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Blue Bags: IN or OUT?

The blue bag was one of my favorite all-season accessories. Nope, not the awesome Marc Jacobs – sadly, that one eluded me. I’m talking about blue recycling bags.

As you may or may not know, I LOVE entertaining and my infamous kitchen parties are always well-attended. Lots of parties means lots of fun, but also lots of trash.

reuse your water bottles!On one memorable occasion,  a friend of mine was kind enough to collect some random empties and asked where he should put them. In the midst of my kitchen karaoke performance, I motioned over to the trash bin that was overflowing with cans, bottles, a couple of magnums…damn, this was a great party! He turned back to me and said incredulously, “You don’t recycle?”

I just shot him my “oh puh-leeze” look – I mean really, I was having way too much fun gettin’ my groove on to worry about saving the planet right that minute!

That same night my karma kicked in and I hit it off with a totally cute guy who happened to be my neighbor – did I mention that I LOVE my kitchen parties?? Later that week at his place, I noticed a bunch of empty bottles in his sink and made some witty comment about it rivaling my collection. He said he was just trying to do his part to save the planet since the building did not yet have a recycling program. “Really??” I said, trying to sound convincingly appalled – although I was sincerely surprised, as I just assumed all modern buildings did. Apparently not. So what does he do with his recyclables? HE BRINGS THEM HOME WHEN HE VISITS HIS FAMILY EVERY WEEK. No, I’m not kidding. How freakin cute is that?? I told him I was impressed that he would go to that much effort, but he shrugged it off and said it was simply a personal lifestyle choice – no big deal.

Honestly, I’ve never been more attracted to someone – or more mortified. In that moment, I had flashbacks of all the trash I’d happily hauled out of my apartment in the afterglow of a successful soiree, punctuated by a vision of me in some fabulous party couture perched atop a vile mountain of landfill fending off flocks of buzzards with my Manolos. Not quite the look I was going for…

I’ve been a reformed woman ever since. First of all, I harped on my own building manager to get a recycling program in place. After all, I’m not about to start hauling trash around – no matter how clean – in my cute little car. Oh, and I got us both some blue bags. And ya know what? He was absolutely right. It’s not a big deal at all.

I put a sliding dual trash bin under the sink so one side has trashy trash and the other holds my blue bag stash. I also put a separate bin for recyclables out at my parties. So now when I’m cleaning up the aftermath, I still feel good about how much fun we all had, and even better about how much more made it into the blue bags. Yaaaay!

I know there’s still more I can do to reduce the party carnage and I’m working on it. Baby steps…

PS – Starting in 2009, the Blue Bag Program in Chicago is being replaced by the Blue Cart Program. Although this is even easier, I still use my leftover blue bags at my parties . I just like the symbolism and all things retro – plus it helps my alcoholic party-goers to keep the bins straight! There are also some cities who are still using the blue bags effectively so check your local websites to find out what your city is doing.


Cooking with Aphrodisiacs

Valentine's Day Dinners


1. arousing sexual desire.
2. an aphrodisiac food, drug, potion, or other agent that arouses sexual desire.

Smart girls (and guys) know that cooking is sexy.

But when it comes to making a romantic dinner to set the stage for an unforgettable evening, not all foods are created equal.

Many foods considered to be aphrodisiacs are low in fat and high in vitamins and minerals. Therefore, a diet rich with these foods yields a healthy body with the energy, blood-flow and nutrients needs for a peak sexual experience!

In addition to the usual suspects (chocolate, strawberries, oysters), here is their list and descriptions of some lesser known aphrodisiac foods that you might consider incorporating into your next romantic meal:

  1. asparagus – finger food extraordinaire, easy to prepare and dripping with sensuality (and butter if you wish)
  2. chiles – get the blood rushing, the heart pumping, the face flushing and the pores sweating
  3. coffee - its alkaloids help maintain sexual performance and delay the inevitable for a few sweet, luscious seconds
  4. honey -provides the body witha usable form of sugar that converts easily into energy. Hippocrates prescibed it for sexual vigor.
  5. artichokes – steam, dip in melted butter, and feed to each other
  6. ginger – thins the blood to allow it to flow easily to all parts of our system, engorging sensitive areas with oxygen-rich blood
  7. black beans – lore has it that they increase fertility
  8. seafood – iodine makes you feel vivacious, energetic and passionate
  9. pine nuts – reported to increase fertility, or maybe just copulation. worth a try!
  10. avocado – so powerful that virgins were locked indoors while it was being gathered
  11. figs – pure unadulterated sensuality

Pick up your own copy of InterCourses for more recipe ideas!

And don’t underestimate the power of perception. From the obligatory Valentine’s dinner to the unexpected breakfast in bed, the act of preparing food for someone (or better yet, with someone) speaks volumes. It says: I love you. I care for you. You are worth the effort.

That’s a great message to send any day of the year!

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!


HCFS is a four-letter word!

HFCS - YUCK!Would mercury by any other name taste as sweet?

Mercury contamination is the food scare du jour, the latest attack on high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and many name-brand food products that contain it. Perhaps you’re content with the FDA’s lack of concern on the mercury front, but are more disturbed about the links between HFCS and obesity or diabetes. Or maybe you agree that the evidence is inconclusive, but you want to err on the safe side – just in case…

Fortunately, it is possible to avoid the HFCS found in processed foods without resorting to a diet of water and tree bark. It’s easy to find accessible, affordable substitutes that are just as yummy as the stuff that is constantly being called into question:

1) Ditch the soda and juice “cocktails” and opt for 100% juice or other tasty alternatives like mixing 100% juice with seltzer or adding fruit to regular water – cheaper, healthier and more environmentally friendly than bottles of “natural sodas” or flavored waters.

2) Choose 100% whole grain breads. Or better yet – BAKE YOUR OWN – it’s not as hard you might think and fresh-baked bread is delish! Freeze the bread and defrost what you need to extend its shelf life beyond a couple of days and avoid the need for chemical preservatives.

3) Enjoy your breakfast! Get up a little earlier and make some scrambled eggs instead of loading up on breakfast cereal. For something quick and sweet, use natural preserves made with 100% fruit on toast or grab a piece of fruit instead of a breakfast bar. If you simply can’t start your day without your grain in a bowl of milk, try making your own granola or buy it in bulk.

4) Substitute pre-packaged lunch “meats” with unprocessed meats like lean turkey breast, chicken, or roast beef. If you can find grass-fed meats that would be ideal, and your local butcher or deli are good options too. Anything that someone has to cut for you is better than a package you have to cut open.

5) Canned soups are notoriously high in HFCS. Make and store your own soup!

6) If you already enjoy spending time cooking, take it to the next level and seek out fresh, seasonal ingredients and spices from local farmers markets. Preparing food that is naturally delicious and flavorful will reduce your need for condiments.

7) If you are hard-core condiment collector, try some that are made by your local farmers. In a pinch, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have a great selection of HFCS-free condiments. You can also source great artisanal selections online at Foodzie.com and Annie’s Naturals.

The do-it-yourself route may seem more time-consuming, but in reality it’s not much more. And considering it is healthier and tastier – not to mention environmentally and economically friendlier – to maintain a hands-on connection to your food, isn’t all that good taste and good karma worth a few extra minutes of your time?

You know, just in case…