Who says we have to suffer...to live a healthy happy vibrant life?

Red wine and dark chocolate... might seem decadent...but these guilty pleasures also might help us live longer...and healthier lives. Red wine and dark chocolate definitely improve an evening..but they also contain resveratrol..which lowers blood sugar. Red wine is a great source of catechins..which boost protective HDL cholesterol. Green tea? Protects your brain..helps you live longer..and soothes your spirit.

Food for Thought, the blog, is about living the good life...a life we create with our thoughts and our choices...and having fun the whole while!

I say lets make the thoughts good ones..and let the choices be healthy...exciting...and delicious! Bon Appetit!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Sunshine Vitamin and Heart Risk..The Framingham and Physicians Health Studies

       A Heart Attack is no walk on the beach...then again more frequent walks on the beach...may lead to less risk of heart attacks! 

       The connection...sunlight..which leads to having better levels of vitamin D. OK feeling utterly peaceful doesn't hurt either...

       Worried about sunlight and skin cancer? Then put on the sunscreen and take a vitamin D supplement. And get your vitamin D level tested at your next check-up. You want a level not less than 30 ng/ml and up to 100ng/ml is still safe. In Canada or New Zealand the normal level starts at 80 nmol/L. Adults will likely need 4000 ius vitamin D3 daily to maintain levels of 30ng/ml. 

Framingham Study Links Low Vitamin D to Heart Risk

Vitamin D deficiency—more traditionally associated with bone and muscle weakness—may also increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Low 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels have been linked to CVD risk factors: hypertension, obesity and diabetes, as well as major cardiovascular events such as stroke and congestive heart failure.
The prestigious Framingham Heart Study found that people with Vitamin D levels below 15ng/ml were twice as likely as those with higher levels ( 30 ng/ml or better) to have Heart Attack, Stroke or Cardiovascular event...and it was likely that the event would occur in the next five years 
  American College of Cardiology (2008, December 2)

The Physicians Health Study Links Low Vitamin D Levels to Doubling The Risk Of Heart Attack

Men with a vitamin D deficiency (< 15 ng/ml) had twice the risk for heart attack compared with those having 30 ng/ml or higher.

         Low levels of vitamin D appear to be associated with higher risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack) in men, according to a new report. Studies have shown that the rates of cardiovascular disease-related deaths are increased at higher latitudes and during the winter months and are lower at high altitudes, according to background information in the article. "This pattern is consistent with an adverse effect of hypovitaminosis D [vitamin D deficiency], which is more prevalent at higher latitudes, during the winter and at lower altitudes. Vitamin D has been shown to affect the body in ways that may influence the risk of heart attack or heart disease.

         Edward Giovannucci, M.D., Sc.D., of Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, and colleagues reviewed medical records and blood samples of 454 men (age 40 to 75) who had non-fatal heart attack or fatal heart disease from the date of blood collection (between January 1993 and December 1995) until January 2004. They then compared the data from these men with records and blood samples of 900 living men who did not have a history of cardiovascular disease. The men's diet and lifestyle factors, recorded by self-administered questionnaires were also noted.
         Men with a vitamin D deficiency (having 15 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less) had an increased risk for heart attack compared with those with a sufficient amount (having 30 nanograms per milliliter of blood or more) of vitamin D. "After additional adjustment for family history of myocardial infarction, body mass index, alcohol consumption, physical activity, history of diabetes mellitus and hypertension, ethnicity, region, marine omega 3 intake, low- and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels, this relationship remained significant," the authors write. Men with intermediate levels of vitamin D had a higher risk of heart attack than those with sufficient vitamin D levels.
        "Vitamin D deficiency has been related to an increasing number of conditions and to total mortality. These results further support an important role for vitamin D in myocardial infarction risk," the authors conclude. "Thus, the present findings add further support that the current dietary requirements of vitamin D need to be increased to have an effect on circulating 25(OH)D [vitamin D] levels substantially large enough for potential health benefits."

            Edward Giovannucci; Yan Liu; Bruce W. Hollis; Eric B. Rimm. 25-Hydroxyvitamin D and Risk of Myocardial Infarction in Men: A Prospective Study. Arch Intern Med., 2008;168(11):1174-1180 

There Is No Such Thing As Too Big...

Thoughtwise that is...

There is absolutely no such thing as thinking too big...

That would be like thinking too rich, too happy, too healthy, or too yummy...
so go ahead....be limitless....how big are your dreams?

Preserved Lemons...that take a really long time to cure..but WOW!

OK I'll be the first to admit that I while I would not say I am an immediate gratification type..I'll do crock pot stuff for instance. or a slow rotisserie ...or marinate overnight...but this? This recipe takes about ten minutes to prepare..and then about 30 days to ripen...

I know...30 days seems like forever..but it really isn't..consider the blinding speed with which that car payment comes due again... but as you'll see in another "preserved lemon" post if you scroll down...I am just fascinated with the whole idea of these little jewels...bottled sunshine..waiting to make my rice..or couscous..or chicken or fish dishes just stand out...to make my friends say...hey...what's in this? I cannot quit thinking about making these....

So today's the day...I'm making the ones that I can use tonight..courtesy of Ina Garten..see below...and I'm making the 30 day ones...just to see which is best...
there will be pictures later today...and below are a couple of ideas for what to do with them...
Preserved Lemons...the 30 day method....  "Patience Grasshopper...."

  • 6 medium-size lemons
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup lemon juice, or more if needed.
1. Cut the lemons in quarters lengthwise, leaving them attached at one end. Rub the flesh with a little of the salt. Place 1 tablespoon of salt in the bottom of a 1-quart glass jar with a tightfitting lid. Place the lemons in the jar alternately with the remaining salt, pressing the lemons to fit them snugly in the jar.
2. Pour in enough lemon juice to cover the lemons. Put on the lid and refrigerate, shaking the jar daily 2 to 3 weeks before using. Preserved lemons, covered with liquid and tightly sealed, will keep for several months in the refrigerator.
Yield: 6 preserved lemons.

Fettuccine With Asparagus, Preserved Lemon and Roasted Garlic
** Ahead of time make 2 heads of garlic, roasted for about an hour at 400 degrees, and while the garlic is roasting you could make a salad...snuggle with your honey...walk the dog...give yourself a facial...or prepare the remaining ingredients to get ahead of the curve...
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Chop the top third off each head of garlic and discard. Drizzle the heads with a teaspoon each of olive oil, wrap in foil and roast until the garlic is very soft and golden brown, about 50 minutes to an hour. Remove from the oven, cool slightly and squeeze the garlic out of the husks. Set aside.
Now carry on.... and this part is really quick...you'll need
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound fettuccine
  • 1/2 pound asparagus cut into 2 inch diagonal pieces
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 preserved lemon, pulp and rind, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper.
  • Fresh lemon zest

1. Bring two large kettles 2/3 full of salted water to a boil and cook the fettuccine until tender. In the second kettle, steam the asparagus till crisp tender, check often we don't want it too soft...Drain both and place in a serving bowl.
2. Meanwhile, combine the tablespoon of olive oil and the butter in a small pan over medium-low heat. When the butter melts, add the roasted garlic and preserved lemon and cook for 1 minute. Toss with the drained fettuccine. Toss the fettuccine again with the Parmesan and parsley and season generously with pepper and zest from about half of fresh lemon. Serve immediately. Should serve three to four...a nice white wine would be perfect...enjoy!

More Preserved Lemons...and some thoughts on Ina Garten's Garden

I am so intrigued with the idea of preserving lemons. As I said I'm doing some today... It's a Moroccan thing, lemons in brine that keep for months in the refrigerator and can be the spark of life for so many different recipes.

I saw them first in Ina Garten's kitchen..(no I wasn't really there) I was watching Barefoot Contessa on Food Network. She is living a fine life that woman...that barn..that garden? I have serious envy of her garden in summer. I'm hoping for a fine temperate climate one day so that I can garden for more than 12 weeks. She has huge organized sections of herbs for cooking and flowers for cutting including an incredible row of Hydrangeas...but I digress...

Ina and a friend were making a Moroccan Chicken dish in a Tangine Baker and the dish called for preserved lemons WOW I perked right up...I grabbed the iPad and started taking notes and resolved that I must keep preserved lemons on hand henceforth. That was about eight weeks ago...sigh....ok I do live a busy life...so here is the relatively quick Barefoot Contessa method..from my notes:

(You're putting everything in a glass baking dish)
3 lemons, sliced into sixths lengthwise, sprinkled with 2-3 tablespoons kosher salt
(don't you HATE recipes that are not specific? I know...here's why this one isn't..she didn't measure, she grabbed what appeared to be a healthy handful of salt and tossed it over the lemons...)
Cover the lemons and salt with water, bake for three hours at 250F allow to cool and then store in a jar in the refrigerator...for up to six months!

And if it all just sounds like too too much..you can buy them from Williams Sonoma, $10

Here is the ingredient list for the chicken dish they made...the link to the recipe is below if it sounds yummy to you...oh..and here is a Tangine, quite a lovely one from Emile Henry (Oh God Emile Henry ceramics..don't get me started..) which you can get via Amazon, but any good heavy baking dish will do quite nicely...

Moroccan Chicken Tangine 


  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large Spanish onion, grated (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons canola, grapeseed or olive oil (not a heavy olive oil)
  • 1 to 2 preserved lemons, depending on size
  • 8 chicken thighs, with bone and skin
  • Stems from the parsley and cilantro, tied with twine
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered saffron or 1/4 teaspoon powdered turmeric and 4 strands saffron
  • 1 cup pitted green Moroccan or Greek olives
  • 1/2 bunch Italian parsley, about 1/4 cup chopped
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, about 1/4 cup chopped
the rest of the recipe is here...to give credit where credit is due...

And one more recipe that promises even more flavor...yes I'm making them all....

Moroccan Preserved Lemons
                   What you'll need
  •             6 lemons, preferably organic, washed and scrubbed
  •             ¼ cup kosher or sea salt, more as needed
  •             1 bay leaf
  •             3-4 whole cloves, 
  •             3-4 black peppercorns 
  •             3-4 whole coriander seeds
  •             1 cinnamon stick
  •             Freshly squeezed lemon juice..maybe 4 more lemons

                        A clean jar big enough to hold all of the lemons

                     Here's how to make them.....

         Start by almost quartering the lemons. To do this, slice off the very end of your lemon so that you have a flat surface to work with. Stand the lemon on its now flat bottom and cut vertically about three quarters of the way down. Don't cut all the way through!
            Now cut vertically again, quartering the lemon, only three quarters of the way down so the lemon is held together by its end.
           Stuff the center of each lemon full as you can with salt and then squeeze it back together. Put a tablespoon of salt in the bottom of the jar along with the rest of the ingredients except the lemon juice and start packing your salty lemons in.
           Press down on the lemons as you go so their juice comes out, making it easier to pack every last one in. If the juice from the lemons doesn't completely cover them, top the jar up with your extra lemon juice. The lemons have to be completely covered, but you'll have to leave a bit of air space between the surface of the juice and the lid. Put the lid on and shake. Put them in the refrigerator and shake them once a day or so...they'll be ready in a month...

Italy's Amalfi Coast..it's on my list

Please take a couple of minutes to see this stunning slide show...It is on the photographer's Huffington Post blog. (See the link below) This came to me via Twitter this morning. A gorgeous collection of photos by Gregory Curley
Follow Gregory Curley on Twitter  www.twitter.com/gregorycurley

Italy's Amalfi Coast: Eat, Pray, Awesome Along Italy's Amalfi Coast

Follow Jolie on Twitter  www.twitter.com/jolieroot

Friday, February 18, 2011

Garlic and Butter Roasted Mushrooms

I found this recipe (and the photo) on Smitten Kitchen.com and she got it from Gourmet.com. There is something so fragrant about garlic simmering in butter..in this case in my beautiful Mario Batali enamel cast iron pot that I got at Crate and Barrel...

The first time I made these I tripled the recipe and roasted three pounds of mushrooms..for a family gathering. A birthday dinner. They didn't make it all the way around the table..I had to beg for a taste off of someone else's plate. Make sure you have a nice loaf of fresh crusty French or Italian bread handy..there were juices to sop up and I'll admit..I've made lunch of this dish more than once this season..all alone...but I feel safe in predicting that your man will be your love slave if you make these for him!

Just have to say that a dish like this is begging to be served alongside a nice grilled steak...

1 pound mushrooms such as cremini or white, halved lengthwise if large

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped

3 large garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in middle. Toss mushrooms with capers, garlic, oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper in a 1 1/2- to 2-qt shallow baking dish. Top with butter and roast, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are tender and golden and bubbly garlic sauce forms below, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and parsley. Serve immediately, with crusty bread on the side for swiping up the juices.
Roasted Garlic....
No Mushrooms handy? If you just want some garlic instead of butter on crusty bread...roast it.
Place whole unpeeled bulbs round side down in a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil, cover with foil and bake about 90 minutes at 325F

Dark Chocolate~Orange Martini

Now I'll admit I haven't made this yet...but the weekend is upon us! And really...what's not to love about this little sip of orange-chocolate deliciousness? Remember...dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants that protect the body. A little bit of dark chocolate (think Dove dark chocolate bar) daily gives you the antioxidant flavonoid compound epicatechin which promotes the elasticity of blood vessels and healthy circulation.

A small daily serving of dark chocolate helps support: 

   healthy blood pressure levels
   reduced LDL cholesterol levels
   reduced risk of blood clots
   increased levels of pleasurable endorphins such as phenylethylamine
   increased levels of the good mood neurotransmitter serotonin

Dark Chocolate~Orange Martini 
(Adapted from Food Network's Chefs Recipe)

Mix 2 tablespoons each raw turbinado sugar and finely chopped dark chocolate on a plate. Use a chefs knife with a rocking motion and grind up a dark chocolate bar. Dove will do nicely...perfectly ok to nibble a bit as you go. Combine 2 ounces each chocolate liqueur and vodka, 1 ounce chilled espresso, 1 teaspoon fresh orange juice and a strip of orange zest in a cocktail shaker with ice; shake well for 10-15 seconds. Run a slice of orange around the rim of a chilled martini glass and dip it in the sugar-chocolate mixture. Strain the cocktail into the glass and garnish with an orange wedge.

I was thinking this would also be delicious if you went raspberry instead of orange...I'd use Chambord instead of the orange liquor, leave out the espresso...( Oh does that mean more vodka?) Moisten the rims with the berries for extra flavor and float a couple of fresh berries in the glass..I'll try it and report my findings...

Take your Fish Oils..Your Heart Will Thank You

This is information that has the power to save lives. The EPA and DHA benefits from the heart cannot be overstated....taking at least 1000 mg combined EPA and DHA everyday is something I have recommended since I first learned of their heart benefits. I lost my dad to sudden cardiac death...and that happens to more than half a million families every year in the US alone. I would like to see those numbers drop, every one of those people leaves behind a family who will never be the same. This issue is the reason I became a nutrition educator.

Fish is an excellent source of protein and, unlike fatty meat products, it’s not high in saturated fat. Quite the opposite..fish provide the lifesaving long chain unsaturated fats that most people aren't getting. Yes, fish is a rich source of the most important omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Omega-3 fatty acids benefit the heart of healthy people, and those at high risk of, think family history...or who already  have cardiovascular disease. 

Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids decrease risk of arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats), which can lead to sudden death. An Italian study ( GISSI) showed that in men who had already had a heart attack fish oil supplements (840 mg EPA/DHA daily) reduced sudden cardiac death rates by 45%. Omega-3 fatty acids also decrease triglyceride levels, slow growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque, protect against inflammation and lower blood pressure (slightly).

What you need to know...

The American Heart Association recommends eating fish (particularly fatty fish) at least two times (two servings) a week. Each serving is 3.5 ounce cooked, or about ¾ cup of flaked fish. Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids. 

The American Heart Association recommends that anyone who has heart disease get 1000 mg combined EPA and DHA (the Omega 3's in fish oils or fish) daily.

The American Heart Association recommends that anyone who needs to lower their triglycerides get 2000-4000 mg combined EPA and DHA daily.

Source: AHA Scientific Statement 

Fish Consumption, Fish Oil, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Cardiovascular Disease


GISSI Dietary supplementation with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E after myocardial infarction: results of the GISSI-Prevenzione trial. Gruppo Italiano per lo Studio della Sopravvivenza nell’Infarto miocardico. Lancet.1999; 354: 447–455

NIH Funded Research Shows How Fish Oils Protect Against Cardiovascular Disease

A researcher at Michigan Technological University is contributing to the growing body of evidence suggesting that the omega-3 fatty acids ( EPA and DHA)  found in fish oil protect against cardiovascular disease.
Fish oil has been shown to improve vascular function (blood flow) by decreasing triglyceride levels and the growth rate of atherosclerotic plaques, and by reducing blood pressure, according to Jason R, Carter, chair of the Department of Exercise Science, Health and Physical Education at Michigan Tech. Carter says that the underlying mechanisms responsible for these Fish Oil benefits are not entirely clear, but reduction of sympathetic nerve activity (the flight/fight response) may be an important contributor.

Fish Oil and Neurovascular Control in Humans (2008-2011)

The major goal of this project is to examine the 
effects of fish oil on blood pressure and muscle 
sympathetic nerve activity in normotensive and hypertensive individuals.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Expecting? Eat Fish! The Benefits Outweigh the Risks..

“Advice that limits seafood consumption might reduce the intake of nutrients necessary for optimal neurological development.” 

12% of women reported eating no fish or seafood during pregnancy; 65% consumed up to 12 ounces (340 g) of fish per week; 23% consumed more than 12 ounces of fish per week.  

Higher seafood consumption during pregnancy was associated with lower risk of suboptimal verbal IQ. 
In every outcome measured, the lower the seafood consumption by the mother during pregnancy, the greater the risk of suboptimal development in the child. 

These data, collected over an 8-year period, from nearly 12,000 pregnant women and their children suggest beneficial effects on child development when maternal intake of fish and seafood is greater than 340 grams (> 12 ounces) per week.  These findings suggest that following the US FDA and US EPA advisory to limit fish and seafood intake during pregnancy may result in suboptimal neural development in children; risk from the absence of nutrients may be greater than risk of harm from potential exposure to mercury. 

Vannice GK, Byelashov A, Rice, B.  Advances in EPA & DHA Research: EPA and DHA Omega-3 intake during pregnancy and developmental outcomes in children.  Quarterly Journal of Significant Omega-3 Research, 03;(03), 2010.

Hibbeln JR, Davis JM, et al. Maternal seafood consumption in pregnancy and neurodevelopmental outcomes in childhood (ALSPAC study): An observational cohort study. Lancet, 2007;369:578-585. 

Aaron's Savory Chicken Hash

You've got to make this gorgeous dish! The spices and peppers really deliver big flavor..and just think about those antioxidants...on second thought...don't think overmuch about the healthy elements here...they're here...know that and then just enjoy! This is hands down the best thing I've found to do with a rotisserie chicken. Delicious!

Adapted from a recipe courtesy of Food Network's Big Daddy...Aaron McCargo

Prep Time:
10-15 min
Inactive Prep Time:
Cook Time:
45 min
Easy..oh so easy anyone can make this....
4 to 6 servings
   4 Yukon potatoes, peeled and diced
   2 tablespoons butter
   1 medium onion, finely chopped
   1 red bell pepper, diced
   1 yellow bell pepper, diced
   1 tablespoon minced garlic
   1/2 teaspoon cayenne
   1 tablespoon salt
   1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
   1 tablespoon smoked or regular paprika
   1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
   1 (3-pound) store-bought rotisserie chicken, meat removed and diced
   1/4 cup chicken stock
   2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves, plus 2 more for garnish
   lemon, juiced
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Bring a large pot or water to a boil over medium heat. Add the potatoes and cook until tender, about 12 to 14 minutes. Drain and set aside.
In a large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat, add the butter. Add the onions, bell peppers and garlic and saute for a few minutes. Add the cayenne, salt, pepper, smoked paprika and oregano. Stir in the chicken and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until chicken is warmed through. Season with more salt and pepper, if needed. Stir in the chicken stock to add moisture, along with the parsley and lemon juice. Allow to simmer and let flavors develop for a few minutes. Add the cooked potatoes and put into the oven until the potatoes are no longer mushy...wait is mushy a word ??? Oven time is likely to be about 30 minutes. ( Great time to open a nice bottle of wine and make a fresh green salad....Remove from the oven and transfer to a serving bowl. Squeeze more lemon juice to taste, grate some lemon zest over it too if you're feeling sexy... and top with fresh chopped parsley.
This is definitely not your mothers chicken hash.....