Thursday, March 31, 2016

Chick'n Sliders - a Veggie Product Review

I've written several times how I think the Gardein soy and grain based meat substitutes are the best of what's out there, not containing ingredients you need a  science degree to understand. For my new readers, I'm NOT a vegetarian, but try and eat vegetarian style meals each week, as I have ethical issues with factory farming, and I don't personally do well (digestion wise) eating dairy or a lot of fatty meat.

A couple of days ago I saw a new one.  Chicken Sliders.  I love the  seven grain chicken tenders so I had to try these.

I have to say they were really tasty with 11 grams protein EACH, but each tiny slider is 180 calories, so even if two only set me back 360 calories, it was almost 700 mg. in sodium, and 12 grams fat. Note to self, do NOT eat two.
Yes, they would have been prettier with some tomato and lettuce but after an hour and 15 of cardio and weights I was HUNGRY.
I enjoyed them very much as they had a crisp coating (even after microwave prep), a taste and texture just like chicken, and a nice seasoning, but they would be best suited for a snack (with just one) or paired with something else for a light meal.  Eating two of  them after workout with beautiful German personal trainer was NOT a good idea, sodium wise.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Have a "cuppa"

 What's the checklist for?  Well, I spent quite a few years flying for the US Government and an airline, before watching too many crime shows on TV, and getting a Ph.D. and doing a complete career change, but checklists are something all pilots use and my husband knew it would make me smile..

It was a tea set (the Scot flag was a nice touch as I recently had my sealed birth certificate opened (I was adopted) and found out there was some Scot blood in my lineage a couple of generations back.
But the tea is a marvelous idea if you're trying to lose, or maintain weight. In the afternoon when one can get either bored or stressed (or both which is possible) it's easy to grab some chips or candy.
I found having a single plain Biscuit with a couple of cups of tea really made me feel better and kept me from grabbing a chocolate bar at 3:30 PM.

I get my biscuits from a great family owned store in Lawrence Kansas called Brits ( that has the BEST selection and personal service  and my husband found the lovely tea and teapot at

So unwind and have a "cuppa", and you may find a new habit that's quite soothing and much more healthy than that bag of sweets.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

NO "Yeast" Bread

“Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” --Matthew 4:4.

I read about this product on a number of blogs while researching an easy way to make healthier bread in bulk each week (for our family and I also make extra for friends or colleagues that could use a casserole and a bag of bread when life gets difficult.  What I found was  "Bread for Life" sourdough starter for making bread from Azure Standard (link information coming up). I had at that point already been on a quest to incorporate more cultured/fermented foods and beverages into our diet, so this was a blessing to find. This starter is yeast free and works great with wheat flours. Plus - it bakes bread for about 10% of what it costs to buy specialty breads at the store and you won't have to buy commercial yeast ever again.

No doubt, we have all heard of increasing numbers of people suffering from gluten intolerance and other gut-related ailments. Grains in particular have been getting a bad reputation. On the other hand, the Bible speaks very highly of bread, and the Lord's prayer teaches us to ask for "daily bread." So what is the best way to eat if we don't have Celiac but find that eating too much yeasted bread causes other issues with our health?

Enter naturally leavened bread in the form of sourdough. Unlike bread made from fresh, non-fermented and/or non-sprouted flour, it is very gentle on the body, while having a much higher nutrient content thanks to the living enzymes, plus a whole host of other benefits. So instead of being concerned about the carbs and gluten in bread (an issue if you have Celiac disease, which I don't) I now have bread daily and embrace it as a healthy staple.
Commercial baking yeast is related to a number of health issues, especially candida growth in the body and inflammation. This natural bread starter (with no commercial yeast) is aerobic and probiotic causing carbohydrates and gluten to be predigested, turning them into a more usable form for the body.  If you don't have true Celiac but find that too much bread causes migraines, allergies, skin problems and other issues, this is the bread for you and it's so easy to make you can make enough bread for the week in about 30 minutes, not including rise time.

Not only is sourdough bread more nutritious, it also greatly reduces the amount of phytic acid found in whole grains. It's been noted by many health professionals  that consuming large amounts of whole grains that have not first been properly prepared by either fermentation or soaking and sprouting can have detrimental health effects, mostly in the form of mineral loss, which could impact bone loss as we age.
The starter after its first week at home.

All you need to get started is a "starter", unlike traditional sourdough starter, which is left out and covered on the counter, the bread for life starter stays in the refrigerator, is not nearly as temperamental and only has to be "fed" (water flour mix) every couple of days. Make sure you store it in a clean glass (periodically putting starter in clean bowl and give the container a nice wash and vinegar rinse, and only use wood utensil to stir.  Do NOT use chlorinated water in less you want to kill it. You'll also want the room or oven it rises in to be at least 70 degrees (our gas oven with pilot light on is perfect) Other than that it's pretty bullet proof .  It also has uses NO oil and has a sweet light fluffy texture that's great for toast or sandwiches.  You can keep several quart mason jars going or if you bakc in large amounts use a gallon jar.

Basic Loaf of Bread

Throw in a cuisinart with a blade (or you can hand mix and knead five minutes)

1 cup starter
1 tsp. salt (optional if on a salt restricted diet)
1 cup pure filtered water (chlorine will kill your leavening)
2 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
I happened to have Fiji in the cupboard from a clearance sale - any non chlorinated water is fine.

Mix for 5 minutes, put in oiled bowl, and let rise 5-7 (yes!) hours in warm place (70 degrees +)  Punch down and put in lightly oiled bread pan and let rise 1-3 more hours.  Bake at 350 25-30 minutes.

To make dinner and breakfast rolls that are lighter and slightly sweeter do this:

1 cup starter
1 cup milk or nut milk (at room temperature)
1 egg
1 tsp salt
1 Tablespoons sugar or honey
1 Tablespoon olive oil

2 and 3/4 to 3 and 1/4 cups hard white wheat flour (not whole wheat)

Put in cuisinart with blade or mix and knead by hand for five minutes (should be nice and stretchy). Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 5-7 hours (depends on how warm the kitchen is). You need a minimum temp. of 75 for it to raise.  80 is better.  If you don't have an oven in which you can place the dough with the lightbulb on set it on a a trivet on a heating pad set on low - that kept my bowl a constant 80ish temperature which was perfect.  Form the dough to desired shapes.  Let rise 2-3 hours more hours.

Bake at 375 for around 20 minutes for buns and rolls and 40-50 minutes if you want to make a big loaf of bread, as pictured. If desired brush warm bread with butter as soon as it is removed from the oven for a soft crust and a nice sheen

Click here for a link to all the information you'll need if you wish to try this There is even information for making your own, capturing spores from your garden with a simple jar/cloth method, though I've not tried it.

Note:  Azure does not traditionally ship this refrigerated product.  They deliver via semi truck, to a local drop off point, acting as a middle man to connect you to independent growers and food producers, shortening the distance your food travels from farm to table.  You'll find a huge selection of products you won't find at smaller retails  If you are buying a product such as this, you place your order and put in the zip code of where you are at and they tell you where your drop off day and time in (Mine was only a 20 minute drive).  A drop coordinator keeps you in the loop on the process.  Plus their prices on grains, whole and ground are SO good, I'm going to make it a regular source for organic goods.

DIY Energy Drinks

Before I started switching my diet over to all "real food" (except for a weekly treat ) I was getting in the habit of having a daily (or two) Vitamin Water as a boost.  They're tasty with vitamins for energy (instead of caffeine like most "energy" drinks which I don't think are good for you if you're already having coffee or tea in the morning. Plus the "Zero" ones have no calories. I was a fan of everything but the price.

They're priced quite competitively with other like products but even on sale for a buck, that's about $2 per day - $60 in a month. Look, I'm not on a tight budget, but that $60 can be put to better use.

In the efforts to eat more "REAL" food, I made my own energy drinks in a quart jar, and then used a clean recycled bottle from something else to take on the go when need be. (don't reuse  drinking water plastic bottles for beverages, they can build up some nasty bacteria in them over time as the plastic breaks down).

The base is Apple Cider Vinegar - NOT the heat treated kind in the cheap vinegar aisle but the Braggs natural apple cider with the "mother" (which is strands of proteins, enzymes and friendly bacteria that give the product a murky, cobweb-like appearance).  I love Braggs vinegar, salad dressings, olive oil and seasonings, but especially love the ACV.  I found that when drink at least 3 Tablespoons a day, I have more energy, and having some before a heavy meal, I also found myself eating less.  It also has reduced my craving for "sweets". It's a "live" food, and like my kefir and homemade whole wheat sourdough bread (which is easy to digest even for some who are gluten sensitive) I try and eat some "living" food with each meal.
Wild yeast whole wheat starter (more on that tomorrow)

There are three recipes that I played with that I like, go ahead and play around with your own. Braggs does make some great pre-mixed flavored drinks with ACV, but this is for the DIY person on a budget.

Each goes into a quarter mason jar,  then fill with water and ice made from purified water  and keep in the fridge.

Berry Blast
2/3 cup organic berry juice such as concord, acai, cranberry or a mix of several
2  Tablespoons ACV (Braggs, don't use the pasteurized kind)
Stevia (optional, to taste).


Dissolve 2 Tablespoons honey in a cup of hot water and put in quart jar
add 2 Tablespoons ACV
add a pinch of dried ginger

Lime and the Coconut
3 Tablespoons Key Lime Juice
2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
fill jar with coconut water or sparkling water.
Stevia (optional, to taste)

Even better, these cost just pennies per serving, not one to two dollars!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Tomato Ginger Curry - Healthy Eating International Style

Part of keeping a healthy eating plan from falling into a rut is to try new dishes.  For my house, we like cuisine of other countries and cultures.  Since we eat a lot of veggie and meat free based dishes, Thai and Indian food is popular for a cheap, delicious healthy meal.  I had never had Indian food until I worked in London for six months on a project for my American employer when I was a young woman.  New friends and I went out for curry at least once a week, and I was surprised at how complex and delicate the different dishes could be, expecting all curry to be strong and/or super hot. So last night, I made a curry dish for my husband, wanting something a little different than our usual Thursday night pasta and meat sauce.  It wasn't super hot but had a nice zing to it and we both enjoyed it.
Red Tomato Curry with Ginger

You can use textured vegetable protein in place of meat, but cooked red lentils would also be really good.

1 large onion (fresh celery root may be substituted)
1 carrot finely grated

1 tablespoon coconut or olive oil

2 Tablespoons curry paste - I use Maesri Thai Red Curry paste, found on Amazon, as unlike many other Thai curry pastes, it contains no dried shrimp (I have a shellfish allergy).  Don't consider just substituting extra curry powder.  The paste contains chili pepper, lemongrass, galangal, coriander seeds, cumin and cardamon, garlic and shallot so it has a really complex taste.

1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 Tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon minced garlic (optional)
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger (found in the veggie section, it looks like a small thick root)
1 can (14-ish ounces I think) of Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes (so worth finding and paying a few pennies extra for at the grocers).
1 teaspoon honey or white sugar if you're making a vegan version

Heat oil in large skillet on medium and cook and stir veggies in hot oil until slightly softened and beginning to brown, about 15 minutes.

Mix curry paste and spices, stir into onions and cook on high, stirring constantly until the spices are fragrant (a couple of minutes).

Add tomatoes/tomato paste (if you're using, see note below) and honey, reduce heat and simmer until thickened.

Note:  If you'd like it extra thick as I do, replace a half cup of the tomatoes with 1/4 of a small can of tomato paste.

Add in prepared meat or TVP, heat through and serve on rice with Naan (flatbread).

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Reduced Fat Banana Bread

There's no extra oil in this recipe so feel free to serve with a little pat of organic butter, or add a few chocolate chips or some chopped walnuts to the batter.

Applesauce is a great replacement for oil in recipes for quick bread and brownies. Some cooks will recommend adding extra sugar to make up for it (check your labels in the store - most "non-fat" foods have a LOT more sugar than normal). I did not increase the sugar, and honestly, with the natural sweetness of the bananas, it was not needed.

1 and 1/’2 cups all purpose flour
1/2  cup white sugar
1 and 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 egg
3 very ripe bananas - mashed (banana skins should be turning black)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/3 cup sugar-free applesauce

Mix white and dry ingredients in separate bowls, combine and mix just until blended.

Spray a loaf pan with non stick spray and bake in preheated 350 F oven for 50-55 minutes. If you want to bake as muffins, bake for 18 minutes at 350.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Reining in Your Consumption of Corn Syrup

This weeks goal will be to not eat any food that has high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  This is by no means a complete list, these are simply some prepared foods I have tried or others I know have tried that don't list HFCS as an ingredient.

They are not SUGAR free, but they don't have high fructose corn syrup, which frankly, just makes you want to eat MORE sugar.

List Of Foods with No High Fructose Corn Syrup.

Always check the label yourself as sometimes companies change ingredients, so be sure to always verify on the label itself. This list is meant to be a guide only. I hope it’s very helpful in finding products with no high-fructose corn syrup, but if you’re sensitive or have allergies especially, always double-check the label!

Baked Beans 

 Bush's Country Style
 Van Camp Baked Beans


Annie’s Naturals Smokey Maple BBQ Sauce
Bone Suckin Sauce
Bulleseye Barbecue Sauce
Three Little Pigs KC Sweet BBQ Sauce
 Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue KC Original Sauc


Dave’s Killer Breads (my all time favorite bread)
Ezekiel 4:9 sprouted grain breads (in freezer section)
Aunt Millie’s Old Fashioned Butter-Top Wheat
Brownberry’s Arnold Natural Health Nut Bread
Country Hearth 12-Grain Bread
Earth Grains 100% Natural 7-Grain Bread
Franz Whole Grain White
Natures Own 100% Whole Wheat bread (note, other varieties do contain HFCS, but not this one) Oroweat Mult-Grain Bread (but watch out for HFCS in their other varietes)
Martin’s Breads & Rolls (including hot dog buns/rolls and such)
Whole Foods Brand hotdog and hamburger buns (whole wheat)
Rays New York Bagels

Mott’s Natural Apple Sauce


Chex Cereals
Plain oatmeal
Kashi (most, if not all)
Life cereal (regular and cinnamon)
Nature’s Pride Organic (most, if not all, varieties)
Shredded Wheat
Trader Joe’s Graham Bites Cereal
Post Grape Nuts
Barbara's Puffins (I love these dry in a sandwich bag as a snack with an apple)
Post Honey Bunches of Oats

Breakfast Pastry/Baking Mixes

Kashi Go Lean and Heart to Heart Frozen Waffles
Eggo Nutrigrain Blueberry
Bisquick Mix


Cadbury – Most Varieties
Hershey’s Symphony
Hershey Skor Candy Bar
Hershey Special Dark Candy Bar
Dove – Most varieties
Lindt Lindor truffles (balls)

Archway’s Molasses Cookies
Keebler Pecan Sandies Cookies
Keebler Simply Sandies Cookies
Lu Le Petit Beurre Cookies
Lu Scottish Recipe Shortbread
Nature’s Best Chocolate Sandwich Creme Cookies
Newman's Wheat Free Fig Newton Cookies
Newman's Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
NewmanS Own Alphabet Cookies
Pepperidge Farms Butter Chessman Cookies (I don't buy these as I will eat the whole bag)


Atheno's Baked Pitz Chips
Chickin N' a Biskit (a favorite since childhood with some cheddar)
Dare Vinta Crackers
Fritoes (original)
Keebler Graham Crackers
Nabisco Fat Free Premium Saltine Crackers
Nabisco Original Triscuits
Pepperidge Farm Goldfish (also Nancy's  cheddar cheese and honey graham bunnies which I prefer to the goldfish).
Toasteds Buttercrisp
Reduced Fat Cheese-its
Wasa Crisp Breads (All Varieties)
Granola Bars

Kashi Bars
Nature Valley Roasted Nut Crunch Bars
Odwalla Bars (my favorite)
Nature Valley Oats & Honey flavor granola bars (not all flavors are free of HFCS


Annie’s Naturals Organic Ketchup
Heinz Organic Ketchup
Hunts 100% Natural Ketchup
Nature’s Best Organic Tomato Ketchup
Trader Joe’s Organic Ketchup
Boxed Mac and Cheese

One of my favorite convenience foods.  If you use a box go with Annie's brand which doesn't have HFCS.

Note -  I have NOT checked the Kraft blue box brand since they reformulated it so it might be worth a check but almost all other brands and generic versions are FULL of it. Pirate's Booty mac and cheese doesn't list their ingredients on their website, so not sure, but it's otherwise pretty clean of most "junk"and I prefer its taste to Kraft.


Trader Joe’s Organic Maple Syrup
Pretty much any store bought real maple syrup is devoid of HFCS – most “pancake syrup” does not even have any maple syrup in it and is pretty much all sweetener and water and “stuff”


Kraft Olive Oil Mayo
Hellman’s Mayonnaise


I hate mustard with the passion of a thousand white hot suns so you're kind of on your own with this one

Jif Peanut Butter
Laura Scudder’s Old Fashioned Peanut Butter
Skippy Super Chunk Peanut Butter
Trader Joe’s brand Creamy, Unsalted Peanut Butter

Cascadian Farms Concord Spread (not quite a jelly consistency but a nice flavor)
Smuckers Organic Strawberry Preserves
St. Dalfour Preserves


Claussen Kosher Dill
Cascadian Farms Sweet Pickle Relish
Meijer Organic Sweet Relish

Newman’s Own Light Cranberry Walnut vinaigrette
Olde Cape Cod Traditional Caesar Lite
Annie’s Naturals Organic Creamy Asiago Cheese Dressing
Annie’s Naturals Goddess Dressing
Blanchard & Blanchard (Country Italian & Caeser Parmesan)
Brianna’s Blush Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
Ken's Sweet Vidalia Onion (love this on chicken or turkey subs or wraps)
Kraft Balsamic Vinaigrette, dressing and marinade
Hidden Valley Ranch Original Old Fashioned Buttermilk
South Beach Living Italian Dressing with EVOO
For CHEAP:  Walmart's Great Value Zesty Italian Dressing

ICE CREAM / FROZEN NOVELTIES NOTE: Beware of ice cream that may not contain high-fructose corn syrup but contains candy pieces – the candy pieces may contain HFCS (I prefer my ice cream more plain so that's the selection here)

Breyer’s All Natural Ice Cream  (watch the ones that aren't a simple flavor, it gets ugly quick) • Dreyers/Edys Strawberry Fruit Ice Cream Bars
Haagen Daz Vanilla or Coffee (my favorites)
Breyers Pure Fruit Strawberry Fruit Bars
Luigi Italian Ice
Stoneyfield Farms Chocolate Syrup
Classico (Most varieties)

Campbell’s 25% Less Sodium Chicken Noodle Soup
Any of the Annie's Organics (I love their Thai coconut Milk Soup)

Jones Pure Cane Soda
Goose Island
Dublin Dr. Pepper (Dr. Pepper from a bottling plant in Dublin, Texas)
Sierra Mist Natural Seven Up Retro Original Dr. Pepper
Virgil’s Sodas (the cream, cherry and root beer varieties)
Note:  I drink perhaps one soda every six months as a treat.   Water the majority of your time is your friend, though I do like the Vitamin Water Zero orange flavor.


Vitamin Water Zero


Bolthouse Farms C-Boost Smoothie
Bolthouse Farms Vegetable Juice
Capri Sun ALL NATURAL 100% Juice
Horizon Flavored Milks (chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry)
Northland Cranberry Juice
Ocean Spray Grapefruit Juice
Ovaltine (dry chocolate drink mix)
Sweet Leaf Tea
Swiss Premium Iced Tea (Many varieties to choose from)

Blue Bunny Yogurt
Brown Cow
Chobani Greek Yogurt
Dannon Activa Yogurt
Dannon All Natural Vanilla Yogurt
Dannon All Natural Coffee Yogurt
Dannon Lite & Fit Vanilla Yogurt
Horizon Organic Fat Free Yogurt
Nancy's Reduced Fat Plain
Nancy’s Whole Milk Honey Yogurt
Stoneyfield Farm Yogurt
Stoneyfield Farm Yobaby Yogurt
Wallaby Organic Yogurt (All flavors)

Saturday, March 19, 2016

On Getting Back into Fitness

“The only easy day was yesterday.” – Navy SEALS

This week my routine changed quite a bit. It's an offshoot of major changes in my life in the last six months when I left field work as a Team Lead for a position that involves suits, meetings, and desks. I miss the field work, I miss my old team, but I love being home every night with my husband, and being able to turn my phone off when I go to sleep.

But the downside to that was not mental, but physical, as I was no longer walking through all kinds of terrain and bending down a lot. Plus getting to a gym when I leave the house and don't come home for 12 hours with traffic isn't a priority. (I have a house/dog sitter who checks on the place during the day and plays with and walks Abby the Lab). I found myself turning into a desk potato. Some pounds to lose notwithstanding,  I was just getting soft where I'm not supposed to BE soft and left to my own devices I'd walk the dog, do a couple push ups and then a couple of 12 ounce curls. It was enough to keep me from buying bigger jeans, but not enough where I was truly fit.
So I hired a personal trainer. She's German by birth, a young woman who owns a thriving  skin care business in Indiana (Simply Birgit which I've highlighted here before as I love her skin care) who is a full time personal trainer in addition to managing her skin care line. She in Northwest Indiana, but has business that takes her into Chicago so she makes a stop at my home once a week. We'll start slow the first couple of weeks, just general conditioning, balance, and cardio  with light weights before getting into more heavy duty strength training. I met her through her other business, and hearing her story of becoming a fitness trainer after recovery following a  bad auto accident, I was like "yes!"

She's drop dead gorgeous and when she showed up with the German accent, telling me she just ordered a shirt that said "I'm the trainer, you're the victim" I couldn't help but laugh. But she's awesome, and after an hour workout when her helping my form and working up a plan for the next 12 weeks while she'll be working with me, I feel like I will be able to  kick butt again. I felt like I'd done something positive for myself. I still have a couple of years before I turn 60 but I want to make sure I go into retirement able to handle whatever life throws my way - be it a long walking or running event for cancer awareness or simply fleeing to safety quickly in an emergency.

Don't hold my breath. Breathe out as I lift, breathe in as I release.  I repeat to myself as we finished up.

I was told to expect some soreness.  The next day even my hair hurt.
But that "a-ha" moment when I realized I was wanting to commit to getting in better than "OK for being in my 50's" shape was a trip to the grocery store a couple of weeks ago. There was no pause, there was no pondering it was just there as if a light had turned on as a hand touched a switch.

It wasn't my usual store but a big chain place that was by my bank so I went to grab just to grab milk and eggs.  What caught my eye was all the people on scooters, more than half a dozen, only one of them elderly, none sporting casts or braces or crutches or the things I had to have with me after my meniscus surgery and my two weeks of scooter days. I found that rather unsettling.
For although I'm well aware that not all illness and disability is visible, it would appear that at least some of the scooter drivers were simply too overweight to walk about the store, driving and filling up the basket with frozen pizzas, fried chicken, mayo laden salads and soda pop before they scooted out of the store.

In that moment I heard words my Dad always told me - you quit moving you die.

Even at almost 96 - and in declining health, every morning he rides his exercise bike and does stretching exercises with his exercise ball, followed by 3 reps of weight work outs. He's had a stroke - he's had cancer - I truly believe the only reason he's still here as he gets up every morning committed to MOVE. The firearm by the door has been replaced by a baseball bat (he got to the point he couldn't safely handle a weapon after the stroke) and I would NOT want to be on the receiving end of that if Dad, a career military police office, went to protect and defend.  It took him a Great War, the the loss of a baby and then a wife to fully realize the taste and savor of peace and he's not going to give it up easily and he does all he can to make sure he is as capable as he can be.
Because it's about more than the ability to navigate a store without help. It's about more than your health - the extra weight taking a toll on more than your joints.   It's about more then being a smaller size.

It's about having the ability to move to save your life there in that moment when you spot danger and your heart stills, emptying out of all but courage and what you are capable off. It's that moment when you know fear.

Fear can come when least expected. It can be flat eyes that catch yours from a darkened stand of trees, the next house too far away. It can be the portent of a funnel cloud when shelter is many yards away and seconds are all you have. It can be the sound of breaking glass from the front of your home. It can be working out in a place fit only for serpents and snakes, forensic closure not always involving dry flat land, and hearing that sound, one you'll never forget, like the splash of hands on the water.  You look at the water too close to you you and there's nothing to see but the fluid gleams of reflected stars that suddenly scurried and vanished and you realize, even as you signal the backup LEO's with weapons, that the blood has attracted a gator
That's fear, and when you've known it, it's a long time before you are restored of it, laying awake at night, the feeling in your lungs like cement, solidifying  as shattered echoes of those moments drum in your ears.

Certainly, there are other methods of self defense, and as someone who has been in law enforcement the last 18 years, raised by LEO's. (Mom was the Sheriff) I can see that someone that kicks in my front door is going to find that the laser sight dot that blossoms on their forehead IS the universal language of NO.

But not everyone carries a firearm, or is comfortable having one in the home, which I understand. What are you going to do then? Or what if someone is lying in wait and you are physically grabbed before you can draw what weapon you might have (you will be amazed how quickly someone can close 4-6 feet in the dark).
You have to be strong enough to fight or get a good poke in the eye or throat  with a set of car keys and run (that Gerber tool is gonna hurt).

You can't do that if you are both out of shape and afraid.

I was a volunteer at a family violence center for a few years. Those of you who have read my book "Saving Grace" know why.   It's not necessarily a pleasant task at times, but one that needs to be done, by those that care or who have seen it firsthand. That type of violence doesn't just happen to the poor, the uneducated the needy. We see women of all walks of life in there that just share one thing in common, that they have been scared for so long that they just get used to being that way. Sometimes you'd just find them in their room in the warm and cozy shelter home, in the dark. You can feel people in a dark room. You don't need to see them. Sometimes they're just asleep, catching up on that precious commodity, sleep where you know someone who cares is watching over your safety.
They don't sleep well, for years, violence going to bed with them each night, often drunk, normally angry. They'd lay there in the bed, trying not to move, trying to make themselves smaller and smaller so not to be noticed. Trying not to breathe for when they breathed they could hear them, hear that dark mass of anger sizing them up for what is only one persons idea of fun or a fight. They could feel the blood in their veins, the little involuntary twitch at the corner of their eye as they're shut tighter and tighter as if by doing so you will not see what you know is coming. It takes a long time to sleep well after that.

So, there in the safety of the shelter, if their bedroom door was not blocked you'd just knock and say a soft hello and tell them you'd wait outside. They'd sit there in the dark of their ruined life, sometimes with a chair propped up against the door, afraid that even in this refuge they would be found, viewing the world with an indomitable and implacable weariness.  But soon they would come out, into the light, amazed that with tools and training, they could learn to live a life of comparative calm. You would hear the stories, stories you know as they've been told so often and so hard that the words no longer were words, but were invisible welts the skin would always carry.
Violence can wear the hand of a family member, but we deal with that, with what we can. I mentor women on not being a victim, because evil can be more than something that visits us in our own home. But it also shops with us, drives with us, peering at us from a van in the shopping center parking lot, or from over their shoulder as they bend to tie their shoe as you jog on past, down that blind canyon of trees from which you will not return. A few years ago, there was a talented young woman who was kidnapped by someone she struck up a conversation with her in a national forest, a kindly looking old guy who then went on to terrorize her and kill her. She was young and very strong. She was a Black Belt but the zodiac that had stacked the cards against her that day did not care. It was a sobering revelation that the tools she thought would protect her failed her.
Martial Arts is a wonderful tool, but it's naive to think that is a representation of street self defense, in that you obviously aren't going to execute pre-planned patterns of memorized movements against an attacker. And if you learn it you must keep up the practice and skills. It's not just a force. It's a tool, a habit pattern of strength. It's a pattern of practice. It is a mind set and it doesn't make you invincible. Just because you can kick some one's but doesn't mean you're better OR bulletproof. I've spent many a afternoon compiling what remained of those that thought they were bullet proof in moments that only my own death will efface from my memory.

But even if being strong and focused is no guarantee, I can guarantee that if you are NOT strong and focused, something one day is going to hit you like a freight train, and you are not going to be prepared physically.
So, I'm going to spend money I'd rather spend on other things, for someone to mentor ME - to guide me through really tough workouts that I'd not do if I just went to the gym on my own.  I'm the personality that is best given a challenge and if that challenge is in front of me, saying "One MORE - hold it 10 seconds" when I thinking "there is NO way I can do one more", then I'm in. We will sweat as we will talk, in soft cryptic voices, of things we both understand, of being female, of the indisputable discrepancy between will and capability due to muscle and mass and using what we can to advantage.

Then at night, I'll lay upon the bed, not just for sleep but to gather strength as runners do, the window closed against the city, the clock chiming at midnight as strong and as clear as glass that shines in iron darkness. And I will breathe in clear and deep, taking up a big rush of air into my chest as I flex newly worked muscles into larger and stronger form, my eyes opening and staying that way, taking in all that is around me, that is my safety, before shutting my eyes to sleep. When I sleep, it will be in quiet and safety, next to my husband and a tube of pain relief gel.

It's more than pain, it's more than courage or will - it's awareness derived from every drop of sweat on my brow, every drop of blood on my gloved hands.  It's recognition that suddenly blossoms as if a flower released from a vacuum.  It's taking my life into my own hands, not trusting it's protection to the impotent logic and mantra of peace that has betrayed us again and again,
I'll never be 20 again, but if I'm faced with danger I want more than what is figuratively a fading light and a small bullet in an old gun. I want to be strong. I want to be able to MOVE.  I want the thread of my will and my courage to run on the same spool as the movement of muscle and the pump of a leg, running hard and fast into my remaining days.

Because whether the best option is fight OR flight, I want to be as prepared for it as I can be.

Don't hold my breath. Breathe out as I lift, breathe in as I release.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Vegans - Avert Your Eyes - Homemade "Canadian Bacon"

Food is as much a part of a country as its people. Growing up with a Swedish/Norwegian Mom, and a Norwegian Step Mom after Mom passed away, I have quite a collection of their Mom's old country recipes.  (And, of course, every good  Scandinavian has a Thor Bobblehead).

But I also do cooking from all over the world and am always happy to learn about food traditions from other countries, such as why Canadian Bacon isn't called Canadian Bacon in Canada.  Up there, it's known (among my family and friends anyway) as "back bacon".  The name refers to the cut of meat, a center-cut from the back, and distinguishes it from other bacon made typically from pork belly. It is much leaner than streaky bacon and has a wonderful taste, different from, but still excellent, as a bacon choice with HALF THE FAT of fried bacon.
I love it on a pizza but I can also  make a great egg white omelette with a little Canadian bacon, pineapple and a sprinkle of mozzarella, so it can still be part of a healthy eating plan.

But it's pricey in the stores for the amount you get.  What to do?

Make your own. No Smoker?  No problem.  Oven directions are included.  
You will  need:
1 boneless pork loin 2-3 pounds (not the smaller tenderloin)
1 tablespoon Morton Tender Quick per pound
1 Tablespoon Brown sugar per pound.
2 teaspoons maple sugar or real maple syrup per pound  (I used syrup)
1 teaspoon Hickory Smoked Salt or Applewood Smoked Salt (from Artisano's)
2 teaspoons liquid smoke (leave out if you're using a smoker rather than the oven)

Note:  I've never been a big liquid smoke fan.  But in this, in a "cure" that's then rinsed, the taste was very good and not overpowering.  But you could also substitute extra smoked salt and some smoked Paprika if using the oven method.

Trim the fat and silverskin from the loin. (putting the loin in the freezer for a bit first will help with this) Weigh.  Rub each loin with the curing mix over a plate, making sure you cover every inch and crevice. then place each one into a vacuum sealed bag (or tightly sealed freezer bag)  I like the vacuum as it presses against the meat forcing the cure into it.  Fold the bag opening down an inch like a pant cuff when adding the meat so none of the grains of the cure contaminate the sealing edges for a better seal.

You want it to cure for about six days.  Turn loin over once a day and keep your fridge between 36 and 40 degrees.  Don't worry, you'll likely have a "guard dog" or two, checking on it to make sure it stays safe.
Barkley could watch both the kitchen and back door without lifting a paw.

Remove from the cure, soak loin in spring or distilled water for 30 minutes, the pat dry. lightly season  with pepper(I dusted with some fresh cracked black pepper and McCormick Smokehouse Maple Seasoning) and refrigerate, uncovered, to dry completely before cooking.  The loin will develop a pellicle. The pellicle is a tacky skin on the meat that plays a key role in producing excellent smoked items. It acts as a sort of protective barrier for the food, playing an important role in capturing flavor and color

Then into the oven at 200 degrees F. for four hours or until the internal temperature is 145 degrees. F.

OR put in your little smoker (preheated to about 250F ) with some maple chips that soaked overnight and smoke until the internal temperature comes up to  145-150 (the higher the temp the dryer the meat but no less than 140ish to be safe).

The photo of the oven cooked version was taken with a cell phone but you get the idea (and the photo reminded me I need to go out and get a battery charger for the new camera).

MMMMMM.  It looks a bit like ham but it's not too "hammy".  It's definitely the taste of "Canadian Bacon"  (and those aren't little silver dollar sized pieces like you get at the store). Sliced thick or thin,  shared with some fresh baked bread and fixings, it will makes a great breakfast sandwhich as well on a whole grain English muffin with a poached egg.

Storage:  After it's cooled (very loosely tented with foil), store the meat in a clean zip lock bag in the fridge to let the flavors mingle 1 to 2 days. Be patient. It's worth the wait.

For freezing, keep the piece uncut. In the fridge, it will keep about 10 days (like that will happen).

The texture was perfect, and the taste?  Wow. SO much better than store bought. Thor's even shaking his head up and down to indicate he likes it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Making Muffin Tops Without a Special Pan

Want to make lower calorie, healthy "muffin tops"?

Don't buy a special pan, just use the cheap Walmart Brand "Non-Stick" Spray!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

An Alternative to the DIY Workout

The DIY Kitchen Remodel Workout - not as fun as you'd think

It's been around  six months since I started this blog.  The goal wasn't so much "dieting" as just cleaning up what I put on and in my body, having relied too much in the past on packaged foods, junk food and expensive body products full of chemicals while balancing a way too busy schedule.  It was also an incentive to get out of the chair I've been glued to for the last 18 months writing and marketing two books and "get moving!"

Not only am I eating  a lot more "real" food, I'm taking supplements such as priobotics, coconut oil and turmeric to help with digestion (always an issue with me) and inflammation. In addition, since I went into menopause at 42 but have had a pre-cancerous growth removed from my plumbing, I am NOT going to take estrogen, and I rely on a natural,  bio-identical hormone from Smoky Mountain Naturals (seriously, not a hot flash in 10 years).

I can't say I've lost more than a few pounds (mostly due to inactivity, white wine and pancakes) as I was still having some back issues from a bad fall that also tore my meniscus.  But I have been told I look younger, my skin glowing and the skin around my eyes, smoother and plumper. I also have MUCH more energy and I'm sleeping really soundly.
A Green smoothie with bits of  apple, grapes, cucumbers and spring water is actually
 tastier to me now than that bowl of Frosted Flakes used to be.

After completing a course of treatment from a great chiropractor for the back issues (which cleared up much of the knee issues) as well as seeing an acupuncturist for pain relief and stress, I'm now able to move around without constant pain. It's time to kick up my fitness levels to urge my stalled metabolism back into action.

So I hired a personal trainer.

I hate gyms, envisioning Greenpeace showing up to roll me off the treadmill back into the water because I don't exercise in size 00 spandex.

I'd rather do it at home. But I'm not really sure where to start, and left to my own devices I often have the motivation to work out of a three toed sloth.  I need a trainer, someone professional and experienced with every level of fitness.
The trainer I'm using is someone my best friend M.C. is a big fan of and provided her contact information, as they live in the same area. Birgit's s not just a professional fitness trainer, she makes this amazing vitamin C cream that I love on my face.

I'll keep you posted on how it goes, but sometimes you have to spoil yourself a little.