Keeping current in wellness, in and out of the water
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When I was 19 years old I lived in the suburbs of Durham, North Carolina. I shared a large house on 200 acres with two other women. We split the rent of $80 a month. Part of the house was built before the Civil War. It had been a grand estate, but was slated for development, so the owners did not want to do any repairs. It had been left empty for a few years. We found the estate agent, Dallas Branch, in Durham and convinced him to rent it to us. He had a thick southern accent and at first was opposed to three women living in the woods without a chaperone. He warned us that the owner might sell at any time, so there was a month to month agreement. That was the best rental deal I ever had in my life. We had wonderful parties with our friends there that created epic memories.
The house had a fireplace in the downstairs living room, in which we burned coal. There was no insulation, so this fireplace was not adequate to heat the house. We each had kerosene heaters in our bedrooms to stay warm at night. Our expenses were low, and one of the women had a mother who sent us all kinds of fabulous canned goods from her garden in South Carolina. Two of us worked at a small publishing company downtown Durham (I got a ride to work with my roommate since I owned no vehicle) and the other was in drama school in Chapel Hill at UNC. I can’t remember how she got to school. She did not have a car either.
At the publishing company I met a group of friends who attended Duke and lived in Durham. They invited me to go to the Union Grove Fiddler’s Convention on Easter. A caravan of cars full of sleeping gear and tons of food traveled from Durham to the campground that surrounded the big performance tent. We pitched our tents and spent the weekend immersed in Bluegrass, beer, and food. I took an entire country ham and a lot of bread I had baked, including hot crossed buns. Everyone ate way too much, myself included.
On 29 March, 1970 I made a decision to be a vegetarian. I did not have a reason. I just did it because I was 19 years old and I ate too much ham on my weekend trip. There was no moral or health code attached to the decision. Many Mondays later I am still a vegetarian. It is much easier now to find products. Today vegan diets are promoted to save the planet as well as cure common ailments. I agree with that point of view, but do not push it on my friends. Sometimes PETA can be a little overkill (pun intended) with the methods they use to sell the idea to non believers.
Have you tried to cut down on meat, gentle reader? We have come a long way since 1970. If you are looking for ideas they are abundant, especially on Mondays. Follow the hashtag #MeatlessMonday any day for recipes and helpful hints.
Find the freshest, most attractive produce in the aisle
Cook it as little as possible in order to create a masterpiece
To satisfy all your senses, to tempt your tastebuds in style
Consider presentation, flavor balance, and prep with ease
Jars of layered salads, wraps, burritos, and quinoa bowls
Bring out the healthy chef within to take care of nutrition
Take gourmet living seriously by designing a diet for souls
To live in balance with nature is a healing prescription
This poetic invitation to vegetarians on Mondays is inspired by the #veggiepoetry people on twitter. I stopped eating meat in 1969, and do not miss it, so this is a sincere recommendation. It is also my daily poem for National Poetry Writing Month. Find more poetry at the #NaPoWriMo site.
There are several reasons to follow Jessica Seinfeld (aka Mrs. Jerry Seinfeld) on instagram. The most obvious is that she is at least as funny if not funnier than her famous husband, the comic. She is also a mother and cookbook author. She has two dachshunds who appear in her stream in costumes with modulated voices. The effect is stunning. They sound a little bit like the Chipmunks, but funnier. She always entertains, but she is also very instructive:
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If this is your worst V-ice, consider yourself in good shape. The rest of us….🙎🏼💁🏼. Ready in 5 mins Vegan-ice cream. Also perfect for Non-Vegans. 🙋🏼 ps- don't be shy about adding some coffee bean "zest" in there. Or crush them up. Whatever. Or don't. Your call. Check out the link in my bio. @instylemagazine
Her no nonsense approach to eating and her high comedy make her my favorite stream to watch. I highly recommend her work to anyone. You get to see the world with the Seinfeld family and share their ups, downs, and jokes. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do, gentle reader.
I had a fire in the wood stove last night, officially welcoming the winter to our house. This week we welcomed the nutcracker and some mixed nuts to the kitchen. I am not sure why I feel so much satisfaction in nut cracking, but I do. It slows down the process and makes me appreciate the taste of my nutty prize when I manage to crack the shell and extract it. This time of year we start to eat nuts more often because they are featured in seasonal fall dishes as part of a healthy harvest. Arizona grows wonderful pecans and pistachios, two of my favorite crops. Both are healthy and add rich flavor to all kinds of dishes.
We are big fans of cheese and pear combinations, so this month I will make us a pear pecan roquefort cheesecake. That has to be a winner with those ingredients. Brussels sprouts have arrived on the stalk as a favorite vegetable, so we will try the pistachio cranberry sprouts as a savory treat as well. Nuts always make appearances in cookies and sweets, but this year I want to try the extravagant pumpkin pecan cobbler. This will be right up our alley for dessert, and a new way to use both November favorites, pumpkin and pecans.
This weekend we have a neighborhood potluck party. I plan to take some soup, but this pineapple cream cheese spread covered with pecans is so cute I think I will make one of those for the party too. It is simple, but looks really festive.
Trader Joe’s brings out small cans of exotic nut oils this time of year which I enjoy using to add rich flavor to all kinds of dishes. Using walnut or pistachio oils for roasting vegetables delivers fabulous punch. Gravy based in nut oil is lovely and mysteriously rich. I still like butter, but like to variations that nut oils can bring to the fall table. Evidence keeps piling in about the benefits of including nuts in the diet. While I do believe the research I am nuts for nuts because they taste so great. Do you have a favorite nut, gentle reader?
This is the sixth year of the October Unprocessed challenge, but the first time I have heard of it. This is an excellent idea for eaters of all stripes. Everyone can benefit from learning more about our food and how it is made. Diet is a hot topic, and many are the suggestions for improving it. I think the least complicated plan is the best. For folks who think fast food is the only way to eat this change might pose a bigger problem, but for my household this is not much of a stretch. At first I believed it meant I would use nothing prepackaged, but the definition used is not that tight. For this purpose unprocessed means something an ordinary cook could prepare with normal ingredients in a normal kitchen. It does not exclude foods prepared with minimum alteration. I can still be in the group while using my boxed tomatoes and jars of olives or pickles.
What will have to be banished for October?
I am not opposed to buying help with food preparation as long as the product is not altered or preserved. I sometimes use baking mixes and some frozen pastry products, but for the month I will make my own pastry because it is much more cost-effective. It can be also be made in appropriate small batches for the two of us. Fall is an easy time to create fruit crisps, crumbles, and cobblers with the harvest. Fruit and cheese plates make lovely desserts without any fuss or bother.
I like all the support offered including dining options in popular chain restaurants. The sponsors and leaders are prepared to inform, uplift, and encourage anyone who wants to try to improve their eating habits. Rather than “going on a diet” this program is aimed at awareness and alternatives to the status quo. I am enthusiastically on board. I will finish off my beet and plantain chips with gusto before Thursday. What do you think, gentle reader? I think it is worth the effort.
The typical American diet is driving obesity, diabetes and heart disease to higher heights. Fad diets and processed shakes abound, but to heal the country of illness we need to return to whole foods. Factory farming and distribution call for processing, refrigeration or freezing. The end product often costs more to ship and preserve than it did to grow. The longer it is stored the more it costs to keep it frozen. The health of the nation would be better served by consuming food that has not been packaged or canned. I do, of course, eat some processed foods, but I am working to get back to basics. I want to improve my habits for the sake of the earth, and for the benefit of my health.
Coconut oil is now a daily part of my routine. I swish a tablespoon of oil in my mouth for 40 minutes each morning to kill cooties. The oil slides into all spaces and treats all surfaces in my mouth with anti-bacterial agents. I spit out the oil and rinse my super-clean feeling teeth to finish the process. On my last dental visit my dentist raved about the positive properties of coconut oil and extolled the virtues of eating it and using it topically. I let him know I was using it to kill bacteria since it seems to be working for me. My annual thermography report showed much less inflammation in my eye ear nose and throat than last year, and less in my digestive tract also. I am a fully committed oil puller. It takes some getting used to, but now I have the habit. It is one of the easiest things I can do to improve my health.
I think oral health has a big impact on the entire body. My dentist agrees. Today I learned about Dr Weston Price, a dentist with an interest in diet and anthropology. His popular ideas are still followed today. He determined that avoidance of artificial and refined sugars, fats, and flours that were not available before industrialization, could prevent disease. He recommended local nutrient dense foods that included a variety of natural fats. His view into the mouth of societies with ancestral diets showed him the wisdom of developing a palate for savory unprocessed foods. I am lucky to have time and circumstances that support home preparation of whole foods. I may not be able to give up sweet potato corn chips or my favorite jars of salsa, but at least I do eat them with home made guacamole.
I became a vegetarian at Union Grove, North Carolina in March of 1970. I had travelled with a group of friends to camp over Easter weekend at my first fiddler’s convention. I cooked and baked for the occasion, very excited to be camping out right next to the music. I did not know what to expect, nor did I have any idea what others might bring. I made hot crossed buns and brought a really giant (about 15 pounds) country ham, and made plenty of biscuits. I can’t remember the rest of the spread but do know everyone brought way too much food. We ate, drank, and gave the food to our fellow merry makers so we would not need to take it back home with us. The ham was super savory, chosen very carefully for Easter on the go. Country hams are salt cured and require no cooking. I was 19 years old with a big appetite and plenty of energy to dance late into the night. The party was memorable, wonderful, and very delicious. A fun time was had by all.
When I arrived home in Durham Sunday night something just clicked in my mind. I had a friend who had recently become a vegetarian because she witnessed a bird hang itself. This did not strike me as a good reason not to eat meat, but the idea of being a vegetarian sprouted in my mind because of her. She worked with me, and on Monday at the office I started talking to her about her two week old vegetarian practice. I decided to try it. There was no particular issue or reason at the time. I ate way too much ham, and was having some kind of rebound from it. In North Carolina in 1970 people did not take kindly to being questioned about meat in the restaurant dishes. Vegetarianism was an extreme fringe belief system with few believers. The Seventh Day Adventists were the core. They sometimes had little health food stores with Worthington fake meat in cans, but there was not much catering to vegetarians in the 70’s.
Now being vegan is all the rage. The vegetarian lifestyle services and product lines are mind boggling. My diet went through a metamorphic change over time. First I stopped eating meat, but had few cooking skills. I learned to make tasty food, but had never heard of vegetarian diet for health, so I was heavy on the butter and whipped cream, etc. Any food can be made to taste great with enough cream and butter. In about 1972 I met a woman from California who was not only a vegetarian, but did not eat white flour or sugar. We thought her odd in our Austin household of hippies and did not know what to feed her. We cooked from scratch but put sugar and white flour in almost everything. We also drank Dr. Pepper like it was going out of style. She did leave an impression, however. By learning to cook and expand the healthy ingredients in my cuisine I eventually gave up all sugar and white flour myself.
Today I am still a lacto-ovo vegetarian. I like to make vegan food, and tend to eat much of my food raw. I am not interested in full on veganism although I think it can be a very healthy choice. I still enjoy dairy and eggs, so I buy organic products and use them as a minor part of the menu. A little cheese goes a long way, and my butter habit is well under control now too. I eat a bit of sugar these days too, but keep that at a minimum. Common sense and savoring each bite are the keys to happy relating with sugar. Why I am telling you this story, gentle reader? I want you to know that being a vegetarian since 1970 has shown me a lot of different attitudes toward the idea. I am often asked how to become a vegetarian by those who want to make a change. I think the way to go is find one new vegetarian dish you like each week and start to switch out that for some of your beefier meals. Experiment and try recipes your mother never served you. Check out some ethnic restaurants with exotic vegetable preparations, and make them at home. Don’t restrict yourself or feel deprived. Just branch out and do it. If and when you succeed, don’t give us a bad name by telling other people what they should eat. Badgering will never become popular.
You probably know about the doomsday preppers, who build bunkers and buy machine guns and prepare to survive Armageddon. This has no interest to me. However, the other popular group of preppers, the ones who prepare food ahead of time to make sure they have healthy meals ready when they want them, are very attractive. I started following this idea in 2015 as a way to branch out of my food habits and try new dishes. I had a bad habit of making too much of one dish and tiring of it before we finished it. This was such a waste of time, energy and money. The remedy is simple. Make exactly the amount you need for each meal, or deal with any excess on the spot. I have not started a good freezer regimen, but I have managed to come out even with prepared food. This was one of the benefits, but not the only one. I decided to make at least two different dishes from each basic staple I cook.
I created a calendar in order to finish all my meal preparation in 4 days in order to leave the kitchen clean and undisturbed for 3 days a week. This is such a great change because it means a lot less clean up for the same amount of food. I make a big specific mess, clear it out, and enjoy the meals in the fridge ready to heat or add dressing. I think I can move toward 4 days out of the kitchen if I concentrate. Most of my fellow preppers do a whole week in one day, so surely I can pick up my pace on this. It does not take that much time, but it does require planning and strategy. The time off feels like I have hired a chef to make all my favorites. The fact that I am the chef does not intrude on this fabulous feeling when I waltz into the clean kitchen to find dinner. There is no drudgery involved because the prep days are very creative with research and invention. The magic chef days are wonderful because I reap the harvest of time as well as the pristine kitchen.
I have been a vegetarian for 65 years, so I am not planning to implement any new phase. I am fine as a lacto-ovo vegetarian eater. I have no desire to be gluten free or vegan, but I do really appreciate all the available recipes in those categories. I go very light on wheat, eggs and dairy, so many treats I enjoy are raw, vegan, and gluten free. I also happen to have a kosher home, but I go to no extra effort. This week we came into a giant harvest of cherry tomatoes. I am drying them, roasting them, marinating them, and next I plan to make a salad dressing from some of the roasted ones. I also saw a good looking focaccia recipe with cherry tomatoes and olives on top..That will be a new way to use them. If you have interest in trying these methods or learning about the food prep movement, find everything you might want to know on Pinterest. Happy prepping, gentle readers.
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 went along with a fad diet started by one of my social media teachers, Chris Brogan. Last November he proposed that limiting the number of books one read would change the way one learns and absorbs the art and information in the books. As a proud and profuse library addict I looked at my own reading habits and wondered if I might benefit from reading less and studying more. The Three Book Diet commenced with a bang and ended with a whimper very shortly after it was begun. I, however, had chosen three very deep books that deserve a lifetime of reflection and contemplation, as well as physical homework, so I stayed in.
The Sacred Contracts book is the text used in an on line course I have enrolled in to do deeper study in archetypal psychiatry. I have an extensive and comprehensive set of video lectures and appropriate homework assignments in the course. The student is required to look very deeply into the past and identify archetypal patterns and write about them in detail. The self analysis is heavy, and the written work required to make progress is lengthy and serious. I have started the work, but see that it could require a lifetime.
The Leonardo book has been on my shelf for years, as has the workbook with active homework assignments to help the reader become more like Leo. It ranks as one of my favorites, so I knew I could stay busy in these books easily for a year without scratching the surface. I was right about that; 10 months into this diet and I do not seem to be the least bit more brilliant or innovative. It is for the same reason it always is….because I do not do my homework to rebel. At least the Sacred Contract study has taught me that this rebel is a teacher and my teacher is a rebel, so maybe I will soon break out of my will to avoid my own assigned homework. That would be such a fabulous breakthrough!!
Impact Equation is a great book that I read once and looked at a couple of times during the diet. Chris is the new kind of guru. Perhaps I think this because he is my guru of social media and disruptive positive change. I subscribe to his newsletter and correspond with him all the time, so his voice and his attitude are very well known to me. I am actually happy he gave up the diet; I told him he was too young for it. Now he has launched a new magazine/biz school, Owner, which is very exciting, so obviously this was not his year to diet. I have learned from Sacred Contracts that Chris is my teacher and visionary. He doesn’t need a contract with me, but I am signed up to learn and emulate. It will end when I have done my homework. This brings me to the brilliance of the diet for me. I needed to blog and develop my own skills, but while consuming hundreds of books a year I had no time dedicated to my own writing. Now I have a small but growing group of Gentle Readers that I love very much. I would never have found them, or my discipline to write, had I not gone on the book diet.
When I break the fast I will decide what is prudent. I have a pile of books I bought and had signed by my favorite author of all time, Thomas Moore. I have preordered his new book, which will be released into my Kindle in January. I will read A Religion of One’s Own with great gusto. Chris Brogan is my guru of worldly wisdom, but Thomas Moore is my idol. He is teaching the world to be monastic….in a good way…in a meditative way….in a kind way. Contemplative reading is one way to meditate. The book diet has taught me the great value of learning more by consuming less. I may go on a One Book Diet next year..it could be fabulous.