Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Toast Song

I almost forgot....

The TOAST Bob and Tom

Ode to Toast

There is something about the simple goodness of a piece of toast with a sticky, sweet jam or jelly. The yeasty smell as you toast it in the toaster. The crunch of the crust as you spread a thin layer of butter over it.  The slight melting of the sweet jam. The way the bread crumbs fall easily onto your shirt as your consuming it.  There are so many things I could say about breads and the oh so many recipes for bread that make great toast, and so many more things I could say about spreads for your toast, from jams to jellies to butters.  But this post wont even go that far.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Five Minutes

Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010.
Here's my list:

Ireland - our awesome accomodations, the perfect weather, grocery shopping, living anonomously in anotehr country, Kevin's awesome driving skills, chilling out in our little apartment

Moving back to Pt Marion - never done something that made so much sense and felt so right.  This is where I belong.

Holding down the fort while Kevin is in Africa

One year at Jackson Kelly - still not sure if I love it but I like it better than most people like their jobs

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Public Radio - More than just classical music

Probably because I am the biggest nerd you will ever meet.  In all reality though, here is why I STARTED listening so much.  We do not have television. 

How I'm Going to Avoid a Five Pound Holiday Weight Gain

I love food.  I love to make it, eat it, shop for it. I'd rather go to the grocery store any day than go to the mall.  I can turn a 30 minute grocery store run into a 2 hour shopping excursion EASILY.  I could spend hundreds at the market, no problem.  In fact, my mom gave me this really awesome coupon for Kroger where if you purchased over $100 in groceries you got an amazing amount of fuel points.  I easily hit the $100 mark, as I purchased a few things I normally would not let myself, mainly somewhat overpriced things from the ogranic aisle.  Becuase I love food so much, the holiday season poses a bit of a problem for my backside, especially becuase I love sweets. But now that I've found out that sweets are even worse for your health than I thought (i.e. I've learned today that they do more than just make you fat), I think I'll eat a little less this year.

I read a very interesting post yesterday about SUGAR on Just Making Noise . In essence her point was that sugar supresses the immune system! She didnt offer alot of facts, but just that point alone lead me to doing some research.

What I found out was that, basically, sugar (glucose) is molecularly similar to Vitamin C. Your phagocytes (the cells that battle the bad stuff like viruses and bacteria) need Vitamin C to work well. That is why we take Vitamin C to ward off colds. Well, it does not matter how much Vitamin C you take if a bunch of glucose is blocking the way for the Vitamin C. (If you remember, your cells have receptors, and the receptor for Vitamin C is similar to that of glucose. So the receptors on the phagocytes, which remember are a kind of cell, get blocked up by glucose and cannot get the vitamin C they need. And wa-laah - you've got a cold because your phagocytes cannot do their job.

I hate being sick, dont we all? I am an overactive, high anxiety kind of person and mentally I go bonkers if I cannot move around alot. If I am ill, it gets in the way of my minimum hour a day work out, I feel like crap, my brain will not work right. I do not consider myself a germ-a-phobe, but certainly in the winter I do take extra precautions against getting sick (like washing my hands more, staying away from sick people, eating well, getting enough rest). Becuase I love sweets, now that I have this in my knowledge bank, I'm going to use that as a very good reason to not eat too many of them!

As always, moderation is the key. Moderation is not something Americans are too familiar with these days. Just look at our health situation. We eat like gluttons and then wonder why we are obese. It is OK to eat a little sugar and have a couple cookies. But cookies every day several times a day will definately lead to the problems listed.

Some other interesting things overconsumption of sugar leads to, and more good reasons to not eat too much of it:

Even more good info, copied from
Healing Daily.

Because refined dietary sugars lack minerals and vitamins, they must draw upon the body's micro-nutrient stores in order to be metabolized into the system. When these storehouses are depleted, metabolization of cholesterol and fatty acid is impeded, contributing to higher blood serum triglycerides, cholesterol, promoting obesity due to higher fatty acid storage around organs and in sub-cutaneous tissue folds.

Because sugar is devoid of minerals, vitamins, fiber, and has such a deteriorating effect on the endocrine system, major researchers and major health organizations (American Dietetic Association and American Diabetic Association) agree that sugar consumption in America is one of the 3 major causes of degenerative disease.

Sugar can upset the body's mineral balance.
Sugar can contribute to hyperactivity, anxiety, depression, concentration difficulties, and crankiness in children.
Sugar can produce a significant rise in triglycerides.
Sugar can cause drowsiness and decreased activity in children.
Sugar can reduce helpful high density cholesterol (HDLs).
Sugar can promote an elevation of harmful cholesterol (LDLs).
Sugar can cause hypoglycemia.
Sugar contributes to a weakened defense against bacterial infection.
Sugar can cause kidney damage.
Sugar can increase the risk of coronary heart disease.
Sugar may lead to chromium deficiency.
Sugar can cause copper deficiency.
Sugar interferes with absorption of calcium and magnesium.
Sugar can increase fasting levels of blood glucose.
Sugar can promote tooth decay.
Sugar can produce an acidic stomach.
Sugar can raise adrenaline levels in children.
Sugar can lead to periodontal disease.
Sugar can speed the aging process, causing wrinkles and grey hair.
Sugar can increase total cholesterol.
Sugar can contribute to weight gain and obesity.
High intake of sugar increases the risk of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
Sugar can contribute to diabetes.
Sugar can contribute to osteoporosis.
Sugar can cause a decrease in insulin sensitivity.
Sugar leads to decreased glucose tolerance.
Sugar can cause cardiovascular disease.
Sugar can increase systolic blood pressure.
Sugar causes food allergies.
Sugar can cause free radical formation in the bloodstream.
Sugar can cause toxemia during pregnancy.
Sugar can contribute to eczema in children.
Sugar can overstress the pancreas, causing damage.
Sugar can cause atherosclerosis.
Sugar can compromise the lining of the capillaries.
Sugar can cause liver cells to divide, increasing the size of the liver.
Sugar can increase the amount of fat in the liver.
Sugar can increase kidney size and produce pathological changes in the kidney.
Sugar can cause depression.
Sugar can increase the body's fluid retention.
Sugar can cause hormonal imbalance.
Sugar can cause hypertension.
Sugar can cause headaches, including migraines.
Sugar can cause an increase in delta, alpha and theta brain waves, which can alter the mind's ability to think clearly.
Sugar can increase blood platelet adhesiveness which increases risk of blood clots and strokes.
Sugar can increase insulin responses in those consuming high-sugar diets compared to low sugar diets.
Sugar increases bacterial fermentation in the colon.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wheat Grass (for your cat or for your juice, whatever the purpose you're getting ripped off by not growing your own)!

This is Mr. Whipple. 

         One time I thought he ate a metal wire, so off to the vet we went.  Turns out the cat was vomiting alot because he was impacted (i.e. constipated).  The vet told me to get him more fiber and moisture in his diet, either through feeding him greens, canned pumpkin, or wet cat food.  (Yes, believe if or not, cats LOVE canned pumpkin, and it smells much nicer than wet food)!  But this post is about grass.  Pumpkin puree will have to wait for next fall.

            One day I was grocery shopping and in the organic produce area, near the herbs, they had grass on clearance.  (The only reason I even noticed it was the bright orange clearance tag, the ones they put on things that are about to expire. You can get good deals that way, just have to use whatever up soon after you buy it, no big deal)!  The GRASS that was on clearance for 99 cents (regular price as something outrageous like $3.19) was sprouted wheat grass.  It was in a plastic carton about 2" by 2", and about 6" tall. The label suggested that it be used for juicing.   GRASS at the grocery store? This is a new concept to me!  I knew that they sell wheat grass at rip off prices in little round tubs that are about 6" in diameter and 1" deep, with a little bit of wheat grass seed or catnip inside for you to sprout for your cat. I've seen these priced as high as $5 at the pet store.

         Guess what, I have great news for everyone!! You can grow your own cat grass about 10 cents a crop! Got to your local feed store and ask for about 1/4 of a pound of winter wheat.  You'll have to get it in the fall because that is the only time I believe they carry it. Winter wheat is a cover crop most farmers sow and then till under in the spring time.  (If you don't know what a cover crop it, ask, I'll fill you in, trying to keep this short here).  It is hardy and does not require alot of care.  Its a winter crop, which is why you'll have to buy your seed in the fall.  You probably cannot buy it online in such a small quantity for a reasonable price, so trust me on this and head on down to the local feed store.  I"m sure you'll see some interesting people while you're at it.  The feed store also smells amazing.  Its a combination of the sweet smell of molasses from the sweet feed, the dusty smell of corn being ground, the earthy smell of mulch in the piles in the parking lot, and the machine smell of the feed grinder all mixed together.  Oh, and 1/4 pound of seed will last you a long, long time and will cost you less than $5.

     Once you have your seeds, get a small pot and put some dirt in it.  I used potting soil because I had some around.  You could go dig up some dirt from your yard, but you'd probably get some insects which would then get into your house and some weeds.  To be on the safe side, I'd stick with potting soil.  Fill it up to about 1" from the top, sprinkle on some seeds (about 1/2 TBS).  Barely cover the seeds with the dirt.  I usually just sprinkle mine around and then kind of rake them around with my fingers so they are sort of combined in with the dirt.  Its OK if you can still see them.  Water them well, and in about a week you'll start to see grass.  Once it gets kind of high, feel free to harvest.  I let Whipple graze on it, and sometimes I pick it for him.  You can extend the life of the grass by trimming it to about 2" high with scissors.  You'll have to replant it after about three weeks, it doesn't have a long life in the pot.  Pull out the grass (try not to get too much dirt) and repeat the steps above!

As for Whipple, he is fine. The girl who had to hold him down for his x-ray, not so much, but I think she survived.

Single serving desserts

I love baked goods, cookies, cakes, breads, if it's sweet and fattening, I love it.  In fact, I love it so much that I NEVER bake anything unless there are a ton of people around to eat my food or someone for me to pawn it off on.  Otherwise, I'll eat it all myself within two days and have to workout like a mo'fo for a week to undo the damage.  And quiet frankly, I am getting old now, so that's not as much of an option as it used to be. 

The other evening I got a craving for some chocolate, which is rare for me, but nontheless, I wanted some.  Having none in the house, I decided to make a single-serving coffee mug cake.

4 Tablespoons cake flour
4 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons cocoa
1 Egg
3 Tablespoons milk
3 Tablespoons oil
1 Mug

Mix dry ingredients.  Stir in the wet.  (Make sure to stir well, a little bit of dry flour was still in the bottom of mine). Microwave for 3 minutes. 

Dont watch it - you'll panic becuase the cake rises up, sometimes out of the cup. Sort of like when you're cooking oatmeal or Coco Wheats and it comes to a boil and rolls right out of the bowl (but in my opinion those two things never quiet come out right in the microwave anyway and should always be prepared on the stove top).  The cake looks scary, like its going to make a huge mess in your microwave that will bake on and you'll be forever trying to clean out of there. And then, its done! 

I modified my recipe a little bit and reduced the amount of sugar and oil.  I also used coconut oil (that's what I had on hand).  It gave the cake a nice, subtle coconutty flavor. You could also add chocolate chips and nuts if you wanted to.

The cake was pretty tasty, a little bit dry.  I just jabbed mine with a spoon a couple times and poured some milk on top.  Warm chocolately not too sweet goodness! 

Note- Dont spray non-stick spray on the cup, the cake wont rise correctly.

I found this online and havent tried it yet, but I'm sure it works well too (and is good for those of us who don't have alot of raw ingredients lying around:

1 packet - Instant Oatmeal
1 Tablespoons - Butter (if you don't mind transfats, this is coincidentally equal to one packet  of KFC's "Buttery" spead)
2 Teaspoons - Sugar (4 sugar cubes or two sugar packets from the local coffee house)
2½ Teaspoons - Egg (beaten) What?!?!? You don't have eggs? I knew that. Use 1 Tablespoon of Mayo (equal to one packet from Weinerschnitzel or Chik-Fil-A) Applesauce or smashed banana would work too if you have them handy.
3½ Tablespoons - Flour
A tiny pinch of baking soda and another of salt.

Makes one cookie, approximately 200 calories (like you really care).

2 Tablespoons - Raisins or Chocolate Chips (as if you're going to have those hanging around)

How does the Gingerbread Man make his bed?

With a cookie sheet!!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

An Oil Slick on Top of my Tea

I admit, I have become an obsessive compulsive label reader, to the point that I can recite to you how many calories are in something, how much sugar, and what weird ingredients that seem non-food to me are contained within.

I love to drink hot things, especially when it is cold.  I like my hot beverages particularly hot.  That is why the McDonald's lawsuit has particularly taken away from the pleasures of a cup of coffee from McDonalds (one of my favorite kinds of coffee I do have to admit, but it has been less than steaming hot the past few times I've purchased a cup).  I like my coffee black and my tea with milk, and sometimes milk and a couple good heaping teaspons of sugar (not the fake stuff, but that's another post).  The other day I decided that instead of swiping little dashes of someone's organic creamer or soy milk in the work fridge, I'd have a one of those single shot vanilla flavored creamers in my hot tea.  I was extremely grossed out when, after I dumped the creamer in, a film of oily substance floated to the top of my tea.  GROSS.  (I dont like to waste, so I drank it anyway).  I investigated the ingredient label and found out that my CREAMER has palm oil in it (whatever THAT is).  Today, in lieu of the nasty oil slick inducing creamer, I chose instead the "mini moos" (single shot creamers that did not have oil as a weird ingredient, but did contain carrageenan).  So I fixed my tea and then back at my desk proceeded to determine just what carrageenan and palm oil were and the nutritional components of both, so that in the future I would know what I was consuming (or could go back to stealing splashes of soymilk from my colleagues).

Turns out that (according to anyway, Carrageenan is basically a seaweed extract and is used as a thickener.  Its termed a vegetarian alternative to gelatin (and if you dont know how gelatin is made, ask me, I'll post about it, you'll be amazed at just where gelatin comes from if you dont know, but you may also never eat it again).  So I am pretty OK with consuming that.

Palm oil is bad and I'm on not going to drink any more of it.  Saturated fats and all that stuff.  I am sure in the two teaspoon quantities that it comes in those single shot creamers I have nothing to worry about, but considering I could consume an entire jar of peanut butter with a spoon in one sitting (which I dont do but could do, I'm just trying to convey my love of peanut butter), I think I'll stick to that as my source of saturated fats.

Consumer Greed and Ignorance Feeds Corrupt Corporations

This provides some visual insight into WHERE our meat products are coming from. Living in WV, I can see from the map that most of the meat I buy at a place like Wal Mart or Kroger is definately traveling more than 100 miles to get to me. Which is a HUGE issue - think of the fuel, the impact on food quality, freshness, ect.  In addition, to the impacts on food quality, huge factory farms also have huge negative environmental effects, they are not good neighbors, and there are serious animal welfare issues.  This map doesnt touch on the issue of "animal processing facilitites" (i.e. slaughterhouses where hundreds of animals are slaughtered daily), but those types of facilities are the next step after these factory farms.  I recently read the book "Recipe for America" and am still haunted by a recount of an interview with a worker in one of these packing houses who recalled animals being skinned alive and hogs being hung up alive (if you arent aware, once hogs are killed, they are hung by their bag legs on hooks that pierce the flesh between the ligament on their back leg and the bone) because there isnt enough time to make sure the animals are dead or fully stunned. 

Sorry to share such grossness, but this is a cricital issue.  If we keep being blind about where our food comes from, we are in serious danger of alot of negative side affects.  As long as we continue to enjoy the conveniences of the huge chain grocery stores and their mass produced food, we put ourselves at risk of food contamination (no laws can fix what happens on the ground....just look at our mine safety system.  We've got all the laws in the world, but if they're not followed and enforced, see what happens?? Same thing with your food).  Wouldnt it be better if we could purchase food that didnt have to travel hundreds of miles to get to us? Wouldnt it be nice knowing that growing our food wasnt harming the very environment that we need to grow our food? Wouldnt it be nice to know that the meat we are consuming or the milk we are drinking didnt come from cows who are living packed by the hundreds in shit filled feed lots? Wouldnt it be nice to know that the chicken you are eating wasnt raised in a chicken house with hundreds of other chickens, some that cannot walk becuase they are bred so their breast meat gets so huge and some that are just lying their dead, wouldnt it be nice to know that the eggs you are eating didnt come from a chicken kept in a cage its entire life hardly able to move and then the eggs are over a month old when they get to you?
  I hate to push these issues on my unsuspecting peers, but its time Americans made a choice - spend a little more money on your food so that your LOCAL farmer can provide you with a safe, quality product.  Americans spend just under 10% of our disposable income on food ( According to this article (who's credibility and sources I question so take it for what its worth  )  we could be like China (spending 39% of their income on food).   SO think next time you dont want to spend the extra dollars at the farmers market - it IS really worth it, because we could have food that is SO MUCH BETTER than what we get from factory farms. But instead, we pay for the convenience, turn a blind eye to what's going on behind the scenes, and give a large percentage of our food dollars to "the man" so that corporations can profit and grow even larger.  But do those giant corporations really care about what they're doing to the land and the animals and the people that they're feeding?

Talk to any farm raised person you know that grew up eating food they grew and raised. They'll vouch for the how much better food tastes when it comes straight from the farm! Ask anyone who purchases their food from a local farmer, and they'll attest to the peace of mind they have in knowing who raised their food, how it was processed, and where it has been before they put it in their mouths. 

My mother used to say to us when we were kids, "Dont put that in your mouth, do you know where that's been" when we were trying to put some non-food item in our mouth.  Its a shame, but we need to start asking ourselves that question with our food.