Thursday, September 1, 2016

Pokemon Go - More Than Just A Game!

When my boys were little - very little, like 5 and 7 years old - everyone was collecting Pokemon Cards and playing the card game that would launch dozens of Nintendo (handheld) games and eventually give rise to what has become a virtual gaming craze - Pokemon Go.  And I am not ashamed to admit that I have been following and enjoying each and every evolution.  

When my son came to visit us in early July, he introduced me to Pokemon Go and I have to admit that, initially, it frightened me.  I didn't like the idea of a game that you played "out in the world".  It felt - well - outside of my comfort zone.  But I followed him around as he picked up poke balls, potions, and raspberries; and caught little critters like Dratini, Oddish, Psyduck, Eevee, and Magikarp and evolved them into their advanced forms - all while walking around and, even better, talking with other Pokemon Go players!  For three fun-filled days, he dazzled me with this new and exciting game.  Besides getting several kilometers of walking in each day, we chatted with other people about what level they were, and where to catch the rarest Pokemon, etc.  At least once each day, we actually sat next to other players and shared information about each other's lives.  It was great and, yes, I quickly became hooked.  

Within a week, I had loaded up a game of my own and began collecting, walking, and meeting other friendly players.  I joined Team Valor (the red team) as my son had, and eventually braved the Gyms, where one can battle other Pokemon and claim sites for their team.  Above is a picture of a Gym - just as I was capturing it.  It was the first one I got and it was very satisfying.  There were 3 Pokemon on it (Team Blue) and I beat each of them, one at a time.  It took 5 of my Pokemon to do so, but once I captured the Gym and claimed it for our team, I placed Tweedle Dum, "one" of my Gyrados on top.  (See below).  

The game is easy to play, although battles can be confusing.  I found I needed some online help before attempting one.  The big thing to keep in mind is that, once the Battle is over and you have won, you need to choose and place a Pokemon on the Gym.  The game does not automatically do that for you.  The actual battle is pretty easy - just keep repeatedly tapping the screen until someone's Pokemon faints.  As I said, it took 5 of mine to "take" the Gym I conquered, but it was worth it.

Pokemon Go is the game you see people playing on their cell phones.  They usually travel in pairs.  And when they find a Pokemon they want, you will see them stop and make a very distinctive upward motion with their index finger on the phone's "screen".  When they catch it, they move on.  If you see someone moving their finger back and forth in a sideways motion, it means they have found a Pokestop and are collecting balls and raspberries (to help them catch Pokemon) and potions and revives (to heal them after a battle).

There are two things I love about this game: 1.) it gets people out of their houses and moving!  Unlike other "video" games, this one requires the player to exercise - sometimes a lot!  And 2.) it is a social game.  As you play - especially in popular locations such as tourist sites - you will find yourself chatting with other players as you walk along catching and fighting Pokemon.  There is a spot in D.C. where there are literally hundreds of people playing every Saturday and Sunday.  It is near a memorial that has fountains, rest rooms,  and a gift shop and, best of all, is near the water.  So the "walking" you do there is both refreshing and filled with things to do and see along the way.  

Pokemon Go is more than a game - it is, like the Wii before it, a way to get exercise.  But unlike the Wii, which can only be played in one spot (usually indoors), this game gets you moving, meeting, and greeting.  Good-bye to sedentary gaming!  Hello world!  

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Heimlich, anyone?

Years ago, I was able to use what I had learned in a CPR course when I performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on someone until an ambulance arrived and took him to the hospital.  I was told by the EMT's that I saved his life.  It's one of the good things I've done with my life.

Yesterday, I was enjoying a delicious meal of Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with a nice crusty bread on the side when I accidentally inhaled a piece of the bread instead of chewing it as I was supposed to.  I was doing something no one should do:  I was talking while I popped the little morsel into my mouth.  Almost instantly, I knew I was in trouble.  I tried to breathe and could not catch a breath.  My airway was completely blocked.  I tried to cough and couldn't.  All I could do was make this godawful sound while the person sitting across from me exclaimed, "You're choking?  I wish I knew the Heimlich Maneuver!".  She said I was turning a very deep shade of crimson.  The waitress came by as I continued to gasp and here's where things get fuzzy.  I felt myself getting incredibly dizzy and the next thing I knew the bread had been dislodged.  I had been trying desperately to get some tea down to move the bread and I guess it worked.  So I didn't die, although it certainly felt like I was going to be meeting my maker the way Mama Cass Elliott reportedly did.   I guess the thing that freaked me out is that I could have died!  I was choking, I was turning purple and I was dizzy.  I think the next step would have been unconsciousness.  Afterward, my throat felt raw and tender and I kept sipping tea to try to soothe it.  It honestly had been one of those experiences where I saw my life flash before my eyes.

So I have made it my goal to make sure that no one else is in the position my friend was in  - at least no one who reads this Blog, which means we gabby eaters are in big trouble!   No one should see a person choking and just sit there and exclaim that they "wish" they could help!  Not when Dr. Henry Heimlich came up with a simple technique to dislodge foreign items (such as bread crusts) from one's airway.  Described as abdominal thrusts, here's how to perform this potentially life-saving technique:

1.)  Pull the victim (of choking) to his or her feet and stand behind him/her with your feet about shoulder width apart to keep yourself steady
2.)  Reach around and circle your hands around the person's abdomen
3.)  Make a fist with your dominant hand (meaning if you are right-handed, you use your right hand) with the thumb facing toward (and into) the person's stomach
4.)  Place this "fist" above the person's belly button and under their breastbone, wrapping your other hand around the fist.
5.)  Pull inward and upward with quick thrusts, making a motion similar to the letter "J" - in, then up.  Repeat until the object is expelled.  (Note: if the person loses consciousness, stop the Maneuver and call 911).

Now, please understand.  I am not by any means being critical of my friend or of anyone who may have witnessed what was happening, hoping I would dislodge the item on my own.  If you don't know how to do the Heimlich Maneuver, you can do more harm than good to the person.  And back slapping really does nothing to move an object out of one's airway once it has found its way in there.  I would have sadly tried that and - well - prayed!  Often when an object like a crusty piece of bread is inhaled instead of swallowed, it does "work its way out" eventually, as mine apparently did.  (I am pretty sure the tea helped!).  But if we can help, by all means, we should.  You never know.  You may actually save a life.

FYI, the Mama's & The Papa's "I Saw Her Again" just started playing on my Pandora station.  Coincidence?  I think not!  O.K.  So Mama Cass didn't really die by choking on a ham sandwich as rumors suggested, but it makes a good story, doesn't it?  

Be safe, eat healthy, exercise, and - please - be ready, willing and able to help someone if the situation arises where you could potentially save a life.   

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Shower Yoga

SHOWER YOGA

Yup, you read that right: "Shower Yoga".  It's how I begin my days.  And it not only gets all of my stiff joints and muscles moving after a night of sleep, but it is exhilarating as well.  Here's how it goes:  First I take a nice, very warm shower and then turn the nozzle down so it no longer hits me.  I slide over to the other side of the shower and begin my stretches.  I reach my hands high over my head, interlocking them, and bend back as far as I can.  I actually bend back until I hear (and feel) my back crack.  It is a wonderful feeling - the best!  Then I put my feet about shoulder width apart and reach my hands over my head again (interlocking them) and bend from the waist - first to the right and then to the left, holding each stretch for 10 seconds  Then I reach my arms out to the sides as far as they can go and hold that pose for 10 seconds, after which I pull them into the center with my hands, forearms and elbows fused together.  I hold that for 10 seconds as well.  I then repeat the entire sequence, holding each pose for 7 seconds.  I Then reach my hands up high and bend over, touching my toes or grabbing my ankles.  I do that 4 times and hold it 5 seconds each time.  Finally, I do my "Tree".  I begin with my left leg, placing it high on my thigh as I balance on my right foot and hold it for 60 seconds.  I repeat on the left side and then I'm done!  (Note:  the shower is running the entire time, which makes the experience especially refreshing and, well, that's the exhilarating part!).  And I usually pray when I hold the Tree pose, so that part may take longer than 2 minutes).  

I encourage you to try this.  You can vary your stretches, especially if you are a Yoga aficionado.  Just make sure that you engage all of your muscles and that you DO NOT SLIP OR FALL.  It is a wonderful way to start your day.  I have to confess that I suffer from pretty bad arthritis, especially in my lower back and hips.  And since I've been doing Shower Yoga, I have experienced much relief.  I'm not saying its a cure-all, but it's worked for me!  






Friday, June 10, 2016

Empty Nest Diet, including Apricot Crepes

No, we aren't eating orchids now that both of our boys have flown the coop.  But we are traveling - a lot - which makes eating healthy challenging.  The above picture?  It's from an Orchid Show in State College, PA.  And it was incredible!  But what we ate that weekend was not so incredible.  We were with our oldest son and went to a pub and a Mexican restaurant where craft beers were the appetizers and the main courses were, well, less than healthy.  And I have to confess that, after a few months of pub and restaurant dining, I paid for it.  I developed what seemed to be acid reflux and could only sleep propped up - pretty high.  So I reexamined my diet and made some changes.

First, I am cooking more.  I mean, I really enjoy it, so why not?  I am making Indian dishes, quiches, vegetarian pastas, and other non-meat fare.  I have cut out beer and any other liquor except for an occasional glass of red wine, which I only drink with a meal.  I make my own bread now - no exceptions.  I was alarmed when a loaf of whole grain bread I bought from our local market had not spoiled at all - after almost 2 months!  That is just not normal.  And I include an occasional dessert on the menu.  My favorite right now is Apricot Crepes.  Here's the recipe:

I make a basic low-fat crepe batter in the morning (using 1 percent organic milk and lite butter instead of their full-fat counterparts) and refrigerate it until after dinner.  Then I make a sauce out of 1 T. lite butter, 1 T. flour, 1 and 1/2 T. raw sugar, the juice of a small can of apricots and stir until thickened and bubbly.  I quarter the apricots and add them to the sauce with 1/2 T. lemon juice and 2 T. chopped pecans.  I make 2 large crepes and fill them with a little more than half of the sauce, roll them up and pour the rest over them.  I sprinkle them with a little powdered sugar, add a dollop of fat free whipped cream and serve. They are heavenly!  Plus, you will find that even making half of most basic crepe recipes, you will have enough crepe batter to either make about 6 to 8 of these or to have them 3 or 4 times if your nest is empty like ours.  The batter refrigerates well for a couple of days.

When I eat out, I am once more scouring the menus for healthy choices - grilled fish instead of "fish and chips" (which I had grown to love at the pubs we frequented), pasta Primavera, veggie burgers, and blackened fish tacos.  I no longer order french fries or any other fried foods.  And guess what?  Big surprise!  I am feeling better.  No more reflux, no more sleeping sitting up.  What a difference a change in diet made.

O.K.  So the nest is empty and we travel about as much as we are home.  But that is no excuse for developing poor eating habits.  There are so many healthy choices out there:  quinoa salads, sweet potatoes, and vegetarian options?  They are on virtually every menu these days.  Yes, my husband and I still travel - a lot.  But now my challenge - something I really look forward to - is finding restaurants with healthy menu options and keeping it all delicious.  So here are some restaurants I highly recommend:
If you are in Philadelphia, Pesto Italian Restaurant; in Annapolis, Maryland, Vin 909; in San Pedro, California, Think Cafe; in La Jolla, California, anything downtown on the water.  And the best veggie burger? The Burger Joint (and they're a chain).  Most Indian restaurants have delicious vegetarian options, as do Thai and Japanese ones.  If you are a Pescatarian like me, seafood places often have delicious options with great sides.

It has been ages since I have posted here.  But now that I plan to cook more often, I will post my favorite recipes here, as well as any restaurants that really stand out.

Until next time, happy and healthy eating!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Being a Pescetarian

I am a pescetarian.  I just discovered that a few days ago.  What exactly, you may ask, does that mean? That I am an avid fan of Joe Pesci?  As a matter of fact, I am.  But pescetarianism has nothing to do with being a fan of a talented Italian actor.  It is vegetarianism with a twist.  As a vegetarian, I do not eat meat. No beef, pork, lamb, turkey, or chicken.  No exceptions.  I do eat dairy - am a cheese-aholic to tell the truth.  I also eat eggs, with my favorites being over medium with a nice whole grain toast.  But when I go out to a nice restaurant, I will, on occasion, order fish, making me what I thought was an "ovo-lacto-pesco vegetarian.  It turns out, however, that there is no such thing.  Fish is, technically, a meat.  So how do I justify eating it?

For one thing, I do not abstain from meat purely for humanitarian reasons.  I have nothing against organic meat.  I honestly believe that man is an omnivore by nature.  But the way we, as a rule, raise and slaughter our meat, is reprehensible.  It shows a lack of respect for God and His creation. Moreover, with the addition of often copious amounts of steroids and antibiotics, I don't think it is good for anyone.   This is why I should be giving up all but organic meat, at least.  But even this is not the reason why I no longer eat meat.  My honest problem with meat is kind of embarrassing.  Apparently I have the digestive system of a newborn baby.  I cannot comfortably digest meat.  I used to live with almost constant liver or stomach pain.  Since giving meat up, though, I feel so much better - plain and simple.  I added back the dairy, eggs, and fish after a brief go at being a pure vegetarian and found that they do not bother me at all.  Nor do they bother my conscience.  Fish have been caught in large nets since the beginning of time.  I stay away from farm-raised fish because (coincidentally?), farm-raised fish - particularly salmon - bothers my digestive system much like meat does.

So, since I last regularly posted, when I cook, it is vegetarian - ovo-lacto-vegetarian.  I bring no meat or fish into my house.  And I love that.  It somehow feels "clean".   I have a bevy of recipes that my husband and I enjoy and will share them with you in future posts.  I make dishes like Eggplant Parmesan, Tomato-Basil Quiche, Mushroom Crepes, and Vegetarian Curry.  I still try to cut the fat down in these rather rich meals and will share with you how I do that, as well.

When I order fish in restaurants, I usually look for a nice seared tuna or something like trout with a mango salsa.  Every once in a while, I will try a lightly breaded catfish, flounder, or cod.  And my naughty indulgence?  Calamari - prepared just about any way you can think of.

So, this is the new me - eating a diet that makes me feel - well - pretty wonderful on most days! 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

O'Noir Restaurant, Montreal - Eating in the Dark

It has been so-o long since I have posted here.  There have been many changes in my life.  I don't know where to begin.  So I will break the ice with a review of an exciting and unique dining experience I had a week ago.  It was one of the highlights of a recent vacation that was filled with new adventures! 

When you enter O'Noir restaurant in Montreal, Canada,  you do not realize that you are about to embark on an exercise of trust. You are told to remove anything that lights up or glows, including watches or cell phones, and to place them in a locker. And even though you made the reservations knowing you'd be eating in the dark (thus the name of the restaurant), you don't quite understand what that means.  

You order your meal before entering the dining area, which you do "a la Bunny Hop" by holding onto the shoulders of your waiter who, God knows how, guides you to your table and helps you sit in your chair.  Your spouse is holding onto your shoulders as you amble blindly along. Once seated, you realize that never in your life has there been a room as dark as the one you are in. You can see absolutely nothing.  It is pitch black. 

As you realize your eyes will never "adjust" to the darkness, you feel a hand on your shoulder and hear the familiar voice of your waiter (in our case Samuel) telling you that he has placed your water glass on your left shoulder.  He then instructs you to grab it and feel around the table in front of you for a spot in front of your placemat where you gently place it. Then comes the stemmed wine glass full of wine.  I place mine beside my water glass and I do not let go of it. A basket of warm rolls is then held beside me and I am instructed to take one.  I bite into it and it is delicious. As is the wine. When one sense is completely gone, all others seem to be heightened. My appetizer was mercifully a pate spread on toast, so I could feel around and easily eat it with my hands. Embarrassingly, I do the same with the small salad on my plate, as I can not find my fork. By the time my main dish arrives, though, I have a fork in hand and am determined to use it. And use it, I do!  My taste buds are titillated by the flavors that fill my mouth. The haddock has a luscious salmon mouse on it and a wasabi glaze.  I do not expect to find stewed eggplant but love the taste and the texture. And the dill that somehow ends up on my mashed potatoes is delightful. I find myself scraping my plate in the darkness, not wanting to leave one morsel behind. 

My eyes never get used to the dark. I can not find one speck of light in the room. But the experience is exciting and almost, just almost, scary. I mean, what if my spouse thinks it might be funny to switch out my dinner plate for a a lettuce leaf or to put my wine glass on the other side of the table?  Worse yet, what if he decides to goose me while I am shoving a fork into my mouth or sipping my wine?  Moreover, how do I know I am really eating fish and mashed potatoes?  It could be mashed worms for all I know!  Like I said, it's all about trust. As we leave, we see a party of 17 arrive. I honestly can't imagine how that would work unless they are seated 2 by 2, or 3 by 3 at most.  And, honestly, I don't have THAT much trust - 17 is too many people to rely on.  Would I recommend this restaurant? Highly. I think it is something that must be experienced - for a couple of reasons. First, as I said, when you are completely deprived of sight, food takes on a new dimension. As do the other senses. And that element of trust that is required for an experience like this?  I found it refreshing, unifying, and quite intimate. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Larb

Tonight I made Larb for dinner.  And it was marvelous!  Larb is a Thai dish that is often served as an appetizer.  It is a luscious blend of ground turkey, red onion, Serrano pepper and a delicious sauce - served in tender butter-lettuce cups.  A dinner serving was two cups with a side of Japanese rice made in our rice cooker - a must for any authentic Asian meal. 

I have made other Larb recipes, but none compared with this one.   My son and I both loved it.  He ate the leftovers today - cold - and said they were delicious.  The recipe was from one of my new favorite cooking magazines:  the Food Network Magazine.  I confess that I am an avid fan of the Food Network and the magazine features recipes by many of the cooks I have come to know and love, and even had an eye-opening article on how the show Chopped (my favorite TV show) is filmed.    The recipe for Turkey Larb was in the May 2013 issue and is as follows:

For the dressing:
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1-3 T. fresh lemon juice (I used 2)
2 T. fish sauce (can be found in the Asian section of your supermarket)
2 T. Honey

For the Larb:
3 T. vegetable or canola oil (I used 2 T. canola)
1/2 medium red onion, diced
3 small shallots, thinly sliced
1 4-inch piece lemongrass, minced (about 1/4 cup)
1 Thai chile (such as prik kee noo) or Serrano chile, stemmed and thinly sliced (I wore gloves to stem and remove the seeds from my Serrano chile)
Kosher Salt
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey (I used 1 pound ground breast meat)
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
Freshly ground pepper
1 head butter lettuce, leaves separated

1.  Make the dressing in a small bowl; whisk the lime juice, lemon juice, fish sauce, and honey, and set aside.
2.  Make the larb;  In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, shallots, lemongrass, and chile, and salt to taste.  Cook until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the turkey and season with salt..  Cook, stirring frequently, until the meat and vegetables are cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Add the dressing to the pan and cook 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the mint leaves.  Season with salt and pepper.
3.  Spoon larb mixture into lettuce leaves and serve. 

I hope you will try this healthy and satisfyingly delicious meal.  Until next time, happy and healthy eating!