Sunday, December 28, 2008

As Luck Would Have It… Happy New Year!!

Well, here we are at the end of another year and people all around the world will be ringing in the New Year by making resolutions and doing all kinds of interesting, crazy and silly little things in hopes of bringing luck and prosperity to their year ahead.

Go figure this… It turns out that good-looking men, lentils, no housework, and kissing are all good luck! Hmmm... there just may be something to this tradition stuff after all!

Everyone’s heard that eating Black Eyed Peas will bring general good luck, but there are dozens of other quirky traditions that you may or may not have heard of that could add a little fun to your "End of Year" celebration. You might just find one or two new ones that appeal to your sense of adventure. Or, if you’ve never had a New Year tradition at all, why not try out a few... and as luck would have it... maybe this will be your Lucky Year!

Here’s a conglomeration of Rules, Rituals, and Beliefs from around the world that are sure to ring in a “Lucky New Year” for someone!
  1. Eat 12 grapes at midnight. Each grape promises to bring you good luck during every month of the year.

  2. Wear yellow underwear on New Year’s Eve. It’s not really clear where this tradition came from, but yellow is supposed to attract positive energies for the New Year. I’ve also read that you have to wear them backwards and then turn them around at midnight for the New Year!

  3. Walk around the block with a suitcase in hand. By doing this, you supposedly increase your chances of travelling during the year.

  4. On New Year’s Eve, every door and window should be left open at midnight to let the old year out.

  5. If you eat fish on New Year’s Eve, you’ll swim through the New Year like a fish. You’ll be able to move smoothly and easily and go beyond obstacles without effort in the New Year.

  6. There should be money in your pocket at the stroke of midnight. If the New Year finds you with money in your pocket, you’ll not miss it in the year to come.

  7. Make lots of noise at the stroke of midnight. Evil spirits attempt to come into the brand new year at this time – horns and whistles chase them away.

  8. Dancing around a tree (especially outside) on New Year’s Eve ensures luck, love, and prosperity.

  9. Kissing your spouse or significant other at midnight ensures that you will remain intimate with that person. To not kiss means a cold relationship for the year.

  10. A woman shouldn’t speak until a man says "Happy New Year." This one might be hard for some!

  11. The first words you hear in the minutes of the New Year will set the precedence for the entire year.

  12. Eat Lentil Soup on New Year’s Day because lentils are thought to look like little coins and will bring you prosperity in the coming year.

  13. Eat pork on New Year’s Day too because while poultry scratches backwards and a cow stands still, a pig roots forward, therefore eating it will ensure that you’ll be moving forward.

  14. Never ever eat Chicken or Turkey on the first day of the year because those birds scratch in the dirt all day for their dinner, meaning you’re certain to bring poverty to your year ahead.

  15. No sweeping or dusting the first day of the year. The good luck could be swept out. If you have to sweep, you should sweep towards the center of the house and use a dust pan.

  16. Nothing goes out on New Year’s Day, absolutely nothing... not even the garbage! Don’t shake out your rug or even bring out the recyclables to the bin. The flip version of this rule is that nothing goes out until something new comes in.

  17. No money should be spent either (that would be something going out).

  18. A first-footer is the first person through the door after the stroke of midnight. This person should be a good-looking, dark-haired man. He has to knock and be let in – not use a key to enter. He would ideally be carrying a piece of coal (meaning the house will always be warm), bread (meaning the household will always have food), money (for obvious reasons), and greenery (for long life). The first-footer brings extra luck if he happens to come on a horse. Under no circumstances can First-footers have flat feet, be cross-eyed, or have a Unibrow (eyebrows that meet in the center). A first-footer also can’t have blond or red hair either, and a woman first-footer would be disastrous!

  19. Wear something new on January 1st... and bring even more luck by wearing something Red. You don’t have to buy an entire outfit… it’s enough to have just one new item. It promises more new clothing in the coming year.

  20. No crying on January 1st or you will be crying all year long.

  21. Do something you are good or successful at on New Year’s Day... especially if its work related. This will tell you how the rest of the New Year will go.

  22. Any baby born on New Year’s Day has good luck the rest of his/her life. The baby also brings good luck to the family.

  23. In Puerto Rico, children enjoy throwing pails of water out the window at midnight. Some believe that this rids their home of any evil spirits!

  24. Switzerland believes good luck comes from letting a drop of cream land on the floor New Years Day.

  25. In France people eat a stack of pancakes for luck and good health.

  26. Belgium farmers wish their animals a Happy New Year for blessings.

  27. Armenian women bake special breads for their family. The bread is kneaded with luck and good wishes pressed into the dough before it is baked.

  28. In Northern Portugal children go caroling from home to home and are given treats and coins. They sing old songs or "Janeiro's" which is said to bring good luck.

  29. Romanians have a tradition of listening to hear if the farm animals talk on New Year’s Day. If the animals talk it was considered bad luck, so they are relieved when they don’t hear any talking animals.

  30. In Bolivia families make beautiful little wood or straw dolls to hang outside their homes to bring good luck.

  31. In Denmark, it is a good sign to find your door heaped with a pile of broken dishes at New Years. Old dishes are saved year around to throw them at the homes where their friends live on New Year’s Eve. Many broken dishes were a symbol that you have many friends!

  32. The Dutch are eating donuts on New Year’s Day. They say donuts bring fortune because they have the shape of the ring, which symbolizes the full circle, the year’s cycle.

  33. In Greece, St. Basil fills the children's shoes with presents at midnight.

Whatever you decide to do... Have a Safe and Happy New year!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Skinny on a Few of Your Holiday Fave’s… Who Knew??

We all like to eat, drink and be merry during the holiday’s right? Well, according to the National Institute of Health, the average American gains around 5-10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years because this time of year is typically filled with parties, holiday gatherings and even yummy treats at the office. The worst part is that people don’t always take those pounds off after the holidays either, they just keep adding to it!

Well, you shouldn’t deprive yourself from having some of your favorite holiday goodies. Just try to choose wisely, don’t have too much of a good thing and more importantly... enjoy yourself!

Here’s a really short quiz to test your knowledge on a few common holiday treats... Who Knew??

Which warm winter drink do you think has the least calories?
  1. 1 cup of Hot Cocoa
  2. 1 cup of Hot Buttered Rum
  3. 1 cup of Mulled Cider
If you guessed the Mulled Cider... you got it right, having only around 100 calories! Anything with the word "Butter" in it has got to be higher in calories... so the Hot Buttered Rum comes in with about 200 calories while the Hot Cocoa (with low-fat milk) comes out to about 150 calories!

One cup of Eggnog has as many calories as:
  1. 1 Dunkin Donuts Cake donut
  2. 1 Small bag of M&M’s
  3. 1 McDonald’s Quarter Pounder
Hmmm... I know what you're thinking! Nope it isn’t the Dunkin Donuts Cake Donut... guess again!! It’s the Quarter Pounder! The Eggnog which has about 400 calories is actually closer to the McDonalds Quarter that has a whopping 410 calories! Believe it or not, the Cake Donut only has about 280 calories and the M&M’s have only around 243 calories for a 1.67 oz bag!

Which dessert will do the “Least” damage to your waistline?
  1. 1 slice (1/8 of a pie) of Pecan Pie
  2. 1 slice (1/8 of a pie) of Apple Pie
  3. 1 slice (1/8 of a pie) of Pumpkin Pie
You may think the answer to this one would be the Apple Pie because apples are typically low in calories but, the right answer here is the Pumpkin Pie! A slice of Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie has only 260 calories... and you can cut off nearly another 100 calories by just eating the filling and not the crust! The Apple Pie would typically have around 400 calories and for the most part the culprit here is again the "double" crust! The Pecan Pie has around 470 calories because pecans are typically higher in fat and calories.

A regular candy cane has how many calories?
  1. 40
  2. 60
  3. 80

You guessed right if you chose 60 calories! A standard candy cane, the size that you normally put on a Christmas tree, has only 60 calories and zero fat and its best to have it after dinner because the peppermint aids in the digestion of that yummy meal you just ate!

So go ahead… eat, drink and be merry and have a wonderful holiday!

Monday, December 15, 2008

It’s the Perfect Pair!

With all the talk about "Super Foods" these days, you won’t be playing games with this winning combination... It’s like a match made in heaven! This super easy, super quick recipe of "Salmon with Pomegranate Glaze" can be fully prepared and served in just 30 minutes. Pair it up with a little "Whole Grain Brown rice" or "Long Grain & Wild rice" and a green veggie like Asparagus or maybe Broccoli or Spinach (both are on the super foods list) and you’ll have a super healthy dinner ready in no time. With the vitamins and super antioxidants in the pomegranate, and the omega 3’s and protein in the salmon, you really can’t lose with this one. Not only is it delicious... it’s a perfect win-win!

Pomegranate Glazed Salmon


4 Salmon filets (6-8 oz.)
Olive Oil
Sea Salt and Pepper

Pomegranate glaze:

2 tablespoons Honey
1 tablespoon White Wine Vinegar
1 cup 100% Pomegranate Juice
Orange Zest (From one orange)


Pomegranate glaze:

In saucepan over medium heat, reduce glaze ingredients until a syrup consistency, 12-15 minutes. Keep warm.


  1. Heat sauté pan over medium-high heat and add olive oil.
  2. Season salmon filets with salt and pepper.
  3. Sauté filets on both sides for about 5-7 minutes per side or until cooked through.
  4. Place the cooked salmon on a serving dish and brush with the pomegranate glaze.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Who’s Afraid of a Little Pomegranate?

It’s that little red fruit that we have trouble figuring out what to do with! I mean really, getting it open is a challenge in itself, right? Well, don’t be afraid of it! This cool little fruit is packed with Vitamin C, Vitamin B5, Potassium, and Polyphenol Antioxidants and in fact, drinking pomegranate juice daily will improve your health in lots of ways.

Even though studies have been going on for many years, it seems that this little fruit has just recently gained its popularity with reports of its health benefits. There’s been a lot of talk lately about how the pomegranate plays a role in promoting cardiovascular health and the benefits of its super antioxidants in neutralizing free radicals. For men, it was also reported to promote improved prostate health and proper erectile function. It also has been reported to aid in reducing Systolic Blood Pressure, may inhibit Viral Infections, and it may have antibacterial effects against Dental Plaque of all things. Many studies have shown improvements with drinking as little as just an 8oz. glass of juice daily. If you’re not into drinking the juice straight, you can mix into a variety of beverages and also use it in many recipes. You can even eat those juicy little seeds as a snack, on your morning cereal or in salads!

While no one food can guarantee complete protection from any disease, you should fill your diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables, exercise at least 30 minutes per day, and follow up with your doctor recommended health screenings.

One of the most popular brands in bottled pomegranate juice found in almost any food store is “POM Wonderful” offering 100% juice. It's one that has been backed by $25 million in medical research, in fact, they claim to be the only one backed by any medical research at all. While there are lots of pomegranate juices on the market, keep in mind that some of the blended varieties have very little pomegranate juice in them at all and are filled with sugars. Be sure to choose one that is 100% pure juice with limited amounts of sweeteners to get the most of its benefits.

When it comes to fresh pomegranates, most of your local food markets offer fruits that are already fully ripened. They should be about the size of a large orange, heavy for its size and have a blemish free reddish-pink skin. Inside there is a bitter white tissue called the pith that surrounds the hundreds of little juicy sacs filled with seeds. The seeds can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months and in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

If you’re up for it, try using this simple technique to open a fresh pomegranate and remove the seeds. It’s really not that hard... you’ll see!
  1. Fill a large bowl with water.
  2. Cut off the crown and end of the pomegranate.
  3. Score the thick skin from top to bottom in quarters.
  4. Place the pomegranate into the bowl of water and allow it to soak for 5 minutes.
  5. Break apart the pomegranate underwater. (This keeps the juice from squirting all over you and staining everything in its path, including your kitchen counter and your clothes.)
  6. Carefully wrestle the little seeds out of the pith with your fingers. The pith will float to the top of the water and the seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl.
  7. Skim the pith and rind off the top and toss it in the trash, then pour the seeds into a colander, drain and carefully pat them dry. Now they’re ready for whatever your imagination has in store!!
If you just want juice from the pomegranate and not the seeds, there’s a couple of ways you can do it, but you better suit up first! That little thing loves to squirt and remember it will stain everything it hits! You can store the squeezed juice in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Use one of these two ways to get your juice:
  1. For one, you can simply cut the pomegranate it in half and using a regular hand citrus juicer, squeeze and press the fruit in a circling motion until no more juice comes out. Line a colander with a cheese-cloth and strain the juice.
  2. Or, you can just press the fruit against a countertop, rolling back and forth to break open the little sacs that contain the juice. Puncture a hole in one end of the pomegranate and squeeze the juice out. You might also need to strain the juice using a cheese-cloth to remove any little seed particles that may have come out.

Well, that’s it and it wasn’t even that big of a deal... anyone can do it and there’s nothing to be afraid of! Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Organics – Is it really all that?

We’ve all heard the phrase "All Natural, All the Time" right?

Well, "Going Organic" is becoming a very common term these days and not something that was widely talked about in past generations. It was usually something you would expect to hear about from someone who was a vegetarian or a naturalist. Even the term Vegan wasn’t common knowledge and kind of still isn’t in some circles. With all of the reports of chemicals and byproducts causing laundry lists of issues in humans and animals, it’s no wonder more and more people are making the switch. While I’ve done a bunch of research and a lot of reading about organics, I’m still not an expert and I’m learning new things about it every day. With that said, I really don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so I’ll only get into the basics in this post and then I’ll follow up with other posts on more specific products that I’ve heard about.

So what does "Organic" really mean anyway?

Well, according to the Organic Trade Association, "Organic refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. It includes a system of production, processing, distribution and sales that assures consumers that the products maintain the organic integrity that begins on the farm. Organic production is based on a system of farming that maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers. Organically produced foods also must be produced without the use of antibiotics, synthetic hormones, genetic engineering and other excluded practices, sewage sludge, or irradiation. Organic foods are minimally processed without artificial ingredients, preservatives, or irradiation to maintain the integrity of the food." The Organic Trade Association also maintains that the "U.S. National Organic Standards" are stringent standards that are in place to certify that specific practices are used to produce and process organic agricultural ingredients used for food and non-food purposes."

Ok, so how do you know that pesticides really weren’t used in the growing process for those "Organic" items that you purchase at your local grocer or from other retailers and merchants? And is this just some kind of media hype and a way for merchants to sell the same products at a much higher price?

The answers to these questions are... well, you really can’t always know for sure. While it may seem like a Media Hype, it really isn’t. It’s just that more and more people are trying to get the word out to make people aware of the benefits of organics, and they’re using the media to do it. When it comes to the cost of the products, those that are organic actually do tend to cost a little more than products that are not. All you can do is try to buy from reputable merchants whose integrity you feel you can trust, and know that they truly are looking out for your best interest.

With the economy in the condition that it’s in, and as people struggle to make ends meet, buying from a roadside produce stand from someone who has put up a sign that says "Organic" can also be a little risky and questionable, because some people will use the term to capitalize on the latest Buzz Word just to make a buck. I’m not saying that you should never buy from a roadside stand, but when it comes to genuine organics, you really have no way to know for sure what you’re buying from them. More and more you will find that many cities and towns now have Farmer’s Markets where you can find a huge variety of genuine organic and all natural foods and products of all kinds.

The U.S. National Organic Standards also states that "Farmers, handlers and retailers who sell organic agricultural products, must meet all certified organic grower and handler requirements to maintain the organic integrity of the organic products they sell. Anyone who knowingly sells or mislabels as organic, a product that was not produced and handled in accordance with the regulations, can be subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per violation." You can look for the "USDA Organic" seal or some other approved labeling, and for the name of the certifier on the label of the products you want to purchase. Producers and processors can voluntarily use these labels, and may even use organic ingredients without being required to label them. It’s more or less a personal decision on your part, whether you feel you should buy from them or not.

So, to sum it all up, the answer to the original question of "Is Organic really all that?" is... Yes, I think it really is all that! It truly can make a difference in your health and in your life. While the process of changing your lifestyle to an all organic one may seem a little overwhelming and difficult because some products are still not available as organic, it may be easier if you slowly start adding new products into your daily habits.

With more and more reputable merchants along with the amount of publicity on organics and the importance of eating and using healthier products, it’s getting a lot easier to convert your lifestyle into an organic one. I honestly think that at some point in the future, the world we’re accustomed to, will eventually become all organic.

So if you’re wondering if you should make the switch or not, well... that’s up to you. All I can tell you is that once you’ve made the decision to go for it, and as more and more new products become available, start to include them on your shopping list, and before you know it, you’ll be "all organic all the time"... and a much healthier you!