Thursday, December 30

Recycling Day

The Waste Management truck pulled up to my house today collecting the recycling from the last two weeks.

As I carried the trash out to the curb I noticed the contents. Normally the green bin is full of containers of Greek yogurt, boxes of high fiber cereal and bottles of water.

Not today.

Today the bin was overflowing with cartons from Daylight Donuts, boxes from Papa Johns Pizza, aluminum tins from Godiva, cardboard containers from Harry & David, and enough wine bottles to host one helluva dinner party. Okay, maybe two, possibly three.

It's been a fabulous holiday, but now I'm dealing with the hangover. The aftermath of the season.

I think I need to enter some sort of detox program. Or maybe go to a sweat lodge. Or try one of those lemonade cleanses. I've got to do something because I feel awful—sluggish, fatigued, bloated and just plain fat. Woo Hoo! Happy New Year!

Thankfully I don't need to call the Betty Ford Center. The remedies for ridding myself of the post-holiday bloat are actually pretty straight forward.

1) Start drinking water again. 

For some reason when the holidays hit, my water consumption drops. I'm not sure of the causal relationship but it happens every year. Now that the partying is (mostly) over, I need to get back on the H2O bandwagon. Water literally flushes the toxins away.

2) Stop the daily cocktail hours.

While it's been fun hosting family and friends and enjoying a few glasses of wine, the daily consumption of alcohol has got to go. As much as I hate to admit it, I'm not twenty any more. My body can't take it. (I mean twenty-one of course. I never drank while I was underage.)

3) Say hello to my long lost friends—fresh fruits and vegetables.

No one I know shows up to a holiday party with a tray of raw vegetables and some hummus dip. It's simply not done. Holiday food is cheesy, sugary, fatty and sometimes deep fried. No wonder I feel bloated. Reintroducing fruits and vegetables will lower my caloric intake and increase the fiber in my diet. Something that's been sorely lacking the last month.

4) Say good-bye to sugary treats. 

As hard as it is, it's time. Time to tell the sugar cookies, coffee cakes, gingerbread houses, chocolate truffles and all the other desserts to go away. It's for the best, really. But I'll miss them. Especially the Russian Tea Cakes, they're my favorite. Whatever my family doesn't eat and I can't give away by Sunday is getting thrown out.

5) Get back to the gym.

While I kept up my twice weekly strength training sessions during the holidays, I only made it to one cardio class. In four weeks. Yikes! I'm supposed to be doing cardio three times a week. Oops. Next week I'm back on it. Promise.

I hope you had a wonderful holiday and may 2011 bring you much happiness and good health.

Friday, December 24


Every year, the week before Christmas, I smugly drive by Short Pump Mall, a smirk crosses my face as I observe the traffic. Dummies, I think, if only they’d done their shopping early they wouldn’t have to fight the crowds.

I think back to my dentist appointment on December 7th. The dental hygienist, making her requisite small talk, asked me if I’d started my Christmas shopping.

“Oh,” I announced brightly, my eyes brimming with pride, “I’m almost done.”

“You’re smart,” she responded, “I haven’t even started yet.”

Yes, every year I pat myself on the back and praise my organizational skills.

Until December 23.

That’s when, every year, it hits me. 


This is my punishment for being smug. For feeling superior to those who don’t plan ahead. And it happens to me every year.

You’d think I’d learn. You’d think I would, I don’t know, REMEMBER THE STOCKING STUFFERS! But I don’t. So I’m out on December 23rd and 24th with all the other poor planners wandering the shops, fighting the crowds and stalking people in parking lots hoping to get their spot.

You probably saw me at the mall yesterday. I was the one in the green tweed coat, eyes full of desperation, and remorse.

Thank you karma for the comeuppance. I deserve it.

So what’s a penitent girl to do? What are good stocking stuffers?

My mind went in to overdrive. Well, I thought, I have lots of clementines in the house, maybe I could pierce each orange with a bunch of cloves and call it potpourri? Or I could use all that leftover Halloween candy?

But no, I couldn’t do it. So off I went in search of decent gifts.

Here’s what I scored during my travels. If you’re struggling for ideas, maybe these will help.

1.   I have four words for you. Bath and Body Works. This place is a gold mine. Lotion, perfume and hand sanitizer, oh my. Plus they have those fuzzy socks with the lotion built in. Perfect.

2.   After working out with Marq at the Advanced Wellness Centre, I noticed their holiday gift certificates. Who doesn’t love a massage? And they’re offering a holiday gift special—a one-hour massage for new clients is only $55. Sweet.

3.   Do your kids like music? Costco sells a four-pack of iTunes gift cards below the face value. Why buy them anywhere else?

4.   Speaking of gift cards, they’re the perfect stocking stuffer. Whether it’s Lowe’s, Target or Barnes and Noble there’s a gift card out there for everyone. Last year Santa gave me a Starbucks card and a Chick Fil A card to support my two beverage addictions—coffee and iced tea. It was fabulous.

5.   Underwear and socks. These were stocking stuffer staples in my childhood home. I could always count on Santa for new undies. As a kid I hated this tradition but as a parent I get it. They’re cheap, functional and best of all they take up a lot of space!

6.   DVDs and small books fit inside a stocking nicely as well.

That’s it. I’m tapped out, both mentally and physically. Good luck with your last-minute shopping.

Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for a happy, healthy 2011!

Wednesday, December 22

Food Spotlight: Clementines

‘Tis the season for those sweet easy-to-peel oranges called clementines.

This little orange stuffs a lot of goodness into a tiny package. One clementine is only 35 calories, plus you get 5% of your daily fiber, 60% of your daily vitamin C and it’s a good source of niacin, thiamin, folic acid and potassium.

My issue with the fruit is the quantity it's sold in. Why are they only sold by the truckload? You can’t just buy four. No, you have to buy a crate-full.

So of course, that’s what I bought. And now I’ve got clementines out the ying-yang. I offer them to every guest that stops by, to the mailman and garbage collector. And I’m considering making them into a citrus-themed wreath.

I love them, really I do, but other than enjoying them as a convenient snack what do you do with them?

Sunday night, out of desperation, I searched the internet for clementine recipes.

Here’s what I made: Spinach salad with clementine-vinaigrette and fish tacos with clementine salsa. It was delicious!

Maybe I can hold off on building that wreath after all.

Here are the recipes for those two dishes. Enjoy!

Spinach Salad with Clementine Vinaigrette (modified from The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook)

1/3 cup walnut halves
1 pound flat-leaf spinach
1 teaspoon grated clementine zest (about 2 clementines)
2 tablespoons clementine juice (about 3 clementines)
1 teaspoon finely minced shallot
pinch of salt
pinch of freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons walnut oil (you can find this at Kroger and it makes this dressing fabulous)

1. Toast the walnuts in a skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

2. Combine the zest, juice, shallot, salt, pepper, and walnut oil in a bowl and whisk until smooth.

3. Place the spinach and walnuts in a serving dish. Drizzle the dressing over the spinach and walnuts and toss gently. Serve immediately.

Fish Tacos with Clementine Salsa

For the salsa:

3 clementines, peeled and segments chopped into small pieces
½ roasted red pepper, chopped (Buy a jar of peppers. You don’t have to roast your own)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1 handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice from ½ a lime
½ teaspoon cumin

1. Combine all the ingredients into a bowl and mix. (Can be made ahead of time and left on the counter for flavors to blend.)

Note: This takes a while to prepare. Not because it’s a difficult recipe, but because it takes some time to peel and chop the clementines.

For the fish:

4 cod fillets (you can use tilapia, mahi mahi or any other white fish you enjoy)
Zest from one lime
Montreal steak seasoning
Olive oil

1. Place the fish on a baking sheet.

2. Drizzle each piece of fish with some olive oil, lime zest, and Montreal seasoning

3. Broil for 8 minutes, or until fish flakes easily

To serve:

Extreme Wellness Tortillas (in Mexican aisle at Kroger)
Sour cream
Baked Fish
Clementine Salsa

1. Fill each tortilla with ¼ to ½ a fish fillet, some clementine salsa and a dollop of sour cream.

Saturday, December 18

Food Spotlight: Tea

Balancing six mugs in my arms, I tentatively descended the staircase into the kitchen.

Michael, hearing my entry, turned toward me and noticing my burden asked, “What are those?”

“Dirty mugs from our bedroom,” I responded. “They’re from my nighttime hot tea habit.”

“Good God! You’ve got almost every cup we own up there,” he exclaimed.

“I know,” I said sheepishly, “I think I have a problem.”

I do have a tea problem, but unlike my raw cookie dough obsession, this one is actually good for me.

Defining “tea”

Real tea—green, black and oolong tea—is derived from the Camellia sinensis plant.

Herbal teas, like chamomile, jasmine and mint are not tea at all because they don’t come from this plant. They are labeled tea because they are prepared in the same way as real tea.

Since herbal teas are not derived from the Camellia sinensis plant, they do not have the same nutritional properties as green, black or oolong tea.

For the purpose of this article, I’ve chosen to focus solely on green, black and oolong tea. Herbal “teas” are not part of the discussion.

So, why is tea good for me?

It’s the antioxidants baby! Antioxidants are important because they neutralize free radicals, those nasty compounds that damage our cells and which many scientists believe, contribute to aging, cancer and heart disease.

Antioxidants are found in many fruits and vegetables, but according to John Weisburger, PhD, senior researcher at the Institute for Cancer Prevention in Valhalla, N.Y, "Whether it's green or black, tea has about eight to ten times the polyphenols [a type of antioxidant] found in fruits and vegetables."

Which tea should I drink, green or black?

The difference between green, black and oolong tea is in the processing. Green tea is minimally processed, the leaves are withered and steamed after being dried. Black and oolong teas are more heavily processed, the leaves are crushed and fermented after being dried.

While the teas all start from the same plant, the extra fermenting of black and oolong teas changes the antioxidant profile. All three types of tea have antioxidants, but green tea has more EGCG, an antioxidant that is thought to play a key role in preventing cancer and heart disease. Thus, green tea is widely regarded as the better choice.

A word of caution, there are many health claims in the media about the benefits of green tea, but the bulk of the research is based on animal studies. Human studies, thus far, have been inconclusive, leading the FDA to strike down a proposal from green tea manufacturers allowing them to link green tea consumption to a reduced risk of breast and prostrate cancer. The FDA not only refused to allow this health claim, but further stated that:

“… existing evidence does not support qualified health claims for green tea consumption and a reduced risk of any other type of cancer.”

Okay, so now what?

While the research is still pending on tea’s cancer-preventing properties, the fact remains that it is loaded with antioxidants which makes it a healthy choice as a daily beverage—much better than a soda.

To get the most from a cup of tea, you need to drink brewed hot tea.  Bottled tea from a vending machine or ordering iced tea at a restaurant doesn’t count. Those preparations are so diluted that the antioxidant level is virtually zero. Plus, many of the bottled teas are loaded with sugar.

With cold weather upon us, brew a cup, sit back and enjoy the warmth. Oh, and the antioxidants too.

Monday, December 13

A Weekend Retreat from the Chaos of Christmas

A sea of headlights and taillights greeted me as we drove past Short Pump Mall Friday night. Our minivan headed in the opposite direction, away from the congestion and noise of holiday shoppers toward First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach.

While the majority of humanity filled the streets and stores in preparation for Christmas, we took our kids camping. This past weekend was our second annual “Family Longhouse.”

Our Family Longhouse is an offshoot of the YMCA Indian Guide/Indian Princess program. The YMCA program is designed for fathers and their children. Through monthly meetings and twice-yearly camping trips (called “longhouses”) it provides opportunities for dads and their kids to share experiences and have fun together.

The camping weekends with daddy are a highlight of my children’s lives, so much so that they wanted me to experience a longhouse weekend too.

“It’s okay,” I assured them, “There’s no need for Mommy to go camping. I’ve been camping and I’m really, really, really happy that Daddy takes you.”

But the kids insisted. “You’ll love it!” they declared.

Seeing the excitement on their little faces, listening to their stories of longhouses past, I finally relented. But with some rules.

When Mommy goes camping that means a cabin with running water, electricity and a coffee maker. I love being out in nature—during the day, with fresh clothes on, a clean body and fully caffeinated. Those are my standards. I don’t do tents, sleeping outside, bugs, shivering, and percolating coffee over a campfire.

While I refuse to be without indoor plumbing, there were a few modern conveniences I was happy to leave behind—namely, TV and computers. Void of our customary entertainment, we amused ourselves with cards, board games and outdoor activities. On the beach we kicked the soccer ball, tossed a football, played Bocce ball, horseshoes and laughed at our dog Snickers as she ran into the ocean playing with Ricky, an exuberant chocolate lab. (Snickers was so excited to play with her new friend, she forgot she hates the water. Until a wave struck her chest, then she made a hasty retreat.)

We hiked along Bald Cypress trail, climbed up the Old Cape Henry Lighthouse and with hot chocolate in hand, drove down the boardwalk to view the holiday lights. We even had time for a long, luxurious afternoon nap.

As we returned home Sunday afternoon, traffic still clogged the entrance to the mall. I couldn’t help but imagine all the harried shoppers rushing to finish their Christmas shopping. I have a list of items to attend to as well, but I’ll get to those later. For the moment I’m savoring the quiet time spent with my family. 

Climbing trees at First Landing State Park

Enjoying Virginia Beach

Snickers (brown dog in the foreground)
after she remembered she hated the water.
She stood at the edge, only getting her paws wet.

Playing "Life." My career was a supermodel and I made
$2 million a year. Clearly, it was just a game. And I lost.
Even in the fake world I couldn't pull it off.

Hiking Bald Cypress trail

The girls with Snickers

My beautiful family. Except that old guy.
Where'd he come from?

Thursday, December 9

Okay, Okay, I'll Meditate

Something is going on in the universe, pushing me, no, demanding that I meditate. No less than six people have recently suggested that I would benefit from the practice.

Is it the fact that my shoulders are permanently attached to my ears? Is it the eye twitching? The scattered thoughts? The distracted and confused stare? What exactly about me do they see that makes them think, "Boy, could you benefit from some stress relief?"

"I've tried it in the past," I tell them, "It's just not for me."

Unwavered they respond, "Yeah, you should really try it again. Really."

So here I am, giving in to the universe and trying it again because apparently, I could really benefit from it. But this time I'm trying a different technique.

Traditional meditation, where you sit quietly focusing on nothing is a disaster for me. I'm incapable of shutting down my brain. It's constantly spinning, reminding me to get bread at the grocery store, schedule my dog Snickers' vet appointment, clean the house for the upcoming holiday party and help Amanda with her science project. How anyone can sit still and NOT think is beyond me. This is why I'm not the Dalai Lama. I'm not enlightened. I live in the dark stressful space of an anxious mother.

I need a different kind of meditation, a technique that occupies my mind, gives me something to do. Thankfully, I recently learned a type of meditation that does just that. It's got some fancy medical name which I cannot recall so I coined it "See-Hear-Feel" because I'm kind of an idiot and that moniker helps me remember what to do.

Here's how it works.

First, sitting in a comfortable position, begin breathing through your nose, taking several deep, calming breaths.

Next, let your eyes wander around the room and find an object that appeals to you and focus on it. This is the "see" part. Continuing to breathe through your nose, notice the object and the characteristics that make you want to look at it. Is it the color? The way the light hits it? Mentally describe the object to yourself, focusing only on what you see.

Then, continuing your nose breathing and staring at your object, focus on what you hear. The whir of the heating system, cars passing by outside, clocks ticking, whatever is around you. Again, make a mental checklist of the sounds in your vicinity.

Finally, turn your attention to what you feel—physically, not emotionally. Maybe you feel the chair pressing into your legs or your legs crossed over one another. You might notice that you're hungry, cold, or warm.

Continuing to breathe through your nose, you should feel markedly different by now, much calmer, more relaxed.

Our stresses and worries live at a very high level of cognitive function. We are problem solvers constantly trying to fix the issues that plague us. This technique works because it forces our thoughts on basic sensations, what we see, hear and feel, placing us in the present moment, temporarily giving us a respite from our worries.

I like this technique because it can take as little as five minutes and it gives my mind something to do. Plus I can do it anywhere, no special CD is required.

My final piece of advice is: DO NOT pick your "to-do" list as the thing to focus on. Admiring your handwriting or the way the sun highlights the word "coffee" on your Costco list isn't effective.

Happy meditating everyone!

Monday, December 6

Food Spotlight: Cranberries

One of my favorite holiday side dishes is cranberry sauce. Unfortunately I am in the minority when it comes to an affinity for this delicacy. At our Christmas table the single can of sauce passes from one family member to the next like a hot potato until the serving dish rests at my side.

Why the distain from my family? Don’t they enjoy the tartness, the ruby red color? Or maybe the canned variety with its gelatinous texture is unappealing?

This Christmas I’ve decided to make my own cranberry sauce in an attempt to get my family to embrace the berry. After all, it’s an antioxidant superstar.

Not only are cranberries a powerful free radical fighter, on par with the blueberry, but research has proven the old wives tale of drinking cranberry juice to prevent urinary tract infections (UTI).

Cranberries contain elements that stop bacteria from adhering to the walls of the urinary tract. Thus regular consumption of cranberries is a good preventative step for women who suffer recurrent UTIs. Research however, has not proven that cranberries are a good treatment for a UTI. If you get one, you need medical attention to treat it.

Adding cranberries to your diet is easiest with cranberry juice, but buy the light version. Ocean Spray’s light cranberry juice has 40 calories in a cup versus 130 for the regular stuff.

If you can’t stomach the tartness of the juice straight, try this mix: half cranberry juice, half seltzer water and a twist of lime. It’s light and refreshing, plus it looks really fun and pretty in a glass. I often drink this at parties when I’m not feeling like a cocktail. Your office Christmas party could the perfect time to give this a try. Have the bartender put it in a martini glass and it’ll look like you’re having a cosmopolitan. Instead of getting tanked and telling your boss you think he/she is an idiot, you can stand back and watch your colleagues make fools of themselves. Ah, the joys of the holidays. 

Here are some other recipes to help you incorporate cranberries into your life, including a version of cranberry sauce I’m going to try at Christmas.

Happy cooking!

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Turkey Salad

Cranberry Waldorf Fruit Salad

Friday, December 3

Assessing the Post-cruise Damage

Reluctantly, hesitantly, I stepped on the scale this morning, bracing myself for the damage I’d caused during last week’s cruise.

And the damage was…drum roll please…

zero pounds.

Miraculously, unbelievably, the digital display read the same as when I left. I shook my head, blinked several times and glanced at my hands. I must be leaning against the wall or hanging from a bar above the scale, I thought. There’s no way that’s accurate.

But there it was, in black and grey, in digital glory.

After I stopped jumping up and down and high-fiving myself, I wondered how in the world I pulled that off.

I ate dessert every night, drank wine, and had a Bloody Mary for a nightcap. Every night. I don’t normally eat and drink like that. How could I not put on a few pounds?

After some careful introspection it occurs to me that I have a few personal characteristics that support a healthy weight management style, even when I’m sabotaging myself.

1) I’m a food snob.

I’m a picky eater. Not like my seven-year-old who only likes a limited number of foods, but in the quality of what I eat. If it’s not really good, I don’t eat it.

This is the shrimp risotto.
Looks fabulous, right?
Sadly, it was horrible.
For example, at dinner one night on the cruise I ordered shrimp risotto. It looked beautiful but the shrimp was overcooked and rubbery and the rice was undercooked and crunchy. I took two bites and pushed it aside. It just wasn’t worth my time. I didn’t ask for another plate, I waited for the next course which happened to be dessert and it was spectacular. Well worth skipping the entree for.

The same thing happened at breakfast. I never loaded up on pastries, doughnuts, pancakes or other sugary treats. It was clear these items were from a box. They weren’t homemade. They weren’t special, so why bother. I stuck with the basics—fruit, eggs, oatmeal, bacon, toast—choosing instead to save my calories for dinner when the good desserts were being served.

2) I don’t stuff myself.

When I was in high school we owned a basset hound named George. We adored that dog and like bad parents fed him all sorts of inappropriate food. One night we gave him an entire pot of spaghetti. He ate the whole thing. For the next several hours he lay on the family room floor moaning, his belly distended beyond his ribcage on both sides of his body. He looked like a python that had just engulfed a deer. Poor thing. He just couldn’t stop himself.

Thankfully, I am no George.

Even though I was eating more high-calorie foods, I often ate only half of the contents on my plate, stopping well before I reached the George-point.

It reminds me of an article I read recently about the people of Okinawa, Japan. One of the places profiled in Dan Beuttner’s book, The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. Okinawa is known for it’s high concentration of 100-year-olds. These people have been studied for years to discover their secrets to longevity. One of their cultural norms is to eat until they are 80% full. They purposefully and methodically stop eating when they feel mostly full. Since it takes 10-20 minutes for the brain to get the message that you’re satiated, if you stop at 80% and wait, you’ll find that you’re actually full. Whereas if you stop at 100%, you’re stuffed, like George.

3) I’m impatient.

With 3,000+ people on board the ship there was always a line for the elevators. Instead of patiently waiting, I took the stairs. Even in high heels. Up and down I went, day and night. Additionally, we walked everywhere—taking the kids to their Adventure Ocean Club, meeting the family at the Schooner Bar for trivia night, going back to the other side of the ship to get the kids and put them to bed, etc. If I was smarter I would’ve brought a pedometer with me. I know I walked more on ship than I do at home.

All these things combined must have cancelled out the extra calories I was consuming. It reminds me that small changes can make big differences.

During this time of year, between work and family commitments, travel, holiday shopping and office parties, it’s difficult to get to the gym or pass on all the treats. But some simple solutions like being picky, eating less and walking more could be all you need to maintain your weight this season.

It worked for me. 

Thursday, December 2

Overindulgence On The High Seas

Our ship off the coast of
Cocoa Cay, Bahamas

My Thanksgiving week was spent aboard Royal Caribbean’s cruise ship the Freedom of the Seas. I can sum up my experience in three words.




Between the casino, the endless buffets and the bars, which began offering alcoholic beverages at 7:00 am, the cruise should have been called Sinning on the Seas. The only vice missing was pornography.

At least that’s what I thought, until my sisters and I spotted an aging porn star sunning herself on Deck 11. We’re only guessing she’s an ex-adult actress of course. With her long, bleached blonde hair, double-G breasts, rhinestone-studded false eyelashes, lips so full and tight they looked like they were inflated with a bicycle pump, and skin the color of an Oompa Loompa’s, she might be the owner of a tanning salon or possibly a tattoo parlor. But we’re sticking with porn star.

While her appearance was gawk-worthy, that’s not what really fascinated me about her. I was impressed, envious even, of her strut, her confidence. The way she sauntered over to the deck hands to ask for a towel as if nothing was amiss, passing rows of suburban moms from Connecticut, Missouri and Virginia, all turning our heads and elbowing our neighbors to watch her walk by. She completed her journey, shaking her assets in her black string bikini, acting as if it was the most glorious thing to be the color of burnt sienna.

I wish I had an ounce of her chutzpah.

When I wasn’t staring at our porn star friend poolside, I was glancing around the dining room at our 3,000+ traveling companions and observing their eating choices. Cruise ships are a fascinating place to observe human dietary behavior. And for the most part, overindulgence ruled the day.

With an all-inclusive setup, 24-hour access to a stunning amount of food, and customers with an “I’m on vacation” mindset, plates were piled high with bad choices. Pastries, doughnuts, sausage, bacon and waffles for breakfast. Pizza, burgers, fried steak, chicken and French fries for lunch. Lobster, steak, mashed potatoes, and pie for dinner. All this chased with Royal Caribbean’s drink of the day—Coco Loco, Mango Madness or some other fruity rum concoction.

Compulsive eaters beware. Cruising is not the place for you.

And even me, who my sister claims has the self-restraint of a Tibetan monk, felt the pull of temptation.

I controlled myself fairly well, but as the days wore on, I felt my will power start to wane. With everyone else on board eating and drinking like they were on death row it was hard not to pile on.

I remembered my dad’s admonishing words from childhood, “If all the other kids are jumping off a bridge are you going to too?”

It turns out I would. Especially if there was tiramisu, crème brulee and a chocolate brownie in the gorge below.

By Day 6 I had joined my death row inmates. My simple breakfast of fresh fruit and a bowl of oatmeal was no longer enough. “I need some protein too,” I declared. I returned to the table with eggs, bacon and toast, a complete breakfast unto itself, and my second plate that morning.

While I passed on dessert at lunch, I always indulged at dinnertime. And then there were the Bloody Marys after dinner. That counts as a vegetable right?

On the positive side, I did make it to the fitness center, climbed the rock wall, spent two days snorkeling and swimming in the ocean, and shook my moneymaker during 80s dance night. All of which burned off maybe two Bloody Marys and a cookie.

As we prepared to disembark I filled out the customer feedback form leaving the following advice for Royal Caribbean:

“As a service to your guests might I suggest an Overeaters Anonymous booth on the Royal Promenade. A small office between Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Parlor and Sorrento’s Pizza would be ideal.”

 I'll leave you with a few photos from my gastronomic journey.

Breakfast at sea

The main dining room.
How can you not overindulge in this atmosphere?

A typical dinner—seafood skewer of lobster, shrimp and scallops.

Followed by a typical dessert. Yes this was for one person.
Janelle drinking a virgin Coco Loco.
My sugaraholic daughter was in heaven.
I could've said no to the fruity beverage,
but you get to keep the glass. So we ordered four.
We wanted a full set.

Ah, the Bloody Marys. My vegetable servings for the day.

The cruising clan. Three generations under one roof.

Friday, November 19

Thanksgiving is a time for family—Oh, great

The ice clinks against the glass as Uncle Ralph swirls his scotch. His red eyes and slurred speech inform you that the annual, “When I was in Saigon” monologue is moments away. Cousin Suzy, a born-again Christian, is on the sofa chastising poor Aunt Edna for not attending church regularly. Great-grandma can’t stop discussing her latest health issue, down to the gory details of her colostomy bag. Yippy, it’s Thanksgiving, a time for family.

While diet and exercise get the bulk of media attention around living a healthy life, stress reduction is another important topic that deserves attention as stress contributes to a host of physical problems and chronic diseases.

As we begin the holiday season, stress levels begin to escalate. And while time with family can be a wonderful thing, it doesn’t always work out that way.

Michael and I have been married for almost 15 years. While we have good relationships with both sides of the family, that doesn’t mean holidays have always been drama-free.

The following are our life lessons on how to enjoy a stress-free holiday.

Lower your expectations.

Every family is dysfunctional. The way the dysfunction manifests itself is unique to each family, but it’s there. Even The Brady Bunch was only perfect on camera. Behind the scenes Mrs. Brady was having an affair with Greg, Mr. Brady was hiding his homosexuality, and Marcia had a drug habit. Perfection doesn’t exist and expecting it from your family is unrealistic.

Expect Uncle Ralph’s stories of Vietnam, Cousin Suzy’s zest for all-things religious and conversations with great-grandma about her health, and have a plan for dealing with those situations. Accept the realities of your family—quirks and all—because no matter how hard you try, you cannot change your relatives. Acceptance is a beautiful thing.

Don’t be a part of the problem.

Another way to say this: keep your pie-hole shut. This tactic is easy for me, I come from a long line of conflict-avoiders. In most cases, burying your feelings is not productive, but the Thanksgiving table isn’t the setting to discuss personal disagreements with your mom, sister, uncle, or grandmother. And if they think it is, change the subject. Do not engage. Excuse yourself from the table if you have to, but bite your tongue, shove some turkey in your mouth and don’t take the bait. You can always spit on their food later. Or, if you’re more mature than me, engage in a healthy discussion of your differences in a more appropriate setting.

Create some opportunities for alone-time.

Go for a walk, read a book, go see the latest blockbuster at the theatre, get some Christmas shopping done. Whatever your pleasure, schedule some time apart. There’s no rule that says every moment must be shared with family. Everyone benefits from a little breathing room. 

Plan and communicate your schedule ahead of time.

Sometimes it’s not the drama that’s stressful, it’s logistics. Many families have step-children, ex-husbands and ex-wives and coordinating the activities between all the various relatives feels like a scheduling problem only NASA could solve.

Don’t leave the plan for the day up in the air until the last minute. Get the schedule set ahead of time, including when you need to leave, and let everyone know in advance what to expect.

And if you are hosting the big meal, flexibility on timing will go a long way in easing the tension for those that are juggling multiple meals with several families. For example, the last several years, my family has celebrated Thanksgiving on Friday because it was more convenient for everyone involved.
Just say no.

If the entire production seems too daunting, bail completely. When Michael and I were first married and traveling full-time for our jobs, we told our families we wouldn’t join either of them for Thanksgiving. That was the one time of year we were taking for ourselves, a lovely four-day weekend to relax and reconnect.

With that I wish everyone a Happy, Stress-free Thanksgiving.

I won’t be posting any new blogs next week as I’ll be traveling with my family. In celebration of my mom’s 70th birthday the entire clan is headed to the eastern Caribbean for a seven-day cruise. I’ve packed my workout clothes, gym shoes, and will power. I think I’m ready.

Tuesday, November 16

Thanksgiving Side Dishes—The Agony and the Ecstasy

Mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potato soufflé. Who cares about the turkey? For me, Thanksgiving is all about the sides.

The trouble is, those dishes are loaded with calories.

Yes, it’s only once a year, but Thanksgiving is the start of holiday season. If I overindulge now I’m more likely to let my guard down until the first of January, when, once again, I’d have to reacquaint myself with the gym and join thousands of others on the long journey of reversing the damage.

My goal this season is simple: maintain the status quo. Losing weight is completely unrealistic, but not gaining—that I can do.

With that in mind, here are my tips for enjoying Thanksgiving without going up a pant size.

Don’t starve yourself waiting for the big meal.

Seems like a good strategy doesn’t it? Saving all your calories for dinner. But it’s like having one more drink at the office Christmas party. It sounds like a good idea at the time, but it rarely works out well.

Bellying up to the Thanksgiving buffet on an empty stomach is a disaster waiting to happen. Eat during the day, preferably some protein and fiber to fill you up, and drink plenty of water. You’ll have better control over your choices if you’re not starving.

Channel your inner toddler—be picky, very picky.

You don’t have to sample everything, pick your favorites and skip the rest. There are plenty of foods I don’t care for, pumpkin and pecan pies for example, so I skip them entirely. Mashed potatoes are tasty, but I can have those at other times during the year. But my mom’s sausage stuffing and my brother-in-law’s butternut squash soufflé, well, those are once-a-year events. I’d rather have a small portion of those than waste my calories on boring old potatoes.

Watch your portion sizes and stick to one plateful.

It’s tempting to go back for seconds, even thirds, but the best part of Thanksgiving is the leftovers. You’ll be seeing everything again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. So don’t go crazy on day one. There’s plenty to go around.

Don’t skip the gym.

Maintain your exercise routine as much as possible to help burn those extra calories. If you can’t get to the gym, how about a walk around the neighborhood before the tryptophan in the turkey kicks in and you conk out on the sofa?

Switch to some healthier side dishes.

Maybe it’s time to reinvent Thanksgiving. Offer some healthier options and see what happens. Below are recipes for two of my favorite side dishes. I’ve been serving these for 15 years to rave reviews. Maybe they’ll become one of your Thanksgiving staples too.

Roasted Vegetables (adapted from a Food & Wine Nov. 1995 recipe)

Serves 8

4 Tbls. olive oil
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 4 wedges
2 large red onions, peeled and cut into 8 wedges, root ends intact (this helps hold the onion together)
1 large eggplant, stem trimmed off, quartered, and then each piece cut in half lengthwise
2 large red peppers
2 large yellow peppers
4 fresh rosemary sprigs*
4 fresh thyme sprigs*
Kosher salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375.

1.     Pour 2 Tbls. of olive oil into a roasting pan. Add the sweet potatoes and red onions. Turn to coat them in the oil. Season with salt and pepper.
2.     Cook for 1 hour.
3.     Remove from the oven and increase the temperature to 450.
4.     In a separate bowl add 2 Tbls. olive oil, eggplant and peppers, turn to coat in the oil and season with salt and pepper.
5.     Push the sweet potatoes and onions to the sides of the roasting pan.
6.     Add the seasoned and oil-coated eggplant and peppers to the roasting pan.
7.     Add the rosemary and thyme sprigs.
8.     Cook for 40 mins., until the peppers are blistered and the other vegetables are tender.

*Note: You can use dried herbs too. I would recommend crushing or chopping the dried rosemary so the texture isn’t so pointy and sharp, which isn’t terribly delightful to eat.

**This entire dish can be made hours ahead of time and left to rest on the counter to reach room temperature.

Kale with Sherry (from Food & Wine Nov. 1995)

Serves 8

3 pounds of kale, stems trimmed (I know it sounds like a lot, but it shrinks down to nothing!)
2 Tbls. peanut oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
2 ½ Tbls. sherry
2 Tbls. soy sauce
2 tsp. Asian sesame oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Tbls. sesame seeds

1.     Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
2.     Add the kale by the handful, pressing it down into the water with a wooden spoon.
3.     When all of the kale has been added, stir well and boil over high heat until the kale is tender, about 5 minutes.
4.     Drain the kale in a colander, pressing it with a spoon to extract all of the liquid.
5.     When the kale is cool enough to handle, cut it into 2-inch pieces, removing most of the stem. (Even cooked the stem is really tough, so discard as much as possible leaving only the leaves.)
6.     Transfer it to a heatproof serving dish.
7.     Heat the peanut oil in a small skillet over medium heat until hot.
8.     Add the garlic and crushed red pepper. TURN OFF THE HEAT AND REMOVE THE PAN FROM THE HEAT SOURCE.  Continue cooking the garlic, stirring constantly until it’s fragrant, about 2 mins. (Be very careful, the garlic burns easily.)
9.     Add the sherry, soy sauce and sesame oil to the skillet.
10.  Pour the dressing over the kale, season with salt and pepper and mix well.

(You can make this dish up to this point a day ahead of time. Cover the kale and refrigerate.)

When you’re ready to serve it.

11.         Pour 2-3 tablespoons of water over the kale, cover with foil and bake at 400 for 20 minutes.
12.         Toast the sesame seeds in a skillet over medium-low heat for 3-4 minutes until golden brown. (Or, put them on a plate in a toaster oven and hit the “toast” button.)
13.         When the kale comes out of the oven, sprinkle the sesame seeds over the top and serve.

Thursday, November 11

Food Spotlight: Soda vs. Coffee (Part 2)

Coffee and purple leopard print jammies,
 now that's a good morning!
I love coffee.

No, scratch that. My passion for the dark, hot brew goes beyond love. I need coffee. As the molten liquid makes its journey down my throat, it warms my soul, lifts my spirits and raises my IQ by about 50 points. Without it, I doubt my ability to walk, talk, or even breathe. Asking me to forgo my morning ritual is akin to asking rapper Eminem to stop swearing. It’s just not going to happen.

While I might be a bit biased toward my favorite beverage, I do strive in this blog to be objective. So let me start with the bad news regarding coffee, because nothing is perfect, and coffee is no exception.

The most common complaint regarding coffee is the “jitters.” Too much caffeine can produce anxiety, restlessness, irritability, insomnia, and in some people, it can raise their blood pressure. Coffee is also acidic, which can cause stomachaches, heartburn and reflux.

Lesser known issues with coffee are the following:

  • Women who use hormone therapy and drink six cups or more a day have an increased risk of Parkinson’s Disease.
  • High amounts of coffee may affect a woman's fertility and possibly contribute to miscarriage.
  • It interferes with iron and calcium absorption.
If you’re sensitive to caffeine and/or acidic foods, then coffee probably isn’t a good choice for you. (Although you could try dark roasted coffee. The darker the roast the less caffeine and acidity.)

For those of us blissfully unaffected by the acidity and thriving on the caffeine, on to the good news.
Unlike soda, coffee is a natural substance and has almost 2,000 different components, including micronutrients such as magnesium, potassium, niacin and vitamin E. And it’s loaded with antioxidants. Researchers aren’t sure why but they believe it’s the antioxidants in coffee that contribute to a reduced risk of diabetes for regular coffee drinkers.
Additionally, according to WebMD, “…people who drink coffee on a regular basis are up to 80% less likely to develop Parkinson's…at least two cups daily can translate to a 25% reduced risk of colon cancer, an 80% drop in liver cirrhosis risk, and nearly half the risk of gallstones.”
And, the Mayo Clinic notes, “Results from at least four studies suggest that coffee drinkers have a decreased risk of Alzheimer's disease.”
Can I get a "woo hoo"?!

I love it when my vices turn out to be healthy choices.

As with most things, moderation is the key. WebMD suggests no more than two cups a day. The Mayo Clinic defines moderate consumption as two to four cups a day.

I’ll take my cup of java over soda any day. In addition to the health benefits I get to say,
“Grande nonfat latte please,” when I’m at Starbucks, which is so much cooler than, “I’ll have a diet soda.”

I’m just sayin’.

Sunday, November 7

Pass the Tissues Please

It’s that time of year--cold season.

As I sat in bed last week, a mountain of tissues slowly building beside me, I bemoaned my fate. My body ached, my head pounded, and I produced enough goo to power the slime machine at the next Kids’ Choice Awards.

An impatient person, I wondered how to speed my recovery. Is resting really necessary or is it an excuse? Should I eat chicken soup or am I supposed to “starve a fever?” Should I load up on vitamin C? Or is all this nonsense and regardless of what I do, the cold will go away whenever it runs its course?

Confused about which cold remedies were truly helpful, I scoured the internet for answers. Here’s what I found.

Rest really does help

You’re lethargic, achy and tired, but you drag yourself to work anyway soldiering through the sniffles and stuffy head. Good idea?

Nope. Your body needs rest so it can focus on fighting the infection. Help it along by resting as much as possible.

Bottom line—Don’t be a hero. Hit the bed, snuggle under some blankets and catch up on Grey's Anatomy, Brothers & Sisters and Modern Family.

"Feed a cold, starve a fever" is just a myth

There’s no science behind this old wives tale. You should never starve yourself, but don’t force yourself to eat if you don’t feel like it. If you’re hungry doctors recommend clear broth, hot drinks and other fluids. Hot beverages help relieve nasal decongestion and fluids keep you hydrated.

Bottom line—Drink plenty of fluids and eat if you feel like it.

Chicken soup really is good for a cold

Mom was right. According to WebMD, “There’s some scientific evidence that chicken soup may help with healing and have mild anti-inflammatory effects. Studies have found that hot chicken soup can improve the ability of cilia, the tiny hair-like parts of the nasal passages, to protect the body from bacteria and viruses.”

Bottom line—Slurp away.

Mega-doses of vitamin C don't do a thing

In 2007 The Cochrane Library published a report stating that “high doses of vitamin C … starting after the onset of symptoms, showed no consistent effect on either duration or severity of common cold symptoms.”

What the? Yup, after analyzing several studies involving over 11,000 individuals the researchers concluded that vitamin C doesn’t help. It’s not harmful, but it’s not helpful either.

Bottom line—Drink orange juice if you like it, but it’s not helping you with the cold.

Unbelievably, drinking a hot toddy (hot tea, bourbon and honey) relieves nasal congestion

This was my mom’s favorite cold remedy. For her, not us.

I always assumed this was a bunch of crap. With four kids running around I figured mom just wanted to go on a bender for a couple of days, you know, to escape from us and watch The Sound of Music a couple dozen times. 

But according to WebMD, “If you're so congested you can't sleep at night, try a hot toddy, an age-old remedy. Make a cup of hot herbal tea. Add one teaspoon of honey and one small shot (about 1 ounce) of whiskey or bourbon. Limit yourself to one. Too much alcohol inflames those membranes and is counterproductive.”

Bottom line—Sorry for doubting you mom, but I’ll stick with the virgin drink anyway.

One final note, a recent study showed that individuals who exercised regularly were less likely to catch a cold. So your excuse about not going to the gym because you don't want to catch a cold from all the sickies there—yeah, that's not really valid. Use the hand sanitizer and keep working out. It’s your best defense.

Tuesday, November 2

Food Spotlight: Soda vs. Coffee (Part 1)

Soda drinkers versus coffee drinkers. It’s like Ohio State versus Michigan. Team Edward versus Team Jacob. Dog people versus cat people. You just like what you like. Right?

Well, I’m going to try and persuade the soda people to come over to the espresso side for their caffeine fix. It’s the better choice.

First, let me start with regular soda.

Who drinks this stuff anyway? It’s baffling to me that regular soda is still sold. It’s nothing but sugar, 10 teaspoons per can to be exact, which adds up to roughly 160 calories. Drinking three of those a day is an extra 480 calories and zero nutritional benefit. ZERO people!

You don’t care? Think about this. If you give up your 3-drink a day habit and change nothing else, you’ll decrease your weekly calorie consumption by 3,360 calories, which is almost equivalent to one pound of fat.

You could lose weight by simply giving up regular soda. I’m just sayin’.

Still not convinced? A study released last week by Diabetes Care found that people who drank as little as one regular soda a day had a 25% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Regular soda. It’ll make you fat and give you diabetes.

Now lets talk about diet soda, which gets a little trickier.

I can’t make the calorie argument since most diet drinks have zero calories. So let me start simply with the ingredient list for Diet Coke—carbonated water, caramel color, aspartame, phosphoric acid, potassium benzoate, natural flavors, citric acid and caffeine.

Yeah, there’s nothing I like more than the refreshing taste of potassium benzoate and a splash of phosphoric acid. Yum.

You don’t care you say? You like that slightly metallic taste and the bite of artificial sweetener? Alrighty then, let’s move on to science.

There have been countless studies on artificial sweeteners and their correlation to health. The data is often contradictory and sometimes, highly controversial. For example, an Italian paper argued that aspartame caused cancer in rats. But, the National Cancer Institute, the FDA, and other prominent health agencies state that no solid evidence exists linking artificial sweeteners to cancer or other serious health issues. They declare these substances safe for human consumption.

While they might be safe, scientists are finding unexplained linkages between diet soda drinkers and weight gain.

Taste distortion is one possible explanation. Artificial sweeteners are hundreds, sometimes thousands times sweeter than real sugar. Scientists theorize that these super-sweet substances have led to taste distortion. They have redefined “sweet.” This causes diet soda drinkers to desire highly sweetened and therefore, highly caloric foods, which lead to weight gain.
Behavior modification is another possibility. Consumers of diet sodas may overindulge in other areas of their life, believing that they’re saving a lot of calories by drinking a diet beverage. For example, they’ll go ahead and get the candy bar out of the vending machine since they’re chasing it with a Diet Coke. While the diet soda doesn’t cause the weight gain per se, it’s an enabler to bad behavior.
My final argument against diet soda comes from the San Antonio Heart Study. The study’s bottom line— individuals who consumed over three artificially sweetened beverages a day were twice as likely to be overweight or obese.  The researchers ended their paper with this statement:

“Such an association does not, by itself, establish causality. But it raises a troubling question, which can be answered only by further research: are [artificial sweeteners] fueling—rather than fighting—the very epidemic they were designed to block?”

Next week…the benefits of java.

Friday, October 29

How to Survive Halloween

Candy's lining the grocery store aisles. Your kids are bouncing off the walls in anticipation of Sunday's booty. How are you supposed to make it through the next couple of weeks without ingesting ten pounds of chocolate? Here are my tips for surviving Halloween.

1. Buy candy you don’t like. 

Why torture yourself with bowls full of your favorite confection lying around? Do you hate Skittles? Perfect, throw a bag in your grocery cart. Are you as repulsed by candy corn as I am? Fabulous, buy a bag. No, make that two.

2. Don’t buy enough candy to feed a third-world country. 

The goal is to run out, not have bags of candy you hate lying around the house. Here’s a trick I use to decide how much to buy. Put the amount of candy you think you need into your shopping cart, then put half of it back. Works every time.

3. Throw it out. 

Separate your kids candy into three piles. Stuff they don’t like, stuff that looks suspicious, stuff they want to keep. Throw out the stuff they don’t like and anything that looks suspicious. Set a deadline for throwing any leftovers out. (You might want to keep this secret from your kids, else they'll try and wolf down their stash before the deadline.) My neighbor uses Thanksgiving as a trigger. Whatever's not eaten by then goes in the trash.

4. Save the pure chocolate bars for baking. 

I pull out all the Hershey’s chocolate bars and Kisses and put them in the pantry. You can cut them up and use them as chocolate chips in any baking recipe.

5. Know your limits.

My rule for my kids is two small pieces of candy a night (e.g., two Hershey's Kisses) or one big piece (e.g., a regular twin pack of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups). And I indulge a little too, because let's face it, candy's good stuff and abstinence doesn't work. It just makes you want it more. So splurge a little, but set your limit and stick to it. 

6. Give it away. 

Can’t keep your hands out of the candy bowl? Transfer your temptation to work. Place a bowl in the break room or conference room and watch the contents disappear. I know, this is horrible of me, causing my fellow humans to overindulge. But, that’s their problem. I’m trying to control my inner candy monster, they’re in charge of their own.

Wednesday, October 27

Let’s Get Cooking

You’ve got to cook. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s the harsh reality when it comes to healthy living.

I know it’s easier to go out to eat. I know it’s easier to throw a frozen pizza in the oven after a long day at work. I get that. But that habit will sabotage your diet faster than I can say supersize me.

And here’s a dirty little secret about cooking—you don’t have to be Bobby Flay or Rachel Ray to put good food on the table. No one expects Duck a l’Orange on a Wednesday night.

Take me for example. While I enjoy cooking, I don’t consider myself a gourmet chef. I don’t invent my own recipes. I can’t throw a little of this and a pinch of that into a pot and have it taste good. I'm not that talented.

What I do have going for me are the following traits:

1) I like fresh food
2) I’m willing to try new things
3) I’m not afraid of failure
4) I’m a planner

That’s really all you need. Well, that and the ability to read a recipe. So there you go.

I’m guessing that if you’re reading this and the thought of cooking makes you cringe, then you struggle with numbers three and four.

With respect to failure, get used to it. If you’re a beginning cook then you’re going to mess up. Trust me, I know.

I’ve made pot roast that was so tough you needed a machete to cut it. I’ve served undercooked chicken (for guests no less) and had to pop it in the microwave to finish it off (absolutely horrifying). I’ve accidentally left that bag of giblets in a turkey, made a pasta dish that was so sticky it could’ve substituted for mortar, and once, somehow forgot to add sugar to strawberry shortcake. AND, I served it for a birthday party.

You couldn’t possibly be any worse than me. You’ve just got to go for it. Realize that messing up is part of the journey and laugh it off. (My daughter Amanda still remembers the sticky pasta dish I threw out and that was over five years ago.)

Number four—planning—will take some getting used to and is the bigger hurdle, in my mind.

Hopefully I can help you with that.

When I think about the age-old question, “What’s for dinner?” I think of four components: a protein (meat or plant-based), fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and whole grains.

Using this philosophy, here’s a sample dinner menu that is one of my go-to weekday meals. It’s simple, quick, and doesn’t require any great culinary skill.

The protein: baked chicken. 
Vegetables: tossed salad and steamed broccoli.
Fruit: fresh fruit medley.
Whole grain: crusty bread or side of whole grain pasta with a little olive oil and parmesan cheese

Here’s the game plan:

1. Get the chicken in the oven
2. Make the salad
3. Make the fruit medley
4. Boil water for the pasta
5. Steam the broccoli

1. Get the chicken in the oven

Preheat the oven to 375.

6 - Chicken thighs*
Salt & Pepper

Wash the chicken and pat dry.

Place the chicken, skin side up, in a 9x13 pan. Sprinkle the top with salt and pepper.

Bake for 45 – 60 minutes. You know it’s done when the juices run clear.

*Note: I know breast meat is leaner, but for the beginner cook, dark meat is a better choice because it doesn’t dry out as quickly. You can accidentally overcook it and it’ll survive just fine. And it’s cheaper than white meat.

Also, I bake chicken with the skin on so the fat flavors the meat, but I don’t eat it. It’s a sacrifice I know, but if you cook the chicken properly it’ll be moist and you won’t miss eating the skin.

2. Make the Salad

Lettuce (any kind will do, iceberg, romaine, mixed spring greens, arugula, etc.)
2 Tomatoes, cored and diced
¼ red onion, thinly sliced
1 small container of crumbled Goat cheese
A handful of Craisins
A handful Pecans

Layer the ingredients in a bowl as listed above and serve with balsamic vinaigrette dressing on the side. (My favorite dressing is Newman’s Own)

3. Make the Fruit Medley

I get whatever’s in season, for example last night we had the following:

½ cantaloupe
3 kiwi
1 red pear

Cut into bite-size chunks, place it in a bowl and serve.

4. Make pasta according to package directions

5. Steam the Broccoli

Wash the broccoli in cool water.

Trim off the tough stems leaving the florets.

Place an inch of water in a medium-sized pan.

Insert a vegetable steamer.

Fill the steamer with the broccoli, cover the pan and bring the water to a boil.

The broccoli’s done when it’s a bright green color, about 5 minutes.

Put it all on the table and enjoy. See how easy that is!