Monthly Archives: April 2014

Steps to Becoming a Wine Connoisseur

Sommelier_F.I.S.A.R. If you have never met one of those famous expert wine connoisseurs, you should thank your stars. They can make you feel positively pedestrian on matters wine. It’s not just the way they ‘taste’ wine – with a tilt of the head and swirling sound in the mouth like it’s something you need to go to wine school to even begin comprehending. It’s not even how they expound on the distinct, yet subtle, taste of each wine.

It’s the thought that there is no way on this side of eternity you could ever get to be anything like that.

Relax. Becoming a wine connoisseur is not difficult or complicated. Just takes some focus and determination.  In fact, it is possible to be an expert in wines in less than a year. For instance, to become a wine expert accredited by the Court of Masters – one of the top wine accreditation programs in the US – all you need to do is pass a series of tests. They don’t care for schools or anything like that.

So how do you become a wine connoisseur? There are three steps to getting there. First is knowing the basics. Second is what you can, and should, learn all by yourself. And then there is what you need help with.

The Basics of Wine

The first basic point about wines is that it is an acquired taste. Even the most celebrated wine connoisseurs began with ‘normal wines’ and worked their way up the ladder. So, your first step will be to start with whatever wine tastes right for you, no matter how ‘normal’ it is.

Second is that, in spite of wine being an acquired taste, broad types of wines – white or red – are matched with specific types of meals, pegged on the type of meat.  Red wine goes with red meat, white wine with white meats. Beyond that, creativity in choice is acceptable.  For instance, the precise white or red wine that you choose to go with any of MagicKitchen.com’s main courses is entirely up to you.

Finally, there is tasting wine versus drinking wine. You ‘taste’ by swishing it in your mouth, not by actually drinking it.

What to Do On Your Own To Become a Wine Connoisseur

wineryThere are things that you have to do on your own before you can become a wine connoisseur. The most important are:

  • After getting used to a favorite wine, however modest it may be, the next step is to sample as many different types of wines as possible. That is how you soon get to discover that you can, in fact, detect the different flavors.
  • Research. Browse the internet, read up wine guides and blogs. Subscribe to wine websites or newsletters – or a wine magazine. Check out wine stores for bottles of wine with write-ups near them, award citations and high magazine ratings. That’s how to get familiar with the types and terminologies of the craft. For instance, a glance at the how to guide on matching food to wine at bbcgoodfood.com will show you that Cabernet Sauvignon is the perfect wine for beef roasts  and stews, such as MagicKitchen.com’s famous main course of beef sirloin with peppercorn sauce. And that if you don’t want to stick to a quality white wine, like Chardonnay, you can try a red wine, like a Merlot, with a chicken meal.
  • Test your knowledge and expertise in wine. You can do that by buying wines that match the taste of the food you’re serving. Or by deliberately trying wines from different countries. Or visiting choice restaurants just to sample different wines.

How to get other people to make you a wine connoisseur

French_taste_of_winesTo really become a wine connoisseur, your own research is not enough. You need to pick other people’s brains too, particularly those who know their stuff well. Some tips:

  • Talk to staff in wine shops and ask for recommendations and tips. Shop attendants are often very well informed.
  • Attend wine tasting events. There are usually such events every so often in local wine schools, restaurants and wineries.
  • Visit a winery and let the staff take you through the wine making process. Few sources are typically as informed about wine as winemakers. Freely ask whatever question comes to mind – they have already heard every ‘ignorant’ question you could possibly come up with.
  • If you have the time, make it all simple by attending a wine school. There is no faster way to learn about wine than that.
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Getting Rid of Belly Fat

belly-2473_640Getting Rid of Belly Fat

Belly fat.  There must be a way of getting rid of it. Or, at least, reducing it to where it used to be when it wasn’t so like that. Like not so good in jeans. But you already know what they say: exercise. And Diet. That’s the secret to taming belly fat, says everybody.

Except that it is difficult and doesn’t seem to work out at home as well as it does on TV.

Why is belly fat such a hard nut to crack? As the people whose business is making and delivering sumptuous meals right at your doorstep, we should know something about that. The diet part of it, especially.

Belly Fat Is About the Food, Yes

Food is the first reason why it’s so hard to get rid of belly fat.  The flab is often the result of eating certain kinds of foods, particularly sugary snacks, hydrogenated oils and enriched flours. Transfats is what nutritionist call them, and they are in such delicacies as margarine, cookies, crackers and pasta.

Does that make some kinds of food ‘bad food’? No. It’s more like ‘food that is extra good’ for people whose lifestyles do not require lots of physical strain. Think of it this way: the human body, like that of other animals, knows that it is only sensible to store extra food in the system when the going is good just in case the going gets tough. Certain foods happen to have easier fat to store. In a fairer world, those would be called the best food. But if the food just keeps coming, the body keeps storing. Then there is too much fat and the food storage becomes a health hazard.

And then it’s not about the Food

But belly fat is not just about food. A person whose lifestyle or work requires extreme physical strain is less likely to have belly fat, ‘bad’ eating habits notwithstanding.  That’s in fact the logic of exercise as a belly fat control measure. If you burn most of the fat that enters your body, there will be little to store in your belly.

Hormones also get into the mix, particularly for women.   After menopause, the drop in estrogen relieves the body of the physical demands of childbearing, which means the body can relax and store fat in places that might have been unwise during a pregnancy. Like the belly. Other hormonal imbalances in this period may increase the feeling of hunger, leading to higher uptake of food.

Then there is sleep. Not getting enough sleep decreases the level of leptin, a natural appetite suppressant while increasing ghrelin, an appetite stimulant that makes you eat more.

And finally, stress makes you fat, not thin. It increases cortisol, the ‘stress hormone,’ in your system, which triggers your body to store fat in a hurry. There’s belly logic here too: if the body is stressed, things can’t be so good out there, and when things are bad, people starve, so why not store food before it gets real nasty out there?

How to Keep Belly Fat at Bay

Because belly fat is a result of food and non-food reasons, any successful regime to reduce or prevent its occurrence must also combine food and non-food measures.

Good sleeping habits – 7 hours a day is the recommended rate – will help. As will anything that will reduce stress. Like an active social life, relaxation and regular exercise.

But not all exercises affect the belly. It is therefore advisable to seek professional advice on the proper exercise regime if belly fat is the target area. A good place to begin would be to sample the workout videos of MagicKitchen.com’s health advisers Lance and Mary.

date-meals1Then, of course, good eating will make all the difference to your belly fat containment plan. Here’s the rule book:

  • Eat food with ‘good’ fat: The nutritionist term is monounsaturated fats. These are fats that are easily burned by the body and help burn the other ‘not so good’ fat. Common examples are nuts, olive oil, avocado, green tea and whole grains.
  • Eat correct portions of ‘normal’ food: A diet of 2000 calorie per day is the scientifically set standards of the food that a normal human body requires in a day. Simply sticking to the right portion ensures your body has no extra fat to store in your belly. At MagicKitchen.com, we have an entire line of Portion Controlled Meal Packs for exactly that purpose.
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Energy Drinks, How Healthy Are They?

energy-drinkNo, there is no chance that anyone is going to ban Red Bull, Rock Star, Monster or any other properly made and packaged energy drink. Why not? Because energy drinks are perfectly legal, widely used and generally safe. About half of young adults in the US take the drinks more or less regularly. Also, no government anywhere or doctors association has recommended such a drastic intrusion into a citizen’s right to drink packaged energy.

But, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, emergency hospital visits associated with energy drinks complications are increasing. Fast. Between 2007 and 2011, for instance, they doubled.

And the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children and adolescents should never take energy drinks. Actually most doctors caution anyone against taking more than the occasional energy drink – and, if they could, would probably ban the use of energy drink in combination with alcohol, other stimulant or medication.

So, what’s with energy drinks?

It’s The Caffeine Not the Energy Drink

The thing about energy drinks is that they are, in fact, made more of concentrated caffeine than anything else. That is the same stuff that is in coffee, tea, cola soda and chocolates. Some energy drinks substitute or complement caffeine with guarana and ginseng, but both are stimulants that are not much different, health-wise, from caffeine.

There is nothing wrong with caffeine, of course. It is a stimulant that people have used for ages and it does boost energy. It increases the heart rate and blood pressure, which heightens concentration and alertness. If you need not to sleep for whatever reason, a mug or two of good coffee or a can of energy drink should do the trick.

The catch is that caffeine is addictive. Plus, energy drinks have as much as five times the concentration of caffeine as your average soda. They are also not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), because they are sold as ‘dietary supplements’ rather than beverages. The result is that, despite what you see on the can’s label, you really don’t know how much caffeine you are taking and what else is in the mix.

What Energy Drinks Do To Your Body

Bottom line is that energy drinks do what any excessive coffee or any other stimulant would do to your body. It pushes your heart rate and blood pressure up, which is fine most of the times but can be dangerous, especially if you already have some medical conditions or you are on medication. Or you are simply not sober. Some medical conditions, like heart defects are not detected early, if ever, and lots of medications react badly to a high dose of stimulants.

Alcohol, on the other hand, is a depressant while energy drinks are stimulants. A combination of the two plays tricks with your mind. You are still as drunk as the amount of alcohol you have taken, which means your physical reaction rate, mental alertness, and clarity of judgment are impaired. But you ‘feel’ better, alert, in control, not as high as the bill suggests. The effect is that you could get a very nasty surprise if you tried to drive, cross a busy street or even walk upstairs. Or you could land yourself in something worse than a nasty surprise.

What to do then? It’s fine to take the occasional energy drink. It’s just tough- we love coffee, after all, and it tastes good. But do not use it habitually. Or when you are drinking alcohol or while you are on any medication. Do not take it while exercising because exertion is already causing havoc on your heart rate and blood pressure. Also, don’t shock your body by gulping down an energy drink or taking more than a couple of cans in one seating.

As with all other things, take in moderation.

Sources:

http://www.scai.org/SecondsCount/Disease/detail.aspx?cid=135410fb-a293-43e0-82c6-ec0bcc47125f

http://www.brown.edu/Student_Services/Health_Services/Health_Education/alcohol,_tobacco,_&_other_drugs/energy_drinks.php

Guest Post by Jonah Njonge

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