Archive for ‘Simple Soutions’

May 28, 2018

You May Need a Nap

If you’re eating well and exercising, but everything feels like a bigger deal than usual, you may need a nap. You may need more than a single nap. You may need more sleep on a regular basis. If you’re under a significant amount of ongoing stress, you may need a good night’s sleep, a nap, and additional down time.
nap
My father-in-law swore by the 20-minute power nap. One of only 3 physicians in a town of 7000, he worked long hours. Every day at lunch, he’d come home to eat and then sleep in his recliner for 20 minutes. He didn’t set an alarm. He just woke up ready to go back to the clinic. He seemed to take the long hours in stride, so I guess naps worked for him.

Each of us has individual sleep needs. A regular 20-minute power nap may work for some while others need a full 8 hours each and every night. Others may function well on 6 or 7 hours during the week supplemented by 10 to 12 on the weekend. Because the particular rhythm is individual, it can be difficult to determine when a lack of sleep first begins to cause problems.

Like many conditions, the effects of sleep deprivation compound slowly over time tricking us into thinking we’re experiencing something normal rather than problematic. Failing to recognize and correct the problem slowly erodes emotional resiliency, the immune system, and our overall health. Early signs could be that you notice feeling more than tired or irritable. Perhaps you feel foggy, forgetful, or have minor hallucinations. Perhaps you feel more anxious than usual or seem to lack the joy that you previously felt. Any of these can be indicators that you are not getting enough rest.

We all have long to-do lists and such an expectation of immediacy that it can be tempting to ignore our bodies’ signals until we reach the point of exhaustion or other health concerns. Obviously, it is better to recognize the signs early and remedy the problem before it affects our immune systems or leads to a chronic condition like diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease.

Making the time to slow down is a constant challenge. Meditation and yoga can help, but where can you find time to work them in? And the more pressure you put on yourself, the harder it is to let your mind rest.
big deal
If this were easy, we’d all get enough rest, but according to the CDC almost a third of us are sleep deprived (defined as less than 7 hours per 24-hour period). This is especially true in the eastern and southeastern United States. In my particular state, the lowest rates of sleep seem to fall in the poorest counties.

Most of us think that we can catch up by sleeping late on a Saturday morning here and there. If we still feel exhausted, we assume there must be a different problem. This can mean we continue to exhaust ourselves.

It can take weeks to fully recover from sleep deprivation. Adding an hour or two per night over a longer period of time will give you the most benefit and if you can sustain the extra hours, prevent the problem from recurring.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t times you just need to shut things down. If you have reached a point at which you cannot function well, it is time to take more drastic action. Pretend you have a 24 or 48-hour virus. Go to bed and don’t do anything you would put aside if you really had that virus. Giving yourself permission to do this will help quiet your mind and put it in sync with your intention of resting.

Temperature, bed quality, light, and noise can all affect sleep quality. I learned long before smartphones existed that a digital clock with a red display disturbed my sleep. I had to go back to a clock with a face with hands. Now I move the laptop out of the room because the pulsing sleep indicator is disruptive.

Alcohol will give the illusion that it helps you sleep because you may fall asleep more easily, but it can interfere with REM sleep resulting in daytime sleepiness and performance impairment. I’ve heard plenty of self-diagnosed insomniacs complain about their lack of sleep while touting alcohol use as the solution to the problem. They don’t seem to realize that they’re still complaining about insomnia. If alcohol were fixing the problem, wouldn’t that complaint be gone?

I fall asleep easily and usually sleep well, but during times of extreme stress, I require additional hours of rest. I can’t get by with 6 or 7 hours for two nights followed by 8 for two nights. I need a full 8 – 9 hours each night and maybe a nap or two on the weekend. I don’t know whether my need is more physical, mental, or emotional, but I know it’s important to shift all systems into neutral in order to feel restored.

The irony is that I most need more rest when I least feel I can afford the time. Nonetheless, I am learning to tell myself the minute I feel I have to push myself, “You may need a nap!” 

https://www.livescience.com/52592-spooky-effects-sleep-deprivation.html

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/why-lack-of-sleep-is-bad-for-your-health/

https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/data_statistics.html

https://hbr.org/2006/10/sleep-deficit-the-performance-killer

https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh25-2/101-109.htm

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/wrap-it-up/

April 17, 2018

Think Going Gluten-Free is Hard – Visualization Can Help

Think going gluten-free is hard – visualization can help! In spite of increased awareness and availability of gluten-free foods, many of us still find the idea of remaining totally gluten-free intimidating. We just can’t imagine actually having to walk past every croissant displayed in a bakery case in France. We find the thought of giving up our grandmother’s cherry pie with its perfectly flaky pie crust unfathomable. We don’t know what we’ll grab when we’re too hungry and dinner won’t be ready for an hour. Rethinking our habitual lunch spot feels like we’re losing our best friend.

Our mind may tell us there’s plenty of information available and the process won’t be difficult, but it feels monumentally hard. We just can’t see ourselves as bread free, pasta free, doughnut free, cake free, or fried chicken free for a week, much less a lifetime. When you think about it, if we can’t “see” it, it’s unlikely we’ll be able to accomplish it. In fact, if we can’t see it, we may not even be able to consistently take that first step toward making it happen. We’ll stick with what we can see in our mind’s eye.
visualize
When I was learning to slalom waterski, I kept falling at the same spot in the wake in the same way over and over again. I remember someone telling me the problem was that I’d learned to fall. Huh? But it was true. When I thought about crossing the wake, what I saw in my mind’s eye was me falling. I didn’t fear it, I just knew it would happen. I had learned to fall.

If we don’t change what we envision, we will subconsciously stick with what we’ve learned. We’re bad at math. We are weak. We are unreliable. We can’t cook. We’ll never amount to anything. We’re lazy. Are we? Do we have to be or have we adopted someone else’s vision of us? Can we see ourselves getting a tutor and excelling at math, lifting weights and becoming strong, only saying yes when we know we can deliver, practicing until cooking seems easy, excelling in life, or working energetically? Changing how we view ourselves can facilitate us changing everything!

Coaches know that visualization can improve athletic performance. In addition to time on the court, they may have a player envision him/herself making free throw after free throw. Scientific studies have shown that visualization does, in fact, improve athletic and academic performance. Pilots-in-training are encouraged to chair fly their airplanes, or, in other words, to visualize themselves flying. Life coaches may incorporate visualization to help a client conquer an obstacle.

When you think about it, this makes perfect sense. If you can see yourself doing something, it’s no big deal to do it. It just feels natural. On the other hand, if you can’t see yourself doing something, it’s a challenge to make the first step toward getting started.

The type of visualization I’m describing isn’t daydreaming. It’s an engaged practice directed to achieve a goal or overcome an obstacle and it can be practiced. For instance, let’s say my greatest difficulty going gluten-free is how I will explain to my elderly aunt that I can’t eat her beef stroganoff. I will create images of myself in which I am brave, strong, and kind when communicating this to her. I imagine myself engaging in some activity that comforts me before and after the communication. Obviously, I can’t control her response, so my visualization focuses on me practicing self-care while addressing my obstacle.

This can go further. I can mentally rehearse several possible responses to my aunt’s imagined reactions. In other words, I can visualize many options I can employ to keep myself feeling centered, supported, and strong. I can also give myself permission to remove myself from the communication if my aunt becomes hysterical, abusive, or unkind. Imagining the many options I have and seeing myself feeling okay no matter how she responds builds my emotional muscles in advance.

With better developed emotional muscles and a mental picture of my many options, I can go into an uncomfortable conversation feeling strong and prepared. Whatever the response, I am prepared to see myself as a person who deserves to be healthy. Remaining gluten-free is critical to my health, so I will remain gluten-free and I will be kind to those who don’t understand because they cannot make me feel bad about treating myself well.

Perhaps your greatest obstacle is financial. It is true that much of the gluten-free convenience food available is more expensive. Gluten-free flours are also more expensive than wheat flour. You can visualize yourself feeling satisfied and happy eating meat, vegetables, cheese, yogurt, fruit, rice, quinoa, beans, lentils, cornbread, corn tortillas, and homemade trail mix. As you imagine roasted chicken, chicken enchiladas, grilled chicken breasts, beef stew, beef roast, grilled steak, pork chops & rice, pork tenderloin, grilled tilapia, fresh green beans with new potatoes, black beans & rice, grapes, peaches, pears, bananas, baked sweet potatoes, sautéed squash & onions, steamed carrots or broccoli, you’ll soon recognize the options are plentiful even on a budget.

Visualizing will also make it easier to develop a pantry plan for your family, meal plans for busy weeks, travel plans so that you always have good gluten-free options, and plans for attending parties or events. As you see yourself successfully navigating these areas, a gluten-free lifestyle will seem less daunting.

Being able to see what can be rather than what will no longer be mitigates the feeling of loss we all experience when we give up something familiar. Visualizing yourself as the pain free, energetic self you used to be can help motivate you to stick with a gluten-free path in order to heal. Seeing yourself enjoying life without a foggy brain, constant itching, tummy pain and discomfort, weakness and fatigue, or achy muscles is great motivation for giving the lifestyle a try.

Can you be successful in maintaining a gluten-free lifestyle to be healthy? Yes, you can! I can see it now!

And when you struggle, we’re always here to help: support@cooking2thrive.com.

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/8b20/b4ff5ccdb04dee8f8928f8b7fc6ea5c9772f.pdf

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.2190/X9BA-KJ68-07AN-QMJ8

http://www.marcandangel.com/2015/01/18/4-unconventional-steps-extremely-successful-people-take-in-life/#more-800

March 27, 2018

What’s Worth Preserving?

In the kitchen and in life it’s important to consider what’s worth preserving. After recovering from a severe stomach virus in December, my system has been slowly readjusting to raw vegetables and meat proteins. I’ve cooked a number of dishes that I ultimately couldn’t tolerate. I feel a bit wasteful throwing those away, so I’m constantly faced with a decision about what’s worth preserving.
jars
I don’t have a canner, so preserving food is primarily limited to freezing. I have to confess that I’m really bad at freezing anything other than baked goods. Actually, I’m really bad at remembering to thaw the food.

Of course I open my freezer every day. I get ice out of the ice maker. I grab a handful of almonds I store there. I sometimes grab flour out of it to bake. But those things can be used immediately. A muffin can be microwaved for a few seconds. On the other hand, a roast, Cornish hen, or chicken thighs take time to thaw. That’s where the problem comes in.

I plan when I’m creating or testing recipes. When I’m cooking for myself, I fly by the seat of my pants most of the time. Thawing and last minute cooking don’t mesh well. And I haven’t been pleased with the results I get from microwave thawing. Knowing myself as I do, I work around this weakness by rarely preserving in the freezer.
beef
Instead, I ask the following questions when I’m deciding what to keep:

How much longer will it last?
What I can’t tolerate today, I may be able to in 3 or 4 days. If it will last 3 or 4 days it still has usefulness and I will keep it.

Can I freeze it, then give it away?
My sister falls on the opposite end of the freezing spectrum. It’s her favorite way to store food. Sometimes it makes sense for me to freeze something, then give it to her.

If I cook it, will I eat it?
The answer to this question may lead me to cook the food, but give it away. If I have a friend who is overly busy or has been ill, I can do us both a favor by preparing the food then delivering it to them.

Can I donate it?
A local food bank or food closet may be able to accept fresh food. We have a new local organization that only serves veterans and disseminates quickly so perishables are acceptable. Churches may also be able to use the food to feed members of a congregation.

Should I throw it away?
Sometimes throwing something away is the best decision. If you were raised to conserve, reduce, reuse, and recycle, this may be a difficult concept to absorb.

When I was small, we had very little money. I don’t like wastefulness. It makes me feel anxious and insecure. What’s gone can’t be gotten back and I internalized the idea that I might not be able to afford to replace it. Most of the time, this serves to make me more efficient and less wasteful, but it can also cause me to want to hold onto too many things.

This is the point at which questions about food preservation begin to intersect with questions about what’s worth preserving in life. Should I hold onto every piece of furniture or knick-knack that I remember from my grandmother’s house? Should I keep every blurry photo of my family? Should I hang onto grudges against my aunts and uncles that originated before I was born?

Our experiences and families leave a legacy often left unexamined. But in life it’s valuable to ask what’s worth preserving. Sometimes what we retain is limiting us from having the life we desire. We accept a version of reality that may not have to apply.

When deciding what’s worth preserving in life, I often begin a question with – Can I know for sure that…

Can I know for sure that I won’t have funds to replace my mom’s dresser that has outlived its usefulness?

Can I know for sure I’ll forget the warm feeling I had in my grandmother’s kitchen if I get rid of her cookie jar?

Can I know for sure I won’t see that same smile on my cousin’s face in a different photo that’s not blurry?

Can I know for sure that Uncle John is as rotten as my dad said if I don’t get to know him myself?

Can I know for sure that I won’t find love again if I let go of this relationship that makes me feel really bad about myself?

Can I know for sure that I won’t get that dream job even though I’m only 80% qualified? Should I just stick here where I’m miserable, but secure?

If I can’t know beyond a shadow of a doubt that something is true, then I turn the question around and ask – Is it possible that…

Is it possible that I will find a dresser that’s cherry like my bed instead of a mismatched maple one with a drawer that sticks?

Is it possible that the smell of peanut butter cookies baking in my oven will remind me of the warm feeling I had in my grandmother’s kitchen?

Is it possible that I have 15 pictures of my cousin’s smile in the 5 boxes of photos I haven’t organized because there’s so many to go through?

Is it possible that Uncle John tried to apologize to my dad, but my dad wouldn’t listen and he’d actually love to have a relationship with me and my sister?

Is it possible that I don’t believe I deserve to feel good about myself in a relationship?

Is it possible that a fear of being inadequate is standing between me and the job I want?

If I can’t know for sure and it’s possible that exactly the opposite is true, what am I preventing by holding onto my current belief? Am I cluttering my house with so much stuff that has to be cleaned that I don’t have time to enjoy my family? Am I cluttering my collections with so many extraneous things that the best aren’t easily visible? Am I missing out on a positive, supportive relationship because of someone else’s beef? Am I missing out on a loving partnership that makes me feel I am being my best because I keep trying to make a bad one work? Am I missing out on my dream job by letting doubt keep me from applying?

It could be that some of the things I’m holding on to are costing me dearly. By asking a question and then turning that question around, I can quickly identify things in my life that are not worth preserving. Sometimes they seem so obvious, I wonder how I could have been so blind.

One thing I know to let go of is guilt; another is shame. I will make mistakes. I will make decisions of which I’m ashamed. I will fail. I can hold onto guilt, shame, and failure and in the process lose my best self or I can let them go in order to learn, improve, and shine in my life. I choose to let them go. Some things just aren’t worth preserving!

January 22, 2018

Mix and Match

Sometimes in the kitchen I just have to mix and match. I grew up on a farm so it wasn’t convenient to shop at the grocery store often. We planned and purchased for a week at a time. If we decided to vary the menu from our plan, we sometimes had to make substitutions. Those habits stuck with me. I tend to shop once a week with a loose plan in my head. In between trips, I mix and match to create the meals I desire.
herbs
While our Cooking2Thrive recipes go through at least three extensive tests to make sure the proportion of each ingredient is just right, my everyday cooking is haphazard, thrown together, and, more often than not, delicious! I’m rarely deterred by lack of an ingredient.

I recently decided to make tuna croquettes. They’re one of my favorite quick & easy go-tos. I keep them really simple like my grandmother did. She always mixed canned salmon, an egg, crushed saltines and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Then she pan fried them in melted butter. I use tuna rather than salmon, but other than that I follow her lead.

Technically, these may not even be croquettes to you. They have no béchamel or brown sauce. They’re not rolled in breadcrumbs, and they’re shaped like round patties instead of cylinders. Nonetheless, they’re quite tasty.

Five-ounce cans of solid white albacore tuna in water are staples in my pantry. I combine one or two cans with one egg, gluten-free breadcrumbs, and a little salt & pepper. I never measure, I just add breadcrumbs until the mixture isn’t too wet or dry to hold together. Then I make patties and pan fry them in butter.

Most recently, I began making the croquettes and realized I only had about a tablespoon of breadcrumbs. That’s not enough. I had no crackers or bread on hand. I did have an open bag of Cheetos® puffs (yes, I know those aren’t healthy). I placed a handful of them in a plastic bag and crushed them to use in place of the breadcrumbs. I had to crush a few more, but they worked like a charm!

I had never before considered using Cheetos in croquettes, but there are substitutions I make on a fairly regular basis. I add vinegar to regular milk to use in place of buttermilk. I use coconut crystals in place of brown sugar. I use dates or honey to sweeten muffins or cookies. I substitute anise for fennel or vice versa. I mix and match citrus all the time depending on what I have handy, sometimes adding a little apple cider or rice wine vinegar to enhance the acidity of lemon, lime, or orange flavor and balsamic vinegar to enhance cherry.

Last week I baked some tilapia to serve over rice. I really wanted the fresh punch of a pico de gallo as a finisher on top. I had no cilantro, lime, or peppers on hand. What I had was grape tomatoes, yellow onion, and basil stir-in paste.

I thought why not see if I can combine these into something that will add the cool acidic top note I’m looking for? I chopped the tomatoes and onion into small pieces, added a small dollop of the basil along with some salt and pepper. The resulting salsa enhanced the fish and rice perfectly even though the flavor profile varied from pico de gallo.

At some point, most of us will discover we lack an ingredient needed to finish a dish we’ve already started cooking for dinner. That’s a great time to mix and match. If you’re not sure where to begin, a guide to pairing flavors can be helpful. Check out the award-winning book – The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs.

Or just do what I do and wing it. Cooking is as much art as science. I can’t tell you how I know a substitution will work. I just see it in my head. You may be able to do this too. There’s nothing wrong with giving it a try!

Mixing and matching may make your food a little less predictable, but in my experience, no one seems to mind as long as it’s tasty.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/tilapia-has-a-terrible-reputation-does-it-deserve-it/2016/10/24/4537dc96-96e6-11e6-bc79-af1cd3d2984b_story.html?utm_term=.2f02886f3438

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/flavor-bible-karen-page/1100163990#/

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.”