Archive for ‘Tips’

May 14, 2019

Right Sized Relish Tray

Curb the food waste when you use these products to create a right sized relish tray! I recently cleaned out my refrigerator and threw away open jars of green olives, Kalamata olives, sweet pickles, and dill pickles. I hated to do it, but they had been open way too long. When you live alone, it’s easy to tire of something before it’s used up.

Many of my get-togethers are impromptu. I like to be able to reach in the cupboard and refrigerator and quickly assemble a relish tray. The problem with that is that many of these gatherings are just two or three people including me. A full-size jar of pickles, one of olives, and one of banana peppers is waaaay too much for 3 people especially when you add some carrot sticks & celery or nuts & fruit. The result is that jars get opened, but not emptied.

I’m always attempting to right size my purchases which requires constant reevaluation. Buying yogurt in single servings is not cost efficient because I can consume a larger container in a few days. Buying two peeled boiled eggs in a package also makes no sense because I use eggs often. I may as well buy a dozen and boil a few here & there. On the other hand, a half gallon of any kind of milk is way too much for me to consume before it spoils.
relish
Immediately following a refrigerator purge, I’m especially uneasy about refilling pantry space with things I just had to throw away. The other day, I was walking slowly by the pickles in Natural Grocers trying to decide whether or not to purchase anything when I happened upon a great solution. Sitting right in front of me were small packages of olives, gherkins, and marinated cauliflower!

The packaging bills these as snacks. Each resealable bag contains 3 to 4.5 servings without liquid which makes them great for snacking, but I immediately saw the potential for solving my relish tray waste problem! I love it when a solution is just a matter of paying attention!

The Gaea cauliflower and gherkin snacks are vegan, gluten-free, and contain nothing artificial. The cauliflower is marinated in extra virgin olive oil and lemon essential oil. The mini gherkins are marinated in extra virgin olive oil and vinegar enhanced by salt, garlic, and coriander. A serving of either one equals a half serving of vegetables and has 5 (gherkins) or 10 (cauliflower) calories.

All of that sounds good. How do they taste? I like the crunch of the cauliflower. It leaves a lemony aftertaste on the palate. The gherkins are teeny tiny and adorable. They are not the traditional sweet, crunchy gherkins you’re used to. The most prominent flavor is salt and the texture is less crisp. Both of these would benefit from a pairing with something to balance the saltiness.

The Mediterranean Organic olives are pitted, organic and non-GMO. A serving of green olives has 20 calories and is flavored with salt, parsley, basil, and thyme in addition to olive oil, sunflower oil, and white wine vinegar. The Kalamata olives have 40 calories per serving and are flavored with salt, red pepper, oregano, thyme, and cumin in addition to the same oils and vinegar.

Both olive selections are more traditional in taste, but have an oiliness not found in jarred olives. I don’t mind this so much because it keeps the olives feeling moist. It might be a bigger issue if I were eating these as a car snack. I’d have to be sure to have a napkin handy.

As far as packaging goes, I wasn’t very successful using the tear tab on the olives. I either ended up ripping the entire side of the package rendering it unsealable or I pulled so lightly that I had to use scissors just to get the thing open. The pull up tab on the Gaea packages was much easier to use.

If you prefer to have more flexibility, you can also choose PearlsR Olives to Go. Four individual serving cups per package allow you to customize the ratios of black pitted, pimento stuffed green, and pitted Kalamata olives on your relish tray. The flavor selections have recently expanded to include Sriracha, Taco, and Italian Herb infused ripe olives.

It’s been awhile since I’ve eaten Olives to Go and I’ve only tried the sliced black olives. The flavor was exactly like jarred olives, but they were drier. I don’t mean dried out, just drier. I have not tried the new infused flavors. The Olives to Go cups cannot be resealed, but they are easy to open.

Have I found a right size relish tray solution? I have made progress. Keeping the Gaea cauliflower and Mediterranean Organic Kalamata olives on hand gives me two good small serving choices. The Sriracha Olives to Go sound like something interesting to add as well. I like the idea of having a spicy choice on the tray.

At this point, I’ll probably stick with a sweet, crunchy gherkin. I may not use all of them in a reasonable amount of time, but at least I’ll have accomplished my goal of keeping relish tray ingredients on hand while reducing my food waste. I feel good about that.

https://www.mediterraneanorganic.com/med_organic_product_description?upc=81498500224

https://www.mediterraneanorganic.com/med_organic_product_description?upc=81498500225

https://www.olives.com/pearls/product-locator.php

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/haste-not-waste/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/whats-worth-preserving/

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.”

May 6, 2019

I Want Simple

With the publication of Oprah’s new book, lots of us are asking what we want. My answer isn’t sexy. I want simple!

I’m not denying that many problems are complex, family relationships convoluted, and institutions difficult to navigate. That’s all true. It’s also true that everything connects to everything. The more I simplify, the more simple things become.
multi
Maybe my preference for simple is why tiny houses appeal. Having to condense into a very small space requires a different focus than adding layer upon layer of things to clean, organize, and maintain.

Each time I stand in my closet annoyed by the choices, I think of my grandmother. She had about 4 dresses at any given time and many of those were worn for years before she replaced them. Yet she was always more polished than I am.

She wore heels, her bright red fingernails were never chipped, and every hair was in place. Her clothes were crisply pressed and well fitting. Obviously, it’s possible to pare down and still look good.

When MTV introduced the “Unplugged” series, I liked it but I didn’t appreciate the concept as much as I do now. At that time, there was plenty of music in my world that didn’t feel overly produced.

It didn’t seem odd to find Lucinda Williams standing alone with a guitar on a stage with no light cues. Autotune didn’t exist. The focus of a concert was the music, not the “experience”…which made the EXPERIENCE more appealing to me.

I don’t like the frenzied feeling of a club with loud dance music and flashing strobes. It might be okay if there were contrasting moments, but it seems like there’s just loud and louder and ever-building furor.

Children’s toys increasingly play music, scurry across the floor under their own power, and cast lights on the ceiling leaving no room for a child to create his own motion and sound or learn cause and effect past push-a-button-get-a-single-response. In case no one has noticed, this does not expand a child’s world. It limits it.

My preference for simple extends to the kitchen. That doesn’t mean I want a large appliance that feeds me a grocery list or a set of recipes. I don’t. To me, all of that detracts from the experience.

One of the joys of cooking is observation which leads to problem solving which leads to creativity. When I observe that the strawberries I was going to use for dessert are moldy, I have to come up with a substitute which may lead to a flavor combination I never would have otherwise considered. There’s something about that process that leads to a delight that I never feel when following instructions or opening a packaged food.

I’m not anti-technology, anti-science, or anti-progress. I just believe we are geared in harmony with nature which has inherent contrast — light and dark, hot and cold, wet and dry, loud and quiet. When we feed only one of those elements, we have to continually ramp up the input in order to notice. When we do that, things get out of balance.
simple
Everything becomes complex, overproduced, noisy, and over-busy. To solve the way that makes us feel, we rarely go backward to stillness, fresh food, more sleep, and slow walks. Instead, we tend to add medication, activity, memberships, subscriptions, games, trips, meetings, media, clutter, and “smart” devices that compound the problem until we can no longer connect because we are never disengaged. Instead, parts of us selectively shut down when they become overtaxed. More than likely, we ignore this and push forward.

And why wouldn’t we? We live in a culture that has become too busy to listen, play, and imagine. Filling our ever larger living spaces with things and our days with obligations feeds our egos — we equate more with more important. What we’re really doing is creating lives filled with undue stress that takes a toll on our health.

I am the same person whether I live in 500 sqft, 2500, or 5000, but it takes much longer to clean 5000 sqft. I can pay someone to do that for me, but I have to be willing to work at a job that provides enough money to afford that service on top of the additional utility bills, furnishings, and maintenance required for the larger space. For most of us that means either longer hours or a more stressful job.

It has taken me years to learn to say no not because I’m busy but because I don’t want to be. Last week that earned me a lecture from someone I barely know who told me I work too much because I wouldn’t join him for dinner on a certain night. The funny thing is, I had only worked at my job about 4 hours that week. He assumed I was working too much.

Of course it’s not good to become isolated or stuck in a rut so embracing opportunities is still a priority for me, I just recognize that without downtime in between, I won’t get as much enjoyment from saying yes. Knowing this allows me to say no without angst or guilt most of the time. And it allows me to more fully relish an experience when I decide to participate.

Of course, the everyday question is how to simplify that day. Sometimes simplifying looks like going backward and starting over. Sometimes it looks like a series of tedious tasks. Sometimes it looks like not impulsively buying the cutest shoes you’ve ever seen! Sometimes it means saying no when everyone around you is saying yes.

Since everything connects to everything, I start with the obvious — don’t schedule too much; make a list; prioritize the list or allow it to flow naturally in conjunction with other obligations (do the dishes while the meat is browning); do the hardest or most dreaded task first; file as I go (that means electronically too); use systems to support my efforts; drink enough water; wear fewer layers; use a smaller purse; throw away a ripped shirt; turn off the TV; go to bed on time; use a backward timeline; be flexible; allow every accomplishment to count. Many of those tasks are organizational, but it’s amazing how much a little organization now simplifies my world later.

Checking a recipe before I order groceries saves me a trip to the store for a forgotten ingredient. Filing the papers on my desk means I know where to find them quickly. Getting rid of junk mail, torn clothes, and old magazines regularly means less clutter to sift through to find what I need. Keeping my Inbox cleaned out allows me to deal with important email swiftly.

I dated a guy in college whose waterski matched his swimsuit, matched his slalom ski, matched his ice chest, matched his MasterCraft, but he couldn’t maneuver that boat onto the trailer or around a skier safely. I was terrified to ski with him. If he had kept things simple and focussed on proficiency, I would have felt safer. But hey, he looked good! And that was his priority.

Some things that make me feel stressed won’t bother you. Some things I consider important won’t make your radar. But we can both reduce stress by simplifying in our own way.

http://www.mtv.com/shows/unplugged

https://www.lucindawilliams.com/

https://worldhappiness.report/ed/2019/

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/29/smarter-living/the-case-for-doing-nothing.html

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/5-simple-solutions-last-minute-gluten-free-super-bowl-snacks/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/give-another-kiss-keep-simple-stupid-kind/

April 1, 2019

Spring has Sprung and it’s Time to Think About Shrubs

Spring has sprung, or at least begun to sneak into our afternoons, and it’s time to think about shrubs. When warm weather begins, I spend a lot of time thinking about the trimming, digging, and planting that need to be done. I don’t manage to get to the part where I get out in the yard to do something about it though. When we have a perfect sunny, warm afternoon, I find myself too busy sitting outside having a drink with a friend. Luckily, there’s more than one kind of shrub. One is on my to-do list. The other can be in my drink. I love a happy coincidence! I can think about shrubs, enjoy the outdoors, and relax all at the same time.

It seems like every restaurant in my neighborhood has a new list of specialty cocktails for each season. I love reading these lists. The names are clever. The pairings of gin, tequila, and rum with fresh fruit, citrus juice, and fresh herbs sound sooooo refreshing. Of course, I order one. Then I take a drink. More than 90% of the time my enjoyment ends there. Most of these cocktails are too sweet for me.

I don’t object to desserts, but I don’t like sweet drinks – tea, lemonade, soda, flavored water, and coffee drinks do not appeal. I don’t like the way they taste. They don’t refresh and they leave me thirsty. That’s not to say a slight drizzle of honey won’t improve a drink. It might. But the standard is simple syrup…and plenty of it.

Shrubs appeal to me because of the tang of vinegar. If you must use sweet, at least balance it with acid. A few years ago when vinegar bars became popular, I eagerly anticipated the arrival of the trend in my city. That never happened. But a more subtle inclusion of vinegar sometimes appears on a cocktail menu in the form of a shrub.
shrub
A shrub is a syrup made of vinegar, botanicals, and yes, sugar. Historically, it was a way of preserving fruit. Taste-wise, it is meant to fall on the acidic side. If you want an even more tangy shrub, you can easily make one at home.

Most shrubs are made using apple cider, white wine, or red wine vinegar, but you can also use balsamic. A blend of balsamic vinegar and sweet cherries sounds delicious to me. Some recipes I’ve seen cut the balsamic with apple cider vinegar. Red wine vinegar would be worth a try as well. I’m describing a shrub that feels more like fall.

How about something lighter for spring? Pineapple, white wine vinegar, and rosemary might fit the bill. And you don’t have to make it at home. You can buy it in a bottle from Pink House Alchemy.

If I’m ordering, I’m going to have to include a bottle of cardamom syrup as well. It’s too intriguing to pass up. And to continue with this digression, I keep wanting to create a sassafras tea granita. Sounds like I’m heading for a spring porch party!

Anyway, you can make a shrub at home by cooking fruit, vinegar, and sugar together or by letting the fruit and sugar macerate, adding the vinegar and letting it sit for a few days on the counter or in the refrigerator before straining.

Tomato based shrubs can be used to make bloody mary-like drink. A blueberry shrub can be used for a daiquiri-like drink. And no alcohol is required for a refreshing shrub beverage. A little seltzer will do the trick.

It seems like it’s time for me to grab some fresh fruit and a few bottles of vinegar and do some flavor experiments. Until I get them right, I’ve learned that I can order those fancy named specialty cocktails without the simple syrup. I don’t know why I never thought to request that before, but I tried it the other night and enjoyed my drink much more.

Sitting in the sun smelling fresh cut grass and sipping on refreshing tangy drinks with a small group of friends sounds heavenly. I may have to do it several days in a row. We only get a few weeks between too cold and too hot and humid. We have to make the most of them! Cheers!

https://www.pinkhousealchemy.com/shrubs/pineapple-rosemary-shrub

https://qz.com/quartzy/1380589/the-delicious-ways-that-we-drink-vinegar-around-the-world/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/spring-is-for-renewal-even-in-the-kitchen/

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.”
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December 31, 2018

Leave the Past Behind

It’s the last day of the year and time to leave the past behind! Aren’t most New Year’s resolutions about change? Doesn’t change mean leaving something behind? So, maybe keeping those resolutions is as simple as focusing on the past rather than the future.
past
I know that sounds counterintuitive, but paradox reigns king in the world of personal growth. Not to mention, looking toward the future seems to work for less than 10% of us so there can’t be much harm in trying something different. But how does focusing on the past help us leave it behind?

It helps us define what we’re leaving.

Let’s say my resolution is to brush my teeth the full two minutes that are recommended each and every time I brush. If I pay attention to how long that two minutes seems, I’m likely to cut it short. If I think of the gritty teeth, bleeding gums, and pain in the dentist’s office I’m leaving behind, it’s easier to stick out the full amount of time.

Many of us resolve to save money in the coming year. When you see that next cute pair of shoes you don’t need but want to buy, looking back and thinking of that sinking feeling you had last time you looked at your retirement account balance can help you remember why this resolution is important. Leaving behind that sinking feeling may just be more important than another pair of shoes adorable though they may be.

Looking back allows us to honor and appreciate those things that served us well at a previous stage of life.

If you enjoyed your job and colleagues while getting a degree, you may be hesitant to follow your resolution to look for a new job once you graduate. Your coworkers have been partners in preparing you for this next step. Allowing yourself to express appreciation for their contributions can help you realize that you are honoring their efforts by pursuing your dreams.

Perhaps you have gradually recognized that you and your fiancé are no longer a good fit, but you still love him. If you keep looking forward, it will be tempting to only see the regret you have that the relationship didn’t turn out as you had hoped. This places your attention on pain and regret rather than on gratitude and joy. Once you find a way to honor what the relationship has given you, it will be much less difficult to let it go. And you can choose to hold onto good memories.

Looking back lets us reassess.

Sometimes we have wanted something for so long, we fail to recognize that having it now would no longer improve our lives. If we got that national sales job, it would mean weeks away from our newborn son. If we purchased that huge house now that the kids are gone, we’d just have more rooms to clean. If we open a bed and breakfast, we’ll have lots of cleaning and cooking every day at a time when we’d rather play with our grandchildren. We may still be tempted to pursue all of those goals unless we look back to see how our situation and feelings have changed.

Looking back gives us an opportunity to review our attachments.

Attachment to the feeling we had when we ate our grandmother’s cookies may interfere with our resolution to limit cookie consumption. Attachment to the comfort we felt when our mother fed us mac & cheese when Dad had to work late can send us searching for unlimited pasta during lonely or disappointing times. Once we know what we’re looking for is a certain feeling, we can explore different options for generating that feeling. Perhaps the smell of cookies baking is enough. Perhaps painting, drawing, or writing provides a comforting shift.

Looking back with courage can let us see what we already know is true.

If you have resolved to treat yourself better in the New Year, you must first recognize those ways in which you are not kind to yourself. Perhaps you don’t ask for help when you need it. Perhaps you don’t make enough time for rest. Perhaps you never give yourself credit for your accomplishments. When you look back, you may spot patterns of behavior that are so deeply ingrained they feel normal.

Healing the wounds life has delivered is a valuable resolution for any new year. For those of us who grew up in chaos and dysfunction, looking back with a realistic eye can require great courage. It can be much easier to press frenetically forward in avoidance of lingering feelings than to stop, engage, and begin to process what you know on a visceral level. But going back to re-engage with your body, emotions, and spirit is the only pathway to lasting change. You cannot white knuckle a better life for yourself. Your subconscious (the part of you that knows what you refuse to see) will keep you stuck.

Focusing on the past gives us a chance to forgive ourselves, say goodbye, and allow ourselves to be different.

Hopefully you are not currently defining yourself by something that happened in your past you believe is unforgivable, the way someone else views you, or what’s being said on social media. If you are, all things can change! You can learn to forgive yourself, say goodbye to the old, and allow yourself to shift toward becoming your best self. It is never too late!
2019
Whether we make New Year’s resolutions or not, most of us think about how to improve our lives. We seek fun, excitement, security, contentment, and joy to balance the weight of our responsibilities. Taking a moment to focus on the past can be the key to leaving it behind for good. That’s a moment I’m willing to take so I’ll be ready to move joyously into the New Year.

I wish you peace, calm, inspiration, and playfulness in 2019!

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2016/12/26/7-secrets-of-people-who-keep-their-new-years-resolutions/#735e7ea27098

https://www.shutterfly.com/ideas/happy-new-year-messages/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/answer-the-big-questions/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/stop-struggling-start-thriving/