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Food for thought, and recipes, from Nardin Academy

Nardin High School junior Catherine Almeter enjoys a lunch made by Tempo chef Paul Jenkins this week at the school. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Scott Scanlon ­– Refresh Editor

Bridgid Doherty has two daughters in the Nardin Elementary School program, fifth-grader Haley Jones and third-grader Sophia Jones, 11 and 8 years old, respectively.

Up until last year, the Nardin cafeteria offered the girls pretty much the same foods their mother remembers eating as a high school student at the school in the late 1980s and early ‘90s: Pizza, fries, chips, cookies and juice.

“It was reheating food,” Doherty told me during an interview for todays WNY Refresh cover story. Today, she is chair of the Nardin Board of Trustees.

Which is why only about 100 of Nardin’s roughly 930 students used to buy lunch; the rest brought it from home.

This year the Nardin “dining hall” serves homemade soup, salads, wraps and water poured from pitchers instead of hawked in plastic bottles. (See a couple of recipes below.)

About 170 students buy lunch on a typical day now, and close to 300 will buy it when some of the more popular items show up on the three-week menu planner, items like homemade pizza and (mostly baked) mozzarella sticks, with Ceasar salad. Or quesadillas with homemade salsa.

The Jones girls are among the converts.

“It does get to the obesity issue in our community and across the country,” Doherty said. “When you’re packing a lunch box, it tends to be processed foods. You’re putting in Fruit Roll-ups and things that don’t have to be refrigerated; (it’s ) the old Twinkie ideas. That’s not the way kids halfway through their day should be eating when they’ve got a full schedule.”

The new way of school eating – homemade scratch cooking – also has changed the way Doherty’s daughter’s approach food at home.

“This morning,” Doherty told me Tuesday, “I was going grocery shopping and I used to ask the kids, ‘What do you want to for dinner?’ It used to be tacos, meatloaf. Now we’re having the conversation that they’d like chicken. Now they’re having onions in their meatloaf. So I think they’re much more adventuresome and much more talkative about what they want to eat.

“I’ve also seen that they’re open to trying new foods.”

It’s precisely the kind of learning curve Nardin hoped to meet when it revamped its dining program this school year, school President Marsha Joy Sullivan said as she sat in the administrative offices as Tempo owner and chef Paul Jenkins, a visiting chef, prepared lunch for students.

“Paul was just telling us downstairs that he thinks our nation undervalues the fact that children like food that tastes good as opposed to processed food that we assume is more kid appealing,” Sullivan said.

Not every school can afford to make all of the changes Nardin has in its food service program, but advocates told me for today’s WNY Refresh cover story that changes can be made incrementally.

The new program also has its financial drawbacks, Doherty said with a laugh, as she recalled chef Mark Hutchinson’s recent visit to the school, and how much it impressed daughter Haley, who has a birthday coming up next week.

 “I asked, Where to you want to go? Want to go to Pizza Plant?’ and she said, ‘No, I want to go to Hutch’s.’”

– Scott Scanlon

Now, here are a couple of popular Nardin recipes, downsized for you to try at home:

Vegetable stir fry with brown rice

Serves 4


1-1½ cup brown rice

Prepare brown rice

To make the stir-fry sauce:

1 oz vegetable oil

1 oz fresh garlic, chopped

1 oz fresh ginger, chopped

1/8 tsp crushed red pepper

¼ cup soy sauce

½ tsp cornstarch

To prepare the sauce:

1. Heat oil in small saucepan.

2. Add ginger and garlic. Sweat in oil until golden.

3. Add pepper and sweat 1 minute.

4. Add soy sauce and bring to a boil. Create a “slurry” with the cornstarch by stirring into a small amount of water until it reaches the consistency of cream. Whisk the slurry into the soy sauce mixture to thicken.

To make the stir-fry vegetable:

4 lbs seasonal vegetables, washed and cut into uniform size, could include carrot, broccoli, red bell pepper, celery, green cabbage, zucchini, yellow squash

4 oz bean sprouts

2 oz scallions, chopped

1 oz cilantro, chopped

2 tblsp vegetable oil

To cook the vegetables:

1. Heat oil in a large pan or wok.

2. Add vegetables and stir-fry until tender crisp.

3. Add sauce and bean sprouts. Mix to combine.

Serve over brown rice topped with scallions and cilantro.

Meatball Bomber

Serves 8

To make the meatballs:

1 lb ground beef (Nardin uses locally raised and sourced from Dispenza’s Meat Market)

4 oz bread, cubed

2 oz fresh parsley, chopped

1 oz fresh garlic, chopped

4 oz ricotta cheese

2 oz Parmesan

1 oz olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

To cook the meatballs:

1. Mix all ingredients well.

2. Shape into approximately 24 one-ounce meatballs.

3. Bake at 325 degrees until an internal temperature of 155 degrees is reached.

To make the marinara:

2 tblsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 oz fresh garlic, chopped

1 tablsp crushed red pepper

2 tablsp balsamic vinegar

Tomatoes – use fresh if in season or good quality canned, like San Marzano:

2 cans whole tomatoes (28 oz each), drained and pureed or equal amount of fresh tomatoes

Sugar pinch

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the sauce:

1. Heat oil.

2. Add onion and garlic. Sweat until softened for 8 to 10 minutes.

3. Add pepper and balsamic.

4. 2 minutes later, add tomato.

5. Simmer 20 minutes.

6. Add fresh basil.

7. Season to taste with salt and pepper and pinch of sugar.


8 bomber rolls

24 meatballs

16 oz marinara

8 oz mozzarella, shredded

To assemble the bombers:

1. Place three meatballs on each roll.

2. Top with marinara and shredded cheese.

Can you see the same doctor under Obamacare?

By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

Dr. Michael J. Edbauer – the Catholic Health Obamacare guru and a married father of two college-age children – had lots to say about the Affordable Care Act during a recent interview, so much in fact that I couldn’t fit all the good stuff into today’s In the field story in WNY Refresh.

Those looking to learn more about how New York State is rolling out the new insurance program for the uninsured can visit

Meanwhile, here are more excerpts from our recent interview, starting with what many readers may see as a very important one:

Do you anticipate coming up early next year where some people end up signing up for a plan in which they can’t see their current doctor?

It’s certainly possible. One of the things that’s part of the enrollment process is to help patients understand all of the components of the particular plan they’re selecting. That includes the network they signed up for. That might be one of the areas people might not be aware of at this point in time.

Will folks be able to say, ‘Wait a minute, if I can’t see my doctor I want to go back and sign up for something else?’

My understanding is once they enroll, they are locked in for a year. I don’t know if there’s a grace period.

So anyone who signs up for health care really needs to pay attention?

I think so. This is a really important decision. I know people are saying it’s taking an hour to enroll. That’s probably a well-spent hour, to understand what’s going on. Historically, people have been accustomed if they’ve had their insurance from their employers that there wasn’t much difference in the plans that were offered, except maybe a co-pay. Now, with the exchange, there may be significant differences in the plans that are available, so it’s going to take diligence and a little bit of buyer beware as they walk through the process.

How has the Catholic Health System tried to prepare for the provisions that will take effect in January?

We see that as a continuation of the work we’ve been doing. Logistically, probably some of the challenges will be providing education, even now, to patients to help them understand all the components of what they’d signed up for. I think it’s likely many individuals may, even after they sign up, not completely understand their benefits or how to go though the system. That’s not a negative toward the individuals who have insurance through their employers if they really understand their insurance policies when they have to use it.

How are you preparing the doctors and medical staff? Have you hired anyone else or retrained anyone?

We’re doing education and training. We’ve had programs in place that we’ve already made available to the physicians, so they understand the changes better, so they can understand some of the basic questions that patients have, and also direct them to programs that are available on the website, through the government, and some of our folks within the system who have been trained to assist.

What should doctors and patients expect as the new insurance regulations take effect in January? Are there going to be surprises in store?

I don’t think for the physicians. In many ways this is just more people, including some of the people who didn’t have insurance now will have insurance. The part that may still be a little bit of a challenge for patients if they don’t completely understand the policy and it’s one that has a high deductible or a high co-pay. They may not recognize that just because they have a health insurance card now, there still may be significant financial responsibilities.

Is there any misinformation about the act that you think needs to be cleared up?

I’m not sure from the individual patient’s point of view that it’s going to have the big impact people are expecting.

The vast majority of people in Western New York are going to be unaffected by this, as they already have insurance through their employer or other component. They’re going to be spectators to this event.

There’s going to be a much smaller number of those who are affected. To them, I think, it’s a significant event. Hopefully it will be a positive because they’re going to have availability of health care that they may not have had in the past.

It may not be quite as dramatic as the anticipation.

How about employers who say, ‘Here’s some money, you go out and buy insurance on the exchange?’

It won’t change the fact that they have insurance, but it will change the mechanism.

I was at a meeting the other day and one of the speakers said it will be analogous to 401K plans and I thought that was a good way of thinking about it. So, if you used to have a defined benefit plan, your employer said, ‘When you retire, you’re still going to receive this,’ then it changed to a 401K, you still have the employer giving you dollars but now you have to decide how to invest it. You took on more responsibility and you’ve got more control. That’s the same idea with the scenario if the employer says, ‘Here’s $5,000 a year, go to the exchange and buy your insurance.’ Then I as a consumer can decide, ‘I’m going to go with the bronze, lower premium, and I’m not going to have to spend any money out of pocket. A fellow employee might say, ‘I have a lot of medical issues. I’m not sure what costs are involved. I want the platinum. I’ll have to kick in an extra $50 a month out of my own pocket to cover that premium but I’m not going to have as much in co-pays.’ That’s very different in terms of process, but it doesn’t change the coverage per se.

What are the changes those with insurance and those without it need to be aware of as the new year approaches?

Those without need to take advantage of the opportunity if they’re eligible to enroll in an insurance product. Hopefully, they’ll appreciate the benefits of having insurance and be able to establish a relationship with a primary care doctor.

For those with insurance, look very carefully at the policies and plans that are offered to you, and become an educated consumer so that you understand exactly what you’re purchasing, because it is going to be a different model potentially.

Proponents of the act say it focuses more on prevention and patient responsibility for their own health care decisions. How does it do that and how do you see it playing out?

The prevention piece is really through the idea of increasing the relationship with a primary care physician. For these folks who previously did not have insurance, it’s a high probability many of them did not have a primary care doctor, so I believe that will improve the prevention aspect and help people to control the cost on that side.

When you’re looking at which ones your selecting, there’s a much greater level of patient responsibility. You’re really going to have to understand what you’re agreeing to because there’s really quite a difference in the co-pays and deductibles, the metal tiers and the provider networks. The patient is going to really have to be engaged.

Will the act help turn the tide of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and other chronic disease trends?

I think the changes in health care that have already begun and continue have the opportunity to make those changes. I don’t necessarily believe the ACA, in and of itself, is the driver on improving those things.

One piece I think is needed if we’re going to ultimately be successful in those areas is there needs to be greater community involvement. When you look at the history of smoking, when it was simply the doctor telling the patient, ‘You shouldn’t smoke,’ it was not terribly effective. Then came a mass marketing and education and the younger generations knew from an early time the risks of smoking. That was a very different time than the generations that preceded them.

I believe it’s going to be the same need with obesity and nutrition, and the good news is that I’m already seeing that occur.

Do any parts of the act need tweaking?

I’m sure they do, only because when you put together anything this large it’s not going to be perfect in its initial phase. I wouldn’t suggest to you I know where the tweaking needs to be done at this point.

We have to wait to see how it plays out?



Kids at one lucky Buffalo school eat like Ralph Lauren

Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

Westminster Community Charter School Executive Chef MaryRuth Rera, featured in today’s WNY Refresh cover story, works in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country. It’s a far cry from where she spent eight years before returning to her native Western New York – as the private chef for fashion designer Ralph Lauren.

“The children at Westminster, K through 8, are getting a taste of what he ate and not even knowing it, which is sort of a cool thing,” Rera said.

“They’re eating like a billionaire.”

Rera developed her love for cooking while working in the graphics department at WKBW-TV Channel 7, and decided to pursue it full-time in the late 1990s.

She moved to Florence, Italy for a year, enrolled in culinary school while there, and immersed herself in Italian cuisine.

The Cheektowaga native came back to the U.S. without a job and, when touching base with a fellow culinary classmate who was working as a private chef in Manhattan, decided to do the same.

“After a couple of interviews, they hooked me up in 2001 with Ralph Lauren,” who lives much of the year in Manhattan, Rera said.

She cooked for the fashion designer and his wife for eight years.

“I traveled with him to Colorado and to Jamaica and to the Hamptons, and to his home in Westchester and his home in the city,” she said. “I just went with him everywhere, and it was a very cool world.”

Lauren eats a very healthy diet, “but very creatively,” Rera said.

“He didn’t want it to ever be boring,” she said. “The quality always had to be there, but he liked a lot of diversity.

“He loved my approach to cooking, which was fresh and whole,” she said. “My philosophy came from cooking in Italy. I wanted to cook like somebody’s grandma. I wasn’t trying to cook like the hottest chef on ‘Food Network.’

“I had this old-style approach to cooking, and he was all about that, as well.”

Lauren would have four or five vegetables at every dinner. “He always had a variety and it was always very colorful. He wouldn’t have all green. There had to be purple and orange and yellow,” Rera said.

Lauren eats lots of seafood and whole grains, she added, “and very little in the way of sweets.”

He exercises one to two hours a day, seven days a week.

Lauren will turn 74 on Monday. He always was interested in maintaining his youth, Rera said, adding, “He and his wife have been together almost 50 years now and they’ve grown together and have a very healthy lifestyle.”

Halfway through her work with Lauren, Rera married Lou V. Rera, an assistant professor of television and film arts at SUNY Buffalo State.

“For the last four years, I was married and traveling,” she said. “I had to make the decision to either be married to Ralph Lauren and that job, or my husband.”

She decided to move back to Western New York and planned to start a catering business in late 2009, but was offered the job at Westminster. She started there in January 2010, and still does catering on the side.

It matters little to Rera whether she's cooking for a big shot in the Big Apple or children in the nation’s third poorest city.

“I’m all about great food,” she said, “and that’s what I want the kids to be exposed to.”


Mercy chef hams it up with healthy cooking

Mercy Hospital Assistant Food Service Director Chris Damiani, right, makes spaghetti squash recently with registered nurse Karen Calandra for a hospital TV show. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)


Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

Mercy Hospital Assistant Food Service Director Chris Damiani started cooking at age 14 at the Castile Flea Market “dropping fried dough and burgers.”

He was so good at it, his boss gave him a nickle raise.

Damiani been an executive chef since 1996, when he landed a job at the Buffalo Yacht Club.

He’s also worked at the Hyatt Regency downtown – where many top WNY chefs got their start, he said – as well as Romanello’s, Orchard Park Country Club and Frog Hair restaurant.

He knows the harsh reality of work in a commercial kitchen.

“I’m not going to lie to you. For years, I wasn’t a healthy eater,” he told me for this week’s What are you eating? to be published Saturday in WNY Refresh. “You would starve all day working, and work long hours, and then hit McDonald’s for the drive-thru on the way home.

Damiani, 47, of Hamburg, is an Orchard Park native whose eating habits have changed since he and wife, Liza, started raising three sons, Sean, 17; Christopher, 12; and William, 9.

It also helped landing a daytime gig nearly two years ago at Mercy.

The Johnson and Wales College culinary school grad handles the menu at Mercy on behalf of Aramark Healthcare, a health care food service company.

He and Karen Calandra recently teamed up to do a cooking show for Mercy Hospital patients. They made spaghetti squash with tomatoes, basil and pine nuts. See a video and the recipe here.

Calandra is a registered nurse and holistic health coach whose husband, Salvatore M. Calandra, is a local cardiologist.

“Healthy cooking is a trend that’s happening because of the health care crisis,” she told me. “The only way to counteract that is start eating healthy because all the processed food is causing a lot of illness today.

“Sugar is huge. It’s like cocaine with addiction, and causes inflammation inside our bodies. All disease starts with inflammation – heart disease, diabetes – all of that.

“We’re at a time where our kids aren’t going to live to see our age. Our parents are in our 80s and 90s and my husband is treating people in their 20s and 30s with heart disease.”

This was the duo’s first cooking demonstration. They plan to do another one after the holidays.

When I asked Damiani to describe the tastiest food he makes that’s also good for you, he said, “I do wonders with fish. For me, I love halibut with a lemon caper sauce and a touch of butter. I just love it.

“I take a lot of the produce from the gardens that we have, too, and toss it with a pasta and garlic and a vinaigrette and fresh herbs. It’s cheap right now. I have it in my yard. I use tricolored rotini, vegetable pasta."

The Mercy kitchen staff – which makes an average of 1,600 meals a day for hospital workers, visitors and patients – does a lot of steaming.

“Every night there’s a steamed vegetable,” Damiani said. “We also cook a lot of simple potatoes. We don’t want to overwork the food too much. We serve the patients nutritional levels of food. We don’t put a giant plate in front of you. It’s a 4-ounce portion of protein at lunch, and 2 or 3 ounces at dinner." 

He avoids cooking “peppers and the hot stuff,” even at home.

“There’s so much heat out their now with peppers and the hot sauces,” he said, “I think that certain foods are made so hot now that there’s nothing left but the heat.”

The food he still sometimes has a hard time resisting?


“I love a Big Mac,” he said, “and McDonald’s French fries are a killer.”


Survivor addresses ignorance of 'It's only breast cancer'


Kathleen E. Michienzi, left, program coordinator for the ECMC Foundation "mobile mammography coach," works on the coach with mammographer Elaine Budelewski, right, and navigator Rosalind Rice, who is not pictured, among others. (Charles Lewis/Buffalo News)


By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

While I interviewed Kathleen E. Michienzi for today’s “In the field” story, I was reminded of a sign I saw outside the Spafford fire station in suburban Syracuse about 15 years ago.

It read: “Minor surgery is what happens to somebody else.”

Women, including Michienzi, who have lived through breast cancer can more than relate, particularly when they hear this comment when someone first learns about somebody else who recently got diagnosed:

“It’s only breast cancer.”

Michienzi, a breast cancer survivor who manages the ECMC Foundation mobile mammography bus, has endured 14 surgeries since she was diagnosed a decade ago. Most were from complications of breast reconstruction.

One of her best friends, diagnosed about the same time, died five years ago, leaving behind a husband and two children.

“It gets me crazy when people say, ‘Oh it’s only breast cancer, they’ll cut off your breast and you’ll be fine,’” Michienzi said. “No, you have no idea what people with breast cancer go through...

“I’ve been in health care my whole (adult) life,” she said. “My sister had hodgkin’s disease at 19. My grandfather had colon cancer. So I was familiar with cancer, but I have to say, until it happened to me, I had no clue.”

Her chemotherapy came with every side-effect possible. She had a hard time getting up and using the bathroom after surgery and some treatments. She had eye problems.

She got through it all with support from colleagues, family and friends, but the hardest parts of her struggle waxed and waned for about two years.

If it’s caught early enough, breast cancer it is curable, said Michienzi (pronounced Mick-en-zie).

That’s why October – National Breast Cancer Awareness Month – is a good time for many women to schedule a mammography appointment, and learn how best to perform breast self-exams.

“Unfortunately,” said Michienzi, “it’s not always detected early.”

Even when it is, people need to reconsider saying to someone, ‘Oh, you just have stage one breast cancer,” Michienzi said, “because to that person, it’s cancer.”

In the end, that woman likely will need a lumpectomy and follow-up care “but you don’t know that,” she said.

For some, there’s also the prospect of breast removal, followed by radiation, chemotherapy and reconstructive surgery.

“You don’t know until you’ve already made the decision to have the surgery and you’re waiting for your surgical pathology report and going in to sit with that doctor,” Michienzi said. “You’re scared. It’s hard.

“When I was first diagnosed, what I needed to get under control is understanding that people don’t understand.”

She urged those diagnosed  not to get hurt or angry by what people say.

“Until you’ve been in that situation, you really don’t know.”

Folks like me get it, too, at least to a very meaningful extent.

My mom, the rock of my life, died after a six-year battle with breast cancer on Thanksgiving Day 1985, four days after my 25th birthday. She'd ignored for several months a small lump she'd detected in her right breast, and was in stage four by the time she went in for a check-up in 1979.

Doctors gave her six months to live. She beat that prediction by 10 times, largely because of her sheer will.

That time was precious to our family, but my brother and I have missed her now for more than a quarter century. She never saw us thrive in our professional lives. Or get married. Or her grandchildren.

So consider this my personal plea to you ladies out there: Talk to your doctor, or get one if you don't have one, and figure out if you should schedule a mammogram – because "only breast cancer" has the potential to cost you, your family and your friends very dearly.


UB athletics chief, a new Buffalo foodie, revels in tailgating

University at Buffalo Athletic Director Danny White has found a new home that rivals his native New Orleans when it comes to food. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

University at Buffalo Athletic Director Danny White is like a kid in a candy store these days – only this guy would rather be at Santora’s with slices of “The Works” pizza on his plate.

How important is good nutrition for UB sports teams?

“A lot more important for our student-athletes than it is for the athletic director,” he recently cracked.

White, 33, lives in Clarence Center with his wife, Shawn, and their children: Aiden, 9; Molly, 6; Caitlin, 4; and “a Buffalo baby,” James, born shortly after the family arrived in Western New York in spring 2012.

White grew up in New Orleans, played basketball at Notre Dame and worked at schools in Fresno, Calif., Ohio and Mississippi before he landed the UB job. He’ll be at the school tailgating tent on the North Campus for a couple of hours Saturday before the noon kickoff of the homecoming football game, the Mid American Conference opener for the Bulls, who square off with Eastern Michigan.

White is the subject of Saturday’s “What are you eating?” piece in WNY Refresh, but he also had plenty to say about the new pregame vibe UB has put together this season – Kool and the Gang will perform before game time Saturday – as well as the decision to have the Bulls play their first game ever at Ralph Wilson Stadium, a contest planned for Nov. 29, the day after Thanksgiving.

Here are excerpts from our interview:

Have you become a Bills fan?

Yeah. I’ve never been a big NFL fan because I’ve been so entrenched in college athletics. But Russ Brandon has been an awesome friend and resource for me getting (connected) into the community. I’m really supportive of Russ and hoping the Bills are successful.

The MAC season part of the schedule starts Saturday. How will the Bulls do and which teams do you expect to be the toughest competition for a MAC championship?

We’re expecting to get to a bowl game like we did in 2008. We want to make that a part of what we do every year. We want to consistently get to bowl games. There’s so many advantages to that as we build a program and build a fan base. We get another month of practice with our team. It really helps with recruiting. It builds the excitement of a college football fan base. Certainly, a big win against UConn last Saturday helps us get there. At 2-2, with eight conference games (ahead), we think we’ll be very competitive for a MAC championship. Looking at our schedule, they’re all going to be hard. Every game at this level is a difficult one. But I look at games at Kent (State)– they were 11-1 last year and got most of that team back – and we have to go to Toledo. They’re always very competitive. Both those teams I expect to be bowl-eligible. At home, we’ve got a great Tuesday night nationally televised game November 5 against Ohio. They’ll be contending for a MAC championship.

And when we looked at the schedule this past summer, that last game of the season, which we’ve moved to Ralph Wilson Stadium for the first time ever, that Black Friday game the day after Thanksgiving – we’re calling it the ‘Black Friday Clash at the Ralph’ – against Bowling Green, that may have huge implications for who gets to go to the MAC championship game.

Why Ralph Wilson?

We just wanted to try it. There’s such great tradition and tailgating tradition at Ralph Wilson that we wanted to bring our product over there and hopefully get people to come out and learn a little bit about our football program, and get ‘em to come back to UB for next season.

We’re really working hard to build that full game-day atmosphere here at UB Stadium. That can’t happen without a vibrant tailgating atmosphere.

I went a game at UMass last year where they played at Gillette Stadium. It was their first year as a (Division) 1A program. They had a great crowd. It really seemed like they were benefiting from the fact that fans who go to Patriots games just like being at the venue. What we’re hoping is we can get a lot of people excited about getting over to Ralph Wilson Stadium on Thanksgiving Weekend. (Get tickets here.)

Do you tailgate before Bulls home games?

We host our own tailgate tent. It’s a blue-and-white striped one, to the right of the concert stage. It’s a fun tent. President (Satish) Tripathi and myself are out and about there.

Let’s talk about nutrition. Which place where you lived has the healthiest food?

The healthiest would probably be California. We’d get fresh seafood. ... New Orleans and Buffalo are both tied in my mind in terms of tastiest, but not very healthy.

What do you miss most about food in New Orleans?

Creole dishes. A lot of seafood and shellfish and spicy dishes that are so unique to New Orleans.

The town I lived in in Oxford, Mississippi had a lot of New Orleans-style dishes, as well. I’ve been able to find a few places with good Creole food here, as well.


The best I’ve had is the jambalaya at Hutch’s downtown. That was very good. That would be the memorable New Orleans-style food here.

I’ve had a whole bunch of other stuff that’s really good, too. I love the Italian food. Awesome.

What are some of your favorite places after the first year?

Santora’s locally, right by campus. They’re great supporters (of the UB athletics program). It’s more casual, really good stuff. We take the family there. Sinatra’s is a really good Italian spot in Kenmore. A good UB pub that’s got great lunch food is Brunner’s. I love to go there pretty frequently, and Shannon’s Irish Pub. We like to get over there.

Which place where you have lived has the best tailgating food?

At Fresno State in California, they had ‘tri-tip,’ which is a beef cut in a unique way. So there was barbecue tri-tip steak sandwiches that tailgaters would cook right on site. That was really good. The best tailgating atmosphere in America, I think, is ‘The Grove’ at Ole Miss. It’s an unbelievable atmosphere and energy. The food is as much a priority as more traditional places that have cars. What makes The Grove so unique at Ole Miss is there’s no cars, so there’s more catered stuff that’s easier to transport.

Is it difficult to eat healthy as athletic director at a large school like UB?

It is because the schedule is so hectic. I love food, and Buffalo has so much good food that’s not healthy for me. That makes it a challenge. I try to work out every day to at least try to balance out some of my eating choices.

The food you can’t resist?

Pizza would be my nemesis, “The Works” at Santora’s. It’s loaded with sausage and meatballs and peppers. It’s a spicy pie, but it is really good. I try to limit it, but realistically I’m probably eating pizza once a week.

How important is good nutrition for UB sports teams?

It’s a lot more important for our student athletes than it is for the athletic director.

We do a lot of stuff with our education, primarily in our sports performance area. The conditioning coaches educate our student athletes all the time, and the NCAA allows us to give them supplemental (food). We can provide fruit, nuts and bagels and other things to provide good quality calories.

We occasional do team meals. My wife, Shawn, and I have had every team out to our house in the last month and using university catering we give them a well-rounded meal.

They eat a lot of food. They’re burning so many calories, they need to replace them ... especially the football team.


Secrets of a longer life touted at regional wellness conference

Paster spoke in Depew.


By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

Want to live a longer life?

Dr. Zorba Paster, who writes a weekly Saturday column for WNY Refresh, launched the P2 Collaborative conference this morning giving attendees several pointers on how to do so.

The short version: Eat right, exercise and drink alcohol, in moderation, if you can.

The best exercise?

“What you will do,” said Paster, a family doctor in Madison, Wisc., who hosts a call-in radio program at 3 p.m. Saturdays on WBFO-FM 88.7.

Paster defined “old age” as “25 years older than you are today,” and he encouraged his audience to be lifelong learners who are active and optimistic.

You boost the chances of a long and meaningful life, he said, if you “pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start over” when trials and tribulations come your way.

The P2 Collaborative – a Western  New York nonprofit made up of public and private leaders interested in the health and wellness of the entire region – hosted the daylong conference to allow these leaders to mingle, and learn more about what it will take to build a healthier Buffalo-Niagara.

In the broadest use of the word “public,” the seventh annual conference focused on medicine, nutrition and fitness in the region, with a special emphasis on better serving the needs of the most vulnerable among us.

Learn more about the seeds of public policy that were nurtured at the conference, held at Salvatore’s Italian Gardens in Depew, in coming weeks in The Buffalo News and at, including on the Refresh Buffalo Blog. Find out more about the collaborative here.

But first, back to some of Dr. Paster’s keys to a longer, healthier life:

• Eat local: Processed foods have become the bane of this country when it comes to nutrition, he said, and the goal of eating more vegetables and whole foods – particularly those produced close to home – is key.

• Vitamins: A good multivitamin, 2000 units of “cheap” Vitamin D, and no more than 1000 mg of calcium are good when it comes to supplements; fish oil, Vitamin E and niacin an unneccesary outside of foods.

• Aspirin: Low-dose aspirin can aid in the prevention of heart disease, but it also lowers the incidence of colon polyps by 50 percent, breast cancer 20 percent and early onset Alzheimer’s 10 percent to 20 percent, based on various research.

• Alcohol: Seven to 14 drinks is a good benchmark per week when it comes to the benefits alcohol provides – “just not to be taken all on a Saturday night,” or if you have an alcohol addiction, Paster said.

• Sleep: The doctor said he hosted the Dalai Lama at his home in 1981 and that the spiritual leader sleeps an average of nine hours a night. Paster encouraged his audience to get at least seven to eight hours.

• Stress: Chaos and anger lead to higher levels of adrenaline and cortisone in our bodies, and it can cost the volatile among us dearly. Those prone to angry outburst are eight times more prone to stroke, Paster said.

• Education: Paster reiterated what he said in his Refresh column last Saturday – that education is the biggest predictor of longevity: “Studies have shown that those who have one to two years post-high school education live a decade longer than high school dropouts. Why? Because education teaches you that learning gives you the tools to a better life, better health, prevention, and vigor – what I call a ‘long, sweet life.’”

• Social life: Those who stay close with their friends, families and community tend to live longer, the doctor said. Those who live alone tend to be less healthy. Those engaged in gardening, landscaping, other hobbies and regular gatherings that tend to be productive and helpful to the greater community tend to live longer. So do those who have a pet.

• Cut yourself some slack: But don't overdo it. Paster admitted to the audience that one of his first stops when he arrived in Buffalo on Monday was to Louie's for a Texas Red Hot. He enjoyed it, but says that sort of eating isn't a regular habit. He also vowed to have some chicken wings before he leaves town.

Conference sponsors included The Buffalo News, WNED/WBFO, Univera Healthcare, Independent Health, BlueCross BlueShield of WNY, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Catholic Health, Field & Fork Network, University at Buffalo health-related programs, Boehringer Ingelheim, Buffalo Medical Group, HEALTHeLINK, George & Bodil Gellman, Rich’s, Wegmans, ECMC, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, NN/LM and the National Library of Medicine.



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About The Refresh Buffalo Blog

Scott Scanlon

Scott Scanlon

Scott Scanlon is an award-winning reporter and editor who has covered various topics in his quarter-century as a journalist in South Florida, Syracuse and Buffalo. He is aiming to pass along what he is learning these days about health, fitness, nutrition and family life.

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