Archive for January, 2014

Lemon Aid

January 30, 2014

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Tossing a lemon into your drink is tasty and healthy, right? Well, that depends.

In a recent study by the Journal of Environmental Health, the rinds of 76 lemons collected from a variety of restaurants were swabbed for bacteria. A startling 70% of them contained microbial growth. The data was collected as soon as the drinks were served, before they were touched by the person consuming them.
The exact source of the bacteria is unknown, but it is thought that the source could be from the employee who handled them, or cross contamination from poultry or meat.

Similar experiments conducted by the New York University Medical Center and commissioned by ABC News  turned up even more bad news: over half of the lemons they tested were contaminated by human fecal matter. The cause: lemons are often handled with the bartender’s bare hands. While many establishments rinse the lemons before cutting them, many do not actually scrub them.
Among the specimens collected were E. coli, staphylococcus epidermidis and candida, a fungus commonly found in the vagina. While they didn’t test specifically for viruses, such as norovirus or the cold virus, this type of contamination is typically an indicator that they are present.

Similar microbes have been discovered on communal items in restaurants such as salt and pepper shakers, menus and ketchup bottles.

Now that you are completely grossed out, it’s important to note that a strong immune system may help prevent people from getting sick.

Squeezing the lemon into the glass and not dropping the whole piece in, helps to a certain extent. At home, scrub the lemon with a brush, and avoid cross contamination with other foods.

After handling shared items in restaurants, wash your hands before touching your food.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Quick Cleaning Countertop Grills

January 28, 2014

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Countertop grills are great. They sear food quickly, all of the fat drips off into a little pan, and they are convenient. Cleaning them, on the other hand, is not so good. They can become very greasy, and the food, or what you marinate it in, can stick to the surface.
Next time you have dinner with George Forman, try this tip.
Once you remove the food, unplug the appliance and place a thick stack of water soaked paper towels on the surface and close the grill.  Once you are done eating, and the grill has cooled, remove the paper towels, and with it, a large amount of grease and debris. It will be much easier to wipe down now that the bulk of the mess has been eliminated.

Try this technique on your panini press or waffle iron for the same easy to clean results.

You’re welcome!

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Golden Girls

January 27, 2014

The ladies of the music world positively glowed in gold as they made their way across the red carpet:

Chrissy Teigen channeled old Hollywood glamour in her gorgeous gold gown by Johanna Johnson.

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Taylor Swift went platinum in  shimmer by Gucci.

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Amber Rose rocked golden stripes by Naeem Kahn.

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Chiara brought maternity glam to the red carpet in her Emilio Pucci devoré gown.

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Rita Ora wore a simple Lanvin frock in gold with a patina effect.

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How Much Should I Eat?

January 24, 2014

January is the most popular month to start a diet and exercise regime, as many resolve to get in shape in the coming year.
While it may be widely known that cutting calories is the key to weight loss, most of us don’t know how many calories we need in the first place.

scales, weight, health, fitness

Each of us has our own magic number: the number of calories our body needs just to exist. Even if you lay on the couch all day long, you need energy to keep your body functioning. That amount is called your basel metabolic rate, or BMR. This can be calculated using the Harris-Benedict equation for women:

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BMR= 655+ (4.35 x current weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years). By plugging in your height, weight and age, you will determine the total number of calories you need to exist. Next, multiply your BMR by your activity factor, as estimated below, to get the total number of calories needed per day.

Sedentary: minimal movement: multiply by 1.4

Minimal: office work or 1 hour of moderate activity per day: 1.5

Moderate: Light physical labor during the day, such as light housework, and an active lifestyle: 1.6

Very Active: Athlete, active military personnel, or heavy laborer: 1.9

This new number is amount of calories needed to maintain your current weight.
To lose weight, you need to eliminate calories through consuming less, and/or burning more through activity.

You need to eliminate 3500 calories to lose one pound. With a healthy goal of losing one pound per week, that means you must eliminate 500 calories per day. Most doctors and nutritionists caution against eating less than 1200 calories per day, to maintain good health.
It is a good idea to use a food and activity journal app to help accurately estimate the calories you are consuming, and how many you are burning through exe

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photos: Glasshouse Images

Vinegar Cure

January 22, 2014

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The first time I met my future mother in law, we were in their home in the mountains of North Carolina. She was unpacking the groceries she brought from home, and jabbering a mile a minute. At some point, she offered me a glass of apple juice, and then kept on talking. After one sip, I knew I was  in trouble. She had apparently taken apple cider vinegar and put it into another container, thinking it was juice. Wanting to make a good first impression, I panicked; should I spit it out? Should I try to swallow it? Should I tell her it isn’t apple juice? We still laugh at the moment all these years later. It is she who should get the last laugh, since the health benefits of apple cider vinegar are now being touted everywhere!
Apple cider vinegar has long been a folk remedy, but today it is thought to have curative powers to treat everything from warts to indigestion.

Here are just a few of the uses for the this healthy tonic, other than an ingredient in salad dressing:

Use apple cider vinegar to treat acid reflux. While most believe that reflux is caused by the over production of stomach acid, it is often the case that the stomach does not produce enough acid. Just a couple of teaspoonfuls of vinegar each day, are thought to help  balance the acid levels, bringing relief to the burning sensation associated with reflux.

Some swear by the fact that just one teaspoonful of apple cider vinegar halts the hiccups immediately.

Just a little on a cotton ball dabbed  on a mosquito bite  takes the itch away.

To soothe a sore throat, gargle with a mixture of hot water and 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar. Others prefer to sip a drink made with  a tablespoon of vinegar mixed with  hot water, lemon and honey.

Studies have shown a moderate drop in blood glucose levels when a 2 tablespoons are taken before bed each night.

Swish it around as a mouthwash to freshen breath.

While all of these are said to be beneficial, experts at the Mayo Clinic advise people to exercise moderation. The high acid content of apple cider vinegar can erode teeth and bones, as well as interact with some medicines. Discuss using vinegar as a health tonic with your doctor before embarking on frequent or excessive use.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Reheating Pizza

January 21, 2014

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Everybody likes leftover pizza. Even the most discerning of us have eaten cold pizza for breakfast at some point in our lives.

Now that I am a little older, and my palette is more refined, I prefer to re-heat my pizza before consuming it. The microwave yields a floppy, gummy slice. The oven often gets the cheese to all bubbly, leaving the bottom crust soft.

The solution: Heat the pizza slice in a skillet! Yes, reheating in a skillet allows the heat to permeate from the bottom of the slice, crisping it up as it heats through. Simply place the pizza in a heavy frying pan, turn the heat on to medium / or medium low, cover it and wait for it to heat through. Check the bottom intermittently to make sure it doesn’t burn and enjoy a slice that is almost as good as it was when it was fresh.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Little Changes Reap Big Rewards

January 20, 2014

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New reports show that the average American is eating 78 calories less per day, than they did 5 years ago. The change is credited with the decline in saturated fats due to more limited consumption of fast foods.

Perhaps the only good thing to come out of our country’s recession, is the cutback on spending in fast food establishments and other restaurants, driving people to opt  for home cooked meals.

With greater attention being paid to wellness initiatives from shows like The Biggest Loser, the upgrading of school lunch programs and Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, people are becoming more conscious of the need for a healthy diet and exercise regime.

While 78 calories per day may seem trivial, it does add up over the course of the year. While on average, it takes 3500 calories to make a pound, a reduction of just 78 calories x 365 days per year, adds up to a weight loss of over 8 pounds in a year.

There is still much room for improvement in our country’s diet, and reduction of the obesity rate, but clearly this is a step in the right direction.

Want to cut 78 calories a day out of your diet? Food preparation actually burns calories!
*Just 15 minutes of food shopping burns about 22 calories, and carrying the bags and putting the groceries away is worth another 26.

Preparing a simple meal uses up about 17-26 calories, and setting the table and serving the meal burns about 26 as well. If you get stuck with the dishes, you will likely burn another 22 calories. All added up, that’s about 92 calories burned before you even pick up your fork.

Chances are, the food you prepare will be fresher, simpler and therefore healthier than driving through to the fast food window to pick up a greasy, meal high in saturated fats. It sounds like a win-win situation to us!

Little changes can reap big rewards!

* based on a 150 pound person. Those weighing more, will burn more for the same tasks.

photo: Glasshouse Images

Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Asparagus

January 14, 2014

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We love asparagus! It is flavorful, versatile and good for you.

Asparagus is full of vitamins, and only contains about 3 calories per spear! It’s also a  natural diuretic, which helps reduce bloat.

There are so many delicious ways to prepare asparagus.Drizzle it in a little olive oil and sea salt, and roast it in a hot oven for  about 10-15 minutes until it is cooked, but still crisp. Top it with lemon zest, or a generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Saute it, or use it in a stir fry. Toss it in some broth with a little sauteed onion, and some herbs, and puree it into a rich, creamy soup.

Asparagus is best when the tips are tight, and the stalks firm. Many people assume the very skinny stalks are the most tender, but the slightly thicker ones are actually more so. Some like to take a peeler and shave off a bit from the stalks, but it really isn’t necessary.

To store fresh asparagus, place the stalks into a container with an inch or so of water in the refrigerator to allow the stems to continue to stay hydrated.

When you are ready to prepare the asparagus, snap off the tough lower part of the stem. It should naturally break at the point in which it becomes more tender.

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Red Carpet Color Watch

January 13, 2014

Awards season is in full swing, and the ladies of the Golden Globes had their share of red carpet hits and misses.Among the standouts were the beautiful  shades of red and coral that turned up in some the the most stunning looks of the evening.

Lupita Nyong'o

Lupita Nyong’o

Lupita Nyong’o wowed in a dramatic Ralph Lauren gown with cape-like sleeves.

Julia Louis -Dreyfus

Julia Louis -Dreyfus

Julia Louis- Dreyfus channeled old Hollywood in her simple, yet sexy scarlet gown by Narciso Rodriguez.

Drew Barrymore

Drew Barrymore

A very pregnant Drew Barrymore wore scattered blooms by Monique Lhullier.

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift shunned her usual sparkles for a beautiful bicolored Carolina Herrera ball gown.

Kyra Sedgwick

Kyra Sedgwick

Kyra Sedgwick glowed in coral.

Amy Adams

Amy Adams

Amy Adams’ Valentino gown in red and burgundy, may have been one of the simplest, yet most striking looks of the night.

Emma Watson

Emma Watson

Emma Watson

Emma Watson

Emma Watson was youthful and trendy in her backless Dior coral dress over skinny black pants .

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Kohlrabi

January 9, 2014

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It’s hard to walk into a restaurant these days, and not find some type of kale on the menu. Over the last few years, it has become one of the trendiest foods on the planet, and one of the best for you.  Chefs are serving it up raw in salads, sauteed as a side dish, shredded in soups, and macerated into juices and smoothies. Sometimes it’s treated better than you are, and massaged to make the sturdy leaves more tender.

Well,move over kale, there’s a new kid in town: kohlrabi.

Food experts are predicting that this ugly root, not commonly found in American cuisine, will be the next big vegetable to hit the food scene.

The bulb, which comes in stylish shades of purple or pale green, sprouts stalks and leaves. Although the entire plant  is edible, it’s the crunchy bulb with a slightly sweet yet tangy flavor similar to a radish, that gets the most attention.

Kin to the more popular broccoli and cauliflower, kohlrabi was just that that perplexing root found in CSA boxes that people were not sure what to do with.

In Asia, it’s often pickled, and in other areas, it is grated into pancakes and fritters. Chefs on this side of the world are experimenting with it, due to it’s unusual flavor, and high nutritional content. At just 36 calories per cup, this  high fiber, potassium and vitamin C rich vegetable is worth looking into.

Peel away both the hard outer skin and the underlying fibrous skin, to reveal the crisp flesh.

Cut it into sticks and bake them into healthy “fries.”

Julienne the bulb, and use it as you would raw cabbage to create “kohl-slaw.”

Puree it as you would mashed potatoes, or slice it and bake it au gratin.

Use it in soups, or fry it into pancakes. The options are vast.

Have you tried kohlrabi yet? Share your recipes in the comments below!

photo: Glasshouse Images

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