Travel Tip #15 – Food and Container in One

When you’re traveling, sometimes it’s nice to have your food and container in one and pitch it when you’re done. For the gluten-free among us, Bob’s Red Mill single serving Gluten Free Oatmeal Cups can fill the bill.
oatmeal row
I’m on the road again. I don’t think I’ve been home more than two weeks straight since December. The good thing is, the more you travel, the more you learn. Yesterday, I ran into a small health food market in hope of grabbing some gluten-free crackers to go with the tuna salad in my cooler.

I’m staying in a town of about 13,000 people in a rural area surrounded by mountains. The wireless service is severely lacking, but there are two health food markets that best the choices I have at home. In addition to gluten-free crackers, I chose 3 Gluten Free Oatmeal Cups. I thought it would be fun to try them out.

This morning, I gave the blueberry and hazelnut flavor a whirl. Making it was easy. I removed the lid (make sure to save it), pulled off the plastic seal and placed the bowl in the single serve coffee maker in my hotel room. The coffee cups provided by the hotel are similar in diameter to the oatmeal container, so I filled a coffee cup with water to a level approximating slightly under the fill line on the oatmeal container and poured it into the coffee maker. I put the coffee maker filter holder in place, but left it empty. Then I hit the power button.
Hot water streamed into my oatmeal. When the level reached the fill line, I removed the oatmeal cup and replaced it with the empty coffee cup to catch any remaining water. Then I stirred the oatmeal, placed the lid back on it, and let it sit for 3 minutes. One more stir and the oatmeal was ready to eat.

In addition to oats, this flavor contains cane sugar, hazelnuts, dried blueberries, chia seed, flaxseed, blueberry powder, and sea salt. The blueberry powder gives the oatmeal a slightly purple color, but there’s no strong blueberry flavor. This oatmeal is balanced. It doesn’t really lean toward sweet or salty.

While I paired my oatmeal with eggs from the hotel breakfast bar, I didn’t dress up the flavor with any of the sugar, butter or milk available there. If I were going to, I’d probably just add a little butter, but my sister would prefer more butter and brown sugar. The 2.5 oz container was more than enough for me so I put the lid back on to see how well it holds up through the day.

I can see carrying these on a road trip or camping trip. There are 4 flavors available: Classic, Blueberry Hazelnut, Apple Cinnamon, and Brown Sugar and Maple. The cup can be microwaved for preparation or reheating. And it’s great to know I have a filling choice available when the hotel breakfast bar features cereal, muffins, waffles, French toast points, eggs on bagels, biscuits, bacon and fruit. I like bacon and fruit, but it doesn’t stick with me long.

Other single serve oatmeal can be prepared in the packet, but the process is not as neat and easy as preparing as these cups. For an easy food and container choice in one, Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Oatmeal Cups are a solid choice.

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.”

I Can See Clearly Now

Luckily, I can see clearly now – even when I play 2048 obsessively on my phone. In the years just prior to adopting a gluten-free diet, I suffered from many symptoms. One of those was dry eyes. When I woke up each morning, it felt like I had gravel in my eyes. I could no longer command my eyes to water at will. I sometimes asked a colleague in my office to tell me a sad story so I could cry and make my eyes feel better.
I tried every over-the-counter eye drop I could find. Some didn’t work at all. I was allergic to others. My opthalmologist explained to me that my eyelids were sticking to my eyes and causing little abrasions. That sounded bad and felt awful. She insisted I use RESTASIS®. I complied.

As I struggled to get a diagnosis for my constant aching, itchy rashes, tummy pain, diarrhea, and weakness, I began to include dry eye in my research. I discovered Sjogren’s Syndrome. This autoimmune disease affects an estimated 1 in 10 dry eye patients.

It often occurs alone, but can also occur along with other autoimmune diseases like celiac, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or scleroderma. As I began my gluten-free experiment, I was curious whether healing my gut would have a positive effect on my dry eye. My opthalmologist and I designed a plan to wean me off RESTASIS® so I could find out.

Like the itchy rashes caused by my dermatitis herpetiformis, the improvement in my eyes on a gluten-free diet has followed a much slower and sporadic path than the quick reduction in muscle pain & weakness, stomach pain, and other intestinal symptoms I experienced. My increased use of electronic devices hasn’t helped. While my eyes are still on the dry side, they are much improved as evidenced both by the way they feel and by my optometrist’s observation during yearly exams.
What I’ve discovered along the way is that overall hydration is important. When I drink too much tea or not enough water, I notice a difference. Wearing mascara of any sort results in drier eyes. And I’ve learned that I can supplement the eyes’ self-cleaning action by using eye wash once or twice a day. By making choices to support eye hydration, I had reached a level of adequate hydration with only occasional annoyance, but I can see more clearly now.

Recently, I found an eye cleansing yoga routine and decided to give it a try. It’s a simple set of eye movement exercises plus a period of time breathing while staring at a candle flame or small object about 24 inches in front of the eyes. As I stare and try not to blink, my eyes begin to water in the same manner I was previously able to command them to water at will.

After a few of days of this practice, I decided to try the staring technique while working. I stopped what I was doing, stared at an icon on my computer screen, and boom-bada-boom, it worked. My eyes began to water. I’m thrilled to have another simple solution at my disposal. I can see clearly now, can you?

Strategic Patience

formulaThis morning I ran across the term strategic patience. It wasn’t used in the context of foreign policy with Russia. This strategic patience was used to describe a technique employed by teachers in which students are asked to remove themselves from electronics and quietly observe a math formula, graph, or painting. Sometimes the duration of the assignment was only 1.5 minutes, but that time had a positive learning result.

Quiet observation, stillness, contemplation, and mindfulness are words I hear fairly often. I know a few people who practice yoga and many who claim to pray, but most everyone I know is also running as fast as they can most of the time. It is rare that anyone sits still or savors a moment alone.

I know that’s probably true of the people around you as well. In fact, University of Virginia psychologist Timothy Wilson and his colleagues at U.Va. and Harvard found in a series of 11 studies that participants generally did not enjoy even six to 15 minutes alone in a room with nothing to do but think, ponder, or daydream.

We become so accustomed to filling every moment, we schedule more and more and more and then start to rush to get it all done. And we convince ourselves that everything we’re doing is important whether or not we appreciate the value it adds to our lives. We have an idea that through this overabundance we are living more fully,varms but are we, or would strategic patience serve us better?

That’s a big question to answer in a blog post. It’s the kind of big question people write whole books about. I’m in too much of a hurry to write a book. I just need to get this post finished so I can move on to the rest of my over-scheduled day. As a result, I’ll limit the rest of this space to sharing what I’ve learned the past few years…by being still.

Being still matters. It’s important. No, it’s CRITICAL.

I don’t know why exactly except that without stillness there is no motion. Contrasts in life are the way we make sense of things. We can’t know sweet unless we know sour. We can’t know fast unless we know slow. We can’t know happiness unless we know sadness. We can’t know success unless we know failure.

Until we are able to sit still with ourselves, we cannot know ourselves fully and not knowing ourselves frightens us. It leaves us susceptible to criticism because we’re not really sure if the criticism is deserved. It leaves us unable to apologize sincerely because we’re not really sure how we feel. It causes us to bristle quickly because each time someone doesn’t follow their prescribed role in our necessarily narrow script, we feel threatened. It causes us to posture rather than stand confidently tall. It keeps us divorced from our vulnerability without which we cannot receive love. And we all want to be loved.

Now, how does any of this relate to cooking? It doesn’t, but strategic patience is ingredient number one for thriving.

Portion Control for Your Pocketbook

vegWhen you’re on a budget, you may need to practice portion control for your pocketbook. For the past 25 years, I had very healthy cash flow. I hardly ever looked at prices in the grocery store. I just threw whatever I wanted in the basket. I ate in the best restaurants often and didn’t hesitate to accept an invitation to happy hour. While I have always shopped vintage, I never hesitated to purchase a new pair of shoes.

Once I sold my business, my cash flow situation changed. Now I carefully consider a new pair of shoes. I eat at home most days (I’m creating and testing recipes after all) and I rarely go out for happy hour. On the other hand, I go to the grocery store…a lot!

One reason for all the shopping is my job, but much of it is because I love fresh ingredients and I like to experiment in the kitchen. That means I’m happiest when I’m shopping in smaller specialty markets that have really fresh produce or interestingly odd offerings. The problem is that many smaller markets have very steep pricing.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone into one of these markets to grab one or two items and left having spent over $100. While that’s always bothered me, now I need to make sure I just don’t do it. I have to practice portion control.

Using the smaller double-decker baskets wasn’t working for me. I always choose those because I like them better, but I can still fit in way more than I want to pay for. I could use a small reusable grocery bag to limit my items to what I can carry, but then I’ll look suspiciously like I’m trying to avoid paying, not to mention, I never have one of those bags handy when I need it. You could tell me I just need to stick with my shopping list, but that would be like talking to a brick wall.
So, how am I solving this problem? I don’t carry a bag OR use a basket. I limit my shopping to what I can carry in my hands. Just like using a smaller plate to eat your lunch, this technique will cut out the excess fast. After a couple of lemon dropping incidents, I learned I’d rather avoid the embarrassment of overloading. Now I rarely spend more than $20 in one of these stores.

Developing portion control for your pocketbook is much like making any other needed change. The better you know yourself, the easier it is to develop techniques that will make the change easier rather than harder. And who says it’s better to do things the hard way?