Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Bit of DIS and DAT

Eager for Krieger, Big Hair Confessions, and Cool Beans...

Well, after what seemed like years of anxiously awaiting its arrival,
Ellie Krieger’s new cookbook has finally made its appearance. You may recognize her name from Food Network’s long list of celebrities.
I have been a loyal fan of her show Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger since it first aired, and a not-so-recent graduate of her first book, Small Changes Big Results (and on that note, if she
allowed me to write the sequel, I would have called it
Small Changes Big Results, Serious Relapse).

Her new book The Food You Crave, offers delicious recipes that promise to make you feel great. As with any healthful recipes, I am always suspicious that they will lack flavor, ease of preparation and most importantly, truth (hey, I’ve seen the Kashi commercials and despite the diligence of their zip-lining world travelers in search of tasty, healthy snacks, I personally find their snack items lacking the necessary deliciousness they so fervently brag about).
But Ellie’s book delivers its promise for easy, healthful recipes and useful tips on ingredients, going organic, and easy ways to change your eating habits for the better.
When I took my first peek into the breakfast category of recipes, I feared the loss of my favorite comfort ingredients like real butter, real eggs, and the occasional slathering of maple syrup.
Ellie however (unlike a few other health-plan gurus), appreciates the use of real ingredients, and successfully modifies once-indulgent recipes by limiting the use of these ingredients (with additional support from healthful, lower-fat substitutes), while maintaining the richness of flavor and texture our spoiled taste buds have come to expect.
The end result is a collection of recipes that taste great, are easy enough to prepare, and won’t leave you feeling guilty and running for the nearest confessional.

And on the topic of confessions, I recently came clean with a cache of coworkers about my serious addiction to hairspray (yes, you read it correctly, I said hairspray).
As one of my close friends struggles to quit smoking (again), I fight my own battle to put down the aerosol can (again), in an attempt to leave a less-conspicuous footprint on our beautiful Mother Earth.
Never having been a habitual smoker however, I had no idea just how powerful the addiction is. I witnessed my own father kick the habit when I was just a middle-schooler and somehow, he managed to quit cold-turkey, simply by replacing cigarettes with a combination of willpower and licorice.
I realize now that his experience is not the norm.
Until recently, I’ve always had the why-don’t-you-just-quit-for-the-sake-of-your-health-and-your-kids attitude.
Thanks to Oprah and Dr. Oz however, I am now aware that cigarette smoking is an addiction as powerful as any drug, and quitting is
hard work at best, and should not be taken lightly.
My spontaneous yet uneducated assumption that cigarettes and hairspray are distant cousins in matters of lung-pollution inspired me to take my commitment more seriously this time around.
So, in support of her campaign against cigarettes, and in the spirit of misery loving company, I decided to really quit hairspray.
At the very least, this notion may seem ridiculous to those of you with free-flowing locks, who so effortlessly sport current trends in wash-and-wear hair.
The concept of a hairstyle Au natural is completely foreign to me for the following reasons:
1) I am a product of the 1980’s
2) I grew up in a town renowned for its fast cars and bodacious babes with really big hair (think Grease, the 80's version).

So, like my friend, I too fight what seems to be a hopeless battle.
While my genetic structure knew nothing of bodacious beauty in my adolescence, I became quite proficient in the artful combination of high-heat (from my trusty Conair blow-dryer) and Aqua-Net hairspray.
As I look back on these days of youthful insanity (when no justification was necessary for wearing spiked heels with skinny jeans), I am perplexed at how my colossally-coiffed friends who
were also smokers, did not suffer spontaneous combustion from the obvious dangers of combining aerosol with open flame.
They were just lucky, I guess.

Fast-forward twenty-five years and although my brands have changed and my locks are fewer (and grayer), I am still unable to leave the confines of my home without a (not-so) quick fix. I would sooner give up matching socks (or matching shoes for that matter) than leave the house without a carefully coiffed crown.
I know there must be thousands of others like me but for fear of ridicule, they remain flat of hair because sadly, the benefits of big hair are often underestimated.
Not only will a king-sized coiffure balance a set of too-wide hips,
it allows one to add a few inches to the height specification when applying for a driver’s license. By all accounts, I was five-foot five-inches tall years before I was actually five-foot five-inches tall.
And might I add, for those who worry about osteoporosis and shriveling bones, a reliable can of Sebastian Shaper hairspray will make light work of height-loss, where calcium supplements fall short. Not to mention that it allows for the timely introduction of once-forbidden, practical footwear. If you follow the simple inch-for-inch strategy, no one will be the wiser. For every inch you lose in
heel-height, you must add an inch to the top of your hairdo.
Your feet will thank you and you will maintain your all-important photographic stature. A win-win for about three bucks (if you buy generic).

And so, perhaps now you understand why quitting isn’t quite as easy as it seems.

On a recent workday as I entered my place of employment, a coworker remarked that it must be terribly windy outside.
I soon realized that she reached this conclusion by the state of my
artfully coiffed locks.
From my own vantage point, it was one of my better hair days.
She would not, and could not understand my plight because she is blessed with hair that is (by her standards) too thick and grows too quickly for her own convenience. In this case, the grass (or more appropriately, hair) really is greener (and more abundant) on my coworkers side of the fence. I would guess that if she owned a can of hair spray at all, it would likely last her longer than my bottomless wholesale-club economy-size jar of peanut butter.
So for the most part, I receive no sympathy from my peers
(save for one coworker who casually contemplates giving up what she foolishly considers “occasional” smoking. She quickly and accurately put me in my place when I shared my recent lapse and divulged the sordid details of using only “one small spritz of hair spray on my bangs,” by comparing it to the obvious evils of potentially smoking only one cigarette.
Touché my friend, point taken; you know who you are, now put down the cigarette

There is one brave customer however, who (unbeknown to her) is a kindred spirit of sorts. She is a peach of a woman who one coworker (secretly and never maliciously) refers to as “Whitesnake.”
For those of you who were products of the original MTV generation as I was, you may recall an 80’s metal-band by the same moniker, whose male lead singer sported a wild mane of buttery blond locks worthy of any woman’s envy. Equally coiffed were the bodacious babes of Whitesnake music videos and I dare say our customer might have legitimately been one of them.
Now admittedly, it is with pangs of jealousy and total hairspray envy that I quietly and politely complete her transactions. I am careful not to stare too long, yet I marvel at the acrobatics of her
vanilla-milkshake locks, and their remarkable ability to defy gravity to such heights. Not surprisingly, she wears three-inch heels—at least.
I would guess her license reads five foot eight when she likely stands under five foot three. Pure genius.

And so, as I battle the unpredictable symptoms of withdrawal from my most recent endeavors, I am painfully aware of what drives my current ambitions; Fear.
While vanity plays some small role, fear is the primary factor in all this madness.
I am inclined to believe that it is fear that drives most of us as we make our New Years resolutions, order new cookbooks with recipes for healthy living, purchase weight loss allies in the form of pills, shakes and bars, sign fitness-club membership contracts, visit our primary care physicians with little protest, and abandon the evils of aerosol accessories we have come to depend on.
Although none of us likes to talk about it, we are all (in one form or another) trying to defeat the inevitability of death.
It looms large like the proverbial elephant in the room, yet no one speaks of it.

Ironically however, our minds are over-saturated with media rhetoric convincing us that we can in fact, cheat our own mortality. And so we fork over cash and commitment with belief in the notion that we might somehow control destiny.
I would offer that living a healthy lifestyle is by far our best defense, but it is equally (if not more) important to remain mindful that our bodies are enormously dependent on mind and spirit.
If we fail to nurture the brain and soul we will have malnourished the very sources of our willpower and hopefulness.

Each year, right around this time I dabble in a bit of this and that to ward off the boredom of subscribing to one particular plan. Multiplicity is also my futile attempt to speed up the whole anti-aging process. I’ve been doing it for so long that I now refer to my antics as a bit of DIS and DAT. I am Driven by my Intent to Survive and as such, I practice what I consider to be Death Avoidance Techniques (including but not limited to: a healthful eating plan, commitment to regular exercise, scheduling appointments for regular screenings and check ups as prescribed by my physician, making sure I get enough sleep, laughter, and fresh air and yes, avoiding those vices which are potentially harmful to Mother Earth and to my own health—like hair spray).

But this year however, I am encouraged by (and rooting for) those of you who struggle to quit smoking.
Not long ago a close relative pointed out that while some of us might never experience the seemingly impossible battle to escape the choke-hold of nicotine, we will be faced with fighting (or ignoring) our own addictions.
For a decade, at least, I have fought a daily battle against trans-fats.
Like Disney’s forbidden apple, our food choices are paramount
to our survival.
But damn those donuts, they taste as good as they are bad.

It would not be fair for me to proclaim that a snack addiction or an addiction to big hair is any better than a smoking addiction.
There is a misconception among non-smokers however, that smokers who quit unsuccessfully (and start smoking again) are hopeless.
I would argue that this is absolutely untrue.
I can only compare this to the number of times in my life that I have lost fifteen pounds. I am a very successful dieter. I’m great at losing weight—and even better at putting it back on.
In the same fashion that combative couples enjoy make-up sex,
I am a huge fan of make-up snacks.
In fact, in my humble opinion, It's the best part of the whole
dieting conflict.
But I refuse to give up hope.
In my attempt to healthfully feed my mind, body and spirit
(and in doing so, making every effort not to harm Mother Earth),
I am hopeful that I will make peace with a permanent lifestyle change; one that satiates both my heart and hunger.
I aim to achieve full-flavored, healthful meals, a less-than full figure, and (by some miracle) fuller hair without the use of aerosol products.
And as I struggle to stay focused on my own personal goals, I will share a spirited sentiment (AKA prayer) for the smokers in my life.
While the battle may seem uphill, it is hardly hopeless.

At some point, in a time that seems so far away, we may come to embrace the realities of thinning hair and sensible shoes.
We’ll have put away the low-fat cookbooks and nicotine patches wishing for those bygone days of insatiable appetites and hands
steady enough to light a match.
But if all goes well, if we have cared properly for mind, body and spirit, we will celebrate the fact that like Mother Earth,
we are still here.

And until then,

Make Life Delicious
Share Your Food


And in the spirit of good-for-you food that’s easy to prepare, I’ve resurrected one of my all time favorites: Three Bean Salad.
According to Ellie, beans are nutritional powerhouses, efficiently packing vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber into one little,
flavorful package.

I love to eat this salad cold, right from the fridge. Traditionally thought of as picnic fare, it goes just as well with a casual entrée of meat or fish. I especially like it alongside a burger or sandwich as a healthful substitute for potato salad or coleslaw.

You can substitute your favorite bean combination. I like to use what is seasonally available and in a pinch I rely on good-quality frozen beans.
My favorite combination thus far includes green beans, yellow wax beans, shelled edamame and red kidney beans.

Cool Beans!


1 15-oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-oz. can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-oz. can garbanzo beans rinsed and drained (chick peas)
2 celery stalks washed, peeled and finely chopped
½ red onion peeled and finely chopped
1 cup fresh, finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 TBS fresh, finely chopped rosemary

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup olive oil
1 ½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. black pepper

In a large bowl, mix the beans, celery, onion, parsley and rosemary.
In a separate, small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Add the dressing to the beans, toss to coat.
Chill beans in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight to allow flavors to marry. Serve cold or at room temperature.
Serves 4 to 8.