The headline on the recipe read “Eggplant and Tomato Pasta Bake.” The dish was among several on a page in one of those women’s magazines at my nail salon.
Eggplant doesn’t do much for me one way or another, so I nearly passed it by. Thankfully, I didn’t turn the page before taking a quick glance at the rest of the ingredients. Roasted tomatoes, bell pepper, basil pesto and Parmesan cheese mixed with whole wheat fusilli. Hmmm. It actually sounded pretty good as I ripped the recipe from the page. (With permission!) Not only that, it was super-easy…15 minutes prep time!
What the heck…a little eggplant wouldn’t kill me, right? Truth is, the health benefits of the eggplant are numerous since it contains a plethora of vitamins and minerals. I had no idea, but the vegetable that’s least vegetable-like, contains Nasunin, a phytonutrient that provides high concentrations of antioxidants and can protect against cell membrane damage and improve blood circulation.
The iron, calcium and fiber it provides are all essential parts of a balanced diet. And eggplant contains only 35 calories per cup. It has a hearty taste and texture similar to meat (maybe more like tofu?) and eating eggplant can be made enjoyable even for those with an aversion to consuming anything healthy. (Think eggplant parmigiana? Roasted eggplant?)
I did a Google search and the number of eggplant recipes is practically endless. I’d just like to leave you with one recipe that’s become part of the regular meal rotation at my house. It’s a great vegetarian option and trust me, you won’t even miss the meat!
Eggplant and Tomato Pasta Bake
1 lb. eggplant cut into cubes
1 lb. small tomatoes (2”diameter), halved
1 lg. red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
8 oz quinoa rotelle (ancient Harvest is good brand) or whole wheat fusilli (or any whole grain pasta of your liking)
¼ c. basil pesto (already made up in the refrigerator section at the grocery store)
4 Tbsp chopped, fresh basil
¼ c. finely grated Parmesan (I LOVE Parmesan, so double this ingredient!)
1. Heat broiler. Arrange eggplant, tomatoes (cut side up), bell pepper and onion on large baking sheet coated with olive oil spray. Coat vegetables with olive oil spray and season with ¼ tsp each salt and pepper. Broil, stirring vegetables (except tomatoes) halfway through cooking, until tomatoes are slightly charred and giving up their juices and remaining vegetables are golden brown and tender…about 6 minutes for tomatoes and 18 minutes for eggplant, bell pepper and onion.
2. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare pasta per package directions. Drain and toss in bowl with broiled vegetables, pesto and 2 Tbsp of the basil. Spoon into shallow baking dish (about 2 qt.) and top with cheese.
3. Cover with foil and bake until heated through, 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 2 Tbsp basil.
Enjoy this healthy and hearty version of comfort food with a salad and grainy bread.
My fondest memories of childhood revolve around swimming – winters indoors at the family “Y” and summers in the outdoor city pool through the Amateur Athletic Union age group swimming program.
Even more than the actual competition, I loved the workouts. Socially fun and physically challenging, I was blessed with coaches who worked hard to motivate my teammates and me to reach our full potential as young athletes.
One of the most fun and creative swim workouts I recall used a training technique called fartlek. (Now imagine poor Coach Meyers as he announced the next set would be “fartleks” to a bunch of immature 12-year-olds!)
Actually, when it comes to fitness, the funny-sounding word is nothing to snicker about. Fartlek, a Swedish term meaning “speed play,” is a form of interval or speed training that can be highly effective in improving speed and endurance.
Coach Meyers would blow the whistle and we’d swim 100 percent effort in short spurts. The next whistle meant slow and easy for a minute or so. We’d repeat the process until exhaustion set in. There’s no doubt, fartleks made me a faster swimmer. (And after all these years, it still makes me smile.)
Well guess what? Apparently, what’s old is new again. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, high intensity training tops the list of hot fitness trends for 2014. They no longer use the term, “fartlek,” but the principle remains.
The popular fitness routine has evolved and is now called high intensity impact training (HIIT)… still focusing on short bursts of high intensity exercise followed by short periods of rest. Fitness experts and devotees claim the technique yields twice the results in half the time.
Shannon Fable, with the San Diego-based American Council on Exercise, says the growing trend makes sense for fitness buffs with busy lives. She says HIIT is a regimen that meets needs in the time they have available.”
HIIT (fartlek!) workouts have been around for years, but thanks to intense workout programs such as CrossFit, P90X, Insanity, TurboFire and Tabata training, more and more fitness fanatics are turning to the practice to get fit.
But if all that intensity isn’t for you, no worries The list of trendy routines for 2014 includes everything from ancient yoga practices to new twists on personal training. Also scoring high in the New Year – fitness programs for older adults and children’s exercise programs.
So pick out a workout plan that sounds fun to you and let’s all get moving in 2014!
I used to think personal trainers were for someone else. Not me. I’m motivated to work out on my own, thank you. I don’t need some guy with six-pack abs watching my every bicep curl.
Well, last year that all changed when I realized I needed help. Following multiple surgeries, I had developed aches, pains and muscle weaknesses that only seemed to get worse the harder I pushed on my own at the gym. Even swimming left me with a stiff neck and knot in my back.
Frustrated, I asked for advice from one of my fit friends. His recommendation? You guessed it – a personal fitness trainer. Desperate, I took his advice and called Bret Smith a credentialed instructor and the owner of the “Move Strong Studio” in San Diego.
Bret quickly assessed my situation and gave me simple, corrective exercises I could do at home. After several sessions with “my” personal trainer, I began to feel better, stronger and happier as my aches and pains subsided. Because of Brett’s personal attention and expertise, I’m grateful to be back hiking, biking and swimming strong.
As I’ve gotten to know Brett, it’s clear he’s more than a fitness trainer. Not only is he knowledgeable on all facets of health and fitness, he’s a wonderful (but gentle!) motivator! (Go check out his website at www.movestrongstudio.com
So, as we begin a new and (hopefully!) healthier new year, I asked Brett to share some of the tips he gives his clients to help them start and stick with a fitness program.
Here are Brett’s Top 10 Tips for looking good and feeling great in 2014:
1. Just Get Moving! Starting a new fitness program can be daunting with all the "have to's" and all that information can lead to overload. The simple and best way to start is to just get moving and increase your general activity level throughout the day.Taking a walk after lunch or dinner; taking the stairs instead of an elevator; standing while on the phone or when someone walks into your office; parking a little farther than your destination – little things that can add up and make a big difference in helping you move and feel better.
2. Have an Accountability Buddy. This will help you stick with a plan. You and your workout buddy both promise to not let the other skip a workout. This buddy may be a friend with similar goals to yours, a family member, co- worker or even a fitness professional who will motivate you to stay on track.
3. Choose Activities You Enjoy. And do them! Again and again! Nothing will short- circuit your workout plan faster than a boring, non-eventful activity. Even if it's completely new, but sounds interesting, you're more likely to stick with something you enjoy. Don't be afraid of trying a bunch of things to see what connects with you.
4. Pick the Pro especially if you're just getting started, unsure or just unaccustomed to having regular activity in your life. Investing in a Certified Fitness Professional can get you off on the right foot helping you build a solid foundation, focus on your goals and prevent injury. Word-of-mouth and referrals from trusted family and friends is best way to find the best pro for you.
5. Set Your Goals! Write these ideas down and be specific. How many pounds? Dress size? Body fat percentage? Whatever it is, get it down on paper. Then post the goals, completion date and workouts completed to date in places you see regularly. Consistent reinforcement is key to your success.
6. Be Relentless in your dedication to succeeding. Set your schedule. Stick with it. No excuses. Make your workouts as important as showing up for work, being with your family or having fun.
7. No 4-Letter Words! Banish the CAN’T’s, DONT's and WONT's from your vocabulary. It may take some self-talk and gentle reminders but focus on what you CAN, WILL and WANT to do. One step at a time.
8. Prepare For the Journey. Consider your new undertaking as the journey of a lifetime. As you and your journey grow, you'll explore new and exciting ways to stay happy, healthy and fit along the way. One of the highest rates of success in sticking with a fitness and wellness plan is sharing it with a group, partner, friend or spouse. Be part of a team and see how everyone benefits.
9. Make it Social. We are social creatures and one of the highest rates of success in sticking with a fitness and wellness plan is sharing it with a group, partner, friend or spouse. Make them part of Your Team and see how everyone benefits.
10. Ignore the Hype. If you are easily influenced by the hype of a fad diet or latest fitness gadget, stop and ask two simple questions. For whom? For what? These programs and equipment promise you success with little time or effort. The truth is, it takes time, work, dedication and determination. No diet or a trendy gadget will change that. There are no shortcuts to success...only detours and u-turns if you fall prey to the hype.
My sweet kitty, Bing, is getting over a little infection. The vet said it was no big deal. All I had to do was give her a tiny pill twice a day for a week.
Bing is young…an adolescent, really…and not very cooperative (to say the least) when it’s time for her pill. Anyone with a cat can identify with my dilemma. Talking with my step-Mom, Kaye about battling with Bing and her pills, we had a good laugh about “herding cats” and the like.
Two days later, a note from Kaye arrived “snail mail.” Inside was a copy of an old Ann Landers column from 1999 which included a piece called “How to Give Your Cat a Pill,” by Bob Story.
It’s hilarious. In fact, I haven’t laughed that hard in years – no decades! That laughing jag made me feel so good; I’ve decided to pass it along. And please, no complaints from cat lovers. (I love cats more than anyone, believe me!) It’s just a piece of humor. I hope it gives you a chuckle.
How to Give Your Cat a Pill
By Bob Story
Pick cat up and cradle it in the crook of your left arm as though holding a baby. Position right forefinger and thumb on either side of cat’s mouth and gently apply pressure to his cheeks. When cat opens up, pop pill into mouth. Cat will then close mouth and swallow.
Retrieve pill from floor and cat from behind sofa. Repeat the process.
Retrieve cat from bedroom and throw soggy pill away.
Kneel on floor with cat wedged firmly between knees, immobilizing front and rear paws. Ask assistant to hold cat’s head firmly with one hand while forcing wooden ruler into cat’s throat. Flick pill down ruler with forefinger and rub cat’s throat vigorously.
Retrieve cat from living room valance.
Carefully sweep shattered figurines from hearth and set aside for later gluing. Remove next pill from foil wrap.
Wrap cat in beach towel and ask assistant to lie prone on cat with cat’s head visible under assistant’s armpit. Put pill in end of paper tube you’ve made for this purpose. Then force cat’s mouth open with pencil and blow.
Check label to make sure pill is not lethal to humans. Sip water to take away taste. Apply bandage to assistant’s forearm and remove blood from carpet with soap and cold water.
Call 911, ask fire department to retrieve cat from eucalyptus tree. Remove remaining pill from foil wrap. Tie cat’s front paws to rear paws with garden twine and securely tie to leg of dining table. Put on heavy-duty pruning gloves. Force cat’s mouth open with tire iron. Drop pill, previously hidden in one ounce of raw hamburger, into cat’s mouth. Hold head vertically with nose pointed to ceiling and pour one-half pint of water down cat’s throats and two jiggers of whiskey down your own.
Ask assistant to drive you to emergency room. Sit quietly while doctor administers anesthetic, stitches forearm and removes pill remnants from eye. Drop off cat, along with a generous donation, at animal shelter and adopt a goldfish.
There you have it. And now it’s time to give Bing her next pill. This is gonna be fun!
I’m not a great traveler. Friends make it look easy, but for me, it’s a struggle. I don’t mean to whine, but planning and packing are a pain. I hate turbulence and I miss my bed!
But the worst part is the airport. It’s just so chaotic! Hustling to get bags checked…frantically navigating the crowds, security lines and crowded bathrooms only to finally arrive at the gate just in time for the battle to board!
Well, no more! The newly expanded Terminal 2 at Lindbergh Field is actually making traveling in and out of San Diego fun! In fact, I may just get there early for my next trip…relax and enjoy the amenities of the new, state-of-the-art expansion that’s put a fresh face on our aging airport.
The additions to the gorgeous, new 445,000-square-foot terminal include 10 new gates, a dual-level roadway for arriving and departing passengers (reminds me of the “Jetsons!”) fabulous new eating and shopping options and lots of space!
Thella Bowens, president and CEO of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, says the expansion takes Lindbergh Field to “a new level.”
I think that’s an understatement.
The gates are furnished with outlet-equipped seating, free water-bottle refilling stations and clean, contemporary terrazzo flooring. There’s new artwork to enjoy, six new gates, comfortable, new seating and other amenities…including the airport’s first post-security animal relief area complete with fire hydrant!
The terrazzo flooring makes the trip to baggage claim like a walk on the beach. Lay in geometric bands in shades of ocean blue, gray, green and sand, it’s also integrated with a matrix of marbles, shells and glass. You can almost feel the sand between your toes!
The heart of the terminal aptly called “Sunset Cove,” a dining area that provides a stunning, panoramic view of the airport. The lighting is breathtaking. Called “The Journey,” art lights sparkle throughout the corridor. A stunning Swarovski crystal fixture is the “Cove’s” centerpiece.
Returning from a recent trip, it was hard to believe I was in an airport let alone Lindbergh Field!
And then there’s the food! Restaurants in Sunset Cove include Saffron, Bubbles Seafood Wine Bar, Seaside Stack Shack, Qdoba, Red Mango and Tommy V’s Pizzeria. San Diego favorites Stone Brewing Company and Phil’s BBQ are also there just to make you feel at home.
Finally, be sure to allow yourself some time for a little shopping. You can browse the books at Warwick’s, check out the cool stuff at Brookstone or sample a new shade of lipstick at Clinique. While husband, Tom, was distracted at the PGA Tour Shop, I was trolling Brighton Collectibles for a gift and we still made it to our flight on time!
Years in the making, the beautiful build-out is finally complete. I think you’ll find it was well worth the wait.
By the way, the expansion project…dubbed “The Green Build,” by airport officials is not only beautiful, it’s receiving much-deserved accolades and awards for energy efficiency.
Bravo Airport Authority! (I can’t wait for my next trip.)
I love it when Dana hosts our women’s Bible study. Her home is warm and welcoming. She has a cool dog and she makes the best, by far, pumpkin bread in the world.
Dana serves her signature sweet bread warm right from the oven in a cute, Bundt-style baking pan in the shape of a pumpkin. Martha Stewart would be proud.
Recently, as I let a second warm slice of pumpkin perfection melt in my mouth, I decided to ask Dana for the recipe. I figured it would be beyond my culinary skills…probably an old, family recipe involving double boilers, exotic spices and separated eggs.
Dana just smiled as she shared her “secret” recipe – three ingredients – one step. So simple, even I could dazzle my friends and family with pumpkin bread worthy of the Cooking Channel.
If you need to bring something sweet to a holiday gathering, consider whipping up Dana’s perfect pumpkin bread. It’s so simple; you won’t even have to write it down. But here it is just in case!
Dana’s Pumpkin Bread
1 Box Trader Joe’s pumpkin bread mix
Prepare according to the box recipe, but add ½ can of organic, canned pumpkin (also at Trader Joe’s) and a small tub of vanilla Greek yogurt.
Bake and eat. Consider it my gift to you!
Good eating and God’s blessings!
I ran into Don and Sheila the other day on the curb in front of our house. It was Monday…garbage day…as together we rolled our trash cans back into our respective garages. Actually, it was good to see our next-door neighbors. Tom and I hadn’t seen or heard from them for several days.
I quickly learned why as Sheila dressed in heavy sweats with a wool scarf around her neck warned me not to come any closer. Looking like the walking dead, she told me that she and Don had the flu and were so sick they hadn’t even left their house. Taking the trash to the curb was their first outing in days.
It broke my heart to see our friends in such misery. They admitted they hadn’t gotten the flu shot and vowed never to pass on it again.
Secretly, I applauded my own decision to get vaccinated. But it’s my pharmacist who deserves the credit for making that smart choice. As I quizzed him at my local pharmacy, he convinced me the flu shot is still the best way to avoid the miserable symptoms of the flu virus.
I remember using the line, “They never get the formula right anyway,” to justify skipping this year’s vaccination. If that’s your argument, then it may be time to roll up your sleeve. Turns out, a flu shot is effective even if its strains don’t match those going around!
That may sound crazy, but a Canadian review found in years the vaccine hadn’t targeted the viruses circulating, people still got protection that was more than 50 percent effective (when there was a match, protection rose to 65 percent or more).
Bottom line…from my pharmacist and primary care doctor to the Mayo Clinic and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), the best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated.
Like all medications, vaccines can have side effects, but they’re extremely rare. For people with certain health conditions, getting the shot may not be advised. Obviously, if you have any concerns, check with your doctor before getting vaccinated.
Then, before you decide to skip this year’s flu shot…consider this. The vaccine can protect you from the ravages of the flu that wiped out our neighbors – a viral respiratory illness that spreads easily and can make your life miserable for weeks. Worst case? The flu can lead to serious health complications and possibly death. Why chance it?
It’s too late for Don and Sheila. Thankfully, they’re recovering nicely.
But there is still time for you to prevent the fever, chills and body aches that could have you down for the count this holiday season.
For a list of Palomar Health community flu shot clinics, go to www.PalomarHealth.org/flu.
When it comes to food, these days, it’s all about going organic. And that’s great. Count me in! But I must admit, navigating the maze of organic food labels, benefits and claims can be more confusing than an exercise in quantum physics!
Is it just me? I have a college degree but nowhere in my curriculum was there a course on “label language,” and much of it is simply indecipherable. Thank goodness, after decades of talk, the USDA’s National Organic Program has finally standardized the widely varying practices of an unregulated, grassroots movement. The program ensures all producers play by the same rules. What does that mean for you and me? Official, clear-cut definitions of “organic” and its many wannabes.
Here they are! (And if you lose this, not to worry. I’ve got the list posted on my fridge!)
100% Organic: All ingredients must be certified organic, and processing aids must be organic as well. The name of the certifying agent must be on the label, which may carry the USDA Organic seal.
Organic: Products must contain at least 95% certified organic ingredients. The remaining 5% (except salt and water), along with any nonorganic processing aids (such as chlorine to wash packaging equipment), must be from a national list of substance the USDA has approved for use in organics. The product may carry the USDA Organic seal.
Made with Organic: Packaging can’t include the USDA seal, but at least 70% of the product must be certified organic; nonagricultural ingredients must come from the national list. The quality of organic foods is high even at 70%, experts say.
Organic Ingredients: Below 70% organic, the product can’t claim on its packaging that it’s organic, except to list specific certified organic ingredients on the information panel.
Natural: The USDA says that meat, poultry and eggs labeled with this word must have no artificial ingredients and be minimally processed. But the term isn’t defined beyond those items. Assume “natural” means “conventional.”
Fair Trade: Nongovernment organizations certify that growers received minimum prices and community support from buyers and followed specific environmental practices. Standards are not as strict as for organic.
Free-range: Birds such as chickens are sheltered and have continuous access to the outdoors, along with unlimited access to food and water. However, these claims are not certified.
Cage-free: Birds can freely roam inside a building or room with unlimited access to food and fresh water. They’re without cages, but can still be packed very tightly, even when organic.
Grass-fed: Animals receive most of their nutrition from grass throughout their lives, but may also eat hay or grain indoors during winter. Animals may still receive antibiotics and hormones, according to the USDA.
No Added Hormones: Already true of organic, so its conventional producers that tend to use this term, but there’s no certification for these claims.
Whew! It’s still a lot of info…but at least these definitions are clear and should make buying organic a lot easier.
I have a confession to make. I’m addicted to my lip balm! I’m not thrilled about this. But at least I’m not the only one constantly reaching for that next lip fix.
‘Tis the season, after all – the sunny, hot and extremely dry season, that is. With temperatures rising and high pressure building, they just don’t make enough Chapstick to keep my miserably dry, cracked lips moist!
The spectacular autumn sun may be shining brightly, but with dry Santa Ana winds and humidity dropping below 10 percent, many of us look for relief from constantly re-applying our favorite lip balm. (Bee’s for me!)
Annoying and uncomfortable at best, chapped lips can become dry, cracked and sore interfering with daily activities such as smiling, eating, talking, singing and kissing. Even worse, cracked tissue can be painful and lead to infection.
So Cal’s “devil winds” aren’t the only reason our kissers become cracked and chapped. Yes, over exposure to wind, sun, cold and dry air are the main culprits, but people who breathe through their mouths (for a variety of reasons) can develop chapped lips. Certain medications or allergies to cosmetics or skin care products may also be the cause.
When lips are exposed to moisture, they absorb water and plump up. No surprise there, but conversely, when dehydrated they can dry out. As we age, it’s hard for skin to retain moisture and dryness tends to increase in the winter.
So, what’s a person to do?
Check out these timely tips to help you keep those luscious lips soft and moist…
*Avoid lip smacking or licking your lips.
When you do, you provide a drop of moisture which evaporates quickly, leaving the lips drier than before. Saliva contains digestive enzymes that can break down the protective barrier on the lips.
Drink plenty of fluids to moisturize from the inside out. Set up a humidifier in your home or office.
*Be sure your lip balm contains sunscreen.
According to researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, “sun damage to the lips can cause dryness and scaliness…the same way it damages the rest of the skin.”
*Ladies, wear lipstick!
A creamy lipstick (non-matte) can soothe chapped lips and opaque lipstick filters out harmful light. This may be why women seldom get lip cancer.
*Apply lip balm.
Look for hydrating ingredients such as beeswax and petroleum. Beware of camphor and menthol…camphor-based medicated lip balm may be irritating.
*It’s OK to reapply often.
Apply it before you go out…several times while you are out and after you eat or drink.
Apply a thick layer of balm at bedtime to lessen chapping. Many of us sleep with our mouths open, which leads to dry lips. (Since I began slathering on a generous layer of Aquaphor at night, no more painful cracks in the corners of my lips!)
Oh, and don’t be concerned about actually becoming “addicted” to your lip balm. There are no physically addictive ingredients in balms. A psychological habit? Maybe. But it’s safe…so grab another tube!
It was our first trip to Paris. So much to see and do…the Eiffel Tower…Notre Dam…the Louvre. Amazing!
But as Tom and I recently experienced our first trip to the “City of Light,” we quickly learned the main Parisian attraction isn’t a cathedral or museum. It’s the food! And for nine days, we made it our goal to taste it all.
We indulged in crepes, both savory and sweet, swimming in rich cheese and cream sauces – fresh, buttered baguettes stuffed with ham and Gruyere, buttery croissants slathered in orange marmalade and steaming cups of cappuccino with creamy, whole milk. (Don’t even think about insulting your French server by asking for non-fat!)
We literally ate our way through the streets of Paris. From curbside vendors and colorful sidewalk cafes to charming bistros with white tablecloths, we dined on steaming bowls of cheese-covered French onion soup, spaghetti bolognaise and melt-in-your moth beef bourguignon.
I won’t even begin to describe the delightfully decadent French desserts in this space. Words are completely insufficient. But I will say this much. Last night I dreamt about one of those divine desserts…the rich ice cream, whipped cream and dark chocolate sauce confection known as the “blanche dame.”
For the record, I didn’t work out one day. Oh well, when in France…
But the day of reckoning finally came back home as I stepped on the scale to assess
the damage. Unbelievably, the digital display indicated I had lost nearly a pound!
And then it hit me.
I’d just experienced a touch of what’s known as the French Paradox…the country’s low rate of coronary heart disease despite a diet rich in saturated fat. It’s the basic premise of the popular diet book, “French Women Don’t Get Fat.” Author Mireille Guiliano advises eating only good food of very high quality, eat it in small portions and savor every bite.
And it fits our French dining experience to a tee. Rather than wolfing down a hastily prepared PB and J running out the door, our meals were not rushed. In fact, they were an event unto themselves…consumed slowly while visiting and sipping the local Bordeaux.
As Guiliano explains, “From chocolate to champagne, eat slowly, with all your senses, and make every dining experience pleasurable so you will be satisfied with smaller portions of delicious food. No food is off limits, only large portions. No counting calories, no skipping meals – just control what you eat.”
It truly is a paradox. Lean and fit, the French aren’t into low-fat, low-carb, low-taste and low-calorie. Their diet is full of flavor and high in satisfaction. (And the majority of Parisians don’t have cars. They walk as did we – often miles a day!)
When it comes to food, we could all learn a thing or two from our French brothers and sisters. With their low rate of obesity and cardiovascular disease, the French way may just be the way to go!