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Friday, June 29, 2007

Time for a Change!

I had a quick break today in between clients and had a chance to read an interesting article.

Here’s the headline – “Health Canada Urges Food Companies To Reduce Trans Fat”

As I read the article it had me thinking why doesn’t Health Canada urge people to reduce their intake of foods that contain Trans-fat instead?

Ultimately it’s up to the individual to make the “healthier” food choice. Everybody has the choice to either go with a food that is wholesome and has a greater nutritional value, than something slapped together with preservatives and trans-fats.

The funny thing is that we help these companies who put garbage into our foods stay in the competition by simply buying their products. Do people not know which brand they should buy? Are the healthy brands too expensive? Do people even care about their health and what they put into their bodies?

From the looks of it North America’s waistline keeps on getting bigger and bigger, and if people don’t reduce the amount of crap that they’re eating then they’ll have to suffer the consequences of having a fatty lifestyle.

It all boils down to making better and healthier food choices. So instead of gobbling down doughnuts, cream filled cookies, and French fries grab a piece of fruit or vegetable instead. It’ll add years to your life and life to your years.

Marci Lall is a Weight Loss and Body Sculpting Specialist for women. Visit his website at to get his FREE special report "How to Get Maximum Weight Loss & Fitness Results in Minimum Time"

Let Summer Recharge Your Life..

Is it just me -or did anyone notice that we are already halfway through the year! So it is time to face facts- those New Year's resolutions that you made way back in January (when the year was so new and fresh) and forgot about-what happened to them, where did they go??

You know the age old resolutions-losing weight, getting organized, exercising more..

Fortunately -Summer is the time of year that allows us to -sort of- regroup- and put together a summer resolution! But make this a fun resolution and one that is easy to stick to. Take advantage of the carefree, lazy hazy days of summer and do something that will recharge you for the rest of the year. (Eating alfresco may be just a memory come November-so do it now!!)

So, since I am guilty too (I must admit) of conveniently forgetting my new year;s resolutions- join me in coming up with some fun summer resolutions to recharge the rest of your summer and keep that charge going for the rest of the year.

There are ten resolutions I have come up with and each week I will share a few with you. My first podcast on July 16th will also be "Top ten summer resolutions or how to recharge your summer!!

My first summer resolution is to eat alfresco whenever possible. So many of us don't take advantage of the beautiful summer weather at lunchtime or on the evening and eating outside. If you don't have your own patio or terrace or backyard- go to a park or lake or somewhere that you can go outdoors and enjoy a casual meal. And really sit and enjoy your meal and the surroundings and nature at its best-even if your in the city-you can see the beauty of the sky above. Remember a casual meal will do-keeping in with the casualness and lazy feeling that summer provides us. Of course not everyone can eat outdoors everyday, but try it even if it's once a week or a few times in the summer. So our first summertime resolution is:

1-Casual meal alfresco (if you need any recipes for your alfresco meal- go to my website- Bruschetta is a great summertime meal we enjoy on our terrazzo in Italy in the summer-so casual but elegant.)

If you don't have an out door terrazzo, envision one. When I am at my home in the mountains of Italy this is my view (the photo at the top of this blog) and even when I am not there I envision the marvelous mountains and the scenery of the village and hearing the our town church bells ringing!

Ciao for now!


Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Elusive European 'Glow' Exposed

Having lived in London for the past four months studying abroad, I watched my purse (rather than my waist) grow slimmer as the British pound ate at my pathetic American dollar. As weekend trips to Paris and trips to the local Fish N’ Chips became more of a habit than an exciting adventure, I finally was able to focus on the culture (read: style) that surrounded me. I managed to uncover what American women have been questioning for the past century: Why do European women always look so great? After sipping coffee outside caf├ęs throughout Europe (an ideal location for people watching without looking too creepy), I realized that European women looked slimmer and younger because they knew how to dress. There it was, simple and yet so offensive. No matter how many British pounds I spent on that gaudy, large ring, or t-shirt that would look good on a small infant, I was still distinctly American. Perhaps it was my American accent, but I didn’t think so. European women were chic, hip, with it. Princess Diana wasn’t bred a style icon, it was in her blood. It was a great excuse for an American woman fretting over what to wear and I applied it to my general group of Americanized friends: if you don’t look good in it at first, give it up. It’s just not in our cards, ladies.
A fine excuse, however upon reflection and a ticket back home to the states I realized that women didn’t have to fall under this trap. We could be just as good- no- better, than the average sleek, Kate Moss-esque woman, and we needn’t go broke. It was all about how we present ourselves. Simple, right? However in this day and age with so much attention drawn to weight, what men think of us, hair, make up and clothes, we forget about the inner Princess Diana inside us all. A simple smile, a cup of coffee with a good friend, a trip to the gym for a short work-out, can make us look better than the style obsessed European woman. Not to say style is a bad thing, I am a huge fan of it (my Visa bill can attest), I’ve just seen it in excess.
One style secret Europe and America did have in common: Those little maternity style jumpers. Literally, they were legitimate maternity wear meant for the expecting mother (no matter what my friends said as they donned similar tops out to clubs). The TopShop, a hip H&M in London, didn’t even bother to snip off the Maternity Wear tag even though they advertised the shirts to 12 year olds. Meanwhile, an almost new mother was picking the same shirt up (size and all) at the local Pea in the Pod. This look is equally stylish for the slim and the pregnant, and not expensive! It could be quite some time before we see this partnership once more. By concentrating on ourselves, (and picking up a few non- extreme fashion tips) we not only bring out our inner Princess Diana glow, but we can look great and focus on enjoying that cake instead of how we look in our shirt.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

All In A Days Travel

"I need a vacation!" These four words are often used to sum up a bad day or a string of stressful events life tends to throw our way. No matter what the reason, a vacation is desperately needed for most of us. It is our escape from the mundane routine of everyday life. I often wondered about people who don't experience a typical nine to five, those who travel on a regular basis. Wouldn't their cause for a vacation be much less needed?

I always envied people who traveled on a regular basis. Growing up in a small town(picture this: not one traffic light in my entire school district..ya catch my drift?), I always anxiously welcomed a chance to see something new. My family didn't travel very often, but for a wide eyed adventurous girl like myself, I always managed to find a way to create my very own "vacations." From climbing through the mountains or fishing in the lake, my imagination had a way of making these experiences as good as international travel! Now granted, I still longed for more. Who wouldn't, right? But it was just what I needed to conceive and create excitement within my small town world.

As time went on and I grew older, I began to venture out and experience new places. My first trip to NYC was absolutely an unforgettable experience. The hustle and bustle of traffic, the smell of the subway & street vendors, and the larger then life buildings were all I thought they would be. It was then, in the sixth grade, that I realized this was the life I wanted to live. Now granted at this age I had NO concept of living expenses, so I naively proclaimed that I would move to the city after I completed college. I look back now and realize that this was only the beginning of what would spark a "travel bug" deep in my soul.

Though I am now all of twenty-four years and about 130 miles outside of NYC, I still find myself slipping into my self created world of new destinations. Hey, if it helps ease the growing pains, what does it hurt?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


I have lived in San Diego, California since I was a child. Chino's, also known as The Vegetable Shop, has been here long before I moved from Seattle in the mid-70s. And I am a little ashamed to say that today was the first time I have been to this culinary mecca that is virtually in my own backyard.

Chino Farms is north of San Diego, in the wealth-concentrated suburb of Rancho Santa Fe. I'm not just talking about money - everything Chino's sells they grow. This unassuming, simple looking vegetable stand ten minutes east of the Pacific coast is rich in land that grows herbs, vegetables and fruits that have no sensory equal.

"The snozberries taste like snozberries" ... says Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory. "Snozberry, who ever heard of a snozberry?" asks Veruca Salt. Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) answers her, "We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams."

Chino's is the music maker of Southern California. And if they dream it, they will grow it. Chefs and foodies come from all around to taste, then purchase, produce like I saw the other day...wolfberries, purselan (which I have been growing for years unknowingly), Korean melon (crisp, fragant - what I thought of as the marriage of cantaloupe/watermelon), strawberries of two varieties (the strawberry I tasted with a long, skinny stem I am still convinced was a piece of botanical candy), raddichio wrapped around itself like a child holding a secret, white raspberries (I have now denounced all other raspberries), and bunches of herbs that could substitute for a bride's bouquet.

That's just to start. I was overwhlemed by the fact that all of this culinary goodness is grown on their land. Their corn field stands tall surrounded by polo fields and golf courses. The squash gardens and tomato vines reach happily skyward and promulgate unthreatened within some of California's most prized realty and coveted land. That is so...romantic.

I'm a third-generation Californian, I'm coastal to the core. Yet, sometimes I find pretentiousness in my home state that drives me out of it's most beautiful or celebrated places. But at Chino's, you don't have to be rich, you don't need to be a five-star chef, you just need to be hungry - and knowing your produce will help. Some things are perfect in their natural, most simple state - and at Chino's I felt this idealism acknowledged in the most delicious way.

Samantha Gianulis is an author, columnist and editor living in Southern California with her husband and their three children. To read more of her work, visit her at or

Monday, June 25, 2007

Flavor Up

This summer, as usual, I promise to eat beyond the typical American faire that goes on special circa Independence Day. I want you to do the same. Come with me as we go flavor shopping, just in time for the holiday. The name of the store we're going to is GINGER. Next door is the Cilantro Shoppe. Together, these flavors are bright as sparklers and burst on the palate like fireworks in the sky. And they are adored by all who gather at the table wrapped up in beach towels or elders sitting back in lawn chair recalling their youth and how it tasted. Don't let this season pass by without cooking memories on the long, warm days of July.

Ginger and cilantro are just two of the flavors to explore this summer. What we typically eat seaside, by the lake, in the Heartland, in the backyard or at the park when July announces her ceremonious self only stand to be enhanced with their addition. I believe many summer foods stand out on their own enough to be non-garnished and served simply - a cracked open, crisp, fibrous melon, a coastal strawberry so sweet it makes you cry - but with all the vegetables, fruits and herbs springing from the ground, why should we?

Four (maybe five) kids chasing each other around my kitchen isalnd tonight, I poured a tall glass of red wine and read the grocery ad - apparently, the purveryors expect us to grill meats this season. Many of the typical staples - boneless, skinless chicken breasts and steak, "colossal" shrimp, are on sale and depicted with grill marks in the ads.

Bring it.

It's not that I dislike barbeque sauce, ketchup or cocktail sauce, really, I do - I just feel confined by them. I want salsas in all variations, I want reductions from sauteed shellfish. To start. And for the grilled chicken that I purchase, I'm making a Ginger-Cilantro-Tomato Relish to accompany when I tell my kids "We're out of Heinz." A mother has to get those 5-a-day in somehow.

I am sauteeing the ginger before I add the colossal shrimp to the pan, then tossing with rissoto. Some would call this fusion, I call it delicious. The edges of the diced ginger begin to caramelize, the shrimp turn pink as sunset, and when added to the creamy risotto, you will be hailed and begged to cook again come Labor Day.

What are summer cookouts about? Can they be reinvented without being irreverent? Just remember to throw the coarse grain salt over your shoulder, it'll be fine.

Add a little ginger, throw in some cilantro - some cooking mojo and plenty of sunshine, and you have all the reverence you can handle.

Getting Fit With Friends

With exercise evolving everyday you may find that working with an exercise buddy or in groups may spice up your workouts and help you succeed with your weight loss at a much faster rate. Although this is a great and creative way to achieve your goals, there are some things to keep in mind when engaging in group training.

Exercising in a group can lead to amazing results. If you make an effort to push and motivate one another, then seeing results may come faster than you think.

Being able to be there for one another is important because if one person from the group lacks a certain skill or isn’t as conditioned as other participants, then that person will need your help to continue on.

This motivation could be verbal or physical, such as calling them after they haven’t shown up for a workout session, or where you help each other get through difficult exercises. Either way, everyone will be surrounded by a positive support group, which will ensure that you and your girlfriends continue to stay committed.

Sometimes weight loss success does come with a catch…unfortunately. Especially in a group setting, if for instance one person is seeing more results than another, then this might cause a jealous feud to begin. Frustration will kick in because one individual might think that she’s putting in the same time and effort with no, or little results.

This is why picking and choosing whom you work with is very important. If the group understands that everyone’s body is different and will react differently to different exercises, then it shouldn’t be a problem. Take your time and choose your exercise companions with care.

The last thing you want to do is have a super negative person join you and suck your energy, enthusiasm and health straight down the drain. It’ a good idea to workout with women who share similar goals, this way you can all be on the same page and progress at the same rate.

Ultimately more and more women are pairing up, or even forming an exercise group to get through their workouts. It’s a great motivational tool to keep you on track and achieve your goals at a much faster rate than if you did it alone.

So if you’re stuck in a rut with your exercise routines grab a friend to help you skyrocket your fitness to the next level.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Four P’s to Fulfillment: Passion, Proactivity, Pedicure and Prilosec

I recently returned from a “study” abroad internship program in London, where I spent an unforgettable four months working at a wonderful publishing house, enjoying classes held at pubs and Tate Modern, traveling to different countries and going spectacularly broke. $2.36 in my bank account? Worth it- my report card hadn’t looked this fridge friendly since elementary school.

When I returned, it dawned on me that I felt- no I am older. My hearing is depleting (thanks to those tiny, uncomfortable headphones attached to my Ipod), my knees hurt (what was I thinking ever running on real solid earth, why didn’t I bother to find an elliptical?) and my eyes are growing progressively worse (why, why do I insist on reading?) Then there are the nagging, but remarkable, Prilosec pills I take for my heartburn, greeting me every morning with their depleting contents and reminding me once more that I have GERD and am only twenty-one.

I then faced a slightly more major reality: I had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. And I had to, had to know my life plan by the time I set foot back in the States. I called my Mom in early February, whining, “ Mom, I thought I just liked psychology- but I’m really liking my publishing internship. Ah, I want to do it all!”

“ Me too!” she said back.

I knew, vaguely, that my Mom had always wanted to work with computers, however runs an art business. She apparently wanted to do it all- and now that I hadn’t simply flown the nest- I had migrated-and my brother was in his senior year of high school, she thought it was the right time.

When I returned, she had enrolled in computer classes, and still runs the art business as well as works at a local college working with computers. There isn’t an age anymore where you can say, “ Oh, it’s too late for that” or, “ Oh, I’ve always had a thing for numbers, but that was just a phase” without feeling a small pang. Try saying “You’re too old to…” to my Grandmother, who remarried at sixty-nine, or my other late Grandmother who enrolled in her local college for poetry and yoga courses at the age of seventy. She wore a baseball cap and would call me asking if she should bring in cookies or French toast to her classmates as treats.

“ French toast, definitely the French toast,” I told her. Who in college knows how to make that? They loved her, and in turn she had twenty new college-aged friends.

I expressed my “ I’m getting ‘old’” issues about deafness and weak knees with my Mom, who turned fifty-two the other day. She told me, in the most maternal way, to shut up. It was just the wake up call I needed. In no way was I old- I was just maturing. In fact, the word “old” is simply becoming obsolete. Forty is the new thirty, thirty the new twenty, twenty the new…ten? Simply put, with all the new advancements in today’s day and age (I’m talking about gyms, healthy eating, medicinal advances), age is just a number, and is becoming less of an impediment and more of an empowerment. So the next time you’re thinking you just can’t buy those fun flip flops, you love art but teach chemistry, or you just really don’t like those new across the forehead bangs you got, do something about it. Get a pedicure, enroll in an art class, invest in bobby pins. I don’t need Jessica Simpson or another once acne prone star to endorse this form of Proactive, the accomplishments speak for themselves.

Feel-good shopping

Recently I bought some cocoa that promised to do more than just satisfy my sweet tooth. My specialty store was out of my favorite brand, so instead I decided to come home with something new- a box of fair trade certified cocoa.

As my chocolate biscotti were baking, I began to read the label and began thinking and envisioning the farmers and people in less privileged parts of the world that my little purchase was helping. I may have helped a a cocoa bean farmer's family to have a better life.

What a nice thought,and a great way to shop..purchasing something that also helps someone in some way.

Organizations such as transfair monitor importers to make sure they follow fair trade standards. As the name implies they give farmers a fair and fixed price for their crops which are grown using environmentally friendly techniques and without child labor. When you buy a fair trade item more of the money goes to the people that produce it.

But beware, fair trade items are not regulated very stringently and many companies can claim they are fair trade without being so. Look for the transfair globe logo on the products.
Happy shopping!!
By the way the biscotti turned out to be delicious and myguests finished every last morsel. For the chocolate biscotti recipe email me at or visit my website at

My bestselling book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking is available there and if you purchase in June and July you will receive also a free sample of my new spice blend Sapori D'Italia with your purchase and $1 of every purchase goes to Gilda's Club (
Ciao for now

Kitchen Superstition...What I Mean by Superstition

First, let me explain myself.

Superstition is roughly defined as the belief in the significance of a particular thing, for no apparent reason.

My definition of superstition is something ritualistic that we put our faith in to achieve a desired outcome...and what could be more ritualistic than family meals?

Come Sunday evening while dining outside in my parents backyard - where you will find grilled vegetables, bread rubbed with garlic, homegrown heirlooms crowned with feta or Point Reyes, brined chicken waiting for mango salsa and wild caught salmon blessed with Meyer Lemon zest - there is so much more going in than tradition.

There are new techniques and ingredients worked skillfully in to meal preparations that have proven to work for generations. Not to be taken lightly, these techniques and ingredients have been carefully considered by the matriarch. She instinctively knows what will better her food, but affirms that it's sacrilegious, not to mention unwise, to deviate from her family's kitchen rituals.

If the fleur de sel or anchovy paste improves the entree you convinced the matriarch to alter, glasses will be raised high, children will give their approval by sitting still long enough to eat. However, should the new, hip culinary addition diminish the familiar flavor of Sunday dinner, it could ruin everyone's week.

You just don't mess with a culinary winning streak.

Because if you think that food tastes better in a garden next to a St. Francis scultpture, then you're right. If you believe your children sleep better when you brew wild chamomile, keep doing it. If your husband's mother didn't top the berries she served with vanilla sugar, don't try to make them sweeter now.

Rituals are something to hold onto, food is restorative not only to our bodies. Together, rituals and food satisfy our psyche and our appetites. Superstition is the secret ingredient. And it's not a new one.

Samantha Gianulis, author of the food memoir Little Grapes on the Vine...Mommy's Musings on Food & Family, is a columnist and Editor-in-Chief of Mom Writer's Literary Magazine ( To learn more about Samantha or read more of her work, go to her website, or her blog, "Vine Chat",

Aimee Liu on Eating Disorders

Author of the best selling novel Flash House (Warner Books, 2003), Aimee Liu is best known for writing the first American anorexia memoir Solitaire (1979). In her latest book Gaining: the truth about life after eating disorders (Warner Books, 2007), Aimee has probed deeper into the complex relation between genetics, family life, growing experiences, and eating disorders. Her book shows the cause and effects of eating disorders in the life of a number of women she knew and interviewed. Her insight is purposeful and will hopefully contribute to better understand the risks associated with eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.

Aimee Liu on Eating Disorders

Ernest: Aimee, is it ok to call anorexia and bulimia ‘diseases of women’?

Aimee: This is a common misperception. In fact, a Harvard study published shortly after Gaining found that 25% of people with anorexia and bulimia are male. Another myth is that all men with eating disorders are gay. Only one fifth of men with these illnesses are gay. That said, it is true that the majority of people affected by the conditions are female.

Ernest: In Gaining, you appear to be more interested in discovering about anorexia than bulimia. What accounts for this?

Aimee: That may be explained in part by the fact that I was anorexic first, and only “passed through” bulimia as I was recovering. This is a typical pattern for about half of people with anorexia. And since part of my book is memoir, I kept returning to my own experience. In the larger population bulimia is much more common – and secret – than anorexia. I interviewed people who had struggled with bulimia for decades. However, the new research in eating disorders tends to focus on anorexia because the biochemical roots of this disorder are clearer. Specifically, genetic risk plays a stronger role in the development of anorexia than it does for bulimia – though the two are definitely related. Since one of my goals was to explore what science knows now that we didn’t know thirty years ago, when I was recovering, I gravitated to the research on anorexia first, bulimia second.

Ernest: We tend to think of anorexia as a young girl’s problem. But Gaining portrays a different scene with older anorexic women. How do you comment on it?

Aimee: This is another of those myths – that eating disorders only afflict spoiled rich white teenage girls. In fact, people of all ages, races, and ethnicities are vulnerable. Those most vulnerable, however, are perfectionists who judge themselves harshly by external standards, such as looks and status. When identity is defined by how others see us, and not by a strong inner gauge of passion and contentment, we are vulnerable to crisis at certain crucial transitions, such as adolescence and mid-life. Women are especially vulnerable at these times of change because society tends to focus on the way females look at these ages. Our culture imposes a lot of anxiety on women about their looks, and hyper-sensitive perfectionists often respond with an eating disorder. It’s no accident that adolescence and mid-life are the two ages when eating disorder rates spike.

Aime Liu’s Website:

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Welcome and join us!!

Although many of you are already readers of Maria Liberati's The Basic Art of Italian Cooking (tm) blog and newsletter-I know you will enjoy this new blog we have created. We have invited some of the most talented bloggers/writers to blog here on so many interesting topics!
Of course I am never short of things to say, so I will be contributing also.
Maria & Co. will be about more than food and recipes-we have authors contributing on travel, health, fitness, style, life in general and more.

As Federico Fellini said: "Life is a combination of magic and pasta!!"
So if you want to hear about the pasta in life you can read about that in Maria Liberati's The Basic Art of Italian Cooking(tm) and for all the other things visit us here!!

After all, life is about so many things and our blog will reflect so my topics that readers of our other blog have expressed an interest in.
If you have any ideas for a new topic please let us know or you can email us directly
Hope you enjoy and also come to visit me at: and hope you have gotten a chance to catch up with my latest bestselling book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking..

Ciao for now!!
Maria Liberati