Archive for ‘Lifestyle can be a Piece of Cake’

May 20, 2019

Cooking Can Be Child’s Play

Rainy days are a great time to remember cooking can be child’s play! We have had an unusually rainy year. That means my grandkids are often stuck in the house. When we get tired of trains, painting, reading, and building with blocks, I like to move into the kitchen where there’s plenty of fun to be made.
cooking
Of course there are safety issues to be considered, but even a young toddler can pour and stir and taste or at least pretend. My grandmother didn’t hesitate to give me a sharp knife as a preschooler. She expected me to be able to peel potatoes with it to her high standard. I should only remove skin, not big chunks of potato. I didn’t do too well at first, but I didn’t cut myself and I learned to step up my food prep game.

I am not brave enough to hand a sharp knife to my grandchildren, but I let the toddlers use a grater and they have a designated drawer in the kitchen that they are allowed to access alone once they’re competently walking. The kid drawer contains my measuring cups and spoons, a tea strainer, some small spatulas, and biscuit cutters. The measuring cups become pans for the play stove that I rescued from my grandmother’s attic.

There have been many an imaginary cake and pots of soup made using that stove. Eventually, I bought some play fruits and vegetables and set up a pantry from which the kids could select ingredients. My oldest grandson expanded this pantry to include marbles. He loves to stir them with a whisk because it makes a loud noise.

Sometimes, he helps me with real food. Because he’s only two, his tasks are usually stirring and adding salt & pepper. If he wants to measure and dump things in the bowl, I get him a separate bowl and a measuring cup and let him have some flour, sugar, salt, and water. He makes a mess on the counter and on the floor, but he has a great time making “pancakes”.

Any time the grandkids are cooking, we talk about different kinds of food. I let them taste or smell herbs and spices. I show them the real version of a potato or an onion when they’re using a play potato or onion. I explain that you have to fill the 1/4 cup four times to equal one cup. I don’t belabor this point because my oldest grandchild is not yet three. I am only trying to plant a seed of math knowledge while we’re having fun.
at counter
Once I’m ready to clean up the mess, toddlers are happy to help. I let them stand on a ladder at the sink and “wash” dishes. Washing mostly consists of pouring water from one container to another, but it keeps them occupied while I clean up the rest. Yes, my countertop and floor get washed in the process, but I make sure to control the chaos and I don’t mind mopping up a little water.

My grandmother made homemade play dough and let me add the food coloring. Because I’m gluten-free I don’t keep flour in my pantry, but without that restriction I would definitely incorporate making play dough making into our kitchen fun! When we’re not making snakes and iguanas, we often make lemons, spinach, bread, fried eggs, raspberries, grapes, and pizza with our store-bought Play-Doh. (The gluten molecule is too large to pass through your pores, so I never worry about handling the dough.)

As the kids get older, I’ll let them do even more. Right now, I make sure to talk through the process whenever they’re watching me cook. By the time they can mix up biscuits, they’ll already know that we start with all of the dry ingredients, then add the fat before finally adding liquid. They’ll probably know how to use milk & vinegar as a substitute for buttermilk too. Essentially, they’ll be at a different stage of readiness having observed the process before attempting it. Having confidence in the kitchen will give my grandchildren a leg up as adults who may decide to dine at home.

I don’t just focus on the lessons when playing with my grandchildren in the kitchen; I incorporate stories about my life. I can’t tell a story without hearing, “Again!” And so I tell it again. I am weaving a family narrative that will anchor these children to their history creating a sense of belonging to something bigger. Through these stories, they will learn more about me, my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, as well as their own parents and themselves.

It is easy to see by the response, the stories are enjoyed and appreciated. They are also important. Research says family narratives not only help us make sense of the world but can play an important role in healing (1).

The weather woman is promising more rain this week. I’m looking forward to the chance to stir up a cake, spin a yarn, and create bonds with my grandchildren that will sustain them. I’m so glad cooking can be child’s play!

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/celiac-disease/expert-answers/celiac-disease/faq-20057879

https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12937-018-0347-9

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-stories-our-lives/201702/collective-stories-in-families-teach-us-about-ourselves

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3010736/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/the-benefits-of-cooking-part-3-the-lessons/

August 29, 2018

A Love Affair With Coffee

Are you having a love affair with coffee? I love the smell of coffee. I always have. Years before I liked drinking it, I wanted to pour it over my head every time I smelled that scrumptious aroma. Today, you can drive me up to a Starbucks® window and the instant coffee wafts past my nose, I feel my shoulders relax and my gut calm. I probably sigh out loud.

I don’t know why coffee has such a strong effect on me or why it feels comforting. No one in my family regularly drank coffee. It took me years to learn to enjoy it. From 100% freeze-dried Taster’s Choice® instant to my current favorite, whole bean Jim’s Organic Sweet Love Blend, it’s been a journey.
coffee press
Like everything else, coffee drinkers have their preferences. A few years ago, I went to a presentation on coffee at the Gilcrease Museum. During the tasting portion, I learned I am not a coffee purist. I am not willing to spend a full two minutes pouring boiling water over barely ground beans roasted so lightly they taste like…well, let’s just say they’re not to my taste.

I understand that very dark roasts can mostly taste like charred beans, but for some people that can be as delicious as the charred edges of steak cooked on a charcoal grill. One local roaster promoted a particular coffee to me by touting its high acidity. The problem with that is, I prefer a very smooth mellow flavor. If high acid comes with a bite at the end, I don’t like it.

Perhaps my favorite bag of coffee ever arrived from Costa Rica with a friend who had been traveling. Every drop I made from that bag superseded any coffee that came before or since. I’ve tried other Costa Rican coffees, but can’t seem to replicate that experience.

For the past few months I’ve been on a quest to find a new satisfying roast. I had been grabbing less expensive, already ground bags until I realized the simple pleasure of a really delicious cup of joe can set the tone for my whole day. I want every day to be the best possible, so I had to begin with better ingredients.

After experiments with several Starbucks, Peet’s, Wicked Joe, Equal Exchange, and Black Rifle flavors, I grabbed a bag of Jim’s Organic in a small health food store in my hometown. That one bag led to an online order that arrived this week. In addition to the Sweet Love Blend, I’m trying Costa Rican Hacienda La Amistad, Sumatra French Roast, and 2 Souls Dark Roast. They were all ordered as whole beans. Of course I couldn’t see the them online, but in the store I look for dark beans that glisten with aromatic oils.
coffee beans
I grind the beans for about 15 seconds and place them in a ceramic French press. I’ve owned a variety of coffee brewing machines over the years including one that shot sparks into the room when I wasn’t even using it. None of them have lasted for more than a couple of years and none of them produced a better cup of coffee than a $7 glass French press purchased from a restaurant supply store.

The ceramic press is a new purchase. So far, I like it. It keeps the coffee hot longer than my previous glass press. This press filled with Sweet Love Blend is good enough to extend my love affair with coffee.

A former boyfriend recently said he was always impressed that I could make such a good cup of coffee at home. My thought bubble was saying, “How would you know? You drink it with so much cream and sweetener, you can’t even taste the coffee”. (Former boyfriends always give me thought bubbles.)

Given the popularity of frappumacchiatocino drinks, I sometimes wonder how many people enjoy the taste of coffee. All that sugary stuff inside or on top certainly masks its flavor. On the flip side, a little cream can make a moderately bad, bitter cup palatable. Perhaps previous experience with an unpleasant aftertaste leads to a cream & sugar habit.

Then there are those who like coffee flavor, but want to fortify it as a breakfast substitute or an after workout replenisher. I have friends who swear by bullet coffee. It’s not my thing, but I recently saw a recipe for bullet coffee that looked delicious. In addition to butter, it included cacao, cinnamon, coconut oil, dates, and pink Himalayan sea salt.

I’m pretty sure health benefits are not the final consideration for most dedicated coffee drinkers. How could they be? One week, coffee causes cancer and increases the risk of heart disease. The next week, the antioxidants prevent dementia, type II diabetes, and Parkinson’s and make us live longer. The research is conflicting at best.

Recent research indicates that we need to figure out how long it takes our body to metabolize coffee to determine whether it will increase our mortality risk. And how exactly do we do that?

Since there’s no way to know the exact risk or benefit, it seems like the best thing to do is listen to my body. Obviously, it’s good to feel calmed and comforted. It’s not good to consume so much caffeine that I feel jittery. A couple of large black cups in the morning and I am set for the day. On rare occasions, I might enjoy a cup with cream in the evening if I have dessert. More than that would be too much of a good thing.

If I were to wax philosophical, I’m following the tenet that moderation is best in coffee as in all things…other than love. You can never have, or give, too much love!

https://gilcrease.org/

https://newsok.com/article/5340388/gilcrease-museum-preview-celebrates-debut-of-helmerich-center-for-american-research

https://www.jimsorganiccoffee.com/shop/

https://www.blackriflecoffee.com/

https://dceg.cancer.gov/news-events/research-news-highlights/2018/coffee-mortality-genetic-variation

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/coffee-and-health/faq-20058339

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/?s=coffee+


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.”

July 24, 2018

Speed Kills

Remember the ad campaign, Speed Kills? I can’t remember if I first heard the term in an anti-drug campaign or an attempt to reduce speed limits. The phrase has been used for both. This week, I’m thinking of Speed Kills in totally different terms.

Last weekend I went to see Won’t You Be My Neighbor. This movie chronicles the career of Fred Rogers, the creator of MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD. There was nothing speedy about Mister Rogers. His slow pace stands in stark contrast to other children’s entertainers. This was deliberate. It was also significant.

Mister Rogers understood that very important things happen when we’re still and quiet. He included long pauses and silence in his television program. This is considered a no-no in the TV world, but as someone observed in the movie, there were many times when nothing much was going on, but none of the time was wasted.

On some level, parents and children must have sensed the significance of this. They certainly responded. Mister Rogers became hugely successful in spite of doing everything “wrong” for a television audience.

In my home, I observed that when my boys watched MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD their behavior was markedly different than when they watched He-Man. He-Man led to an afternoon of hitting each other, breaking toys, and generally violent behavior.

MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD, on the other hand, had a calming effect. After watching, the boys were kinder, gentler, and quieter. They played together instead of fighting. My house was infinitely more peaceful.

At the time, I didn’t take time to analyze why this was true, I just did the practical thing and banned He-Man. If I needed the kids to have screen time so that I could clean up the kitchen or do the laundry, we opted for MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD or the video disc Free to be You and Me.

Now, with much more experience under my belt including many years of working long hours, never missing an event, frequent travel, work-work-work-play-play-play and rarely saying no, I understand the importance of being still. Being present requires taking pauses to notice what has happened and how it makes us feel.

I know you may read that and say, “duh,” but look at how we live. We rarely pause between activities, much less during them. We fill our waking hours with movement, noise, and electronic distraction.

One of my grandchildren has 4 structured activity classes per week – he’s 9 months old! Will he be able to lie on his back, stare at the clouds smelling fresh-cut grass and feeling the solidness of the ground supporting him when he’s three or will he be lost without constant activity?

It seems we have some level of awareness that we need to increase our sense of well-being. Ways to increase wellness are often featured on morning TV. The number of people practicing yoga in the US has doubled since 2008. The mindfulness movement touts the health benefits of meditation.

In contrast, we see our friends, neighbors, and family members numb themselves with work, gaming, social media, TV, sex, food, alcohol, and drugs on a regular basis. Sometimes we see ourselves doing the same. If we know we need to feel better, and we know that slowing down to reflect and be present in the moment will help, why do we keep speeding forward?
speed
What’s difficult to admit, much less discuss, is what lies underneath a need to speed through life at a level of maximum distraction. If you have lived in an environment of chaos and/or danger to your physical or emotional well-being that you could not escape, it is excruciatingly hard to sit still and be present. It is also necessary if you are to heal the wounds your spirit has suffered.

It is in this context that I now view the phrase – speed kills. Speed kills our connection to our spirit. This removes us from knowing, accepting, and loving ourselves. It removes us from the very best parts of ourselves. At its worst, this disconnect allows us to act out our anger, hurt, and frustration in vindictive, destructive ways.

In the face of a tragic, hostile act, we often wonder – what kind of person would do that? Often the answer is simple: someone who has suffered in ways you cannot see and may not be able to imagine.

Remaining present and emotionally open in the face of violence, humiliation, rejection, neglect, or shunning, is intolerable for most everyone. It is absolutely healthy in those situations to engage in fighting, fleeing, freezing or fawning in order to protect yourself.

The problem is many, not just some, MANY of us have lived in an environment in which violence, humiliation, rejection, neglect, or shunning were the norm. Living in persistent, unrelenting physical and/or emotional danger creates wounds that are both physical and emotional and result in disconnection from ourselves. Constantly being in a state of fighting, fleeing, freezing or fawning creates long-term barriers to calm, peace, connection and joy.

When we have the strength and courage to sit still and be present, it opens the door for all the emotions we have been avoiding to come rushing in. This is a great opportunity to release those emotions and the hold they have over us. That’s easy to say, but terrifying and hard for many of us to do even if it is worth it in the long run.

I’ve spent years unraveling the knots in my stomach and my spirit. I know that I did not choose the environment that created them. I was born into it. Accepting this hasn’t eliminated the seemingly bottomless well of sadness I feel in my solar plexus. It hasn’t removed every trigger that can send me into an emotional flashback that I simply can’t outthink. (I know this isn’t some particular defect in me. Signals from the amygdala can override executive function, but it still feels terrifying and out of control.)

Mindfulness has helped me rewire my brain away from anxiety toward noticing small ways in which I feel good. I feel less braced for the (as I learned to view the world) next inevitable attack. My new level of awareness lets me deliberately shift my focus in order to feel better in a given moment.

I am painfully aware how difficult it can be to find support for a healing path. Even places we expect to provide a cushion for processing trauma, grief, depression, anxiety, and somatic symptoms – the therapist’s office, doctor’s office, church, or support groups, may not provide the type of support we need. Feeling unseen, unheard, dismissed, targeted, or misunderstood can leave us feeling even more alone and, sometimes, revictimized.

Healing can bring immediate improvement, but I do not know of a straight or swift path to wholeness. That journey is a process unique to each of us. The best support along the way is to be seen and accepted just as we are at any given moment.

Perhaps this is why I so appreciate Mister Rogers simple affirmation that he likes us just as we are. But I cannot fully receive that message unless I am sitting still.

http://www.doitnow.org/pages/psas.html

http://focusfeatures.com/wont-you-be-my-neighbor/

https://www.fredrogers.org/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_to_Be…_You_and_Me

https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/untold-story-america-mindfulness-movement/

http://childhood-developmental-disorders.imedpub.com/systematic-review-of-mindfulness-induced-neuroplasticity-in-adults-potential-areas-of-interest-for-the-maturing-adolescent-brain.php?aid=8553

https://seattleyoganews.com/yoga-in-america-2016-statistics/

https://www.speakcdn.com/assets/2497/domestic_violence2.pdf

http://besselvanderkolk.net/the-body-keeps-the-score.html

http://www.traumasensitiveyoga.com/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5518443/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/yoga-perfect-home-workout/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/sometimes-stop-order-start/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/travel-tip-17-stay-home/

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.”

July 10, 2018

Is the Secret Always to KISS?

Whether it’s clean eating, a plant-based diet, or a healthy lifestyle, is the secret always to KISS? A lot of us want to live as healthily as possible. There’s plenty of information out there to help us. A search for clean eating lends 507,000,000 results, plant-based diet 231,000,000 results, and healthy lifestyle 748,000,000 results. If you have time, you can read more than a billion articles. If not, it seems that they all boil down to one idea that could be expressed as KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)!
simple
Looking back at the food I ate as a child, I had a cleaner diet than many people who deliberately attempt one today. We ate at home. Our beef came from our field. Our pork came from the pigs that almost killed me when I tried to play with their babies. My plate was always full of vegetables fresh from the garden – lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, cabbage, squash, carrots, peas, okra, corn, and potatoes.

In the summer, there was watermelon. Honeybees lived behind our front porch. There was always a line of them flying across the driveway. Once a year, my dad hired a man to rob the hive. Each jar of rich, thick honey had a bit of honeycomb included.
There was no elaborate preparation in the kitchen. None was needed. Flavor burst from lightly sautéed squash or boiled corn on the cob. I ate tomatoes like apples. They were so sweet and juicy, I never added salt.

Our tomato juice was home canned. Pickles were home made. We rarely ate sandwiches or pasta and hardly ever at restaurants. A picnic at the river was left-over fried chicken, deviled eggs, potato salad, and bright green sweet pickles. All of them were made by my grandmother.

I remember this food as the tastiest I ever had. I rarely find produce in the grocery store to match. Even the farmers market often falls short. Maybe that’s why my children and grandchildren seem satisfied with food full of flavor enhancers or additives.

Maybe it’s why many people are satisfied with mediocre restaurant or packaged convenience foods. And maybe some of these people think that great food requires lots of equipment and lengthy preparation.

Perhaps that’s why they sometimes miss the fact that clean eating, a plant-based diet, and a healthy lifestyle all begin with keeping things simple. Start with fresh. Process as little as possible. Let the flavors of the ingredients shine through – keep it simple stupid.

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/?s=the+hive