Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Tropical Storm Smoothie

You have all kinds of “tropical” going on in this smoothie.  Coconut, banana, pineapple, mango… And for those who like an alcohol kick, you can give this refreshing drink a nice “jazzed up pino colata” flavor with 1/4 cup of white rum!  Otherwise, you can just have it as a non-alcoholic chilled drink whenever the mood suits you.   Wonderful on a hot day!   

Tropical Storm Smoothie
(serves 2 to 3)

1 banana, cut in ½ inch slices
½ cup coconut milk
½ cup pineapple juice
½ cup diced fresh mango (or mango juice)
½ cup Yogurt
½ cup Milk
6 to 8 Ice cubes (or as many as you like)

Combine all ingredients together in a blender.  Blend on highest (or liquefy) speed, until smooth.  Pour into glasses (preferably chilled) and serve. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Homemade Bagels

 These are so delicious-- especially fresh, with some cream cheese!  I got the recipe from Youtube user mahalodotcom .  There are plenty of steps involved in making homemade bagels, but it is well worth the effort for the delicious, soft, chewy bagels that come out of your home oven!  There are lots of pictures here to help walk you through the process.  Also, knowing how to make them is quite a bragging right, because most people don't know how.  Its not complicated at all though, really. The secret to that classic bagel texture and taste is to both broil AND boil them before baking. 

Homemade Bagels


4 ¼ cups bread flour
1 ½ cups warm water
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tsp salt
¼ cup cornmeal or semolina


1.        In a large mixing bowl, add 2 cups of the flour.  Add in the yeast.  Toss yeast and flour together with a spoon.  Add in the sugar and salt.  Mix until blended. 

2.       Using a hand mixer on low to medium, gradually mix in the water, for about 30 seconds.  Then put the mixer on high, and beat for 3 minutes.

3.       Stir in as much of the remaining flour as you need to make the dough come together, but you should probably have about ¾ cup to 1 cup of flour left over.  Keep this for kneading.  

4.       On a lightly floured surface, knead in the rest of the flour for about 6 to 8 minutes, until you have a firm and dense but elastic ball of dough.

5.        Divide dough into 12 equal portions.   Roll each portion into a round ball with your hands.  Cover with a very *slightly* dampened cloth and let dough rise for about 10 minutes.

6.       Using your fingers, gently stretch a 2-inch diameter hole in the center of each dough ball.  Place on a lightly greased baking sheet.  

7.       Cover dough rings with a cloth and let them rise for 20 minutes. 

8.       In a large skillet, bring 6 cups of water to a boil.  You won’t be using this right now, but you want the boiling water to be ready the moment your bagels come out of the broiler.

9.       While the water boils, pre-heat your broiler, with the rack about 5 inched from the heated coils.  Place dough rings (on baking sheet) in the broiler for about 3 to 4 minutes.  Try not to let the tops get brown. 

10.    Remove bagel rings from broiler and immediately begin lowering them into the boiling water, one at a time, with a slotted spatula.  They should have plenty of space, so don’t boil more than 4 to 6 at a time.  Reduce water to a simmer, and let bagels simmer for 7 minutes total, flipping them over once at 3 1/3 minutes.  Remove bagels from the water and let them drain on double-layered paper towels.  

11.   Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

12.   Sprinkle 2 large baking sheets with the cornmeal (or semolina), spread out evenly.  Its best to use 2 baking sheets so that the bagels will have plenty of room to get a bit bigger.   


13.    Place bagels on baking sheets, leaving about 1 ½ inches between them.  Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden.  Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.  Serve bagels, or store them in a tightly-sealed container.   

TIP:  If you are making them ahead of time for an even, you can also seal them tightly and freeze them for up to 2 weeks, then thaw them at room temperature for 2 hours before serving. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

How Do The French Stay Slim-- While Eating French Food?

Its no secret that the French enjoy some of the tastiest food in the world, with additions labeled as "diet no-no's" by American society, such as:   Butter, cream, bread, wine and rich desserts-- regularly. But somehow, they are much thinner on average than Americans!

 Well it turns out there ARE indeed tricks to enjoying these things, while staying slim. These tricks were shared with American travelers, by average French folk. And it seems to make sense.

There are not only cultural eating habits responsible for this ever-famous "French Paradox" as its called-- the notion that the French eat these foods regularly and stay slim-- but also some cultural physical activity habits they have which we all should really be adopting.

So we will start with the food part.  Culturally, the French do have a very different attitude about food than Americans.   Here are some food and mindset tips from the people of France themselves:

1.      Do not accept being physically unable to do what you want to do, and wear what you want to wear.  The French take great pride in their health and looks, and they simply don't accept looking in the mirror, and being displeased with what they see.  You don’t have to be thin as a stick, or all muscle…  Attractiveness comes in many shapes.  But make sure your doctor reports healthy blood levels, and your weight does not prevent you from being active every day, or engaging in the activities you want to enjoy.

2.       The French make a leisurely, enjoyable experience of every meal.  They take their time to finish, and this is more satisfying.  More filling.  It prevents you from feeling like you need more helpings.  It takes about 15 to 20 minutes for your stomach to fully register exactly how much you have eaten.  So you may feel like you want seconds, if you scarf your food down too fast…   But if you wait 15 minutes (or take longer to eat), you will find that you don’t really want more after all.  DO NOT eat on the go, or when you are in a hurry.  People generally eat too fast, too much this way, and they don't pay attention to what their stomach is telling them.

      Do not shovel large portions of food into your mouth when you sit down at the table, either.  You need to MAKE time to stop, sit down and slowly enjoy a sensibly-portioned meal.  Maybe wake up a little earlier for breakfast (people who eat breakfast weigh less than those who don't).  Bring a home-made lunch to work, or spend your lunch hour at a cafe with sensible selections.  Sit at the table so you have to focus on your meal at dinner.  Watching TV and using the computer, or doing other activities (video games, studying) while eating will keep you from paying attention to your stomach-- and you will eat more.  Focus on your meal and chew slowly.   Slow and leisurely is the way to go! 

3.       The French do not gorge  themselves at a meal, or eat large portions.  Or go back for multiple servings.  They may eat a  little bit of everything, but they eat light...  Take smaller portions. Only  ONE starch on your plate, and not a lot.   Like ½ a cup of rice.  Same for potatoes or corn.  Or a tennis-ball-sized chunk of bread.  Extra veggies.  A piece of meat no bigger than a pack of cigarettes.  One slice of luncheon meat in your sandwich, not 4-- and extra veggies!  If its a big sandwich, eat only half and take the rest home for later.  Smaller servings of sauces, condiments and butter.  For dessert, one SMALL slice of cake, like the size of a cupcake.  Or ONE cookie.  Or ONE piece of candy.  And do not go back for seconds. 

4.       Don’t use artificial sweeteners.  The French prefer to use small amounts of the real thing.

5.       Eat yogurt EVERY day.  The French eat 1 to 2 helpings of yogurt, daily.  Its filling and good for you.  French grocery stores often devote an entire isle to Yogurt!  While other snacks like cookies, candy and chips get very little shelf space.   But try not to buy the small cups of commercial flavored yogurt.  They are packed full of WAY too much sugar!  Instead, do like the French do--  buy a big tub of fat-free plain yogurt, and flavor it yourself at home with a little honey, or a teaspoon of sugar and fresh fruit.  Or flavor extracts.  Don’t get the pre-flavored kind like vanilla, either…  They too have  tons of sugar.  Always plain.  Eat about a cup, once or twice a day.

6.        Have only ONE, small glass of wine, once a day, but no more. 

"Let's get Physical"

Now as for the cultural "physical activities" of the French that keep them thin...

I myself have lived in Europe for almost 4 years, and I can say this much from having seen it with my own eyes-- In addition to all the facts in the above article, Europeans generally WALK a lot more than us Americans do. Or they ride their bike. 

 They walk to the market nearly every day with their little pull-carts and shop one day at a time. The markets are a few blocks away, or even further. They also don't fill their cupboards and freezers with 2 weeks of food, enabling them to sit at home and eat, eat, eat, like we do.   They are major foodies with high standards, and demand FRESH meat, bread, dairy, herbs and produce-- every day.  Many of them also reason that they don't know what recipes they will want to try, or what they will be hungry for from one day to the next.  So they prefer to keep their options open by shopping for fresh ingredients each day.

But us Americans...  We get into a routine with our meals.  And the only reason we don't DRIVE to the bathroom, is because the car won't fit in the house! lol. 

Europeans however, normally don't drive unless they absolutely have to. I find this is also true in a couple of American cities I have visited, like New York city and San Francisco-- they very closely resemble the European culture.  In those cities, there are A LOT more slim people, who walk more than most Americans do! 

These cities have something in common with European cities... Driving generally SUCKS there! The roads are too small, too crowded, and there is never anywhere to park.

Many people prefer to walk in these places, or take the buses and trains. They only drive when they are going out of town. Or hauling a load they cannot carry in their hands.  

Also, these people often have this mindset:

"Hey-- I work very hard for my money, and I'm not rich.  Why should I polute the environment and crowd the roads up worse, risking my own safety-- while spend hundreds of dollars on my car each month with financing payments, insurance, repairs, registration, maintenance and gas?  I can just pocket all that money and walk!  Or take cheap public transportation.  If I need to haul a lo of stuff, I can take a cab."

I also think it has a lot to do with city design...   In Europe, all the major businesses in town tend to be in one single area (lawyer's offices, banks, courthouse, clinics, real estate, dentists, plumbers and electricians, malls, car mechanics, etc.)  So that you can simply walk to "the big business center" and take care of all your needs there!  

And the food markets are usually all clustered together.  There will be this one street with lots of little shops crammed together (a bakery, a butcher for meats and seafood, a produce vender, a dairy and cheese shop, a kitchen supply shop, a general grocery store).  These "market clusters" are located near residential areas.  In other words, within reasonable walking distance, and you can get everything in one place.   

Bicycles were very favored there.   Even for grocery hauling and parents with a small child! When I was in Europe, every other bike that passed me had either a metal basket on the front, full of groceries, or a child seat mounted on the back, with a baby or toddler riding it it!   Or both.

But American cities seem to have no rhyme or reason in their business locations.  Sure, we do have business and shopping centers...   But despite that, you will still see a lot of American towns with NO clinic or courthouse of their own.  Then you'll see things like a Wal-Mart all by itself on the far north end.    A pizza shop all by itself on the south end.   A lonely bank right by a suburb on the west end.   And a grocery store with no friends on the east end.  So its like you have to go to all 4 corners of the town, to take care of all your errands!   This discourages a lot of people from walking, because its just too overwhelming.  

So basically, we have designed things to encourage driving more and, by association, obesity. 

We Are Soooo Out Of Shape, You Guys!

No, seriously, we are.  lol.  To us, if something is more than 1 or 2 blocks away, its "too far" and we don't wanna walk there.  So we either grab our car keys, call a taxi or a friend with a car-- or we just sit at home.  It seems we are just too heavy to haul ourselves very far, and even when we are not heavy-- we don't have the walking-habit strength, endurance or energy to get very far on foot.  We are either too loaded down and sleepy from our massive portions of carby snacks, or too malnourished from our "starve yourself thin" misinformation.  

But either way-- we don't have good eating habits.   

Now, if an American ever visits Europe and befriends some Europeans, you will find that when a European says, "Its only a short walk away", their American friend is often confused and getting sluggish when they later discover they have been walking for a few blocks and still haven't arrived!  

"A short walk" does not mean the same thing in Europe as it does over here.  Europeans (being slimmer on average) are lighter on their feet and have been walking to most of their destinations for quite sometime. Their endurance and lean muscle is more built up.  So what seems like a leisurely stroll to them, is a vehicle-worthy trip to us!   

Don't Give In To The Situation-- Change It!

We Americans may live in cities designed for drivers...  But there are ways around this.  In most towns, you can still deal with all these set-backs, and stay slim like a European, just with a few minor tweaks.  In addition to the tips in the article above, make the following changes.  If you wanna eat yummy food and stay slim like a European-- you have to LIVE like one:

1.  Use the city bus system.   Its not hard!  You don't even have to learn it anymore, like back in the day.  Google Maps will let you type in your location, and your destination, click search, and it will show you route options for driving, walking or the bus/transit.   It will show you which bus numbers to get on, which bus numbers to switch to at which stops, and which stops to get off, closest to here you want to go.  Then ask the bus driver for a "transfer" slip so you don't have to pay for the ride back home (something a lot of people don't know about).  You just show your transfer slip to the next bus driver, and you can ride for free.  Of course, a transfer slip is only good for ONE trip or bus switch.  But it cuts the cost in half, with an already EXTREMELY cheap $1 to $2 bus ride.  Also be aware, many transfers have a time limit like 1 to 3 hours, etc.  Or you can get a monthly pass, and save even more!  You'll do a block or two of walking to get to your destination, and there you go-- You're not only living like a European, but you are saving the environment, AND your own gas money, plus wear and tear on your car.

2.  Make a rule for yourself that a business, store or friend/family member needs to be more than 4 to 6 blocks away...  Otherwise you WALK.  And even if it is further, you take the bus.  

3.  Only drive your car if you are going out of town, or if you are hauling a load you cannot carry.  Otherwise-- walk, ride your bike, or take the bus.  Got kids?  Take them with you!  Get them in the habit of it while they are young.  It will keep them in better shape too, and tire them out so they sleep better at night.

4.  Don't buy an entire week, 2 weeks, or 3 weeks of food at once!  This will force you to drive, as you can't carry all that, and you will have fewer reasons to get out of the house and walk for that period of time.  Shop only one to two days at a time.  Invest in a little folding shopping cart like the Europeans use.  Every day in Europe, I would see women (and men) pulling these behind them up and down the streets.  If you live up a flight of stairs, just ease the wheels up, one step at a time, like a baby stroller.  This way, even if you buy several heavy bags, you can still walk easily without killing your hands:  

5.  If its a very cold winter, you can walk a bit less and take the nice, warm bus a bit more.  Get a VERY warm coat and-- regardless of the weather-- good walking shoes.  

But...   My Kids!  They're Not Gonna Go For This!

Well, not if you don't say otherwise.  But understand, YOU have the power in this situation, not them.  Your kids cannot go anywhere in the family car, without your approval.  Sure, they will throw a fit and complain for a while.  But just keep this in mind:  Every time your kid says, "Can you drive me?"  In your head, you need to translate that to, "Can you help my metabolism go down, so I can get fat and be unhealthy, and die and a younger age?"   They may not know it, but that's exactly what they are saying.  YOU have to know that.  Its just like when you take them to the doctor to get their shots-- they think you are being mean, but YOU know you're keeping them safe and healthy.  Trust me, they will understand later, and thank you for it.

So your kids have to go to school, soccer practice, or ballet practice?  They wanna go to the mall, or the city swimming pool?  The movies?  If the neighborhood is ok, and they are big enough-- tell them to walk.  Or teach them to use the city buses.  Buy them a monthly bus pass and tell them to have at it!  lol.  Being a daily chauffeur is not supposed to be part of parenthood.  

And if your kids want that new cell phone...  Well you could get it for them if maybe they were walking to more places, instead of asking you to spend gas money..  You're not being mean when you tell them to walk.  You're looking after their health.  And if you are leading by example, then they won't even be able to call you on how much YOU go by car, rather than walking.  Such is the case, in a European home. 

Its really about our ability to set limits and stand our ground.  American parents are real softies, compared to parents in other countries.  We make it too easy for our kids to "demand".  I can't even imagine a European kid demanding a car ride from Mom and Dad for something right there in town!  Assuming its an average medium-size town.  If they ever tried...   Ohhh, the Pandora's box that would open!  lol.  Trust and believe, that is something they would try once, and ONLY once.

Before the 90's and the 2000's, it was the norm for kids and teens to do a lot of walking when they wanted to go somewhere.   Think about it.  When we (and our parents) were all kids, most of us didn't get rides absolutely EVERYWHERE around down.  We would walk together with a group of friends, or if we had to-- by ourselves.  And kids back in the 1800's on all that farm land walked a lot further than we all did!  Usually about a mile or so.  

European kids and teens walk pretty much everywhere too.  Not to sound harsh, but frankly, today's American kids need to get out and do some walking, because the obesity problem is affecting them too.  And if we did it, they can do it.


If we take tips from the French and live more like they do, then we too can EAT like they do, and stay in shape.