Archive for the ‘Healthy’ category

The best hidden secret in Watertown’s Arsenal Mall…

September 5, 2011

…is definitely Coffee Traders, a family-owned coffee and wrap/sandwich/salad business. Every time I go to the mall or am in the vicinity of the mall, I stop there for a mozzarella and basil wrap.

The mozzarella and basil are always super-fresh, and so are the tomatoes that are also included in the soft pita. I like how the pita is nice and thin, so you don’t feel too full after eating it. You can have them add whatever sauce you’d like (including ranch and blue cheese), but I always go for their staple sauce: olive oil, salt and pepper. Perfecto. Today I introduced my sister to this hidden gem.

I got my usual mozzarella and basil wrap:

And she got a buffalo chicken salad:

She got her salad with ranch dressing (and buffalo sauce of course), and loved it. According to her, it was nice having grilled chicken instead of the usual fried chicken. She felt nice and healthy, which is a big reason why I love this little joint. It’s definitely much healthier than the other eateries in this food court (including Regina Pizzeria, a Mexican place and Burger King). She also liked how the buffalo sauce was less spicy than what she’s accustomed to.

If you can, try to support this business! It’s nice knowing the money goes to a family versus a big corporation. And they have ice cream and a wide variety of coffee drinks.

A great way to start a Sunday morning

August 21, 2011

My fiancé and I have a friend named Charlie who’s been cultivating a garden this summer in Woburn, Massachusetts. We saw it for the first time this morning, and were quite impressed. Check out my pics:

The garden is 54 by 54 feet.

Tomatoes

Jalapeno peppers

Cabbage

Asian eggplant

Rosemary

Radishes

Lettuce

Brussels sprouts

One entrance to the garden

There were lots of bees pollinating flowers.

Cucumber

My pics don’t even begin to show all the produce that was there, including spinach, tomatoes, onions, Brussels sprouts, squash, zucchini, lettuce, eggplant, rosemary, basil, snow peas, green beans, cabbage, radishes, parsnips, cucumbers, jalapeno peppers,  corn and watermelon. We ended up with a bunch of veggies to cook this week!

My fiancé , Jim, and Charlie in the garden

Here are a few pics showing the garden’s surroundings:

There's a swan in the distance!

No, Arm & Hammer is not paying me

June 5, 2011

I’ve never really liked my hair. It frizzes so easily. But lately, I’ve disliked it more than usual. I think it all started when I got a perm in January. I started using a special leave-in conditioner to keep my hair moisturized. The problem is I think it led to product buildup on my scalp (I probably should have just used it on the ends of my hair).

I stopped using the leave-in conditioner, yet the buildup wouldn’t go away. It was so annoying– I always felt like my hair was so dirty (even right after showering). I would just put it up in a ponytail so I didn’t have to deal with it. Finally, I decided to research how to fix the problem. I simply looked online, and came across tons of sites advocating baking soda.

So, this morning I put a small amount of shampoo in my hand, and added a quarter-size amount of baking soda. I mixed the two together, and lathered them into my hair. I was sure to rub the mixture across every inch of my scalp, as well as rub as much hair as possible. I also made sure to thoroughly wash the mixture out of my hair.

I blow dried my hair and voila, the buildup was entirely gone (I could actually feel it was gone when my hair was still damp). I feel so great today, and am thinking of wearing my hair down (this is a big deal for me!). Yeah, I’m so happy to have discovered baking soda as a hair product. My only question is: How often should I used it? Also, should I supplement it with a clarifying shampoo (another piece of advice on the Internet)?

Peach Riesling sangria

April 17, 2011

Me drinking peach Riesling sangria

A few weeks ago I made sangria for the first time. I hadn’t heard back from a sangria-making friend of mine about how she makes it, so I researched recipes online. I wanted to find one that didn’t involve adding sugar, fancy alcohols, or carbonated beverages. I came across a recipe that fit all of these requirements; it also included Dole peach/mango/orange juice, one of my favorite 100-percent juices. An added benefit was it called for Riesling, a wine type I highly enjoy.

The recipe is from an Illinois wine and cheese shop’s website (it’s the third recipe on the page). The first ingredient is two bottles of Riesling (it calls for a specific Riesling, but I just picked one that was very affordable). I actually bought two 1.5-liter bottles of Riesling, as I was making the recipe for a fair amount of people. You mix the wine with frozen raspberries, orange pieces, peach pieces, lemon pieces, and some of the juice (check the recipe for quantities). You cover the drink, refrigerate it, and serve it cold.

My grocery store didn’t have peaches, so I replaced them with mangoes (but I can still call my concoction “peach Riesling sangria” because it contained peach juice). I was very happy with the outcome and would highly recommend the recipe to anyone.

What we can learn from the French

February 25, 2011

What we can learn from the French

It’s been seven years since I last lived in France, but I picked up on a lot while I was there. Plus, I’ve visited France a few times since 2004. I know you can’t clump everyone together and say they’re all one particular way. But you can point out things you noticed about many of the people you encountered.

  • The French know how to eat healthily.

This has been written about a lot (e.g. French Women Don’t Get Fat) so I’ll stick to what I observed personally. I noticed that French people (in general):

  • Don’t snack between meals (and when they snack they just have a cookie or a few pieces of chocolate)
  • Eat big lunches and relatively small dinners (That way, they have something to look forward to during the work day AND don’t go to bed on a full stomach.)
  • Have small breakfasts with coffee (Because they have big lunches, they don’t need a huge breakfast. And, coffee helps suppress your hunger).
  • Drink water with their meals (much healthier than soda, of course)
  • Eat lots of vegetables
  • Eat a wide variety of foods (For example, they don’t just eat chicken and beef. They eat chicken, beef, ham, pork, duck, rabbit, horse, fish, bull, boar, guinea fowl, oysters, mussels, shrimp, sea urchins, etc.).
  • Finish most meals with a dairy item (yogurt or cheese) and a piece of fruit
  • Take their time eating

I think all of these habits are good for you.

  • The French exercise less than we do.

But, because they eat healthily they don’t really need to exercise. I mean, their daily activities (walking, doing chores, etc.) are enough for them to get their daily dose of movement. Maybe we should follow their lead given this recent Wall Street Journal article.

  • The French take time to cook.

Obviously, this point relates to the first point I made. But I will expand on it a little here. Most of the French people I encountered just go out to eat for special occasions. The rest of the time they make their own meals. This allows them to control what goes into their bodies, save money, and go out to nicer places when they do go out. They also have a fair amount of dinner parties; those provide a great opportunity to see their friends and share their favorite recipes.

  • The French are polite.

OK, maybe this is a real stretch. And maybe their politeness often masks their true feelings. But frequently I observed French people saying (or doing) the right thing at the right time. Say your brother-in-law just died, for example. The next time they saw you they’d start off the interaction with a “Oh, I’m so sorry about your brother.” Or when they are invited to a dinner party they bring along a gift. While these might seem like obvious things to do, I’ve noticed this type of behavior isn’t always practiced here (and yes, I’m guilty of not being polite as well).

  • The French are experts in their fields.

In France, it’s really hard to get into a particular field when your degree is in something else. So, you’re forced to find a job in your area of expertise. While this certainly limits you choices, it helps ensure you’re good at your profession (or at least better at it than your average bear). Here, you might just get a sales job because you’re deemed friendly. But you don’t necessarily know the ins and outs of how to be an effective salesperson.

  • The French are into equality.

I’ll always remember this one particular experience I had while teaching English in France. I was in a fifth-grade classroom, quizzing the children on their knowledge of animal vocabulary. One of the students– Yoan (pronounced “Yo-on”)– was answering practically every question correctly. Each time I interrogated the pupils, his arm would shoot up in the air. Sometimes no one else would raise their hand, so I had to pick him. He’d get the answer right, and I’d congratulate him.

Well the class’s main teacher (a French woman) was not a fan of Yoan’s behavior. Whereas I viewed his ability and willingness to answer the questions as a positive thing, she viewed it as a horrible thing. She started screaming at him, saying it was not his place to answer so many questions. The others deserved a chance, she said, adding that he couldn’t participate any more. While most Americans would consider her reaction unfair or harsh (I think), it actually worked. Once he stopped raising his hand, the other students began participating in the exercise.

  • The French are fashionable.

They don’t necessarily have many clothes, but they know how to pick out items that fit them right. Sometimes this means spending more money on individual garments, but overall they might even spend less than your average American.

In a future post, I will write about what the French can learn from Americans.

Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/kalleboo/2036413105

The Atomic Bean Cafe in Cambridge rocks

February 5, 2011

I’m always looking for new coffee shops with wireless Internet access. I’ve actually been going to the Atomic Bean Cafe in Central Square for over a year now (I mentioned the joint in this December 2009 post), but it was just recently that I tried one of their paninis. I had the Atomic Veggie panini, which is basically hummus, tomato, cucumbers, sprouts, and lettuce between two pieces of bread. Since it’s a panini, it was pressed in a grill just before service.

My Atomic Veggie panini meal

The sandwich cost $7.50, which is a big pricey. Still, it came with tortilla chips, salsa, and pineapple slices. Everything was scrumptious. I like the cafe’s coffee, and the banana mango smoothie I sampled wasn’t bad either (if anything, it was a little too sweet). Their muffins are to die for. Bite into one of their orange cranberry or pistachio chocolate muffins, and you’ll know what heaven tastes like.

Lemon flounder with capers

January 26, 2011

Lemon flounder with capers and white rice

Craving a yummy fish meal but don’t have a l0t of time? If this is your situation, consider making the lemon flounder with capers recipe I tried out last night. The fish was very well perfumed with the various seasonings (garlic, dill, lemon zest, pepper, olive oil, and capers), and the whole recipe took about 10 minutes.

I based the recipe off one in my new cookbook, “The Everything Mediterranean Cookbook.” I changed three things. The recipe called for sole, but I used flounder instead. Shaw’s had run out of sole, and the fish guy said flounder is quite similar. The second change was instead of using one and a half pounds of fish, I used one pound. I was just cooking for my fiance and I, not for six people (which the recipe is based on). The last modification was using a teaspoon of capers instead of a half-teaspoon. You can never have enough capers, right (but really, a half-teaspoon is practically nothing)?

Here’s the adjusted recipe (for two):

3 cloves garlic

3 sprigs fresh dill, leaves only

1 pound flounder

Black pepper to taste

1 teaspoon fresh-grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon capers

1. Preheat oven broiler. Mince the garlic and chop the dill.

2. Place the flounder on a pan; sprinkle with garlic, pepper, lemon zest, and drizzle with the oil.

3. Place under broiler for three minutes.

4. Turn the fish carefully.

5. Broil for one minute longer.

6. Remove from broiler and top with dill and capers.

This dish surely goes well with white wine, but I had it with some Samuel Smith oatmeal stout. It was the perfect combination, though I’m convinced this beer would go well with most anything.

And on a side note, does anyone know what’s up with fresh green beans? They are never in Shaw’s anymore, and Stop & Shop didn’t have them the other day either. I’m also looking for a place that sells rhubarb (fresh or frozen).

If you don’t mind feeling like a hippy, check out the delicious Life Alive cafe in Cambridge

January 14, 2011

It’s a new restaurant based off the one in Lowell. The menu calls the joint an “urban oasis and organic cafe.” You walk inside and one of the first things you notice is stacks of fresh produce (e.g. ginger, celery, carrots) behind the counter. You see this and know you’ll be eating healthy. Then you notice the list of smoothies. They are pretty expensive ($5.99 apiece), so I was a little hesitant to get one. I ended up caving and getting the “Love Alive” smoothie (blueberry, strawberry, banana, date, and almond milk). It was quite good, though I’m not so sure it’s worth the price.

Half of my smoothie (my friend had the other half)

I arrived there around 1 p.m. yesterday, and the line to order was very long. Basically you order at the counter, take a number, and are brought your food (just like the delicious Cafe Mangal in Wellesley!). As I waited, I scanned the decor and trinkets around me. A string of white lights framed a large and inviting window in the middle of the room. I also observed lots of green plants, a row of books you can read as you dine (if you get into a book you can put down a $5 deposit and borrow it), and an arrangement of teas. The teas are in little containers; you’re free to open the containers and smell the tea before ordering.

I ordered “The Seeker,” a salad with lemon garlic hummus, chopped cashews, granny applies, cucumbers, shredded carrots, spring greens, and ginger nama shoyu sauce. The dish comes in three forms: a bowl for $7.97, a wrap for $8.50, and a demi for $5.75). I got the bowl.

My friend Katie got “The Sufi Poet,” which is a salad with red-lentil hummus, cranberries, cashews, cucumber, granny apples, shredded carrots, spring greens, and balsamic vinaigrette. She just got the demi because her appetite was smaller. I must confess I initially thought the idea of hummus in salad is strange, but it went so well with the more subtle-tasting ingredients (e.g. the spring greens and cucumber). The lemon garlic hummus added just the right amount of “ooomph.” I also loved the texture of the chopped cashews.

Everything was fresh and oh-so-healthy-tasting, and it was the perfect amount of food. I will surely go back. We sat on the bottom level of the two-floor restaurant. It really doesn’t feel like a restaurant, but rather a cozy and colorful family room belonging to young artists. There are lots of nooks and crannies for sitting with your friends, as well as a play area for the youngins. Check out this little cove we snagged:

I look forward to trying some of their other menu items. They sell grilled tortilla wraps (like “The Seductress,” which boasts hard-boiled egg, broccoli, dark greens, shredded carrots and beets, garlic, yeast, and a whole wheat tortilla); “simple snacks” (like “The Crunchy Hippy,” which contains maple almond granola, dried fruit, almond milk, and maple syrup); and rice-based dishes (like “The Goddess,” which features ginger nama shoyu sauce, carrots, beets, broccoli, dark greens, tofu, and short-grain brown rice). You can also get sides for 50 cents to $3 apiece, like sesame stix, sun-dried tomato, and quinoa, as well as “jubilant juices,” like “Hive Alive” (a mixture of lemon, apple, honey, and pure water).

Another neat touch I must mention is they have a water dispenser with glasses both upstairs and downstairs (this is important to me because I normally drink tap water). Though they serve tea, I don’t think they serve coffee.

Resolution: Use Facebook less

January 3, 2011

resolution-is-to-use-facebook-less

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to use Facebook less. I’m sort of addicted to it, so this will be tough. I’ve decided I’d just like to use it for keeping in touch with people whose emails addresses I don’t have, occasionally posting photos, and seeing messages or posts friends have tagged me in (I receive an email each time this happens so I don’t have to sign in to Facebook to check on this).

I’ve basically determined that Facebook is a huge time waster (at least in my case). To facilitate my resolution I’ve signed myself out of Facebook. By making it harder to access Facebook, I’m hoping this keeps me from using it. We’ll see! I will update you on my efforts! For some reason writing down that I will do this gives me more of an incentive to follow through with it.

He seemed so happy

November 19, 2010

This post is way overdue. It’s about an incident that took place a few years ago. A guy I wrote a couple of news articles about shot himself inside his trolley car home. Here’s a link to the article I wrote about his historic trolley car in November 2006.

In August 2007 I wrote an article about his upcoming Habitat for Humanity trip to Romania. For that interview, he had me over to his trolley car for lunch. We sat at his outdoor picnic table, in a wooded area beside a bubbling creek. It was quite a picturesque scene, and one reason neighbors had complained about pest control trucks driving back and forth in this neighborhood (I wrote about this topic, too; the article is at the bottom of the page).

For the Romania interview, Mr. Trolley made delicious chicken salad sandwiches, and served them with strawberry wine. He also had me taste some special cheese he had ordered from the West Coast, where he used to live. As a reporter I wasn’t supposed to accept gifts or meals, but this was one of the few times I did. I felt it would be rude to turn down his nice gesture. In addition to telling me about his planned trip to Romania, he told me about a recent spinal cord injury that was really impacting his daily life. He seemed very distraught about this, but I thought he’d be OK.

A  few months later I heard he had shot himself inside his trolley. He was dead. I had never personally known anyone who committed suicide. This was a shock. I didn’t know what to think. I figured his injury may have played a role in his despair. I also knew he had been through a tough divorce and his daughter was siding with her mother (according to him). He had been involved with contracting work but maybe that work had dried up. Maybe he was at the edge and some incident occurred to push him over. Or maybe he had been planning this. I’m not sure.

I remember when I went to his trolley to interview him for the trolley story. He was so jolly and proud to show off his special abode. He had it all lit up in a beautiful way. He had put so much care into restoring it, into making sure the home was well insulated, repainted, etc.

I remember he loved the story. He called me up right after he read it and said it was perfect. I remember I got a lot of positive feedback from others as well. They like the historical aspect. Anyway, I’m saddened to think that such a good person was prompted to end his life. Maybe he was in such pain, though, that he’s in a better place now. Either way, it makes me realize that life is so fragile and anything we can do to to make others happy is energy well spent. You never know when someone is right at the edge.


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