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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Awww...Sugar, Sugar: FDA New Guidelines urge restrictions on daily sugar intake

The FDA is now recommending a cap on Americans' daily intake of sugar.  The guideline states that sugar should not make up more than 10% of a person's daily caloric intake.  I am sure we all know that we should cut back on sugar, especially after all the holiday treats in November and December.   However, when you really try to stick this rule, it is almost impossible. As the linked article from the New York Times points out, there are a lot of "hidden sugars" lurking where you would not expect it, like tomato sauce and yogurt. 

One of my favorite "foods" (which are really man made creations I suppose) is breakfast cereal.  I have been making an effort in the last few weeks to pay more attention to the grams of sugar per serving listed on my cereal boxes' Nutrition Labels. I think people assume most of the cereals with the dehydrated marshmallows and leprechauns, any sort of variation on the word "cookie" (Cookie Crisp, Oreo O's),  or based on a candy (Reese's Puff's) are probably the most sugar laden cereals out there but that is not always the case.  Out of all of the cereals that have passed through my cupboard (and there have been a lot!), Raisin Bran tops the charts at 18 grams of sugar per serving!  To put that in perspective, Honey Smacks, noted by multiple websites as the "top" kid's cereal sugar offender, has 15 grams of sugar per serving.  I can only assume Raisin Bran isn't in these lists because it is not marketed to children which is typically the focus of these studies?  In the pictures above, Cheerios (or the store brand equivalent Toasted Oats) is the top picture with an amazing low (for cereal!) 1 gram of sugar per serving...the second picture with 12 grams of sugar is Wegman's Fall Harvest cereal: whole oat clusters, multi-grain flakes dried cranberries, apples and pumpkin seeds.  

So now what?  I am doing a few things to try to switch things up:
- I am paying closer attention to the sugar listed on the nutrition labels. It's difficult to find a low sugar cereal that also does not have BHT (another post for another time)
- I am trying to switch up my morning routine more.  Cold cereal is super convenient to throw in a container to take to work, but some whole wheat toast with avocado is pretty tasty as well.

Beauty after the rage: 2016 Bizzard aftermath

It's amazing the difference one day makes.  For about 24 hrs, we were under blizzard conditions. But, the sun came out again, as it always does, and all is good in the world again. It has been said before but is a great a great metaphor for life:  whenever things seem their darkest, there is always light just around the bend somewhere in the near future. You just have to hold on until you get there.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

New Year's Resolutions: Yay or Nay?

 (photo: tasty sparkling wine we enjoyed on New Year's Eve)

 Happy New Year!

Every year in December I get excited about reflecting on the year that is ending and making resolutions for the next one. Others shun the practice. Of course, since I am into it, I am curious on why some people do not see the value in the practice.  Here are some of the arguments I found against setting New Year's Resolutions and my counterargument for each:

You can set a goal  any time of year, you shouldn't have to wait until January 1st. Agreed, set a goal whenever you want to....but sometimes everyday life gets in the way and you find yourself in December thinking, "Damn, I can't believe another whole year has passed and I still haven't learned to play the guitar".   End of December/beginning of January is a great time to re-evaluate things and right the ship so to speak.  This needs to be done periodically, so why not now?   Otherwise re-evaluation might be just another task that gets procrastinated.

January might not be a good month for some particular goals. Eh...weak argument in my opinion.  Sure, maybe January is not the optimal month to look for a new job, move or sell your house.  No one said you had to achieve the goal in January, just start it in January and work on achieving it throughout the year. There is plenty of prep work that goes into looking for a new job, for example, that can be started immediately. 
  • rank the most important things you want to get out of a prospective employer
  • determine how far you are willing to commute
  • research companies that do the work you are interested in
  • research the financial viability of the company you think you want to work for
  • perfect that resume!

If you set a goal and fail to achieve it, the psychological affect of the failure out weighs the benefit of setting a goal. I think this one comes down to the goal itself and how you define "failure".  First, when setting goals, you have to make sure they are achievable...otherwise, it is really a pipe dream, not a goal.  For many folks the standard New Year's goal is weight loss and getting healthy.  Is this achievable? Yes, but we each have our own set of limitations that need to be taken into account like specific "powerhouse" foods that might clash with your medication or a pre-existing back issue that prevents you from doing dead lifts at the gym.  Also, you can't go from 0 to 100 in one week.  Incrementally build on your fitness/health goals and don't necessarily focus on the results, especially in the beginning.  I have met people who don't run at all, who have told me that think they would be able to run 10 miles right out of the gate.  They feel they wouldn't need training because they were an athlete 10-15 years ago in high school or college. That's not realistic. I am not a doctor or a trainer but you can see where I am going with this. Start with the small things like not drinking soda and walking and then build up to doing a 5k.

For myself, I set a number of resolutions this year in various categories like relationships, health, work and travel.  One thing I did this year that I had not in previous years is write them down. I am not really a written list person...I tend to keep mental lists.  However, the mental list has failed me many times, so I am trying something new, hoping it will keep me more focused.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

St. Anthony Italian Festival - Wilmington, DE

I think the first time I heard about the Italian Festival I was living on the West Coast.  Given our new East Coast life, the hubby and I figured we would work up a big appetite doing yard work and then head to DE to chow down.    Basically, the festival is a like a week long big block party around a church.  The entire event is a fundraiser for St. Anthony of Padua's Catholic Church.  There is food, drinks, carnival rides, casino style games and live music.

We got there just before the crowds on the opening day of the event, so we were able to walk around and get a lay of the land before the crowds arrived.   On the food front, we started off with a refreshing Leinenkugel Summer Shandy and a slice of pizza while taking everything in...later moving on to some chicken parm sandwiches before topping everything off with some homemade gelato.   On the activity side, we saw a string band as well as an orchestra accompanied by a Choral group in the actual church. 

I think they have been doing the festival for about 30 years now, so they really have it down to a science on how to turn the church grounds into a festival.  The surrounding neighborhood was also decorated with Italian flags and banners, so while I am sure parking is a bit of challenge for the church's residential neighbors during the week long event, it seems they embrace the spirit of the event.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Getting back to it

It's been a long time since my last post but I am back now! We moved again which disrupted my cooking routine but we are finally settled just in time for the best time of the year: autumn!  Ok, well, officially it is still late summer but it has been feeling very fall like around here...great sleeping weather!

When I first move into a new place, I am always a little weirded out that I am using space that was just occupied by someone else. I am sure most people feel that way. It takes a little while for it to feel like yours...especially in the kitchen. We have been in our house about 2 months now and truth be told, I have yet to use the oven.  I have been baking stuff but using our table-top toaster/convection oven instead of the regular oven. I have probably held out christening the over a little longer than usual this time but only because it's was summer when we moved in and the table-top oven doesn't heat up the entire kitchen like the big oven does. Another thing that delayed me using the oven initially was a gas leak! It is fixed now, but it dragged out over a two week period due to inept repair companies.

The above picture is some pasta salad I made for a family party this weekend: Tri-colored pasta, red onions, celery, cucumbers, black olives, pepperoni, feta and Kraft Italian dressing. Delicious if I do say so myself...the veggies added a great crunch and the pepperoni and onions supplied just the right kick.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Valentine's Day Treat

To get in the Valentine's Day mood this past weekend,  I made some lemon cupcakes with tea infused buttercream frosting.  A sort of Arnold Palmer cake...The cake was just a box cake but I did make the frosting from scratch.  The frosting was really just an improvisation but it turned out pretty nice.  I really liked the consistency.  The  tea flavor was subtle.  I think I would try to go a little heavier on the tea next time.

Tea Infused Buttercream Frosting
2 Black Tea Bags soaking in a about 1/4 cup of boiling water to make a strong tea flavor
1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
Approximately 2 - 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar

Cream the butter with an electric mixer.  Add in the tea.
Slowly add the powdered sugar (about 1/2 cup at a time).

Honestly, I just poured the powdered sugar out of the bag, so I am not sure how much I used.  Just keep adding the sugar until your icing is the desired consistency.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Super Bowl Roll Ups!

Whenever I think of Super Bowl party foods, I think of some sort of taco dip creation which typically involves cream cheese and some chili/taco flavoring.  This year I decided to make some salsa rolls up inspired by a recipe I saw on the Kraft Foods Recipe website. Of course, I improvised a bit to make it fall more in line with my "taco dip" theme.

Note that this is a party food recipe, so it makes a decent amount.  I got about 35 nice slices with about 10 uneven end pieces.  If you want less, just cut the recipe in half....

1 package of Burrito size flour tortillas
2  8 oz packages of cream cheese
1 package of shredded cheddar or mixed cheese (cheddar, colby, jack, etc...)
10 tablespoons of medium Pico de Gallo
1 package or taco seasoning mix

Put the cream cheese in a medium sized bowl.    Add the pico de gallo and taco seasoning.  Mix until thoroughly combined.

Spread a layer of of the cream cheese mixture onto a tortilla and sprinkle with the shredded cheese.  Although it is not in the "preparation" photo, I also added a bit of shredded lettuce for crunch...I think chopped onions would also work well in the regard.  Anyway, once your ingredients are on the tortilla, roll the tortilla as tightly as possible.  After it is rolled, simply cut into about 1 -  1 1/2 inch sized slices.  Continue until you run out of the cream cheese mixture.  I ended up using 5 tortillas.