Saturday, March 5, 2011

Healthy Kids ( & adults too) : Fighting childhood obesity, a lesson learned at the playground...

I came across the videos below today and I just have to share them!
I am on a very serious note here because I wanted to talk about this sometimes down the line but I feel like I have to do it now as my heart and my mind are truly bothered by the subject of childhood obesity.
Childhood obesity is a subject that is starting to become dearer and dearer to me because of something I witnessed a couple of weeks ago.

  One Sunday afternoon after lunch, my husband and I took our healthy active children with some friends to a  big local Mall so they could play at an indoor playground. As I watched the children playing, I noticed a little girl, still in her diapers or pull ups that was seriously overweight. I observed her the whole time she was there and it crushed my mood to see that absolutely no children tried to befriend her and play with her. 
 She was constantly playing by herself, she entertained  herself pretty well but it was akward to witness that nobody approached her. I was somewhat painful because I kept thinking that this playground was a place for children to make new friends. I kept watching how some kids were attracted to each other and this little girl had no attention from anyone. Nobody interacted with her. It's almost like she was invisible to everyone.  I know that none of the children playing there did it intentionally as they were all busy going wild, but it was quite a thoughts provoking scene. 

 She stayed there playing for 30-45 mns by herself.  With a man, I assumed must have been her dad, watching her. I was thinking that it's a good thing that she's very small and might not even realized it...but then it hit me: children become teenagers and teenagers become adults. I realized that she might grow up scarred by the memory that kids did not even care to play with her, not even pay her any attention.  Yes, I am blessed to have healthy and fit children but it  nonetheless pained me to witness that scene. I am a mother, empathy for children come naturally even if the child is not mine.

This picture was available on google search
I felt sad for her, then I felt mad because I know that we the adults are the one feeding our children. So I was mad that the parents allowed her to be that fat, but I also felt sad for the parents...thinking and assuming that if the statistics are right, the mother or caretakers of that precious little girl might themselves be battling obesity and a plethora of health conditions.  If it's true that the majority of obese kids are from obese parents then it's obvious that "We can not always give to our kids what we don't have".   That's why it has to start with us adults taking responsibilities for our health and our children's health.

Watching that cute yet overweight little girl playing alone, I comforted myself by telling myself that to her parent's credit she was at the playground getting active. The man with her was a young looking Caucasian male probably in his 20s and he looked normal. Not fat at all, even though he was not necessarily the athletic type. Minutes before that little girl left, a family came that instantly got my attention. A little girl and a little boy arrived with their parents in shorts and athletic shoes. As soon as I saw both the husband and wife I felt for them, pride, respect and from them I gained a fresh motivation. They were FIT and dressed in active gears, there is no doubt that the whole family knows a whole lot about being active, making better choices and being role models to their children.

 It was 2 weeks ago and I still can't erase those scenes and observations from my mind. I certainly did not expect to get a lesson from just watching a bunch of children playing at the playground!  I used to let my hubby take the kids there while I am hanging at the Barnes and Nobles. My time there that Sunday afternoon, watching a bunch of families and their children showed me some things that no books could have illustrated better.
I will probably talk more about child obesity in a near future, for today I simply want to get this off my chest and sincerely motivate any of you that might stop by here to: watch those videos and be active with your children. You might not have children but there are children around you, get fit, take care of your health and influence a child, a nephew, a niece, anyone, to become active and fit.
I think Obesity is a painful subject to talk about but it has to be addressed, with love, with understanding , with knowledge, with education and with no more excuses.
Please watch the videos below and be inspired to take action today!

Those women are obviously very different, their styles might be different but at the end, their messages is the same. So please, please, please...
               Let's make better choices
          Eat nutritious food
          Be active &
          Have Fun Doing it
As adults we owe it to ourselves and our children to be their role models and to protect them. Good health is a gift money can't buy but that we can obtain as we make better choices, it's a gift that's in us and no one can give it to us but ( God and)  ourselves.

We have to let go of all our excuses and just do it! Being role models and motivating our children is one of the best gifts we can offer them as it will protect them not just from physical ailments like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes but from emotional and psychological ailments as well.  It's seems silly but lives are at stakes. Either some will die from those physical ailments or some might literally take their lives away because of all the rejections and shame they might suffer due to obesity.
Please start today to make a change, one step, one choice, one day at a time to give yourself or someone you love the gift of a better body and a better life!
I love you and I want to see you and those around you thriving!

We are all in this together, it doesn't matter if you are reading this and you are a size 2 or a size 14 or whatever. As a society we are all in it together. We all come across someone who deserves good health and a better life. We all need this generation and the next one to be healthy because without our children there is no legacy to leave, no baton to pass on. So it's more serious than just losing weight and looking good in our clothes. It's about having healthy bodies and lives that will offer us healthy minds and the power and ability to do great things as individuals and as a nation.

I am eager to learn from you, any suggestions, any actions you think will work to reach the children around us and the parents as well. Please take the time to express your thoughts and opinions. Leave some comments, every suggestions is valuable.  If it's your first time visiting the blog please become a Follower and let's build together a healthy community!
In your opinion, what are ways we can make a difference in the lives of people that suffer from obesity? How can we all reach out and truly motivate those who are not fit yet,  to take control of their health and start valuing themselves, their lives and their bodies? Do you know of any inspiring stories of change that would motivate and inspire someone reading this post to start living a better life?


Friday, March 4, 2011

Delicious Tuna Croquettes recipe inspired by the Queen of Soul Food!

A few nights ago I decided to surprise my hubby with one of his favorite food. I figured I will share the recipe with you because it's really easy and would make a great appetizer or great snack for the week-end or any week night when you just want something delicious and quick.
The recipe below is originally from Evelyn Woods, sister-in-law of Sylvia Woods owner of the world famous restaurant Sylvia's restaurant in Historic Harlem! I have never had the pleasure of eating there but since I have had her book "Sylvia's Family Soul Food Cookbook" for over 5 years now, I have had the pleasure of eating some delicious meals inspired by her cookbook!

 I say inspired here because I have the habit of always adding my own ingredients to a recipe. I can never stay true to the ingredients suggested when I am cooking an American dish. Having been raised with French and International Food, my palate is pretty obstinate and always after delicious flavors. For example, if a cake recipe did not call for flavoring like cinnamon, vanilla extract or nutmeg you can count on me to add one of those or lemon zest to the recipe. I even twist a simple waffle recipe to taste like a delightfully perfumed little treat! I love adding unexpected flavors to my cakes and dishes so below I will just share her original recipe and add pictures I took 3 evenings ago when I was fixing those croquettes. Even though I don't like frying, this recipe is certainly worth it.

Ingredients for Tuna croquettes by Evelyn Woods
Two 6 ounces cans tuna, drained
2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped bell pepper
3 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ginger teriyaki sauce ( or 1 teaspoon soy sauce plus a pinch of ground ginger)
1/8teaspoon ground red pepper
1/8teaspoon salt
2to3tablespoons vegetable oil

 1. In a medium bowl combine all the ingredients (except the oil)! Well in the book she explained step 1 by listing all the ingredients one by one come on! If you read the ingredients it's obvious that you keep the oil for frying and mix everything else.

2. In the author's words: "In a large skillet , heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium -high heat until the oil bubbles when a little bit of the tuna mixture is tossed in. Drop the tuna mixture by soup spoonful into the oil to make patties about 3 inches in diameter. Fry until browned on the bottom, for 1 to 2 minutes. Turn and fry until browned on the other side, for 1-2 minutes more. Drain on paper towels. Continue until all patties are cooked,adding more oil to the pan if necessary." ( Sylvia's family Soul Food Cookbook p.159)

I use a measuring cup or soup spoon to place each patties in the oil and I do put much more than 2 tablespoons of oil . I use my wok constantly so I do not use a skillet. I generally fill my wok  1/3 of the way for all my frying, which I do rarely because I really do not like frying food. I don't  like the smell of fried food and I especially do not like to deal with left over oil. I never re-use the same oil because it's unhealthy  and I discard my oil by pouring it in clear jar that I seal with a lid and wrap in an old grocery bag before placing it in the trash can.  In college I was taught in my environmental sciences classes that pouring oil in the toilet, the drain or the backyard like some people do, it not healthy at all for the environment! I don't buy jars for that, I simply save empty jars from pasta sauce or jams and re-use them as needed! Well that was a little GREEN lesson here! (smiles)

Soooo back to the recipe, I did not use ground red peppers in mine. I did use ginger and soy sauce instead of the ginger teriyaki sauce and I used more ginger than suggested in the recipe. I don't care to measure my onion and bell pepper. So I just used what I had left over from the lunch I had fixed earlier that day. I actually had sardines for lunch and had used onions and green pepper with some seasoning and apple cider vinegar to make a small fresh sauce for my sardines.
In fixing the tuna croquettes I prefer to use olive oil. I also added some garlic to the recipe. I would have preferred fresh ones but had used it all for my lunch so I made due with garlic powder.The recipe in the book did not suggest adding any so that's just me playing with flavors here. I also added cayenne pepper, some red Cajun spices that I got from the Dekalb farmer's market in Atlanta,GA and I added some fresh chili peppers that were left from my lunch. So as you see I added a few ingredients that the original recipe in the book did not call for. I call my version my Cajun tuna croquettes considering all the 'heat' I added!
But the croquettes did not taste that spicy just very juicy and tasteful. Said with all modesty right?lol. I did not drain my tuna unlike what she suggested. My tuna had vegetable oil and I figure I will pour the whole thing in my mixture to moisten it.

Mixture for tuna croquettes
Now, if you are watching your weight your probably should not imitate me on that! Remember I mainly fixed those for my husband and he barely has any extra body fat. He is all lean muscles so he can afford eating like this once in a while. I can too...while I do the quality control that is!!! Quality control a.k.a. snacking while cooking!!! (lol)
 But I left the rest to him! The picture above shows the plate I fixed for my hubby.  He was delighted when I presented this plate to him as soon as he stepped into the kitchen upon returning from work. I heard many " Humm this is real good" " Man this is goooodd" the whole time he was eating them. In the meantine all I ate for dinner was what you see on the picture below, after saving some for  my lunch for the day after.  Well, yes that was my only serving...considering that by the time all was said and done I did not have much appetite left due to my diligent quality control while cooking... Yessss, I snacked on quite a few of those while I was cooking them! (Making a guilty grin)

So you see that I did indeed add my little twists to the original recipe. I am sure a lot of people are like me! A cookbook is mainly for inspiration and guidance after all! Don't you think?! I like to own what I cook so I can't help twisting a recipe. I stay true to the ingredients only to some extent! When it comes to flavoring a sauce,a cake or a any dish I stay true to my well trained French palate! (smiles)

 The author explained in the book that the recipe was actually intended for salmon cakes but that day they ran out of salmon and all they had left was tuna. So if you don't have tuna or don't like tuna you can simply use some salmon and you will be gooood to go!!! (smiles).

I hope you will get the chance to try this recipe and indulge! This is truly an easy recipe worth sharing! I got home from my morning walk and decided to take some time to share this recipe and my adaptation with you. If you can try it let me know how yours turned out. For the fun of it you could cook both the original version of Miss Wood and my own "Cajun" adaptation and tell me which you like the most. Every one's taste is different so that would be a tasty experiment!

Before I leave I will also share with you a picture of some branches I cut this morning. It has nothing to do with cooking but it will have a lot to do with eating my meals while enjoying the charms of flowering shrubs.  One neighbor allowed me to cut it from her yard when I asked her this morning. It's so exciting to see Spring coming back. Each morning as I was passing by my neighbor's home this week, I kept thinking about how lovely those would be as floral arrangements. So glad I got the opportunity to get some today.

Branches cut during my morning walk from some flowering shrubs in a kind neighbor's front yard!
 On my pescetarian menu this week-end are Fish tacos at J.Alexander's restaurant tonight or tomorrow, Salmon fish sandwich at F2O on Sunday and I will probably fix more of those tuna croquettes for my hubby sometimes this week-end.  Please remember to use a towel to soak some of the oil off of your food every time you fry.
Here are some pictures of Sylvia's restaurant that I just found online:
           I find her life's story to be very inspiring, not just her cookbook.  Hope to get the pleasure of visiting her establishment one day mainly for her red velvet cake! I personally don't care much for " Soul Food" . I initially got the book for cultural reasons as I was curious to educate myself more on the dishes that are so popular with " Soul Food's Lovers". I fell more in love with her personal story than I did with 'Sould Food' itself.  I greatly appreciate her values and the ones she inculcated her children. Another recipe from her cookbook that I used to fix a lot was her chicken soup. I had also adapted it to my taste but it has enough ingredients in it to keep me from being too creative. Cooking that soup is a true labor of love. Should I cook it again I will make sure to share some pictures with you.

I was wondering...What place would you recommend for tuna or salmon /crab cakes? I ate a few years ago at a restaurant in Saint Louis Missouri which I believe was called the Fish Market. I felt in love with their salmon cakes, so so good!!!Too bad  it's now closed! Do you have a salmon/tuna cake recipe worth trying or a restaurant that you would recommend for their salmon or crab cakes? Who is the best salmon/crab cakes cook that you know? Anything that makes their recipe stand out? When was the last time you enjoyed some delicious yummy salmon/crab cakes? Has any of you eaten before at Sylvia's restaurant in Harlem? How is it?