Archive for March, 2010

What a Difference a Night Makes and Super Soups to the Rescue

   With March 20th marking the first day of spring, ads nagging us to get into shape for bathing suit season can’t be far away.  For me personally, that concept no longer computes.  Glute-lifting lunges aside, unless I hear about a dirt-cheap, non-invasive route to a thigh and derriere lift, this body isn’t likely to experience public bathing suit exposure again.  Ever.  But there is the thought of Capri pants and skinny jeans to be considered, so maybe it is a good time to talk about leaning up the cuisine a bit.

 Helpful hint number one:  no matter how nutritious our year-round food choices, northerners’ portion sizes tend to expand in inverse proportion to winter’s shortened days.  If we reverse that trend and pay attention to a few basic slimming guidelines, we’ll have it made in the … sun.  (Don’t forget to use a smaller plate when you are cutting portion sizes.) 

Hint number two:  a good night’s sleep is a vastly under-sung element in weight control.  Just think about how crummy the “spring forward” daylight savings changeover makes you feel.  I walk around crabby for three or four days until my sleep patterns adjust, and then I still feel tired for another week or so after that.  It all makes sense when you consider the powerful effects of sleep-related hormones:  people who sleep less generate more ghrelin, which signals an empty stomach, and less leptin, generating a false message that fat stores are insufficient.  No wonder I’m cranky.  I eat, but still feel hungry, and my sleep-deprived muscles – affected by higher cortisol levels and less efficient glucose metabolism – make working out feel like treading quick sand.  Nix these negatives by getting at least 7-1/2 hours of sleep every night.

 And number three:  fill up on soup.  It’s a great antidote to hunger, whatever its cause, and when you make your own, you can load it with low-fat broth and veggies, lean meat, and beans for fiber and satiety.  The high liquid content leaves you full to capacity, with no guilt attached – as sure-fire a formula for satisfying a grouchy brood as ever there was.  Two of my recent favorites are a variation on the same theme:  Slow-Cooked Pulled Chicken, Black Bean, and Vegetable Soup or Quick Turkey Cannellini Soup.  Add a slab of Dense Whole Grain Bread with a dab of Homemade Almond Butter and a small Hawaiian Sundae for a feast accompli.  Even that enticing commercial with the office full of Kit-Kat munchers won’t have any power over you after this comforting repast.  (more…)

March 24, 2010 at 10:04 pm Leave a comment

True Wisdom for the Ages: Biblical Precepts for Parents

   When God presented the Ten Commandments to Moses, with the instruction to share them with the Israelites, He made very clear the importance of also passing them along to future generations (Deuteronomy 6:6-9):

“And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets* between your eyes.  And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” 

Here, the Lord places an unequivocal emphasis on making the Word the cornerstone of our lives, and on finding ways to remind ourselves constantly of God’s faithfulness to us and our resultant commitment to walk the narrow path of righteousness, with Him as our trail guide.  Children thus surrounded by examples of applying godly directives to daily life are less prone to moral confusion as adults.

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*A frontlet is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as, “An ornament or band worn on the forehead as a phylactery,” and phylactery is further defined as, “Either of two small square leather boxes containing slips inscribed with scriptural passages and traditionally worn on the left arm and on the head.” 

This concept throws light on the modern-day custom of sporting religious bumper stickers or wearing a cross around one’s neck, and underscores the need for these symbols of Christian witness not to be abused, as public exhibits of false piety, or taken lightly, as mere fashion accessories.

March 19, 2010 at 4:47 pm Leave a comment

Drabs, Drips, and Drops

   Walking the neighborhood becomes a rather dreary drill when rising temperatures and March drizzle leave behind a crust of dirty snow and a few weary Christmas decorations.  I predicted a stretch of gray skies as a postlude to our glorious week of sunshine, but by day six it does start to get old.  One can only sigh, and hope for each droplet of moisture to be the last drop, for Pete’s sake – and for the sake of the soil-saturated Crow River Valley, whose residents are sandbagging their little hearts out against the threat of flooding. 

Grainy (gray + rainy) weather aside, the phrase above brings to mind the tradition of common sense resource conservation explored by local radio show host Joe Soucheray. “Last-droppers,” he calls practitioners, and I am proud to be a member of that club.  Whether food or cleaning supplies, hand lotion or lipstick, foraging out every last bit of something you use on a regular basis saves bundles over a lifetime.  I know some people cringe at the notion of cutting open the tube of toothpaste to dredge out one last brushful, but I am blessed with a tolerant husband and the quiet confidence that we uber-conservers might just be mentoring others in our methods on that fateful day when the overextended economy smacks up against reality. 

But let’s move into a more upbeat aspect of the subject – scrumptious uses for leftovers. The list is a long one:  corn meal mush to slice and fry for breakfast; baked potatoes for hash; squash for soup; chili as a topping for cheese omelets; cooked meats, beans, and vegetables for soups; and that perennial favorite from holiday dinners, turkey. 

Today, let’s talk turkey.  I have three favorite combinations for using up leftover turkey breast that would make for a nice sandwich buffet after church on a lazy Sunday afternoon.  I’ve tried keeping these super low-fat by popping foil-wrapped sandwiches into the oven to melt the cheese,  but grilling produces a much tastier result and can be done with a minimal amount of softened butter or margarine.  The menu, then, for a casual family meal:  Turkey, Bacon, and Avocado Melts (I); Grilled Turkey with Mango Chutney (II); and Grilled Turkey with Fresh Cranberry Sauce (III).  The perfect side dishes – made with leftovers of course:  Polenta Fries, Three Bean Salad, and Squash Spice Bars.   (more…)

March 15, 2010 at 11:02 pm Leave a comment

March Gladness

   The Minneapolis-Saint Paul area enjoyed a stretch of truly glorious weather this past week: days sparkling with sunlight under cliché-blue skies, with temperatures climbing into the 40s and even bumping up against 50 – conditions that make for great walks and great moods.  As we rounded the last corner on our pre-breakfast canine constitutional one morning, a neighbor commented cheerily that my little Muñeca was “the cutest dog in the neighborhood.”  I’m pretty sure she pranced a little prouder all the way home.

A lighthearted mood of course leads my obsessive brain to thoughts about what to serve my dinner guests, and nudges me to come up with something a bit adventurous to serve alongside the more traditional menu items.  With the echo of radio ads touting Lenten fish specials bouncing off the walls of my cranium, I settle on Sole Poached in White Wine Sauce, with Lemon Rice Pilaf, Oven-Dried Tomato Slices with Fresh Basil, Watercress and Green bean Salad, and Pear/Mango/Cranberry Bake. (more…)

March 9, 2010 at 5:58 pm Leave a comment

A Few Random Thoughts on Life, Liberty, and Example-Setting

   Humble yourself – or God’ll do it for you! (54)

              Take your voting privileges seriously and don’t rely on the mainstream media for information.  Take the time to research the past actions and experience of candidates thoroughly; if you have time to do scrapbooking or watch TV or surf the internet, then you have time to do a little outside reading.  Charisma is not leadership, and it only goes so far – especially when there are major challenges facing your city, state, or nation. (54)

              All humans are capable of leaving the world a better place, but we sometimes fall short of our full potential because of self-imposed limitations.  Realize that you will be fallible in your attempts at productive living, and be patient with others who struggle with this challenge as well.  Build on your strengths and support others in their progress.  (14)

But…

              Don’t give in to timidity or laziness, and make the mistake of expecting too little of yourself.  There is a dear emotional price to pay for not using your gifts or for being a lesser example rather than a greater example for others.  (54)

March 5, 2010 at 6:04 pm Leave a comment

Revealing Winter Walks

   As I enjoy a midday hike under clear blue skies, sunlight glittering off a thick blanket of pristine snow…  Wait; let me rewind a bit.  For me, this is an outdoor fitness session; for my dog, it’s a chance to nose her way through the neighborhood newspaper we fondly refer to as the Canine Chronicles.  “Hmm. I note that Max has published a new classified at the corner of 67th and Washington.  Let me just check that out for a minute.”  As I run in place, muttering tersely that this is a walk not a sniffathon, I slip back into confessional mode. 

Impatience.  It’s a rotten trait that hinders me both in and out of the kitchen.  Closely related is the defect of processing statements with my mouth before I’ve processed them with my brain.  Both behaviors date back to toddlerhood, but the “talk first, think later” habit has left me backpedaling through too many uncomfortable silences as I scramble to undo the verbal damage I have wrought.  One reason I love to write is that I can then edit and revise.

I do pray about this flaw (I once bought myself a t-shirt that said, “Dear Lord, Please keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth.”), and I have seen some improvement.  Still, I’ve observed plenty of eye-rolling on the part of fellow conversationalists over the years.  Eye-glazing, too, now that I reflect on it, as when a dinner guest innocently comments on the entrée and I barge full-steam into a detailed history of the entire recipe development process. 

Valentine’s Day was such an occasion, but before said guest nodded off à la my own face-dive into a plate of spaghetti the day following my first sleep-dreprived slumber party, I caught myself.  I will tell you, however, that the menu of Chicken Breasts in Orange Sauce, Wild Rice Pilaf, Roasted Asparagus with Sweet Red Peppers, Tweed Popovers, and Individual Molten Chocolate Cakes with Vanilla Ice Cream was a big hit.  And you know, it all started when I was browsing the Good Housekeeping web site and came across a tweakable recipe for Chicken a l’Orange, which inspired me to… Uh, never mind.   (more…)

March 1, 2010 at 11:42 pm Leave a comment


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Recipe. According to Encarta, "a list of ingredients and instructions for making something." The thesaurus offers the alternate terms, "formula, guidelines, directions, steps, technique."

And what is the "something" we are aiming for here? Simply a life of robust good health in every important area - spiritual, physical, cognitive, and emotional.

To that end we offer inspirational real-life stories about PEOPLE OF FAITH AND COURAGE; menus and cooking directions meant to fuel your creative inclinations and your healthy body in the form of MUSINGS OF A MIDWESTERN FOODIE; and ADVICE FOR LIFE from the perspective of those who have lived it to maturity. (Click on the green category tabs at the top of this page to learn more about each section.)

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