Friday, September 26, 2014

Eating Real Food, Staying Healthy

"Your body was meant to run on good food: fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and lots of water. Eat good food!” Tom Giaquinto

I just finished watching a documentary called "FedUp" and mamma mia!  how sad it is to see the way people's poor eating habits affect their health and most importantly that of their children.  Let me back up for a second and explain my observations about the American obesity epidemic after living overseas for so long.

We've been living abroad for a while now and every time we went back to the U.S. it was impossible not to notice how America has changed over the last decades.  It was like seeing a child after a few years and noticing how much he has grown.  Our perception of America was heightened by the fact that we were not living in it and seeing it get larger every day.

I noticed our compatriots' growing waist size by realizing that every time I went back to the U.S. and bought a pair of jeans I had to reach for a smaller size even though my body was certainly not getting smaller.  Portions at restaurants were getting so overwhelmingly large, we had a hard time finishing any meal.  I had to order only one plate of the kid's menu and split it between my two boys and even then, I had leftovers to take home.  Soon, I also started splitting meals with my husband.  At the grocery store, choosing fruits and vegetables was always more expensive than buying processed foods.

This is how real food looks like, no wrappers, no brands!

Another simple observation was the super scientific fact that every time I went back to the U.S. I gained weight.  That is a recurrent comment from most visiting foreigners.  They laugh about the super large sizes found in the U.S. and talk about how much they love America's junk food.  Their advantage is that they get to go back home, eat better food and loose the weigh efforlessly.  Americans are in that respect "trapped".  The movie #FedUp opens your eyes on the subject.  I highly recommend it to every person living in America.   Hopefully you'll make better choices when it comes to what you put in your body.

A point that was highlighted at the end of the movie was that cooking home meals from real ingredients was basically the answer, and I couldn't agree more.  So, to be consistent with my wish to eat better in order to be healthy and to teach my kids to eat real food, I try to learn fun recipes and involve my kids in the cooking process.

I learned this recipe from a Japanese friend of mine, and it was approved by my teenagers.  So here it goes:


  • Buy thinly sliced meat (you can look for carpaccio meat);
  • Cut carrots and string beans into long finger-size strips;
  • Steam the veggies;
  • Lay the meat flat and season it with salt pepper;
  • Place the veggies on one end of the meat and roll;
  • Once you finished rolling all your meat, season the outside of your rolls and sprinkle flour on top; 
  • Pan fry them, making sure all sides are fully cooked.
  • The veggies inside are already cook so you are looking to brown the meat which only takes a minute when it is carpaccio meat (very very thin).

This part is my spin on the recipe:
  • Take the rolls out of the pan and set aside.  Add chopped onion or scallions to the hot pan;
  • Cook until translucent;
  • Season with salt pepper and a splash of soy sauce, stir for a couple of minutes;
  • Pour onions over rolls and serve.  You just made Nikumaki!

Serve with a side of rice and salad.

Enjoy! And don't forget to eat real food, make the time to cook at home and reap the benefits.  Do you have a healthy recipe to share?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

September 21: International Day of Peace

“You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us. And the world will live as one.” John Lennon

This one is just a quick post to bring attention to the fact that today, September 21, is the International Day of Peace, declared by the U.N. back in 1981.  There is no Google Moodle about it, there are no articles in Yahoo news, but through the power of the internet and social media I urge you to mention it to bring awareness to the fact that without peace, the existence of all the other human rights is merely impossible.

There are so many ongoing conflicts in the world that we become numb to the realization that millions of people are, as you are reading these lines, being victims of violence, displacement and all the other horrors that war brings upon us.

Let's take a moment to make peace with those around us and do our part to make this a better world for our children.  It is my wish that those who have the possibility to travel and appreciate different cultures could come back home with renewed ideas of tolerance and mutual respect.

Have a blessed and peaceful day and if you have time check this link:

Friday, September 19, 2014

Off the Beaten Path: Rapallo

“If a man knows not to which port he sails, no wind is favorable.”  Seneca

After living in #Italy for two years, I have seen the touristy spots and checked them off my list.  I am now more interested in finding hidden gems, where there are no tourists and where the real #ItalianLifestyle is at its best.  Searching for such destinations I arrived in Rapallo.

Rapallo is located in northern Italy in the region of Liguria which offers a wide variety of landscapes as it is home to the Ligurian Alps as well as the Italian Riviera.  The capital of #Liguria is the port city of #Genoa which has a rich history dating from ancient times and who's most famous native son is Christopher Columbus.  

In contrast to the bigger and labyrinth-like city of Genoa, Rapallo is a small seaside village where life happens at a slower pace and friends and food are the most important things in life.  It is also a good base from where to explore the famous #Portofino, the capital Genoa and from where you can even reach the renowned #CinqueTerre (Five Lands) national park  in less than an hour.

The summers are of course wonderful in #Rapallo, everyone is out at the beach during the day and in the afternoons they go for walks along the boardwalk (or Lungomare in Italian), stop for a gelato, enjoy a conversation with friends and get together before heading out for dinner.  

As I mentioned before, Italian food is very regional, something you may not know as most italian restaurants around the world offer food from all the Italian regions on one menu.  Liguria's most famous dish is the Pesto Sauce, which is normally served over a short curled pasta called Troffie, so you cannot leave Liguria without trying Troffie al Pesto! Being a seaside town, all seafood and fish dishes are also spectacular. 

As usual, I asked the locals for a restaurant recommendation and they sent me to Ristorante "Foccaceria in Riviera" located at Via Zunino 1.  It was phenomenal!  I even went there two nights in a row, it was that good.

Next month I will visit the #CinqueTerre national park, so be on the lookout for the post about it.


Friday, September 12, 2014

One Easy Thing You Can Do To Help Your Kids Adjust to a New Culture

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”  William Arthur Ward

With the beginning of the school year I've been meeting folks from different countries and backgrounds and that is a wonderful thing about being part of an international community.  After we all settle in our new routines and become more comfortable with each other, the season for the expats' national sport will begin.  And it's true, if we expats were a nation we would have a national sport: complaining about the host country.

Ok, we all need to vent once in a while and it's great to find a sympathetic audience.  Everyone has funny or horror stories to tell about a situation where our cultural differences have played us a bad hand.  But it is unfortunate if all our conversations become just that.

Take into consideration that your children are also trying to adjust to the new culture, and if you're constantly bashing the way things work and how people think or act, your children will mimic your behavior and will dismiss the locals at school negating themselves the possibilities of new friendships.  They'll believe the locals are as terrible (or as great) as you describe them.

One of the benefits of living abroad is learning to adjustand that skill will serve your children well, way beyond their expat years.   Some kids are more forgiving and adjust a lot faster than adults.  Some others take their time to figure out their new environment.  But perceiving your positive attitude towards the move in general will help them accept this change and be more open to the new experiences.

Wether you moved full of excitement to live in a new country, following a spouse or for a great job opportunity, remember that  there is no better way to learn about your host country than befriending the locals.  

So stop! Stop before you say something negative about the host country.  And about those who never get out of complaining mode... the other day I read that successful people stay away from negative people the same way you would move away from a smoker if smoke bothered you.  Not a bad strategy at all in my humble opinion.   What do you think?

Arrivederci for now,

Friday, September 5, 2014

Italian Food: La Porchetta

“You can't just eat good food. You've got to talk about it too. And you've got to talk about it to somebody who understands that kind of food.”  Kurt Vonnegut, Jailbird

#Italian food is great, and not just because it is tasty, but because in this country they still eat like people did a hundred years ago.  "From farm to table" is not only a trend or a catchy phrase, it is a reality, and #Italians, specially those in the countryside, would not dare to touch processed food.  They normally know where their food comes from, do you?

Last weekend, I had the luxury of visiting my husband's Italian relatives up in northern Italy.  Even though we were planning on taking them out for dinner to thank them for their hospitality, that was impossible, because all the meals had already been planned, and you can't say No to your Italian relatives, specially when it comes to anything related to food. We had wonderful #homecooked meals.  One of the days, for dessert we had a simple gelato with blueberry jam on top.  They had picked the blueberries themselves and made their own jam.  I certainly have lots to learn about eating Italian-style.

Every town, or at least that is what it seems, has a type of festival dedicated to their local #cuisine or a product that grows on their land.  And like that, you have the #Festival (called #Sagra in Italian) of the Strawberry in Nemi, the Sagra del Tartufo in Gubbio or the upcoming Sagra della #Porchetta in #Ariccia.

The Porchetta is a gutted and deboned pig that is seasoned (typically with garlic and fennel) and rolled to form an enormous pork loin and then roasted over wood.  If you like meat, you would love a porchetta or a porchetta sandwich.  Porchetta is normally sold at fairs and at food trucks.  It is also served at large family gatherings or parties.

The town of Ariccia, 40 minutes south east of Rome, is synonymous with porchetta, and they host the Festival or Sagra of the Porchetta this weekend (September 5, 6 & 7 for info or reservations call 347.43.96.147).   The most popular Sagras can get very crowded and it's better to make reservations or go really early.

If you go to Ariccia any time other than during their Porchetta Festival you can always savor their famous dish.  A local recommended the restaurant  La Arriciarola (Via Borgo S. Rocco, 9, Ariccia) and I have to say, I couldn't finish their sample menu, the food just kept coming.

I hope I can find some time to visit Ariccia this weekend but if not, here is a website that list all the Sagras in Italy (click here).