Archive for April, 2012


Let’s face it………getting older is no picnic. Putting aside the fact that our bodies are fighting gravity, it seems, at times, that our brains are also engaged in some type of warfare just to remember. “Why did I come into the kitchen?”  “What’s the name of that contact?” “Where did I leave my keys?”

Have no fear. For cognitive improvement, all we need to do is exercise. Ok, I’m guilty: I think exercise cures everything. However, last weekend’s NY Times Magazine featured several articles on the brain and one focused on the benefits of exercise.

I found this fascinating. A team of researchers studied mice. They broke them into 4 groups and set up their cages (really their lifestyles) quite differently. They let the mice live in these distinct environments for several months and performed cognitive tests on the mice both before and after. They found that the only thing that  improved the mice’s cognition was the running wheel. Simply put, the exercised mice had healthier brains.

Scientists aren’t quite sure how exercise does this but this research suggests that something does happen to the brain on a molecular level.

I guess we need to be just like those mice on the running wheel!

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Couscous with Apples, Cranberries, and Herbs



1 cup of uncooked couscous

¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 ½ T chopped fresh rosemary leaves

1 t chopped fresh thyme leaves

1 medium green apple, diced

½ cup dried cranberries

¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted (see note below*)


2 T apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoons maple syrup

¼ t salt

freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 T olive oil


Cook the couscous according to the directions.

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until smooth.

Transfer the cooked couscous to a large bowl and set aside. Add the parsley, rosemary, thyme, apple, dried cranberries, and almonds.

Pour the vinaigrette over the couscous and toss to coat evenly.

*To toast the almonds, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange the almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 6-8 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely before using.

(Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis’s recipe)

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You decide it’s time to lose weight. You cut back calories. The scale goes down! You then add a bit of exercise and between the two, you lose 1-2 lbs per week, week in and week out. You feel AMAZING. And then it happens: You hit a plateau. The scale is stuck and nothing is moving. Why did this happen?

Think about a big car v a small car. The big car needs more fuel. Our bodies are just like cars: The bigger we are, the more fuel we need to run. While we think exercise burns a lot of calories, most of our energy needs come from running our bodies (heart beating, blood circulating, food digesting, brain thinking, etc). When you lose weight, you become a smaller car, which means you need less fuel to run. So even though you’ve made a caloric deficit from the start, you now have to find a way to cut back a bit more. Depressing, I know.

You can do this by changing your exercise routine. If you’re not doing enough cardio, add some more. If you’re not weight training, start. If you exercise but aren’t active enough, try and increase your activity level. You might also need to tweak your diet and see if you can cut back a bit, too. Before you know it, the scale will start to move again.

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I am very fortunate in that I know a lot of strong, smart women, who I would describe as stoic. They juggle, multitask, and keep plugging along, sometimes under great adversity, without much complaining. It’s very admirable. However, there is one time where we have to put stoic aside and just give in: when we could be having a heart attack.

Heart disease is the number one killer of women. However,  women don’t have heart attack symptoms like men do. It would be great if we suddenly had crushing chest pain, shortness of breath, profuse sweating and radiating pain down our left arm—just like we see men having heart attacks on TV or in films. Then we would know that this was, indeed, a HEART ATTACK.

But that’s not the case with many women. I just read an article in the Wall Street Journal that talked about a study where 71% of women had no chest pain at all. Instead, they had flu-like symptoms—they felt fatigued with pain in their jaw or in their shoulder blades. There could also be indigestion, nausea and lightheadedness with little exertion.

So, if you suddenly feel lousy and don’t know how you’re feeling, just get checked. Screw stoic. Worst case scenario? You were wrong and everything is ok! I don’ t think that’s really all that bad, do you?

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Spanish Chicken and Rice


¼ cup all-purpose flour

1 t salt, divided

½ t pepper

4 bone-in, skinless chicken breast halves or chicken thighs

olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

½ cup chopped yellow or red pepper

2 garlic clove, minced

1 5-ounce jar of  pimentos, drained and sliced

1 cup uncooked rice

2 1/2 cups chicken broth

1 t ground turmeric

½ t chili powder


Combine flour, ½ t of salt and pepper in a large resealable plastic bag. Add chicken and shake until well coated.

Drizzle some olive oil in a skillet and heat. Add chicken and brown over medium heat—about 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken; set aside and cover with foil.

In the same skillet, sauté the onion, yellow/red pepper and garlic until tender, about 3-4 minutes. (You might need to drizzle more olive oil in the pan.)  Add pimientos and rice. Reduce heat; cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the broth, turmeric, chili powder and remaining salt; bring to a boil.

Pour into an ungreased 2-qt. baking dish; top with chicken. Cover and bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes or until chicken juices run clear and the rice is tender.

(Adapted from a recipe found from

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