New Food Friday – Kasha, Groats, Buckwheat

18 Apr Kasha (sxc.hu - yirsh)

I had never tried Kasha until an Internet friend said that she loved it and would eat it for breakfast everyday. So, I bought a box of Wolff’s Kasha at my local Meijer.

Box of Kasha

Box of Kasha

Kasha is buckwheat and it comes in several granulations. I chose medium. This particular box had a small cellophane window so you could see the product inside (which I ignored), and put the box in my cart. When I got home, I placed the box in my pantry. When it was time for me to try the Kasha, I opened the box and began pouring the Kasha into a bowl. Out poured contents that contained Kasha, caraway seeds, and some other type of seeds. I recognized caraway seeds when I saw them and I didn’t think they were supposed to be in this box!

After doing some research, I realized that seeds were not supposed to be part of Kasha! I contacted the company and told them about it. I received a nice letter of thanks for letting them know from the vice president of Birkett Mills. He said they use the most efficient and sophisticated cleaning machinery known in the dry grain processing industry and that rarely even the most advanced technology can be fooled. (Well, we all know how I feel about technology as per my last post, now don’t we!)

In a show of their appreciation, they sent me two more boxes of Kasha (without seeds) and a whole bunch of information about Kasha. I kept one box and gave the other to my son, the other health enthusiast in the family.

Rather than let the box with the seeds go to waste, I used the caraway seeds from the “bad” box of Kasha for my Russian Rye Bread recipe! As you know, the loaves turned out great! To be honest though, I’m not crazy about Kasha for breakfast even though I know how good it is for you and how popular it is in Russia and throughout the Balkan region of Europe.

Map of Europe (sxc.hu - vygnyo)

Map of Europe (sxc.hu – vygnyo)

However, a recipe I found among all the recipes they sent, sounded good and good for your health too, so that I had to chose it for this New Food Friday.

The following information was provided to me from Birkett Mills, established in 1797. (Yes, that date is correct, 1797.) Read the eye-opening information that I have written by clicking this link.

If, after you have clicked the link and read the material you are now convinced that you need buckwheat in your diet, Birkett Mills offers a cookbook with over 50 recipes, many with full color illustrations, for $2.50. Write to: Pocono Buckwheat Cookbook, P.O. Box 440 PC, Penn Yan, NY 14527

Here is one of their recipes that caught my eye.

Grilled Portobello Caps with Kasha Pilaf
1/3 cup diced celery
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion (such as Vidalia)
2 cups water
2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup Kasha
salt to taste
6 large Portobello mushroom caps
Olive oil
1 1/4 cup grated hearty cheese (such as aged Gruyere or aged Gouda)

Aged Gouda

Aged Gouda

Prepare the Kasha Mixture First
In a 2-qt saucepan on medium-high heat, combine celery, onion, water and 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning. Cook until liquid is very hot, but not quite boiling. (Or, you can microwave it.)

Old Bay and Kasha Granules

Old Bay and Kasha Granules

While the liquid mixture is heating, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the extra virgin olive oil add remaining 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning and the Kasha. Stir Kasha until it is hot and slightly toasted.

Browning Kasha in a Pan

Browning Kasha in a Pan

Reduce heat to low. Carefully add hot liquid mixture and cover pan tightly. Simmer about 10 minutes until kernels are tender and liquid is absorbed.

Remove from heat and “fluff” with a fork. Season to taste with salt. This may be used immediately to stuff mushrooms or refrigerated for up to two days (or frozen for up to 1 month.) Makes nearly 4 cups.

Prepare medium-hot grill fire. Discard mushroom stems, clean gills with soft brush, and wipe caps with damp paper towel. Brush top of caps with olive oil.

Mushrooms (sxc.hu - mzacha)

Mushrooms (sxc.hu – mzacha)

Grill mushrooms gill-side down for a couple minutes. (I didn’t grill mine, I used my skillet.) Use tongs to flip caps top-side up and move them away from the heat while you fill the caps with the Kasha mixture.

Stuffed Portobello Muchroom Caps with Kasha Mixture

Stuffed Portobello Mushroom Caps with Kasha Mixture

Return caps to the heat and continue grilling, with grill lid down for 3-4 minutes. Top each cap with a scant 1/4 cup grated cheese. Lower grill lid and heat until cheese melts.

My mushrooms were not very large so I had left-over Kasha. I used it in another meal and added diced chicken and peas.

This mushroom recipe is good for when you crank up the barbecue. It would go well with my recipe for hot dogs with Chipotle in Adobo Sauce. Add a salad,  corn on the cob, 

Sangria (sxc.hu - matthijs_v)

Sangria (sxc.hu – matthijs_v)

a pitcher of Sangria, and you could invite the neighbors!

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New Food Friday – News Flash!

13 Apr Flash Drive (sxc.hu - mrceviz)

I thought of a way I could keep my New Food Fridays going while reducing the amount of time it takes me to do them. Introducing the New Food Friday Flash. The difference between the regular New Food Friday and the new New Food Friday Flash is that the New Food Friday Flash would be shorter and with less photos. Taking photos and finding good ones on the Internet takes up a lot of time for me when putting together New Food Friday.

I still have one more New Food Friday post ready for April’s post, but then after that, New Food Friday Flash will take its place until further notice. The bones of it will stay the same: 3rd Friday of the month, informative, hopefully entertaining, just shorter and sweeter. A food flash in a pan, in a manner of speaking minus the negative connotation! I think you will enjoy it!

*One more thing; if you’re wondering how things are working out now that I’ve canceled my AT&T Internet service, I don’t miss them one bit! I put my posts and any work I need to do at home on my Flash Drive or what some call a USB Memory Stick. The library computers are fast, much faster than my computer, and accept Flash Drives so I can transfer my work from the Flash Drive to the library computer and into my blog. This is working out great! I wish I had done this sooner! You may want to follow suit!

 

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End of Support for XP so I’m Canceling my ISP on April 8

24 Mar System Failure (sxc.hu DGBurns)

Sometimes it’s good to get things off your chest and to assert yourself. It’s good for your health and as we all know, my blog is about good health. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  Here’s the story.

Those of you with Windows XP know that Microsoft is ending its support on April 8.  As I have mulled over this event since their announcement, I decided that I did not want to upgrade my desktop computer to Windows 7 or 8 in order to avoid malware and viruses and other clouds of doom. And I resent the fact that it is expected of me.

So, in my way of protest, I have scheduled to cancel my Internet Service as of April 8, the same day Microsoft is ending XP support. What gives? I am so glad you asked.

1. I resent being led around by the nose by the Microsoft conglomerate needing to line their pockets by forcing consumers to buy new software when XP has been doing a good job for us. Better than Vista, better than Windows 8. Nobody liked either one.

2. I scoff at their cavalier throw-away attitude and lack of concern for the environment because rather than upgrade, many people will decide to buy new computers with Windows 8 loaded on it and not load software on their old computer all day long.

3. I’m mad at programmers and software developers for not creating better products that could last longer. Yes, I want computer products to last longer so that we don’t have landfills overflowing with discarded computers that take years and years to break down and then pollute the land and the air while doing so. Read more about computer pollution here.

4. I’m ticked off at AT&T my ISP (Internet Service Provider). I try to avoid calling them because I know that every time I do, it means a long conversation where they try to get you to buy something or add something and you can’t get done what you need to get done until they let out all the stops and wear you down! Other people must have complained about this issue because this time I was asked if I would allow the representative to explain other product options. I told her no. I asked if I decided to get DSL again in the future would I be able to. She said no.  She said she would explain why but since I already told her I did not want her to explain, that she would not be able to tell me. Oh boo-hoo my heart is broken! Then she said, to cover her *ss, you’ve probably gotten notices in the mail about these new products or options or whatever she called them. Yeah, like every week! They never stop coming. And the funny thing is that it is about $15 more than what I’m paying now so why would I want it? But I didn’t say that. I was nice. Speak softly and carry a big stick is my motto.

Then she tried to get me to agree to call waiting and some other service because it would be a package deal. Oh boy, a package deal! Would it save me money this special package deal? Heck no, it costs more than what I’m paying now. Thanks but no thanks.

Then at the end of the conversation she said if I change my mind, they could re-instate my DSL service. Huh? Didn’t she just tell me I couldn’t have DSL anymore if I cancelled it?

So what does this mean for us? For you, me,  my blog and my posts?

I went to my local library branch today and inquired about using their computers. Since I have a library card, I am allowed 1 hour at a time. If I need more time, I can sign up on their computer for another hour. My library is about 2-3 minutes from my house. At 2:30 pm today, all their computers were in use. I’ll have to get there earlier.

At this point I don’t know if using the library computers will work for me. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. As of now, I’m not canceling my New Food Friday posts. If worse comes to worse, I’ll just do them as time permits instead of the 3rd Friday of the month.

The last time I checked, there were still over 400 million XP users out there who hadn’t upgraded to Windows 7 or 8.  For a different point of view about the XP issue, read this.

When I had Window’s ’95 on my old laptop computer, I ended up having to upgrade to Window’s ’98. When I did so, my $200 audio system did not function correctly with it anymore. To this day, I’m still tinkering with it, trying to “fix” it. If I upgrade to Windows 7 or 8, on my desktop computer, my Italian language software programs will not work, nor will my printer and who knows what else. I can probably get an upgraded driver for my printer but it will be difficult if not impossible to do anything about my language CDs. I use them around Christmas time to send letters written in Italian to my relatives in Italy. I refuse to buy new language CDs when I’m happy with what I’ve got.

Upgrading XP boils down to spending a lot of time correcting computer issues, searching for solutions and being chained to my desk a little longer. I’ve already written a post about how sitting at your desk is not good for your health. If you haven’t read it, check it out here.

After all the record snow we had here in Indy this winter, 55″ (and counting) when we usually have between 19″-23″ depending on which news program you follow, I am itching to get out in the sunshine! I don’t want to spend more time on my computer, I want to spend less time!

Well, some of my prayers have been answered. A website, epinions.com,  that I had written reviews for the last six years, has shut down. Kaput, The End, No More. I typically spent 3 hours writing each review. I’ve written over 400 reviews. To read them, click REVIEWS at the top of the page. While this turn of events frees up my time, it also lightens my pocketbook because I was paid for these reviews. Some of these reviews were of books.

I’ve recently gotten in the habit of listening to audiobooks. I love them! But now I have no outlet to write about them. Unless I do it here.  The way I see it, listening to audiobooks or reading printed books is good for your health because they are entertaining, often educational, can increase your vocabulary, and darn it, I say they’re good for your health! So, while I haven’t decided completely, I’m leaning towards adding book reviews to this blog.

Final words. A few people got rich crying out, “A computer on every desk!” We followed these commands like lambs to the slaughter. Have they (computers) really saved us time? How many times has someone misread your email so that you had to write another email explaining your original email? How many times have you hit the delete key for the Spam you got and then had to go into your Trash folder because you (or  software) accidentally deleted an email that you wanted to keep? How much time have you spent online trying to find a free anti-virus program that didn’t eat up all your resources and slow down your computer to a crawl? How many times have you gotten the “Unresponsive script” warning and it hung up your computer? How many times has malware or a virus screwed up your computer because your anti-virus software didn’t catch it? How many times….fill in the blank with your own time-consuming computer issue. Enough already!

I know. Normally I’m a quiet girl but when I get a bee in my bonnet, look out! The wheels are in motion, my mind is made up. Upgrade be damned! AT&T call yourself and hang up. Power to the people!

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New Food Friday – Chipotle in Adobo Sauce

21 Mar Grilled Meat 854255

You know how I love to try new foods. I slowly scan the ethnic aisles at my local Meijer or Kroger supermarkets until I find something interesting that I might like to try. I also get ideas from cooking shows, cookbooks, and recipe websites. For this New Food Friday I found Chipotle in Adobo Sauce on the shelf at Meijer and decided to pick up a can.

Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce

Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce

I had no idea what they were used for or how they would taste. Once home, I couldn’t wait to open up the can and try one!

Chipotle Peppers in sauce

Chipotle Peppers in sauce

I grabbed a fork and popped one in my mouth. Duh! Warning: don’t do that! These peppers are full of hot seeds and the peppers and sauce are HOT!

Chipotle with seeds

Chipotle with seeds

Ingredients

Chipotle Peppers, Tomato Puree, Vinegar, Onions, Sunflower Seed Oil, Sugar, Salt, Paprika and Garlic.

2 Tablespoons (serving size) contains:

sodium 200mg

sugar 2g

Vitamin C 6%

Vitamin A 10%

Fiber 1g

A Chipotle is a smoked, dried, jalapeño. These chipotle peppers keep well in the fridge in a jar. Don’t leave them in the can.

My challenge was to find out how I could use these peppers. Yes, they are popular in Mexican dishes, but I wanted to see if there were other ways I could use them.

I cut up a pepper and poured some of the adobo sauce over a jar of garbanzo beans. I let them marinate a couple of days. Then I spread the beans out on a pan lined with parchment paper, poured a little bit of olive oil on them, sprinkled some sea salt over them and put them in the oven for 20 minutes at 400°. (Watch carefully so they don’t burn.) They were good! I like them as a snack. They are low in calories and high in fiber.

The next thing I tried was to scrape off the seeds, dice a pepper, and then put it in a homemade tomato sauce to pour over pasta.

Chipotle chopped in pan

Chipotle chopped in pan

I sprinkled a generous amount of Asiago cheese on top. Tasty!

My favorite though was to add a pepper on top of a hot dog. My choice of hot dog is one made with chicken, turkey, and pork. I don’t eat beef. The chipotle was in place of the usual ketchup or mustard. This was spicy and very good!

Chipotle on a hot dog

Chipotle on a hot dog

While I don’t recommend you eat hot dogs often, once in a while won’t hurt you. They’re better if you don’t douse them in ketchup which is full of sugar, or mustard which is full of sodium. You can always buy low sodium hot dogs if you’re watching your sodium intake. I put my dog on a whole grain bun. It was darn good!

Since the weather is warming up (I was wondering if it ever would again) you could put your hot dogs on the grill! These chipotle peppers would go well with grilled chicken, steak, and burgers too.  You can put them in a chili or how about on a hero sandwich? The possibilities are limited to your imagination.

Don’t forget to serve some vanilla ice cream for dessert to cool your mouth!

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New Food Friday – Bok Choy or Pak Choi

21 Feb Polenta instead of rice with Bok Choy

If you haven’t tried Bok Choy, you don’t know what you’re missing! Bok Choy is my choice for this New Food Friday.

This Asian staple is full of vitamin A, C, and is high in calcium and many other nutrients.  It resembles celery but doesn’t taste like it and it’s juicy like celery, maybe even juicer. I like to munch on it raw while I’m preparing it for a stir-fry or a soup. Bok Choy is in the cabbage family but it doesn’t taste like cabbage either. Its taste reminds me of escarole except that Bok Choy is mildly sweet and has a slight peppery bite at the end.

The leaves of Bok Choy are very dark green but the stalks are very white.

Bok Choy Stalks

Bok Choy Leaves

It’s a beautiful vegetable! The Chinese have been cultivating it for over 5,000 years.

Recently, my local Meijer had Bok Choy on sale for 88 cents a pound. Oh happy day! I bought 1.75 pounds of it!

Bunch of Bok Choy

Bundled Bok Choy – 1.75 pounds

There are two versions of Bok Choy in this country: there is the Baby Bok Choy and the regular Bok Choy. I’ve purchased both in the past and they taste the same to me. It may be more convenient to cook the Baby Bok Choy because you can cook it whole.

Baby Bok Choy

Baby Bok Choy or Pak Choi (sxc.hu – MeiTeng)

You couldn’t cook the regular Bok Choy whole because you wouldn’t have a pan large enough! I like the larger version which can sometimes be quite large! Ginormous, in fact, so you can expect more prep time with it. Don’t wash it until you’re ready to use it. Bok Choy stays fresh for up to a week in the fridge.

In my research for this post, I was surprised to learn that Bok Choy falls under the category of cruciferous vegetables. As you may well know, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower) contain anti-cancer compounds. All the more reason to try, buy, stir-fry Bok Choy!

Cooking Bok Choy

I typically cook all greens the same way when I use them for a side dish: olive oil, garlic, a few tablespoons of water or broth, cover and cook in my large fry pan. Bok Choy is good this way. But I decided to do a stir-fry with chicken. I found two recipes online that I liked and I combined them and tweaked them too. The results were delicious. I’m posting the recipe for you below. Since one recipe was Chinese and the other was Thai, I’m calling it:

Chinese-Thai Almond Chicken Stir-Fry

1 Tablespoon oil (peanut or coconut, I used olive oil)

1/2 cup whole almonds

1 skinless, boneless chicken breast

1 Tablespoon soy sauce (reduced sodium is best)

1 Tablespoon oyster sauce

Oyster Sauce

Oyster Sauce

1 Tablespoon chili garlic sauce

Chili Garlic Sauce

Chili Garlic Sauce

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

8 oz (more or less) rinsed Bok Choy cut into bite-sized pieces

2-3 Tablespoons Chicken broth if pan seems dry

You can add mushrooms, thinly sliced onions, or whatever you like to this. I added 1/4 cup thinly sliced carrots and 1/4 cup chopped celery.

To thicken gravy

1 Tablespoon corn starch

1/4 cup cold water

Stir together then pour into pan at the end of cooking until gravy thickens. (I did not do this step. See below.)

Directions

In a small bowl add the soy sauce, oyster sauce, chili garlic sauce, brown sugar, and lime juice. Stir the mixture well to melt the sugar. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a fry pan or wok and add the almonds and heat on medium-high heat until golden about 2 minutes. Be careful not to burn! Remove from pan.

Stir-fry thinly sliced chicken breast in same pan for 2-3 minutes. Add the Bok Choy, then the carrots, celery, mushrooms, onions, or whatever you like and spoon 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce mixture over it; stir and cook 2 minutes. (Cook longer and cover if you prefer your veggies less crispy.) Add a few tablespoons of broth if the mixture seems dry. Taste. If you like it spicier and saltier, add the rest of the soy sauce mixture. If you have any leftover, you can use it to baste most meats. I reserved my leftover for my next Bok Choy meal using the same recipe but substituting bay scallops in place of the chicken. (It wasn’t as good as the chicken.)

Serve with the sprinkled almonds on top. This is a very nutritious dish, low in calories, high in fiber, high in calcium, but also high in sodium which is why I suggested you taste the dish before adding all the soy sauce mixture. If you’re watching your sodium intake you may not want to use all the soy sauce mixture.

This dish is great served over rice and is the typical way it would be served. I wanted to try something different. I already had a pan of polenta that I had made the day before and feeling adventurous, I decided to try it in place of the rice.

Polenta instead of rice with Bok Choy

Polenta with Bok Choy

It was just as good! In fact, it thickened the gravy without using the cornstarch mixture. I liked this recipe so much that I decided to make it again, this time with brown rice.

Bok Choy dish

Bok Choy with a drizzle of sweet & sour sauce and mustard

 

Whichever way you try it, be sure you do try it! It’s delicious!

qǐng màn yòng!

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Valentine’s Day Cream Cheese Danish Heart

14 Feb Iced Cheesecake Heart

Every once in a while people who exercise and watch their weight want a little dessert. My favorite dessert is this Cream Cheese Danish Heart. It’s perfect for Valentine’s Day and easy to make for your sweetheart.

 

This recipe is very delicious and versatile. If you don’t want to use cream cheese for the filling you can substitute any of the following: apple, pineapple, lemon pudding, cherry, plum, almond paste, or walnuts. I’ve never tried any of the substitutions but these substitutions are from the list of the original recipe. Unfortunately, I don’t know where I got this recipe or I would gladly give credit for it! It is a winner in my book!

 

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup sugar

1 envelope rapid rise yeast

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup water

½ cup sour cream

¼ cup butter

1 large egg

 

Filling

1 8-oz pkg cream cheese room temperature

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

(Stir all until smooth)

 

Powdered Sugar Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar

2-3 Tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

(Stir all until smooth)

 

Directions

In a large bowl combine ¾ cup of the flour, sugar, yeast and salt. In a pan, heat the water, sour cream and butter until warm. Gradually add the warm mixture to the flour mixture. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed scraping bowl occasionally. Then add the egg and 1 cup of the flour and beat 2 more minutes at high speed. Finally, stir in the remaining ¼ cup flour to make a stiff batter. Cover tightly and refrigerate 2 – 24 hours.

Cheesecake Heart that expanded too much!

Cheesecake Heart that expanded too much!

 

I’ve made this dessert many times. In the photo above, my yeast expanded too much and it lost the heart shape so try to form your heart on the thin side like this:

Unbaked Cheesecake Heart

Unbaked Cheesecake Heart

When you are ready to bake, roll out the dough to 16” x 8” and spread the filling at the long end. Roll up tightly as you would for a jelly roll. Pinch seams closed then shape with your hands into a large heart.

 

Place on a greased sheet. With a sharp knife or razor, cut 1/3 of the way through the heart at 1” intervals, alternating from side to side. Cover and let rise 1 hour. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes.

Baked Cheesecake Heart

Baked Cheesecake Heart

 

If I have them, I add slivered almonds on top of the heart before I bake it. Otherwise, you can leave them off and glaze with the Powdered Sugar Glaze Icing.

Iced Cheesecake Heart

Cheesecake Heart with Almonds and Icing

 

This dessert goes well with coffee or tea. I’m sure your loved one will appreciate it!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

P.S. Make sure you exercise the day you’ve eaten a slice of this delicious dessert to work off the calories!

Cheesecake Heart Slice

Cheesecake Heart Slice

 

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Sleep is Important to Your Good Health

20 Jan sxc.hu LotusHead Bedroom Basics

Have you noticed how many news reports there are lately about getting enough sleep? As a nation, we are deprived of sleep. One of the benefits to getting enough sleep, the experts tell us, is that it can help prevent weight gain.

sxc.hu 963360 Gorilla Sleeping

Lack of Sleep can Result in Weight Gain (sxc.hu PaulMT)

Lack of sleep interferes with our ability to concentrate. Sleeplessness also causes memory lapses. When we do sleep, we should avoid cat naps longer than 30 minutes.

sxc.hu 640611 Cat Nap

Don’t Take Long Cat Naps (sxc.hu EweSaidIt)

And perhaps the most important, sleepiness is the reason for many traffic accidents.

 

But if we have problems falling asleep or staying asleep, what can we do? The experts tell us to be sure our bedroom is cool: 65 degrees. The room should be dark and not contain a television or computer.

sxc.hu 709419  Sleeping at the Computer

Sleeping at the Computer (sxc.hu gozdeo)

If you have a digital clock, you should prevent the glowing clock numbers from facing you. I block the numbers and their light with a box of tissues. When I want to see the time, I lift the tissue box.  Experts also tell us to wake up the same time every morning.

sxc.hu 1146531 Alarm Clock

Set Your Alarm Clock for the Same Time Everyday (sxc.hu zvon)

When I have a poor night’s sleep, I find getting up the same time the most difficult instruction to follow.

Make sure you have a comfortable pillow and that your mattress isn’t lumpy.

sxc.hu 515207 Racoon

Poor Conditions for Sleep (sxc.hu – deste)

We are told if we can’t fall asleep within 15 minutes, to get up and do something quiet until we are sleepy. What would that be? Read a book? Take up knitting? Listen to the radio? Who can find anything decent on the radio at 3:00 am? Don’t you need to turn on a light to read a book or knit – and isn’t light something we want to avoid? It’s a conundrum.

While I was thinking about this sleep problem, I began thinking about the times when I had problems staying awake!

  1. During pregnancy. When I was pregnant, I would come home from classes at 3:00 pm, go to bed and sleep until 6:00 pm, get up and eat dinner, and then go back to bed around 10:00 pm and wake up the next day around 7:00 am! I could sleep at the drop of a hat! This is common for pregnant women and typically lasts only for the first trimester.
  2. When I had the flu. There is something about being sick that allows you or maybe forces you, to slow down. Sleep seems to come naturally and often. I could sleep during the day and then sleep at night too. If I had a cough, I would take Robitussin DM (at night) and that would always make me even more sleepy.
  3. Riding the subway. The constant rocking back and forth was reminiscent of being rocked in a cradle or a parent’s arms. Often, someone sitting next to me on the train would be leaning heavily against me as they snoozed. While I could appreciate their giving in to the delicious dozing, I didn’t appreciate their weight which was sometimes substantial! However, I could hardly cast any stones because I’ve fallen victim to the sleep fairy on the NY Flushing line more than once.
  4. Flying on a commercial airline. This was hit and miss. There were times I would fall asleep and times I wouldn’t. It depended on how excited I was about my trip, who the person was sitting beside me, and when food was going to be served!
  5. Storytelling. I doubt any of us remember falling asleep when we were infants as someone read us a story, but we all know that has happened. Many of us with children watched our kids, or our grand kids fall asleep as we read to them. There’s something about storytelling that seems to put children to sleep.

 

Aside from these ways to fall asleep, I recently found a unique way to fall asleep or to get back to sleep if I wake up. Read about it here then try it, and tell me if it works for you. Do you have a sleep story?

Happy Sleeping!

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New Food Friday – Russian Black Bread

17 Jan sxc.hu-uccrow Basil's Cathedral

I have a childhood friend who is originally from Estonia. A little bit of a history lesson is worth mentioning here. Estonia was part of the Russian empire until 1918 when it proclaimed its independence. 

The Russian Basilica-Tallinn, Estonia

The Russian Basilica-Tallinn, Estonia (sxc.hu sx937)

It was  incorporated into the USSR in 1940 by force but regained its freedom in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. The last Russian troops left in 1994.

sxc.hu Tallinn Capital of Estonia

Tallinn, Capital of Estonia (sxc.hu  gundolf)

Today, the Estonian economy has one of the higher GDP (gross domestic product) growth rates in Europe.

So, back to my childhood friend. One day my friend gave me a loaf of black bread. I don’t remember if she said it was Estonian black bread or Russian black bread. Maybe they’re one in the same. Anyway, it was delicious! Now, many years later, I have found a recipe in one of my cookbooks for Russian Black Bread. I will share it with you for this New Food Friday.

This recipe makes two round loaves. The bread is delicious, reminiscent of the loaf my Estonian friend gave me and I will definitely make it again. It is made with chocolate, coffee, and molasses. It is a dark color (hence the name black bread) and looks chocolatey! You can almost taste the chocolate and almost taste the coffee. However, it is not a sweet bread. It has a slight sour taste similar to a sour dough bread because of the rye flour and maybe the vinegar but this taste seemed to dissipate after the first day and the chocolate flavor became more pronounced instead.

I’ve already finished off one loaf. I stored the other in the freezer and then let it defrost in the refrigerator when I wanted more. It is just as delicious as the first loaf. In fact, I believe I noticed that the bread tasted even better the day after I baked it and it kept well in the refrigerator. I usually sliced off 3 ounces for my meal, buttered it, and let it warm to room temperature.

This bread can vary somewhat in flavor depending on the type of chocolate you use or the type of coffee you use. The recipe also calls for bran cereal so depending on the type of cereal you use, that can also alter the taste. However, I doubt that the varieties you use would make that much difference. Just use the best ingredients that you can afford. There are a lot of ingredients!

4 cups unsifted rye flour

3 cups unsifted white flour

1 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt

2 cups whole bran cereal

2 tablespoons caraway seed, crushed

2 teaspoons Instant Coffee

2 teaspoons onion powder

1/2 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed

2 packages active dry yeast

2 1/2 cups water

1/4 cup vinegar

1/4 cup dark molasses

1 square (1-ounce) unsweetened chocolate

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) margarine or butter

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/2 cup cold water

Combine rye and white flours. Mix 2  1/3 cups of the combined flour mixture with the sugar, salt, cereal, caraway seed, coffee, onion powder, fennel seed, and undissolved yeast.

Combine 2 1/2 cups water, vinegar, molasses, chocolate, and margarine or butter in a saucepan. Heat over low heat until liquids are very warm (120 – 130 degrees). Margarine and chocolate do not need to melt. Gradually add to dry ingredients and beat 2 minutes at medium speed of an electric mixer, scraping bowl occasionally. Add 1/2 cup flour mixture. Beat at high speed 2 minutes.

Russian Black Bread Batter

Russian Black Bread Batter

Stir in enough additional flour mixture to make a soft dough. Turn out onto lightly floured board. Cover; let rest 15 minutes. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 to 15 minutes. Dough may be sticky. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm place, free from draft, until doubled in bulk. about 1 hour.

Punch dough down; turn out onto lightly floured board. Divide in half. shape each half into a ball about 5 inches in diameter. Place each ball in the center of a greased 8-inch round cake pan. Cover; let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. I like to let my bread rise in the microwave with a cup of very hot water. This is a draft-free environment and the cup of hot water makes the small area warm enough for the dough to rise. Important, don’t turn on the microwave!

Russian Black Bread Rising in Microwave

Russian Black Bread Rising in Microwave with Hot Water

Bake at 350 degrees 45 to 50 minutes until done. Meanwhile, combine cornstarch and cold water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture starts to boil; continue to cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. As soon as bread is baked, brush cornstarch mixture over top of loaves. Return bread to oven and bake 2 to 3 minutes longer, or until glaze is set. Remove from pans and cool on wire racks.

Russian Black Bread Cooling

Russian Black Bread Cooling

This recipe comes from my Fleischmann’s Bake-it-easy Yeast Book. I hope you bake this. It’s very good and has a lot of nutritional value! Das vadanya!

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2013 Annual Report in Review and Thanks!

3 Jan Fireworks

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog, FOR YOUR GOOD HEALTH.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Thank you to all my loyal followers and those who commented. You helped to make my blog more interesting with your input. Here’s to a great 2014!

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New Food Friday – Chicory and Pomegranate

20 Dec Pomegranate

Right around this time of year, I make a special salad with chicory, pomegranate, grapefruit and orange slices. It’s very pretty, festive, and good for you! It’s called a Sicilian Salad and it’s perfect for this New Food Friday.

A Sicilian salad is very simple to make. Just tear up washed chicory leaves and put in a pretty bowl. Then, section one pink grapefruit and place the slices around the top of the chicory.

sxc.hu-Grapefruit-86484

Grapefruit (sxc.hu-Jason Merrill)

Do the same with an orange.

oranges (sxc.hu-Neil Gould)

Oranges (sxc.hu-Neil Gould)

The hardest part of making this salad is separating the pomegranate seeds from their nesting pockets! Either wear old clothing or an apron that covers you well. Pomegranate seeds squirt!

sxc.hu-Pomegranate-430625

Pomegranate Seeds (sxc.hu-Rick Hawkins)

The health benefits of Pomegranate

According to the Harvard Medical School Health publication, two recent studies suggest that pomegranate juice may help fight prostate cancer. Pomegranates may also have beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease. Results from two small clinical studies show that carotid artery thickness decreased and cardiac blood flow improved in pomegranate juice drinkers. However, preliminary research also suggests that pomegranate juice may interact with certain medications, much like grapefruit juice does. For further information click here.

A word about chicory.

Chicory tastes just like escarole. It’s a somewhat mildly bitter green. The difference between the two is that chicory has very curly leaves.

Chicory

Curly Chicory leaves torn into bite-sized pieces

Escarole has wavy leaves.

Escarole

Wavy Escarole leaves before being torn into bite-sized pieces

The Citrus

When you section the citrus, you have the option of slicing the sections so that there is no membrane on them. I wanted to keep them in their “skin” so that the dish would have the most fiber. I also didn’t want to lose any of the juices. But it’s up to you. It may be prettier if you section off the slices.

Sicilian Salad before Pomegranate Seeds

Sicilian Salad before Pomegranate Seeds

This is the finished dish before pouring on the dressing. 

Sicilian Salad with Pomegranate Seeds

Sicilian Salad with Pomegranate Seeds before salad dressing

You can add as much or as little pomegranate seeds as you like. I used about 1/3 of the pomegranate. You can prepare this the day before. It keeps very well as long as you don’t pour the dressing on.

The Salad Dressing

The dressing is made of freshly squeezed orange juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.Very simple! Use proportions that you like. I don’t measure, I just squeeze the juice on and then drizzle on the olive oil. I like it that way. In fact, that’s how I make all my salads. I like the separate taste of the oil on some bites and the separate taste of vinegar, or in this case, orange juice. It’s up to you.

Sicilian Salad is delicious! It’s good for you! It’s pretty! It’s Christmas-y! Try it on your guests this Christmas. And have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season!

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New Food Friday – Native American Pumpkin, Corn, & Bean Soup

15 Nov Pumpkin

It seems that every ethnic group has their threesome when it comes to food. The Italians have their holy trinity of onions, celery, and carrots. The French call the same threesome mirepoix. Native American Indians have their threesome too and they are squash, corn, and beans which they call the three sisters.

Indian Guide - Navahoe

Navajo Guide (sxc.hu fredbIII)

November is Native American Heritage Month. Is there anyone who isn’t making a pumpkin pie or carving a pumpkin for their doorstep in November? In the following recipe, I focus on Native American pumpkin soup.

Anasazi Village, CO

Anasazi Village, CO – Native American Dwelling (sxc.hu -pocheco)

Native Americans still revere pumpkins to this day and use them in breads, stews, and many other recipes.

Indian Sculpture - Blackfoot

Native American Sculpture – Blackfoot (sxc.hu – webscribe)

I’ve used pumpkins in pies and in breads. Today is a first for me because I am using it in a creamed pumpkin soup for this New Food Friday.

I was fortunate in that I was able to find what is called a “pie pumpkin”.

Pumpkin and Yellow Onion

Adorable Little Pumpkin and Yellow Onion

This is a small pumpkin, perfect for making a pumpkin pie from scratch or for using it as a soup dish! However, I will be using the pumpkin IN the soup dish rather than the other way around!

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons corn oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 1/2 pounds peeled and seeded pumpkin

cut into cubes (4 cups)

1 cup sweet corn, (frozen is fine)

4 cups chicken broth

1 teaspoon salt or more to taste

pepper to taste

Garnish

1 Tablespoon toasted, chopped hazelnuts per person

1/4 cup black beans per person

Directions

The Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts and Nutcracker

Crack, then toast the hazelnuts in an oven or in a cast-iron skillet. Watch carefully so they don’t burn. If they burn, you’ll have to throw them out because they’ll become bitter! When they’ve cooled, chop and set aside.

The Black Beans

Black Beans in a Jar

Black Beans in a Jar

I buy most of my beans by the bag. Canned beans have too much sodium. If you want to see weight loss,  reduce your sodium. There is a minimal amount of sodium in packaged beans. Sodium makes your body hold on to water.  Reducing sodium in your diet is an easy way to quickly lose a few pounds, not to mention lower your blood pressure. All you have to do is soak the beans overnight OR, cook them in water for 1 hour. Just follow package directions. I usually soak them then put the beans in jars and freeze them for when I need them so that I always have them on hand.

The Chicken Broth

Chicken Broth

Chicken Broth – 4 Cups

I had roasted two Cornish game hens in celebration of my birthday last week. I saved the carcasses and the thigh meat and made a broth with it. I added celery, carrots, onions, thyme from my garden, ground sage, 2 bay leaves, parsley, salt, pepper, and about eight cups of water or enough to cover everything. I used only the broth liquid for the pumpkin soup recipe.

The Pumpkin

Pumpkin

Pumpkin

I wash all my fruits and vegetables in warm soapy water and then rinse well. You don’t know where they’ve been or who touched them last, the mom with a sinus infection, (very contagious) or the little kid who scratched an itch you don’t want to know where. Better to be safe than sorry, especially knowing all the recalls like salmonella, e. coli, and other food alerts.  I receive multiple email alerts daily that I signed up for from the government so it is best to take precautions and avoid getting sick.

One cup of pumpkin has 394mg of Potassium. Potassium reduces the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, cancer, digestive disorders, and infertility.

Pumpkin falls into the squash family and it has a medium hard outer skin, not to mention the stem on top where the vine was sending nutrients to the pumpkin. If you can’t knock the stem off by banging it on the counter, then cut the top part of the pumpkin off carefully. I usually do this with a paring knife but use whatever is easiest for you. (I’ve practiced a lot on butternut squash which has a very hard skin.) Stab the pumpkin with the knife (don’t worry, it doesn’t feel anything) and press down on the knife. Once you split the pumpkin in half, remove the seeds.

Pumpkin Slices, Chopped Onions, Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin Slices, Chopped Onions, Pumpkin Seeds

If you’re feeling ambitious, save the seeds. You can toast them and eat them as a nutritious snack!  Cut up and cube the pumpkin so that you have 4 cups.

Pumpkin Cubed

Pumpkin Cubed

Coat the pumpkin, the chopped onion, and the corn kernels with the oil and add them to a pan to roast. I use my toaster oven for this and I line my pan with parchment paper. Roast at 400 degrees until the pumpkin is slightly browned, about 15 minutes but it depends on your oven so watch so it doesn’t burn.  Once it’s cooked, add all the vegetables except for the corn and pumpkin seeds to a large pot scraping up the all the browned bits. If a few corn kernels get in the pot, don’t worry about it. I like to pour some of the chicken stock into the emptied vegetable pan as it acts like wine, de-glazing all the browned bits which have a lot of flavor. Add the rest of the chicken broth to the pot. Puree with an immersion blender which is great for making creamed soups or use whatever kitchen appliance you have for the same purpose. When you’ve pureed it enough, then add the roasted corn. You want the corn kernels to be whole in your soup.

To serve, reheat and pour into soup bowls. Garnish with a tablespoon of the chopped hazelnuts. Sprinkle with a ¼ cup of the black beans and/or a few toasted pumpkin seeds.

Pumpkin Bowl of Soup

Pumpkin Soup with Hazelnuts, Beans, & Pumpkin Seeds

This is a delicious light soup, perfect for a cold, damp day (like today). My chicken broth was already spiced and herbed to my liking so I didn’t need to add anything else to the soup except salt and pepper. However, if you would like, you can add oregano or mint. Some recipes I’ve seen added maple syrup to this soup, but you know me, I always go for the lowest in calories and the most healthful as possible and I did not want a soup that was too sweet. I thought this was perfect and I would definitely make it again. Let me know if you try it!

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The Itsy Bitsy Spider….is not so Itsy Bitsy!

30 Oct Black and Yellow Spider

For about a month now, a black and yellow spider has camped out in my vegetable garden. He gives new meaning to the words, “spider plant.”

I’ve seen it spin it’s web

Spider Web

Spider Web (sxc.hu -Tinneketin)

around prey and I’ve noticed the spider grow in size (much to my dismay). I’ve never seen a spider like this before and I thought about getting rid of it, but it’s just so pretty!

I have no idea if it’s poisonous or not. It seems to stay in the same place, behind my house, in the backyard, in the vegetable garden.

Halloween Night

Halloween Night in my Backyard (sxc.hu -nvadim)

 

Soon I will have to remove all my withered, spent tomato plants (where Mr. Spider is hanging out as you can see from the photo below).

Black and Yellow Spider

Black and Yellow Spider in my Garden!

Does anybody have any idea how to remove a spider?

Maybe I’ll just let him stay and I’ll be the one to move!

Witch on a Broom

Witch in Flight (fleeing a spider perhaps?) (sxc.hu – angood)

Jack O' Lantern

Jack O’ Lantern (sxc.hu -xRaDx)

                                    

HELP!!!  Spiders are not for my good health!
Happy Halloween!

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New Food Friday – Za’atar Focaccia Bread

18 Oct Slice of Za'atar Focaccia Bread

As much as I love physical exercise, sometimes I want an easy to make bread recipe that requires NO KNEADING! I don’t remember how I stumbled across the original recipe but if you want some background on Za’atar Focaccia Bread (it’s a different recipe but similar), click here.

I’ve made Za’atar Focaccia twice now and probably by the time you read this, three times. I absolutely love it!

Za'atar Focaccia Bread Ready to be Sliced

Za’atar Focaccia Bread

The only down side to this recipe is that you have to let the dough rise/ferment for 18 – 24 hours. This delicious, healthful bread recipe is in the spotlight for this New Food Friday.

As is typical of me, I altered the recipe. It calls for black sesame seeds. I used black poppy seeds which are more readily available in my grocery store. It also calls for Sumac and I couldn’t find that but one of my favorite chefs, Kary Osmond from the LiveWell Network, says you can use Turmeric in place of Sumac. I love Turmeric so that was no problem for me. Also, in order to make the bread more nutritious, I added 1/2 cup of White Whole Wheat flour.

Special Note: When I followed one of the recipes, the dough was way too soupy so I added an additional cup of flour.  You should be able to press your fingers into the dough after letting it rise the 18-24 hours and the imprint of your fingers should remain.  I added more flour after it had risen and the results were still excellent. So, don’t be afraid to play around with this dough as it is very forgiving.

DOUGH

1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1 1/4 ounces dry yeast
3 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup water
Za’atar Spice Mix (see below)

DIRECTIONS
  1. Whisk together flour, salt, and yeast.

    Flour Mix

    Flour Mix

  2. Add the water and olive oil, and mix everything together until you have a uniform dough. 
  3. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and put it in a warm place for 18-24 hours to rise.

    Dough Mixture

    Dough Mixture Covered in Plastic Wrap

  4. Once the dough has risen, you can either make one giant focaccia with all the dough, or split it up and bake smaller focaccia.  If you keep some of the dough for later, just cover it back up and put it in the fridge until you are ready to use it.
  5. To use the dough, turn it out onto a pan and press the dough out  towards the edges with your fingers making dimples in the dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in height.
  6. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2 tablespoons olive oil, in a small bowl
2 teaspoons ground toasted black sesame seeds
2 teaspoons sumac
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon Maldon (or other coarse) sea salt
The Za’atar in this focaccia bread recipe is the combination of spices that you sprinkle on top of the bread. It gives it a nice color and great flavor. Za’atar is a Middle Eastern blend of spices that can be sprinkled on bread, meats, fish, or vegetables as a seasoning. It can even be used as a dip. I didn’t have coarse sea salt, I only had fine sea salt on hand so I decided to use coarse kosher salt instead.
Poppy Seeds

Poppy Seeds or Use Black Sesame Seeds

Add Turmeric

Add Turmeric

Oregano

Add Oregano

Add Thyme

Add Thyme (I freeze mine from my garden)

Add Coarse Salt

Add Coarse Salt (Sea Salt if you have it)

Spread the Za’atar Spice Mix on the focaccia after it has risen. Then bake at 400 for 20 – 30 minutes. I didn’t mix the olive oil with the spice mix. I spread the olive oil on the dough first, then distributed the spice mix over all.

Za’atar focaccia bread is great as a snack, as a substitute for your usual bread that you eat with a meal, and is great for dunking in soups and stews.

Bowl of Harira

Bowl of Harira with Za’atar Focaccia Bread

You can reheat the focaccia the next day and it still tastes wonderful. It is also great for mopping up salad vinaigrette after you’ve eaten the salad! Let me know if you come up with other ways to use it!

If you’re not in the mood to bake bread, you can sprinkle the Za’atar Spice Mix on meats and/or vegetables. Buon appetito!

Za'atar Spice Mix on Chicken and Vegetables

Za’atar Spice Mix on Chicken and Vegetables

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Exercise: I Talk the Talk and I Walk the Walk

8 Oct sxc.hu createsima - Rainbow Image

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written a post about exercising. I’m sure you won’t be surprised at what I’m about to tell you. (Although it surprised me!)

I was acknowledged for doing the most workouts at my health club for the month of August.

Marcy at top of the list

Marcy at the Top of the List

See my name at the top of the list?

I wasn’t aiming to claim the most visits and I wasn’t keeping track even though some members at the club don’t believe me. A new doctor I had been seeing recommended I workout AT LEAST 5 times a week! To me, this translated into doing more than 5 times a week so I was at the club everyday it was open: 6 days a week. I did that for 2 1/2 weeks straight and I didn’t take the 7th day off when I was home!

How was it? It was exhausting! Are they serious? What senior citizen can continually exercise at that pace? Maybe if they didn’t put much effort into their workouts but my workouts aren’t like that. I put my all into it. I’m known at my club as the person who works out the hardest. Really, it’s more of a social club for a lot of the members. I hope their social friends visit them when they’re in the hospital recovering from illnesses due to their lack of exercise!

So, there has to be a balance here. It should be taken into account how seriously you exercise! Plus, I don’t exercise for 30 minutes. I figure since I’m there, I’m going to exercise until I’m tired and that is usually 50 minutes and, depending on which gym I’ve been going to and the equipment they have, as long as 1 hr and 15 minutes. I think doctors need to ask their patients about this. Or, maybe I need to volunteer this information the next time at my appointment since I seem to be stereotyped: Senior = Sedentary.

MY GOALS

I’ve been working on increasing my upper body strength in the past few months and the effort shows. My biceps have increased .25% while I’ve slowly continued to lose weight. I’m still using the caloriecount website and I don’t know if I can ever do without it! I am seriously hooked on it because it has been so beneficial to me!

The reason I’ve been working on my upper body strength is that women in general, are known to have poor upper body strength and I’ve always wanted to do a chin up. So far, I can master a chin up half way. This is a new goal for me. I like to challenge myself and I am always seeking new exercise goals to keep things interesting and to have something to achieve.

Since April of this year, I put together a warm-up routine for myself that I do now every time I exercise. It is about 6 minutes long and involves a variety of arm movements but also leg and ab movements too. I am crediting this routine for healing my shoulder issues that had dragged on for over 2 years! I will write up and post the routine in a future post. You may want to try it. If it worked for me, it may work for you.

Recently, I saw a 75-year-old female body builder on TV. She was lean and didn’t look anywhere near 75! She was inspirational! I was telling one of the gals at my club about her and I said that the body builder was my idol to which she replied, “You’re MY idol!” I got a kick out of that. Hey, that’s OK with me. That’s what this blog is all about:  talking the talk AND walking the walk; reaching that goal at the end of the rainbow!

sxc.hu/cempey - Colorful Rainbow Shot

sxc.hu/cempey – Rainbow Gold Goal!

 

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Exercise: What the Research Says

27 Sep

Originally posted on GymLion blog:

The benefits of physical activity were first scientifically noted in 1953 by Dr. Jerry Morris. Dr. Morris discovered that men of similar social status had different rates of cardiovascular disease based on how much physical activity their occupation required (Morris & Glasg 1953). Since then, studies have documented many more health benefits gained from physical activity and have begun to research the volume, duration and intensity need to realize these benefits.

Benefits of Exercise: Physical activity has been shown to have a number of physiological and psychological benefits. Some benefits of physical activity include:

  • Cardiovascular Disease: Physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 35% (Macera & Hootman 2003).
  • Cancer: There is strong evidence that physical activity reduces the risk of colon, breast, and endometrial cancers. There is weaker evidence that physical activity reduces the risk of ovarian, lung, and…

View original 2,334 more words

New Food Friday – Harira

20 Sep sxc.hu - lamb - iubitzoaia- 1030219

Harira. It sounds like something you would say to your dentist when he has his hands in your mouth.

There are many versions of Harira. In fact, I created my own version when I departed from the recipe I was following. Harira is a soup – stew. It is a Moroccan dish that is eaten often, but particularly at the end of Ramadan, a religious holiday. I was attracted to the recipe because it calls for Turmeric which is a spice I have grown to love. Now you know why I have selected this recipe for New Food Friday.

A lot of attention has been given to Turmeric lately. More research is needed, but some studies show that it has anti-inflammatory properties. It may help fight cancer and it may protect against certain diseases. Read more here.

I like to add Turmeric to a chicken dish that I make. I shake it on the potatoes, carrots, and/or onions that I add to my baking dish. It is also great on a Focaccia bread recipe I love. More about that in next month’s New Food Friday.

Another reason I was looking forward to making Harira is that it also calls for cilantro. I grew my own cilantro this year and within the last few days it started to bolt. I grew it from seed. It grew in a hanging planter

Cilantro

Cilantro growing in a planter. See my rose bush in the background?

and it also grew in my vegetable garden. It would have continued to grow in my vegetable garden if a rabbit didn’t also like it a lot and chewed it to the quick! (Which is why I ended up growing it in a hanging pot.) But really, it is so easy to grow! And the fragrance! It smells wonderful! You have to try it!

Here is the recipe for the Harira. I substituted ground turkey for the lamb. (You can also use beef or chicken.) I also substituted the vermicelli noodles for brown rice. Many recipes say to add flour to thicken the soup. I didn’t want to use flour which is why I added raw rice. It helped thicken the soup. The longer you cook it, the more it thickens. Also, I used a no sodium tomato sauce.

Ingredients

6 – 8 oz lean ground turkey
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
1 bunch fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
2 celery stalks chopped
1 large yellow onion chopped
1 16-ounce can of low sodium garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
1 fresh tomato chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1½ teaspoons pepper
½ teaspoon turmeric
6 cups water, divided
1/4 cup dry lentils, picked over and washed (I forgot to wash mine! I guess that means you won’t be dining over at my house anytime soon?)
3 tablespoons tomato paste, mixed into 1 cup of water
1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes (I used fresh tomatoes again since I have so many of them this year.)
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1/4 cup brown rice

Optional Thickener:
1 cup flour
2 cups water

Instructions:
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the meat and any meat bones if you have them and cook for a few minutes, stirring to brown the meat.
  2. Add the chopped cilantro, parsley, celery, onion, chickpeas, fresh tomatoes, cinnamon, ginger, pepper, and turmeric.
  3. Stir in 3 cups of water. Heat over high heat bringing mixture to a light boil.
  4. Add the lentils, rice, tomato paste mixture, canned (or fresh) tomatoes, and tomato sauce and 3 cups of water.
  5. Cover the pot and heat the soup over high heat to bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking, simmering for 45 minutes with the lid ajar to help condense the soup. Stir occasionally.
  6. Taste soup for seasoning. Add salt or pepper if needed.
  7. If you prefer a thicker soup, you can add the flour water mixture after cooking 45 minutes. But I think adding it will dull the flavor and add empty calories.

Serves 6

Harira

Chopping Cilantro for my Harira

I wanted to use my Heirloom tomatoes for this dish but they weren’t ripe enough. Since I had plenty of cherry tomatoes, I used them instead.

Let the Harira come to a light boil.

Boiling Harira

Boiling Harira after all ingredients are added

After 45 minutes of cooking, the Harira thickens.

Thickened Harira

Thickened Harira after cooking 45 minutes

I enjoyed two bowls full of the Harira with my Focaccia bread.

Bowl of Harira

Bowl of Harira with Focaccia Bread

They went well together! This was good and I expect that tomorrow it will be even better. Next time I will use lamb for this dish. Harira is high in protein and fiber. With all the tomatoes, fresh and canned, it contains a lot of lycopene which contains antioxidant and antiproliferative properties. Read more about it  here.

To your good health!

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Inner Peace Award

23 Aug Inner Peace Award

I’ve been awarded the Inner Peace Award by Samina and I’m finally getting around to posting it!

Inner Peace Award

Inner Peace Award

Samina and I have had some interesting conversations about law enforcement. I know, not what you’d expect from me, is it. I had an incident to tell her about a few months ago when I accidentally locked myself out of my car with the keys on the front seat! I was helping a Lowes employee put my brand new lawnmower in my car which is how the keys ended up on the seat.

I went back into Lowes and told the customer service people what happened. They gave me their phone and dialed the Avon, Indiana police department. I really wasn’t exactly sure what was happening here because I was in a tizzy and stressing out about my car keys! I told the woman at the police station what had happened and she dispatched a police car to the store. I waited in the parking lot and within 10 minutes, the car arrived with a nice young police officer who had several gadgets to “break into my car!”

The first didn’t work. My heart sank. The second gadget elicited a “click” from my car door and voila! the door opened. I thanked him so profusely until he practically started laughing. I couldn’t help myself, what can I say. I left him there with all his gadgets, my car keys in my pocket, and ran back into the store because I had more shopping to do! LOL!

Needless to say, I didn’t have any inner peace that day so it’s ironic that I received this Inner Peace Award following my initial conversation with Samina! Once I got home, I had a heck of a time getting the gigantic box with my new lawnmower inside it, out of the back seat of my car! Then I dragged it through my garage and into my house to figure out how to put the thing together.  I bet I burned more than a few calories that day!

Fortunately, most of my days aren’t as exciting as that day. Most days I do have inner peace.  I get inner peace from exercising, writing, gardening, cooking, baking, working on my house, and helping others.

Thank you Samina for this award. My favorite thing about this award is that it has no rules. That’s my kind of award! And again, I find it ironic that this award has no rules – in effect we are breaking the rules (similar to breaking the law!) Maybe it’s just me and the way I look at things!

Peace out!

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New Food Friday – Gnudi

16 Aug sxc.hu 536766 stylesr1

In order to make this dish, you have to remove all your clothes. Just kidding! The dish being discussed today is called gnudi. They are a form of dumpling and it’s pronounced just like a sunbather who basks in the nude: a nudi! (Or a nudist?) I watched with interest as Martha Stewart made these on her cooking show. See here. She says they are a naked ravioli; a filling without the pasta casing. I am a big fan of ravioli but these were new to me and when I saw her boiling then basting them in browned butter with sage leaves, I knew I had to post them for a New Food Friday.

sxc.hu Gnu Barbara Schneider

This is a Gnu (sxc.hu Barbara Schneider)

First, go to your butcher shop and ask for a fillet of Gnu. Just kidding! There is no meat in this recipe!

Assemble your ingredients as it shows in the Martha Stewart video. I like to use paper plates when I want to roll foods in flour.

Knudi rolled in flour

Knudi rolled in flour

Using paper plates makes cleanup a breeze. I just throw the paper plate in the trash when I’m done.

I filled another paper plate with semolina flour and let the gnudi rest until I finished making all of them.

Knudi sitting on semolina

Knudi sitting on semolina

Then they went into the fridge for 1 hour.

Variations:

I had some leftover crab meat so I included it in my recipe. In my second batch, I added some boiled russet potato.

These gnudi were fun to make and easy! Your children might like to get involved. Since these are boiled, it’s a lot like boiling pasta and it’s the closest I’ve ever come to making pasta.

Knudi ready to be boiled

Knudi ready to be boiled

It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve never made pasta but I know one of these days I will because it’s on my mental to do list! Here are the sage leaves straight from my garden.

Sage drying on a paper towel

Sage drying on a paper towel

Here are the chiffonaded sage leaves in browned butter.

Browned butter with chiffonade sage

Browned butter with chiffonade sage

These were delicious! I will definitely be making them again. I hope you try them!

Knudi ready to be devoured!

Knudi ready to be devoured!

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A Gander at the Inside of My Grander/Vitamin D News

14 Aug Completed Tuna Salad Sandwich

I wanted to post this yesterday but I was too tired. I’ve been working out every day now but that’s a whole other post for when I have more time!

I’ll get right to it: the taste of my Grander (Heirloom) tomato! It was dense, it was juicy, it was mild, it had few seeds, the skin was not tough….I loved it!  I think it would make great tomato sauce and from the looks of the vine and all the tomatoes, I will be able to do just that.

I decided to make my mother’s recipe of tuna, celery, hard-boiled egg, and mayo salad sandwich to showcase my Heirloom tomato. First, chop up a stalk of celery.

Celery Chopped

Celery Chopped

Chop up a hard-boiled egg.

Hard-Boiled Egg Chopped

Egg Chopped

Chop (or mash) a can of Starkist Select Low Sodium Chunk Light in Water tuna.

Low Sodium Tuna Chopped

Low Sodium Tuna Chopped

Why this particular variety of tuna?

Starkist Selects Chunk Light Tuna in Water-Low Sodium

Starkist Selects Chunk Light Tuna in Water-Low Sodium

It contains Vitamin D – 15% of your DV per serving or two ounces. (More about this below.)

Add your favorite mayonnaise. I like Kraft with Olive Oil but I also like the low calorie mayo too. Add two tablespoons and stir well.

I don’t add anything else because the tuna is salty even though it is low sodium and the yolk of the egg contains sodium. I don’t want to push my sodium limits.

Next, get two slices of Brownberry Health Nut bread.

Brownberry Health Nut Bread

Brownberry Health Nut Bread

Why? Each slice of this bread has 10% of your DV of Vitamin D.

Health Nut Bread Nutritional Facts

Health Nut Bread Nutritional Facts

Recently I was told by my doctor that a blood test showed that I was low in Vitamin D. I showed 28 when a normal reading would be 50. My doctor wants me to be at 70! She prescribed a supplement AND a multi-vitamin. If you know anything about me, you know that I don’t like to take pills of any kind unless it’s absolutely necessary. I think what she prescribed was overkill AND I would have preferred if she tried to coach me into making changes to my diet to get the Vitamin D I needed. So, I made the changes myself and did not take the supplements or multi-vitamin pills.

I drink almond milk with Vitamin D, orange juice with Vitamin D, eat Total cereal with Vitamin D, tuna, salmon, sardines, Smart Balance Buttery Spread with Olive Oil, Eggland’s Best Eggs, Brownberry Health Nut bread, Ronzoni Smart Taste Pasta, Shiitake mushrooms, Yoplait Greek 100 Fat-free Tropical Fruit yogurt, also Vanilla, Peach, and other flavors, non-fat dry milk….these all contain Vitamin D and I rotate them into my diet so that at the end of each day, I have had my daily requirement of Vitamin D.  *This list of Vitamin D foods will continuously be updated as I learn about foods that contain the vitamin.

Too much Vitamin D can be LETHAL! Not enough Vitamin D can cause rickets and soft bones. Vitamin D is needed to promote bone growth. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to breast cancer, colon cancer and more maladies. We hear a lot about calcium, but Vitamin D is just as important.

Bread makers asked for permission to add a vitamin D yeast to their breads so that they could list Vitamin D in their ingredients. They were given the OK. I had to look through 20 loaves of bread at Meijer to find this one loaf of bread with Vitamin D! I even asked the bread deliverer and he had never heard of bread with Vitamin D and said he would ask his boss. Too late, I already found one but I’m sure there are more out there! If you find another brand of bread with Vitamin D, please let me and my readers know! Thanks!

OK, I reviewed the Heirloom tomato, it’s time to review the Brownberry Health Nut bread. It was bland. Next time I’ll toast it to see if that helps. The next day I made the same sandwich with the leftover tuna-egg salad and Heirloom tomato on Rye bread. What a world of difference! It tasted better but of course I didn’t get the Vitamin D from the Rye bread.

Here are the results of my bread, tuna-egg salad sandwich:

Heirloom Tomato Slice

Heirloom Tomato Slice

The tomato slice covers the entire slice of bread!

Tuna Salad Open-faced

Tuna Salad Open-faced

There is plenty of tuna-egg salad to pile on thickly.

Completed Tuna Salad Sandwich

Completed Tuna Salad Sandwich

In case you’re wondering what the greenery is in my sandwich, it’s escarole. As I said in another post, I love escarole and use it in sandwiches.

This is a nutritious, high protein lunch that helps you get your Vitamin D. It was good! Try it!

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It’s A Grander!

11 Aug Heirloom Tomato - 14.5 oz

OK, a Grander is a big sailfish and I’m talking about my tomato so I exaggerated a little.

Just a quick post since it’s already past 8:00 pm. Where did the day go? I had visions of writing so many things in this post and/or writing multiple posts and now I’m pushing it to write just this one since I have 4 clean loads of laundry on my bed waiting to be sorted and put away.

Back to my Grander. This summer I decided to plant heirloom tomatoes. I bought just one heirloom plant from Meijer. These things took off like gangbusters! I have never seen a tomato plant be so energetic. I did fertilize it a lot but I fertilized all my other tomato plants too and they haven’t run rampant on me like this one although they look healthy and productive.

Enough talk, here’s a photo. This was the first tomato to fruit from this plant. You should see the main stem! I’m going to have a heck of a time pulling it out of the ground when the season is over.

See, I’m just a frustrated writer who wants to write. Shut up Marcy and show them the tomato already! OK!

Heirloom Tomato - 14.5 oz

Heirloom Tomato – 14.5 oz

This is the biggest tomato I have ever grown! I’m getting a good yield from this plant and it’s barely mid-August. I haven’t tasted it yet. I plucked it because I didn’t want to take the chance that it might fall off and be eaten by bugs. I’ll let you know how it tastes.

Tomorrow tuna and egg salad sandwich with escarole leaves and fat slices of this tomato on rye. I promise to eat a slice on the side, lightly salted so as not to take anything away from the taste. Please heirloom tomato, don’t disappoint!

One of the big differences with heirloom tomatoes is that they are not as disease resistant as other hybrid tomato plants. Hybrid tomatoes generally have an inbred resistance to tobacco mosaic disease, but heirlooms don’t. Heirlooms are plants with seeds that have been handed down from generation to generation, just like heirloom jewelry and furniture! Heirloom tomato plants are known to have a flavor that is complex and rich. My mouth is watering! If it’s as good as it’s cracked up to be, I will be planting it from now on – inbred disease resistance be damned! I favor flavor!

OK, I’m off to watch TV whilst I fold and put away all my laundry. No rest for the weary! Cheerio!

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