Category Archives: general health

Traditional Colombian Food

Colombian cuisine is a fascinating blend of European and American food. The influence of Arabic and Japanese immigrants is distinct as it combines with the bounty of the land, local harvests, and the culture of neighboring countries.

Chicken soup, or sancocho, with corn, potatoes, avocado, and local herbs is a strong contender for “national dish”. Every good cook has a secret recipe, but the soup is universally delicious. If at all possible, make this your first meal in the country for a wonderfully delicious introduction to the soul and culture of Colombia.

Arepa are grilled or fried cornmeal cakes eaten at almost any time of day throughout Latin America. Often made with a soft, cheesy center, arepa are especially delicious with a cup of hot chocolate.

Breads and desserts are an integral part of the cuisine.

Columbia is famous for coffee which most locals drink daily.

Fritanga is a combination of beef, chicken, ribs and sausage, all deep-fried in oil and served on a platter accompanied by potatoes and arepas made of sweet corn. This is a highly popular meal throughout the country.

Bandeja Paisa, or Colombian platter, is an assortment of red beans, ground beef, plantain, sausage, avocado, white rice, and fried egg served, with some variations, across the country.

Cuy, or Guinea Pig, is a traditional dish of the Columbian Andes, Peru and Bolivia. It was a staple of the Inca diet and is highly popular in the highlands and is usually fried or grilled.

Whole roast pig stuffed with rice, vegetables, and pork is a typical Sunday dinner. Sandwiches of the highly seasoned roast leg of pork are popular and delicious favorites.

Empanadas filled with a mixture of meat, potatoes, ground peanuts, hard boiled egg are popular, delicious, and every good cook has a variation. A similar mixture is wrapped in banana leaves and steamed for tamales.

Plantains are important in the diet, as are onions, garlic, pepper, and tomatoes. Beans, peas, and lentils are eaten frequently.

The Colombian forest yields a wide variety of fruit which seems exotic to visitors, but is everyday fare for locals. Freshwater and saltwater fish are abundant, and along the Caribbean coast, whale liver is prized.

Suero, a cross between yogurt and sour cream introduced by Arab immigrants, is widely consumed in the coastal cities. Changua, a milk and egg soup is a popular breakfast.

A visit to Colombia is filled with pleasure and adventure. It is the perfect opportunity to learn new takes on familiar flavors and try foods never before considered.


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Top Cottage Pie Recipe

After much deliberation, I’ve decided to share my cottage pie recipe. My husband loves this dish (they do say the way to a mans heart is through his stomach!) and it is what I usually cook when we have friends over.  My recipe has grown over the years as I’ve picked up helpful tips – like how to ensure the mash doesn’t sink, but this seems to be the finished article and is what I have followed for the last couple of years without any problems.


400g lean or extra lean beef mince (beef for cottage pie, lamb for shepherds pie)
1 medium onion (diced)
2-3 Oxo cubes
2-3 tablespoons of Worcestershire Sauce (can add more if you prefer, I usually do!)
2 medium carrots (diced)
2 heaped tablespoons of frozen peas
Quarter jar of Passatta sauce (sieved tomatoes, if you don’t have any, just pop some chopped tomatoes in a blender for a minute)
Herbs (I usually add a bit of dried parsley, basil & oregano)
Flour (for thickening, so the amount depends)

===Mash topping===

5-6 medium potatoes (any will do, but Maris Pipers are nice for mash and again, the amount depends on size and personal choice)
A few knobs of butter (or utterly butterly which is what I use! Again, the amount depends on your personal taste, or how health conscious you are!)
Splash of milk (not too much or the mash will sink)
Medium cheddar cheese – grated (recommended optional extra and the amount depends on taste)
Pinch of salt


After peeling the potatoes, cut them into large chunks and place into a saucepan. Add just enough water to nearly cover, a pinch of salt and leave to boil for 10 to 12 minutes. Drain them and leave in the saucepan, covered with a tea towel for a further 10 minutes. Add the splash of milk and half of the butter and start mashing! Add the rest of the butter and try to mash out as many lumps as possible, leaving nice and fluffy.

Put the mince into a large saucepan and gently start to brown on the hob. Add the diced onion and crumble two of the oxo cubes over while stirring the meat. Add the Worcestershire sauce and mix again. All the mixing helps to break up the meat and make it tender. When meat has browned, add the carrots, peas, and passatta sauce, mix well, put the lid on and leave on a low heat for 5 minutes, stirring a few times to prevent it sticking. Dissolve the third Oxo cube in some boiled water and pour into the pan. Add the herbs, cover and leave for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, sieve a little four into the pan and stir. Keep doing this until the gravy is a nice thick consistency. Too runny and the mash will sink, too thick and the pie will taste dry.

_Good, but not very scientific tip:_

_The best way to test is to scoop some onto a spoon and let it drop off._
_If it falls off immediately, too runny._
_If it takes 2 seconds or longer, add a little more water._
_If it takes a second – perfect!_

Transfer to a deep baking dish, the one I use is rectangular and measures about 12×10 inches and 4 inches deep. Add the mash on top, I do this by adding a dollop at a time dotted around and then smoothing and evening out with the back of a fork. Don’t apply too much pressure or it will sink. Leave fork grooves in the mash for a nice texture. Spread the grated cheese all over the top and place in the bottom of a preheated oven (180 degrees) for 15-20 minutes.

When it comes out the oven, it should be bubbling and the cheese golden. Serve immediately with green veg, such as broccoli or runner beans.


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Should Cell Phones be Banned in Restaurants – Yes

One-hour service dry cleaners, instant Polaroids, send your pictures over the phone to everyone instantly, instant pudding, instant family, fast food drive-throughs, instant everything…

I think our culture has forgotten simple etiquette and manners in the pursuit of instant-you-name-it! There is no longer any relaxation and unwind time – not even if you are out to the movies or out eating dinner at a posh place anymore. If you can’t be reached instantly, then either people think something is wrong or you are hard to communicate with. What’s so wrong with taking an hour or two to have a nice, quiet meal while enjoying the ambiance and luxury of a leisurely meal? What is so wrong with enjoying the people you are having a meal with? I think we all need to stop a moment and reassess why we have this innate need to always be on the go.

In Europe some places still stop and close for a little while in the afternoon for a siesta or down time…These people seem more healthy mentally, physically and spiritually. You don’t get this high energy stress feeling that without your cell phone the world is going to come to a complete halt and stop because you aren’t “On”. We don’t see these vast amounts of child or adult obesity in the European society or cultures compared to the USA; they still understand the art of rest and relaxation.

Don’t you think it might be time to take the cues from our cousins over the pond and take 10 to sit and relax with our friends and family? Whether it’s at home and you are having “family time”, or out at a restaurant? Why not enjoy friendship, family and the good ole’ art of eye contact and conversation? Why do we need to hear that electronic noise and a little louder than usual talk while out relaxing and enjoying? What is so wrong with good food, good drink and good conversation?

I say it’s high time we learned a little bit of manners from Miss Manners and turn “off” when in a public area. If you are waiting for that next “emergency”, keep it on vibrate and walk outside away from the restaurant eating area and take that call. But don’t insist your emergency takes precedence over my leisurely and relaxing meal that I’m enjoying over candlelight.

I refuse to always be turned “on”. I still remember the days of using pay phones for emergencies and the ability to have my own time to myself without getting these disdainful looks from my friends because I can’t be reached 24×7. Don’t you think it’s time to turn “off” and enjoy a quiet and relaxing meal?


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Shrimp Sandwiches

Shrimp is one of my favorite foods from the sea, and when made in a sandwich, tastes even better. Try this recipe for casual get-togethers or even formal dinners. They’re great as an appetizer and as a simple, yet elegant, introduction to any meal.


You’ll need:

1 1/2 lb. shrimp, deveined, shelled, and halved (and just cooked)
1 small red onion, minced
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 T. celery salt
1/4 c. sour cream
1/4 c. Miracle Whip
1 T. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 T. paprika
2 T. freshly squeezed lime juice
a pinch of salt
1/4 c. freshly cut chives, chopped fine

slices of white bread
1 T. butter
1/2 T. Italian seasoning

1. Prepare the white bread by using a round cookie cutter and cutting a circle out of each slice. Toast each circle. In the meantime, mix together butter and Italian seasoning. Spread thinly on each slice.

2. Mix together all of the other ingredients, ensuring that the shrimp is fully dressed. Using a tablespoon, scoop out the filling and place on one bread circle. Top with another bread circle. Garnish with chives.


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Traquair Jacobite Ale Review

Traquair Jacobite Ale is a Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy from Traquair House, Peeblesshire Scotland and is 8% alcohol by volume. The beer pours a very dark, semi-opaque brown color with few highlights showing through in the light. The head is somewhat thin and light brown in color. This beer gives little away in it’s appearance and the opacity of the beer hides any active carbonation save for the meager head atop the murky brew.

The nose is a marvel. Rich and sweet, as a Scotch ale ought to smell, but the addition of copious amounts of coriander take this beer in an entirely different direction than almost any other beer I can think of at the moment, regardless of style. I can detect sweet molasses notes and maybe a touch of whiskey – Scotch whiskey, not bourbon, as there is almost a hint of peat here as well. Then there is the incredible coriander aromas dominating the nose from start to finish. A hypnotic beer to smell.

The palate is almost as amazing as the nose. Almost. The coriander hits you right up front, almost like an aggressively hopped beer might. This one isn’t aggressively hopped, of course, and maintains a consistency with the wee heavy style for the most part. I just can’t shake the overwhelming impact of the coriander here though. Not that it is too strong, but rather it is simply pervasive. Without the unique flavors the coriander imparts, this might be a basic, run of the mill wee heavy in most respects – just kind of malty and blah. With the coriander, however … wow. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this beer complex, but it is certainly very unique in my experience. I taste very little of the 8% ABV in the mouth. If I didn’t know better, I’d think it was a much lower gravity beer.

This ale is substantially thinner in body than I expected it to be … it even looks much heavier than it actually is. A warm ale, but nothing akin to the “warming burn” you might get from some Scotch ales. The thin body betrays the respectable ABV and causes you to think you’re drinking a much lighter, smaller beer. Both wee and heavy, it appears. The finish is light, dry and slightly sour/acidic. The coriander won’t let you forget it is there and lingers long in the mouth. Never harsh, this beer is slick and surprisingly clean in the finish.

This is an incredible beer, in my opinion. Truly unlike any scotch ale/wee heavy I’ve sampled. I believe this beer is worth the price for the nose alone … I found myself sniffing it with startling frequency all the way until the glass was empty. Like any aromatic ale, the aromas blossomed as the beer warmed to ambient temperature. A little thicker, fuller mouth feel would be my only critique of this beer and this isn’t something I’d be wont to fight over. Mark my words, I will buy more of this beer. If you see it about, you should too. Excellent!


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Should Tipping in Restaurants be Banned – No

According to the definition of gratuity states that it is “something given voluntarily or beyond obligation usually for some service.” Tipping, although is not required, should not be banned from restaurants. Gratuity is something of a tradition that has become the norm in many places, found most common in the United States. There are many reasons that this ban would negatively affect the service industry. First, those in the hospitality industry know that if they do not give their best service, their income will be directly affected. Second, why ban something that is not obligatory? Finally, customers decide what the gratuity amount is, if any, therefore, they hold the power.

Every server knows that if they’re not putting out their best, they’re not going to get the green. A server makes or breaks their income levels. If gratuity is taken away from this industry and flat wages are established, sit down restaurant service will become nothing more than what is expected from fast food restaurants. When going to McDonalds, it is very common that your order will be unsatisfactory, the service will be at best mediocre and the majority of employees are high school students who could care less about the job. Tipping gives employees something to strive for, to put a smile on every customer’s face and to make sure that everything about their dining experience is nothing less than their best.

In our world we have many options and it is up to an individual to decide whether we choose to do them or not. For example, charitable donations are optional, yet ads are found at many check-out lines, on television, as well as all over the internet, which are all highly suggestive. Should these promotions be banned? Should all charitable organizations be shut down? The answer is no, because an individual has the option to choose whether it is something that they wish to do. As far as tipping relates, if it is not a mandatory law, then why in the world would we ban it? Many people get a good feeling when tipping for a service done well. Society knows that gratuity is highly suggested in the restaurant industry, so if money is an issue, maybe it is best to eat at home. There is absolutely no reason to ban something that is merely suggested.

The power is in your hands. If tipping becomes banned from restaurants, then it becomes the task of the business to compensate for the additional wages they would have to supply to their employees, which in turn, means higher prices. Why let the business control the extra dollar amount when it is already in the customers’ hands? If given unacceptable service while dining, tip accordingly and do not repeat business at that establishment. If the general public is under the notion that it is mandatory to leave gratuity, then it is nothing more than ignorance of the subject matter. Furthermore, “added gratuities” for large parties although are added to the end bill, are also not required and can be refused at anytime.

The service industry is not an easy place to work if you wish to survive. Employees must deal with the pressure of providing a perfect dining experience for every customer, and let’s face it; people are not easy to please. Tipping provides incentive for workers; it provides options for customers and keeps the cost of the food down. In many occupations, workers are rewarded for services given above and beyond what is expected and it comes out of the customers pocket in one way or another. Let the decision rest in the hands of the customer, not in the hand that feeds them.


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Restauraunts Posting Nutritional Values – Yes

Obesity is one of the leading causes of health problems in the U.S. today. “Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater. BMI is calculated from a person’s weight and height and provides a reasonable indicator of body fatness and weight categories that may lead to health problems. Obesity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes (1).”

My life has been touched significantly with those who have diabetes. My grandfather, my stepmother, and my husband all have or have had diabetes. My husband is 36 years old, and due to his diabetes, has been put out of work and has been declared disabled.

. “Eighty-one percent of counties in the Appalachian region that includes Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia have high rates of diabetes and obesity.  So do three-quarters of counties in the southern region that includes Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina (1).”  

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, over the past several years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people who are considered obese (see information below).

2008 State Obesity Rates


Alabama 31.4%, Illinois 26.4 %, Montana 23.9%, Rhode Island 21.5%, Alaska 26.1%, Indiana 26.3%, Nebraska 26.6%, South Carolina 30.1%, Arizona 24.8%, Iowa 26.0%, Nevada 25.0%, South Dakota 27.5%, Arkansas 28.7%, Kansas 27.4%, New Hampshire 24.0%, Tennessee 30.6%, California 23.7%, Kentucky 29.8%, New Jersey 22.9%, Texas 28.3%, Colorado 18.5%, Louisiana 28.3%, New Mexico 25.2%, Utah 22.5%, Connecticut 21.0%, Maine 25.2%, New York 24.4%, Vermont 22.7%, Delaware 27.0%, Maryland 26.0%, North Carolina 29.0%, Virginia 25.0%, Washington DC 21.8% Massachusetts 20.9%, North Dakota 27.1%, Washington 25.4%, Michigan 28.9%, Ohio 28.7%, West Virginia 31.2%, Georgia 27.3%, Minnesota 24.3%, Oklahoma 30.3%, Wisconsin 25.4%, Hawaii 22.6%, Mississippi 32.8%, Oregon 24.2%, Wyoming 24.6%, Idaho 24.5%, Missouri 28.5%, Pennsylvania 27.7%,

 As Americans, we need to become more conscientious about the foods that we take into our body. We as a nation, have become obsessed with super-sizing our meals and not considering the consequences of what effects it will have on our bodies.

Restaurants should have to put out nutritional information on what we are consuming. This is our lives and we should have the right to know what we are putting into our bodies. Products we purchase at the grocery store are required to provide nutritional value on their labels, therefore restaurants should have to provide the same information.

I know from experience how difficult it is to eat in a restaurant with a diabetic. They have to account for each and every carbohydrate that they eat. Their lives depend on it. If restaurants would put the nutritional value on the menu, then people can make informed decisions about what they put into their body.

I realize that some people do not care how many calories or carbohydrates that they eat. They can still make the choice of ordering the same foods that they would have had without the nutritional information provided. I want the choice to be able to choose, and make a choice that is educational and knowledgeable.

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Egg salad is a very common Spring and Summer time food that is most commonly used as a sandwich spread. As with any recipe, there are many different variations of egg salad.

Egg Salad

4 chopped hard-boiled eggs
1/4 cup Real Mayonnaise
1 celery stalk cleaned and chopped into fine pieces
1 small sweet onion chopped finely
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

In a medium sized bowl, toss the egg and celery pieces together gently. Set the bowl aside.

In a small mixing bowl, mix mayonnaise, lemon juice, onion, salt and pepper. Mix well. Pour mixture into the egg and celery mixture and mix them well by tossing gently. Chill for one hour before eating.

Egg salad can be spread onto bread to form a sandwich, or spread onto crackers.


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The Truth about Restaurant Food or the Health Risks in Eating out or Neighborhood Restaurants

While sanitation is the first thing that comes to mind when eating at restaurants, there are relatively unknown facts about restaurant food quality one should also consider.  Most diners who have never been in a commercial restaurant kitchen assume that the Chef is in the kitchen supervising the preparation of food from scratch.  In most commercial restaurant kitchens, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

The fact is that much of the food supplied to commercial restaurants via large commercial food suppliers is processed and contains many highly questionable ingredients.  It may come as a shock to many diners that the “soup du jour” could be prepared by adding water to a packet which is full of preservatives, chemicals and salt.  Food preparation steps have been over-simplified in many large restaurant kitchens so that someone with relatively no cooking skills is able to produce a meal.  Although the end result certainly tastes better than many pre-prepared foods offered to shoppers at grocery stores, don’t be misled into thinking that there is someone back in the kitchen dipping those fries into a home made batter before frying them.

Restaurants utilize many tricks of the trade in making food appear to be freshly made when it is actually prepared at a factory and frozen.  Even fresh oysters are now shucked and flash frozen so that restaurant staff can simply thaw out their anticipated usage each morning.  Entrees such as veal parmesan and cordon bleu are prepared in a factory and kept in a freezer until a customer places an order and then baked or pan fried.  Desserts such as cheesecake and chocolate cake are supplied to the restaurant in extra large refrigerated packages and sliced or sometimes garnished on-site.    

What can a diner do to ensure that the food is fresh and not processed?  Ask someone that you trust.  Many servers are short term employees and simply don’t care about the consequences of lying to a customer.  If you really want to know something about the food you’re being served, ask an owner or manager which foods are fully prepared on-site.

Along with food quality, sanitation is of utmost importance.  Many diners frequently become ill 24 to 48 hours after a meal and have no idea that the origin of their illness may have been the result of contaminated food. 

The good news is that many of the same large chain establishments that serve much of the over processed foods typically follow strict sanitation guidelines and the kitchen is usually clean and in good order.  Because very few items are actually made on premises, cleanliness is not as much of a problem as in smaller, locally owned restaurants.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that because a restaurant has a high rating and is pricey that their kitchen is clean.  I have personally inspected dozens of highly acclaimed restaurants in my career that were full of rodents and did not practice good sanitation.

Having owned a restaurant myself I can honestly tell you that if a kitchen is clean and in good condition, a restaurant owner or manager will not have any qualms about letting you take a peek at the kitchen before you place an order.    Proprietors will also come clean if asked about which foods are freshly prepared.  My best advice when dining out is to frequent neighborhood establishments that will permit you in their kitchen, if requested and develop a relationship with the proprietor.


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There are quite a few different coffee machines on the market, and the Tassimo machine is one known as a ‘pod’ machine, although Tassimo refer to their pods as discs.  This means you buy discs of tea, coffee, milk, hot chocolate etc. in the supermarket, pop one into the machine, and it makes the drink for you.  A very simple process, but is the Tassimo machine good?

First of all when you get the machine, you need to be very careful to read the instructions. You might be very eager, like I was, to just whack a disc in and make your first latte, however you have to go through a cleaning process first. You get a ‘cleaning’ disc with your tassimo machine, which is basically a piece of plastic with a barcode on. The water tank needs to be filled up to the top with clean, fresh water, then pop in the cleaning disc and put a cup under the nozzle. It will fill the cup with hot water, then you must empty and repeat the process until the tank is empty. Then you are ready to start using your machine.

Making a drink is a very simple process. Simply get your disc, pop it in the top, and wait for the Green light to show which means it’s ready to go. The orange light means it’s heating up the water. So you press the big button and it makes a drill like sound out at, splurts out a bit coffee then stops. You might think at this point something has gone wrong, however Tassimo assures that this is normal, and a few seconds later a gentle drill like sound (not not that loud!) and your drink is pumping into your cup. Your cup gets about half way full then the process stops. This is one annoying part with the Tassimo machine. They argue that the amount of drink produced is making the ‘perfect’ drink. Tassimo must think we all drink from very tiny tea cups! Luckily, you can hold the big button in, and manually make it continue pumping further so you can fill your mug properly, although it’s advisable to stop a slight way from the top as when you leave go it continues for a couple of seconds more, and you need room for your milk!
Another problem I have found with the Tassimo machine is that the coffee’s are often not very hot to my liking. They argue that the drink is made to the perfect temperature, and you can’t change the temperature of the water it decides is ‘perfect’ for your drink. This problem seems to be mostly with coffee, so we often have to whack our drinks in the microwave for a few seconds if we want them any hotter. The tea’s and hot chocolate have seemed fine though.

There are a wide range of discs in most supermarkets. I have seen them in Morrisons, Asda, Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s and they sometimes have an offer on of getting 4 for £10 (they are usually about £3-£3.50 each.)
Unfortunately my favourite, earl gray, is not sold in the shops but I have been able to get this on eBay. If you want to order off the Tassimo shop then you need to spend a minimum of £5, and the postage charge is high, but free over £20. I haven’t used this service yet, but I suppose it’s good if you want to order a large batch of discs you can’t get in the shops!
My favourite discs are earl gray, suchard hot chocolate and the cafe latte drinks (which you get an espresso disc, and a milk disc, so nice frothy coffee!).

I recommend when you get your Tassimo machine to register it on the website. You get sent a voucher for a free pack of discs, and since joining I’ve also had another voucher for 50p off a pack of discs so it’s worth while.

All in all a simple coffee machine for people who want coffee/tea quickly/


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Spinach Lasagna Roll Ups

I had a bunch of left over homemade Marinara sauce the other day and had this yen for spinach. So as usual I played in the kitchen and came up with these. The kids even loved them!

I greased a large pan say about 13×9 on the bottom then spread some sauce. Here’s the recipe I made up


12 boil type lasagna noodles

Approx. 2-3 C Marinara sauce

1- 10 oz. pkg. Chopped Spinach -defrosted and drained well

2 shallots finely diced or 1/3 C. finely diced onion

2 tbsp. butter

1-15 oz. tub whole milk ricotta

8 oz. mozzarella shredded I find it nicer in consistency if you buy it whole and grate yourself

1/4 c Parmesan, Asagio, Romano, or a Three cheese combination

1 Egg (slightly beaten)

1/3 c pine nuts (optional)

Squeeze of lemon

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Salt/pepper to taste

Preheat oven 375

1.Boil water in a large pan add a touch of olive oil and salt in the water, add 12 lasagna noodles boil approx. 8 minutes and then drain off and then run cool water over them and let them sit in a little bit of the cooled water as you assemble the ricotta mixture and cook the spinach.

2. Melt butter and lightly saute the shallots (1/3 c onion works too)
Near the end when onions are sweated and beginning to go

translucent, add pine nuts and lightly brown. Then add

spinach and use a fork to combine all together with lemon juice approx. 2 Tbsp.

warm through and then let it cool while you assemble the rest.

3. In a large bowl combine the ricotta, slightly beaten egg,

Mozzarella and Asagio/Parmesan/Romano/ or the three cheese mix. Mix in the Spinach mixture.

4. Add Nutmeg, Salt & pepper to your taste.

(Keep a little Mozzarella and Parmesan to the side to top off the rolls.Approx. 1/4 c mozzarella, and some Parmesan to sprinkle on top too.)

5. On a cutting board lay out a paper towel, take one of your boiled

noodles and blot it dry then take a couple tablespoons of the

spinach mixture and spread across the noodle. Roll it up as tightly as you can and lay seam side down in your baking dish repeat till you are out of noodles.

6. Take the balance of your sauce and cover the rolls then top off with the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan/Romano

7. Cover and bake 35 minute

When you take it out let it sit 3-4 minutes This way the cheese won’t ooze out the minute you touch it…



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Sommelier more than an Occupation

Who is a sommelier and what to expect from him ?

Undoubtedly a very special occupation. If the core of every occupation is to match a product to a craft there are indeed some occupations that require more than a technical response to the handling of the product(s) you are in charge of. For example, are you an engineer or a brick-layer ? By nature, you are supposed to deliver the product required by your end-buyer.

To a sommelier, things are totally different since you are permanently working on a living matter ( the wine), the chemistry of which in bottles still remains a mystery. You are supposed to raise your occupation to the level of an art remaining difficult to understand, except by those who have a knowledge of wines.. As a matter of fact, the sommelier is supposed to move your mind from the simple angle of drinking to a fantastic insight into the world of wines: in fact, words, adjectives, adverbs used to put you on the right track for the best wine to accompany your dinner will take you off from the restaurant environment, namely from basic reality, even though you have chosen a luxurious venue, to the world of imagination through poetry with the discovery of the Unexpected.  You stepped in this restaurant to enjoy dinner with a good wine and are now called to listen to unusual words, the words of poetry.

Sommeliers have their words to depict wines. As a result, the sommelier transcends the wine he is suggesting to you. At this particular moment when your attention is called to choosing your wine, he is out in space opening up his book of knowledge to you. Listen to a sommelier then or ask questions from him and he will be delighted to reveal his knowledge of wines as he is a poet and you will probably realize that a great sommelier has had to digest up to or over 3,000 different wines, tasting notes and experiences to make him what he is.

Entering a restaurant where a sommelier is on duty means entering a great restaurant with great wines in cellar and pushing a door leading to a great « cuisine ». Is there a simple wine for a simple dinner in this place? If a sommelier has been hired, this is indeed proof of a real investment to the benefits of customers, may we say high-profiles, the beginning of an experience, whether or not you are a connoisseur.

You did not walk into this place because you were hungry. You did it to have moments of joy with your guests but also because your imagination stands ready for the experience of a great meal along with a great wine under the supervision of a great man!

A sommelier will become great given his vast knowledge of the world of wines, the wine-making regions, his knowledge of old vintages, his capability to answer questions immediately and to give proper recommendations. All of his past tasting sessions are stored in the depth of his memory and remain readily available upon request. In building up his experience through tastings and a diploma to confirm his accreditation as a sommelier, he will be entitled to a fair compensation. Is this luxury ?

For many of us, the sommelier is this very smart character who knows how to entertain guests and tells without hesitation about a wine, leading the guests to choose the wine in adequation with the dish of their choice. But the information technology and management have evolved and so has the sommelier. He has more to say, more to offer to prove his expertise.  He is also the cellar manager, in charge of suppliers’ orders, receipt of wines, careful storage, classification, multiple tastings, travels abroad to visit estates, checks his budget and reports to Management.

This mysterious figure who knows so much about wines becomes therefore by turns a manager-sommelier, a taster-sommelier, a traveller-sommelier, a forecaster-sommelier.

He who can offer so much experience in a smart and friendly way will no doubt be a great sommelier. But he who has reached this prestigious height is bound to  climb higher for there will always be more harvests and new vintages to come up.

 “As you have reached the top of the mountain, carry on climbing up to the summit” (chinese saying).


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