Category Archives: Food and Diet

Keep Your Weight in Check During Holidays


It’s that time of year again. Frost is in the air, the football season is in full gear and thoughts of the holidays from Thanksgiving to New Year are becoming more frequent.

Some years back, it was said that you can expect to gain 5 to 7 pounds during this time of the year.  Since we were expected to anyway, a lot of us figured ~ what the heck ~ gaining a little weight can always be turned into a New Year’s Resolution to lose it. This 5 – 10 pounds holiday binge-out projection was changed a few years ago; it was ‘trimmed’ down to an ‘average’  5 pounds weight gain BUT only for folks overweight to begin with.

So ~ here’s the new facts for Overweight & Obesity Statistical Fact Sheet;
Adults  ~ Among Americans age 20 and older, 154.7 million are overweight or obese (BMI of 25.0 kg/m2 and higher):  They include:  – 79.9 million men and 74.8 million women.

Of these, 78.4 million are obese (BMI of 30.0 – kg/m2 and higher): ~ 36.8 million men and  41.6 million women.   Is there a good chance anyone reading here is in those stats?

Despite what many people believe, the average adult gains only about  one (1) pound between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, according to a study from the New England Journal of Medicine. The news isn’t all good, however. Other studies have shown that people who are overweight to begin with gain as much as 5 pounds on average this time of year and, in either case, it’s tough to lose that holiday weight during the rest of the year.

The thing is that most people will not lose that one or two pounds and will keep it, especially if they are older (ie, anyone out of college).  And those one to two pounds a year may hang on for a lifetime. Many 40 year olds will tell you that they are 10 pounds heavier than they were in high school.  And they are the average weight people.

Bottom line: You may not be able to get into that little dress or those cool jeans on New Year’s Eve that you bought during the Thanksgiving sale. Along with weight gain, there is some bloat from all the extra salt on prepared foods and dining out. Even more importantly, with all the emphasis lately on diabetes and obesity, it is sensible to curtail the amount of food you chow down during this holiday season.

So is there anything we can do to avoid extra poundage that wants to make themselves at home on you for life?  Yes, there is.

  •  The first and most obvious to-do is exercise. If you are on a daily exercise program and are a good soldier, chances are you will keep up with your routine. If you are traveling or having a house full of company or eat out more than often, then you may not keep up with it as usual. It’s important to move around, especially with all those cookies and goodies around. Try to take a walk for at least 10 minutes in the morning and again in the evening. Walk briskly; pump your arms; it will help keep your metabolism revved up, to work on those extra calories. A 30-minute walk is even better. And stay hydrated – drink water to help clean out your system.
  • The second most obvious to-do is the fact that:  As long as you take in fewer calories than you burn, you’ll lose weight. You don’t have to eat from every dish on the table or at a party. It is difficult because you want to sample everything, especially home baked goods. Try to choose from protein dishes – chicken, meats, fish, beans. Fill your plate with veggies – go easy on the dip. Forego the bread and butter and pasta dishes. And potatoes. Go easy on the carbs. Try to graze with your first-made plate; wait 20 minutes for your brain to tell you how full your stomach is – and you may not need that second (or third) plate. And as much as we don’t want to think about it; yes, alcohol – wine, beer and mixed drinks do have calories in them. The more you drink, the more calories you’ll take in.
  •  Dessert can be deadly and you don’t need to ‘have a taste of everything’.  Someone (skinny, of course)  once told me that “you only need one bite of dessert….that bite tells you what it tastes like and every bite after that is going to taste the same.”   Pick something you like (chocolate pudding is my vote here – I make it at home with skim milk) and bring it along as my dessert contribution). I notice all the thin ones go for the pudding instead of the tiramisu.

When I tried a popular diet,  I was allotted 18 points ALL day. You can pick and choose what you eat and you CAN eat a satisfying, nutritious diet within those points. HOWEVER, one serving of tiramisu and one serving of fried calamari = 18 points – and would use up my all-day allotment of food!   I don’t eat tiramisu anymore but I love calamari – but like my skinny friend said — after eating a few, they’re all going to taste the same. Now I have a few and not a whole plate. Portion control is KEY.  Even some fruits, in excess, can be fattening.

Another changed rule for dieting:  they used to tell you to weigh yourself only once a week. Now they are saying that you should weigh every day and skinny down your diet if the scale is showing 1 or 2 pounds over your daily normal weight.

If you find that you overeat at one meal, neutralize your daily intake by cutting back at the other meals. A light breakfast of a poached egg on a light English muffin or a lunch of yogurt with fruit; or a cup of soup or a salad can help keep your calories in check. And it’s good to cut back and give your system a digestive rest rather than overloading it at each meal.  Use common sense.

If you indulge and enjoy more culinary delights than usual during the holiday season, don’t be too hard on yourself.  It is a time of joy, sharing and being with friends and family.  Remember that you can always ‘fix it’ in January and February;  if you watch out for the pitfalls above, you’ll have less weight to lose!

© Marie Coppola Revised November 2016

 

Goodbye to Nabisco & Honey Grahams

Good-bye to NABISCO

Since my toddler days, I can recall my  father, of Italian/American descent enjoying a breakfast tradition of a biscotti and coffee, sitting down at the breakfast table  with Nabisco’s Uneeda Biscuits and a cup of coffee.

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As a schoolgirl, we often had Nabisco’s graham crackers for our own breakfast.  Newly married, and during my pregnancies,  I ate only graham crackers for those nauseous mornings and later  I mixed graham crackers with formula or my own breast milk for my infants.  Graham crackers and milk were a staple for fast school-age breakfasts and included in the lunch bag as a dessert or snack.  As an adult, I reached for graham crackers on those winter-sick cold-virus days when food was not appetizing.   Or as a sneak low-calorie snack during serious dieting,

When I found out recently that Nabisco has already moved some and is planning to move its food operations to Mexico, I felt like I lost my family friend.   Quoting from the internet,

“This sort of thing seems to be a new trend among corporations.   Produce their product overseas where they can reap bigger profits because they use cheaper labor and usually don’t have to deal with unions and I bet there are far less regulations & inspections by government agencies.  Their greed comes at a huge loss for us.”

You can say that again – for me, too.  Along these lines, I have had several occurrences with overseas’ products.  One was with a prescription medicine I take for a chronic issue.  My health provider sent me a generic brand which was made in a country I never heard of.    I checked into it because it caused itching attributed – according to my doctor – from the added green dye color.  I dropped the insurance company and went back to the brand name.   No more itching.

The second incident was a pair of shoes I ordered online – they cost $79.99 and were on sale for $51.99.  They have a sweet button on my toe line   I wore them on vacation and  developed infected burn blisters in that same sweet button design  engraved on my toes.    I investigated and they were made in China and similar to the children’s burn marks from thongs made in China a few years back.  Bad investment.

Also made in China was catnip we purchased for our beloved cat which was packaged in the USA but made in China.  Fortunately for our cat, it was recalled (causing death in cats) before I gave it to him.   I will not buy anything anymore that is made in these unregulated countries – like China & Mexico.

I will not support American companies who are so greedy to take jobs away from Americans which affects our economy negatively and/or sell less regulated products for the same price and lead us down the path to third-world status.

“Mexico offers a certification option, but it doesn’t require it. The US does spot checks – on farms and at the border – but requires no standards certification. The main exporters face standards dictated by third-party auditors demanded by American clients. But some growers, they say, do not have direct relationships with the end client in the US. They sell to brokers, and some are more lax than others. That, Usabiaga says, is where the danger to all looms.”

GOODBYE NABISCO   untitled (96)  NO LONGER ON MY SHELF

Here is an article  from USA Today “Food Safety From Mexican Farm to Costco to your plate.

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2010/1023/Food-safety-From-Mexican-farm-to-Costco-to-your-plate.

PS – Since Donald Trump called Nabisco out on 8/19/15 speech, the  Mexico regulation articles that were on the internet last night are ‘coincidentally not available’ this morning.

Marie Coppola August 2015

 

How to Make Delicious Home-Made Pasta Sauce


Almost everyone loves pasta and Italian food. If you are Italian or know Italians, they claim to have the ‘best sauce’ ever. The reason for this is lies with their Mom or Nana. Chances are they learned from one another and the best ingredient in the best sauce are the hands that made them. We all gravitate to certain tastes in foods, and even more so in ethnic families.

What you’ve eaten all your life is delicious, comforting and ‘the best’ ever, no one’s sauce comes close, even good Italian restaurants. Anthony’s mother, down the street may make her sauce quite differently, and yes, to Anthony, hers is the ‘best sauce’ ever. Some Italians call spaghetti sauce, ‘gravy’.

Nana Coppola made wonderful Italian recipes; she even taught cooking class at the parochial school. Her daughters try to emulate the ‘best sauce ever’ and their sauces are very similar and delicious. It is never exactly like Nana’s, but what is missing are the hands, love and memories that she put into it. So, in her memory, here is Nana’s recipe for the best sauce ever.

Ingredients

1 pound of chopped sirloin*  (*for variety, add pork chops, sausage or spare ribs)

Couple of cloves of chopped garlic

2 Tbsp. chopped onion

1 tsp. of fresh parsley or parsley flakes

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/4 cup flavored bread crumbs

3 Tbsp. milk

1 egg

2 tsp. grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

Put above ingredients in bowl and mix well. Shape into meat balls. Cook in small amount of olive oil until well browned; place in large sauce pan or pot. Set aside.

In a large pot, add the next ingredients to the. browned meatballs and/or sausage:

1/2  small can of tomato paste.     Stir and add 1/2 Cup of water.

2 large cans of tomato sauce (two 28 oz. crushed or whole tomatoes) – Italian brands preferred.

1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes and/or basil leaf

1/4 teaspoon sugar**

salt and pepper  as desired

Cover and simmer for 1 to 1-1/2 hours.  Stir occasionally.

Prepare favorite pasta. Drain pasta and serve with sauce topped with grated Romano or Parmesan cheese.

New generations ‘tweak’ everything and here are some added suggestions:

1) *For healthy low-fat dieters, drain any excess fat from the meatball pan before adding tomaoes.   If  sausage is to be added, simmer the sausage prior for 10-15 minutes to rid of excess fat and then brown with the meatballs.

2) **In lieu of sugar added to the sauce, you can add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of red or white wine; this helps reduce acidity and helped prevent reflux.

3) For additional treat taste when serving, add a dollop of freshly made Sicilian ricotta cheese to the finished pasta when serving.  See my home-made ricotta cheese recipe:    http://expertistas.com/2012/11/19/how-to-make-home-made-delicious-ricotta-cheese/aboutme

Yums. Can you smell it?   It flavors the whole house!

©Marie Coppola July 2013

 

 

How to Make Delicious Home-made Ricotta Cheese

Once you make it yourself - you’ll never want the store-bought ricotta again.

A couple of times each year, we get together with friends and make a pot of ricotta for supper. We like to serve it over day-old French or crusty Italian bread cut up in cubed pieces. The freshly made ricotta over the bread will soak up any excess water.

The cheese will be creamy and light and delicious. We serve it with a salad or some fruit and a glass of wine. What a treat!

You can make homemade ravioli, manicotti, or lasagna with this ricotta and it will lend a gourmet taste compared to the store-bought ricotta. You can also make desserts with leftover ricotta — ie, cannoli – you can buy the fresh, empty already baked shells at Lowe’s Food stores or at a local Italian deli. There are different recipes for the delicious cream filling – some just add sugar. There are good recipes on the internet. Here is a simple sampling recipe and just make sure you fill them no more than one day before serving and refrigerate!

  Fresh cannoli ~ delivering a little taste of Sicily to your front door!

BASIC FILLING FOR CANNOLI

  1. 2 c. or 1 lb. ricotta cheese
  2. 1 c. sugar
  3. 1/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate bits
  4. 1 tsp. vanilla
  5. 1/2 c. candied cherries

Blend cheese and sugar until smooth. Add remaining ingredients. Put filling into cannoli shell by teaspoon. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.

And now for the ricotta cheese-making part.

It’s not hard to make, and doesn’t take that long to do. In all, it takes about 30 minutes from start to finish. It’s important to assemble all the utensils you will use because timing and temperature are crucial to the results.   Enjoy!

Utensils

  1. You will need a large stainless steel pot to mix in. You won’t need the cover.
  2. A long wooden spoon for stirring.
  3. A stainless slotted skimmer spoon for checking curds (see below)
  4. A long thermometer with degrees on it (similar to candy making thermometer) at least to 200 – 300 degrees. 

 Ingredients

  1. One (1) gallon regular milk – not skim or not even 2%
  2. Two (2) pints of heavy cream
  3. 1-1/2 tsp salt
  4. 1/2 C of freshly-squeezed lem
  5. on juice – lemons must be fresh and accurately measured – about 3 – 5 lemons, depending on size

And so we begin:

  1.  Pour milk (only) into large pot on medium heat with heat thermometer on side of pot or attached
  2. Stir slowly and continuously (always in one direction – clockwise) with the wooden spoon
  3. When the milk gets to 100 degrees on the thermometer, (pot will start to sweat on the outside), add the heavy cream and salt – continuously stirring always with the wooden spoon.
  4. Continue stirring until temperature reaches 198 degrees – add lemon juice
  5. Stir only a few more times (3 times) and test curds should be forming when tested with flat slotted skimmer
  6. Turn off burner and remove pot from heat
  7. Allow mixture to settle for a minute or two
  8. Scoop out curds/cheese with slotted spoon into large dish – some drain the cheese through cheesecloth for a firmer ricotta; we prefer to leave some moisture in to keep it moist.

This cheese will last 3 – 4 days in the refrigerator. For breakfast, the ricotta is great on toast or served in a dish with fruit.

This recipe is for homemade SICILIAN RICOTTA SPONGECAKE http://www.make-stuff.com/cooking/spongecake.html

Copyright © Marie Coppola Revised November 2012