Sunday, June 30, 2013

More on healthy, happy living

        As some who’ve known me for a while will attest, I’m always on some new diet or eating plan, mostly on the quest of losing weight, sometimes, as now, on a quest of feeling better.
        I have always suffered from severe headaches, and have never found any relief… painkillers don’t work (and present their own multitude of problems, some requiring hospital care).You can see right away how that IS NOT conducive to happy living, neither osteopathy, nor chiropractic care produced positive results. Acupuncture, was equally ineffective I even tried botox injections, on the suggestion of my neurologist, to decrease what is called spasticity in the occipital nerve area of the neck and base of the spine . Works for some, others not so  much… I was in that latter group!
        And, although Kent was slightly skeptical of some of  the treatments. Particularly the Botox, at $900 for one treatment (and the need to transport it , on ice, to the doctor who was administering it), I remained positive and hopeful that, maybe, this latest suggestion would work. Anyone who suffers from any chronic pain (not including teenage kids!!), knows the desperation and persistently hopeful feelings I’m talking about.
        Now, let’s eat something that’s generally considered healthy and good for you… if you like, and can eat fish and seafood… a recipe I promised, and adapted from Chef Michael Smith.
I used one frozen basa filet instead of the halibut and a 6-oz Atlantic salmon fillet in place of the haddock.  I made these substitutions because they were what I had on hand. Basa is a member of the catfish family, fished in the waters off the coasts f Thailand and on the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.  It is also sometimes used in Mediterranean cooking.
And, I always find salmon gives any seafood dish that extra depth of flavour, so I use it here, too! That, too, is the case with anchovies. I use paste, as it’s the easiest way to disguise its use from Kent, who might not view this as I do ( but, he can’t tell it’s in there and loves this dish!!).   A tin of anchovies is much more difficult to hide than a tube of paste… Either way, you really don’t want to leave it out (I also use anchovy paste in my “Mafia meatballs” (Kent doesn’t know it’s there, but I detect a deeper flavour than if it were omitted).  A friend of mine detests saffron, and WILL leave it out, but her version will be just as good… I don’t use it, as it’s a bit expensive for my budget!! 

MEDITERRANEAN SEAFOOOD STEW serves 2 with lots of leftovers

1 fennel bulb, cored halved, lengthwise and sliced, tops saved for garnish
2 onions, halved lengthwise and sliced
3-4 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ cups white wine, preferably Riesling
2 tbsp fennel seeds
½ tsp hot pepper flakes, I use a generous 1/2 tsp
2 pinches saffron threads, omit, if desired
2 cans diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
4 cups fish or chicken stock
zest and juice of one lemon
12 ounces halibut, cut into large chunks (I use 1 small basa fillet)
12 ounces haddock, cut into large chunks (I used 1 6-oz salmon fillet)
½ baguette loaf sliced into diagonal  ///////////* slices
1 can anchovies, or 1 tbsp anchovy paste (please don’t omit!!)
1 cup butter, softened (stir in at end), seems like a lot, but you need it for the velvety texture essential to a broth, and please use the real thing, it DOES make a difference
¼ cup parsley, chopped (stir in at end)
2 big handfuls frozen organic edamame, loose or in shells and chopped roughly
juice and zest of one lemon
10 large zipper-back shrimp (shelled and tails removed)

Rather than transcribe the original instructions, I will describe how I put these ingredients together and the adaptations I made.  Thank you, Chef Michael for a beautiful inspiration.
Sauté onion, fennel and garlic in olive oil until soft.  Stir in fennel seeds, hot pepper flakes.  Add tomatoes and saffron, if using. Stir in wine, tomatoes, bay leaves and stock. 
Use your judgement on timing the addition of the fish, as you don’t want to overcook it and want it to remain in chunks. Throw in the edamame right before the fish, bit leave the shrimp until the end, so it cooks to just pink, and doesn’t become tough. I personally,  l love  the flavour and texture that edamame adds to this stew. I find myself using it over and over again in various dishes, and apart from their high protein value, I love the flavour and texture! Soy often gets a bad rep because it is often overly processed, and is often genetically modified and falls victim to many pesticides. To avoid this, use frozen organic edamame. As with other frozen products, it is picked and frozen at the height of ripeness and perfection. I toss edamame into pastas, rice and stir-fries.
The lemon juice and zest bring a nice brightness to the stew, please, don’t omit it!!
Just after stirring in the lemon juice, lemon zest and parsley, lay out the  baguette slices in a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil and toast  at 350F ( I always use a timer for 5 min… OR have Kent watch the oven… so I don’t forget the bread). 5 minutes won’t likely be long enough, depending on your oven, but the timer will jog your memory, so you don’t end up with charcoal!!
 Serve in large soup bowls, sprinkle with chopped fennel tops and serve with baguette toasts.

Stay healthy and safe!


Sunday, June 2, 2013



I originally started formulating this post as let’s get healthy, with healthy eating tips, when I remembered some things I have been learning lately – nutrition things – the first and foremost being that healthy food for some, just isn’t healthy for each and everyone of us. Remember, we’re all individuals with individual and very different bodies, taste and chemistry! Let’s take tomatoes as one food example, They are loaded with Lycopene, a well-known antioxidant that is touted to fight various types of cancer. EAT LOTS we all think, and I do, in all their forms – fresh, sun-dried, canned and paste in whatever form I can get them!  Until I eat too many. The seeds are my enemy.
They taste good to me, eating them makes me feel good.  But for others, tomatoes can cause a myriad of problems –from digestion problems to acid reactivity on the skin and in other bodily tissues. And, the same can be said for many other foods…  I’ve been learning that, along with other interesting information, in Lyn-Genet Recitas’ book, The Plan, an eating plan I am trying - and having great results.  I will detail more of my experiences with this plan in another post, along with one of my favourite tomato recipes, I have mentioned previously, “Mediterranean Seafood Stew” So, I’ve learned, healthy eating can be a bit challenging at the best of times, figuring out fact from fiction… and one person’s absolutes from what will work in each of our very different bodies!
          However, healthy living is relatively universal.  Once we discover the “healthy foods” that work for us, as individuals, the rest should come fairly easily. Live in a way that makes us happy, partaking in activities we enjoy, spend as much quality time with friends and family and friends as we can and here’s one thing I, personally, do almost ad infitum … DREAM!  
Dream of where you’d like to be, where you’d like your life to be, physically, professionally, and mentally. Then, once you have that locked down, try to come up with more details, like HOW you may be able to achieve that dream (I like to call it a goal or goals). It may take more dreaming to complete the job, but, WHATEVER!
           Another thing that’s important to healthy living, no matter who you are or where you’re from or what your dream is, and, that is to not dwell on the negative.  So, you’re not rich, nor do you live in a mansion.  So, you’re not Ryan Reynolds, Cindy Crawford. Nor do you have the career of Sidney Crosby or Usher.  And you’ve yet to be named on anybody’s “best” or “most” list!! You’re YOU.  And, what’s more, there’s not one single body or being on this planet like you!!  You’re unique as you are. One unto yourself and should be on your, own “best and “most” list!!
       One other thing I’ve learned from my own personal setbacks, tragedies and triumphs, and which you’ve likely noticed, too, on your own journey.  Those who you thought were your friends, often are NOT!  Yet, I know now not to be discouraged by that, because it is those same people who will come through at the last second and show their true feelings, often saving you from a deep, dark spot.
       One of the most important things I think I’ve learned as a key to healthy living is… be your own best friend and be a great best friend to someone else.  Also, enjoy spending time with YOU!
          I’m at risk here of nattering on and on, but, really enjoy yourself,  and enjoy your own company and surround yourself with like-minded people and positive-thinking people, don’t get dragged down by other people’s S#$%&!
          This next suggestion you may find a bit tedious.  I adopted it recently after analyzing how I got through what seemed the endless days at hospital and rehab.  There, I tried to methodically go over and over the things I had to be thankful for, and in doing that, I was forced to admit and accept what was happening to me… remember, I found I couldn’t read, so magazines and books were out of the question! Visits from family and friends were wonderful little windows of pure joy!  I was, in effect, compiling a gratitude journal, which is what I do now, physically, in an actual journal and include three reasons for each WHY I’m grateful. That brings a new dimension to the exercise.  For those who haven’t, please, give it a try, you’ll be surprised how great you’ll immediately begin to feel. For those who do it already, you know what I’m saying.
          And, it, seems, true happiness leads directly to healthiness… I know it’s not just me!!  As this happens, you’ll feel the effects inside and see it happening on the outside. 
Stay healthy and safe!