Monthly Archives: January 2018

“Grandma’s Pizza”

This has nothing to do with my grandma whatsoever. I saw this recipe in a bread-making book and the author allowed that she didn’t know why it had that name either. At the moment I don’t care enough to investigate (have at it if the spirit moves you.

I make pizza weekly. This was a switch up. It’s a deep dish in a 9×13 pan. It was delicious! I refrigerated half and froze half in portions. I make my own crust (this was half whole wheat and half white flour) but if that’s not for you the same idea might work by using two store-bought dough crusts combined (the ones sold in balls or tubes).

I put my dough in the pan, added 3/4 cup Furmano’s Chunky Crushed Tomatoes, a conservative amount of sliced Mozzarella, a generous helping of dried Basil, and a splash of olive oil. If you try this and freeze some as I did, I suggest using a toaster oven for re-heating; microwaves make pizza mushy and you lose that wonderful crispness.

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Raw dough

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After baking (375 degrees for about 30 minutes till golden brown)

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Lake in winter

Three plus weeks into the New Year and my Kinda Sorta New Year’s Resolutions are well underway. I committed to visiting the local lake ten times. As of today I’ve gone three times. I’d rather go now before the nice-weather crowds descend in spring and early summer. I am really not a fan of combining crowds and nature. The mood is mellow now, the walkers and joggers fewer. I am glad I made a plan to do this. It really is peaceful and scenic.

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Panoramic view of main part of lake

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Two bundled walkers between the two trees

Eat, pray, love, grieve

Most of you have probably heard of the book (and subsequent) film, Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I read the book and saw the film and liked them well enough but was not blown away (as some people were). What impressed me considerably more was a subsequent book, Committed, where Gilbert explored the concept and history of commitment. It combined solid research with her personal story. There was so much information in it that I felt it deserved a second read (one I have yet to do, but still).

Eye-opening to me was that, contrary to conventional thought, the early Christian church was not a big fan of marriage and preferred people be “married” to god, not mortals. Marriage was seen as a bit frivolous even, so it’s historically inaccurate when people argue that “god” and the church have always advocated marriage. Gilbert points out that while the standard heterosexual man/woman/kids family unit has weakened and dropped in numbers, it is increasingly gay couples who want to marry and have families (and who have met resistance).

As I read Committed I had a strong sense that the author was trying to talk herself into it (i.e. a second marriage after a failed first) and was using research to buoy her decision, which in the end, is to commit to the man she met as described in Eat, Pray, Love.

I haven’t kept close tabs on Elizabeth Gilbert’s ongoing story, just occasionally checking out her Facebook page, so I was surprised to learn that not only had she split from her husband a few short years ago but had become involved with a woman soon thereafter. This woman, Rayya Elias, became ill with cancer and died recently. Gilbert’s grief is very raw and I can’t help but feel for her. She is plainly devastated.

At first – not knowing about the marital split – I was confused when I google-searched and found hit after hit about Gilbert’s “partner” who died. There has to be a better word – and I don’t know why there isn’t yet – for a same-sex girlfriend or boyfriend. “Partner” is so dry and unemotional; it doesn’t do justice to human relationships.

It’s ironic that Gilbert ended up in a gay relationship, particularly after the Hollywood treatment of Eat, Pray, Love, namely “sailing off into the sunset” with a handsome man. More so because of her thoughtful reflections on the current state of same sex couples in Committed. I don’t know if Gilbert will write another memoir that would share her subsequent story but if she does, I’d certainly be interested to read it.

Little Free Library

Have you heard of Little Free Libraries? Individuals volunteer to build and maintain them where they live. Anyone can take or deposit books. They can be found all over the world. The website has all the details as well as a map of locations. Locally, within a mile of where I live, there are three. I see that two of them are not listed on the official map. (If you know me in “real life” and want the addresses of our little free libraries, feel free to contact me.) I thought it would be fun to show you “mine.”

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Taken two days ago (we had a little snow, since melted)

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Love the red

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Looks like repurposed cupboards

I haven’t visited these too frequently (I also have a public library just about a mile from home and I’m there often). Now that I am committed to reading more, like I used to, maybe I’ll increase my visits. Mostly, I’ve returned books I’ve taken to where I found them but here are two I kept (I just found the vegan book and already made the creamy lentil soup).

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When I stopped to take photos today I found the current issue of Martha Stewart Living so I snapped it up.

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125 ways to energize your life, hot-diggity!

It has never occurred to me to start my OWN Little Free Library but this section on doing one inexpensively has got me thinking…

Easy, healthy Walnut, Date & Coconut treats

I saw this recipe on Facebook recently and I immediately made it. Shockingly, I had all the ingredients (this is almost never the case). The original recipe, posted by someone I know casually who practices a healthy lifestyle, used coconut oil as the “binder” but in the interest of an even healthier treat, I used plain water instead. I was delighted with the results!

Walnuts provide good fats, potassium, fiber, protein vitamin B6, magnesium,  iron, and a little bit of calcium. Dates provide potassium, fiber, carbs, magnesium, sugar, vitamin B6, and iron. Coconut provides saturated fat, potassium, carbs, fiber, sugar, protein, vitamin C, iron, vitamin B6,  magnesium, and a little bit of calcium.

-20 pitted dates

-1/2 cup unsweetened coconut (I buy mine from Amazon by the 4 pack)

-1/2 cup walnuts

-1/2 cup water

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Don’t feel wedded to the exact amounts or even the ingredients. This little recipe should lend itself easily to improvisation.

My Oster blender has a food processor attachment so I used that but if you don’t have a food processor you could try a regular blender; maybe break up the larger food pieces first.

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After mixing

The last step was to shape the mixture into little balls. I like to initially freeze them on a baking sheet. This made 15.

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After they were in the freezer a little while (just long enough so they don’t stick together), I bagged them and put them back in the freezer. So easy!

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A report on my “dairy free” week

I want to report on my recent, voluntary week of a dairy-free diet. It was interesting, challenging even.

First off, I didn’t plan very well. That became evident very quickly. I thought I kind of had. I moved anything dairy out of sight. I even decided it would be an egg-free week too. But what I didn’t do to any great extent was plan what I would eat. I typically have some kind of dairy every day – cheese, yogurt, and milk are the main ones. But there’s others occasionally (ricotta cheese, sour cream, butter, parmesan or romano in the plastic canisters; cream cheese and ice cream rarely). Dairy is a big group!

What no dairy for seven days did was force me to come up with substitutes and that was the big takeaway. If you’re eating less cheese, maybe you’re eating more vegetables for instance. Eating less eggs, maybe eating more whole grains. I sure wasn’t going to eat crap in place of no dairy, not when I was thinking about it so much.

Because I am already mostly vegetarian, it was a week of vegetables, home-made soup, beans, fruits, pasta, breads, whole grains, nuts & seeds, and fish (one can of tuna, two small frozen whiting fillets, and canned salmon in a soup). The only place I messed up was when I cracked open a little jar of pesto and had that with a couple meals, only to remember later that it has cheese in it! Right there on the tiny label, Romano cheese. I just wasn’t thinking. I didn’t eat any candy or chips or crackers and stuck with stove-topped popcorn and home-made cookies that aren’t full of junk for snacking and treats. I did make wonderful little dates/walnuts/coconut treats (recipe coming in future post, super easy) that someone had just posted on Facebook although I made my version just a bit healthier. (I am not one of those people who claims to have no sweet, salty or fatty cravings.)

The dairy free week made me think about how many meals I make. Even if it’s two a day most days, just to be conservative, that’s easily 700 meals a year!!!  I don’t know why that never occurred to me before. It’s work to put together wholesome, non-toxic, nutrient-rich meals from scratch on a daily basis. And I like variety (I don’t want to eat the same things every day, not even for breakfast).

The no-eggs was challenging too. Although I love eggs and with no repercussions would eat them daily, same as cheese, I try not to over-indulge. If I’m going to guess, I expect I  eat 12 (a carton) every month or 6 weeks.  On night 6 my week of no dairy or eggs I had a dream that I made scrambled eggs just for me USING 8 EGGS. In real life, I eat only one egg at a time, whether it’s adding one egg to a recipe (even if it calls for 2 or more), or adding one hard-boiled egg to a salad, or making one scrambled egg for toast or a sandwich. ONE. Only one. Dream-me was going to scarf down 8 in one sitting!

So far as feeling better or seeing any big changes, I didn’t notice anything in particular; I felt normal, regular. My allergies (to molds, dust, etc) seemed about the same, no worse. My energy was okay, nothing amazing. (Typically, if you’re going to try out a vegetarian or vegan diet, 3 weeks is the suggestion.) For me, one week of trying something – whatever it is – seems sufficient to “re-wire” my brain. I mean, that breaks my habits and makes me sufficiently conscious of them.

All said, I’ve decided to cut back on cheese. While my previous limit was no more than an ounce a day (based on something I read as “okay”) I didn’t measure it and kind of guessed. And even though I predominantly chose lower fat varieties, they’re still pretty fatty. I’m not wholly anti-fat but I haven’t seen anything convincing to negate the conventional wisdom that saturated fats contribute to the top killer of Americans, namely heart disease. I certainly have older relatives who either had or died of heart disease. Also, I’d gotten into a habit of frequently buying packaged shredded cheeses and I have to say I was never comfortable with the “anti-caking” or other preservatives that many brands contain but I kept on eating them because they were convenient and tasted good. I think I can do better now.

The little grocery store closest to me sells store brands of sliced provolone, Monterey jack, and Swiss cheese in 8 ounce packages. There are no weird additives. Each has 12 slices per pack, so each portion is well under 1 ounce. They cost more per pound than the cheeses I usually buy but I really like the idea of knowing how much I’m having (rather than guessing and probably “rounding” in my favor). This means I’ll put one slice per home-made pizza, one slice to go in a big salad, or one slice for a grilled cheese.

If I buy a block of cheese, I can cut it into portions to freeze. I’ve done this before but not so much with the idea of measuring or limiting portions. If I cut 8 portions from a one pound block to freeze, I’ll know that each one is no less than a two-day ration. This gives me a guideline. I keep improving my diet over the years and I feel good about this. I think it’s the right direction. Particularly as I noted above, in that it forces me to come up with other/better substitutes. It sure isn’t as if I’m in danger of eating too many vegetables.

(p.s. THIS week is my self-imposed Amazon-free week. No shopping, no looking at the site, no Amazon.  I have my reasons for this, one of which is simply breaking a habit. This one might be harder than cheese, not sure!)

 

NOTE: Please forgive 1-2 days’ delay in responding to comments; I definitely want to read them.

 

 

The funeral you deserve

I’ve recently noticed a TV commercial geared to seniors that talks about planning their futures, including funerals. They want older viewers to get their booklet, “nine things” seniors should know. I don’t typically pay any attention to these kinds of ads as I’m not a senior and I know they just want to sell stuff but the announcer says something odd:

“…Discover the difference between having a respectable funeral or something less than you deserve.”

How kind of them to want to explain the “difference” to us, in case we’re unsure. I have often stopped and wondered just what IS the difference between the two. And how can I discover it??

The phrase “respectable funeral” is a head-scratcher. Aren’t funerals generally supposed to be respectable by definition? I mean what might an unrespectable or disrespectable funeral look like? Would there be a cardboard box for you (maybe a big Amazon one) instead of a casket? Would people mock you and comment on what a loser you were? Maybe people would wear cut-offs and flip-flops. Or there’d be loud, burly biker dudes, and beer cans tossed about, and strangers making out in the back row. A not-respectable funeral is open to so many possibilities!

“…something less than you deserve.”

What you deserve? What dead you deserves? This makes me think of Steve Martin’s King Tut song which I’ll quote from memory: “When I die, now don’t think I’m a nut, don’t want no fancy funeral, just one like old King Tut.”  What we deserve… I expect most of us are going to get more or less what we deserve, which isn’t to say we’d like it!