A new kind of aromatherapy

October 8, 2009

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As I mentioned on Monday, I’ve been counting my calories the last couple of weeks so when I read about vaportinis, the inhaled cocktails that have no calories but all the booze buzz, I was more than intrigued!

The idea was born in Helsinki where vodka is poured over hot coals and revelers inhale the vapors, but modified for indoor use by Red Kiva lounge in Chicago. They’ve created inhaled cocktails that sound like they’re equal parts vaporizer and bong. The picture above shows the vessel Red Kiva uses to serve their inhaled cocktails. It works like this: inside the bowl, alcohol is heated to 110°F until it starts to vaporize. Then, you breathe in the vapors through that little glass straw. It all sounds ultra weird but the idea of a calorie-neutral cocktail almost compels me to hop a plane to Chicago for the long weekend.

How about you? Intrigued or turned off?

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Topline Trend Tuesday: Anti-inflammatory diets

October 6, 2009

anti-inflammatory-food-pyramid(click image for full size)

It seems like there’s always a new diet promising to change your life by making you slimmer and sexier. Most of them don’t work (trust me – I’ve tried them all!) and many of them make you feel pretty awful besides (remember the dreaded Slim Cleanse experience I wrote about?).

But the latest diet trend to get media attention has a new goal in mind: calming the immune system. Anti-inflammatory diets promote the inclusion of brightly coloured, high antioxidant foods (such as carrots, cherries and pomegranates), spices (such as turmeric and ginger) and fish oils to help reduce the amount of inflammation in our bodies. Theorized to alleviate symptoms of psoriasis and acne and to reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s, heart disease and cancer, anti-inflammatory diets sound like they could help a lot of people.

How does it work? Studies show that chronic inflammation in the body can throw the immune system off balance and cause it to spend time repelling pathogens instead of maintaining healthy tissues.

Looking for more info on this trend? Both Dr. Sears and Dr. Weil are on the bandwagon and have info to share.

Have you heard of this diet or tried it? If so, tell me what you think.


Reinventing grilled cheese

October 5, 2009

shrimp naanwich

Did I mention to you that I’m on a diet? Yes, again. I’m truly the poster child for yo-yo dieting. I even have a string in the top of my head.

When I diet, I fantasize about my favourite foods. In fact, all weekend long I was tormented by dreams of crunchy, buttery, gooey grilled cheese sandwiches!

As much as I love old school, aged Cheddar melted between slices of sandwich bread (these are the sandwiches that I grew up eating for lunch), I’ve been known to experiment with my grilled cheese, too. In fact, in my 2007 cookbook Dana’s Top ten Table (Harper Collins), I featured this suppertime sandwich that combines tender naan bread, molten cheese and crunchy, sweet shrimp. Decadent, fast, easy and comforting:

Shrimp Toasty Naanwhich

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes

1/2 lb (50 mL) thawed, frozen cooked shrimp, tails and shells removed
3 tbsp (45 mL) mayonnaise (light or regular)
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 green onion, finely chopped
4 slices havarti cheese
4 slices naan bread, halved crosswise
1 tbsp (15 mL) melted butter

Pat the shrimp dry on paper towels and then chop coarsely if large. Blend with the mayonnaise with the garlic and green onion. Lay two large naan out on a clean work surface; spread the shrimp mixture evenly over one slice. Top with the cheese slices and remaining bread.

• Spread the butter evenly over the outside of the naan. Preheat a panini maker, hinged grill or a large skillet or griddle to medium heat. Add the sandwich and cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until bread is golden on each side and cheese is melted. If cooking on the stovetop, turn the sandwich halfway through cooking. Makes 4 servings.

In case you’re uninitiated, naan is an East Indian, wheat flour, leavened bread that’s baked until pillowy, soft and golden in a tandoor oven. According to the Chicago Tribune, using naan for sandwiches is trending up. From Canada’s west coast chain Sabri Sandwiches that transform Indian entrées like butter chicken into hand held meals to old crocks like me, naan is a great way to perk up your sandwiches.

Do you use naan in non-traditional ways like sandwiches and pizza?


Rebellion at the restaurant – Healthy eating gone wrong?

May 15, 2009

cheeseburger

Check out the surprising news in this recent Reuters article about the adverse effects of healthy menu items on people’s health. Although it discusses a small study of  70 undergraduate students, the results are surprising:

•    37% chose a bacon cheeseburger when the menu alternatives included a veggie burger (other options were a chicken or fish sandwich)
•    only 17% picked the bacon cheeseburger when the veggie burger wasn’t on the menu.
Dr. Gavan J. Fitzsimons of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina led the study and observed that “Because the healthy option is there, it somehow satisfies this healthy eating goal in them and then they felt liberated to sort of go crazy and choose something really, really bad for them.”

It’s like he’s been watching me. Seriously. I’ve ordered dessert with a ‘What the hell? We only live once!’ victory cry on numerous occasions when I’ve been out with the girls. Even at home, I rebel on occasion; for instance, I buy skim milk for myself but then sneak sips of my son’s homogenized milk. Shameful behaviour, I know.

Has this kind of rebellious impulse ever thwarted your good eating intentions?


No gym required — really!

February 11, 2009

img_2487 by Guest Blogger Amy Snider

Who has time to go to the gym? I’ve always believed in the philosophy that to be healthy, you need to eat nutritious foods and incorporate lots of physical activity into your lifestyle. But like so many other people, I find it challenging to practise what I preach. After a busy day at work, trudging out to the gym to fight for a treadmill has no appeal.

That’s why I was excited to be asked to be a contributor in Key Porter’s recent fitness book  No Gym Required, Unleash Your Inner Rock Star by celebrity trainer Jennifer Cohen. Jennifer’s opinion is that you don’t need to spend a lot of money or time to improve your health. Designed to “unleash your inner rock star” Jennifer offers advice on how to adopt a healthier lifestyle by setting attainable goals, choosing the right foods and getting fit. I love the visual, step-by-step instructions for exercises that you do can anytime, anywhere!

As part of Team Jennifer, we developed a two-week menu featuring fresh, wholesome foods to make it easy to get a jump start on getting lean and fit. Unlike starvation diets, the 1,500 calorie-a-day meal plan is practical and designed to keep you fueled throughout the day. Two of our terrific interns Shirley Walsh and Melanie Chislett helped out with research and it was great to be able to include them in this project. Check out the book and the website at www.ngrfit.com.

Where do you work out? At home? Outside? Or at the gym?


My Wii fit is a mean girl

February 5, 2009

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Image Credit: www.trustedreviews.com

Like many people, I took a break from dieting and my regular fitness regime over the holidays. While many people jumped on the resolution diet bandwagon on January 1st, I played it cool and got my fill of cold weather comfort food. Once satiated with mac and cheese, coconut curry and bacon laced concoctions of all kinds, I decided the time had come to return to my virtuous ways. (The actual truth is that my slim pants were just too tight to wear comfortably and I absolutely won’t wear my fat pants for more than a day or two.)

So, I started watching my diet and pulled out the Wii fit I got last summer. If you’ve used a Wii fit then you know that it’s interactive, with animated icons that give you instructions and other info. Although the Wii fit isn’t completely ignorant of the concept of positive reinforcement, it isn’t shy about pointing out your deficiencies either.

My first day back it informed me in rather large font (damn that large TV screen) that

• I had gained 6 pounds,
• it had been 153 days since I last used it (I wanted to shout that I’d played tennis all last fall but the machine just doesn’t listen!),
• that my Wii fit age was 3 years older than my chronological age,
• I have terrible balance.

Wow, I felt good about myself before my work out. Really great. Sheesh! I almost got off and got a cookie to make myself feel better!

While I know that I need to face the fact that I’m not in tip top shape, I’m not sure I’m the kind of person who does well with tough love. A little back-patting goes a long way to motivating me with my diet and fitness goals. What about you – do you need a drill sergeant or a cheerleader to help you stick to your fitness regime?


Proudly below average

September 17, 2008

A couple of weeks ago when I wrote about how I was a couple of pounds heavier than the average Canadian woman, I was a bit chagrinned with myself since last winter I had been thin, trim and happily below average. Just like every autumn of my adult life, I had gained weight.

Well, today I’m happy to say that I am once again below average! It’s been a couple of weeks of sacrifice and quite a few laps around my neighbourhood’s park trails but I’m now more than three pounds below average weight and still six inches taller than average. As a result I’m both above and below average at the same time. It’s a happy paradox!

While I’d love to celebrate with a donut, I’m smart enough to know that moderation will be my key to long-term victory. Or, it would be if I got a new job that didn’t require me to eat all day long, to develop 30+ holiday baking recipes each May, etc.. But, I digress.

What are my slimming food secrets? They aren’t rocket science, but here are three superhero snacks that I’ve found helpful as I’ve whittled my ass down to fit back into my skinny jeans:

• Green Giant Essentials Fibre (blend with pearl barley) makes a great lunch
• Soup at Hand Garden Tomato is my afternoon snack choice when I crave a mocha mid afternoon.
• Summer Fresh Salads Snackn’ Go Hummus is just the right amount of highly flavoured protein to make salad a satisfying lunch.
• Do you have any superhero skinny snacks you can recommend?