Foil Pouch Grilling for Memorial Day

Consider foil pouch grilling for Memorial Day. As we all look for ways to interact with friends and neighbors, some thoughtful preparation can make everyone feel safer and more comfortable. If you’re not in a quarantine bubble and are grilling with friends this Memorial Day, you may want to consider individual meals rather than shared plates. Foil pouches are a great way to package food so that it’s only touched by one individual after it’s cooked.

With experts recommending that gatherings stay outside as much as possible, foil pouches are an easy delivery system whether you’re cooking on the grill or baking inside for delivery to the porch or yard. If you invite picky eaters or want to offer your guests flavor choices, pouches can be tailored to individual tastes. This is a great option for those with food intolerance or allergies as well.

When creating individual pouches, the key is making sure you have a way to identify who each pouch belongs to. I like to draw a grid on a sheet of paper that matches the arrangement on my grill or pan. Once the food is done, I put the corresponding name on each pouch with freezer tape. If you’re less messy than I am, you can also use a marker.

Your protein choice may be limited to whatever is available this year. Flexibility will be key to keeping the experience positive. If you’re not sure what flavors to combine, a resource like The Flavor Bible can come in handy.

For the kids, pouches filled with frozen tater tots and meatballs, hot dogs, or burgers are great options. You can top with cheese or dairy-free cheese and provide condiments in individual packets.

Mac & cheese is a kid favorite as well. You’ll want to cook the mac & cheese before creating a pouch. If you have a gluten-free or dairy-free child to consider, look for small portions of microwaveable mac & cheese to keep it simple. Bacon, sausage, pepperoni, salami, and hot dogs go great with mac & cheese. If you have pizza sauce handy, create pizza flavored packs with mac & cheese, pizza sauce, and pepperoni.

Deconstructed kebabs are easily adapted to individual tastes. Beef kebabs with bell pepper, onion, and mushrooms will appeal to the more traditional grillers. You can also consider Greek flavors combining chicken, red bell pepper, red onion, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and feta cheese; or go another direction with chicken satay and coconut rice. Choose Thai beef with quinoa, or barbecue chicken with pineapple. The combinations are really limitless and easily adapted to the items available in your area.

Shepherd’s pie can be baked in foil pouches. You can also combine mashed potatoes, fresh spinach and browned breakfast sausage for a variation on this theme. Whatever the flavors, cooking in foil keeps the meat moist and the food warm until you’re ready to serve.

For the comfort of your family and friends, provide drinks in individual cans or bottles rather than pouring from shared bottles and pitchers. Choose prepackaged individual snacks containing nuts, fruit, cheese, trail mix, or chips to accompany your foil pouches. Offer individually packaged condiments, salt, and pepper. You may also want to provide masks, and hand sanitizer (if you can find it) or hand wipes.

There are many different levels of comfort regarding social interactions at this moment. If someone chooses to decline your invitation, wear gloves, bring their own food, or not eat at all, please remember it is not necessarily about you or your food. It is most likely about their understanding of risk and the level of risk they are willing to assume.

We are learning. Recommendations change. Studies will be replaced by larger and better studies. No one will know what facts are supported by the most meticulous science for a great while. And getting it exactly right at this moment may not be as important to someone as feeling safe. (Being safe may be the penultimate goal, but is somewhat elusive without complete isolation.)

Tolerance is a precious gift. I wish it for you and I wish it from you. For me, at multiple moments in March and April, tolerance has been as hard to find as toilet paper. This feels personally sad and culturally worrisome. We can do better.

We have been offered a great opportunity to learn in the form of unavoidable change. We can choose to resist or to grow. Surrendering to change is required for both resiliency and growth. While you relax and enjoy foil pouch grilling for Memorial Day, please remember that now is the time to choose thoughtfully and carefully.

Pandemic Tool of the Day

Each day for the past week, I’ve designated a #pandemic tool of the day. This started as a silly hashtag I’d send in texts whenever I accomplished something that felt significant during this pandemic: managing to order toilet paper or getting safety advice from a doctor working on the front lines. I quickly realized how grateful I am when I have the tools I need.

I already knew that the right equipment makes developing recipes easier and more pleasant. Now, I’m paying attention to other tools I might otherwise take for granted.

tools

Sunday’s tool of the day: #20_ft_jumper_cables. Thank goodness I had them on hand. My car was parked behind my truck and the battery was dead. There was no way to maneuver the vehicles to face each other. he extra cable length allowed me to start the car easily anyway so I could go…well, nowhere.

That tells you how little I’ve been driving. Luckily, I can work at home so the lack of driving doesn’t mean I have lots of extra time on my hands. It just means I am choosing to stay home to stay safe.

Monday’s tool of the day: #toilet_seat. I have no idea why I bought two toilet seats the last time I bought one, but I was very grateful to have that extra on hand when a seat broke on Monday.

Keeping that purchase may have seemed foolhardy in a Marie Kondo world. It did not bring me joy…until I needed it. Then it changed my world in the best of ways! And I didn’t have to risk the virus to get one.

Tuesday’s tool: #walmart_grocery_app. As you may recall, I was an early adopter of ordering groceries online. In January, I switched from pickup to delivery. At the time, I didn’t know that less than two months later my family would get orders from a cardiologist to stay home to protect my granddaughter.

The early adoption meant all I needed to change was to go no contact. Before that was offered as an official option, I made the change. Once DoorDash assigned a driver for a delivery, I sent a text to that driver telling them to sign for me and leave the groceries by the door. Eventually, the app caught up.

Wednesday’s tool: #paw_patrol_shovel. You won’t even have to ask a kid to help in the garden when you have a PAW Patrol shovel! Just hope they haven’t been watching old reruns of Hogan’s Heroes.

My cousins and I dug a huge hole in my grandmother’s yard one day after watching that show. We were planning a whole tunnel system, and we didn’t bother to ask permission. By the time we were discovered, the hole was four feet wide and three feet deep.

We knew by the fierceness with which my grandmother stomped her foot once we had gone too far. It’s the maddest I can ever remember seeing her.

Thursday’s tool: #pulse_ox. Seems as though silent hypoxia plagues many Covid-19 patients long before they feel shortness of breath. Measuring oxygen saturation levels early and seeking medical treatment sooner can mean a better outcome.

Em’s oxygen levels have to be monitored periodically so we’re quite familiar with the use of a pulse oximeter. It doesn’t require any special skill and may help some patients avoid the need for a ventilator. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/20/opinion/sunday/coronavirus-testing-pneumonia.html

Friday’s tool: #technology. Without technology, I wouldn’t be able to see two of my grandchildren as they change and grow. I couldn’t order groceries online. My entertainment and news sources would be less plentiful. And I wouldn’t be able to do much of my job from home.

Rounding out the week, Saturday’s tool: #masks. I wear masks when I do certain projects around the house. My glasses tend to fog or shift so that I’m looking through the bifocal. I sometimes feel claustrophobic. I have to admit, I don’t love them.

In spite of that, they are the most important tool of the week! My friend who is director of pulmonary and critical care at a local hospital advises that the best way to protect yourself is to stay at home and only enter stores where masks are required and people actually wear them. Although his department gets the worst of the worst cases of Covid-19, he feels safer at the hospital than the grocery store!

I’ve been recruiting mask makers for that hospital. They are constantly in need. A friend is sending me some to use when I take a walk. Knowing that I can protect those around me is enough reason to make my peace with an accessory I don’t love.

Who knows what today’s tool will be? Scissors, tongs, power cord, remote, ladder, cultivator, magnetic letters, pitcher, needle nose pliers, fishing pole, earplugs, and hammer are contenders as are thoughtfulness, kindness, courage, laughter, and generosity.

The pandemic tool of the day will reveal itself in time. I’m looking forward to that moment of excitement and gratitude when I realize I have just what I need.

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.”

Monday Musing

Monday musing = It is Monday and I am musing. Sometimes things are simple and mean what they seem to mean. Let’s keep it that way.

In fact, I’ll muse about simplicity for a moment.

mountain view
Height of Land in Bethel, Maine

I prefer simple communication.
I prefer simple, straightforward communication to flowery flattery or free flowing expressions of affection. I’ve had too much experience with ridiculous euphemisms and vague hidden messages. I CAN handle the truth…and I prefer it.

I like simple solutions.
Often I find them by improving the process. The time, energy, thought, and effort put into planning and organization pay off over and over again by preventing convoluted outcomes. Process solutions free of secondary complications can be as layered and responsive as required. And they can keep me from spending all of my time fighting fires.

Simple solutions can also be found in the moment.
When I left the butter out overnight, I realized I automatically use less when it’s easy to spread. Now I keep some salted butter on the counter and some in the refrigerator.

When my brand new roof leaked and I discovered a tiny bit of mold, I learned I could kill it with vinegar. I didn’t need the hassle and expense of a hazmat-suited team armed with chemicals.

In the middle of an argument, I quickly remembered I can eliminate most food disagreements with a toddler by offering limited choices. When I give my grandson DJ a choice of oranges or grapes and hummus or cottage cheese, he happily chooses one from each category and eats them without fussing. (While this is more difficult to accomplish with my two-year-old granddaughter who has Down Syndrome and cannot talk, we are working on a choice between milk or water using sign language. She also needs to learn that she has options and can determine her path.)

Many simple solutions are obvious.
I can walk more by parking further away. I can drink more water by carrying it with me or drinking only water in restaurants. I will have more time to read if I turn off the TV. I will have more money to spend later when I save now.

Great food can be simple.
I ate a harvest vegetable risotto last week that was scrumptious. The flavor came primarily from the sweet potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms, spinach, and cherry tomatoes amidst the rice. No heavy seasoning or sauce was needed. In fact, making the flavor profile more complex would not have improved my enjoyment. I love dishes like that!

A workout can be simple.
One day I decided walking up and down my stairs would be an easy way to get some aerobic exercise. I figured 10 trips up and down would be fast and easy. There are 24 steps. I set out at a quick pace. Three flights later, I was huffing and puffing. Walking stairs is a simple workout, but it’s not necessarily easy.

Fun can be simple, too.
I don’t really need bright lights, loud music, and lots of people around to have a good time. Give me a gorgeous mountain view, an uncrowded swimming pool, a good book, a spirited discussion, an inspiring performance or exhibit, and the uninhibited giggles of a grandchild and I can have a wonderful time.

Difficult decisions can be made using a simple process.
Narrow your options to those that align with your intentions and values. Review each remaining option asking: Does this option solve a problem, accomplish a defined goal, benefit my finances, make life more pleasant or peaceful? Rarely will each option have an equal number of benefits.

If all options seem equal, review the options again asking: Does this option benefit my family as well as myself; does it put me in a vulnerable or questionable financial position for a period of time; which choice will benefit me more in one, five, or ten years? Again, it will be rare for every option to be equally weighted.

Break down the complicated.
If you still find yourself stuck or paralyzed and simply can’t make a decision, you are most likely caught in some issue other than the decision at hand. Recognizing this frees you up to move away from spinning your wheels trying to make a particular decision and put that energy toward examining the source of underlying paralysis. Once that’s addressed, the decision will become simple.

The simplest actions can mean the most.
Take the time to let your children know you see them. Look your friends, family, colleagues, and enemies in the eye. Actively listen. Say thank you. Stay home when you’re sick. Choose kindness. Apologize. Be dependable and reliable. Say no when you mean no. Give time.

Well, I mused so long it’s now Tuesday. Time to stop musing and go vote!

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If Your Work Does Not Garner Attention, Is It Worth Doing?

If your work does not garner attention, is it worth doing? In 2009, my son’s friend Ester directed the documentary film, Butterflies. The film follows the lives of six people dubbed weblebrities for gaining fame for doing nothing but appear on a website called YouTube. At the time, YouTube was only four-years-old and there was no such thing as an influencer.

In fact, although the film explores the power of the internet to challenge the future of traditional media, I don’t think anyone took the weblebrity phenomenon too seriously. I know I didn’t expect that 10 years later a 7-year-old could make $22 million in one year reviewing toys on YouTube.

As timing would have it, there was a synergy in the effects of the Real Housewives, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, smartphone cameras and YouTube. What was initially viewed by most as distasteful exhibitionism morphed into acceptable and then a model to emulate.

Growing alongside those franchises were FaceBook and Twitter soon followed by Instagram. While these are marketed as ways to connect, they are equally ways to garner attention. Clicks and likes became a measure of whether you matter in the world. The fact that likes are generated by the lewd, violent, or dangerous as well as the cute and cuddly lost any distinction.

Ten years after Butterflies, being a YouTube star has become a career goal. This is not inherently a bad thing. Using YouTube to showcase art, music, spoken word, fashion, dance, interior design, cooking, scuba diving, sailing, rowing, gymnastics, workouts, gardening, auto repair, appliance repair, history, 3D printing, and new technology is a great use of the platform. Showcasing new products is fine too. But hoping to be famous for being famous or outrageous has limited value to society.

On the other hand, being famous for being famous or outrageous now pays really well. Because we use money as a primary measure of success in this country, celebrity for celebrity’s sake has been legitimized. So what if you create an algorithm that improves hospital efficiency, design an improved washing machine, engineer a safer bridge, or improve the delivery mechanism for chemo? What if your true talent is caring for a disabled child or fragile senior?

What if the most significant contribution you make does not get any attention at all?

The truth is that the most important work you do in life may not garner much attention or much money. We used to know and accept this. We followed internal guidelines that focused on hard work, dependability, honesty, integrity and doing our best at any task we were given. Our sense of accomplishment was based as much on HOW we did the job as it was on what we achieved or how much we were paid.

When we tried hard and failed, we weren’t crushed as long as we had done our best. We absorbed the experience, learned something, and moved on. We expected less from others and more from ourselves.

During the past decade, there has been a shift from primarily internal to primarily external motivation and validation. And the shift hasn’t been to external validation from people who can look you in the eyes or hold you when you’re crying, but to validation from total strangers who only know a one-dimensional version of you and only care about you when you stand out from the digital noise.

Depending on someone else for a feeling of accomplishment or measure of success takes away our power. It leaves us vulnerable to a sense of self based on fickle trends and short attention spans. With more exposure to that vulnerability we are seeing skyrocketing rates of depression, anxiety, addiction, suicide, and mass killing. And why not?

When your sense of self is based on other people, how do you know you matter if you don’t get any likes? How do you know you’re living up to your potential if you turn off your phone to focus on your kids and can’t see whether you have any new followers? How can your accomplishments matter if only your boss knows you wrote the code to make a driverless car stop? If your friends aren’t DMing or tweeting you, do you even exist?

We can shift back to internal value systems, but it will take courage and introspection. It will take parenting differently. It will mean making a conscious decision that it’s more important to make a contribution than to be known for making that contribution. We can take back our power and choose not to react if our achievements are hidden, overlooked, or under-appreciated.

  • What if the only thing you accomplish in your career is making everyone else’s job easier? Is that a bad thing? Wouldn’t you appreciate someone else who makes your job easier or more pleasant?
  • What if your courage allows you to stop the line more often than anyone else when you see something amiss? You may be considered an annoyance to your supervisor, but you are contributing to quality and safety.
  • What if the only thing you give to society is making sure your children feel not just loved, but valued? That single accomplishment could save lives. When we have been valued, we are more likely to value others. Valuing ourselves and others makes it much more difficult to take another person’s life.
  • What if you never make much money, but give comfort and assistance to those who are struggling on a regular basis? Is this not a valuable and badly needed service?
  • What if your accomplishments are to keep your home clean, organized, and peaceful? Those are significant contributions to your family’s well-being. They provide a foundation for the family to excel.
  • If you are an agent for change, you may get more negative attention than positive. Does that mean your work is not worthwhile or that you should stop pushing for change?

Our sphere of influence may be as large as the universe or as small as our nuclear families. Within either realm, we have power and responsibility. What we do and how we do it matters. It feels great to have our accomplishments noticed and appreciated, but if the reward is not in the work itself we will never feel satisfied.

Considering our current focus on external response, it’s worth asking whether your work has to get attention for it to be worth doing. If it does, are you setting yourself up to feel perpetually dissatisfied?

Big questions may be hard to ask, but they’re so easy to answer! It’s just fear that keeps us from asking. I feel strongly about doing something that comes with internal motivation and reward. It’s the way to feel as though you haven’t worked a day in your life. And if you choose something you know is worth doing, it won’t matter a whit whether anyone notices or posts a like.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1381735/?ref_=nm_knf_i1

https://www.businessinsider.com/ryan-toysreview-7-year-old-makes-22-million-per-year-youtube-2018-12

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4853817/

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/09/america-without-family-god-or-patriotism/597382/

https://www.netflix.com/title/80202283

https://www.oreilly.com/library/view/being-agile-eleven/9780133375640/ch09lev2sec1.html

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