Monday, March 31, 2008

Favorite Cheesecake Squares

Words cannot even begin to express my love for cheesecake. I could write a small novel on all of its wonderful qualities. Every time I have a serious break up, bad day at work or really any sort of stress in my life, the first thing I turn to is cheesecake. It’s my source for relief and tranquility. In fact, I'm going to create a category on my blog dedicated solely to cheesecake. These scrumptious cheesecake squares are sure to be a big hit.

Favorite Cheesecake Squares

Yield: 16 servings

¼ cups Margarine
1/3 cups Packed Brown Sugar
1 cups Unbleached All-purpose Flour
½ cups Chopped Walnuts
8 oz Cream Cheese, Softened
¼ cups Granulated Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 Large Egg
¾ cups M&M Candies*

*NOTE: You can use any type of milk chocolate candies in place of the M&Ms.

Beat margarine and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add flour and walnuts, mix well. Reserve ½ cup crumb mixture; press remaining crumb mixture into bottom of 8-inch square pan. Bake at 350 degrees F. 10 mins. Combine cream cheese, granulated sugar and vanilla, mixing at medium speed on electric mixer until well blended. Add egg, mix well. Layer ½ cup candy over crust; top with cream cheese mixture. Combine remaining candy, chopped, and reserved crumb mixture; mix well. Sprinkle crumb mixture over cream cheese mixture. Bake at 350 degrees F., 20 minutes. Cool and cut in to 16 equal squares.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Busting Common Diet Myths

This article, which appeared in the March 5th edition of the Hampton, Virginia Daily Press, does a great job dispelling popular diet myths such as the notion that pregnant women need to eat for two, red meat is always bad and butter is better than margarine.

Eating well, not to mention losing weight, is hard enough without bad information getting in the way.

Unfortunately, a huge number of diet myths are lurking in people's minds, dietitians say. Here are 10 falsehoods to throw out with the trans fats:

1. All fats are bad. Nope — the body actually needs fat to absorb nutrients from food, transmit nerve signals and keep cell structures strong. The goal is to replace unhealthy saturated and trans fats often found in commercially packaged and fried foods with "good" fats such as those found in nuts, avocado, salmon and certain oils (including olive, canola, corn and sunflower). Even then, people should spend more time thinking about portion control than "bad" fats, says Gale Pearson, a registered dietitian in Newport News. "It's not the food's fault!" Pearson says. "It is the amount of the food that a person chooses to eat."

2. Brown is always best. The low-carb craze helped fuel the idea that all refined "white" foods are fattening and all "brown" foods are natural and healthy. While whole-grain foods are good choices, the truth is more complex, says Gloria Tsang, a registered dietitian and founder of a nationally-known online nutrition site ( Brown eggs, for example, aren't any better nutritionally than white eggs. Ditto for many brown breads without the words "whole-wheat" or "whole-grain" listed first on their ingredient list. And sugar, molasses and honey are virtually identical to white sugar in terms of calories. "Many people will buy a packaged food based on the type of sweetener," Tsang says. "It's better to choose a product that has less of whatever sweetener is on the ingredient list."

3. Calcium is the only key to strong bones. Calcium is very important, but so are other nutrients. Two prime examples are vitamin D (found in fortified dairy products and cereals) and vitamin K (found in many greens and seafood), which help the body absorb calcium and build bone. Exercise matters, too, especially weight-bearing activities such as walking and strength training. "Stress on the bones is needed to stimulate them to take up calcium from the diet," says Suzanne Barnes, a registered dietitian and certified diabetic educator at the Bon Secours Heart Institute in Portsmouth.

4. Skipping meals helps people cut calories. In fact, studies have shown that temporary fasters take in more calories over the course of a day, Tsang says. When the body thinks it is starving, metabolism slows and blood sugar levels dive, making people hungrier than usual at their next meal or snack. Tsang recommends eating based on hunger signals alone. "That's better than coming up with a magic number of meals or snacks for a day," she says. As for people who really do cut calories and exercise regularly but can't lose weight, they should see a doctor to check for an underlying health issue such as insulin resistance, says Anita Pozin, a personal trainer in Newport News.

5. Cutting salt is the only way to lower blood pressure. You do want to eat less salt (first step: get rid of the salt shaker), but you can help prevent and control high blood pressure with a diet high in fruits and vegetables, unsaturated oils and proteins from healthy foods such as chicken or fish. Exercising, limiting alcohol intake and losing extra pounds are other important steps.

6. High-protein diet = big muscles. "If this were true, almost everyone would look like The Incredible Hulk," Pearson says. Many people actually eat more protein than nutritionists recommend, especially those who pile on protein powders and shakes. "It's not the protein that builds muscle, but resistance training and a healthy diet," Pearson says.

7. Red meat is always bad. Although poultry is naturally lower in saturated fat, the way meat is cooked tends to be more important than the type of meat, Tsang says. A piece of chicken fried with its skin still on, for example, is likely to have more fat and calories than a steak trimmed of fat and grilled. People who enjoy red meat should go for leaner cuts such as top round roast or pork tenderloin.

8. Sugar causes diabetes. It's important for people with diabetes to control their sugar and carbohydrate intake, but sugar doesn't bring on the chronic disease. The major culprits are too many calories (of any kind), obesity and a lack of exercise.

9. Butter is healthier than margarine. Butter has more saturated fat — about 21/2 grams per pat and 7 grams per tablespoon — than many people realize. And contrary to popular opinion, most margarine doesn't have any trans fat but contains a mix of unsaturated oils and smaller amounts of saturated fats, Barnes says. In general, liquid or tub margarines are better than stick forms.

10. Pregnant women need to eat for two. Sad to say, most mothers-to-be only need about 100 additional calories early in their pregnancy — think a banana or a small container of yogurt — and about 300 calories extra toward the end of their pregnancy, Tsang says. She does recommend following cravings, even if they point toward fattening foods such as ice cream, but to practice serious portion control. For example, one serving of ice cream is usually about half a cup, much less than what most people eat in a sitting.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Why the Easter Bunny Brings Eggs

Why the Easter Bunny Brings Eggs

10. Big tax write-off.

9. Who ever heard of Easter Bricks?

8. Consider all of the varieties: scrambled, over easy, hard boiled.

7. He gets a good deal from the local chickens.

6. Secret plan to eliminate human race by cholesterol overdose.

5. Pressure from the Egg Marketing Board.

4. Because if it brought bottle rockets it would be the Independence Bunny.

3. Would you want to hunt for waffles?

2. He thinks guys should get chicks at least once a year.

1. Because the Energizer rabbit got the good job.

Happy Easter everybody!!!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Don't Let Stress Get You Down

Stress – it’s an unavoidable fact of life. And while there’s not much you can do to remove stress in your life, there is something you can do about the way you handle stress.

Remember, stress can lead to more serious conditions such as heart disease, stroke or cancer. The Harvard Healthbeat offers the following advice:

Sometimes just thinking about embarking on a program of stress control can be stressful. Rather than freeze in your tracks, start small. Pick just one stumbling block or source of stress in your life, and see if these suggestions work for you.

Often angry or irritated? Consider the weight of cognitive distortions. Are you magnifying a problem or leaping to negative conclusions without checking to see if they have any foundation in fact? Take the time to stop, breathe, reflect, and choose.

Unsure of your ability to do something? Don’t try to go it alone. If the problem is work, talk to a co-worker or supportive boss. Write down other ways that you might get the answers or skills you need. Turn to tapes, books, or classes, for example, if you need a little tutoring.

Overextended? Clear the deck of at least one time-consuming household task. Consider what is truly essential and important to you and what might take a backseat right now.
Feeling unbearably tense? Try massage, a hot bath, mini-relaxations, progressive muscle relaxation, or a mindful walk. Practically any exercise — a brisk walk, a quick run, a sprint up and down the stairs — will help, too. Done regularly, exercise wards off tension, as do relaxation response techniques.

Upset by conflicts with others? State your needs or distress directly, avoiding “you always” or “you never” zingers. Say, “I feel ________when you _____.” “I would really appreciate it if you could ______.” “I need some help setting priorities. What needs to be done first and what should I tackle later?” If conflicts are a significant source of distress for you, consider taking a class on assertiveness training.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Healthy Habitation

Cooking Light recently ranked the Top 20 American cities that best fit the magazine’s philosophy to eat smart, be fit, and live well.

My city, Atlanta, is on the list. Is yours?

Seattle, Washington
An abundance of fresh local foods, walker-friendly streets, and inclusive attitudes helps make Seattle America's best city for healthy living.

Portland, Oregon

Life is good in our second-ranked city, thanks to its seemingly endless supply of outdoor activities, cutting-edge restaurants, and vibrant environmental consciousness.

Washington, D.C.
Our capital city sets an accommodating agenda with farm-fresh dining, diverse cultures, and ample opportunity for exploration on foot.

Minneapolis, Minnesota
In our fourth-ranked best city, lush parks and shimmering lakes provide a natural backdrop to a rich cultural landscape.

San Francisco, California
Our fifth-ranked city steps up with one of the world's most unforgettable settings--along with great cuisine and an energetic spirit.

Boston, Massachusetts
Strolling historic parks and swanning around the water are but two of the pastimes that make summer prime time to enjoy our sixth-ranked city.

Denver, Colorado
The Mile-High City ranked seventh on our list for an outdoorsy Western lifestyle that makes living well accessible and irresistible.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Our eighth-ranked city proves a worthy destination for food lovers, adventure seekers, and culture aficionados alike.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
In America's fifth-largest city, the historic past provides a backdrop for a present that's healthful and happening.

Tucson, Arizona
Tucson offers a taste of the authentic Southwest in a desert setting that's ideal for a warm winter getaway.

Baltimore, Maryland
Baltimore, it turns out, has lots of people who eat five or more servings of fruits and veggies a day--27 percent.

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Graced with bountiful trail systems, no wonder 91 percent of the city's population claims to be in good health.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Skies, once dark with factory smoke, open above crystal-towered downtown Pittsburgh, bound on three sides by the rivers Monongahela, Allegheny, and Ohio.

St. Louis, Missouri
A love for local produce and healthful activities keeps this urban center well fed and on the move.

New York, New York
New Yorkers walk far more than most Americans, and they do it quickly. But they slow down for green markets--25 in Manhattan alone.

Atlanta, Georgia
Approximately 55,000 people gather on the Fourth of July at the Peachtree Road Race, the largest 10k in the world.

Austin, Texas
You can't swing a yoga mat in Austin without hitting a cool place to exercise--whether it's inside a gym or outdoors in a natural, spring-fed pool.

Chicago, Illinois
The city's environmentally-friendly mentality is one of the reasons why it is home to the 2007 Cooking Light FitHouse.

Las Vegas, Nevada
In our list, the city ranks third in restaurants rated "extraordinary to perfection" and third in nominations for James Beard awards.

Kansas City, Missouri
A recent study revealed Kansas City has the purest water of any major city in the country.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Clean Out That Dirty Mouth

This video really fascinates me because it discusses a correlation between dental health and heart health. Basically, the video notes that a couple of studies have indicated that intense treatment of periodontalitis, which is a rather common mouth disease, can make your arteries cleaner and flow freer. Scientists think the correlation between dental and heart health may have something to do with bacteria.

Anyways, check out the video. I must warn you – the voiceover is slightly monotone so stick with it and I’m sure you’ll gain some valuable information.

The video also notes it’s important to get 40 minutes of cardiovascular exercise three times, limit unhealthy fats in the diet (one way to do that is by using margarine!) and to not smoke.

Remember, the more ways you can incorporate heart healthy foods such as nuts, fish, margarine, etc. into your diet, the healthier your body will be.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Super Simple Calorie Slashers for Heart Health

Maintaining a healthy weight is a step we can all take in reducing our risk for many diseases. Excess weight really can be a danger to your health and can even lead to death. I’m as guilty as many people about indulging in a scoop of ice cream or a handful of potato chips from time to time. Remember, all foods can be a part of an overall healthy diet as long as they are consumed in moderation. Here’s a great article from WebMD on simple ways to slash unnecessary calories from you diet. FYI, by cutting just 100 calories a day you could lose up to 10 pounds a year!!!

Gaining weight into your 30s, 40s, and beyond isn’t inevitable. The secret? Cut out or burn off an additional 100 calories a day. Use our favorite tricks, and you’ll save 3,000 calories this month. That’s more than enough to help you keep your youthful figure.

Supersimple calorie slashers
Top 1 cup of apple slices, instead of 8 crackers, with cheese. Save 100 calories.
Choose a fresh spring roll instead of a fried egg roll. Save 100 calories.
Eat chocolate sorbet instead of chocolate ice cream. Save 140 calories per 1/2 cup.
Skip the crust on apple pie. Save 100 calories.
wap pepperoni on your pizza for veggies like fresh tomatoes and peppers. Save 100 calories per 2 slices.
Choose steamed shrimp over fried. Save 122 calories per 3 ounces.
Make your sandwich open-faced (use only 1 slice of bread). Save 100 calories.
Leave blue cheese off your salad. Save 110 calories per 3-tablespoon serving.
Substitute 1/2 cup steamed veggies for 1/2 cup noodles in a pasta dish. Save 100 calories.
Use a 6-inch flour tortilla instead of a 10-inch one on your next burrito. Save 120 calories.
Skip the tortilla and put your filling on lettuce. Save 100 calories.
Eat a whole-wheat English muffin at breakfast instead of a bagel. Save 150 calories.
Top pancakes with 1/4 cup apple-sauce sprinkled with cinnamon instead of syrup. Save 180 calories.
Top ice cream with 1/2 cup fresh berries instead of 2 tablespoons strawberry syrup. Save 168 calories.
Leave 10 French fries on your plate. Save 100 calories.
Split a Krispy Kreme doughnut with a friend. Save 100 calories.

No-sweat calorie burners*
*Based on a 150-pound woman
Embrace your inner schoolgirl by jumping rope for 10 minutes. Burn 100 calories.
Tend your garden for 25 minutes. Burn 103 calories.
Schedule a 20-minute walk date with a buddy. Burn 102 calories.
Crank up the tunes and shake your groove thing for 20 minutes. Burn 100 calories.
Give your partner a 22-minute massage. Burn 103 calories.
Do your nails or knit while watching your favorite hour-long TV show. Burn 102 calories.
Spend 60 minutes typing e-mails to your friends. Burn 100 calories.
Write a letter to a friend by hand for 50 minutes. Burn 100 calories.
Push around a grocery cart for 40 minutes. Burn 103 calories.
Shoot pool or play darts for 35 minutes. Burn 100 calories.
Play fetch with your dog for 35 minutes. Burn 100 calories.
Do a little house-cleaning. Burn 107 calories.
Play a 35-minute round of putt-putt golf. Burn 180 calories