Where we get fit and spin (wool)

Archive for October, 2012

Fall, the Ultimate Time for Food

I always say I’m not a foodie, but I did two dishes this week that I thought were worth sharing. I don’t slavishly follow recipes, I find them to be suggestions. Most of the time it works well.

The first is a squash casserole. I was craving anything with squash or pumpkin, and sweets. I looked around the web, and I decided to approximate a pumpkin pie recipe.  All measurements are approximate. I never worry about amounts too much. I thawed a two cups of squash, added 1/4 c. molasses, 1/4 c. brown sugar, 1/4 c. w.w. flour, 1/2 cup soaked 9 grain cereal, 1/2 a can of evaporated milk, 1 t. of cinnamon, 1 t. of chinese 5 season spice,   a sprinkle of nutmeg, salt, and ginger and 2 eggs. Oh, I also threw in some pumpkin seeds and some pecans. I mixed and baked at 350 until it looked and smelled good. Hopefully I’ll be able to add a picture later, I emailed it to myself twice, and it still isn’t showing up. It isn’t very pretty anyway, just tasty.

Meatloaf in the pan with ketchup on it.Then I wanted to make a healthier meatloaf. I blended three kale leaves with a hearty splash of the leftover evaporated milk. In a bowl, I added a scant 1/4 c. of wheat bran, two slices of whole wheat bread, some steak seasoning, ketchup, a-1 sauce and Worcestshire, 1 egg and the hamburger, and the contents of the blender. It did have a green hue, but you really couldn’t taste the kale.

The Problem with Sweets

The Sweet Challenge

lots of candy

That’s what I’m talking about.

How many sweets do you eat a day? I don’t mean deserts, I mean sweet tasting things. Granola bars, fruit, cookies and pastries from the store. Breakfast cereal, sweetened beverages, the coffee’s, latte’s and smoothies. I am hereby challenging you to find out, just how many times a day do you eat sweet tasting things.


I have wanted to write a blog article extolling the virtues of molasses as a sugar substitute, since to me it is a no-brainer. I’m still going to throw a paragraph in here later on that. But thinking about this made me wonder why all the emphasis is on substituting, rather than cutting down or eliminating? Granted, we all have a sweet tooth, but much of that is cultural, rather than physical. If you are used to tasting sweet things over and over, that’s what you expect.  So I lay before you a challenge- check yourself out. How many times a day do you eat something sweet? From your cereal, doughnut and coffee in the morning, to the handful of trail mix or granola bar for a snack, the milkshake or pop with your lunch, the fruit flavored yogurt, canned fruit, or cookie. Even your alcoholic beverages, most of them are sweet too. How many hits a day are you getting of sweets? The maximum recommended amount now appears to be 25-50 grams of added sugar, depending on your calorie intake. That’s 5-10 teaspoons. That isn’t a lot, especially when you figure in all the added sugar you don’t really taste, such as in condiments.

The REAL Challenge.

You can all guess where this is headed. After you identify how many sweets you eat, where can you cut down or eliminate? Can you switch to black coffee or tea? Just have a banana with plain yogurt? Buy unsweetened cereal and cut the amount of sugar you put on it until you get to either a tiny amount or nothing. I’m not in favor of substituting, as that isn’t changing your tastes at all.

Now, before you accuse me of being a killjoy, let me just say, you can have sweets. All I’m saying is that if you lower the overall sweetness of your diet, the sweets you do eat will have more of an impact on your tastebuds, and treats will really be treats. Plus, it will eliminate lots of calories from your diet, with adding artificial ingredients. Not to mention most savory foods have lots of good things going for them. This does not mean chips! When you eat a granola bar as a snack, you are mostly getting sugar. Eat a half a sandwich instead, on whole wheat bread. I’m a big proponent of eating more real food instead of snack food. Most snack foods have nothing going for them nutritionally. Save your sugar calories for real desserts!

Back to the Molasses.

Molasses pouring out of bottleIf you are going to substitute something healthier than sugar, my money is on molasses. It has tons of flavor, and I think it is sweeter, so you use less. Plus, it is a real food, it is the cane syrup before it is refined down to white sugar, before all the good stuff is removed. It has calcium, iron and potassium in it, and a 20g serving has only 9g of sugar. If you bake with it, it is adding moisture as well. I made a really good zucchini bread using only 1/4 c. molasses and 1/4 white sugar with two apples as the sweetener. I use molasses in my oatmeal in the morning. Even with my kale in it, it is sweet enough with a scant teaspoon. Here is a great link to Whole Foods’ take on molasses. Of course, you can always find someone who claims molasses to cure most everything. Hey, and how can you talk about a food and not include some recipes?

Are you up for it?

So, pick up the gauntlet, take the challenge and let me know how you did. Was it painful to add up all the sweets? How many do you think you can eliminate? I still have a way to go. I love my chocolate, and depending on the time of the month, sometimes I’m better than others. My first cup of coffee of the day is still sweetened, but I drink it black the rest of the day. This isn’t an absolute thing, it’s a question of refinement, and how far do you want to go. Where do you want to spend your calories, and what do you want to get out of them? Just like you don’t want to waste money, don’t waste your calories.

Reason No. 43 to Love Your Leafy Greens

Ta DaA small garbage bag of Swiss Chard!

Look at all this! And after a hard frost! This is the 3rd or 4th major harvest. I cut it all down this time to put all the newspaper, compost and leaves on the garden. How can you not like a veggie that just keeps giving like this? The kale is still growing well too. I left the cabbage in too, hoping the heads will get bigger than a fist. What to do with it? Well, put it in EVERYTHING! from your scrambled eggs, soups, stews, stir fries, casseroles, and meat loaf (don’t tell my husband). Between the food processor and the blender, you can hide your leafy greens all over the place.

Can we Just Stop the Stupid?


I don’t want to save the world. In fact, if anything, I suffer from compassion burnout. I stopped listening to one of my favorite health podcasts because he wanted to change his format to focus on “green” or “sustainable” world issues. I’m not heartless, but in my mind, when you get too global you become ineffective. Scattershot into the ether seems like a wasted effort. Man’s inhumanity to man, or foolishness, becomes overwhelming when seen on the grand scale.


Instead, I believe in keeping your own house clean. If you make good choices, and influence those within your sphere to do the same, you’ve done about all you can. In that light, I would like to rant about the stupid that is in my face lately. At work, we have a Keurig:

Keurig coffee maker

I imagine that some of you out there are saying “Good for you, I love those things!” However, to me this thing is the height of counter productive stupid. First, aren’t we supposed to be worried about creating garbage and filling landfills? Have you seen all the packaging 80 of those little buggers use? Second, isn’t buying individual serving sizes the most wasteful way to do things? Shouldn’t we create coffee makers that are more efficient, not less? You can call me a kill joy, but if we care about the environment and our “carbon footprint”, isn’t our kitchen a great place to start? They make those huge travel mugs, make your coffee at home, take it with you and reheat it from time to time. And I don’t want to hear you don’t have time. If you went to bed earlier you’d also save electricity by not watching some dumb movie at 11:30. See, your mom was right.

More sacred cows die!

While I’m on the subject, how about Swiffers? Use it once and throw it away. More sanitary that way. No dirty mop.

Excuse me?

Since when is a disposable item better than reusable? Plus, you  buy all these types of mops, they stop making refills, then you get to throw them away and buy new ones! Woot-woo   *sarcasm*

I’m not without empathy. I realize there are times when you just can’t face the extra chore of washing something after you’ve used it. But should this be a way of life? I am, of course, exempting anything in the bathroom. There are reusables for some of those products, but I can’t go there. Not yet.

In the 90’s, when all this green stuff was coming to the forefront, again (I was here in the 70’s, the first time it went around) you would read, in the same magazine, how we needed to conserve, followed by an article about how much bigger homes were becoming! And cars- great, they’re making hybrids. Suv’s. How many baby boomers need an Suv, and how many just need a commuter car? Can we have some little hybrids to get us too and fro without costing our first born to buy? How about heating our homes? I just heard a statistic that the average home is now heated to 76 degrees in the winter. Seriously? I hope that isn’t true. Outside of being extremely wasteful, it isn’t even good for your health. Speaking as a northeasterner going through it right now, your body adapts to lower temperatures. The first few days are rough, but after that, your house heated to 65 seems fine. I wear a sweater in the house, and if I’m not going to be out for a long time, I don’t even put a coat on, being more used to cold.

Maybe we do need to slap some of our fellow citizens into a social conscience. I do remember talking to a young man who said he kept his house at 75 degrees all winter “’cause he liked to just wear a t-shirt inside”, besides, he wasn’t paying for it. That is what irks me, people seem to always waste what they don’t pay for. Someone is paying for it, don’t you care about them? Heat should never be included in the rent unless the landlord can put a governor on the thermostat! I know, then you’ll have a butt head of a landlord keeping the heat at 60 all the time.

Anyway, cook your chicken and squash and roasted veggies all at the same time to save your gas bill, keep the thermostat low and don’t buy disposable. Maybe we won’t save the world that way, but our little corner will be better. Turn your thermostat to 60 at night, you’ll sleep better, literally and figuratively. Plus, there have been studies that having to heat yourself burns more calories. Win-win.

In all of this, I’m assuming that the message of conservation has gotten out. Isn’t “eat locally” the new hotness? Let me know, am I wrong in assuming that most people know what they ought to do?

Your Turn

I have this blog in order to spout off about health, nutrition, and yes, just personal pleasure. I would like to engage you, the random reader and maybe get a challenge going to prompt change or re invigoration of goals. I could go into a big long spiel about how hard it is to get fit and fight the obvious trends in society, but that is belaboring the obvious. So lets just jump in:

delicious looking omeletDid you have vegetables for breakfast today?

Are you asking the computer if doughnuts count? Seriously, you want to know what’s wrong with our diet? Cake is acceptable breakfast food. Many people have pointed out that a McDonalds egg McMuffin is a reasonably good choice. I would say, if you are eating doughnuts, sure, that is a quantum leap forward. Can you do better? At least a few days a week? How about making an omelet with green pepper, onion, tomato and  mushrooms? Too much work? How about microwave an egg, and dump a large helping of salsa on it? If you read my blog, you’ve heard about my green oatmeal, and sometime soon, my husband is going to get to try kale pancakes. He’ll love, them, I’m certain. So, let me know what you are doing to improve your breakfast.

How Raw are you?

Have you heard about the raw food movement? It’s the belief that eating raw food is better for your health. I had poo-poo’d the idea, until I heard  a very persuasive, rational, balanced argument on the “fitcast” podcast. I’m not going to go all the way, certainly, but I’m certainly looking for ways to add more raw food to my diet. Lets face it, the best foods to eat raw are fruits and veggies, and that is always better for you. There are people who are “paleo”- believers in eating what our paleolithic ancesters ate, who also believe in eating raw meat. As much as I love sushi, I’m not going to eat meat that is less than rare, although I do like rare meat. So, are you raw? At least a little? How about a salad a day?

closeup of white floutFight the White

On the continuum of health, this is the basic. How much white flour and sugar are you eating? How about pasta and potatoes? I’m not totally against potatoes, they are a vegetable, but it does depend on what you do with those potatoes. My daughter did a 21 day  sugar abstinence. Can I challenge you to try it? What do you think YOU can do to reduce your consumption of those things? What have you done?


decadent drinkQuit Drinking

Seriously, stop drinking your calories. I am not a smoothie or juice person, they digest too quickly and you are tossing the fiber. Drink water, eat your calories. This doesn’t have to be 100%, but if you are having trouble losing weight, look at your beverages. And don’t try to hide behind sugar substitutes, they have more problems than a resident of a rehab.

What is the Ultimate Seasoning?

Bacon, of course. This post is prompted by a recent dinner. We had frozen a venison tenderloin last year in marinade, we thawed it, wrapped bacon around it and grilled it. Yum!
Bacon and bacon wrapped venison
That inspired me to take slice of bacon and cook my greens and onions with it, along with some hot peppers I pickled a few weeks ago. Then I took a sweet potato and apple and cooked them with bacon, then put some maple syrup and warm spices on them. Everything was superlative.

What is the allure?

So what is it about bacon that makes everything it is paired with taste so good? Of course, salt and fat are well known to enhance flavors, but bacon seems to have something far beyond those simple aspects. Is there any surprise that there are bacon of the month clubs, and websites devoted to bacon? How about bacon fan clubs? Is it the smoke flavor? Is it the texture?

The Downside

The down side of bacon, of course, the same as it’s allure: the salt and fat. While one slice has only 43 calories, 30 of those come from fat, and 1/3 of those are from saturated fat. Interestingly, according to Livestrong.com, Microwaving bacon reduces some of these things:

Bacon contains both saturated and unsaturated fat. Per slice, bacon provides around 0.6 grams of saturated fat when microwaved and 1.1 grams when pan-fried. Although slightly more than half of the fat in bacon comes from monounsaturated fats, the saturated fat content is a concern, particularly if you consume several slices with your meal. Three fried slices of bacon, for example, packs 3.3 grams – or 29.7 calories – of saturated fat. No more than 7 percent of your overall calorie intake should come from saturated fat, which can contribute to unhealthy cholesterol levels and increase your risk for heart disease or diabetes.

However, even taking this into consideration, 7% does allow for some bacon, if the rest of your diet is good. That allows for 140 calories if you eat 2000 calories. I’ve said for a long time that bacon should be treated as a condiment, not a centerpiece of a meal.
I’m not even going into the nitrates, sodium, and if any other ingredients are added. Like all your foods, you should try and find local suppliers that you can trust.


I know it sounds like I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth, I say there is no good reason to eat a hot dog, and how far is that from bacon, nutritionally speaking? A hot dog though, by definition, is much more than just meat, since a multitude of ingredients are ground up in there. It is used as a meat serving, and is delivered with a big, white flour bun, confounding the problem. In reality, though, there isn’t much to recommend bacon. Until you smell it cooking. Then all thoughts of nutrition go out the window. But again I say, just as long it is used SPARINGLY, bacon can be used as a flavoring, with the other caveat that as long as the rest of your diet is good.

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