Cabbage, Cabbage, Cabbage

Cabbage, cabbage, cabbage. That’s not really the word I wanted to type, but it’s the one I’ll go with. Maybe I’m thinking about slaw. I have some pork butt ready to cook very slowly until it falls apart in my BBQ sandwich…covered in slaw.

Whatever the reason, I seem to have cabbage on the brain. I have some Brussels sprouts in my refrigerator. They look like tiny cabbages. Let’s talk about them.

As a kid, I hated Brussels sprouts. Now, I love them. Most of the time, I keep them simple, blackened in a cast iron skillet. But sometimes, I switch things up a bit.

I get excited when I can find wax beans. Put them with Brussels sprouts and carrots then add a Thai chili kick. You’ve got a great side dish!

Wax Beans and Carrots with Brussels Sprouts
Serves 6

1 lb fresh wax beans
3 carrots
1 cup baby Brussels sprouts
8 slices bacon
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, peeled
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 Thai chili peppers, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Clean and prepare wax beans by removing stems and strings if present. Wash carrots and slice in eighth inch thick rounds. Wash the Brussels sprouts. Trim off ends with a paring knife, and then score the stem end with a small crosscut. Remove any loose leaves.

Boil wax beans in lightly salted water for approximately 10 minutes. Add carrots and continue to cook for 4 minutes. In a separate pan, boil Brussels sprouts in salted water for 5-10 minutes depending on size. Remove vegetables from heat and drain.

Fry bacon in 4 quart sauté pan until crisp. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels. Once drained, crumble the bacon.

Add onion and garlic to the bacon drippings in the skillet. Sauté onions until clear. Add peppers and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove the garlic and add the wax beans, carrots, and Brussels sprouts. Cook for 5-7 minutes. Salt and pepper.

Top with bacon crumbles and serve hot.

I guess a more appropriate title than Cabbage, Cabbage, Cabbage could be Brussels, Brussels, Brussels, but then you might expect a travelogue.

Confusion aside, I’ll leave you with this recipe. Hope you enjoy!

Monsters, Ghouls, and New Halloween Rules

It’s a year for monsters, ghouls, and new Halloween rules! At this time last year, I was anticipating a neighborhood Halloween extravaganza with live music, potion mixing, slime making, witch-hat ring toss, a haunted pirate ship, and tons of treats. (And I’d be remiss if I failed to mention a real fire truck manned by very real, very muscular LAFD firemen!)

This year, we’re all scrambling to find a way to provide a fun Halloween experience in a safe manner. Obviously, this may require some new rules. It is still possible to find some health department approved haunted houses in my state, but the safest experiences will be at home without guests or outside with masks, gloves, and distance.

Traditional trick-or-treating is allowed here, but I have no idea whether the neighborhood kids will show up. Nonetheless, I plan to be prepared.

Normally, I’d keep everything gluten-free. This year, I’m focusing on providing something filling along with the candy. There are many families nearby who have been affected by unemployment. A more substantial snack may keep a child from going to bed hungry.

What should I buy?

For parents to be comfortable, I’ll stick with individually packaged, store-bought snacks. It’s not the time for homemade. I won’t go so far as to choose things kids won’t like, and not everything will be nutritious. After all, Halloween is all about treats!

The first item I’m considering is Monster Pop!™ by POPCORN INDIANA® that comes in single-serving purple bags. All flavors are gluten-free and contain no high-fructose corn syrup. They’re also kosher.

Each bag is adorned with a cute monster that corresponds to the flavor. Bud is a yellow jokester who likes Big-Time BUTTER™. Cas has bright orange hair and a no-nonsense preference for Cheeserific CHEESE™. Kute purple Kit likes the Sweet‘n Salty Kooky KETTLE™ flavor. And finally, devilish Pip with his red tongue and lips prefers Finger Lickin’ PIZZA™.

Popcorn is whole grain, naturally filling, and high in fiber. It’s a treat you can feel good about serving!

They won’t make the gluten-free list, but Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Boo Packs and Cheez-It Halloween Fun Packs are kid favorite cheese cracker options. If you want something even more substantial, Lance ToastCheeR or ToastyR Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers can fill the bill and the belly.

Sensible Portions™ Garden Veggie Chips™ come in bags of ghosts and bats. They may look a little ghoulish, but at least they contain vegetables. They are also salty and crunchy and easy for toddlers to chew.

Welch’s offers Halloween Fruit Snacks in a variety of package sizes. These snacks are made with real fruit and contain no gluten, preservatives, or fat. They come in multiple fun shapes like bats, witches, ghosts, haunted castles, and pumpkins. If your kids like gummies, they’re sure to like these.

Of course there are hundreds of candy choices to accompany crackers, chips, and fruit. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups offer some nutrition as do PAYDAY bars.

If your budget allows, you may want to skip the candy and offer nuts, trail mix, beef jerky, granola, or protein bars.

How should I deliver the treats?

During this pandemic, handing out treats in person is more risk than I want to assume. That means I need a contactless delivery device. I’ve seen some of the crafty things people are building for this purpose, but I’m fresh off constructing a mailbox stand and I don’t want another construction project right now.

I found some really great plastic cauldrons that can sit outside at the bottom of my steps. They’ll function as both decoration and delivery device. Trick-or-treaters can help themselves and when the stock is gone, I can refill or just be done.

I haven’t decided whether I’ll dress up ghoulishly and watch the festivities from behind my storm door, or wait until late in the evening to check the inventory. Once I have everything I need in hand, I can make that decision as the day gets closer.

Either way, I’m ready for monsters, ghouls, and new Halloween Rules!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Stop and Smell the Memories

Do you ever take a moment to stop and smell the memories? My tomato plants are covered in tomatoes so heavy they tipped the trellis over this morning. As I was setting them back up surrounded by the smell of the plants, I was reminded of gardening with my grandmother when I was small. There’s a strong connection between smell and memory. There’s a strong connection between memory and comfort. And there’s a strong connection between comfort and food.

Have you ever had a chance to stop and consider how smell and memory influence your food choices? Most of us don’t even have time to stop and smell the roses, much less the memories. But an awareness of our relationships to smell memory can be helpful with compliance when we need to follow a specific diet in order to be healthy.

A few years ago, a gluten-free bakery opened in my city. My response upon first visiting it was to feel disappointment that there was no yeasty smell in the air. For me, the joy of a bakery lies in the smells-yeast, coffee, cinnamon. The visuals are great too, but while I might be hesitant to eat an oddly shaped cut of meat or deformed looking vegetable, I’d never refuse a misshapen cookie or a torn piece of bread.

Much of the joy and comfort of cooking come from familiar aromas. The first time I cooked fresh green beans in my home, I remarked, “This is how this house should smell.” The house is over 100 years old. Somehow, the smell fit the hardwood floors, carved wood doors, transom windows, and 12-foot ceilings. And I knew it.

When smell is a reminder of family, comfort, and tradition, it can be especially compelling. That’s because smell goes directly to an olfactory bulb that’s connected to the amygdala where emotional processing occurs. All of those warm feelings can end up being connected to related smells.

The idea of giving up a certain food may trigger a feeling of loss or separation as if you’re giving up family or comfort. Knowing this up front can help inform your choices and give you enough insight to recognize and overcome emotional memory stumbling blocks.

And perhaps knowing this can help you process through a diagnosis of celiac disease, diabetes, IBS, or Crohn’s disease without feeling as though required dietary changes will be dire. You will quickly recognize that you can enjoy the warm memories associated with the scent of a cinnamon roll without actually eating one. This knowledge will increase your sense of power, confidence, and choice.

It may also mean you value your memories more because you take time to smell them.

A Handful of Almonds

While you’re watching the debate tomorrow night, enjoy a handful of almonds. No matter how you feel about politics, you can’t go wrong with a simple, nutritious snack that pays homage to those who came before. You may remember that during an Obama speech to the DNC in 2016, Matt Yglesias tweeted, “Tonight, Obama’s going to eat seven chocolate-covered almonds.”

We all snack at different times and for different reasons. Rather than trying to eliminate snacking, why not enjoy eating something you can feel good about?

I’m not sure whether the chocolate-covered almonds referenced are cocoa dusted or almonds covered in candy. Of the two, cocoa dusted is the healthier choice. Healthier still are raw almonds.

Seven raw almonds contain 49 calories, 1.8 grams of protein, 1.7 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, and 4.3 grams of fat. They also have 21 mg of calcium and 61 mg of potassium. For comparison, a banana has 5 mg calcium and a tablespoon of whole milk has 17. A banana also has 358 mg potassium, 90 calories, and .3 grams of fat. A tablespoon of whole milk has 22 mg potassium, 9 calories, and .5 grams of fat. Almonds also provide a good supply of vitamin E, manganese, and magnesium. While they may seem high in calories, some of those calories are not absorbed by the body.

The brown skin of almonds is high in healthy antioxidants. In fact, vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that helps protect your cells from oxidative damage. Studies have linked higher vitamin E consumption with lowered rates of Alzheimer’s, cancer, and heart disease.

Magnesium lowers blood sugar levels and reduces insulin resistance which may help prevent Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. A sufficient amount of manganese is required to keep blood pressure in check. As if that weren’t enough, almonds can help lower LDL cholesterol levels.

Almonds fill you up, protect your cells, help preserve your memory, and give you satisfying crunch. Sounds like a pretty good snack, no?

Whether you’re enjoying the debates, binge watching, or taking a hike, almonds are a great choice when you want a snack between meals. Just a handful will do!

https://www.calorieking.com/us/en/foods/f/calories-in-nuts-almonds-raw/ZBfdrfsWRzyC1C68o0NSrw

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/9-proven-benefits-of-almonds#TOC_TITLE_HDR_2

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20199999/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12117360/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15321799/