The Last Best Hope

Finishing Strong!

I completed the Spa 5K Saturday in a record time. It was my personal best, and I was thrilled to finish strong. Notice I had two bicycle attendants and the privilege of my good friend, who is the current president of the local running club, to accompany me on the last leg of the 3.2 mile route.

Admittedly, my personal best was last of all who entered, but I still beat everyone who never entered the race. I also did better than those who didn’t train to walk this distance. We do this by going out for 15 minutes the first week, and adding 5 to 10 minutes extra in each of the weeks to follow. No one does a 5K right off the batt unless a bear is chasing them!

This is the third year I’ve completed the race, and I’ve learned several good tips. First, carry my inhaler so my asthma doesn’t bother me. If I can breathe better, I can walk at a steady pace. Second, carry half a peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole grain bread to eat at the turn. This keeps my blood sugar up so I have energy for the home stretch. Third, hydrate. I carry water because I take medication that causes mouth dryness. If I feel good, I can walk well. My time was 1:07.19.34, with a pace of 21:43/M. I finished 9th in my age group and 291st of 291 women.

Finally, I don’t have to beat anyone else on the course. I only have to finish the race. Each runner or walker has his or her own individual time to beat, their own personal challenge. Of course, someone will cross the line with the best time in each age group, but each person has a personal race within the race. If we want to find good health, we must get up and get moving! It won’t come to our door via Amazon Prime or Dominos delivery service.

Finding ways to challenge our lethargy is tough, for once we begin to sit, inertia takes over. I’ve been there and worn a hole in the cushions of my couch. Sometimes I’ve had to set the kitchen timer to thirty minutes to force me to get up and turn it off. Putting on happy music, setting just one task and giving myself a coffee reward for completing it has helped me get over some of my rougher days. The worst days I had to admit I was depressed and seek treatment.

Depression is a real illness, one often found along side diabetes and heart disease. These are diseases of inflammation and depression seems to be their fellow traveler. It can be treated. We don’t have to live with the struggle of depression. Ordinary life has its own troubles, but we can live with hope and love. We don’t have to win the trophy, we merely need to do our best.

“Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift,

nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise,

nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful;

but time and chance happen to them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11)

After all, we have a higher purpose in life, for we’re here to be a witness to others. In Japan, the Ginko trees are living fossils, since they aren’t kin to any other tree still alive. When the atom bombs fell, six Ginko trees survived even though all the buildings around them were destroyed. When the trees began to bud, they were named “trees of hope.”

Hiroshima Ginko Trees

Even if we aren’t “much to look at” we can still be an inspiration to others. After all, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35). You can be the last best hope for someone today, maybe even for your own self. You are worthy. When you’re stronger, you can be a hope for someone else.

Ginko in the Autumn

THE CHANGE HAPPENS OVERNIGHT

Late in November, on a single night

Not even near to freezing, the ginkgo trees

That stand along the walk drop all their leaves

In one consent, and neither to rain nor to wind

But as though to time alone: the golden and green

Leaves litter the lawn today, that yesterday

Had spread aloft their fluttering fans of light.

What signal from the stars? What senses took it in?

What in those wooden motives so decided

To strike their leaves, to down their leaves,

Rebellion or surrender? and if this

Can happen thus, what race shall be exempt?

What use to learn the lessons taught by time.

If a star at any time may tell us: Now.

“The Consent” by Howard Nemerov

Copyright © 1977 by Howard Nemerov.

Reprinted by permission of Margaret  Nemerov.

Source: The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov (1977)

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/53817/the-consent

More about Ginko Trees—https://e360.yale.edu/features/peter_crane_history_of_ginkgo_earths_oldest_tree

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Summer Bounty Bowl

Summer Bounty Bowl

Summer is in full bloom here in Arkansas in the middle of July. We now have local crops in our grocery stores, and the tomatoes are especially sweet. A few more days on the counter top in the kitchen and they are sugar bombs!

The summer squashes are also excellent. I like the zucchini and crook neck yellow squashes small, so they will cook on the al dente side. Nothing beats the taste of corn on the cob cooked in its own husk. I take off a few outer leaves, rinse the whole under cool water, and place it on a folded paper towel in the microwave. I set the timer for 3 1/2 minutes and go about my business of cooking dinner.

I took 4 ounces of 10% fat ground beef for my cast iron frying pan. As I stirred it on medium high heat, I looked for the container of leftovers with 1/2 cup each of zucchini and summer squash, 3 ounces of tomatoes, 1/4 onion and mixed Italian herbs. Once the meat was almost brown, I added this to the pan. It heated quickly. I was glad for this, since my grocery shopping jaunt had gone longer than I planned, due to a sudden rain shower.

Not long after, I heard the microwave sound. The paper towel is handy for grabbing that hot cob! It steams well inside its own husk. Once I peeled it back, I had a handle to hold the cob upright in the pan. I took a knife and cut the kernels off into the meat mixture. By the time I threw away the cob and stirred the whole pan about a few times, the dish was ready to plate (or bowl, in this case). I used 3/4 ounce cheese to top it, and emptied the remnants of a bag of shredded cheese. It was a very filling supper. Tasty, too, or my appetite just has a much sharper edge these days!

This was a 425 calorie meal, and took no longer than 15 minutes to prepare and cook, with 28 g carbohydrates, 20 g fat, and 33 g protein. It fits into a Mediterranean diet, and can fit into a low carbohydrate food plan. Paleo diets restrict corn because it’s a grain, and grains, as well as beans and legumes, are all excluded foods. Of course, paleo allows sweet potatoes, which have a higher carb content per cup (46 g) than corn (18 g), but no one ever said the paleo diet ever made scientific sense, anthropological sense, or medical sense.

In fact, our bodies are no longer the same as Stone Age people’s, just as our world has advanced beyond that era also. One aspect this diet fantasy does get correct is its insistence on whole or minimally processed foods. Of course, this is a characteristic of all healthy eating plans. The best plans, however, are the ones which have the least restrictions and the very best plans are the ones which you will stick to for a lifetime.

You heard right–lifetime compliance. We might fall off the wagon on a vacation or for a weekend, but not for longer. Especially if we have to watch our blood sugar closely. We know the damage from unrestrained highs or lows it can cause. I once hit a telephone pole at 5 mph while on vacation in a small town in North Carolina. I had an extra 10 days while my car was repaired before I got to come home, all because I didn’t eat before I decided to drive. I’m now trained. I was fortunate not to hit another vehicle or person. I am also much more sensitive to how I feel as my blood sugar drops, since I have the traumatic memory of the thud and crash connected to the swooning feeling of my body.

Only a few scientific studies have been organized to investigate the benefits of a paleo diet for diabetes, but their samples have been small and the time short. Not enough information exists to recommend the paleo diet for other than a short term weight loss diet. It’s not a lifetime healthy eating plan due to the elimination of dairy (calcium), and grains and legumes (nutrient dense fiber and vitamin sources).

With the hot weather outside, I’ll be making tuna salad, chicken salad, and cold, quick meals. Baking will have to wait for cooler weather! Friday might be 101F, with heat factors higher. Crunchy apples and raisins will likely appear in the meat salads. And yogurt, for somehow it tastes cooler than a cloying mayonnaise dressing.

Joy and peace to all,

Cornie

Good article on Stone Age humanity here:

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-paleo-diet-half-baked-how-hunter-gatherer-really-eat/

Information on scientific studies here:

https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2016/205/4/paleo-diet-and-diabetes

Go Big or Go Home

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I meet the best people. 

I always meet the most interesting people in my local Kroger, especially on senior discount day. My younger friends say, “Never go on senior day–there’s too many old people! You’ll never get out of there and they drive down the center of the aisles.”

I just laugh. I live in a tourist and retirement community, so I’m used to folks with strange driving habits. No one here knows where they’re going, or they might be under the influence, since they’re away to play. Driving defensively is always a good choice in our neck of the woods. Besides, some of these older people are lonely, have difficulty making decisions, or just need human interaction. I consider my grocery day an opportunity to raise the general good mood of my community. After all, we have enough people across the globe who rattle sabers and stir up the dystopian pots boiling on the back of our communal cook stoves to make us want to shoo those cooks out of our collective kitchens as soon as possible, but I digress.

I was out getting some new grub, since I’d been laid up with bronchitis. I was feeling better due to antibiotics and rest. I kept bumping to this wonderfully dressed older gentleman as we passed each other up and down the canned food, coffee, and snack aisles. Finally I had to get his photo and find out more about him. Of course, in the great southern tit for tat, I shared my story too. He’s a grandfather from New York down to visit the children and grands. I like his style, for sure, and he’s used to posing for artists in his colorful fashion. I noticed him right away, since he didn’t dress like anyone from around here.

When we try to eat better as a way to improve our health, to lose weight, to lower our blood sugar or blood pressure, or just to put some discipline into our otherwise chaotic lives, we have to ask, “What does eating better look like?” We know it doesn’t like what has been “usual and customary for our neighborhood,” so we have to look for something “out of the ordinary.”

Food companies make health claims all day long some of which sound good, but are just blather. A bread marked 100% WHEAT isn’t the same as 100% WHOLE WHEAT. Also a 100% GRAIN BREAD may not have many WHOLE GRAINS in it! It just has many different ground up or milled grains in the recipe. To be a whole grain, the entire kernel has to be included. For instance, white rice is what results when the brown outer covering of the grain gets removed. This is why brown rice has more fiber and fills you up longer. You also get a larger portion size to eat. I personally go for larger portion sizes! Always go big or go home! It’s a RULE!

Another health claim is fiber. Yes we all want more fiber, because regular people are happy people. This is why I can shop on senior day and laugh. One way to get your fiber is with whole grains. The other way is with cellulose or sawdust. Yes, the FDA does let a certain amount of finely pulverized and sterilized sawdust into certain foods to keep them from caking and clumping (Parmesan cheese) and to add fiber. If you shop on a slow poke day, you have time to go with the flow and you can read the ingredients. If you’re in a hurry, use the “square inches of coverage” test: fewer words means fewer ingredients and less processing usually. Many words covering a vast space means you should leave this item on the shelf. If you can’t read the print within a magnifying glass, step away from the box! Run!

I found two 100% whole wheat tortilla brands, but one had cellulose in it. The one I took home was Mission 100% Whole Wheat Tortillas because I always ate that brand when I lived in Texas. It began in Mexico and has been around since 1949. It’s authentic. We don’t mess with a good thing in Texas, and we like our Pace piquante sauce too, because it’s still Texas made, according to a 1947 recipe.

Of course, at Cornie’s Kitchen, I go for the HOT sauce. If you’re going to have a taco or a tortilla, you should always “GO BIG OR GO HOME!” Plus, a little goes a long way and really clears out your sinuses. This is also a really good wake up greeting on scrambled eggs in the morning or on chicken/beef tacos at night

Even this heritage brand had “cellulose gum” in it, since it prevents caking and clumping, binds water, improves texture, thickens, emulsifies, and is used as a filler. Grated cheese, breads, diet foods, frozen dinners, sauces, salad dressings often include cellulose.

Cellulose is a safe and inexpensive carbohydrate that comprises the woody parts and cell walls of plants. It is a type of dietary fiber found naturally in fruits, vegetables, and cereals. The cellulose added to processed foods usu­ally comes from wood pulp (saw dust) or cotton lint. It’s also a cheap way to boost the fiber content on food labels, but it isn’t as healthful as fiber that comes from natural foods, such as chicory.

Whole Wheat Tortilla Recipe:

This is delicious, healthy and an easy alternative to store bought tortillas. While they keep well in a zipper bag, in the refrigerator, making them in small batches fresh for a quick breakfast or lunch wrap is very easy.

Number of Servings: 6 large or 12 small

Ingredients:

1.5 Cups whole wheat flour

2 Tbsp. shortening

1/2 Cup warm water

1/4 Tsp. salt

1 Tsp. Baking powder

Directions:

Combine dry ingredients. Cut in shortening either with a pastry blender, a fork, or knife, or crumble by hand. Add water slowly, to form a non-sticky dough. Amount of water needed may vary due to humidity, etc so start slowly. Dough should be able to be handled without sticking to the hands. Knead just enough to combine and form a smooth dough. Break off 12 equal size portions and roll into balls. Cover and let rest at least 10 minutes.

After dough has rested, roll out into circles, approximately 8 inches. Dough should be fairly thin. You can make less tortillas and make them larger if you like. Heat griddle or cast iron pan to medium high heat. Put tortilla into pan and allow to cook until light brown specks appear. Flip tortilla and cook the other side the same way. It’s ok if bubbles appear, as these will go down when the tortilla cools. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

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Chicken Mushroom Tortillas

Carbohydrates             Protein                    Fat

Mission tortillas 2–         28 g                           6 g                  4 g

Chicken–4 oz                                                  26 g                 3 g

Mushrooms–1 cup            3 g                         2 g

Spinach 1 1/2 oz–              1.5g                        1 g

Cheddar cheese 1 oz–                                      7 g                 9.4 g

Sour cream 1 Tbs–                                         .5 g                  2.5 g

This was a very satisfying lunch because of the whole grains, protein, fiber, and the addition of some fat. I try to keep my carbohydrates at around 30 to 40 grams per meal. I just feel better, even if I don’t lose much weight quickly. I eat the whole food, not the low fat versions, since these usually are more salty and over processed than the originals. I figure it’s better to have less of something great, than more of something terrible (this opposite is the corollary of go big or go home!).

Next time you go shopping for the family groceries, check out the interesting characters in your local store. They might be the stocker, the greeter, or someone just visiting in town. You never know what bridge you might build, or whose day you might make.

For a discussion on the difference between whole wheat and whole grain, this is a good link:

http://time.com/4639314/the-case-against-whole-wheat-and-whole-grain-bread/

The Chemical dictionary: cellulose

https://cspinet.org/eating-healthy/chemical-cuisine#hsh

Gourmet Trail Mix

Happy first day of Fall! I’m spending my day doing light duty around the condo, which means I’m not out enjoying the tempering breezes and the first colors changing in our surrounding forests here in the Lower Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. Some say the early colors are the result of heat stress or wet summers. The lack of sunlight is the reason for leaves not making the chlorophyll or green color, so the other colors in the leaves begin to show through. Actually, any stress will make the trees change early! Stress certainly makes me change, but not usually for the best. Color seems to be running about a week early across the country in most places I checked.

I found a handy interactive USA map for 2017 Leaf Color. You can move the date line and watch the colors change across the country. Very fancy these internet gurus!

https://smokymountains.com/fall-foliage-map/

While you entertain your family and plan your road trip, you might want to whip up a gourmet mix of pistachios, macadamia nuts, and deluxe unsalted mixed nuts for a healthy snack. This takes at most 5 minutes to prepare and a couple more minutes to store in airtight canisters or mason jars.

Ingredients

1 cup Wonderful pistachios (preshelled)

4 oz Planters Unsalted Premium Blend

160 grams Raisins

1 cup sahale tangerine macadamia nuts

4 tbsp Chocolate, Nestle Real Semi-Sweet chocolate chips

Mix by hand in oversized bowl. Put into large mouthed mason glass canning jars or air tight BPA free storage containers for your cabinets. Store away from heat, moisture, and sunlight.

Tips: You can vary the mix by adding different dried fruits to this trail mix.

Directions: Merely measure on a scale, mix in a bowl, and store in an airtight jar. Enjoy.

Serving Size: Makes 20 one ounce or 1/4 cup servings

Nutritional Info per serving:

• Calories: 133.9

• Total Fat: 8.4 g

• Cholesterol: 0.0 mg

• Sodium: 52.9 mg

• Total Carbs: 14.1 g

• Dietary Fiber: 1.5 g

• Protein: 2.8 g

VITAMIN AND MINERALS

• Vitamin A 0.4 %

• Vitamin B-12 0.0 %

• Vitamin B-6 5.0 %

• Vitamin C 0.4 %

• Vitamin D 0.0 %

• Vitamin E 2.3 %

• Calcium 2.0 %

• Copper 10.3 %

• Folate 0.1 %

• Iron 3.7 %

• Magnesium 6.7 %

• Manganese 11.3 %

• Niacin 0.3 %

• Pantothenic Acid 0.0 %

• Phosphorus 5.8 %

• Riboflavin 0.4 %

• Selenium 0.1 %

• Thiamin 3.8 %

• Zinc 0.1 %

SEASONAL FOODS TASTE BEST

Buy what’s ripe for the best value

“This is why tomatoes don’t taste all that great in January.”

AND they cost a small fortune! Have you ever noticed this?

Seasonal crops will taste better when they come from nearby and they’ll usually cost less due to lower transportation costs.

Right now, corn is still in season and very good. So are our local Arkansas tomatoes. I imagine many of my Kitchen peeps from other southern areas still have local produce in their farmers markets and grocery stores. Further north, September will mark the end of local produce, most likely, except for winter veggies.

Brussels sprouts are an autumn vegetable. While we can get them year round in our big box stores, they are best in season. They always show up around Thanksgiving in the upscale neighborhood grocery store in my town in their native form: on the stalk! Just like a tree! Exactly! I’d never in my whole life seen anything like it. Perhaps I was deprived as a child, an adult, and now into my deep geezerness, I’ve finally arrived.

This sprout tree makes a beautiful presentation for a family dinner, either for Thanksgiving or any other special occasion. You roast it in the oven, having brushed it with a bit of olive oil and dusted it with appropriate spices. Any internet recipe would give you an idea, but I like rosemary garlic spice mix.

To cook ordinary Brussels sprouts, most people make the mistake of boiling them, but boiling in water raises their temperature too high and tosses off the obnoxious odors. Ugh! Can’t have that!

I have always microwaved the Brussels sprouts so they would be sweet. This solves the overcooking problem. Then I was cooking a single slice of bacon in a heavy skillet as I finished off the baked chicken in the oven. I put thin sliced summer squash with parsley, rosemary and garlic into that pan to heat and tenderize al dente. When the sprouts were done, I tossed them in just to get the spices on them too.

The corn gets butter, salt and pepper. Fresh corn doesn’t need anything else. It too doesn’t need to be boiled to death. Microwave it inside its own husk. This is “steaming” and doesn’t heat up your house or use up costly energy.

I’m looking forward to acorn squash and pumpkin soup. New recipes when the weather cools off!

WEEKEND WEATHER REPORT 

Welcome to the weekend! I’m drinking coffee on a rainy morning. Folks say if you don’t like the weather in Arkansas, wait a day or so. It’s going to be different, no matter what the weather gurus say. 

Our sunny high of 82F for yesterday never panned out, for the westerly front raced in and brought the clouds and cold rain at noon instead. The thunderstorms at midnight with brilliant lightning flashes shot down any chance of seeing the famous Lyrid Meteor showers which happen every year around this time. 
Today I might have to say goodbye to Mr. Air Conditioner and say hello to Mr. Heater, since our anticipated weather will be wet and cold: 61 and 47F. We’re back to an earlier spring scenario. Nevertheless, I’ve learned the hard way from my experience in my adopted home, “Don’t put all your out of season clothes away.” In any event, drinking coffee in the morning can always bring a rainbow into my day. 
If we can’t control the weather, we can always adjust to it. If we only realized people were more like the weather, subject to storm fronts or barometric highs and lows, then we might understand why trying to control them is so difficult. At most we can guide human beings, for unlike nature, we creatures have a mind and a will. We can offer them a better way, provide consequences for poor choices and rewards for good ones, and we can be positive role models for them. 

At some point, we have to let go and let God take over the work we’re not able to effect in a contrary person. If that person is our own self, and it sometimes is–don’t get mad, I’ve been unable to let go of my own bad habits from time to time–we have to ask, “Who is the god of my life? Is it Me? Or is it the God of all creation? To whom do I answer? How can I best serve my family and the world in the this body of flesh?”

Sometimes the person we need to work on is our self. I always find drinking another cup of coffee helps my mind access the deeper levels of consciousness, or as we say in Cornie’s Kitchen, “Gosh! I think I’m coming to life now!”

Bare Cupboards 


This is the day I help relieve hunger in our city. Our church is located downtown, so we are at the heart of our community. A heart must feel and beat for the ones who live near it, not just for the ones who attend it. It’s about time to shop again, as our cupboards are getting bare. This is both good and bad news: we’re relieving needs, but not changing the system which keeps people poor. 

Some of that is human indifference and weakness: if your spouse runs off with the kids because you get a dread disease diagnosis, we most likely can’t change this. We can be there for the one left behind. It’s not just food we hand out, but prayers, consolations, and a steady presence in people’s uncertain lives. 
If you’re stressed and struggling in your own life today, stop and think of the ones on the margins of our society. Find a way to be a constructive help in their lives. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities waiting for everyone.

“Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.” ~~ Deuteronomy 15:11