IS COGNITIVE DECLINE INEVITABLE?

My mind goes often to this non planet

If I knew where my mind was, I’d be able to find it. 
My mind goes to Pluto at the drop of a hat. 
What did I come into this room to get?
And where did I park my car?

As we age, we lose brain cells. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. My mother claimed we kids were responsible for the early grey in her hair and its white was the result of the loss of brain cells, which she attributed to our wild ways driving her crazy. Neurons in the brain do die every day, but the brain grows new ones into a person’s seventies. 

Previous research suggests cognitive decline doesn’t begin before the age of 60, but this view isn’t universally accepted by scientists, much less the common public. We all have met people who’ve quit growing intellectually in their 30’s, while some have flexible minds and continue to learn new ideas and adjust their previously held thoughts when new information is presented. Some people’s capacity for memory, reasoning and comprehension skills (cognitive function) can start to deteriorate from age 45. 

Happy Birthday—Don’t return the favor.

This is why 40 was once considered “over the hill,” but folks today think of 50 as that apex. When my brother decorated my desk with dead plants and black balloons for my 40th birthday, I’m sure he meant it with tongue in cheek. However he might have been also alluding to my well known “space ranger” wandering mind. I don’t think I had cognitive decline; rather mine was more imaginative daydreaming, also known as “not paying attention.”

When I was 60, I watched a program on dementia and cognitive decline. The difference between forgetfulness and cognitive decline is the first happens occasionally and the latter affects your daily living negatively. On my recent vacation I forgot to bring toothpaste. I bought a tube at the grocery store. Cognitive decline is when you forget how to brush your teeth, you get cavities, and don’t make dentist appointments anymore. Then you lose the teeth and get dentures. Most likely someone also has to remind you to use the bubble cleaner on them and rinse them before they go in your mouth again. 
Since understanding cognitive aging will be one of the challenges of this century, especially as life expectancy continues to rise, we have to ask, what can we do to for our whole health? 

As easy as popping a pill sounds, a large recent review of studies found no solid evidence that vitamin and mineral supplements have any effect in preventing cognitive decline or dementia. The whole internet is full of health claims for this and that supplement, drink, bar, or detox tonic. While B vitamins; beta carotene; vitamins C, D or E; zinc, copper or selenium may be needed in your diet for other reasons, none of these have proved effective in preventing cognitive decline. 

How can you prevent cognitive decline? Try this combination strategy:
Four steps can improve your mental skills, even as you age—
1. following a healthy diet, 
2. getting regular exercise, 
3. socializing, and 
4. challenging your brain.

The results of the Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER), which is the latest and most impressive study, goes a step further by suggesting that if you follow all four practices, you may even reverse lost mental capacity. The FINGER study indicated those who did so not only kept cognitive skills from declining, it also improved their reasoning skills and speed in performing mental tasks.

The volunteers were randomly assigned to two groups. One set of participants—the study group—received personal nutritional counseling, exercise instruction from physical therapists, and cognitive training. They also underwent seven medical exams during the study period. They frequently met in groups for cooking classes, cognitive training, or exercise instruction. The other participants—the control group—had three medical exams, during which they received general health advice. Both groups were given mental function tests again at the end of the study.

Dr. Scott McGinnis, a neurologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital and author of The Harvard Guide to Coping with Alzheimer’s Disease, says “Healthy lifestyle behaviors can benefit people of all ages. But to have the greatest impact on late-life mental function, get started early.” 

The FINGER study’s results should offer additional encouragement to pursue a healthy, active, engaged lifestyle with regular exercise, a Mediterranean diet, and challenging mental activities because these can help preserve your mental acuity. Moreover, the FINGER study reminds us it not only helps to combine these practices, but it also helps to enjoy them as we do them. 

This wasn’t a quick fix, either. The FINGER program lasted for two years and the participants stuck with it because they were enjoying themselves. They also had become friends with others in their training groups. Although the experiment was demanding, only 12% of participants dropped out. Plus, these folks worked at their exercise—attendance was over 85% at training sessions, which included three to five exercise sessions a week, as well as 10 to 12 sessions of nutrition counseling and 144 cognitive training sessions over two years.

If you’re having trouble making healthy changes, a cooking or exercise class may help you get started and open a new circle of friends. Volunteering as a tutor, joining a community choir, or working on a political campaign can offer new intellectual challenges and social engagement. The key to making lifestyle changes is in finding a way to enjoy making them—and that is often among a group of companions who are striving for the same goal. 

Fresh vegetables and Chicken breast in Olive oil

We all make a choice in our lives. If we want good health, but don’t want to give up our television programs, we either need to pick an exercise time outside of our favorite TV shows, or hit a gym with screens. For instance, I still eat fried chicken, but only on my vacation. I eat uncured bacon on Saturdays rather than every day, and pancakes once a month. I haven’t given up my favorite foods, but I’ve put a limit on the most unhealthy ones out of respect for my body. This gives me some room for when I feel the need to self medicate with two scoops of ice cream, as when my computer died last month and I had to replace it. Making a big decision is definitely an ice cream moment for me, but I don’t need it every day anymore. 

One of my goals at Cornie’s Kitchen is to learn new skills and information to benefit the majority of persons in our world today: half of Americans and 30% of the world’s population are obese or overweight, and the cardiovascular diseases associated with obesity are increasing worldwide also. Since our children are also impacted by this health risk, we have to change our way of looking at food, exercise, time, stress, life, work, and our means of balancing the competing and complex needs in our world. 

If I can’t wave a magic wand over you, say a magic spell, or cast a potion of power over you, then at least I can help you burn through a few brain cells. They’ll grow back. Grey hair is a sign of power and wisdom.  

Joy and Peace, 

Cornie 

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ARTISAN PIZZA

I made a beautiful and healthy pizza for supper last night with whole wheat and almond flours. I added a quarter cup of the latter to cut the carb content, but it doesn’t move the calories south at all. The mix takes 1 package yeast, 1/2 Cup warm water and 1 teaspoon actual sugar (yeast food).

Set this aside to focus on mixing up the flours—1 Cup whole wheat and 1/4 Cup almond flour. If you don’t have the almond flour, use all wheat, but the carb count is more. I didn’t use salt, since the spice mix I use has salt in it. I put a tablespoon of spice into the dough, poured the yeast mix into it, and kneaded the dough for about 5 minutes.

You might need to dust your board with flour if it begins to stick. I always work on parchment paper because I can slip that into the oven and not disturb the pizza. Shape it into a circle or rectangle, but don’t won’t if it’s not perfect. It is artisan pizza, handmade by an artist, and unique, not churned out by the thousands to be exactly alike.

I chopped 6 ounces of fresh tomatoes to put on the rolled out dough, which had a tablespoon of olive oil rubbed into it to seal it up. I left all the extra juice on the chopping board. Six ounces of Kraft Italian cheeses from the package, 8 ounces of precooked chicken, a dozen asparagus half cooked in the microwave, and a generous sprinkling of an Italian spice blend, heavy on the garlic, and it went into a preheated oven at 425 F.

I set the timer for 20 minutes and went into the living room to watch the news to find out if our present administration had given away the keys to the store. We seem to be safe for another 24 hours. As the program ended, the buzzer sounded, so I walked into my kitchen.

Once I got near, the aromas of pizza began to waft out from the oven. The good smells are the result of the food reaching an appropriate high temperature to release the scents, which are the result of chemical reactions taking place in your pizza or other recipe.

Another test for pizza doneness is the eyeball—the crust should be browned and the cheese bubbly. I tend to like my pizza crunchy, so I might cook it about 5 minutes longer than most. I also cook it on a pizza stone, which evens out the heat and keeps the crust proper.

The protein and carbohydrates are about equal in this recipe, so the pizza will stick to your ribs. Two slices is a whole meal of around 400-500 calories. It’s also very tasty. Other virtues are it’s ready in about 30 minutes and uses leftovers. It’s a good way to use up the last of the spinach, mushrooms, or any other veggie that won’t serve the whole family. Plus you can make one side meatless if someone in the family is abstaining from flesh.

The only negative is cleanup, but I’d assign that to someone who didn’t cook. For the individuals living single, I believe treating yourself to special cooking by an artisan chef is a pampering we all can appreciate, and we can save about $20 in the process. I can clean up my own pots and pans for that $20, thank you. And feel virtuous enough to either save it in my coffee can for my vacation or enjoy my fancy pants coffee without shame.

I have to admit, I no longer visit the local pizza joints as often since I discovered how simple pizza is to make. Twenty minutes of this recipe is sitting down and doing something else–this is just my style! I hope you try this Artisan Pizza Recipe. Tell me how it goes for you.

Love, Cornie

Leftovers For Cinderella

EGGPLANT SOUP

I ate the traditional Thanksgiving dinner at a family setting Thursday, along with slivers of pies. The pot roast I made earlier got recycled as soup for two days after Thanksgiving. I had baked chicken with leftover carnival squash and roasted eggplant for dinner one night.

You can see the eggplant in the first soup bowl. I added some spinach and mushrooms to the potato and beef soup just to jazz it up and make it different from the asparagus and broccoli variation of the day before, which is below.

For Sunday breakfast I had French toast. I use vanilla, cinnamon, and 2 eggs with Dave’s killer bread. In a hot skillet, I pot 1 Tbs. sweet butter and cook the soaked bread slices until they’re golden brown. Then I add 1Tbs of maple syrup over the top. Using the real thing means I don’t need a lot, and often have some left over.

These are easy meals. I used the microwave to hasten the potato’s cooking to doneness, as also the asparagus stems. When you cook ahead, you have a quick dinner to make on another evening. It looks fresh by adding different veggies.

As we wind down this old year, time will compress, but obligations will mount up. We’ll be trying to squeeze a size ten foot into a size six shoe. It won’t work. We aren’t Cinderella! Take your list and chop it in half. Just do it. Spend more time being good to the ones you love. Spend less money on them. Enjoy each other’s company.

Joy and Peace, Cornie

“And are we yet alive and see each other’s face?”

Illness robs us of our tastebuds as well as our sense of smell. Sickness often robs a person of their appetite, but I’ve never had that problem. Somehow I’ve managed to eat my way through the mumps, measles, chicken pox, mononucleosis, and morning sickness. Yep, I learned how to keep my head perfectly still, grab the saltine crackers placed strategically near my bedside, and gum those square flour curatives slowly until my stomach settled. 

Once I was out of bed, I was starving. My huge breakfast would be gone by ten. I’d have an early lunch, and then another lunch at noon. By two pm, I was ravenous, but I couldn’t have dinner. I hit the ice cream container in the freezer. By four, I was exhausted, so I napped. All that chewing had tired me out. I usually rallied for dinner, and for the bedtime snack. I ate six large meals per day. My doctor said I could “Eat for two,” but I don’t think he meant two adult persons. 

I’ve never understood folks who lose their appetite. My daddy would think about his next meal as soon as he finished the current one. My mother, on the other hand, ate because it was necessary. Food wasn’t a joy to anticipate, but a function comparable to breathing. It had to be done, but one didn’t think too much about it. I always anticipate my next meal. If I’m not planning for it, or getting excited about it, something is wrong. 

This is why I like to use fresh, seasonal ingredients. Cooking with the seasons keeps your menus fresh. When food is in season, it is also at its best value. I live in the southern USA, and while we can get Mexican tomatoes in the winter, they aren’t as good as the rest of the year. They’re also more expensive. I don’t use tomatoes too much during the winter, but I’ll appreciate them all the more when they come back in season once again. 

  While dinner was in the oven tonight I entered the ingredients for the Quinoa Beef & Asparagus Bake into the Spark people recipe calculator. It has a function to post your portions to your daily meal records. I like the convenience of knowing what I’m actually eating, nutrition and calorie wise, rather than estimating. It’s a matter of accountability and discipline. 

When I do the wild & crazy dance (eating a 500 calorie chocolate bar for lunch, for instance…), I know I’m going to record this too! This was an easy meal to make, especially since I used leftover quinoa. I ate two portions tonight. I was out shopping for sandals today and decided to take it easy in the kitchen.  

P. S. If this looks familiar, it’s because I posted it under my ARTANDICON blog, where I chat about my art experiences. This is a repost for my kitchen friends!  

This makes a healthy alternative for a potluck or covered dish supper.

Minutes to Prepare: 10

Minutes to Cook: 35

Number of Servings: 6

Ingredients:

1 cup Ancent Harvest’s Quinoa, Traditional, Organic (1/4 cup dry / 46 grams) 

8 oz Beef, 90% Lean Ground Beef from Sirloin 

.5 cup, chopped Onions, raw 

2 serving Garlic 
1 tbsp Cilantro, raw 

1 tbsp Basil 

3 plum tomato Tomatoes, red, ripe, raw, year round average 

3 oz Mozzarella Cheese, part skim milk 

3 large Egg, fresh, whole, raw 

12 spear, medium (5-1/4″ to 7″ lo Asparagus, fresh 

Cook quinoa according to package directions or use leftovers. Brown 8 ounces of ground beef. Add 1/2 cup onions chopped. Cook till tender but not limp. Add 2 or more cloves chopped garlic to taste. Stir in chopped cilantro, basil, diced tomatoes, and Turn off heat. 

Spray oven safe dish with cooking spray. Lay clean trimmed asparagus across bottom. Put meat & tomato mix evenly over asparagus layer. 

Spread 3 oz mozzarella cheese over meat. Spread 2 cups cooked quinoa over this. Then mix 3 eggs in separate bowl. Pour evenly over top. Put into preheated 350F oven. 

Directions:

This could take 30 to 35 minutes at 350 F depending on the humidity outside. 

Serving Size: Makes 6 large portions or 8 lady sized portions. Serve with salad or veggies as a side. 

Number of Servings: 6

Nutritional Info

Servings Per Recipe: 6

Amount Per Serving

Calories: 269.1

Total Fat: 10.0 g

Cholesterol: 124.6 mg

Sodium: 129.4 mg

Total Carbs: 25.3 g

Dietary Fiber: 3.3 g

Protein: 19.4 g

TIME AND A TASTE OF THE NEW SPRING ASPARAGUS

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The Spring Equinox will arrive at CORNIE’S KITCHEN on March 20, at 11:57 AM CDT. Although this is less than a week away, our weather has turned back toward a late winter with falling temperatures and a cold rain. Yet we will see our sunshine and better days by the first day of spring.

Heating up the kitchen serves two purposes on a damp evening like this. Not only does the warmth of the stove make the kitchen cozy, but cooking in bulk saves energy. I baked six chicken breasts tonight. I used a combination of Rosemary and garlic herbs with olive oil brushed over the breasts. I like to do this “cook ahead” business when I have the time, so that I always have a healthy and quick option for a meal. These portions can show up as the protein power of a salad, a soup, or can be gently reheated for a main dish with pasta or rice. I can make a meal in five minutes, even when I’m tired and hungry.

I seem to be worn out lately with the time change. I travel without the benefit of a clock now that I don’t punch someone else’s Timeclock. This is one of the great privileges of working for yourself. It makes up for the lack of large amounts of money flowing into the bank account. However, retirement is that bonus time of life when a person can wake up early because they want to, drink excellent coffee in their own kitchen, take their thoughts to God, write in a journal, read the paper (actual or on line), and linger over a healthy breakfast.

I seem to be “at work” writing my novel for two hours before breakfast, then I take a meal break. I post my facebook pages, and I’m in my art studio by 10 AM. By 2:30 PM, I’m ready to eat lunch and then go take an afternoon walk. I’m done by this time. I come home to relax, eat dinner, sleep for eight hours and do it all over again. The loss of the hour on the clock means that my stomach and my sleep needs aren’t yet synchronized. I’m still on the “old” time, but I’m getting close to the “new” time.

What have I got planned for these breasts on the menu this week? Sunday and Monday will be cool, so I’m thinking CORNIE’S KITCHEN will go with a chicken, broccoli and black rice plate for dinner and a repeat of the sweet potato, asparagus and breast meal pictured for Monday. Tuesday will be a spinach salad with veggies, and a soup with chicken, black rice and veggies.

I don’t eat sandwiches too much anymore, for the commercial breads aren’t fiber dense enough to waste my carb servings on them. I’d rather have more fresh vegetables, which have more nutrients, fewer carbs and fewer calories than the bread. I’m crazy about the sweet potatoes, for they have fiber, calcium, potassium, and vitamins A and C. They have 20 grams of carbs per 1/2 cup serving.

Asparagus will keep better in the ice box if you wrap the bunch in a paper towel. It has a high respiration rate, which means that it will lose water and wrinkle. Eat what you buy within 48 hours. Asparagus stems don’t break down completely on our insides, but become food for bacteria like Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli that are associated with better nutrient absorption, lower risk of allergy, and lower risk of colon cancer (prebiotic). Only persons with gout should avoid this wonderful vegetable due to the purines.

Sauté your asparagus in a bit of olive oil with a bit of fresh garlic crushed into the pan over medium heat. All the prep work the spears need is washing and cutting off the pale woody stem ends. Don’t salt them in the pan, as this will draw water out of the stems. When they are tender, but still al dente, transfer them to the serving dish or the plates.

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Tale of the Wandering Asparagus

I had a coupon for veggies at Kroger, so I bought some of their best fruits and vegetables on sale. The broccoli looks like its on steroids & cherry tomatoes are feeling the pain of the weather increased costs. Oh, but the prize is the asparagus if you have the Kroger locality card! $2.99/pound, and the bunch I bought was only 99 cents.

Unfortunately, it was prone to wander. Sometimes these good things are too good to keep. While the clerk rang up my prize and the bagger sacked my score, my asparagus failed to walk into my basket.

Instead, a nice lady dressed in pink, who was parked beside me in the handicapped spot, said “They tried to give me your asparagus! You should go back & get it!”

When I went inside, no one knew anything. So I go out my sales receipt, checked off all the food, and said, “need asparagus!” I found it sitting upright on the asparagus display, ready to be sold again. The staff found another on a different check out counter. We were suddenly flush with asparagus!

Go get yourself some: it’s great with a little olive oil, a touch of garlic, & some rosemary. Broil it or microwave it al dente.

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