Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Healthy Foodie Rules to (try to) Live By -- Part 2

(Continued from post below this one....)

Healthy Foodie Rule #3: EXERCISE 45-60 MINUTES A DAY

To stay fit and healthy while also being a dedicated foodie, you simply must exercise (almost) every day of your life.
Obviously, that can be a tall mountain to climb -- so to speak.
That 45-60 minute minimum refers to cardiovascular exercise.
My days start with either an outdoor walk through our hilly neighborhood or some time on the treadmill in our basement. (I will admit that I much prefer going outdoors, but weather sometimes makes that impossible, alas.) Even if I don't walk especially fast, humping up our hills or putting the treadmill on a moderately steep incline definitely elevates my heart rate. If your walking location is on flat terrain, you need to speed up your gait so that you are working your heart -- and burning calories.

Most exercise specialists agree that if you can't do 45-60 minutes of cardio in one time period, it's okay to spread shorter bursts throughout the day. Take a 20-30 minute walk in the morning and another on your lunch break or after work -- whatever fits best in your schedule.

But cardio exercise isn't the whole story. You also need to incorporate strength training, balance work and stretching. Pilates counts as strength training, and yoga gets the stretching in, making both of those practices quite beneficial. I hear that tai chi (is that how you spell it?) is great for improving balance, too.

Are there days when I don't get my minimum 45-60 minutes of cardio; are there weeks when I don't do enough muscle work or stretch for 30 minutes? Yes, but it's rare. Snowstorms wreak havoc, as do travel and illness. But as anyone who knows me well would agree, I find ways to exercise through almost anything -- on the road, snowed in, or fighting a cold.

I find that my health and happiness -- including managing stress -- depends on keeping up this exercise regimen. Exercise is vital.
Not only that, but keeping up with exercise allows me to EAT MORE! :)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Healthy Foodie Rules to Live By -- or try to -- PART 1

To enjoy food while staying fit and healthy, it helps to have a few guiding principles.
This post and the next couple will reiterate my Ten Healthy Foodie Rules, posted each year around this time as we recover from our holiday excesses -- if not yet, then soon!

This is a simple one, really: we should eat most of our meals at home, and prepare them ourselves.
I'm all for some shortcuts, such as pre-peeled and cut veggies, but in general your meals will be healthiest when made yourself, from scratch.
Otherwise, you really don't know what's going in your mouth.

I heard Michael Pollan on the radio not long ago saying it's OK to eat as much "junk food" as you want--as long as you cook it yourself. He was talking about French fries, as I recall. That used to be a very occasional treat, if only because deep-frying potatoes makes a huge mess in the kitchen and most people don't want to hassle with that very often. Now you can drive through you-know-where and get a piping hot, salty hit of crispy potatoes any time of day or night, any day of the week. Insanely, French fries are by far the most widely consumed "vegetable" in the U.S. If we only ate them when we prepared them at home, fries would not be anything like as over-consumed.

Nine servings, say what? If that sounds impossible, keep in mind that nutritionists' agreed-upon serving sizes are pretty small.

One serving =
1/2 cup cooked vegetables 
1/2 cup whole berries, sliced strawberries or fruit salad
1 small apple (a large apple cut into slices would be 2 servings) 
1/2 large banana, or one whole small banana
1 cup salad greens
1 cup raw vegetables, such as carrots, bell peppers or sliced cucumbers

Healthy foodies should eat nine (or more) servings of vegetables and fruit each day for several reasons. They are the best sources of vitamins, antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients, as well as excellent sources of dietary fiber. They fill up your tummy and keep you from eating empty calories full of fat and sugar.

My best advice for achieving this daily goal is to have fruit and/or veggies with every meal and most snacks.
For instance, have some fruit with breakfast, no matter what time of year it is. Right now I'm eating half a red grapefruit most mornings along with oatmeal or cold cereal heaped with berries. Try to include salad (with fruit on it as well as raw veggies) or vegetable soup with lunch whenever possible. And half of a dinner plate should be heaped with cooked vegetables every night...at least, when you're eating at home. (It's very hard to eat enough vegetables when dining out, alas.) (See healthy foodie rule #1, above, about eating out versus eating at home.)

And of course, let your snacks include fruits and vegetables whenever possible.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Don't Slack Off

Exercise is more important than ever during the holiday season.
Our routines are disrupted by extraordinary social obligations, shopping, fixing up the house for company, and maybe also year-end personal business and work demands -- all of which conspires to take the wind out of our sails in the realm of exercise.
But in fact we need to make exercise a real priority right now. Otherwise the pounds will pack on, our sleep will be disrupted and our stress levels can get into the danger zone.

There are a couple of built-in "positives" about the season 
that can make exercising easier. The weather, for one: in some parts of the country, winter has not locked itself in and your local conditions might actually be perfect for long walks, hikes or jogs--whatever your fitness level permits.
If you have a yard, raking leaves or prettying up your landscape can be great exercise, or if you live where winter is already rearing its head, then snow removal (done carefully) really burns calories, too.

Even shopping can provide exercise opportunities. Get to the mall early and do a couple of (or a few) loops around the shops before you slow down to hit the stores. Instead of trying to find a parking place near a store entrance, go to the farthest outer corner of the lot and walk. Walk back to the car with purchases and return again. Take the stairs rather than escalators or elevators within the mall or department stores.

Because of all the social outings we're getting into, I have been ramping up my exercise time by small increments. In addition to a morning walk of 45 minutes, I try to take a 15-minute walk at lunch. On weekends, I bump that 45 minutes up to 60 minutes and also hit the gym. I try to jog part of the way and/or add more hills into my route.

Holiday travel is another potential saboteur of exercise. Depending on the location and circumstances, I will look for a gym or at the very least be sure that I walk a lot, and at an aerobic pace for at least 30 minutes a day.

Bottom line: be vigilant about looking for exercise opportunities wherever you can find them. Five or ten minutes here and there add up over the course of a day, and your body will thank you come New Year's Day!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Really good news for lovers of cheese, butter & eggs

Here is a terrific article about the now 99-year-old scientist who first discovered how BAD trans-fats are for the human body -- way back in the late 1950s.  Most of his peers didn't believe his research, but he carried on with it and eventually was proven right. As you probably know, the FDA is now requiring food manufacturers to get rid of the stuff entirely. (Happily for me, I took that no trans-fat advice to heart -- ha, ha -- at least 20 years ago and have avoided it as much as possible for all that time.)
The other cool thing about this article, and the scientist it features, is the man's refutation of the idea that saturated fat -- in animal products -- causes heart disease and other dire health outcomes. He's 99, still working, and eats eggs cooked in butter for breakfast most days along with red meat several times a week.
It's a great read and makes me feel good about the diet I've been following for so long -- Mediterranean in most ways but with occasional meat and cheese, and even some butter once in a while.
Read for yourself! http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/17/health/a-lifelong-fight-against-trans-fat.html?ref=science&_r=0

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Comfort food "ne plus ultra" -- Oyster stew!

This soup is simple, delicious and soul-warming.
Homey oyster stew

RECIPE: Oyster Stew
(Makes four large servings)

2 T canola, peanut or olive oil
1 leek, trimmed, washed and thinly sliced
1 large shallot, minced
1/2 gallon (two quarts) milk
One pint shucked oysters, with their liquid
Dash of nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black or white pepper, to taste
Garnishes: a dab of butter, a dash of sherry, and of course oyster crackers at table

Heat oil over medium heat in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add leek and shallot and stir-fry until the veggies soften. (You can add other aromatic veggies here if you like, such as finely diced carrots, celery and/or onion, but I think leek and shallot are just about perfect.)
Add milk a cup at a time, stirring. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Keep an eye on the pot to make sure the milk doesn't scorch.
When the milk mixture gets hot -- just below a boil -- add the oysters and their liquor. You might want to pick through the oysters first to make sure there are no pieces of shell.
Stir well, cover again and let cook until the oysters start to curl around the edges.
Add seasonings, then make sure the stew is as hot as you like it. (Again, be careful not to let the bottom of the pan scorch -- use a heavy bottomed pan if you have one to make this easier.)
Add sherry and butter, if you're going to, then ladle into bowls.
Pass the oyster crackers.
Listen to the room go quiet while everyone slurps away...........

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Day job keeping me WAY too busy!

It's exam week -- I'm a college professor, teaching journalism and communication courses -- and it's all I can do to get my "real" work done.
This week I published an article/review about the new Bistro Grace restaurant in Cincinnati. In ran in print and online, at www.citybeat.com.

Here's a link.http://citybeat.com/cincinnati/article-29241-in_good_graces.html

I hope to post again here within a couple of days. Meanwhile, it's grading, grading, and grading.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Boca: Reinvented

Certainly the new Boca is the most spectacular dining room in Cincinnati--or even between Chicago (hard to match Spiaggia or Everest, to name two gorgeous settings) and, I don't know, Philly? The redo of the old Maisonette space is a visually magnificent addition to our city. Its centerpiece is a huge chandelier,surrounded by a lovely bar/cocktail lounge at the front side and an open kitchen in back. With added Christmas decorations -- tasteful, of course -- it's a deeply satisfying experience before you eat or drink anything.
(Doesn't do it justice) Boca Chandelier

With such a setting, what the kitchen puts out is almost incidental. Luckily, the food is on a high plane, close to as good as Boca was in its best days back in the Oakley location. Prices have ticked down a notch, too, making the evening feel like something of a bargain, or at least a solid value.
Whereas the restaurant used to offer only three- or four-course fixed-price dinners, now everything is a la carte. Furthermore, many if not most of the pastas and entrees come in two sizes, full or "tasting." That can keep the tab down, and also make it so that lighter eaters don't feel stuffed at the end of the meal.
We started at the bar with a glass of wine for me -- a lovely Alsatian pinot gris -- and a Belgian beer for my husband. At table, we each had a glass of wine, an appetizer (beet salad for him, grilled romaine for me) and an entree (Mediterranean Loup de Mer full portion for him and a tasting size simple stuffed pasta for me). We topped it off with dessert, too; the old Boca was weak in that area, but my panna cotta was my favorite course of the evening.
We had to make the reservation about 6 weeks in advance to get a Saturday night table, so you really do have to plan ahead. It's still a special-occasion meal, even though it probably set us back about $50 less than a similar dinner would have back in Oakley.
The ambiance alone makes it worth a visit, even if you just stop in for a drink at the bar and maybe an appetizer, just to see what they've done with the space.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Long-awaited: Boca for dinner tonight!

We were worried that the snowstorm might keep us from honoring our long-time reservation to dine at the new Boca, downtown where Maisonette used to be.
But the roads are passable, and we will be there!
Details to come, of course........and also of course, it won't be the healthiest meal you could imagine.....
Can't wait to find out.
Interior of Boca

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Dinner added at Om Cafe (On Ludlow)

Om Cafe, in the Aquarius Star shop on Ludlow Avenue in Clifton, is expanding its menu rather substantially.
Some of the seating at Om Cafe

It's a spacious, comfy place that's been mostly a coffee shop, although they have served sandwiches, salads and pastries, too. But now they're going to start serving dinner. We're pretty happy about it, since the options for dinner here in our neighborhood are rather tired and limited, with the exception of course of La Poste, which is more upscale than we can quite afford on a weekly basis.
We'll see how Om does; here is the announcement they put on Next Door Clifton, a website for the neighborhood:

Hello Fellow Neighbors,
We would like to inform you that we will begin our NEW Dinner Menu on Monday Dec. 16. Items on our menu: Aztec Lasagna, Red Beans & Rice, Turkey Melt Open Face Sandwich and Pesto Prima Vera. Our food is local, organic and we grow much of our own food in our garden located in the Enright Ridge Urban Eco Village. For now you are welcome to bring a bottle of wine to our establishment and we will cork it for you for a small fee. However, please be aware that a liquor license is pending for us and we will be serving amazing wine, craft beer and so much more. Stayed tuned to the Om Difference! 
Another interior view, Om Cafe

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Murphin Ridge Inn: Foodie destination and relaxation heaven

It's just 75 miles from our house in the city, but truly worlds away.
View out the window--from the whirlpool

Murphin Ridge Inn, nestled amid Amish farms in Adams County, OH, has become our beloved retreat from city life.  Don't get me wrong, we love the excitement and stimulation of living in town -- and really despise the boredom and conformity of the suburbs, too. But spending time in a place where you can go for a walk or hike in absolute silence is a priceless treat and treasure.
The Inn includes a 10-room guest house and nine one-room cabins. Dinner and breakfast are served in a separate building -- the historic centerpiece of the property -- while there's also a swimming pool in season, a tennis court, a bonfire pit active almost every night, and miles of hiking trails on the grounds.
Sunrise over the meadowland

The Inn also is renowned for its kitchen; patrons from the western Columbus suburbs and the east side of Cincinnati often drive in for dinner.
We had our second consecutive Thanksgiving meal here while spending two nights in a lovely cabin, which features a king bed, whirlpool bath, see-through gas fireplace, rocking chairs and two porches (though it was too cold this time to sit out there).
I love the hiking trails and take at least two walks per day in them. On the day after Thanksgiving I went for an afternoon walk and would stop to listen: literally, no sounds, not even the wind or any birds. In the summer, you'll hear the birdies, of course. This is such a big deal to someone who is used to the sounds of the city!
At the end of one of the trails you come to a clearing leading onto a farm property. And there was a corral with a beautiful horse all by himself. He saw me and walked right over. Another big deal to the city girl.
Met him on a hike

Regarding meals, I am especially fond of breakfast there -- which is included with accommodations, of course. The main breakfast room is sunny and faces a grove of trees with dozens of bird feeders -- although there weren't too many feathered creatures this time of year -- and fields/meadows beyond. You meet and chat with other guests and the new owners -- a farming family who took over the Inn earlier this year -- and help yourself to yogurt and granola before being served the main breakfast.
(If you're lucky, you'll get to try the Foggy Bottom Pancakes, my favorite breakfast entree.)
Start your breakfast here

Nearby attractions and sights include a couple of Amish stores -- especially the big operation, Miller's -- the Serpent Mound, and many interesting hiking trails of various levels of difficulty.
There is no other comparable property this close to our city. Highly recommended any time of year, though I'll admit I prefer it when it's a little warmer outside. What a delight!

View from our breakfast table