Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Chocolate Almond Upside-Down Cake

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Can you smell Christmas in the air?? I love the holidays. Mostly because of all the cookies, holiday drinks and jolly-ness that everyone seems to have. Although, not so much about my birthday and Christmas gifts all rolled into one. Too bad my birthday is at the end of the year. I never get two separate gifts and all my friends are usually on holiday in some exotic warm place :(
Wow. I whine. A lot.

Now for some interesting facts on how retailers use psychology to make you spend more!
Sometimes I can't help being enamored by the extravagant window displays or the huge signs that say "up to 80% off". And then I get home and I think, "Why on earth did I get that?"
Your Five Senses on Overload
SIGHT: Christmas colors red and green influence our mood and spending! Did you know that waitresses wearing red receive 14-26% higher tips and eBay shoppers bid more aggressively for products shown on red vs. blue backgrounds?

SMELL: Oh that holiday scent of pine, peppermint and gingerbread. These smells can evoke feeling of happiness, physiological arousal and creates more alert shoppers who will shop longer.

HEARING: Studies show that nostalgia elevates positive moods and helps people feel better about themselves and what they're buying.

TOUCH: Retailers carefully design stores with merchandise roadblocks and sneaky displays. Physically holding products can create a sense of psychological ownership and drive "ZOMG I NEED THIS" purchase decisions. You see how Apple does this to you?
Research also shows that waitresses who touch restaurant patrons earn more tips (!!) and customers drink more when "innocently" touched by female bartenders.

TASTE: I admit that I go around Costco and get free food samples... Sampling drives people to want more of anything that's rewarding.

Read the full article here ... and now onto an easy Christmas Cake to Bake!

Chocolate Almond Upside-Down Cake
From Martha Stewart with slight tweaks

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Warm Spinach Salad with Shrimp and Beans

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The Christmas season is here and I'm really trying to stop eating all the cookies that are brought into the lab. Gah! So much temptation and so little space in my jeans :( I've been trying to incorporate more veggies and warm salads into my meals because who wants to eat cold salads in the winter everyday? This dish is also great for potlucks and can be served on a huge platter. Fill up on salads first and then touch the sinful desserts later (this advice is always lost on me...)

Let's do a boozy myth buster for the holidays!
MYTH: Alcohol Kills Brain Cells
FACT: NO it doesn't! Whatever your parents told you or what you learned in high school is a lie. But, before you bring on the kegstands, know that alcohol does many other things that could injure your brain. Although, it clearly doesn't wipe out neurons or brain cells, booze does reduce your ability to remember. Recall those moments when you woke up on the bathroom floor? Or being drunk and have no perception of depth, direction and advice? hahaha... Author Braum says:
Research shows... [Alcohol] disrupts the cellular machinery most widely believed to underlie our ability to form new memories.
Also, binge drinking can lead to decrease in breathing (heavy boozy breath) that can starve the brain and of course, making you do stupid things, like drinking and driving. So remember kids, drink responsibly and moderately.

Taken from my holiday reading...Buzz: The Science and Lore of Alcohol and Caffeine by Stephen Braum

Warm Spinach Salad with Shrimp and Beans
Adapted from Food and Wine
Serves 4

1/2 pound spinach blend (7 cups)
1 pound shelled and deveined shrimp
Garlic Salt + Pepper (or regular salt)
2 tsp Crushed red pepper
One 15-ounce can white beans, drained

1/4 cup olive oil
1 small red onion diced
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar

  1. Divide spinach onto 4 plates or spread on a large platter. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a skillet, season shrimp with salt and pepper and cook until just white through.
  2. Add beans, season with more pepper, chili flakes and salt if needed and toss until heated through. (2 minutes). Scrape the shrimp and beans onto the spinach.
  3. In same skillet, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil, cook red onion until softened and then whisk in the mustard, vinegar, and 1/4 cup of olive oil.
  4. Pour over salad and serve with freshly cracked pepper.