Saturday, December 31, 2016

Top doctors list best ways to stay healthy for the new year or any year

Organic tomatoes at the new Whole Foods Market in Closter.


AARP has been far from consistent on just what people 50 and older should do to stay healthy.

But the AARP Bulletin sent to members this month lists leading health professionals' guidance on nutrition, fitness and making smart everyday choices.

You'll find "Best Advice from Top Docs" on Pages 24-25 of the December 2016 bulletin.

Daily living

The everyday lifestyle adjustments most important for general health:
  • Take a daily 30-minute walk (the only choice selected by every doctor surveyed).
  • Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night.
  • Spend time each day with a friend or loved one.
  • Reduce your consumption of junk food, such as cookies and chips.
  • Cut back on refined carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, white rice).

100% organic whole wheat spaghetti, available at ShopRite, Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe's, is a healthy alternative to regular pasta and other refined carbohydrates.

 Eating habits

Change these harmful eating habits to improve your long-term health:
  • Drinking soda at most meals and for snacks.
  • Eating several fast-food restaurant meals each week, eating two or fewer servings of vegetables each day; and bingeing on pizza, hot wings, nachos or other 'social foods' a few times per week.
  • Eating ice cream, cake, doughnuts or other sweets every day.
Lifestyle choices

Lifestyle habits or patterns most harmful to a person's long-term health:
  • Smoking cigarettes.
  • Not exercising
  • Feeling perpetually lonely or socially isolated
  • Ignoring health problems or symptoms.
  • Taking painkillers every day; and being angry, worried or stressed more often than feeling happy.

A survey of some of the nation's leading health professionals is published on Pages 24-25 of the AARP Bulletin, a sister publication of AARP The Magazine.

"I would argue for 'Eat less meat and more plants,'" says Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center.

Ignore 'Eat This/Not That!'

An example of AARP's bad advice on nutrition was published in the non-profit group's April/May 2016 issue of AARP The Magazine.

"Eat This/Not That!" listed only fast-food and chain restaurants that serve low-quality meat and poultry raised with big doses of harmful antibiotics, and recommended unhealthy meals with lots of unwanted sugar, cholesterol or saturated fat.

AARP is the former American Association of Retired Persons.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Going off the menu at Lotus Cafe in Hackensack: 7 courses for $26

When you order an off-menu Dinner for Six at Lotus Cafe in Hackensack, one of the seven courses is South Pacific Prawns -- large shrimp pan fried in the shell with shallots, garlic, ginger, scallion and peppercorn. 

Editor's note: There are many reasons I seem to be eating out mainly at Asian restaurants. Most are BYOs, so I don't have to worry about getting gouged for a $12 glass of wine, the chef isn't sneaking butter into my food, and the abundance of seafood and vegetables is good for me.


The kitchen at Lotus Cafe, a Chinese BYO in Hackensack, really shines when you ask for a separate Special Prix Fixe Dinner and Banquet Menu.

The single sheet of paper offers multi-course dinners for four to 12 people -- five to 10 courses, plus dessert ($79 t0 $358 before tax and tip).

The price-fixed menu, which includes bigger portions of some chef's specialties and other a la carte dishes from the regular menu, offers especially good value.

On Tuesday night, six of us paid $26 each, including tax and a 20% tip, for a seven-course dinner, plus dessert.

Adding a small bowl of brown rice, I was pleasantly full, even though I didn't eat three courses with beef or poultry. 

We drank our own prosecco, beer or red wine, plus a couple of pots of tea.

Working on Banquet for 12

I've enjoyed this price-fixed menu over the years for up to eight people on such special occasions as my birthday or anytime I can get together four or more people.

I'm still working on assembling enough people to order one of the two 10-course banquets listed on the special menu.

No pre-ordering is necessary beyond a reservation, and you'd have no problem working with the friendly staff on a multi-course dinner without meat, if others in your group are amenable. 

Also, don't worry about the red pepper that designates spicy dishes on the regular menu: 

You'd have to ask the kitchen to turn up the heat, if you want food that approaches the spiciness of Korean or Thai dishes.

Lotus Cafe, which opened in 1993, uses 100% vegetable oil and no MSG, and the regular menu offers steamed dishes without oil, salt or cornstarch.

Dinner for Six also includes Three Cup Chicken Casserole. Chunks of poultry are braised in a cup of rice wine, a cup of sesame oil and a cup of brown sauce with ginger, basil and chili pepper.

Filet of Sole with White Chive was one of the most popular dishes at our dinner.

One of my friends said the Crispy Aromatique Duck was good, but dry.

Our Dinner for Six started with Seafood and Tofu Chowder, which isn't on the regular menu.

Our fifth course was Beef with Chili Pepper & Mustard Green.

We had a choice of vegetables and went with flavorful Snow Pea Leaves.

After our meal, I only had room for fresh orange wedges, but my friends enjoyed spoonfuls of green tea and other ice creams, below.


Lotus Cafe, 450 Hackensack Ave., in the Home Depot Shopping Center, Hackensack; 201-488-7070.
BYO, large parking lot.

Free delivery within 3 miles ($12 minimum).

Monday, December 26, 2016

Mini oyster festival at BCD Tofu, a sweet ending at Simply Vietnamese

A combo of Oyster Deluxe Rice (topped with Ginko Nuts and Seaweed) and Tofu Soup, above and below, was the Chef's Special on Saturday afternoon at BCD Tofu House in Fort Lee, a Korean restaurant that boasts a bigger menu than its North Jersey rivals.
I asked for my tofu soup with only seafood, including oysters, instead of the beef-seafood combination that comes with the Oyster Rice.


Organic tofu, free side dishes that include a scrumptious fried fish and a varied menu are just three reasons BCD Tofu House in Fort Lee stands out among its Korean comfort-food competitors.

You pay a couple of dollars more for a complete meal of organic soft-tofu soup, fresh egg, complimentary side dishes and rice, but you get more ($11.99 at lunch). 

On Saturday, this oyster lover was drawn immediately to a Chef's Special -- a lunch combo of Oyster Deluxe Rice with Tofu Soup, plus seven side dishes, a belly busting meal I couldn't finish ($16.99 plus $1 for an all-seafood tofu soup).

My ravenous son also ordered too much:

The LA Gochujang Pork Combo -- marinated pork belly cooked in the kitchen with a spicy red-pepper paste, and Tofu Soup, but he asked for the standard size of soft-tofu soup and was charged a la carte ($20.99 plus $11.99) instead of the combo price of $18.99.

We took home leftovers, including a couple of wedges of the terrific Haemul Pajun or Seafood Pancake, which is made with squid, small shrimp and scallions ($9.99).

Seven side dishes, including crunchy broccoli, seaweed, cabbage kimchi and shredded radish, come with every meal.

The fried, batter-dipped yellow croaker is so popular extras cost $1 each, unlike the other side dishes, which are replenished for free.

In addition to side dishes, you get a fresh egg to crack into the bubbling broth of the soft-tofu soup.

Spicy LA Gochujang Pork.

BCD Tofu's rice-flour Seafood Pancake is one of the best I've ever had.

One of the bonuses of the Oyster Rice prepared in a hot stone bowl is a crunchy crust.
We encountered a short line on Saturday a little after noon. No reservations are taken. Parents can monitor the children's playroom from flat-screen TVs in the dining room.

BCD Tofu House is part of a Korean chain with restaurants in Los Angeles, New York and New Jersey. In Fort Lee, the restaurant is at 1640 Schlosser St., in the shopping center that once had a Barnes & Noble bookstore and cafe; 1-201-944-2340. Open 7 days, large parking lot, playroom for children.

As a loyal customer of Simply Vietnamese in Tenafly, I received a complimentary Vietnamese Coffee at the end of our meal last Tuesday. Strong black coffee drips into a glass with sweet condensed milk.

Simply Vietnamese

At Simply Vietnamese, my wife can't resist a bowl of Pho with Pork ($12), made with an anise-flavored broth that sets its apart from all other Asian noodle soups.

As for me, my weight has been creeping up lately, so I was trying to avoid all the carbs in the rice noodles.

I ate modestly -- an appetizer of Broiled New Zealand Mussels ($9.50), a side of Bok Choy sauteed in garlic sauce ($6.50) and a small bowl of brown rice ($2).

You get 10 green-lipped mussels with a wasabi-ginger sauce.

A side of Bok Choy comes with fresh cilantro.

I ate my brown rice and bok choy wth a spoon.

More fresh cilantro floats atop the beef broth in Pho with Pork, and it's also part of the garnish that comes on the side (with bean sprouts, fresh lime and sliced jalapeno pepper), below.

The addictive shrimp chips and chili sauce are complimentary.
Simply Vietnamese, 1 Highwood Ave., Tenafly, is a BYO; 1-201-568-7770. Open 7 days, free street parking.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

At our holiday feast, we throw in the towel a couple of fish short of mark

TODAY'S FIRST FISH: Lobster Bisque from Costco Wholesale in Teterboro with a pinch of Aleppo red pepper.


After I gave up meat and poultry, the Italian-American Feast of the Seven Fishes has always been my idea of a great celebratory meal.

OK. So I took a little liberty, serving the feast on Christmas Day instead of Christmas Eve.

And both me and my son just didn't have room for the Sixth and Seventh Fish -- organic whole-wheat pasta with sardines and anchovies.

And if purists insist that I shouldn't have had lobster twice, I offer up the egg-white omelet I had for breakfast today -- stuffed with wild Alaskan smoked sockeye salmon and reduced-fat Swiss cheese.

SECOND AND THIRD FISH: Salads of fresh-cooked live lobster and canned wild Alaskan pink salmon, both dressed with fresh lime juice, Dijon mustard and seasonings. 
$8.99 A POUND AT SHOPRITE IN PARAMUS: I boiled three live lobsters weighing a total of 3.95 pounds for 12 minutes, and used the tender claw, knuckle and tail meat to make the lobster salads.
FOURTH FISH: A Maryland-style jumbo lump crab cake, with a spoonful of basil pesto, both from Costco.

TRADER JOE'S STUFFED LOBSTER HALF: We had only one frozen crab cake left so I served my son a frozen item from Trader Joe's in Paramus, a shell stuffed with lobster, crab and langostino.
FIFTH FISH: Live Prince Edward Island Mussels, also from the Paramus ShopRite, cooked quickly in a covered pot with chicken broth, sesame oil, sake, fresh tomatoes, and chopped garlic, sweet pepper, celery and scallion.
SIXTH AND SEVENTH FISH: Our final course in today's Feast of the Seven Fishes was supposed to be leftover organic whole wheat pasta spirals (ShopRite) with Moroccan sardines (Fattal's in Paterson) and fresh spinach, dressed in Trader Joe's Puttanesca Sauce, which is made with anchovy paste. This is a portion I had on Friday night.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Members don't always welcome constant change at Costco Wholesale

On Tuesday, when I went searching for the Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix I have been buying from Costco Wholesale for years, I found another brand, above and below.
The price, $4.79 for a 1-pound package, was the same, but when I made a salad at home, I didn't find the organic radicchio or arugula I've enjoyed in the Earthbound Farm mixture.


I try to eat a salad after dinner every night, and probably go through more than 50 pounds of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix a year.

Costco Wholesale always has the best price -- under $5 -- and a 1-pound package lasts me about a week.

On Tuesday, I walked into a cold room at the Teterboro warehouse in search of Earthbound Farm and found another brand, Wholesome Garden.

I enjoyed the salad I made that night, but missed a couple of ingredients I usually find in the Earthbound Farm mixture.

At the fish case, I searched in vain for the long-line caught cod fillets from Iceland that are one of my favorites.

I planned to poach the skinless-and-boneless wild cod in a Mexican-style salsa from Whole Foods Market, but settled for another wild-caught fish from Iceland, flounder, at only $7.99 a pound.

Going, going, gone

I've learned to roll with the punches at Costco Wholesale, which runs out of, moves, stops selling or substitutes another product for a surprisingly large number of items.

I waited years for Costco to sell lactose-free milk, but all of sudden, the product disappeared from the refrigerated case, never to return.

I loved the 16-ounce cartons of Kirkland Signature 100% Egg Whites, but again, they disappeared for many months before returning this year.

The Egg Beaters the warehouse stocked instead were a lot more expensive than Costco's own product.

And where oh where are the Frankly Fresh Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves -- delicious when heated -- that I found at Costco several years ago?

One change for the better was when Costco started selling only cage-free whole and liquid eggs.

At the Teterboro Costco on Tuesday, only three of the fish fillets were wild caught.
The Teterboro Costco has started baking its own baguettes (2 for $4.99) and other specialty loaves every day, above and below. But the retail store at Balthazar Bakery on South Dean Street in Englewood sells a superior baguette for only $2 each.

Last week, my wife got a refund at Costco for a 5-pound bag of Moroccan Clementines, which we didn't like. On Tuesday, I bought a 5-pound bag of small, sweet clementines from Spain for $5.49. Today at the Super H Mart in Ridgefield, a 5-pound box of Bagu Clementines was $6.99.

My son, a dedicated carnivore, couldn't resist a 6-pound package of Seasoned St. Louis Ribs ($2.49 a pound), 5-plus pounds of Coleman Organic Chicken Drumsticks ($1.99 a pound) and a rack of Kirkland Signature Lamb Chops from Australia ($9.99 a pound).
I enjoy sunny side up Kirkland Signature Organic Eggs served over Kirkland Signature Organic Quinoa. Costco now sells 2 dozen cage-free organic brown eggs for a lower price, $5.99, and the house-brand organic quinoa comes in a larger bag (4.5 pounds instead of 4 pounds) for less than the national brand Costco once sold.
Thick Icelandic flounder fillets from Costco poached in under 10 minutes in a covered pan after I brought to a boil a 16-ounce jar of Roasted Chipotle Salsa from Whole Foods Market, a few ounces of chicken broth and fresh lemon juice.
I ate my flounder over leftover organic quinoa, which I prepared in an electric rice cooker with Kirkland Signature Organic Diced Tomatoes, black-eyed peas and olive oil.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Spicy monkfish with organic mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes and olives

Monkfish coated in Asian-Indian and other spices is ready in 20 minutes when popped into a preheated 400-degree oven with fresh spinach, organic mushrooms, tomato, olives and grated cheese.

Editor's note: Heart-healthy food doesn't have to be boring, as you can see from two easy to assemble dishes -- a quick-cooking Fish & Vegetable Medley, and a sweet-and-savory egg-white frittata.


My plan to prepare a quick-cooking fish-and-vegetable dish hit a snag last week when my wife went to Costco Wholesale and was told the usual shipment of Icelandic fish hadn't arrived.

That meant the Teterboro warehouse store on Tuesday was offering only farmed tilapia fillets from Colombia, and had no wild-caught cod or haddock.

Plan B was going to the Whole Foods Market in Paramus not far from our home, and seeing if the best fish counter in North Jersey had any fillets on sale for $7.99 or $8.99 a pound -- the usual price for Icelandic fish at Costco.

No luck, but whole monkfish tails, which plump up in the oven and have the texture of lobster, were an easy to swallow $11.99 a pound.

I only needed a pound to make a big dinner for two with fresh spinach, organic mushrooms, fresh Campari Tomatoes and chopped pitted olives.

I coated the fish in Asian-Indian and other spices, which I keep in a container in the refrigerator to bread chicken and beef, as well as seafood.

Then, I assembled the ingredients in a pan lined with parchment paper, drizzling the spinach with extra-virgin olive oil. 

I squeezed fresh lemon juice and sprinkled grated cheese over everything, and put the pan into a preheated 400-degree oven.

Dinner was ready 20 minutes later.

Fresh fish fillets on ice at Whole Foods Market in the Bergen Town Center mall in Paramus.
A Fish & Vegetable Medley I prepared on Dec. 1 began with fresh spinach drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, above.

I preheated the oven to 400 degrees while I assembled the other ingredients. 

One pound of monkfish fed two people with leftovers.
For a frittata, you'll need to boil skin-on slices of a medium to large sweet potato until they are fork tender. Meanwhile, prepare a mixture of 16 ounces of egg whites and several generous tablespoons of grated cheese, and pour it into a 10-inch non-stick pan with olive oil heated over a medium flame. Drain and distribute sweet potato slices and fresh Campari Tomato slices in the egg mixture on the stove as the crust sets.

When the crust sets, transfer the pan into the oven, where it will brown and finish cooking under the broiler. Add Costco's Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto when the frittata is cooling on the counter. Cut into wedges with a spatula and serve.