Keeping current in wellness, in and out of the water
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If we were having coffee today I would urge you to celebrate National Iced Tea Day with me. I know the national days can really be a bit much, but this one is a winner. I have so many iced teas from which you can choose. I personally am very hung up on White Strawberry alternating that with Peppermint Butler iced tea. I love the refreshing zip of each of these. The white strawberry has a fruity and light taste that is good to guzzle on hot days like this. The Peppermint Butler has real candy canes in the mix, so it delivers a wonderful minty punch that feels like a cool (brief) breeze. Please have a seat while I prepare a couple of unbreakable pitchers of iced tea to take with us to the pool.
We are meeting again this week in the pool at my condo village. The sun is scorching and the pavement will burn your feet, so take a dip to chill yourself before we drink tea and exchange stories. I want to hear about your writing projects and your life. I hope both are going well. I know some of you are working on novels and longer works of fiction. I also tip my hat to those of you who write micro fiction, which is mighty hard to do well. I try it a bit in response to Sue Vincent’s weekly photo prompt. This week I wrote a poetic verse that did not rhyme, but once again touched on dystopia and doom. There is a pattern, and it has nothing to do with Sue’s pictures. I do notice some others with depressing responses, so maybe it is a way to deal with our world politics. On a lighter note, I am having a good time writing weekly tea reviews, which are completely apolitical. In fact, I think tea and coffee parties are a wonderful way to take a break from the current situation while just savoring the moment. My Tuesdays are dedicated to tea and all the wonders and benefits of drinking it, until further notice. I include the offer from Adagio above in case you want to chill your belly and chill your emotions at the same time. Camomile is a sedative and calming tea, being offered free with any purchase made today.
I will skip world politics, since it is being covered everywhere. I just want to say the Mike Bloomberg has proven to be my hero, which I would not have suspected. His personal financial support for the Paris Accord makes a fabulous point….We CAN do it. I think people will step up all over the world in response to repression of science, so maybe it is not the worst thing to have these obstructionist crazies on board. They expose the terrible status quo. I remain optimistic.
Here in Tucson I am making salsa today with the fresh produce haul I procured this morning. I am roasting tomatoes and Poblano chiles for use all week. The house and the back yard smell like chiles, which does stimulate my appetite. When we return from the pool let me make you a couple of tacos with this smoky goodness. I like to roast the veggies and use them in many ways later in the week. I have been on a vichyssoise kick, and have found all kinds of cold creamy potato soups. So far I have done them with asparagus, and with corn, and a classic potato slightly flavored with one jalapeño. The variations are endless, so I am experimenting with all kinds. I think the Poblano will be a great addition. All of them are broth, potatoes, leeks, heavy cream, and something. It is hard to ruin, and easy to serve. I took corn vichyssoise soup shots to my colleagues at work this week. It was very popular. I will tell you more about my new job next week, since I have been rattling on for a while here.
Thanks for stopping for some iced tea and sympathy this weekend. I appreciate Emily for hosting this movable feast each weekend at her blog, Nerd in the Brain. Please join us for digital beverages and a chat.
The essence of effective self care is self knowledge. If you begin to understand yourself just as you are it becomes easier to please your senses and intellect. Your body craves healthy food and activity, and your mind thrives on stimulating conversation and reading. Writing, art projects, and journaling lead one to discover inner talents and insights. Clearing or updating personal space is an ongoing project that gives great satisfaction. Creating excellent work and play environments in your own home make life much more pleasurable.
I like simple pleasures like beautiful plants and fresh foods. Since I like to cook and find it therapeutic, I can always spend an afternoon in the kitchen having fun. On Sundays I like to prepare food for the week. Bob takes a meal from home to work with him most days, so I pack a few servings to get a head start on the week. If I also take time to do some deep cleaning tasks on the weekend, my work during the week is lightened, and I enjoy the clean environment. I know cooking and cleaning might not sound like self care tasks to you, but in my mind they are basic. I don’t pay others to do these things for me, so making it an adventure in creative homemaking is my only good healthy option. I feel accomplished and well cared for when I have some chores finished. I then relax completely.
I do not plan an entire day of effort without some direct rewards. I often make sweets and desserts on the weekends, and clean my bathroom extra well. I treat myself to some sweet concoction and take a lovely long soaking bath in my sparkling clean tub. I use essential oils of lavender and grapefruit, and take a tall glass of iced tea to drink while I soak. This is at least as good as being at a 5 star hotel for me, because I don’t have to travel back home…I am home!! I provide my own room service, slip into my own bed with fresh linens, and sleep soundly.
How do you make your weekends work to combine tasks that must be done with some relaxation and fun? Everyone has a personal style, which is why each person knows best how to be true to that style.
My dad loved to smoke food outside on his Hasty Bake. He collected his hickory wood in Arkansas and cured it by soaking it in water in small pieces. He was serious about his ribs, but smoked lots of fish too because he was a fisherman. In fact, fishing and cooking were my dad’s only hobbies until he took up hot air ballooning with my mom in his 60’s. We lived blocks from a famous golf club, and our town was golf obsessed, but my parents did not play the game. They were dancers. They like to have friends over to sing at the player piano.
He did not play competitive sports except when he was on a bolas criollas (bocce) team in Venezuela for a few years. He never went hunting, owned no guns, and had very poor eyesight. He was obsessed with catching fish. Money was no object when fishing was involved. Deep sea, tropical jungle, or lake..it made no difference to my dad. He did not fly fish..that was not his thing. He flew to South America and spent tons of money to go on jungle fishing trips with his friends. I did some fishing with him in my childhood, but not very much. I took up fishing seriously later in life with a hand line in the Bahamas. I never liked the rod and reel system. I did not like the complication of it. You can feel the fish on a hand line, but your choices are fewer. His parents both liked to fish, and there are written reports I have that his mother was an expert angler in her childhood in Kansas.
What I remember doing as a team sport with my father was brunch. We made crepes Suzettes and broiled grapefruit from his Wolf in Chef’s Clothing cookbook. We had a small kitchen so there was just enough room for the two of us to make the crepes and the set them on fire in a chafing dish. Our regular menu had nothing so exciting as flambé food. I used to beg for that brunch, but it only came around on very rare occasions. The other popular dish, for which my dad got credit but was actually concocted by my mom, was home-made ice cream. We had the only ice cream freezer in my immediate neighborhood, so this memorable dish made my back yard a very popular place to be. My friends and I would sit on the top of the freezer when it got harder to turn the handle. This usually happened during a barbecue while he was watching the smoker.
I have some very fond memories of cooking with my dad. His repertoire was small, but each dish was very special. Did you cook with your father in your childhood, gentle reader?
Cucumbers enter the world with special qualties of crunch and quench
Yearning to find the dill, the garlic, and the fancy spices that make them sing
Zesty ballads of pickled adventure, hot, acidic, wild, delivering the punch
Choruses of colorful relishes add new dimentions to dishes on the table
Focus on fine results, packing spears with pickling ingedients full of zing
Salty to the perfect degree, seasoned on purpose, dry chile in each jar
Time spent alone blending harmony of flavors makes pickles the star of lunch
Savor the work of poets from around the world this April. Submit your own poem or find new poets at #NaPoWriMo.
I have cleared out my fridge and started a food preparation calendar for 2015. My first inquiry into this popular practice started on Pinterest, where there are many enthusiastic plans to use time and ingredients more wisely. I notice that most of the preppers favor a style of doing the work on Sunday to have planned healthy meals all through the work week. This is brilliant for anyone with a 9-5 job Monday through Friday. I am lucky enough not to have one, so my goals are slightly different. I still want to concentrate the effort into a compressed time slot, so I save time on clean up and on presentation later. I plan to keep the cooking and cleaning to a bare minimum 4 days a week. I can afford to have 3 active preparation days, and spread out the tasks as well as the freshness. I also am dedicating a day to drink preparation. I have been making shrubs, bitters and other infusions. I want to expand my repertoire in the beverage department. There are so many fun recipes to try, and a tasty beverage stands on its own for a pick me up any time of day.
For the first week I have planned (subject to revision in the future):
The rest of the week I am planning to enjoy the fruits of my labors and find out how well I have estimated the proper amount for the week. I already love the organized fridge and the new outlook I am adopting from the food preppers. It is a solid way to improve the way I shop, cook, and eat. I like restaurants, but honestly I prefer pretty and delicious meals concocted by my own hand. I can suit my own whims and moods. The advantage of the food prep practice is having something healthy and ready no matter what happens. I believe it will remove stress and extra money from the whole process of eating. If you have an interest in leaning more about my new found hobby, I can direct you to some highly educational pins:
There is a plethora of information on this subject. I think it offers me a way to structure a long time interest, making and eating food, into a more elevated and pleasurable experience. I think I will learn a lot. Do you use a meal planning and food preparation schedule? This is a first for me. I am sure I will tweek it, but it is a superior way to look at diet.
I recently reached the conclusion that I have never in my life done menu planning. I love to cook and be creative, and I also aspire to healthy eating. I own so many cookbooks they are running out my ears, and I am tuned in to all kinds of digital food situations including television’s Food Network. I have never examined why I don’t follow recipes and don’t do meal planning even though my food life is very big. I tweet about dishes and preparations with my friends at #Mmgd all year. We sometimes gather under that hashtag for twitter parties that include recipes and pictures. Some of us have met in real life, but all of us are food friends forever. Digital food is non threatening and completely calorie free.
I like to watch people make food at least as much as I like to eat it. Iron Chef was always popular at our house, as are many of the holiday specials traditional to this time of year. On weekends we take in all manner of victuals visually before we venture out to taste anything in real life. We follow our instincts and our mood to decide where to dine or which farmers market to attend. We have favorites but are always on the lookout for new places to try. We don’t like to overeat, but enjoy being very gourmet in our selections.
I now see that my aversion to menu planning has been an excuse to avoid realistic assessment of my diet. I eat well, and shop pretty well, but the specific desire to freestyle every meal I prepare is a real flaw. I have been pretending that I need to be plan free in order to reach my creative potential as a chef. Nothing could be less realistic. Chefs know how they will use ingredients and tightly budget to make the most of all the provisions they purchase. I shop with wild abandon and then later I must put it all together and avoid waste. I am going to shift the emphasis from improvisation on random seasonal ingredients to balanced menu planning. I will still have a wild card from the fresh produce in season and in abundance. I will not be entirely without my creative hobby, but will elevate my planning to a more strategic level. I will still be spontaneous, but for the first time I will be working with a plan. What a concept!! How do you like to arrange your food preparation, gentle reader? Do you follow a plan, or like to freestyle in the kitchen? Do you make up your own meal plans or take advise from other sources? Bon Appetite! May your days be tasty and bright!
Peak Pear season is upon us and I couldn’t be happier. These Bartletts will be perfect to slice and bake with brie and port wine for an evening bite. We have that simple combination a few times during the season with different varieties as they ripen. The versatility of pears makes them good from breakfast until midnight snack.
Very simple pear preparations include:
If you want to do some special baking pears will enhance pastries, cakes and other desserts:
Don’t for get the cocktail hour:
Pears keep well so we will have them all winter from different parts of the country. I hope you will enjoy the season as much as we do at our house. What are your favorite ways to eat pears? Do you have a favorite variety? Mine is Comice, very hard to transport, but worth the effort if you can find them. Bon appetite!!
Basil is a culinary herb that has magical qualities. The different varieties add distinct flavors to dishes and drinks. You can purchase seeds for many varieties, but the most commonly used and grown is the Genovese. This very hardy herb does well in pots or in the ground. It is very tolerant of sun and thrives with minimal care. It is important to keep the flowers trimmed so the plant does not go to seed. The flowers have delicate flavor that can be used to flavor anything for which you would use the leaves. The blooms look good in cut flower arrangements, and will scent the room where they are displayed. A few common ways we see basil used are:
I love using basil in all of these traditional ways. When I find a really excellent tomato I always want to eat it with basil and fresh mozzarella. Pesto is used on everything in our house, not just for pasta. We put it on eggs, roasted veggies, potato dishes, rice, and sandwiches of all kinds. The bright green color and the bright flavor wake up any meal. I find that making a large batch with really good olive oil, roasted pine nuts, garlic and basil stores very well. I add the parmesan cheese at the time I am using it. This also allows a different proportion for each kind of use. The pesto is delicious without any cheese for those who prefer that. I have tried some really tasty cocktails that contain muddled basil for flavor. Here are some of my favorites:
That will give you some ideas to get started on your own basil concoctions to drink this summer. It is good with citrus, cucumber, and other herbs. Try a plain basil mojito to get yourself started. Basil is a prosperity herb, so you really can’t have too much of it in your food and drinks. Enjoy!
I bought a hard cover copy of Bitters by Brad Thomas Thompson after reading about the history of this elixir and the revival of its popularity today. I have always enjoyed cooking with bitters and had only ventured out from Angostura to a couple of other flavors until recently. I saw some sampler sets and bought chocolate, key lime and lavender in small bottles to try. I also bought a fancy one from Scotland that I adore. Experimenting with these flavors in cocktails and in food (I always put some is soups) has piqued my interest in producing some of my own with ingredients from my garden.
The medicinal use of bitters has a very long history of curing headache, indigestion, stomach cramps and more. The herbs and fruits used create both the flavor profile and the curative values. Bitters and soda is the classic companion for rich foods and an abundance of alcohol. There are two kinds, potable and cocktail bitters. Potable are sipped straight up as a digestif, like Campari or Fernet Branca. Cocktail bitters are used to marry flavors in drinks or cooking. They balance and enhance the other ingredients to create a complex synergy.
The book is very well written and researched. The history, the prominent producers today, and opinions from bartenders are covered in the opening chapters. The complete recipes and instructions to create 13 different kinds of homemade varieties follows. Most contain gentian, others calamus root, hops and cinchona bark (the main taste in tonic water) as the bitter element. Fruits and spices such as ginger, allspice and cardamom are used. Since I have ripe calamondins on my tree I plan to follow the orange or the lemon recipe to make my first batch using the citrus I have. The technique is simple, involves vodka and soaking for a month, and seems pretty foolproof. The exciting part is that I have a new way to use my garden herbs and fruits that preserves their flavor and creates a unique product not available on the open market. Mr Parsons suggests a bitters exchange party at which friends gather, make the mixture, and return after a month to finish the process and bottle. I am happy I have just met a neighbor how wants to be my bitters buddy. We are going to make one that includes turmeric for inflammation. I don’t think it will take very long to become expert bitters makers, and since a small amount is effective it will be great to share batches of new concoctions.
The greatest part of the book is dedicated to cocktail and cooking recipes. Beautiful pictures, detailed instructions and a wide variety of new and old make this section of the book really fun to own in hardcover. I have read more of the drinks than I have tried, but am fascinated with some of the non alcoholic drinks like smoked lemonade in which the lemons are smoked for up to an hour before the preparation. There are some flavor ideas that will spark your imagination and creativity. It is the complete guide to the adventure of making and using these curative combinations. Santé!