Archive for ‘Motivation’

December 4, 2017

Dump Soup – Perfect for a Lazy Day

This morning, I’m making dump soup. I’d like to say it’s because I’m having a relaxing day with nothing else to do. The truth is, I’m sick. I don’t feel like standing in the kitchen, but I want some soup to sip on.
veggies
The good news is, I have remnants of broccoli, potatoes, corn, tomatoes, carrots, celery, fresh rosemary, and ham in my refrigerator — all left over from last weekend’s family meal prep. I also have a bag of small red onions I picked up on sale. The other good news is that the broccoli has already been cleaned, the potatoes were peeled & sliced for scalloped potatoes (but wouldn’t fit in my dish), and the tomatoes were chopped for a salad. I can just dump everything in a pan, no prep required!!!!

Dump soup, unlike a carefully prepared stew, doesn’t require chopping. It doesn’t require potatoes that haven’t turned dark. You don’t need to cut the leaves off of the celery or pull the rosemary off its stem. You can just dump cleaned veggies in a large pot, season with salt, pepper, garlic (dump some fresh in if you have it), and any other herbs or spices that compliment your flavor profile, then add meat & water.
ham
Any leftover or uncooked meat will work — ham, chicken, and bacon are my favorites. Dump soup is a great place to use chicken or turkey necks, hearts, livers, and gizzards. It’s the perfect excuse to skip closely trimming a ham bone. Leaving some meat on the bone will add even more flavor to the soup. If you don’t have meat handy, mixing some chicken stock in your water will deepen the flavor of the vegetable broth.

If you’ve ever made chicken stock, you know that once the broth is flavored, you remove all of the chicken and vegetables because they’re overcooked and have given most of their flavor over to the broth. Dump soup is the same. What you’re going for initially is a flavorful broth. Slowly simmering your mixture for 3-4 hours will result in a rich broth. The lengthy cooking time is another reason it’s perfect for a lazy morning or a day you’re stuck at home doing chores.

After 3-4 hours, dump in whatever you’d like to chew on in your soup. First, remove all the meat, vegetables, and herbs. I don’t worry about straining out little remnants, but you can if you want a clear broth. Today, I’ll probably dump in some brown rice, but pasta, quinoa, or lentils are good options as well. If I felt like spending more time in the kitchen, I might add chopped vegetables and/or meat.
biscuits
I’ll serve today’s dump soup with some ratty looking gluten-free biscuits I threw together this morning. I keep the dry ingredients mixed up so that on days like today, I all I have to do is cut in some shortening and add the milk and buttermilk. That means it takes about 5 minutes to mix the biscuits and get them in the oven. Obviously, I didn’t take much time rolling or cutting these! A piece of fresh fruit will round out the meal.

And I’ll have plenty of everything left for tomorrow. Of course, I hope I’m feeling better by then but you never know. Having something warm and comforting already prepared makes me feel less anxious and able to rest more easily while I try to get ahead of this virus. There’s also something comforting about the delicious aroma filling the house.

In a matter of minutes, I cleaned out 80% of the contents of my refrigerator, made the house feel comforting, and created several meals — all by making dump soup. Not bad for a morning when I’m mostly lying around watching TV!

November 30, 2017

Travel Tip #19 – Pack Light

When you get ready to make that holiday trip…pack light. I’m a planner. I can be spontaneous and I don’t have to nail down every detail in advance, but I need to feel that I’m prepared for the possibilities. Being prepared for everything that I imagine might happen on a long trip can leave me at risk for severe overpacking. The fact that I always carry at least one book and usually two doesn’t help.
suitcase
When I was preparing for my first trip to Europe, an older, wiser, well-traveled coworker advised me to pack my bag then remove half the stuff and pack again. Once the bag was packed with the half that remained, she told me to remove half of what I’d packed that second time. Then, she said, you’ll have what you need.

I might have ignored that advice, but just prior to receiving it, I’d learned about the concept that the size and weight of the bags you carry reflects the size and weight of the emotional baggage you carry. I was pretty sure I wanted to appear as though my emotional baggage was small. And so, I packed a fourth of what I had planned to take.

As it turns out, that advice was worth its weight in gold! That particular trip to Brussels, Amsterdam, London, Paris, and Moscow was filled with unexpected walks while toting my bags – a task much more easily accomplished when the bags are light. The surprising thing was, I actually had everything I needed.

Learning that 3/4 of what I’d originally packed wasn’t necessary made a believer out of me. In a couple of weeks when I head back to LA, it will be with a fourth of the things I feel like I might need while I’m there. Don’t worry, I’ll still have a book in hand (the old school paper kind). I’ll leave the computer behind.

Lugging around too many large, heavy bags will soon wear on you. You want to arrive at each destination feeling energetic and excited, not overloaded and exhausted. Packing light will give you a great start toward feeling less burdened and more carefree. And isn’t that’s why we want to get away in the first place?

There are many advantages when you pack light. They include:

No need to purchase large suitcases.
Faster, easier packing before you leave.
Less stress on your shoulders, back, knees, and feet.
Easy transfers when changing modes of transportation.
Fewer bag fees.
Room to pack items you purchase during a trip.
Fewer things to keep up with.

If you can’t imagine packing lighter, here are a few ideas to explore:

*Many hotel, condo-style hotel, Airbnb, and VRBO accommodations offer laundry facilities. If you are making an extended trip, laundry access will allow you to carry less and still have clean clothes without interrupting your planned activities.

*Carrying neutral, solid colored items that can be layered, mixed and matched, or accessorized differently will allow you to vary your appearance. A couple of bright colored scarves can totally change the look of basic black pants and a sweater.

*Only packing for predicted weather variations can reduce your load. Check the weather forecast. While forecasts are notoriously inaccurate, they can be relied on to give you an overview of the likely extremes. Pack for those. Could it rain unexpectedly? Of course, but you can always pick up an inexpensive umbrella at a gas station or dollar store.

If an unexpected cold front comes through and you need a new fleece hoodie or a coat, think of it as a shopping opportunity. If your budget is tight, even small towns often have a discount store, thrift store, or flea market with an option that will serve you well. I’ve made some great purchases from thrift stores in Austin, Texas; Santa Monica, California; and Fayetteville, Arkansas.

*A pair of multipurpose shoes that can be enjoyably walked in for miles while looking dressy enough for a casual dress is a great investment for your travel wardrobe. Shoes are bulky and heavy. The fewer you have to carry, the better. It’s worth it to purchase a pair of comfortable, versatile shoes.

Of course it’s best if the shoe color is neutral and coordinates well with both light and dark clothing. It may take time to find the perfect pair, but in my experience having them can reduce the weight of my suitcase by several pounds. For most trips, I can wear one pair of shoes and take some $1 flip flops and have all my needs covered.

*Reducing the contents of your purse to the essentials means you can carry a small crossbody bag with convenient organizational pockets for travel. Pare down your credit cards to a couple of essential ones. Take only critical keys. Choose one lipstick. Leave your checkbook, library card, grocery store rewards card, old receipts, coupons, full size pill bottles, and additional keys at home.

*A review of your travel history can reveal unnecessary items you’re in the habit of packing. Do you pack workout clothes? If so, do you regularly work out when on a trip? If not, skip the workout clothes. Do you regularly use a hotel pool or hot tub? If not, and you’re not planning a beach vacation, don’t carry a swimsuit. In other words, not preparing for activities you rarely take advantage of will result in lighter bags.

Getting away can provide rest, inspiration, and a sense of feeling carefree that helps relieve stress and provides renewal. Packing light can encourage that carefree feeling. I want that!

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/travel-tip-18-push-the-limits/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/travel-tip-12-cold-soups-vary-different-countries/

September 20, 2017

Can Food Win a War?

save France“Food Will Win the War” was the slogan of the US Food Administration in 1917; can food win a war? I’ve been cleaning out a storage building and a house. I’ve sorted through bags and bags of mail from 1987 to now, disposed of boxes of paper scraps, broken toys, and canned food so old that the cans are leaking. Hidden amid the mountain of junk, I’ve also rescued two baby books, a 1910 teaching contract, antique maps, and a copy of “Food Saving and Sharing” – the 1918 textbook prepared under the direction of The United States Food Administration.

This 102 page book, which was distributed to teachers in schools across the US, provides basic information about food and its function, interweaves cultural myths, and promotes conserving food, cleaning your plate (that probably sounds familiar), and helping the nation and its allies through personal sacrifice. For me, reading this now at a different point in history provides much food for thought.

Food Administration

Established in 1917, the US Food Administration was the agency responsible for the administration of U.S. Army overseas and Allies’ food reserves. The Food Administration’s goals were to provide food for its own troops and those of its Allies in war-torn Europe as well as to feed the American and Allied populations. Although the name sounds similar, this agency was not related to the Food and Drug Administration which was instituted in 1938 to enforce the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

Herbert Hoover was tapped by President Woodrow Wilson to lead the organization. As head of the agency, Hoover was quoted as saying, “Our conception of the problem in the United States is that we should assemble the voluntary effort of the people…We propose to mobilize the spirit of self-denial and self-sacrifice in this country.”

“Food Will Win the War” became the slogan featured on widely disseminated posters, articles, and educational material. Concepts such as “Meatless Mondays” and “Wheatless Wednesdays” were implemented to encourage US citizens to voluntarily conserve food so that more commodities would be available to send to the Allies.

The campaign was successful, resulting in a 15% reduction in domestic food consumption without rationing. In a 12-month period from 1918 to 1919 the US furnished 18,500,000 tons of food to the Allies.

Food Education

About half of the book “Food Saving and Sharing” is food education. I was struck by the accuracy of the information included. With more sophisticated lab technology, years of additional research, and multiple media outlets for disseminating information, it seems that we should have
significantly greater knowledge and be more accurately informed regarding nutrition now than we were 100 years ago. Instead, we have a wealth of confusing, conflicting, misleading information to sort through. It’s tough for most of us to know what to believe.

I recently watched a national TV morning news segment in which an MD stated that yogurt was not a good breakfast food because of all the sugar it contains. She did not qualify that statement in any way and it’s simply not true. Plain yogurt contains no sugar other than lactose from milk. If made at home and processed for 24 hours, even the lactose breaks down.

If milk is a good breakfast food, then yogurt is just as good. Well, actually better for most of us so long as the yogurt contains live bacteria. What’s not so good are yogurts that have sugars, sweeteners, gums, and flavors added. The distinction is important. If that distinction isn’t made, the public is being misinformed. And not just misinformed by misleading advertising (which is constant and bad enough), but misinformed by an authority figure with a national platform presenting the information as fact.

My experience of frequent frustration with current presentation of food and nutrition information, advertising, disinformation, and inaccurately reported research stands in contrast to the simple, clear message delivered a century ago. Reading this book it was interesting to see the food knowledge of 1918.

“Food Saving and Sharing” explains the functions of food and four basic food groups using the imagery of a child shopping for food in an imaginary market. The book explains each food group and why it should be included in the child’s basket. At that time, milk spanned the spectrum of each food group and was considered important for children because of its protein and “lime” (calcium) content.

Here’s what we can learn from the book:

The Functions of Food
1)Fuel to keep us warm and give us energy for work.
2)To build and repair the body.
3)To keep the machinery of the body in good running order.

Food Groups
The first group is fruits and vegetables. (Notice that it was not grains.)
The book states that we need the mineral matter supplied by fruit, vegetables and milk to make teeth and bones. We also need them for vitamins that make us grow. Not much was known about the amount of vitamins needed at that time, but it was known they are important to health.

We also learn that fruits and vegetables contain a lot of water which we also need. Water comprises 60 lbs of every 90 pounds of weight in an adult. (As you can see, this is very close to the 64% water we now estimate the human body to be.) 

While the term fiber is never used in the book, there are repeated references to the “bulk” and “things that are not readily digested” that help move food through the digestive tract.

The second group is proteins.
The word protein means “of the first importance”. Protein is important because it is needed for growth and repair. Children who don’t get enough protein become stunted.

Proteins included in this group are milk, cheese, eggs, nuts, seeds, fish, seafood, legumes, and meat. Meat is not necessary if we use the right foods in its place. According to this text, if we rely on beans and peas we need some milk, eggs, or meat as well.

The book also encourages us to get over our prejudice about fish stating, “It is foolish and narrow-minded to be afraid to try new kinds.” (I don’t know much about the origin of this fish prejudice, but my father had it and my sister still does.)

The third food group is cereals (grains).
Cereals are presented as the cheapest source of energy. All cereal grains are good producers of starch. They are easy to cook, but must be cooked for a long time, so prepared cereals have been put on the market. For instance, rolled oats are oats steamed, then crushed between heavy rollers.

Wisely, we’re informed that if we eat more peas and beans, we will not need so much bread, and when there’s a shortage of grains, we can eat potatoes instead.

Fourth is the group called sugars and sweets. 
The consumption of sugars is not highly encouraged. While it is asserted that sugar provides quick energy for emergency rations, it is also recognized that: “Sugar is so agreeable that we are often inclined to eat it in too large quantities or at the wrong time.” It will spoil your appetite because it makes you feel as if you don’t care for anything more even though your body may be in need of food.

Further noted are the facts that you can get sugar from fruits and vegetables and that potatoes or bread will provide quick energy as well. 

The rest of the book sings the praises of our troops and allies and encourages us to conserve so we can support those who live in war-torn areas. While the reasons for conservation may now differ, it is still a timely message.

Can Food Win a War Now?

In spite of a long growing season and an agricultural history, my state reports a food insecurity rate of over 25%. Somehow that seems unfathomable when according to the Environmental Protection Agency, wasted food is the single biggest occupant in American landfills.

Across the nation, the US throws away 60 million tons (or $160 billion) worth of produce annually. We waste between 30 & 40 percent of our food supply while 12.3% of our households (15.6 million) are uncertain of having, or are unable to acquire, at some time during the year, enough food to meet the needs of all their members because of insufficient money or other resources.

Surely we can find a way to win the war on hunger here at home!

Food propaganda? 

“Food Saving and Sharing” seems to only promote the positive aspects of a particular course of action rather than presenting the pros and cons of multiple options. It uses familiar cultural myths to encourage compliance with the course of action it promotes. That sounds like propaganda to 
me. 

Yet oddly, the presentation of the message feels so much more informative, unifying, and positive than the majority of messages bombarding my screens every day, I find myself longing for this kind of straightforward promotion and the message that the US is us.  

The US is us!

With or without this book’s existence, I choose to believe the general premise that each of us makes a difference. Our choices determine whether that difference pulls our families, friends, communities, and institutions forward or leaves someone else with a greater burden. 

Individually, we can choose to leave our fears, recognize our value, and work each day to learn more about nutrition, waste less, face poverty, practice compassion, and make a positive difference. Collectively, we can choose to meet seemingly insurmountable goals.

Food can win this war! We can decide to feed our food insecure. We just need to again mobilize a spirit of self-denial and self-sacrifice in this country. We need to embrace the truth that the US is us…ALL of us and we can make a difference!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Food,_Drug,_and_Cosmetic_Act

https://www.archives.gov/fort-worth/finding-aids/rg004-food-administration.html

http://exhibits.mannlib.cornell.edu/meatlesswheatless/meatless-wheatless.php?content=two

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Food_Administration

https://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/sow-seeds

https://www.usda.gov/oce/foodwaste/faqs.htm

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/07/american-food-waste/491513/

http://www.foodwastemovie.com/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/get-know-food/

August 21, 2017

Sandwich in Some Healthy Habits

Today when the moon gets sandwiched between the earth and the sun seems like the perfect opportunity to sandwich in some healthy habits. I’m sure you’ve seen a million warnings in the past two weeks about protecting your eyes during today’s eclipse. You probably prepared by purchasing some special viewing glasses or creating a pinhole viewer. That tiny bit of preparation will protect your eyes as you view something spectacular.

eclipse

Eclipse


Making tiny changes in preparation for better health as you age can be just as easy and have a big impact over time. If you look at everything you think you should be doing to live a perfectly healthy lifestyle, it may so overwhelming that you don’t ever get started. Statistics indicate that the majority of us fall in this group. The CDC reports that only 20% of Americans meet physical activity recommendations and a 2016 study indicates only 3% of us live a healthy lifestyle.

It is important to note that you can improve your health by making small changes over time. A study published July 13, 2017, in the New England Journal of Medicine found that “Improved diet quality over 12 years was consistently associated with a decreased risk of death. A 20-percentile increase in diet scores (indicating an improved quality of diet) was significantly associated with a reduction in total mortality of 8 to 17%….” In other words, it didn’t take 100% improvement in diet to result in a significant reduction in mortality. And mortality is the extreme. Just imagine how much small changes can improve your everyday energy level, stamina, strength, flexibility, mental acuity, mood, and comfort level.

So often we look at eating well and working out as all or nothing propositions. When all seems like more than we can handle, we go for nothing. Knowing that even small changes can make a difference seems to indicate we should look at healthy habits more like a savings or investment account with benefits that grow slowly, but surely.

What do small changes look like?

Drink water 95% of the time rather than soda, diet soda, energy drinks, sweetened coffee drinks, lemonade, sweet tea, hot chocolate, or any other sweetened drink.
Eat an orange for breakfast rather than drinking orange juice.
Eat plain, unsweetened yogurt topped with fresh fruit rather than flavored yogurt.
Choose eggs and whole grain toast for breakfast rather than cereal and milk.
Snack on raw, unsalted nuts rather than the salted, roasted version.
Choose black beans over pinto beans.
Order a side of mixed vegetables rather than a choice of potato most of the time.
Reserve dessert for special occasions.
Snack on fruit rather than candy.
Pop your own popcorn using a tiny bit of olive oil spray.
Get salad dressing on the side and limit to 1 tbsp.
Buy frozen vegetables rather than canned when you can’t get fresh.
Cook with olive oil.
Take leftovers for lunch rather than eating fast food.
Substitute baked fish for one serving of red meat each week.
Eat less prepared meat.

Sandwich in some activity

Even if you don’t have an hour to spend in the gym, you can increase physical activity during your daily routine.

Stretch every morning.
Walk to lunch.
Walk a few flights of stairs before catching the elevator.
Do stair stretches before you head upstairs to shower.
Regularly park on the far side of the parking lot.
Do some yoga breathing at your desk.
Carry your own boxes.
Wear ankle weights on Saturday.
Do tricep curls with your cast iron skillet before cooking.
Find a video workout you can do at home when there’s no time to go to the gym.
Combine lifting light weights with warrior poses and lunges.

Make sure to rest

Get the electronic lights out of the bedroom.
Allow plenty of time for sleep.
Plan some down time each week.
Do something fun each week.
Don’t skip vacations.

As you can see, nothing on these lists sounds like a big deal. Everything is easily doable. In fact, it’s hard to believe that these changes can make any significant difference in your health. The great thing is, they can. Simple changes like these when made for an extended period of time can have many positive effects. Why not sandwich a few into your day?

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2013/p0502-physical-activity.html

http://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(16)00043-4/abstract

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1613502