Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pumpkin Fever -- Wine, Beer, Butter, Whatever

What is up with all the pumpkin excitement this year? Coffee drinks, soup, pancakes, beer, store windows, house decorations spilling from the porch to the walkways....pumpkins of all sizes and strains are everywhere.

I think it is just great.

To get in the spirit I made a pumpkin coffee cake for Halloween night with extra ginger. Yummy.
A few days later, stuck in a raucous airport terminal (JFK, you're better, but why so much fast food and noise?) we calmed ourselves with pumpkin frozen yogurt topped with dark chocolate chips.
Yeah, and my decorations for Thanksgiving are tiny pumpkins.

All that bright orange pumpkin is happily healthy. It's loaded with the minerals and the antioxidant, beta-carotene, which helps our busy bodies fight cancer, heart problems and helps us feel younger than our years. Not too shabby.

So, the burning question is: what types of wine go with pumpkin?
Welp, if the pumpkin is savory with herbs like sage, thyme and onions, a light Pinot Noir is nice.
If it is in a creamy soup, try a Sauvignon Blanc.
And if it is sweet -- in a pie or (yes) bread pudding, you can go with a Sauterne or a delicate Champagne. Or just try a pumpkin beer, if you must.

The thing is pumpkin fever will pass after a month or so, and then what are we going to do? That's   why I make and store pumpkin butter, with lots of sweet spices. Excellent on crusty toast or Greek yogurt, with a big mug of cinnamon tea. Who cares if it's raining outside.

Easy Pumpkin Butter

4 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup honey or maple syrup
1/2 cup apple juice
2 tsp. ground ginger 
1 tsp each -- cinnamon, nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cloves

Combine everything in a crockpot, cook on medium-low for about 6 hours, with the lid slightly askew to let the steam out.
Afterwards, store in the fridge. 

(BTW: the top photo is courtesy of and Flickr user GmanViz.)

Stay warm,

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Fitbit, Jawbone and New Ways to Keep Track

A very bright friend of mine turned her health and body shape around, thanks to the little electronic bracelet she wears on her wrist. She started with a Jawbone Up, then switched to a Fitbit wristband and she seems hooked. ( She also looks ten years younger.)
Another friend just bought a similar gadget six weeks ago, and programmed in that she wanted to lose a pound a week....and she has lost exactly six pounds.

The gizmos, along with a smartphone, keep track of how much you move, how well you sleep, and  how many calories you are eating. When you are not doing well, it tells you and it tracks how you are doing through the day. 
It turns out that monitoring our daily habits via a machine is a big boon to our health. Surprises the heck out of me. But think of it, we are busy enough keeping track of everything else -- and this takes the guesswork out of staying fit. Plus both friends tell me how fun it is.  

Anyway, that's what big drug companies and healthcare facilities are also finding out. Daily planners, trackers and monitors are unexpectedly popular for the healthy as well as those with chronic problems.
My story "Welcome to the New Face of Big Pharma," about how drugmakers are dealing with Obamacare, was eye-opening, and gives a taste of what's to come. I'm guessing that the trendy Fitbit is just the tip of the iceberg. 
See what you think. Click here.
Stay well,

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sharing Economy & Apples: Connecting the Dots

When I say "connecting the dots", I actually mean the dot coms. In other words, I'm getting fascinated about  how sharing is connected to our online lives. 
Thanks to Twitter, Facebook, email and our various gadgets, it is getting so much easier to buy, sell, rent and share our stuff like houses, cars, tools, clothes, and the garden harvest. The fun part is looking at the examples.
Here's a handful:

From Sharable magazine: How to share fallen fruit.
"Next time you walk through your neighborhood, take note of abundant fruit trees, and the ground under them. See it?"
Fallen Fruit, an organization that uses fruit as the common denominator that changes the way you see the world, generates maps of fruit in public spaces all over the world. They tell you, for instance, that huckleberries are ripening on California's north coast. And they are all over the place.

For my recent
Adweek story, I found out about Repair Cafes, where people share their fix-it skills. Very cool if  -- like me -- you haven't met a machine that you can't break. 

Maybe this sharing thing is a fad, maybe it is just the latest trend. But I think there is more to it. Is it a movement, like insiders call it? Don't know.
I do know that swapping homegrown apples, oranges, figs and eggplant is better than money in wine country right now.

I'll look for more food, wine and fitness sharing ideas and let you know.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Let's Move Like a Dancer

My back has been killing me lately.
Yeah, I know--lots of sitting during the week, plenty of walking in the cool evenings, but not enough attention to stretching, bending and standing up really straight. Many friends who are starting their gardens, spending hours crouching, are also complaining. Sore aching backs abound this time of the year.
It's time to think like dancers!
Here's how. Crank up the music (my favorites are jazz and salsa) and loosen up all your parts. Smile and stretch -- long and straight. Pretend you are the sleekest, snazziest performer on stage and show off your moves. (Oh yeah, this is best done when it's just you and the dog in the room. Your dog always thinks you are amazing.)
Classical music with slow smooth ballet moves is another option, if your taste runs more to the yoga style of dancing.

And then there are some days when nothing has gone as planned. Deadlines are shuffled, paperwork gets lost, the car breaks down and the universe is totally conspiring against us.
Then, a mellow walk--or even a brisk jog--is just not going to cut it.
It is either eat our weight in chocolate (or in my case corn chips) or put on the rock 'n' roll and DANCE, DANCE, DANCE.

Anyway, I think you get my drift. Summer is here, we are stiff as boards and it's gonna take some extra action to get our abs, back and shoulders back in the groove.

Which brings us to: What do dancers eat?
Welp, a little research found that they are big on liquid meals, like smoothies.
Dancers always need more fluids and smoothies are healthy, portable and quick to digest.  Works for me.
In that vein here's a tasty, super-easy smoothie recipe I adapted -- with milk for protein and plenty of sweetness without sugar.

Sweet Dancer's Smoothie 
1 frozen banana
1 cup of orange juice (fresh squeezed if possible) 
1/2 orange peeled
1/2 cup nonfat yogurt or 3/4 cup nonfat milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Blend everything with ice.

Swing those hips -- and enjoy!

(Photos, from top : Martha Graham Dance Company, Amarillo College, Pirouette Dance Academy)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Tip of the Hat to Craft Beer

I know I generally focus on wine, but I've been feeling the urge to branch out. And here in wine country we are surrounded by brewpubs and breweries. So I went back to my (college) roots and asked my buddies to bring me to speed with Craft Beer, which by the way, is a great way to meet outspoken, clever people (my favorite).

Here are some beer-makers with stories that I uncovered, both in my backyard and across the country.

Jesus loves beer – and Twitter.
Monday Night Brewing in Atlanta (photo above) started as a hobby for a Bible-study group of coat-and tie-office types who used to met after work on Mondays. It went from 12 barrels a month in mid-2011 to 170 barrels a month this year, thanks mainly to Twitter. Folks on Twitter helped pick the logo and suggest names for new beers. 
The brand’s slogan “Weekends are overrated,” is backed with a label showing a man in a suit and tap handles shaped like neckties. 

How Small is Nano?
You thought micro was small, but now nano-breweries are popping up around the country. Take Old Redwood Brewing, in Windsor, CA. Four partners opened the tiny brewery and tasting room in August 2012 and within four hours they sold almost a quarter of their first-month’s production. As with most nanos. Old Redwood Brewing depends on word of mouth, Facebook banter, limited hours and small batches to draw in the curious. If they have any extra beer, they pour it at local fundraisers. 

For my big Craft Beer story about the indies battle with the big boys, you can find it here.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Weekend at the Del

Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego.
I strongly recommend you visit this place, because they make a killer Manhattan in the downstairs bar. Plus they have done an impressive job in bringing the grand dame back to a new modern life -- despite the wear and tear from the sea air.
(It 's also home to the set of Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot in the fall of 1958. See more in this cool slideshow.)

Yet another reason. My mother loved it.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Breakfast for Dinner, Oh Joy

Okay admit it, sometimes we work night and day. Big project, big deadline. We all know the drill. That's the time when one of my all-time favorite meals comes in handy--good, ole Breakfast For Dinner. Because, after all, who says if it's the beginning or end of the day when the hours are all running together as we toil at our desks.
I got the Breakfast-For-Dinner bug in Europe, with those midnight suppers in the moonlight at the corner cafe. Way more romantic than foraging through the fridge for a few eggs because, really, who had time to go to the market?
But the BFD routine works either way -- Deadline Day or moonlight supper. For me, the meal usually means eggs and whatever veggies, onions, beans, potatoes etc. that I can scrounge up. I cook them in a little olive oil and roll 'em up in a wheat tortilla. Maybe salsa or chutney on top, if I can find it.

But what wine to drink with our eggs? Because gawd knows, we deserve a glass or two after the crazy hours we're putting in. My fave is a sparkling white or rose from a local winery. I've also heard that Barbera, a light red, works very well.
And the best part of the BFD habit is yet to come.  Put on your sweater, take the last swallow of wine and go out for a stroll under the stars before calling it a night. Loosen your knotted shoulders as you look upward. Even deadlines can't steal the stars from us.

Happy dreams,

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Bringing the Farmers Market to Our Desks

So there is this new interesting idea afoot. It is a way to order food -- such as winter squash --  from local farmers and then have it delivered weekly to the place were we are working (or working out).
Farmigo is trying to bring this to Northern California  and New York City.
In the south, Silo is doing it in South Carolina.
I think it has promise--since there is less waste and transport, it seems more convenient and less costly for farmers as well as us buyers.
My local pals and I already swap fresh veggies/fruit that we grow during harvest-time when we meet for Wednesday coffee. This would open that up to our local farmers, and bring a lot more variety into the mix.
I wonder if other folks will join up. Would you? If the idea grabs your fancy, get more info at
Farmigo and at SILO. For an inside look, Farmigo also has a friendly Facebook page.

In the meantime, winter squash are great for post-holiday meals and to heat the kitchen. Here's a simple way to do 'em. It uses the fresh rosemary that grows like a weed around here.

Rosemary Roasted Squash 
1. Peel and cube one large butternut squash or 2 smaller squash.

2. Mix cubes with 2 cloves of minced garlic, 2 springs of chopped fresh rosemary, 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Plus a sprinkle of back pepper.

3. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for about 50 minutes until squash is caramelized and light brown.

Enjoy with a nice Pinot Noir and Roasted Chicken or Pork.
You're welcome.