Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pick of the Week: Blueberries

It's week three of exploring Everyday Health's list of the 13 most powerful super foods. Today, we say good-by to the A's -- avocados and apples -- and turn our attention to one of my favorite fruits, blueberries.

The only thing bad about blueberries is usually the price. They made Everyday Health's list for many reasons:
  • Blueberries are anti-aging superstars -- love that! -- loaded with antioxidants, especially anthocyanins, which have been shown to improve brain function and vision. Everyday Health says that studies have shown that eating blueberries slows impairments in motor coordination and memory that accompany aging.
  • Blueberries reduce inflammation, which we have learned over the past decade is linked to just about every chronic disease, including Alzheimer's, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
  • Speaking of cancer, there are other studies that have shown that blueberries have much greater anticancer benefits than any other fruit.
  • And now for my favorite reason: They taste so good, and one cup is only 1 Weight Watchers Point.
Selecting: Since blueberries are packaged, there is no picking through to find the perfect ones. Blueberries should have a healthy purplish-blue color and be free of mold and soft spots.

Storing: Blueberries will keep as long as two weeks, but it's best to remove them from the packaging they come in, place them in a single layer in a container, and store in the refrigerator. If you keep them in the original packaging, check daily and eat the berries that are getting soft. Any moldy ones, immediately discard. Wash right before using.

Freezing: Wash blueberries and remove any stems. Place on baking sheet in freezer until solid; then pack in plastic containers or freezer bags, leaving about 1/2-inch of headspace.

The following recipe is from the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, which the Council got from one of my favorite chefs, Carole Peck, chef/owner of the Good News Cafe in Woodbury, CT, a mainstay in that lovely town for at least two decades. The recipe even gives the formula for blueberry vinegar, which makes a perfect gift anytime of the year. When blueberries are in season, by some extra, make the blueberry vinegar, and you'll have a stash of holiday gifts ready to go!

1/2 cup sliced sweet red or white onion, rinsed
3/4 tsp. Kosher or sea salt
8 pitted fresh or dried apricot halves
5 Tblsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tblsp. blueberry vinegar, recipe follows
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
2 cups packed arugula
  • In a bowl, combine onion and salt; let stand at least 2 hours (can be prepped and refrigerated up to 3 days).
  • Preheat broiler or grill. If using dried apricots, place in a bowl and cover with boiling water; let stand 5 minutes; drain.
  • Arrange apricot halves on a broiler pan, skin side up; brush with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Broil until skins begin to brown, about 3 minutes Cool; cut in 1/4-inch slices; set aside.
  • To prepare blueberry dressing: In a cup, whisk the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons blueberry vinegar.
  • Rinse salted onion; drain. In a bowl, toss arugula with half the blueberry dressing; arrange on four serving plates.
  • In the same bowl, combine the blueberries and onion; toss with the remaining dressing; arrange on serving plates dividing equally. Garnish with apricot strips. Makes 4 servings.


1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups white wine vinegar
  • In a blender container, combine blueberries, sugar and vinegar. Blend until pureed; strain. Refrigerate until ready to use. Makes 1 cup.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A son's distress

I love it when the tables are turned and the son reprimands the mom -- exactly what happened recently to me. My literal son wanted to know why he should read my blog, titled "Diet? Not again!," when I have admitted that I am back on a diet.

So today, I defend myself.

I agree with my dear son, Tim. I had sworn off diets, and I was content with losing a pound here, a pound there, until my husband had some serious medical issues recently. Game change.

Jack was really healthy on the outside -- and even his cholesterol and blood pressure were terrific. What no one knew is that inside his arteries were clogging at an amazing rate. Sure, Jack needed to lose a few pounds, but he is active and healthy. When we learned how deceiving numbers can be, I started reading everything I could about heart disease, and it finally sunk in that belly fat weight is the worse weight any of us can be carrying around. I knew that. I had read about it for years. And I hated my waist, but I thought that losing weight gradually was the way to go.

Once the severity of Jack's condition broke through our thick shields of denial, I started to read everything I could about the best way to shed belly fat, because to me, it was not about losing weight anymore. It became about living. I was scared. Truth is, I still am.

So Tim: Yes, you are correct. I am on a diet, although I swore I would not do that when I started this blog. But as your lovely wife pointed out, I am actually on a mission to eat healthier. I am trying to find the foods that will quickly help my belly shrink. So for now, that's protein, dark green vegetables, whole grains, nuts and berries. And yes, a glass of red wine now and then fits into my eating plan. Sugar is out, as are most white things and brightly colored veggies.

This is working for me. I can go out for meals, and easily find things on the menu to eat. At dinner, I am perfectly content with a large spinach salad, fish, chicken, pork or beef with a half cup of quinoa or brown rice. Lunch and breakfast I vary, but it's always some whole grains, a protein, and at lunch, I include some berries. For snacks, I reach for walnuts or almonds or string cheese. And I fit these foods into my daily Weight Watchers Points.

Maybe in a few years I'll be writing my own diet book!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Mind games

Saturday morning started off just fine. I exercised, and by time I hit the 8 a.m. Weight Watchers meeting, I had already walked 10,000 steps and did 30 minutes of weights.

I was ready for at least a 3-pound weight loss, because I had been absolutely perfect last week in my food choices, exercised daily, and I was weighing in the morning instead of my usual Thursday night weigh-in.

So when I got on the scale and was told I had gained .4 of a pound, I went ballistic. The poor woman who weighed me in realized very quickly that anything she said to me was not going to calm me down. I felt like going home and eating everything in sight.

All day Saturday, a battle was raging within. Half the time I was dreaming about chips, licorice and ice cream, the other half, I was internally screaming at myself to stay on track, not only because my daughter's wedding is around the corner, but because it's the healthy thing to do. Saturday was all about mind games. What a horrid day.

By about 5 p.m., I was so down on myself, I had convinced the inner me that I cannot lose weight. I suggested we get our favorite pizza -- garlic and meatball -- for dinner. But -- and it's a big one -- I asked my husband if he wanted pizza or grilled chicken salad. Jack knew I was not in a good place, and told me he really wanted the chicken salad. I know he was doing that for me, and he'll never know how much I appreciated that decision. Our salads were incredibly tasty, and exactly what I needed. Eating good, clean food calmed me down.

Why the weight is not coming off is still a mystery. But eventually, if I keep on track and keep exercising, eventually I have to start shedding pounds.

It's all about changing my lifestyle. And yes, I am following a diet -- more on that tomorrow -- but the diet I have picked really is an eating plan. And daily, I am not putting my head on my pillow until my pedometer reads 10,000 steps. Saturday night, to my amazement, I tracked 19,354 steps, a much better -- and so much more mature way to deal with my frustrations. Eating everything in sight hurts who? ME! Nobody else.

Today, I can honestly say that I am very proud of myself.

Friday, March 26, 2010


So I'm exercising at least an hour a day, eating really well, keeping my food diary, and have hit a 2-week plateau. The scale has not budged one inch, and even though my pants are getting looser, it's very hard to face that horrid scale every morning.

In the past, I would have given up and started eating everything in sight. But for some reason, this plateau is having the opposite effect: It is making me madder than I have ever been and more determined to see it through. I know that if I keep eating this way and exercising, eventually the pounds will start coming off.

So here's my next week plan for trying to break this plateau.
1. Drink at least 64 ounces of water a day.
2. Drink 3 cups of green tea, which is supposed to rev up metabolism and help you shed pounds.
3. My wellness coach, Heather Pierce, suggests eliminating snacks and eating three meals a day. I usually do better it I have a snack, but to shake things up, I'll try this plan.
4. Hit 10,000 steps a day on my pedometer -- not an easy feat since I sit at a desk most days. I'll just have to make the time.
5. Eat carbs only every other day. The off days are protein only. I read that solution years ago. I must really be desperate.
6. Start and end each day with warm lemon water. That was an old trick of my mom's.
7. Take any solution from anyone reading this blog.

I'll let you know next week if it worked.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Alcohol rules!

I really love it. I could have two glasses a day, but I don't, because wine lets my guard down and I eat more.

Which brings me to some guidelines from the South Beach Diet. that I think are so terrific, worthy of a repost. I've also included what makes a serving of alcohol, because I tend to have a heavy hand.

South Beach's drinking tips:

  1. Don’t drink too early in the evening because you may be tempted to have several drinks, and the calories start to add up.
  2. Do alternate with seltzer and water to stay properly hydrated. You can also add seltzer to your wine for a refreshing spritzer.
  3. Do eat a nutritious meal or snack containing lean protein before you start drinking. The protein helps to stabilize blood sugar and prevent cravings.
  4. Do opt for red wine over white. Red wine is a better choice because it contains higher amounts of the powerful antioxidant resveratrol, which is found in grape skins.
  5. Don’t go for regular beer; stick with light beer and drink it with meals.
  6. Do choose extra-brut champagne, which has no added sugar or very little added sugar. Brut and extra-dry varieties of champagne have only a little more added sugar and are acceptable second choices.
  7. Do choose sugar-free mixers for cocktails. Sugar-free sodas, flavored waters, vegetable-juice cocktail, diet tonic, club soda, or seltzer are your best bests. Be sure to avoid regular sodas, regular tonic, and fruit juices. Another tip? Use sugar-free powdered drink mixes to make punch or other fruit-flavored cocktails.
  8. Do top your drink with garnishes like lemon and lime wedges, olives, or celery, but skip maraschino cherries, which are packed with sugar.
  • Red and white wine (one serving = 4 to 5 oz.)
  • Champagne (one serving = 4 to 5 oz.)
  • Vodka (one serving = 1 1/2 oz., which is a standard shot glass)
  • Gin (one serving = 1 1/2 oz.)
  • Rum (one serving = 1 1/2 oz.)
  • Bourbon (one serving = 1 1/2 oz.)
  • Light beer (one serving = 12 oz.)


  • Regular beer
  • Brandy
  • Port wine
  • Liqueurs (including Kahlua, Baileys Irish Cream, Amaretto, Grand Marnier, schnapps, etc.)
  • Sherry
  • Wine coolers (often contain a lot of added sugar)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pick of the Week: Apples

March is a strange time to be writing about apples, but since I am dissecting the 13 most powerful super foods as identified by the Web site Everyday Health, apples it is this week.

What's not to like about apples? Sweet and crunchy, with juice that runs down your chin, apples for me have always been nature's candy. But what I love most is that there are so many different apple varieties, you can always find one to fit your mood.

My favorite time to eat an apple is at 4 p.m., my end-of-the-workday solution to not grabbing a box of cookies. And then after dinner, when I want something sweet, I slice an apple, sprinkle it with cinnamon, and pop it in the microwave to soften. So yummy.

Everryday Health quoted Jonny Bowden, PhD, author of "The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth" as saying: "An apple a day really does keep the doctor away." Why? Because apples are loaded with two powerful antioxidants -- quercetin and catechin -- that protect cells from damage and reduces cancer and cardiovascular disease. But you got to eat the skin, because it contains five times more polyphenols than the flesh. Lots of fiber too, which we all know keeps things moving in the right direction!

Before moving on to the nitty-gritty of apple picking, I want to talk about my new favorite apple, the Honeycrisp. We owe its creation to the folks at the University of Minnesota. The outside is red with pale green touches, the flesh a cream color. It is crisp and juicy, and has the perfect blend of a sweet with slightly tart taste. It's all purpose -- use it for baking, sliced into salads, eating as is. It holds up to anything.

CHOOSING: Apples should be firm, with no soft or brown spots.

STORE: Keep apples in the refrigerator. If left at room temperature, they will ripen 10 times faster than those kept in a cool place.

And now for my favorite salad. It really is perfect, especially if made with Honeycrisp apples.

4 cups baby spinach
4 cups baby arugula
4 apples, cored and sliced thin
4 green onions, diced
4 Tblsp. walnut oil
2 Tblsp. Sherry vinegar
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup Gorgonzola
  • Mix together the spinach and arugula in a large bowl.
  • Mix in apples and green onions.
  • Place walnut oil in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in Sherry vinegar.
  • Sprinkle vinaigrette onto salad and mix through.
  • Top with cherries, walnuts and Gorgonzola. Makes 8 servings.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Recipe Exchange

Ann Blystone, after reading my post last week about Bloodroot vegetarian restaurant in Black Rock, asked for two recipes from Bloodroot's cookbook, which years ago she lent to a friend. Shr remembers these recipes fondly, so today, this blog's for you, Ann. All recipes are from "The Best of Bloodroot, Volume two, Vegan Recipes," and are written in the restaurant's friendly style.

This is a basic Irish dish which is well seasoned and surprisingly satisfying. Potatoes are sometimes combined with cabbage, sometimes with kale. We like both. For a complete meal. serve Colcannon with a side dish of rutabagas and carrots (steps 3 and 4), as well as Apple Chutney (recipe follows).
1. Peel and quarter 8 medium potatoes. Boil in water to cover until tender, but not falling apart. Drain in a colander. Return to pot and shake over low fire until mealy. Mash potatoes with a fork, potato masher, or in a mixer. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 cup soy milk, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
2. Finely shred 2 cups cabbage and 2 cups kale, well washed. Cover with water in a pot and bring to a boil, covered. Remove lid and boil uncovered 10 minutes. Drain well in a colander. Turn into frying pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Fry for about 5 minutes until slightly browned. Add to mashed potatoes. Colcannon is now ready to be served as is, or can be reheated in a 350-degree oven.
3. Dice 1 bunch of carrots (about 2 cups) and an equal amount of peeled rutabagas. Add just enough water to steam vegetables. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook until barely done. Uncover pot and raise heat, stirring, until vegetables are glazed and slightly brown.
4. Serve Colcannon with carrots and rutabagas topped with Shiitake-Beer Gravy, recipe follows, and diced scallions. Serve Apple Chutney on the side. Makes 5 to 6 servings.

1. Mince 1 small onion, 3 large mushrooms and 1 large garlic clove. In a saucepan, heat 1/4 cup grapeseed oil. Saute vegetables until lightly browned.
2. Add 1/3 cup whole wheat flour and 1/3 cup nutritional yeast (not brewer's yeast). Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
3. Add 12 oz. beer, any inexpensive kind, or for especially full-bodied flavor, try Guinness Stout. Whisk gravy well, adding 1 1/2 cups water, 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme, crumbled, 1/2 teaspoon dried basil, 1 teaspoon agave nectar, 2 tablespoons cider vinegar, 2 bay leaves, 3 tablespoons tamari, 2 tablespoons red or brown miso, and 2 teaspoons tomato paste.
4. Cover and simmer approximately 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If gravy becomes too thick, use water to reach desired consistency. Makes 1 quart.

1. Peel, core and slice 4 cups apples. We prefer Staymen Winesap, but any crisp cooking apple will do. Coarsely chop 1 cup onions.
2. Tie 1 teaspoon pickling spice in a piece of cheesecloth. Grind 1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seeds with a mortar and pestle or a small coffee grinder,
3. In a stainless steel pot combine the apples, onions, pickling spices, and mustard seed with 3/4 cup seedless raisins, 2/3 cup dark brown sugar, and 3/4 cup cider vinegar. Add a rounded 1/4 teaspoon dry ginger and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper.
4. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat and simmer for about 2 hours or until most of the liquid has cooked away. Be sure to stir frequently during this time to avoid burning.
5. Remove the cheesecloth with pickling spices. Cool, chill. Serve with Colcannon. Makes about 2 cups.

Monday, March 22, 2010

How sweet it isn't

I really always thought I was watching my sugar intake. I rarely eat processed foods. When I have cereal in the morning, it is always a low-sugar variety and I add rice milk, because I tolerate it better than cow's milk. I choose low-fat cheeses and salad dressings. And no matter how much exercise I do, the spare tire around my waist stays put. Recently, it's been growing, even though I was not gaining a pound.

Three weeks ago I read Jorge Cruise's Belly Fat Cure, and decided to follow his advice on sugar. And what I discovered was that my diet was loaded with sugar. Tons of it. The rice milk and yogurt I ate daily was enough for four days. Cruise allows 15 grams of sugar a day. That's it.

Last week I blogged about how I am following two diets: Using Cruise's recommendations, but fitting them into Weight Watchers Points. The latest issue of WW's magazine gave some quick tips for breaking a weight plateau. And guess what: WW suggests counting sugar grams, and although it allows 10 more per day than Cruise, they are now admitting the sugar/weight connection. (Ironic because WW products are loaded with sugar. But I digress.)

Back to sugar. It's really pretty easy to control. I had to eliminate my favorite yogurt, which has 29 grams -- two days worth. Same with rice milk. Low-fat salad dressings? Gone. I just eat olive oil based ones now, that have 1 or less grams per sugar per serving. When I'm in a restaurant, I ask for oil and vinegar. I eat full fat cheeses. I just eat less. And guess what: Since they have more taste, I enjoy the experience more.

And the best news: My spare tire is still there, but it is slowly deflating. I love Jorge Cruise. He really is making my life so much sweeter.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Review day

I cannot believe it's Friday again. It seems like only yesterday I was picking my goals for this week, and now it's over.

And that proves one thing to me: These weeks fly by so quickly, why muck them up by making bad food choices? Just get it done. Once and for all. Then I won't have to agonize over food. Do you have any idea how freeing that would be? To eat normal portions because that's all I want. And to make good food choices because that's the kind of food I crave. If I'm hungry in the middle of the day, I'll have a big glass of water, because maybe it's dehydration and not hunger that is making me crave food.

It's hard to imagine that for some people, that's entirely natural.

The reason I started thinking about all these issues is an e-mail I received from a friend. She says she has been eating chocolate covered raisins and nuts, and in the past four weeks, she gained four pounds. This is an amazing amount of weight for my friend to gain, because she is one of the more disciplined people I know. I have a hard time sympathizing, because I have been known to gain four pounds in a day.

My goal this week: To eat like a normal person. To plan all my meals and snacks, eat what I plan, and not think about food when I am not eating. If one day I am too busy to plan my meals, I will make great food choices because I want to. This is my hardest goal ever. But it needs to be done because above all else, I have to conquer my eating issues.

Because eating issues I have by the hundreds. There are days I think it would be easier if I could put a label to my eating disorder, because then there might be a way for me to stop my yo-yoing. I'm searching for the magic key that will keep me thin forever.

I know there is no such key. But if I meet my goals this week, maybe -- just maybe -- it's a step in the right direction.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I ate the whole thing

If I were to rate my diet for the past two weeks, I would give myself an A+. And two nights ago, I proved it to myself: I had my first "I ate everything in sight" dream in a long time. When I am not making great food choices, I never have those dreams. But when I am being really good, I have them all the time.

And they are nightmares. The one two nights ago was a doozey. It started at Dairy Queen, continued at Billy's Bakery in Fairfield, and ended with a trip down the cookie aisles at Stop & Shop. I even bought three boxes of Chocolate Mints from an adorable little Girl Scout on my way out of the grocery story. This dream woke me up at 12:30 a.m., and I knew there was no way I was going back to sleep. So I got up and did some work.

I also watched some of Jorge Cruise's inspiring videos about his Belly Fat Cure diet, and one really hit home. He asks everyone following his plan to answer five questions, to print out the questions and answers, and then each morning and every night, reread and review the list. The questions put you in the future, once you reach your goal and are happy with the way you look.

Here are the five questions, without my answers, because they are too personal. At least for now; maybe I'll share in a few months. But I did what Jorge asked, and last night, before I went to sleep, I read the Q & A -- and thankfully did not dream about food. I also read the list again right before I wrote this post, and decided that I really do have some serious issues about food and body image. Nothing new here!

Jorge's big five:
1. What extraordinary things will people say to me.
2. How great will I look in my clothes?
3. How high will my energy be?
4. How much more love will I be able to give once I feel more alive?
5. How great will my life become once I lose the belly fat?

Hopefully, this Q&A will reinforce my desire to lose weight, stop the negative thoughts that usually enter my mind (and take over the closer I get to goal), send some positive messages my way -- and bring me only sweet dreams from now on, not ones starring butterscotch sundaes, trail mix and cookies by the dozens.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Pick of the Week: Avocados

Week One of exploring the 13 most powerful super foods, as designated by the Web site, Everyday Health. And luckily, in honor of St. Patrick's Day, this pick is green!

Today, it's all about avocados. Some shy away from this wondrous fruit because it is too fatty. But they are missing the point: Yes, avocados are high in fat, but it's the good fat, the monounsaturated that we should be eating, daily, and according to some, at every meal. The monounsaturates have been linked to reduced risk of cancer, heart diseases and diabetes. Everyday Health quotes Ed Bauman, Ph.D., director of Bauman College, as saying: "Avocados aid in blood and tissue regeneration, stabilize blood sugar, and are excellent for heart disorders." They also are a good source of fiber (11 to 17 grams per fruit), and a good source of lutein, an antioxidant linked to eye and skin health.

When it comes to avocados, I admit to being a snob, only buying Haas. Once, I only bought Haas because my mother told me they are best. Years later, my taste buds had to agree with her, so Haas it's always been. They are the ones with the thick. pebbly skin and rich taste. The smooth green variety, called Fuerte, is milder tasting and not as sinfully rich.

Choosing: Firm, ripe avocados are perfect for dicing, slicing and chopping. Very ripe, soft avocados are the choice for mashing or guacamole. The fruit will ripen in 3 or 4 days, so if you know you need one on a certain day, head to the market days before. Too often I decide at the last minute to make a batch of guac, only to discover no ripe avocados at market.

How ripe? Firm, ripe avocados will yield to gentle pressure. Very ripe avocados are soft. Leave those with bruises or broken skin at the market.

Store: Keep avocados at room temperature until they ripen. To speed the process, place in a brown paper bag. To speed it even more, add an apple or tomato to the bag. Once ripe, refrigerate. A friend once told me to cook the avocado on medium in a microwave about 5 minutes for speedy ripening. My experiment failed miserably. Stick to the brown bag.

Seeding: Cut the avocado in half lengthwise. With your hands, twist the avocado in opposite directions. Tap the deed with a knife blade until it catches, and rotate and lift the knife as you remove the seed.

This recipe is my favorite guacamole, because years ago I realized that if I substituted lemon juice for traditional lime, the guac seemed to spring to life. Give it a try, and let me know if you agree.

6 ripe Haas avocados, seeded and peeled
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 small tomato, seeded and diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
3 Tblsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • Coarsely mash avocados.
  • Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
  • Place in bowl, laying a piece of plastic wrap directly over the guacamole. Cover bowl.
  • Store in refrigerator, but use as quickly as possible.

Bloodroot revisited

Yesterday I promised to share a recipe from Bloodroot, a wonderfully special vegetarian restaurant in Black Rock, one of the last bastions of community left in Connecticut. And although Black Rock is in Bridgeport, it is the true essence of community, and a place I have often thought would be terrific to be a part. Bloodroot is the embodiment of community.

1976 was a momentous year for Bloodroot's owner, Selma Miriam, the year she got a divorce and started Bloodroot with the help of her parents. From the start, she wanted it to be a center for feminists and their friends.

It is that, and so much more. It is one of the more welcoming restaurants in the area, a no-frills oasis where the foods of the day are posted on two blackboards, one of the first things you notice when you enter Bloodroot. You give your order to the person at the front desk, you collect your order at the kitchen window, and you bus your table when you have finished your amazing meal. (If you are wondering, tipping is not allowed!)

The chairs, tables and dinnerware are mismatched, but this all lends an authenticity to the place that a matched set of china would never convey. Selma and her friends have created a genuine oasis, situated directly on Long Island Sound. It's certainly a place where women can feel comfortable. But thank goodness we have grown as a society, and not just evolved men feel comfortable here as well.

She named her restaurant after a native New England wildflower, which usually grows in the woods but it just as happy growing in the sandy soil along the shore. Its roots branch, throwing vertical leaves -- and finally flowers -- as it grows. For Selma, the plant is joined, but separate, never invasive, but long lived. And like the plant, Bloodroot it now in its 33rd year in business, a feat in itself.

And now for the food. It is always seasonal, so you never know what delights await on the blackboards. And the only hard decision once you enter the front door is what to order: Everything sounds delicious, and it is. Selma and the kitchen staff turn out dish after dish of honest, clean food, the type that we all should be eating more of because it is so healthy.

Our lunch on Saturday was a feast, starting with an artisan cheese course of two sheep cheeses, three cow, some jam and raw nuts. But the recipe I am sharing from the lunch is the salad I chose, a simple arugula dressed with a perfect vinaigrette. For me, one of the signs of a great cook is a salad that when I finish, I am sad the experience has ended. This is such a salad, perfect in its simplicity. I could have chosen one of the more unusual selections to share today, but for me, this salad is what Bloodroot is all about.

You will also notice that Bloodroot's recipe style is not traditional, but then why would it be? The recipe is from "The Best of Bloodroot, Volume One, Vegetarian Recipes." It is one of a pair, the other focusing on vegan recipes. A matched pair, and one worth buying if you give Bloodroot a try: 85 Ferris St., Bridgeport; 203-576-9168; The books are $27.50 each, and worth every cent.

1. You will need a small bunch of arugula for each diner. Wash it well and combine with other greens or not, as you prefer, on each plate. Slice radishes over.
2. Make a garlic dressing by combining in a screw cap jar: 1 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup wine vinegar, 1 clove crushed garlic, and 2 teaspoons prepared mustard. Add 1 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
3. Use a cheese plane to make large curls of Reggiano Parmesan. A quarter pound will yield enough cheese for a dozen salads.
4. Just before dinner, top each salad with Parmesan curls and dressings.
Makes enough dressing for 6 to 8 servings.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bloodroot: A very special place

Saturday was a lovely day. Our soon-to-be bride, Kara, had her first fitting -- and she looked so beautiful, so grown-up, so perfect, of course the tears flowed. Next, I got to see our daughter-in-law, Kim, in her bridesmaid's dress, and all I could think of was how happy we will all be in just a few weeks.

And then we visited designer Jennifer Butler in downtown Fairfield, who reassured me that she can easily make my mother-0f-the-bride dress by the wedding. What a relief. And what fun. I've never had a dress custom-made for me before.

For lunch, we headed to Bloodroot, a vegetarian restaurant tucked away on a side street in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport. It is right on the water, and although the gale-force winds made it difficult to walk from the parking lot into the restaurant, once inside, it was warm and comforting.

Tomorrow, I am going to share a recipe from our lunch, but today I want to focus on a sign hanging in the restaurant. I wish I had taken down the words, but the essence of the message is that women have been oppressed and bombarded with negative body image messages for too long, and when you read the menu, please don't comment on calorie count or ask what foods are the least fattening.

I applauded the sign, and told owner Selma Miriam how much I loved it. Her honest reply: "We just make healthy food."

Powerful message, Selma. And exactly how we all should approach eating. Sunday, I spent a lot of time thinking about that message. I was also reminded by blog reader Ann Blystone that the way I am eating now is not a diet, but a lifestyle change.

I am fine for now, dedicated to only eating healthy foods in small portions. But what happens once Kara gets married and the need to lose weight flies out the window? I'm praying that does not happen, but I am a creature of habit, and that has been my M.O. Lose weight. Gain weight. Lose weight. Gain weight. Yadda. Yadda. Yadda.

Can this old dog be taught new tricks?

Friday, March 12, 2010

My two diets!

I am following two diets -- so does this mean I am making up my own diet plan? For years, I have thought that I probably know just as much about dieting as those making money off various plans -- but what I lack are the credentials. I am a mere ex-journalist-turned-PR exec, who has been on hundreds of diets, and read about every other diet ever conceived.

This month I am following the Jorge Cruise's Belly Fat Cure, keeping my sugar grams to 15 daily and my carb servings to 6, while counting Weight Watchers Points. And in the past week, I've lost 4.8 pounds, which for me is amazing. First, because that is a huge amount of weight, something I equate to almost five pounds of butter. Look at that the next time you hit the grocery stores. Or 5 pounds of potatoes.

Second: The only other time I have ever pulled these numbers is when I have decided to go on a diet, and then eaten everything in sight the week before. Those times I was losing just-gained weight. This time, I had been going to Weight Watchers for four weeks, so this weight loss is real.

I love the Belly Fat Cure, but right now, the amount of allowed fats is too much for me to wrap my mind around. And there are not real portion sizes, although Cruise is an advocate of portion control. So here's where I need Weight Watchers, a plan that is all about portion sizes.

What I am really interested in is Cruise's feeling about sugar, how harmful it is, the reason so many of us suffer from diabetes, heart disease and cancer. He says there is much research to support this claim, so right now, I am trying to read as much as I can about the sugar/disease connection.

What I do know is that this week I have had more energy than I have had in a long time, and that my food cravings have all about disappeared. This has happened before -- many times -- and I am praying that this time it will be a permanent fix. In the past, I lose interest and begin yo-yoing.

So I am taking it one day at a time, journaling like I have never done before, writing everything down that crosses my lips. Everything. I'm even writing down how much water I'm drinking, because I need to make sure I am drinking the amount I am supposed to consume.

And I say a prayer of thanks each night when I make it to bed eating only my Weight Watchers Points and controlling my sugar and carbs. And each morning, as I make my breakfast, I pray for the strength I need to make only great food choices. And this is my goal this week: To remember to say thank you and ask for guidance to make it through each day.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Super foods

The Web site Everyday Health just posted a list of a baker's dozen of the most powerful super foods. They admit that if you ask 10 nutritionists for their own lists, you will get 10 different lists. But this list, the site claims, is a good place to start.

I have to admit that I love lists. It might be my short attention span, but lists are easy to read and stick with me longer that something I read in paragraph form.

Because this post would be entirely too long if I listed all the foods, wrote about what had to say, and added my own thoughts, I have decided to publish the the list of foods today, and then for the next 13 weeks, I will focus on each one in Wednesday's Pick of the Week. I cannot wait to get to week 12 to write about my favorite food, red wine. I never looked at red wine as a favorite food. Now this is great news!

The list:
  1. Avocados
  2. Apples
  3. Blueberries
  4. Cabbage
  5. Fish and fish oil
  6. Garlic
  7. Mushrooms
  8. Almonds
  9. Eggs
  10. Flax seeds
  11. Pomegranates
  12. Red Wine
  13. Dark chocolate

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My first crocus!

On my drive to work yesterday, I saw a crocus -- which means spring asparagus will soon be in the market. I am a purist, and usually buy asparagus only in the spring, when it comes from US soil, not foreign countries of hot houses. For me, it's unnatural to eat asparagus when it's cold outside.

Soon, those slender green stalks from our biggest asparagus growing states -- California, Washington Michigan -- will be filling the produce sections.

There are three basic kinds of asparagus, the omnipresent green, and the harder-to-find white and purple. White are usually more expensive, and are harvested just as their tips break the soil. It's the lack of sun exposure that keeps them creamy white. The purple asparagus are picked when they are about three inches above the soil. Green go all the way -- about 8 inches above the soil.

Choosing: No matter the color, since you are buying asparagus by the pound, buy only those that are worthy of a trip home. They might be banded together, but if the bunch contains stalks that are wilted or with buds that are open, not tightly closed, remove them from the bunch and leave them at the store. I like my asparagus thin, definitely no more than 1/2-inch thick. Spears should be uniform in size so they cook evenly.

Storing: My mother taught me to wrap the base of asparagus in damp paper towels in a sealed plastic bag, which I always do. They will keep fresh for four or five days this way.

To peel or not to peel: I never peel, because I usually choose thin stalks. If they are a bit thicker and the skin seems thick and tough, peeling is the way to go.

To cook: Snap each stem -- it automatically breaks the tough ends off. If I am making asparagus for company, I will first break, and then cut each stem at an angle. For myself or family, the snap is sufficient.
  • Boiling: Thin asparagus are cooked in boiling salted water 3 minutes; thicker asparagus about five minutes. Do not overcook.
  • Steaming: If you have an asparagus steamer, it will keep the stalks standing upright. Nice, but not mandatory. Flat steamers are the other option. For either steams, put an inch or two of water in the bottom of the steamer, and the stalks will be done in 2 to 5 minutes.
  • Roasting, my new favorite method of cooking asparagus. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, pat the stalks dry, and place them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, roll the asparagus in the oil, and roast about 15 minutes, turning the asparagus a few time for even cooking. Likewise, they can be grilled the same way, coated with olive oil, but they will cook in about 5 minutes.
My favorite way to serve asparagus is simply as is, or topped with buttered bread crumbs. That's it. I really do not want other flavors fighting with spring asparagus.

The next recipe is one my mother used to make frequently, and of course, only in the spring. It reminds me of Good Friday, because for some reason, she also served this with grilled fish.

1 bunch thin asparagus, tough stems broken, and stalks cut in 1-inch pieces
1 Tblsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 lb. sugar snap peas
5 radishes, stems trimmed, and sliced
Zest from 1 lemon
Juice from half a lemon
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • Place asparagus in a boiling salted water and cook 3 to 5 minutes. Drain well and dry on paper towels.
  • Heat olive oil in saute pan. Add sugar snaps and saute three minutes. Add asparagus, radishes. lemon zest and lemon juice and saute until vegetables are heated through, about three minutes.
  • Remove from heat. Stir in dill and sprinkle with almonds.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sleepless In Connecticut

The last two nights have been horrid, since my frienemy insomnia returned. And I really do have a love/hate relationship with the big I, which has been around so long, it's part of my inner circle. I hate it because I really need the sleep. The love part enters because I really do get so much done in the middle of the night.

Last night I thought I would pull out Dr. Andrew Weil's CD, "Breathing: The Master Key to Self-Healing." I was doing great, breathing my way through the exercises, until I came to the fast-paced in-and-out shallow breathing. Next thing I knew, Jack was shaking me, afraid I was having some kind of attack. I won't tell you the words that came out of his mouth when I told him I was simply doing some breathing exercises, but I quickly decided it was time to leave the bedroom.

So began my search for the late Richard Hittleman's "Yoga: 28 day exercise plan." He was huge at one time, had his own TV show, and his yoga books sold in the millions. (There are 20 according to Wikipedia and are still sold on Amazon.) I have been writing a magazine article on yoga for the past month, and had the chance to speak with dozens of yoga practitioners, which got me thinking that it might be time to return to yoga, a practice I once did it religiously for at least an hour a day. So this morning, about 2 a.m., the time was right. I found the book and a large beach towel (my yoga mat is long gone), and did Day 1 of Hittleman.

The first day is a tease -- it took less 20 minutes because I actually remembered how to do the beginning postures. But unlike past times when I did Hittleman's yoga, this time I was in no hurry. I breathed deeply through all the postures, even when I was holding each. I paid attention to what was going on in my body, and listened to it when it moaned, telling me I had stretched far enough.

I never did that before. In the past, I would try to perfect the extreme position from the get-go, ignoring my inner voice. I can't do that anymore. I need to slow down. I need to pay attention.

Does this mean I am finally maturing?

Monday, March 8, 2010

What a weekend!

Why was the weekend so great? We did absolutely nothing -- except for work -- but I stayed totally on the Belly Fat Cure eating plan, and didn't once crave anything. Nothing. I felt normal and in control Friday night through this morning.

I'm not analyzing why. I am just so thankful.

The following recipe I made Saturday for lunch,using leftovers in the fridge. It was so delicious, extremely filling, and I plan on treating myself to it again and again this week. I used my new favorite no-wheat bread, Ener-G rice bread, but use whatever bread fits your eating plan. I'm thinking a pita would be extra special.

2 slices bread
2 Tblsp. avocado
1 Tblsp. red wine vinegar
2 shakes cumin
1 shake cayenne pepper
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 pitted kalamata olives, sliced in half
2 slices turkey
2 thin slices red onion
6 baby spinach leaves
1 slice tomato
  • Toast bread or put pita in 300-degree oven to warm up.
  • Mash avocado and mix in vinegar, cumin, cayenne and lemon juice. Fold in kalamata olives.
  • Spread mixture on one piece of toasted bread or into pita.
  • Top with turkey, red onion, spinach leaves and tomato.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Mad desire

I watched a news segment this week about the best ways to quit smoking. The one thing that was not mentioned, and what I feel is most important, is that to quit you have to want to more than all else. When I kicked that horrid habit years ago it was because of my mad desire to have children. I knew I had to cleanse my body of years of nicotine build-up. I did it cold turkey, it was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but I kept the image of me cuddling a darling baby in my thoughts, and that image won out.

I was thinking about that segment later that morning driving to work, when all of a sudden when one big "a ha" hit me in the face. For years, I have been reading about how harmful belly fat is, but like teens who think nothing bad will ever happen to them, I kept kidding myself into thinking all is well with my apple shape. It took my husband's recent medical issues, quickly followed by a dear friend's similar problems, to wake me up. I have been carting around too much belly fat for years, and above everything else, I have to rid my body of my spare tires (notice the plural). And I want to do it yesterday, but not because I want to look good (although that is a good motivator), but because I need to stop wrapping my organs with fat.

I have spent hours the last month reading everything I can about what can possibly be clogging the arteries of someone with perfect blood pressure and low cholesterol. By no means do I have the answers I need, but from what I can gather, new research points to our high sugar and bad carb intake, which causes insulin resistance, internal inflammation and low levels of leptin, the appetite controlling hormone. And, of course, heredity.

And one more tidbit I picked up in Prevention's "Flat Belly Diet!": A Kaiser Permanente study compared people with different levels of abdominal fat. Those with the most abdominal fat were 145 percent more likely to develop dementia, compared with those with the least amount. I so don't want to be that crazy, obese grandma the kids wheel out for family events and then stick in the corner. So yes, that image has replaced me cuddling a newborn. Scary, huh? But it's working.

One goal this week:
Real simple: Stay on the Belly Fat Cure diet and check-in daily with diet buddy Ann.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Gave in

When I started this blog in September, it was all about my journey to eat healthier and shed some serious weight. But back then, I had seven months to get in shape for Kara's wedding. Now I have 59 days and I am in a panic.

Four weeks ago I joined Weight Watchers, a plan I really love, and if I had joined it back in September, I would be in fine shape today. And I lost 5 pounds, which is not bad. Just very slow, and half the weight my husband, Jack, has lost.

So now I'm thinking drastic, and started Jorge Cruise's Flat Belly Cure Tuesday. On a plane Monday, I planned what I was going to eat and made up my shopping list. My second stop when I got off the plane was the supermarket, grocery list in hand. My first stop was home, to read the labels of some of the healthy foods I had been eating on Weight Watchers. My favorite yogurt has 17 grams of sugar in each container, two more grams than Cruise allows per day on his plan.

And that's the heart of the Belly Fat Cure: sugar and bad carbs. On his diet you eat a mere 15 grams of sugar a day, and six servings of good carbs, such as whole grain breads, crackers and muffins, and brown rice and quinoa. Since I am allergic to wheat, my options are limited still, but Cruise recommends Ener-G rice bread, and I have to admit it's not bad. (Remember, I don't eat normal bread, so what tastes good to me might taste horrid to you.)

And my favorite breakfast: oatmeal with apple and cinnamon. A few days ago I posted that I cannot get through the morning without reaching for a snack. Usually, it was a grapefruit, but by noon, I was famished again.

Cruise is a big proponent of protein in the morning, so Tuesday and Wednesday I made myself two eggs scrambled with a slice of Cheddar and a diced scallion. And since I cannot bring this to work, I have been eating at 6 a.m. daily. But here's the really interesting thing: Both mornings I was not searching for a snack at 10 a.m. I actually made it to noon before I was hungry.

And that fat belly of mine -- it's down an inch. I know I have a long way to go, but for me, this is progress. Seven months ago, it was all about baby steps. I'm into giant leaps now.

Jorge Cruise's Web site -- -- is loaded with information and videos about the science behind his diet. He's made the circuit -- even appearing on Oprah -- which makes me wonder why I never heard of him until one of my blog's readers mentioned to me that she was starting the Cruise diet. Ann and I are now diet buds, and plan on checking in with each other daily.

Giant leaps!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Pick of the Week: Bok Choy

This week's pick is dedicated to Sherry Cohen, who has only eaten bok choy in Chinese restaurants. And she guesses -- accurately I might add -- that there is more to bok choy than what she has been served. Because of bok choy's high water content, when cooked, it gets limp very quickly, which means if you use it in a stir-fry, cook it over high heat for only a few minutes. I find most recipes call for cooking bok choy way too long.

I really love bok choy, either cooked or raw in salads. It is one of those often overlooked vegetables, and that is a shame because it really is a wonderful green, with a light, sweet flavor, and when raw, crisp texture. It is very low in calories and high in vitamins A and C.

Choose stalks that are firm and leaves that are bright green. Avoid those with yellow or wilted leaves.

Store in an unsealed plastic bag, for about a week in the refrigerator.

The following recipe comes from my soon-to-be son-in-law Bryan Gilmour, the chef at 121 Restaurant at Oxford Airport. If you have never been there, do yourself a favor and give it a try. Bryan and the staff make some incredible food, and the atmosphere -- watching private planes land and take-off at the airport -- makes for a terrific environment. This is one of Bryan's signature salads.

4 heads baby bok choy
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
2 cups canola oil, divided
1 package Top Ramen noodles
Half a container cherry tomatoes
¼ cup sliced almonds
½ bunch scallions, diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
* Cut each bok choy lengthwise and cut out end piece. Slice the bok choy into bite-size pieces. * Rinse the greens and set aside.
* In a bowl, mix soy sauce and white balsamic vinegar. Gradually whisk in 1 cup oil.
* In a sauté pan, gently heat 1 cup oil over low heat. Add noodles (discard seasoning package) and sauté until crispy.
* Slice cherry tomatoes in half.
* Coat bok choy with dressing.
* Gently mix in noodles, tomatoes, almonds and scallions. Salt and pepper to taste. Serves 2.

The next recipe is one I have been making for years, and uses dark sesame oil, an ingredient I really cannot be without.

1 Tblsp. dark sesame oil
1 bunch bok choy, sliced crosswise (across the stalks), into 1/2-inch slices
1 Tblsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Ground black pepper to taste
1 Tblsp. hulled sunflower seeds
1/2 cup sliced almonds
* Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bok choy and saute 2 minutes.
* Add soy sauce and red pepper. Saute 1 minute. Stalks shold be crisp and leaves starting to wilt. Do not overcook.
* Season with pepper. Top with sunflower seeds and almonds. Makes 4 servings.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Recipe Exchange

A few days ago, I blogged about not being able to get from meal to meal without a snack. My friend, Ronnie Fein, commented that she has the same problem, but unlike my reaching for a piece of fruit, she often chooses a complex carb. She sent along the following recipe for a couscous salad, which she often makes as a side dish, and eats leftovers for a snack. Ronnie also notes that although this recipe features couscous, it can be made with any grain -- wheatberries, barley, farro, quinoa, and she often changes the nuts to pistachios, almonds, etc.!


1 cup couscous

1/2 cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts

1 stalk broccoli, cut up, or 4 to 6 asparagus spears

1 cup cut up cherry tomatoes

5 Tblsp. lemon juice
cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
½ t
sp. Dijon mustard
½ tsp. salt or to taste

  • Prepare couscous as directed on the package. Set it aside. Toast the nuts lightly and set them aside to cool. Steam the broccoli or asparagus, drain the pieces under cool water, drain and let cool. Chop into chunks. Combine the cooked couscous, nuts, vegetable and cut up cherry tomatoes. In a separate bowl, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, Dijon mustard and salt and mix well. Pour over the couscous. Let rest at least 30 minutes before serving. Makes 4-6 servings.
One of my favorite snacks is an orange and a cup of herbal orange spice tea. I love the double dose of citrus. If a have a few extra minutes, another fave is a sliced apples, sprinkled with cinnamon and a touch of nutmeg, and microwaved about 3 minutes to soften the apples. It's a no-crust apple pie. OK -- it's not even close, but it seems a tad more elegant than eating an apple as is. A handful of almonds or some string cheese is also a wonderful way to keep me sated.

The next recipe I clipped years ago from EatingWell magazine, a terrific side dish, and an even better snack.


2 cups baby carrots

1 Tblsp. toasted sesame seeds

Pinch dried thyme

Pinch of kosher salt

  • Toss carrots with sesame seeds, thyme and kosher salt in a small bowl. Can be sautéed for a few minutes or eaten as is. Makes 3 2/3-cup servings. Per serving: 33 calories; 2g fat; 0g sat fat; 1g mono fat; 0mg cholesterol; 8g carbohydrates; 1g protein; 2g fiber; 72mg sodium; 220mg potassium.

Monday, March 1, 2010

From my e-mail

E-mail chain notes are crowding my inbox more than notes from my friends. Most get deleted, but every so often one catches my eye, like this one I got last week. It listed three things that every person should know. I'll start with the last one from this message, because it really is the most important, although it has nothing to do with food. And it is the only one I think has any merit:
  • Women: If you have intense pain in your jaw, it might just be a heart attack. This actually just happened to a dear friend a few weeks ago, so unfortunately I know first-hand how true this is. In fact, you might never even have chest pain. Jaw pain: Call your doctor immediately.
  • Don't drink cold water after eating, because the water will solidify the oily stuff you've just consumed, which slows digestion. I won't go into any more detail, but this very long message ends with the fact that this eventually will lead to cancer. I checked it out on, which calls this "claptrap," one of my favorite words. My mom always used it when she saw through one of my "stories," aka lies!
  • Never eat fruit after a meal. Another "not true" from Snopes! I first learned this bit of insanity from the Diamonds in "Fit for Life," which also advocated food combining to lose weight. Suzanne Somers' resurrected this idea in her diet book, which yes, I am now publicly admitting I bought. I am so not proud of this fact, and it was a waste of money, but some of the recipes were not bad. But back to the fruit-after-a-meal: There is nothing unhealthful about eating fruit before, during or after a meal. Go ahead and combine it all you want, which is a good thing since my favorite lunch is chicken salad with a diced apple. Yes, fruit will digest more quickly if you eat it alone, but contrary to that e-mail, it will not rot in your stomach if you eat it with other foods.
Thank you Snopes!