Thursday, February 26, 2015

Visit to Victoria, BC

Stan and I have just returned from a beautiful four days in Victoria, British Columbia.  The weather was amazing!  Sunny except for the last day, and very much into spring, with crocus and flowering trees everywhere.

The Empress Hotel at Victoria's Inner Harbor

We went up on the Victoria Clipper, a comfortable 3-hour ride from downtown Seattle.

Checking in early
Clipper heads back to Seattle in the evening

Stan has belonged to a timeshare, Worldmark, for many years and they have a great place on the water a few steps from Victoria's inner harbor.  It's like staying in a condo with a complete kitchen, and it also has a hot tub on the balcony - a perfect way to relax after a day of walking around town!

View from our balcony

 We usually just stay in the downtown area and travel by foot or bus, but this time we rented a car for 24 hours and took two nice trips further up Vancouver Island.   One afternoon we drove up the wilder, less populated west coast as far as French Beach, through the town of Sooke, and with a lengthy detour around the East Sooke peninsula to check out East Sooke Park.  Stan did great driving us around the city and countryside, even when I was getting mixed up as navigator.

French Beach

The next morning we headed northeast, up the Saanich peninsula to the town of Sidney, called a "booktown" because of its nine bookstores.  Stan was happy to find one bookstore devoted solely to military history and politics, and I was surprised how interesting I found it as well.  Folks were outdoors all around Sidney, walking dogs, browsing the shops and stopping in the cafés.  (So did we - - I only had the small half of Stan's chocolate chip muffin.)  Sidney looked like a very pleasant place to live.

The downtown area is right on the waterfront

I could get comfortable here!

So how did I do on health and fitness?  Even with the rental car we managed to get in a lot of walking.  The first day I was surprised to feel the vibration of my Fitbit, telling me I had completed my daily goal of 10,000 steps, as we walked around town in the afternoon.  We had walked to the grocery store to stock up as soon as we arrived, and it must have been further than we realized.  We made 15,000 steps another day, as we took a long walk along the water across from our timeshare.  All along there we checked out the many condominiums and thought how nice a place it would be to retire.

Beautiful spring weather made walking a pleasure

I'm learning that there is a lot of terrific healthy food available, even in places I don't expect it.  With my new awareness I found some very good meals.  For example, the first day we had a late lunch in our favorite place, the Irish Times pub.  We visit every time we're in Victoria, and I usually have a glass (or two) of wine and pub food like fish and chips or a pot pie.  This time I read the whole menu and saw a salad with tuna poached in olive oil.  It was delicious and so big I couldn't finish it.  I did have one glass of wine with it.

Salad Nicoise  (I didn't eat the bread, but the little potatoes were a nice bit of starch)

For lunch on our drive we stopped at a cafe in a shopping center.  It looked quite ordinary - the type of place you would get a grilled cheese sandwich or a hamburger.  There was a chicken mango salad on the chalkboard menu, and I almost skipped it because it was more expensive than anything else.  I did ask how big it was, and was told I could order half.  Perfect!  And I had a cappuccino which was one of the best I've ever had.

This was a half chicken mango salad!

Here's another surprise.  A new Italian restaurant, Il Covo,  opened right across the street from our timeshare.  I went in picturing some favorites like spaghetti Bolognese or ravioli, but I found this delicious pork with roasted veggies.  Okay, I did have two glasses of wine with it, but no dessert.  I know if I had had a pasta meal, I would have felt overstuffed and bloated afterward, but I felt fine after eating this - pleasantly full but not uncomfortable.

Cotoletta alla Milanese

On our last day, we usually have breakfast at the Coast Hotel near our timeshare before going back to the Clipper.  However, in winter there is only one sailing at 5PM, so we had most of a day to enjoy first.  We strolled around and revisited the Robert Bateman art exhibit that Stan really likes, then headed back to pick up our luggage.  We arrived at the hotel at lunchtime, so instead of having the eggs Benedict as usual, I checked out the salads and got this seared salmon with beets and goat cheese.  Yum!  The salmon was cooked perfectly (I had asked first, to make sure it wouldn't be raw in the middle), and it was so big I couldn't finish it.  It kept me perfectly happy all the way home to Seattle.  And no wine - just a latte.  I suppose a latte could easily contain more calories than a glass of wine, but I think it's better for me to avoid the wine.

Seared Salmon Salad

Other meals we cooked at our timeshare.  (We being mostly Stan.)  For breakfasts, bacon and eggs with fruit, and one night for dinner this coconut-encrusted tilapia, which came from the store all ready to cook and was very good.

Note sparkling water - having a bottle of San Pellegrino handy was a good idea

Do you notice how great healthy food looks in photos?  Much more colorful than a plate of mac and cheese or a sandwich.  I didn't feel I was missing out on anything with the food I ate.  Will focus more on beverages in the months to come.

Altogether, a very nice trip.  Being retired is so much fun!!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Growing Herbs with Aerogarden

Today I planted a new batch of herbs in our Aerogarden.  We've had it for several years and have enjoyed having fresh herbs available year round.  Ours has spaces for seven plants, and I put in Genovese basil, Italian parsley, sage, dill, tarragon, mint and thyme.  They should start sprouting in a week or two.

What got me motivated to get this going was the beautiful catalog we get from the Aerogarden company every year.  It has lots of color photos of all the things you can grow.  This picture caught my eye and I was thinking how nice it would be to have tomatoes right here in the house.

So I ordered another garden, and it arrived last week.  (On sale for $199.96.)  You can see they are a bit fancier now, with LED lights.  I set it up next to the other one and planted two Red Heirloom cherry tomatoes and one Golden Harvest.  The new Aerogarden has seven places for plants, and we can do seven herbs sometime, but when you plant something larger like tomatoes, you only plant three and put spacers in the other holes. 

After planting, all you have to do is keep the water reservoir full and add nutrients every two weeks.  There are lights that remind you when to do that, and the lights over the plants are on an automatic schedule, so, not too much effort required.  Here's what the control panel on the new one looks like.

Usually Stan has planted ours, and this was my first time, so I hope I did everything right and they will grow!  In a few weeks I'll show you how they're coming along.

P.S.  As I typed in the price of the new garden, I realized I'm spending a bit of money on my project to get healthy and strong this year.  I'll keep track, and let you know at the end of the year.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

My Lovely City, Seattle

On Presidents' Day Stan and I took the bus downtown and enjoyed a walk and lunch in our pretty city.

First, let me show you my new walking shoes.  I have had the best luck with tennis shoes at Ross!  The shoes are all out where you can easily try them on without having to ask for a particular size and the prices are terrific.  These are Skechers, a brand that seems to fit me well, although I wasn't sure about those big bubbles on the soles.  I can feel them a little bit (after all, I'm a real princess).  But at the end of the day, I remarked to Stan that they must be okay because I didn't think of my feet once the whole time we were out.

Seattle is quite hilly, so there are lots of stairs and hill climbs to provide good exercise.  After getting off the bus, we headed down toward the waterfront via the Harbor Steps.

Hmmm, we might look for an alternate route back up...

Stan noticed the Seattle Steam Company.  I must have passed it a few hundred times without ever seeing it - I had to Google it to see what it does.  Duh.  It provides steam to over 175 businesses in Seattle, via 18 miles of pipe.  Several of its largest customers are the big hospitals in the city, and some hotels, the public library and the Seattle Art Museum.  In May 2014, Seattle Steam was bought by Brookfield Asset Management of Toronto and its name is now enwave (lower case e intentional).  Rats, I like the Canadians but I don't think we should sell our assets outside the country.

We stopped for lunch at the Bell Street Diner.  Do note I had cappucino instead of wine, and a pretty healthy lunch.  I ate all the fish and salad before having just a bit of the chowder.  But, uh oh, there was an item on the dessert menu called Coffee Affogato - espresso poured over a scoop of dulce de leche ice cream.  We didn't have dessert, but I can't seem to get that out of my mind...

I couldn't resist this cutie, sound asleep although the noise from the construction was deafening.

Seattle's Great Wheel.  What do you think, Mira?

More stairs.  As you can see, we could have crossed the street to take the elevator, but instead we walked up this flight of stairs.  Totally worth it was the view from the top.

I commuted to work on that ferry for many years.  Now I feel a bit nostalgic!

It was a lovely day, and I logged 8,970 steps on my Fitbit  : )

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Fitbit – My New Toy

I have sort of wanted a Fitbit ever since I first heard of it, but I thought $100 was a bit much to spend.  Well, with health and fitness being my first priority this year, I decided to make the investment. 

Do you all know what Fitbit is?  It’s a tracker than you wear like a bracelet, that counts your steps on a daily basis and also tracks your sleep.  It was the sleep-tracking that finally got me convinced to buy it, as I often find myself awake in the middle of the night, and then sleepy when I’d like to be getting up.

Here’s what I got:

 I immediately liked the way the items were packaged, and the fact that they just send everyone the small and large wristbands, so you can try both, rather than having to guess when ordering.  The “owners manual” had just one sentence:  “To setup go to”.  (As with everything these days…)  The setup was slightly less than foolproof, since I had already set up my account ahead of time, so I just had to add the device, but I got it working pretty easily. 

There is a little thing called a “dongle” that provides wireless syncing with the computer.  I just plugged it into the network slot on my Mac, and now when I open my laptop to do anything, the Fitbit on my wrist magically sends the latest data to the Fitbit website server.   (Too techie for you?  You just need to know that you sign onto the website to see your number of steps and sleep stats.)

The Fitbit website is pretty cool.  Once you sign in, you are at your “dashboard” that shows your information.  The first “tile”, or little window, on the dashboard is for “Friends” and I was happy to easily find my two friends who I know use Fitbits – my daughter Melanie, and friend Sharon.  Now in that window I always see their number of weekly steps, motivating me to keep up.  (Sharon is usually way ahead, but Stan and I took a long walk yesterday.  Melanie works full time - doesn't that always get in the way...)  You can see today I've only taken 86 steps - down the stairs, past the coffee pot and into my chair.  Better get moving!

I did think it was a bit odd that I had to add the “tiles” for Steps and Sleep, the two items I am most interested in, which did not show up by default.  However, once I added them, I could drag them to the top so I always see them first.  It’s fun to come back from a walk, and by the time I’ve checked my email or looked at the news, my number of steps has zoomed up to include the walk.

I’m still working at understanding the sleep tracking function.  The Fitbit Help articles explain there are three “modes” of sleep – asleep, awake, and restless.  It detects these based on your amount of movement, and shows a graph of when in the night you were awake, restless or asleep.  Here are my graphs for last week:

During several nights, I have thought I was awake a lot, only to find the graph in the morning says I was sleeping.  I wonder if it thinks I’m asleep when I’m awake but not moving?  There are two sleep settings – normal and sensitive.  So far I’m only using normal, but after I have some data, I’ll switch to sensitive, where even very small movements count as being awake or restless.  There are fancier Fitbit devices that use heart rate as well as  movement to detect sleep.  For my version, called Flex, I tell it when I’m going to sleep and getting up in the morning by tapping it several times, and from there it uses only movement.

  The website also has functions for tracking food and exercise.  I’ve been adding my swimming and weight machines at the gym, but I already know I’m not faithful about entering everything I eat, so I’m not even making the attempt.   It tracks glasses of water separately, and I might track my water for a while, although I know I don’t drink anywhere near 8 glasses per day.  In fact, that is another whole area of research – I have read that it’s not critical to force down a lot of water, as long as one remains hydrated.  So how do you know if you’re properly hydrated?  I’ll save that for another post.

You can track your weight too.  I have only wanted to enter it on the days when it is a new low, not when it is back up again, so I don't have many data points.

Bottom line:  I’m enjoying my Fitbit, though I don’t think it’s a necessary part of getting strong.  It provides that little extra motivation that is so helpful in starting new healthy habits.  I think I would have enjoyed it even more when I was still working – walking to and from the bus and at lunch time, I might have been motivated to get off the bus a few stops away from my office, or taken more stair-climbing breaks.  In retirement, since I am swimming twice a week and doing the weight machines twice a week, I know I won’t meet my weekly goal of 10,000 steps per day.  I can reset the goal to suit myself, or just watch to see if I can get closer.  Aaargh – that would mean actually getting out of this comfy chair by the fire and getting moving

If any of you readers are Fitbit users and want to be my Fitbit friend, please comment! 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Feeling Grateful for my Valentine

Today was both a happy and sad Valentine's Day for us as we attended a memorial service for a good friend who died way too soon.  It was heart-warming to hear all the tributes and funny stories people told about Vicki and her influence on their lives.  It makes me think of how lucky I am in my own life and renews my desire to get strong and healthy, and also to treasure every day I'm here with my family and friends.

I'm so lucky to have Stan for my Valentine!!

He's cooking me a fabulous dinner right now!

I never met Stan's mother, but she sounds like a wonderful and formidable lady.  She came several times from Ireland to visit Stan, and each time she brought some of this collection of Royal Albert china for her son, who chose to make his home in the U. S. 

Wow!  This is filet mignon on top of lobster mashed potatoes with bearnaise sauce and a veal stock, and broccoli.  Yes, I drank the wine - also delicious - Devil's Playground Cabernet Sauvignon by Mark Ryan, the Underground Wine Project.


And I ate a couple of these, too!  Delicious!!  From QFC in Bellevue, they were yummy!

Okay, tomorrow I'm back to my healthy program!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Really Delicious Rosedale Recipe

I'm impressed with how good the recipes are that I've made from the Rosedale Diet book, one of the authorities I'm using for my year of health.  This one is simply called "Black Cod", but the flavor is so much more!  (You don't need black cod either, I've made it with true cod, Pacific cod, and rockfish.  I just pick whichever white fish is fresh and looks best.)  I don't believe I can give you the recipe here without infringing on a copyright, but I'll tell you at the end of the post how to find the recipe online.

Here are the ingredients:

It calls for spinach, but I've also used kale and chard with good results.  It calls for black olives, but I used calamatas because I can buy only the tiny amount I need at the QFC olive bar.  The chopped up white stuff is a garlic clove and the greens are parsley and basil.  You need a little olive oil, too.

Here's how I keep the parsley and basil and they last quite a while.  The basil was one of those packages that have roots in a little cup of dirt.

It takes very little work to get the dish ready for the oven.

And here's the delicious result.  Somehow the lemon juice, olives, basil and parsley blend into a very tangy and delicious sauce.  And it's healthy  : )

I didn't find the recipe on the Rosedale website, but it is included in a .pdf at the publisher's website that is actually an electronic version of most or all of the book.  You can just go to this link for the .pdf and go to page 120 of the .pdf.  Page 120 shows page 265 of the actual book.  Scroll a bit and you will see the recipe for Black Cod, as well as many others.  We liked the Stuffed Peppers, too, on page 277 of the book.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Lunch at The Old Spaghetti Factory

When I read the agenda of my investment club's Saturday workshop and saw we were scheduled for lunch at the Spaghetti Factory, I could almost taste my old favorite dish there.  The Manager's Favorite is a big plate of spaghetti covered half and half with two choices of sauce - I definitely recommend the white clam sauce and brown butter with mizithra cheese!!  Uh oh, I thought, maybe we'd better skip the lunch - I know that's not something I should eat, especially not this year with a blog audience watching.  (See, you all are helping keep me accountable - thanks!)

Realistically, I know an eating plan that requires me to skip an outing with friends is not going to work.  I knew there would be healthier options available, just wasn't sure how I would order at the moment of choice.  Well, you can be proud.  Here's my lunch:

It looked even prettier before I dug in.  I almost forgot to take a photo.

This item was tucked away at the bottom corner of the menu:  Baked Chicken,  served with pasta with brown butter mizithra cheese sauce and marinara sauce.  In other fine print I saw an option to substitute broccoli for pasta in any recipe for $1.50.  Perhaps a bit nickel-and-dimey but hey, this is my health we're talking about!  And I asked for only the brown butter mizithra cheese sauce, which sounded lovely on the broccoli ( and it was).  I also noticed the Spaghetti Factory offers gluten-free pasta, which is good to know.

A few other factors went into my good choice.  First, at our prior meeting, someone had mentioned she would bring cookies to the workshop.  I immediately counter-offered to bring a fruit plate.  So, both goodies were appreciated by everyone and I had a nice fruit snack - I especially love fresh pineapple - so I wasn't starving when we got to the restaurant around 1:30 PM.  A guy in our club ordered a small carafe of wine as his beverage, and then so did Stan.  I'm lucky my desire for wine doesn't kick in that early in the day - I wanted a cup of coffee -  no problem.  I also ordered the salad that came with my meal, with Thousand Island dressing.  Not exactly low-cal, but I knew I wouldn't have to sit there hungry while others ate their salads.  I also knew I wouldn't be able to finish my main course, but the chicken and broccoli would travel home just fine for another meal.

So, I ate half a salad, half a healthy dinner - very tasty - and oops - half a serving of spumoni ice cream...  Okay, maybe not perfect, but a much better choice than I would have made last year.

A side note about my investment club - I actually participate in two clubs at the moment, and both are part of the Better Investing national non-profit organization.  The mission of Better Investing is to educate people about investing for their futures.  At the national level there are many programs and online tools, either free or reasonably priced, for members' education.  There are geographical chapters and both my clubs are part of the Puget Sound chapter, which also has a schedule of educational opportunities, including a yearly Investor Education Conference.  It was during my first attendance at this conference, in 2008, that I realized what a powerful investing methodology I was being introduced to.  While a large focus is on investing in individual companies' stocks, there is also education about retirement planning and investing for folks who don't want to spend the time researching individual companies.

My two clubs are very different.  The Puget Sound Chapter Model Club was formed to be a working club that would provide a model of how to start and run an investment club.  We meet online most of the time, in person three times a year, and our meetings are open to the public via GoToWebinar or in person.  We have guests at every meeting and someone in the chapter follows up with them to offer more information.  In this club are some very experienced members of the chapter board and I'm learning a lot from them.  If you're interesting in listening in, we meet the 3rd Tuesday of each month from 7 - 8:30 PM and links to the meetings are on our chapter website.

 Stan and I are both new members of my other club, Pacific Investors.  It also has some members who are experienced investors, and who are developing a methodology for investing in long call stock options.  This is still in the experimental phase, not having been ongoing for more than a few years, and Stan and I are still learning about it.  We meet in person at the Mercer Island Community Center on the Tuesday evening before the third Saturday of each month, from 7 - 8:30 and guests are always welcome.  There is a lot more info on our website.  I'm very glad I learned about Better Investing and decided to participate.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

What Oil Should I Cook With?

Wow – this started out as a simple question, but I found several differences of opinion and a lot of confusing advice.  I’m not going to debate low-fat vs. high-fat diets here, as I’ve already decided to use The Wahls Protocol and The Rosedale Diet as guides during my year of getting strong, both of which are high in fat and low in grains, but not all carbs.  Here is an earlier post describing my choice.  In addition, in my reading about fat and cooking oil, I checked out the book The Abascal Way to Quiet Inflammation by Kathy Abascal, and websites of the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Andrew Weil and WebMD.

My bottom-line choices:  coconut oil (refined and unrefined), grass-fed butter, olive oil (cold-pressed next time), avocado oil and Stan's duck fat

Dr. Rosedale says the quality of the fat you eat is much more important than the quantity.  Kathy Abascal says fats are important in our bodies.  Every cell membrane is made of fat, as well as membranes around organelles within the cell, and the cell nucleus.   Most of us already know there are two kinds of fats our bodies cannot produce – omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids.  For that reason, they are called “essential fatty acids” and we need to make a real effort in our present day diets to get a high enough ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s.

In paleo times, when people ate wild animals and fish along with leafy greens and berries, the ratio of omega-6s to 3s was about 2:1.  Today our ratio may be as high as 20:1.  Grains and seeds typically have more omega-6 than omega-3, and in addition to eating more grains and corn (a seed high in omega-6s) ourselves, we eat farmed fish and feedlot-raised animals that have been fed diets of grains.

I have some of the symptoms of a poor omega 6 to 3 ratio:  achy joints, cracked nails, dry skin, eczema, fatigue and forgetfulness.  To improve, I can cut back on grains and corn and eat more foods with a good ratio.  Kathy Abascal  recommends leafy greens and berries,  wild fish and grass-fed animals, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and hemp and flax seeds or oil.  Dr. Rosedale especially stresses the importance of fish and fish oil to turn on fat burning, nourish the brain, protect the heart and protect from inflammation and cancer.  Dr. Terry Wahls says “The brain is 60 to 70% fat.  We need healthy fats to make the myelin insulation for the wiring in your brain.”  She recommends wild fish, coconut oil, full-fat coconut milk and avocados.

So, back to the question, what are we to cook with??   

At the website of the Cleveland Clinic there is a list of oils by smoke point.  That is the temperature at which the oil starts to smoke and starts producing toxic fumes and harmful free radicals.  Usually the more refined the oil, the higher the smoke point.  We want to use an oil that remains stable at the temperature it will be heated to for whatever we're cooking.  They make a point that it’s not a good idea to invest in a large variety of oils, as they go rancid fairly quickly.   Get a few, store them in a cool, dry place, and use them while still fresh.  Cleveland recommends olive oil for cooking and canola oil for baking because of its high smoke point and neutral flavor.  (Read on before shopping, however…)

Here’s what I have decided to use for myself:

Olive oil – This has been my go-to oil for many years, as soon as I started reading about health.  We buy extra-virgin olive oil in large bottles and store them in the pantry, with a smaller cool-looking bottle with a spout handy at the stove.  Olive oil is high in omega-9 fats, and doesn’t affect our omega-6 to 3 ratio.  Drs. Rosedale and Weil both recommend it for cooking.  According to an article on the Huffington Post blog, smoke points vary depending on the type of olive oil: Extra Virgin is 320°F, Virgin is 420°F, Pomace is 460°F, and Extra Light is 468°F.  (The article has a lot of info about oils, but it does not focus on the health aspects of each kind.)

Dr. Wahls, however, says “Never heat olive oil!”  Aarrrgh!  She says the best oils for cooking are the most stable – rendered animal fats like lard, tallow or chicken fat, or coconut oil if you must keep it vegetarian.  I have added a jar of coconut oil next to the olive oil by the stove, and I like the flavor it adds to my breakfast egg scramble.  However, realistically, Stan and I will probably continue to cook with olive oil too.  The bottle we have now is not cold-pressed, but I will look for that from now on, as heating the oil in processing is less healthy.

Rendered animal fat – I’m proud to say Stan is ahead of the curve on this one.  He cooks duck and saves the fat for future use.  I was surprised to read in our PCC Co-op newsletter that they not only have duck, cooked and uncooked, but they also sell duck fat.  They say it is a good source of beneficial fats and adds a “rich deep flavor that coats the palate”.  At the end of this post I’ll give you two delicious duck dishes that Stan makes.  A reward for wading through all this technical info!

Organic butter from grass-fed cows – I have read that one dairy item allowed in paleo diets is butter.  My enjoyment of butter has really diminished since I stopped eating toast, but it still adds a good flavor to vegetables, and sometimes my morning eggs.  Stan points out that Irish butter is made from happy grass-fed Irish cows.  (He's Irish.)

Coconut oil – mentioned by Dr. Wahls as the best vegetarian oil for cooking.  I have seen coconut oil and full-fat coconut milk recommended for smoothies, and even in coffee.  I noticed that Whole Foods brand of coconut oil comes in more than one level of refinement and has the temperature limit on the label.  I also noticed that Whole Foods has an article on their website about which oils should be used for various types of cooking.

Macadamia oil – I looked this up only because I have an unopened bottle in the pantry, purchased for some recipe I never got around to trying.  It wasn’t mentioned in my resources, but I found a post on Mark’s Daily Apple extolling the virtues of macadamia oil.  I know Mark is a proponent of the paleo lifestyle, so I’m inclined to trust his judgement about the oil.

Walnut, Avocado and Sesame oils – It sounds like these are fine to use for cooking, however, WebMD says I should have stored my walnut oil in the fridge, and I should throw it away now, as it’s older than 3 months.  Sesame oil is nice for cooking Asian stir-fries.  I've been using toasted sesame oil, and now I learn I should cook with untoasted oil and sprinkle on the toasted oil for flavor at the last minute.

Fish oil and Flax oil – Never cook with these!  They are quite unstable and must be kept refrigerated.  I talked about fish oil in my post on supplements, and I take 1 tablespoon daily.  Flax oil is also high in omega-3s.  I don’t care for the flavor, but I drizzle a little on a salad and then also drizzle on olive oil and the taste doesn’t come through.

Oils to avoid:

We all know to avoid trans fats, found in some margarine, most fast food and especially French fries cooked in reused oil.  What I didn’t realize is that when cooking oils in my own home are heated higher than their smoke point, trans fats can be created.  Cleveland Clinic also warns that cooking sprays may have trans fats even though the label says they don’t, as they may legally be rounded down to zero for a serving size of less than ½ gram.  I bought my spray oil at Whole Foods, and I see it is grapeseed oil, which Cleveland lists as good for high heat.  Spectrum brand now also has a spray of coconut oil that I may try next time.

Canola oil?? – this is a bit tricky as some sources recommend it, but Kathy Abascal warns against it.  Canola oil was originally called rapeseed oil, from the rape plant, and was poisonous due to containing erucic acid.  It was hybridized to remove most (not all) of the erucic acid, and renamed for marketing purposes.  (CANada low OLeic Acid).  It is used often in prepared foods, and is promoted by a strong lobby.  Dr. Wahls says when heated, the omega-3 fatty acids in canola oil break down and become useless to the body.  She also mentions most soybean, corn and canola oils are made from GMOs.  Dr. Andrew Weil, in answer to a question on his blog, says he uses it when he wants a neutral tasting oil, but only organic expeller-pressed canola oil.

Whew.  Thanks for reading all that.  Gotta say, I feel a bit jerked around about what to eat by health officials and the media over the course of my lifetime, having used margarine instead of butter, switched to vegetable oils, and tried to eat as little fat as possible at various times.  I think my Mom, who lived to 93, was right – she said eat everything in moderation.   (She also said, around age 80 or so, that she wouldn’t be buying organic - she needed those preservatives!)

Okay - Two Yummy Duck Recipes from Stan!

Magrets de Canard aux Poires – this one takes a bit of effort, but is very delicious and impressive looking.  I don't have a closeup of the plate but you can click on the photo to see it larger.

Stan with our son-in-law Ben, enjoying duck breast with poached pears

Easy Duck Confit – also very delicious, and I serve it with Charla’s Asian pear butter that she makes from the Asian pear trees in her yard.  You could also use apple butter or current jelly.  (The vegetable with it is Brussels sprouts and apple hash from KCTS9 Cooks.)