, but there's no nutritional benefit to either of these drinks.  They're empty calories and sugar spikes.

Lord knows I won't make it through my life with drinking only water.  Whatever would I do on Wino Wednesday? But it is important to be mindful of how many carbohydrates and how many calories you do consume, in whatever form they take.  A dieter from Part 2 of the series compared being on a diet to being on a budget and I think that's a good way to see things.  You want to get the most out of what little you can have, so why splurge on something like a drink when that won't even contribute to your satiety?

I didn't know before writing this post, but there is a cause called "Kick the Can," which focuses on spreading awareness of sugar consumption in soft drinks.  Check them out!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Fake Out Friday: Pi

Instead of being a good little blogger and writing Part Four of my "Skinny on Obesity" series, I decided to watch the movie Pi, which got me thinking about pie.  Then I started thinking about the science of our world and things just got nerdy from there.

What is baking?
Baking is applied mathematics (in the form of ratios) and chemistry (as recipes depend on the chemical properties of their ingredients and how they will interact).  Physics comes in the form of thermodynamics and biology in the nutritive qualities of the food produced.

So not only am I a poor baker, but a hack scientist as well.

Dissatisfied with dissecting only one of my hobbies, I decided to break them all down.  Dancing? Physics and anatomy.  Music?  Physics and mathematics.  Writing?  Well, here I'm stuck.  What is the science of prose?  Is there a mathematical formula to generate great writing?  It has anthropological significance and deals in psychology, but what is writing?  What is the very act of thinking?  Can it be explained?  Calling a writer's work "formulaic" is an insult, so is writing beyond science?

I don't know.  I hope you've noticed philosophy was not among my listed hobbies.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Skinny on Obesity: Part 3

The third installment of "Weight of the Nation" is called "Children in Crisis" and focuses on the problems children have and what is being done to help.

It happened with cigarettes and now it's happening with food.  Food companies are marketing their wares to children and undermining the authority of parents.  The US government has requested that companies end their child-centric advertising for junk foods, but these companies are allowed to self-regulate.  They decide what makes a food bad.  One box has more fiber while another is fortified with vitamin D.  It leads to a lot of confusion for parents and kids alike as to what is actually good for them.

In reaction to this regulatory debacle, the Interagency Working Group (IWG) was set up.  Containing representatives from the Federal Trade Commision (FTC), US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Center for Disease Control (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the IWG proposed that companies who wish to market to children must first lower the sugar and fat content of their products.  This was, of course, shot down.  Nothing has been heard from the IWG since.

In 2010, the Obama administration passed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kid Act.  This set guidelines for federally sponsored meals such as:
  • Doubling the amount of fruit served at breakfast
  • Increasing quantity and diversifying variety of vegetables served
  • Permitting potatoes as a vegetable serving only twice a week
  • Requiring that 50% of grains served be whole wheat; moving to 100% in two years.
  • Reducing sodium by 53% over 10 years
  • Reducing saturated fat content
In 2011, the Act was knocked down.  French fries remain a valid vegetable serving all week long.  The whole grain push has been delayed.  Tomato paste on a pizza counts as a serving of vegetables.

Beyond lunches, physical education is no longer a mandatory subject and, now, only 1 out of 6 schools require PE.  It is recommended that children get 60 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise a day.  If they're not doing it at school and they're sitting in front of the television all night, it's no wonder our national waistline is expanding.

A thorough health education is paramount to our nation's future.  I remember sitting through 8 years of "health class" in which we only covered substance and alcohol abuse with the occasional sex ed hour mixed in.  I could tell you all about how bad cocaine is for you or list a number of STDs that result in rashes, but I was never taught why soda was bad.  How can you make good choices if you're not informed?

So I took to Twitter where HBO was holding a live chat with Dr. Marlene Schwartz, Deputy Director for the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University.  I asked:
Me: How do we get nutrition education in schools?
Dr. Marlene Schwartz: I think that parents should get involved in their local school wellness committees- these are federally mandated commitees for all schools with federal funding for food, and part of their role is to look at nutrition education.  join yours and see what you can do.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wino Wednesday: Kris Pinot Grigio, 2010

Hailing from Venice, I enjoyed this pinot grigio on my couch over a wonderful conversation.  It couldn't have been more perfect.  An innocuous nose with a bold, bright taste that lingers on the tongue with a light tartness.  There was also a fruity hint that I couldn't quite place, which only made me want to drink more, but propriety (and my liver) protested and won.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Skinny on Obesity: Part 2

Part 2 of "Weight of the Nation" is entitled "Choices" and talks about the different courses one might take to lose weight.  They highlight three: diet, exercise, and surgery.

"The diet industry has no reason to solve the problem.  Solving the problem puts them out of business."
- Susan Yager

A number of overweight participants in this documentary list the different diets they have tried.  Not surprisingly, none of them succeeded.  They call it yo-yo dieting.  You lose a few pounds and gain it all back (and then some).  The rigidity of downsizing a diet coupled with plateauing weight losses discourages dieters and contributes to this "yo-yo" effect.  The problem with this is that weight loss requires these plateaus.

Why do we gain weight?
Weight gain is the product of evolution.  Without the ability to store energy in the form of fat, one famine would knock out every human.  But evolution wasn't kind to women.  Men, typically, gain visceral, or belly, fat.  Belly fat provides an easily accessible store of energy that burns quickly.  Aided by estrogen, women gain weight in their chest and thighs to provide energy for breastfeeding and pregnancy, but this fat does not burn as fast.  A woman's body will actually fight weight loss.

With this knowledge of evolution in mind, it's easy to see why weight loss is such a long process.   Unfortunately people become discouraged when they don't see results as fast as they'd like and then simply give up.  It could take a year for your body's metabolism to catch up and acclimate to your new lifestyle.  Don't give up after a month.  You will lose weight.

Stress and Weight Gain
Stress changes the biochemistry of our blood.  When something is getting us worked up, say a deadline for a big report, our brain perceives the stress as a threat.  This triggers the secretion of adrenaline and cortisol.  Cortisol is a steroid hormone, which is responsible for the metabolism of fat, protein, and carbohydrates.  An increase in cortisol tells the brain to look out for more calorie dense foods.  This is why stress eaters reach for ice cream over carrot sticks.  Ice cream has more calories than a carrot (whose caloric content is negligible at best).  It doesn't help that foods high in sugar and fat produce an opioid-like , or pleasurable, sensation.  

The same reaction that causes pleasure from fatty foods can be mimicked by the effects of exercise on the body though.

Physical Activity Guidelines (for adults) are:
  • 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week.  (That's about 22 minutes a day.)
  • Muscle strengthening exercises performed twice a week.
Climbing stairs, walking to the store, playing with your kids-- even sex is exercise.  Find something that you enjoy doing and get out there!

For those who have exhausted their options and continue to be obese and sick, there is bariatric surgery, but it comes at a price.  1 in 300 patients die from the surgery.  There is also the possibility of multiple infections, fistulas, kidney stones, etc.  There is a slew of consequences associated with this surgery.  One must weigh the risks against the reward.  It is by no means the easy way out.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Skinny on Obesity: Part 1

I just finished watching Part 1 of HBO's docu-series "The Weight of the Nation".  Today's episode focused on the consequences of obesity and shared a bevy of startling and humbling facts.

They begin in Louisiana where experts talk about the Bogalusa Heart Study, an ongoing project on children's health that began in the late 1970s.  Blood tests and measurements of each child were recorded, and autopsies performed on children who died of accidental or non-cardiac causes.  They found that 20% of children autopsied already had plaque in their arteries leading doctors to deduce that heart disease begins in childhood.

In the 1970s, 5% of children were overweight.  That number has ballooned to almost 33% now.  In fact, a child born in 2000 or later has a 1 in 3 chance of developing diabetes.  If that child is African American or Latino, that number is 1 in 2.  This rapid increase in childhood obesity rates began in the 1980s, but the documentary fails to mention what happened to prompt this spike.  Change in family dynamics with more mother's going to work?  Prevalence of fast food?  Death of farms?  What happened?  I hope they cover that in a later episode.

Steering away from the macabre, they go on to list the characteristics of Ideal Cardiovascular Health:

  1. Optimal cholesterol
  2. Normal blood pressure
  3. No diabetes
  4. Lean BMI
  5. Non-smoker
  6. Physically active
  7. Healthy diet
According to this documentary, less than 1% of all Americans meet this criteria.  In fact, there is a growing need for liver transplants nowadays.  At one time, hepatitis was the leading cause for a transplant.  Now, a new disease has sprung up and is quickly becoming the #1 liver killer: cryptogenic cirrhosis. Basically, fat cells get stuck between liver cells and harden, stiffening the organ and reducing, if not altogether preventing, functionality.  38% of obese children have this disease.  That's about 1 in 6 kids.

But the liver is a strong organ and within only 48 hours of changing your diet, you can improve your liver/fat content by about 25%.

"It just takes a little bit of weight..."
- Mary Hanley

Diabetes is synonymous with high blood sugar and comes in two forms: Type 1, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, occurs when a person is insulin deficient-- their body doesn't produce enough insulin; Type 2, also known as adult onset, occurs when a person becomes resistant to their own insulin.  This is a serious disease with dire consequences.  I watched my own grandfather weaken from every dialysis appointment.  His sister had several amputations because of her diabetes.  Peripheral neuropathy, kidney failure, sensitivity to infection: this is a disease that will not give up until you do.  And then it's too late.  Once you have diabetes, you have it for life.  You're never cured of it.

Much the same way, obesity leads to cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, gall bladder and liver disease, asthma, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer, blindness, dementia, etc.  The list goes on and on.  It is imperative that we fix our eating habits today, this moment.  The U.S spends $150 billion on obesity-related illnesses.  Half of that is paid with public funds.  Think of the money we could save if we just picked an apple over an apple turnover, a carrot instead of carrot cake.  We've made so many advances in medicine just to eat ourselves into new disease.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Weight of the Nation

Exciting news!  This Monday, May 14th, HBO will begin airing it's newest docu-series "The Weight of the Nation", focusing on the obesity epidemic in America.  I am so excited to start watching.  The Center for Disease Control and the National Institute of Health teamed up to create this documentary and it's sure to be full of information and advice.  Now to find someone with an HBO subscription....

"To win, we have to lose."

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Tips from the Gastro Gnome

So this week I wanted to share two desserts I made this week, but unfortunately neither one of them turned out right.  So instead of scrapping the whole experience, here's what I learned:

Lemon Tarts
1) If the filling has frothed up, scoop off the bubbles.  These will not bake off, but WILL leave a gross white layer on top of your tarts.
2) Lemon filling will take on the color of the crust you pour it into.  Gross.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
1) Forgetting the brown sugar in chocolate chip cookies will result in albino delights.  I didn't personally miss it, but they did look a bit off without it.

Better Understanding.  Better Baking!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wino Wednesday: New Ideas!

I've been pondering this column and thought it might be fun to check out local vineyards and write about them.  The search begins for commutable vineyards from NYC!

In other news, Carlyn of Just Keep Sweating has awarded me the Leibster Award for Up and Coming Blogs.  I am so honored and would like to pass it on to some other outstanding bloggers.

Lillian of Sweets by Sillianah and Ken of Hungry Rabbit organized the amazing Great American Bake Sale on 4/28.  If you could see all the time and energy that was poured into this event, you would understand why these two deserve the award.

I met Emily of (Mainly) Gluten Free at the Great American Bake Sale.  She makes gluten free look so yummy!

Laurel of Laurel on Health Food posts the most beautiful food photos and super easy-to-follow recipes -- and they're all healthy!  If that doesn't deserve an award, I don't know what does.

Elisabeth of Everyday Yummy is a newbie (like me) who weaves a wonderful narrative through her posts that make reading them a true pleasure.  It's more a story than a textbook, which I find really refreshing.

And there you have it.  Those are my Liebster Award Winners!  Congratulations all and be sure to spread the love!

To Award Your Own Liebsters:
1) Link back to the person who gave it to you (to thank them).
2) Post the award to your blog.
3) Give the award to 5 bloggers with under 200 followers whom you appreciate and value.
4) Let your award winners know.

The Liebster is a way of spreading the word about new "Up and Coming" blogs.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

An Honest Review: Kitchenaid Stand Mixer

I came from a strictly no-frills kitchen.  The most state-of-the art appliance my mother owned was a hand mixer from the '70s.  We did everything by hand.  Obviously it was a treat to bake at my grandfather's house where we had a Hamilton Beach stand mixer (from the 90's) and other fun appliances.  After my grandfather died I inherited his mixer, thus becoming the family baker.  Unfortunately, the mixer gave me more problems than it was worth and I went back to doing everything manually.  Anything involving butter was a nightmare.  You'll find I don't cook with it a lot and that comes from not being strong enough to beat it properly. (I have weak wrists, unfortunately.)

Last March I got the Kitchenaid Stand Mixer for my birthday and it has been absolutely wonderful.  One use will make you appreciate the amount of thought, experimentation, and innovation that went into this appliance.   As compared to other mixers I've used, the Kitchenaid brand is more intuitive, better designed, and (frankly) creates a better batter.

So is it worth the money?  Hell yes!  If you can swing the price tag, get it!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mmm Mmm Monday: Mexican Staples

In honor of last Saturday's Cinco de Mayo festivities, I've decided to find out what really is the difference between all these Mexican dishes.  Analyze any menu from Cancun's on 8th Avenue (really great place, FYI) to a chain restaurant like On the Border's and you'll see a number of similar dishes.  I've isolated five of these dishes to find their history and see if what we know as a taco is really a taco.

A burrito, which oddly enough means "little donkey," is also known as taco de harina.  Roughly translated, taco de harina means "flour taco".  In Mexico, this dish is prepared by wrapping meat or refried beans in a wheat flour tortilla, creating a cylindrical treat.

A chimichanga is a wheat flour burrito, filled with rice, refried beans, or various meats that is wrapped into a rectangular package and then deep-fried.

The world enchilada is the Spanish past participle for the verb enchilar, which means "to add chile sauce to."  Thusly, an enchilada is a corn tortilla wrapped around a filling such as rice, beans, or meat and covered in either a tomato or chile sauce.

Fajita refers to the cut of meat this dish was originally made with: skirt steak.  Fajitas are grilled meats (such as beef or chicken) that are served in either corn or flour tortillas and folded in half like a taco.

The word taco literally means "plug" or "block".  The word's definition is bent to mean "light lunch" or "to fill".  Tacos predate the arrival of the Europeans.  In fact, Aztecs were observed by the Spanish to be selling tortillas filled with meat as a sort of "to go" meal.  Pre-Columbian Mexico: the original Taco Bell. Simply put, tacos are spiced meats in a corn tortilla, which is then folded in half.  Note: hard shell tacos are an American invention.

It should be observed that the ingredients to these dishes are all similar and merely the techniques employed and presentation are different.  Also, notice that the original dishes don't include all the cheeses and vegetables that we use in America.

I hope now you can order with confidence when you head to Cancun -- the restaurant or the city.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Fun Fact Friday: Cinco de Mayo

On May 5, 1862, the Mexican army defeated the French in the Battle of Puebla.  Besides being an unlikely victory, this battle also marked the last time any European power ever invaded a country in the Americas.  In the United States, we (incorrectly) celebrate the day as Mexican Independence Day when our southern neighbor's Independence Day is actually September 16th.  Of course, that doesn't matter as Cinco de Mayo has become another excuse for debauchery and drinking.  Any holiday that combines tequila and tacos is okay by me though.

So how should you celebrate this special day?  Grab some spicy guacamole, your favorite tortillas, and keep the margaritas coming!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Make These Cookies!

The recipe comes from my mother (meaning it probably came from an old newspaper or magazine).  The exact source is unknown, but the recipe is simple and pretty cheap with results that are just too good.

18 oz. creamy peanut butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
Hershey Kisses to top.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Mix the peanut butter, sugar, and eggs in a medium bowl.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Roll batter into balls and put in oven for 12-15 minutes.  Immediately after taking cookies out of the oven, place a single unwrapped Hershey Kiss in the center of the cookie.  Let cool for a half hour.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Mmm Mmm Monday: Sweet Success

This past Saturday was the Great American Bake Sale.  Bloggers from all across New York City joined together to sell their baked goods and raise money for No Kid Hungry.  Our goal was to raise $2000.  At the end of the day we succeeded in raising $3400!  Almost twice our goal!  Raffles are open until the end of today, so you still have a chance to support the cause.  Thank you to everyone who came out!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Hunger Hits Home

Tomorrow is the Great American Bake Sale in NYC: a charity event set up to benefit Share Our Strength's "No Kid Hungry" campaign, set up to end childhood hunger by 2015.  The Food Network, in partnership with Share Our Strength, aired a moving documentary on the subject called "Hunger Hits Home".  The film follows various people touched by hunger both in the past and present.  A single father struggles to feed his son, while a NYC couple desperately attempt to feed their young children who are constantly sick due to malnourishment.   Another father says, "The biggest misconception that someone can have is that when a person works...they're not going to go hungry."

It is not only the homeless and the jobless who go hungry.  There are people who work long hours everyday, but still do not make enough money to properly feed their children.  In the documentary, Effie Davis shows the camera crew how her food stamps will only buy her one small bag of vegetables -- not enough to feed her family of four for one meal, let alone an entire week.  She walks us through her local grocery store where there is not one ounce of fresh produce.  The shelves are lined with sugary cereals and overly processed, preservative-rich "food".

I myself once saw an acquaintance eating potato chips for dinner.  When I asked why he would waste his money on junk food he said, "It's all I could afford."  When I checked out the food stores in his neighborhood afterward -- sure enough -- the only produce available was extremely expensive. 

In New York City, the poorer the neighborhood, the harder it is to get fresh, nutritious food.  Children deal with chronic illnesses while their parents battle diabetes and heart disease.  Kids go to school hungry and then can't concentrate on their work because they are fatigued or in pain.  If you can't concentrate, you can't learn.  If you can't learn, you can't graduate.  If you can't graduate, you're condemned to lead the same life your parents did: always struggling, always hungry.

To make matters worse, Congress voted to cut funding for SNAP - the Supplemental Nutrition Assitance Program (commonly known as food stamps) yesterday.  SNAP applications have skyrocketed since the recession hit in 2008. Born in the Great Depression, SNAP was created to ease this very situation: many people out of work and unable to feed their children.  Yes, we are cutting funding to a social program because too many people need help.  Congress cites abuse of the entitlement as a reason to cut funding.  I will not, however, point out that they are punishing the many for the sins of the few.

Congress has until September to make their final adjustments on the SNAP issue. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Exciting News!

I'm sure you've noticed that updates have been somewhat sparse this week.  I am excited to report that I have begun working on a series of scripts that will be featured every week on Fun Fact Friday.  It's going to take me a few weeks to get the ball rolling, but it'll be fun.  

In the meantime we have the NYC Bake Sale happening this Saturday (April 28th), Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Day on Saturday, May 19th and the Great GoogaMooga on May 19th-20th.  I will be attending GoogaMooga on Saturday and reporting on it for everybody who couldn't get a ticket.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wino Wednesday: Polka Dot Riesling

In case you haven't noticed, I am a big fan of Riesling.  This week's wine comes from Pfalz, Germany.  Vinted in 2010, this Riesling is much sweeter than last week's Dr. Loosen.  Whereas last week's wine was very bright, this one is more subdued with a definitive apple aftertaste.  Which did I prefer?  As an unpaired drink, the Loosen had a little more personality, but this Polka Dot might make for an interesting pairing with either chicken or dessert.  Sweet enough for its presence to be known, but not overpowering. Quite enjoyable.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Smoothie Fail

Today's post was going to be on a yummy berry and kale smoothie, but my blender is being temperamental so all I can post is the recipe I created and not any input on whether or not it was, in fact, yummy.

12 large ice cubes
2 leaves of kale - finely chopped
5 oz. greek yogurt (plain or honey flavored)
8 oz. strawberries
6 oz. blueberries
banana - optional

If you have a functional blender and are willing to try this, please let me know how it turned out!  The berries are really needed to cut through the smell of the kale.  No one wants to feel like they're drinking a glass full of yard clippings.  

I'll try this again when I get a new blender.