Archive | January, 2014

Sleep is Important to Your Good Health

20 Jan

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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