Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Vitamin D And A Little Sun Is Good For Your Heath

What's a patient to do?  For years doctors have warned us to stay out of the sun.  That's because one in five people develops skin cancer, so too much sun is definitely bad.  But, not getting enough sun is bad too.  When we are in the sun, our skins produce vitamin D naturally.  Studies show that vitamin D is more important to our health than even doctors realized.  No doubt, most of us know vitamin D promotes strong bones by helping with the absorption of calcium.  But recent medical studies link a lack of vitamin D in the blood to disease, including diabetes, muscle and bone pain and certain cancers.

Doctors now believe a little exposure to the sun is beneficial.Sun Getting enough vitamin D may reduce your risks for cancers of the breast, colon, esophagus, ovaries, prostate and the lymph system.  It suppresses cancer cell growth, as well as, the formation of blood vessels, which feed tumors.  An adequate dose of vitamin D may also prevent heart attacks, arthritis and multiple sclerosis.  It reduces heart disease by lowering blood pressure.

Sunlight and/or vitamin D also seems to lessen migraines, depression and chronic fatigue, but doctors haven't established what the connection is, and scientific research is ongoing.

According to many doctors, including Drs Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz of the You books, adults need 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily.  You can get some from fortified foods like milk, orange juice and breakfast cereals.  But it's difficult to get all the vitamin D you need from diet alone.  Vitamin D3 supplements help, but some doctors now advise us to expose our bare arms and legs to the sun [i.e. no sunscreen] for 10 to 15 minutes a few times a week and use sun protection the rest of the time.  Your skin will produce 10,000-25,000 IUs (and safely store what it doesn't use).  That's all the sun we need to meet our vitamin D requirements without significantly increasing our risks for skin cancer.Island with palm tree

Read more <here> on vitamin D deficiency by Dr. Frank Lipman He combines western, eastern and wellness medicine.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Why Are Products Shrinking?

If it seems like you run out of dishwashing liquid or breakfast cereal much faster these days, you are not imagining it.  Many of the products we use everyday are shrinking.  It's a sneaky way for manufacturers to raise prices without a buyer noticing ... at least not right away.  But it's getting harder to miss because the products shrink over and over again.  Just where -- at what minuscule size -- will it stop?  Already I'm purchasing 6 ounces of yogurt when I used to get 8 ounces.  Yesterday I spotted a brand reduced to 5.3 ounces!  And as it turns out, I'm not satisfied eating the 6 ounces!  This is causing a dilemma where there shouldn't be one:  Consuming one yogurt isn't enough.  Eating two yogurts is two much.  For a while, I tried buying a large 32 ounce container and divided it into 4 servings, but most New York City supermarkets only stock plain and vanilla yogurt in the larger size.  And I missed the refreshing fruity flavors.

Sadly, yogurt companies aren't the only merchants doing it.  All products are shrinking:

  • Recently canned tuna went from 6 ¾ ounces to 6 ounces to 5 ounces.
  • Kellogg's Raisin Bran, once 22 ounces, shrank to 18 ounces, than to 16 ounces, and then again to 15 ounces.
  • Dishwashing liquid, which was once 16 ounces, decreased to 14 ounces before going to 12 ounces, then 11-and now 10.3 ounces.  Are they kidding!
  • 16 ounces of tomatoes and other cans of fruit and vegetables are today only 15 ounces.
  • 5 pounds of Domino sugar is now sold as 4 pounds.
  • 32 ounces of Hellmann's mayonnaise is now 30 ounces.
  • 16 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips are down to 12 ounces.  I don't think Nestle's is trying to help me prevent cavities, do you?
  • One pound of ground coffee is only 13 ounces.  Yesterday I saw a Folger's can at 11.3 ounces.
  • 250 Kleenexes are now boxes of only 100 … while prices are still going up.
The practice and the list goes on and on.  And, I'm not sure how we can stop it.  Manufacturers often redesign packages to fool us into thinking the quantity is the same.  It's certainly not transparent and slightly dishonest.  And it's leaving some of us hungry!  For brief periods, consumers can compensate by switching to other brands, but eventually, manufacturers seem to follow one another.  Nowadays, I couldn't find a 6 ¾ ounce can of tuna without stepping into a time machine.  Aren't we really being cheated out of product?  Personally, I wish companies would leave quantities alone and just raise their prices.

Meanwhile, here's what we can do:

1. Compare unit prices between brands and sizes to find the cheapest one.
2. Buy store brands (before they shrink). Certain products like flour, sugar and dried beans are indistinguishable from a name brand.
3. Check drugstore chains.  Walgreens and Rite Aid have weekly sales on food and paper goods.
4. Stock up on stapes when they go on sale.
5. Buy in bulk when it makes sense.  Only if you use enough of a product, and it has a long shelf life is it a bargain.

Score one for team consumer: I'm skipping the 5.3 ounces of yogurt and the 11.3 ounces of ground coffee. Enough with not enough!!

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Slow Cooker Lasagna Lite

My friend Norma is an excellent cook and a Crockpot enthusiast.  I am late to the party, but recently bought one.  So this summer I won't be slaving over a hot oven, or even be at home while dinner is cooking.  Some of the tastiest cuts of beef include (1) rump roast, (2) bottom round and (3) eye round roast.  They are lean, effortless to prep, but require hours of slow cooking to tenderize.  I usually slow cook a roast in a Dutch oven until tender, but I might try a few new Crockpot recipes as temperatures heat up ... just for variety.

Yesterday I gave my spanking new slow cooker a whirl, while I left the premises for 3 hours to run errands.  I altered a lasagna recipe to see if a healthy, low-fat version would taste great too.  Certainly, I'm not opposed to eating regular cheese and pasta.  Go to Italy and note:  Italians don't use whole wheat noodles, or low-fat cheese -- but yesterday I wanted to try another way.  And truthfully, it is a low-fat winner.

Italians are famous for cooking noodles al dente, meaning firm, but not hard.  Dr. Andrew Weil, a supporter of integrative medicine, says eating regular noodles is perfectly fine, if they are cooked al dante.  In my dish I used whole wheat noodles for heartiness since it was my first experience making lasagna in a Crockpot.  Here's Sunday's easy recipe:

Overstock is selling many sizes.  Click here.
Low-Fat Slow Cooker Lasagna 

2-28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes
5 cloves garlic, finely minced
½ small onion, finely minced
--2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
parsley flakes
dash of nutmeg
1 pound ground sirloin browned in a skillet
28 ounces dry cottage cheese (that's 2-16 ounce containers, minus 4 ounces), or part-skim ricotta cheese I use a mixture.*
2 cups grated part-skim mozzarella cheese (16 ounces)
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
12 ounces whole wheat lasagna noodles (or regular lasagna noodles)

1) Use 2 mixing bowls:  In one, combine the crushed tomatoes, garlic, onions, dried spices, and ground beef.
2) In the second mixing bowl, mix the cottage cheese, 1 cup of the mozzarella and all the parmesan.
3) On the bottom of a 6-quart slow cooker, spread a thin layer of the sauce.
4) Top with a layer of uncooked noodles.  Break to fit; layer them densely without overlapping.
5) Spread the tomato sauce over the noodles, making sure you cover the noodles with the sauce so they will cook.
Know where your food comes from: Click to enlarge
6) Next layer with the cheese mixture; use a large spoon to dollop on top.
7) Repeat the layers.  If you have a round Crockpot, you will repeat the layers twice.  If you have a rectangle-shaped slow cooker, you will only repeat the layers once.  Both ways (2 or 3 layers) work.
8) At the very top, sprinkle with the remaining cup of mozzarella.
9) Cover and cook on low heat for 3 to 3 ½ hours.  When the noodles in the center of the Crock are tender, you are ready to eat.

I like to add a green salad, or a blend of steamed broccoli and carrots, along with a lovely glass of Chianti or Cabernet Sauvignon.  Buono Appetit!
*Cottage cheese is lower in fat and has more protein, but ricotta is dryer.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Going Organic: Face, Body And Hair Essentials

Although I buy makeup and personal care items from the corner drugstore, I also love organic products.  All things being equal, I prefer organic cosmetics, as well as, skin and hair care items.  But like everything else in life, I compare the benefits with costs and convenience.  No matter how outstanding a product is, if it's crazy expensive, who can afford to use it everyday?

The Industrial Revolution has been both a blessing and a curse.  It's made products cheap and available for the masses, but it has also brought us new worries like stripping products of their natural benefits and the safety of using certain chemicals to manufacture and preserve them.  So whether it's as an individual or a society, there's not one simple answer for choosing products:  In every instance, benefits verses costs, convenience and availability.

In the 21st century the masses are living relatively well, at least in industrial societies.  Nowadays we do more than just subsist.  We are exceptionally good at producing plenty of affordable products.  We now have the luxury of asking:  Can we make smarter products?  Can our products be better and healthier and good for our planet?  Are you like me (still shopping at drugstores) but leaning towards organic?  As our demand for organic products increase, their costs should come down.  Only products certified as organic can claim the label.  I use "certified organic" products and read "natural product ingredients carefully since there are no regulations to use the term.

Here are my picks of earth-friendly personal care products to try:

Jurlique Skin Care – A company founded by two scientists, the skin care is blended from herbs and botanicals harvested from a 153 acre farm in unpolluted South Australia.  The company has serums and moisturizers to treat dryness, oiliness, sensitivity and aging.  Costs: $17-$75.

Karma Organic Nail Care – It's organic, 100% biodegradable, non-toxic and non-carcinogenic.  And it supports Farm Crops.  The polish is long lasting, and the polish remover comes in lavender, tea tree, or unscented with vitamin E.  Costs: $10-$12.

Korres High-Drama Antioxidant Color Collection – A 7 piece makeup collection featuring eye shadows, eyeliner, mascara, and lip gloss, all formulated with good-for-you ingredients like cherry oil, evening primrose oil, vitamin E and more.  Jewel-tone colors with rich pigments.  Costs: $29.50.

Aveda Hair Care – Shop by hair type and solutions, from straight to curly to damaged to controlling dandruff.  The Sampure shampoo cleans and fortifies any hair type.  It is a calming mix of 25 plants and flowers and is infused with a smoothing botanical aroma of your choice.  Costs: $10.50 for 8.5 Fluid ounce.

Ecotools By Alicia Silverstone – Cute cosmetic bags and quality brushes made with 100% eco-friendly materials and practical details.  Great for traveling and storing your makeup.  Costs: $7.99-$14.99.

Dr. Teal's Therapeutic Solutions Epsom Salt – Epsom salt is used to rid the body of toxins, relax tense muscles and revitalize the skin.  Lavender induces a good night's sleep so you wake up looking fresh and beautiful.  Costs: $5-$6 for 3 pounds.

The Body Shop's Hemp Body Butter – Dermatologically tested for very dry skin.  It moisturizes for 24 hours and contains Community Trade hemp seed oil.  The Body Shop looks for natural ingredients from around the globe for their assortment of face, hair and body products.  They have always been environmentally responsible and against animal testing.  Costs: $16 for 8 ounces (without a deal).

If demand increases, going organic will be good for you, the environment and your wallet.  Look closely: Organics are starting to appear in the aisles of the corner drugstore.

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Blogger.com Problems

Hello Readers, 

You may have noticed.  Blogger had a few problems the last two days.  Google seems to have fixed them, and we're back up and running.  However  for some strange reason, I lost all of my edits in my last post.  I had to redo the post, i.e., try to remember the final version. It reminds me of the movie, "Groundhog Day."  And everybody's comments have disappeared.  Google, thanks a lot!  Hopefully, we'll have smooth sailing from now on.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Buy Flowers For Less

I love flowers.  And now that Spring is … well … in full bloom, with summer to follow, fresh flowers are a no brainer way of bringing beauty, elegance and nature into your home … or showing someone you care.  I rarely cross paths with anyone, male or female, who doesn't appreciate flowers.  But depending on where you buy them, flowers can be expensive.

Here are some ways of finding nature's perfect brilliance without spending a fortune:

1.  Always buy flowers that are in season … and be flexible.  You don't have to buy the rarest and most expensive, or even a great quantity.  A few flowers will look beautiful by tying them together with a bright ribbon.  You know pretty when you see it.  Buy what you like, but can afford.

2.  Select short stems over long steamed roses.  People usually cut long stems before placing roses in a vase anyway, so why pay for inches of stem that end up in the garbage?  Roses are beautiful both ways, but short steams are cheaper.

3.  Shop outside of a florist:  My friends don't care how much I spend on flowers, it's the effect – the thought and how they are presented that counts.  Many grocery stores, Home Depots and Targets have entire flower departments, where you can get beautiful arrangements for $7 - $30.  I find bouquets and potted plants at Home Depot and Food Emporium that are so lovely you'd never know they didn't come from a florist.

4.  When buying for a friend or relative, deliver the flowers yourself.  Flowers make wonderful hostess gifts, and supermarkets will even deliver for a small charge if you can't hand them to the recipient in person.  But if possible, don't you want to see the look on someone's face when they open the door and see their bouquet or arrangement?  I realize I'm doing it for someone else, but I don't want to miss out on the fun.  It's such a joy to make someone happy when they have no reason to expect it!  Surprise!  Gotcha!!

5.  Herbs and spices are a cheap and healthy way to decorate your home.  Instead of plants you can't eat, consider a window-box herb garden.  Not only are they green and beautiful, they are easy to grow.

6.  Buy aromatherapeutic flowers like lavender and eucalyptus plants that can be dried. Each smells divine, looks fantastic and lasts a long time, so you really get your money's worth.  I purchased a wicker ring at a dollar store, wrapped eucalyptus leaves around it and decorated my wreath with the blossoms of tiny silk roses, baby's breadth and sunflowers.  It makes my home smell so clean, and I love it!  (So does my neighbor.)  I don't think of myself as crafty, but I just had an idea in my head of what I wanted to hang on a wall and tried it.  I needed 4 bunches of eucalyptus, 3 twigs of different colored, silk flowers and the circle.  My total cost: $25.00.

Now it's your turn.  With a little ingenuity and knowing places to shop, you can enjoy beautiful flowers at very affordable prices.
Red rose
Extra tip: I once attended a wedding reception where the table centerpieces were small clay pots of African violets, which guests were encouraged to take home.  It was simple, charming and probably saved the bride's family a bundle.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Since 1875: The Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is the most famous horse race in the world. It always occurs on the first Saturday in May. This year will be the 137th run for the roses, which takes place at historic Churchill Downs in beautiful Louisville, Kentucky.

I was lucky when I attended The Derby.  Not only did I pick the Derby winner, along with a “win,”“place” or “show” horse [one ticket: horse has to come in 1,2, or 3 to win], my friends and I chose a spot in the infield to stand, that turned out to be only a few yards away from a direct, eye-level-view of the starting gate.  After the horses are (loaded into the gates and) off, the gates are pulled away and that area on the racetrack becomes the finish line!  So we saw the most meaningful and exciting parts of the race up close.  I watched my horses come in first and third, and we did a lot of jumping up and down, ourselves.  It was also beginner's luck, and I haven't bet on 3-year old thoroughbreds since, other than drawing names out of a hat.  Since I'm not a gambler, I'd hate to mar my horse racing, winning streak.

The Kentucky Derby has many traditions that add to the joyful exuberance of the race, itself.  Some are very practical.  You must wear a big hat to cover your head at Churchill Downs, or else you'll sizzle like a walking-talking piece of bacon in the hot sun.

An icy Mint Julep is THE drink to quench your thirst at The Derby.  Here's how to make an authentic one:

Ingredients for each serving:

5 fresh mint sprigs
2 teaspoons fine sugar
About 2 tablespoons water
2 ounces good Kentucky bourbon [guidance]
Crushed Ice


1. Rub the mint leaves with your fingers and drop into a silver Mint Julep Cup.  (Or use a glass tumbler.)
2. Crush the mint leaves at the bottom of the cup with a spoon.
3. Add 2 teaspoons fine sugar
4. Add about 2 tablespoons water and stir.
5. Add 2 ounces bourbon.  Stir.
6. Overfill the cup with crushed ice -- over the top snow cone-style.  If you use a silver cup, it will frost on the outside.
7. Garnish with a fresh sprig of mint.
The Kentucky Derby is, indeed, the most exciting two minutes in sports.  If you can't make it to Louisville this year, you can still throw a great Derby Party with all the traditions and food.  Don't even think of serving your guests bourbon, without feeding them a hearty meal.  Deviled eggs, country ham, Hot Browns (open face turkey with Mornay sauce) and Derby Pie (chocolate and pecans) are customary … and scrumptious!

You can also make a huge pot of Kentucky Burgoo and corn bread.  Here's how:


1 chicken, 3 to 4 pounds
1 ½ pounds chuck roast beef cubes
4 cups beef broth
2 cups water
1 ½ teaspoons coarsely ground pepper
½  teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 can (about 28-32 ounces) tomato puree
6 medium potatoes
2 large onions, chopped
4 stocks celery, chopped
1 medium head cabbage, finely chopped
2 28 ounce cans tomatoes
2 16 ounce bags frozen corn
1 pound fresh carrots, sliced
1 cup fresh sliced okra 
*16 ounces green beans
16 ounces lima beans
2 bell peppers, red and green, finely chopped
Salt to taste, begin with 1 tablespoon
1/4 to 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
Optional: 2 cups red wine
Other spices to taste: Garlic, cilantro, parsley, red pepper flakes, etc.

Optional:  Some folks use ham hocks, lamb and/or rabbit in this dish.  I do not.


1) Stew the meat, beef broth and water in a stockpot for one hour.
2) Remove from the stove, reserve the liquid, but remove the skin, fat and bones from the meats.
3) Shred the meat and return it to the pot.
4) Add the vegetables, spices and other liquids.
5) Simmer on low heat for 4 hours.

Watch The Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 7th on NBC.  Post time is about 6:30 pm, right after the University of Louisville band plays and people sing, “My Old Kentucky Home.”  No need to stand in your living room for the state song ... unless you wish to show your Derby spirit.

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