Good For Your Heart

If you’re looking for a hot date on Valentine’s Day, why not choose one that’s good for your heart? And no, I don’t mean Paul Rudd or Idris Elba. I mean red hot chili peppers (not the band)!

In a study published in the Journal of The American College of Cardiology in 2019, Italian scientists observed that people who eat hot peppers 4 or more times per week were 40 percent less likely to die from heart attack and 60 percent less likely to die from cerebrovascular disease compared to those who do not consume chili peppers regularly.

The study was based on data from over 22,000 subjects and the results held true whether the rest of the diet was healthy or not. Health status was tracked over a period of 8 years.

Another study with about the same number of subjects demonstrated a reduced risk of death in those who eat spicy foods six to seven days per week. This Chinese study was published in the BMJ in 2015 showing a 14% relative risk reduction in death. The study spanned seven years.

As with most dietary observations, it’s hard to draw a hard fast line between the specific properties of chili peppers and their positive effects. Is the microbiota of each person’s gut the key? Is it the antioxidant effect of capsaicin that does the trick? Is it the antiobesity effect of capsaicin? Does vitamin D have an effect in individuals with hypertension? All of these may be a piece of the puzzle. And we may never put the puzzle together perfectly.

While that may mean we don’t have enough information to formulate a soup that perfectly protects the heart, we can rely on the take away that chili peppers have a positive effect even when the rest of the diet is less than ideal. That gives us the opportunity to up our spice game on a regular basis.

There’s no better day to get started than today! Add some cayenne to your chocolate covered strawberries, throw some spiced pecans in your brownies, or serve black cherry blooms for happy hour. It’s easy to keep it festive and make it healthy on Valentine’s Day!

To that I say, “Bring on the heat!” Your heart with thank you for it.

Cooking With Gas and All-Clad

I’ve been cooking with gas and All-Clad pots and pans for more than 15 years. I love them! My older All-Clad is not dishwasher safe and I still prefer it over my other pans! According to the May 15, 2020 edition of USA Today, All-Clad cookware is one of 20 most popular things people are buying right now.

All-Clad is great to cook in and easy to clean even when it seems burned morsels are cemented to it. A stainless steel scrubber will take the grime right off. The cookware is pricey, but you don’t have to buy a whole set all at once. I bought one piece at a time over a few years. That gave me time to save up in between.

This bonded cookware is handcrafted and comes with a lifetime warranty. It is made for superior performance. There are no frustrating hot spots where the flame hits the bottom of the pot because the cookware’s core evenly distributes the heat. The handles stay cool unless they are directly on a heat source or you are using a pan in the oven.

I fully understand making this investment if you’re home more and cooking a lot. We all have sensibilities that make certain tools appealing.


I prefer gas ranges. My favorites are old, heavy, well-insulated Chambers stoves. I’d love to have one in bright red or pale blue. An O’Keefe & Merritt from the 1950s is also appealing. I’d have to rework my kitchen to make one fit, but it could happen.

In the meantime, I have a gas range with a gas oven. My new stove seems safe, but my last one was questionable. Actually, I think it was a lemon. An exciting lemon!

From the get-go, the oven didn’t light properly. A technician replaced a part. A few weeks after the warranty expired, the problem returned in dramatic fashion. I turned on the oven one day, heard and boom, and turned to see the oven door fly open. So much gas had built up before ignition that it literally blew the door open. And you thought cooking was a bore!

I convinced the manufacturer that due to the dangerous nature of this problem they should fix it at no charge. That may have seemed like a win at the time, but I have to say I was glad to see that stove go last year when the whole top oven mechanism fell onto the oven rack. I didn’t even consider a repair. I was done.

Many bakers prefer electric ovens because they heat evenly. I’m not sure why gas appeals to me. It just does. So does wood. At times, I’ve considered buying a stove with a wood-fired oven to bake bread. While that’s not in any of my current plans, I get excited thinking about it.

Some tools appeal because of fond memories. Some appeal because they work well. Others appeal because they make the experience feel right in a way we can’t explain. Listening to our sensibilities when choosing an implement can turn a chore into a pleasure.

Like you, I have more chores these days. The more pleasant I make each chore, the more I enjoy the time I must spend performing these duties. Choosing equipment that enhances the experience is worth it. That’s why I cook with gas and All-Clad!–merritt-

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.”

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.


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.

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.”

Alternative Songs for Hand Washing

This week, I’ve been exploring alternative songs for handwashing. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting really tired of singing Happy Birthday every time I wash my hands. I want to make sure I’m washing for the optimum time, but I want to jam to another tune.


If you have kids, here are some songs that meet the 20-second requirement according to the timer on my iPhone and the normal speed I’d sing them with my grandchildren:
One round of The Itsy Bitsy Spider
Two Verses of The Wheels on the Bus
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
Two Verses of Head and Shoulders Knees and Toes
Two body parts in If You’re Happy and You Know It (Wash Your Hands!)
I’m a Little Teapot
Three Verses of Baby Shark
Two Verses of This Old Man
Two body parts in The Hokey Pokey
Two rounds of Pop Goes the Weasel

I used my timer to preview some other categories for you:

When the emerging situation leaves you leaning more on faith, try one verse of Amazing Grace, one verse (or one chorus) of To God Be the Glory, or We Shall Overcome.

When you want to remind your kids of the good ole days, you can sing two verses of She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain, one chorus of This Land is Your Land, or Home on the Range.

If you’re missing sports, you can honor them with Take Me Out to the Ballgame, a chorus of Eye of the Tiger, or your school’s fight song (most will be at least 20 seconds, but set your timer and sing a test to make sure).

Remember how Ally McBeal’s therapist suggested everyone should have a theme song? This could be a good time to grab one for yourself. I tend to like It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp. I cannot explain why. It just seems appropriate when something is difficult.

Not to mention, it highly annoys my son when my grandson starts singing that song in public. (He’s three. Don’t worry, he’s never heard the full song and he doesn’t know what a pimp is. He just knows, “It’s hard out here for a pimp. Trying to get the money for the rent. After which he adds: cha, cha, cha, cha.”) You cannot see this and not laugh. The reprimands I receive from my son are worth it.

Laughter is a good thing right now. Our lives have shifted drastically this past week. Finding humor wherever you can find it will ease some of the discomfort swift change brings.

The current situation offers a great opportunity to focus on good health habits. Choosing a handwashing song can add an element of frivolity to one of these habits. I like the association of fun and lightheartedness with health habits. Fun makes a good habit feel more palatable and appealing.

I wish you and your family safety, comfort, and wellness as we work through uncertainty and complications. And I hope we all manage to find some fun among the chaos!