Rabbit! Rabbit!

Welcome to July

Boat Sculpture

Can you believe the year is halfway over already? Those of us who mark the calendars—school teachers, parents, prisoners, and small children waiting for Christmas—are aware of these things. For others, the first day of July is just an ordinary day. July 1st, the 182nd Day of the Year, marks Second Second Half of the Year Day. This is our chance to step back, evaluate the year so far with our goals and objectives, and to take action to get back on track if necessary. Those New Year’s Resolutions might have gone by the wayside by the first of February. (FYI—I haven’t lost that 5 pounds yet.)

In the bright clarity of the summer sunshine, we might be able to set some more realistic goals. One of the best is to involve the children in our lives with a reading program. We can join in too. Nearly 40% of American high school graduates haven’t read a book of any kind in the past year, compared to 7% of college grads, according to Pew Research. Some 28% of adults ages 50 and older have not read a book in the past year, compared with 20% of adults under 50. The share of non-book readers hit a high point of 27% in 2015.

Independence Day Celebration

One of my fondest memories of summer, besides swimming lessons, library visits, backyard neighborhood cookouts, and art lessons in the city parks under the wide branches of the old oak trees, is the annual July 4th celebration. We usually spent these at home, under careful supervision of my hyper aware daddy, who was always admonishing us, “Never light a firecracker twice! You can lose a hand or an eye!” Of course, we weren’t even allowed to light these weapons of mass destruction until we were safely schooled in the white hot heat of sparklers, the temperature of which can be anywhere from 1800°F to 3000°F. For reference, this is 3X hotter than your kitchen oven and Iron (the metal, not Maiden) melts at 2800°F.

Children Playing Safely with Sparklers

Sparklers are safe enough for small children, provided they don’t stab one other like Jedi’s wielding light sabers, because the sparks are tiny, so they don’t pack the heat very long. The heated wire can cause a burn. Parental supervision is wise for the small rabbits in the family. As an old rabbit, now long in tooth, and hoary of hair, I realize child rearing philosophies have changed since my own experience. As a teacher, I recommend building competence and confidence by stages. If we give our children small tasks to learn and master, they’ll have the self assurance to tackle the next level. They need to crawl before they walk or run.

“The middle path is safest and best,” the ancient philosophers would say, or “Nothing to excess.” Some people look back on the “good old days” as the lost glory days of our country and want to return. Others remember it as a time when the goods were merely promised, but were unfulfilled. If I remember my childhood as a sunlit time, it’s because I’ve made my peace with the things I cannot change about my past. Now I work to bring that same vision to the children of today and tomorrow. If the hopes of the original Declaration of Independence are to come true for all people, then we all must believe the truths of our national founding document

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

May you have a safe and blessed Independence Day,

Joy and Peace,
Cornelia

Betsy Ross Sews the First American Flag

GRILLED CABBAGE SLICES WITH BACON OR PANCETTA
http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/cabbage-wedges-with-warm-pancetta-vinaigrette

THE RAGGED OLD FLAG
By Johnny Cash
Video: https://youtu.be/mbbGi3mTjCo

TIPS FOR SUMMER LEARNING
https://www.idtech.com/blog/summer-slide-facts-for-productive-school-break

PEW RESEARCH ON READING
https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/03/23/who-doesnt-read-books-in-america/

Advertisements

Double Chocolate Pudding Pie

I made pie for our condo game night party. My inspiration was the fruit kool-aid cool whip pie. Then my penchant for chocolate sent me to the chocolate pie recipes from the New York Times Cook Book and Epicurious for more inspiration. Somehow the lime kool-aid wasn’t exciting my fancy.

Best Pie Ever!

While I wasn’t about to do the double boiler chocolate and cream pudding thing for the pies baked from scratch, the spices in these recipes intrigued me. I also thought 0% fat Greek yogurt rather than skim milk for the instant pudding mix I had would be a healthy way to get extra protein into the dessert. If a little chocolate is good, more chocolate is better, I always say. I added 3 T cocoa and 1 tsp cinnamon plus 1/2 cup of coffee leftover from the morning to the mix. I had everything on hand but the crust and the cool whip or heavy cream, so I made a jaunt to Kroger. The cool whip was going to take too long to thaw, so I bought whipping cream, even though I don’t have a hand mixer.

Once I got home, I realized I was tired from the heat and the antibiotics I’m on weren’t helping me. But I had a party at the condo, and I wanted to be out and about, at least for a little while. So there I am, mixing all these ingredients with a fork in a large mixing bowl. Then I set it inside the refrigerator while i worked on the whipped topping. By this time, a tall glass of cold water with lemon slices and the air conditioning was reviving me.

Ingredients:
44 grams Chocolate fudge SF FF jello instant pudding or 1 box total
3 tbsp Hershey’s Cocoa 100% cacao Special Dark
0.5 serving 1 cup decaf coffee or 1/2 cup total
1 tsp Cinnamon, ground
8 oz Fage – 0%, plain (8oz) Greek yogurt

This was the easy part.

Whipped topping:
Whipping the cream might have gone as planned if I’d actually used the heavy cream I just purchased, but no—I left this in the plastic sack and used half and half instead. Perhaps I wasn’t as completely revived as I thought I was! About 10 minutes of hand whisking got the cream to soft peaks, and I slowly added 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1/4 cup Splenda to it. Then I whisked some more and gave up. I decided it would pass muster after a time in the freezer.

Ingredients:
16 tbsp KROGER half & half or 1 cup
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
12 tsp Splenda or 1/4 cup

Beat cream liquid until soft peaks form, then add slowly the vanilla and Splenda. Continue beating until combined. Fold cream mixture into the chocolate mix. If you use the half and half, you’ll never get stiff peaks. Don’t over-beat the heavy cream or you’ll get butter.

Ingredients:
168 grams Kroger chocolate graham pie crust or 1 whole pie crust
1 ounce of pecan halves

Once I folded the vanilla cream mix into the chocolate mix, I poured all of it into the crust, smoothed the top with the back of a spoon, and set the pie inside the ice box. I set the ounce of pecan halves around the edge to make it pretty. Ninety minutes later, it wasn’t set stiff enough for me, so I put it into the freezer for 20 minutes. This firmed it up fine.

You can make whipped cream even without a hand mixer or electric beater.
Use a well chilled glass or metal bowl much larger than one cup. If you use real heavy whipping cream, you’ll get the stiff peaks. Half and half doesn’t have enough fat to make that happen even if you whisk or beat all day long. Note the difference in calories, fat grams and cholesterol in the nutrition photos. If you’ve been on a lower fat meal plan for a while, the half and half is mighty rich tasting. You can make this pie both ways and see for yourself.

Nutritional Comparison of Half and Half vs. Heavy Cream Recipe

FINAL NOTES:
The chocolate pie was a hit, mostly because of the hints of coffee and cinnamon, but also because the tart Greek yogurt balances out the rich cream. It was also easy to make, and I was glad it was a forgiving recipe. Not all creative substitutions survive so well into the tasting experience.

This is a great summer dessert, since no cooking is required. It does need to set up in refrigerator for about 2 hours or go into the freezer for 45 minutes. Cut into 8 or 16 evenly sized pieces and eat immediately.

List of Ingredients:
44 grams Chocolate fudge SF FF jello instant pudding or 1 box total
3 tbsp Hershey’s Cocoa 100% cacao Special Dark
0.5 serving 1 cup decaf coffee or 1/2 cup total
1 tsp Cinnamon, ground
8 oz Fage – 0%, plain (8oz) Greek yogurt
16 tbsp KROGER half & half or 1 cup OR 1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
12 tsp Splenda or 1/4 cup
168 grams Kroger chocolate graham pie crust/1 whole crust

Tools:
0. Large mixing bowl
0. 4 cup metal or glass bowl for chilling
0. Fork, large spoon, wire whisk, spatula
0. Measuring spoons & cups

Serving Size: Makes 8 regular sized pieces or 16 “tasting” sized pieces.

Mother’s Day Leftovers

For Mother’s Day I had leftover cauliflower egg casserole. Leftovers are a mother thing, I suppose. When I was young, my brothers and I would cook our Mother a breakfast of sorts on Sunday morning. Daddy would have brought her coffee in bed, while we three messed up the kitchen making pancakes or scrambled eggs. Of course, she accepted our tribute with a gracious smile and ate it all, no matter what it actually tasted like.

Cauliflower Egg and Cheese Casserole

I’m not sure our measurements were as exact as hers. If my own young daughter’s use of salt for baking powder in a recipe is an example of thinking “they’re both white so they should act the same,” we might have mixed up our chemistry in the old kitchen back in the day also. At least we didn’t set the stove on fire, but our parents trusted us to cook unattended at an open flame even when I was ten, and my brothers were 8 and 5 years old. We’d been supervised much earlier, and “watched like a hawk” in that apprenticeship time, so if Dad strolled into the kitchen for refills, he could tell at a glance if we were on task or about to burn the house down.

I remember my Mother always ate the heel of the bread and took the last serving of any dish at the table. She let us have the choice of the best parts and took what was leftover. I once asked her about her willingness to be last, when the rest of us were falling all over each other to be first. She said, “This is my calling. This is what I do.” I think she sometimes felt unappreciated for this gift of humbleness, for when she was frayed down to her last strand, she’d swear “I’ll get more than one star in my crown when I get to heaven! I’ll shine so bright, I’ll be a whole constellation!”

We’d laugh and hug her, and Daddy would tell her she was still the best little mama ever, and she’d calm down again. Sometimes we don’t appreciate those who do the most for us, until they can’t do any more. We load up on a few good workers at the job site, but don’t train the rest to grow into those positions of responsibility. When these retire or move on, we are left bereft. Some bosses take on all their workers’ duties and then wonder why their help doesn’t do much. If we want to raise up responsible adults, we have to raise responsible young people. We get responsible young people by letting children learn to take small challenges according to their age and capabilities.

I know THEY say never make an untested dish for a party. That just takes the adventure and excitement out of the equation. This recipe was a little more complicated than my usual because I made it for a potluck at my condo this weekend. I used my imagination and prior experience to visualize the outcome. If you can’t taste and smell the recipe before you cook it, you need to keep looking for a recipe that excites and activates your senses.

Cauliflower Cake—cheese, egg, veggies casserole
Serves 4 to 6
Ingredients
• 1 small cauliflower, outer leaves removed, broken into 1 1/4-inch florets (about 4 cups)
• 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
• 1 medium red onion
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
• Melted unsalted butter, for brushing
• 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
• 1 teaspoon nigella (also known as black caraway), cumin, or black sesame seeds
• 7 large eggs
• 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped (1/4 C dried basil)
• 1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Parmesan or aged cheese
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
• Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions
1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F. Meanwhile, prepare the cake.
2. PAN BOILED CAULIFLOWER—Place the cauliflower florets and 1 teaspoon of the salt in a medium saucepan. Cover with water and simmer over medium-high heat until the florets are quite soft, about 15 minutes. They should break when pressed with a spoon. Drain and set aside in a colander to dry.
3. ALTERNATIVE COOKING PROCESS—cut cauliflower into 1 inch pieces. Put into baking dish sprayed with Pam. Microwave on high for 3 minutes or until tender.
4. Cut 4 round slices, each 1/4-inch, off one end of the onion and set aside. Dice the rest of the onion and place in a small frying pan with the oil and rosemary. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
5. Meanwhile, line the base and sides of a 9 1/2-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Brush the sides with melted butter, then mix together the sesame and other seeds and toss them around the inside of the pan so that they stick to the sides. (If you don’t have this pan, use regular pan lined with parchment paper, pan well sprayed with Pam, or make in muffin pan.)
6. Transfer the onion mixture to a large bowl. Add the eggs and basil and whisk well to combine. Add the cheese, flour, baking powder, turmeric, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and plenty of pepper. Whisk until smooth. Add the cauliflower and stir gently, trying not to break up the florets.
7. Pour the cauliflower mixture into the pan, spreading it evenly, and arrange the reserved onion rings on top. Bake until golden brown and set, about 45 minutes. A knife inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean. Let cool at least 20 minutes before slicing and serving. It needs to be served just warm, rather than hot, or at room temperature.

Recipe Notes
Turmeric: substitute curry if you don’t have turmeric.

Baking pan options: If you don’t have a springform pan, you can just use a regular 9-inch cake pan or even an 8-inch square pan, but still line with parchment paper first. Or, just spray well with Pam. There’s enough oil in the recipe and cheese to keep the whole from sticking.

Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

RABBIT! RABBIT! WELCOME TO MAY!

“April showers bring May flowers,” the old weather wisdom says. In these modern days, more rain might water our May flowers. Here in Hot Springs, thoroughbred horses ran the $1 million Arkansas Derby before a rain-drenched crowd of 45,000 at Oaklawn. Folks did not wear their fancy hats, as in the past. The infield crowd was finely turned out in rain ponchos, rain coats, and golf umbrellas instead. The winning horse, Omaha Beach, returned to Hot Springs from his California base, to handle a muddy track and to post an impressive victory nonetheless.

FANCY HAT FOR A LADY BUNNY

The Kentucky Derby kicks off the month of May on Saturday, the 4th. You don’t have to attend the festivities, but if you’d like to wear a fancy hat and drink a mint julep, the traditional recipe is to make a simple syrup by boiling 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar. Remove from heat. Add 1 1/2 cups whole, clean, fresh mint leaves to hot liquid and let cool to room temperature. Pour liquid into covered container. It will keep up to a week in the refrigerator.

When you get in the party mood, take a mint julep glass, add 1 scant ounce minted simple syrup, 2 cups crushed ice, and 2 ounces good bourbon. Then stir well. Add crushed ice to fill glass. Use a fresh mint sprig, for garnish. Some rub mint leaves over the rim of the glass to express the taste of mint oils for an extra zing. This drink is 218 calories and 27 grams of carbohydrates as made. Two of these would be a good limit for women, and 3 for men, since they are highly alcoholic in content. For people limiting carbohydrates, these would represent a large snack or a whole meal.

An alternative recipe for Mint Juleps uses Splenda or stevia. For each glass use 1/2 teaspoon Sucralose Based Sweetener or Sugar Substitute. Add 1 tsp Tap Water and dissolve. Add 6 leaves Peppermint (Mint). Crush the mint lightly with the handle of a wooden spoon. Fill glass with crushed ice. When frost forms on the glass, slowly pour in 2 fl oz (no ice) Bourbon. Stir. Garnish with a mint sprig. This has no carbohydrates and 141 calories, from the bourbon only.

On the same day, you may be more inclined to other cult traditions of the more modern cinema sort. If so, haul out your Star Wars light sabres and dust off your best lines from the eight installments of this long running saga. You might want to drink Luke Skywalker’s Blue Milk on this day and greet all you meet with a cheery, “May the Force be with you!” Bonus points if you grocery shop in costume.

May the Fourth be with you!

Blue Milk Ingredients:
• 1 cup low-fat milk
• ½ cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
• Natural plant-based blue food coloring (optional)
• 2 teaspoons unrefined sugar or non nutritive sweetener
• 3-4 ice cubes (optional) for thickness
Directions:
Step 1: Place all ingredients in a blender; process until smooth
Step 2: Pour into two glasses and drink immediately while cold

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over the French army at The Battle of Puebla in 1862. The 5th of May is a good day to add black beans and brown rice with avocados to your dinner menu. Mexican food is more than tacos on Tuesday, since it’s a seasoning or taste experience. Salsa comes in varieties as well as heat.

This holiday has its roots in America dating from our great Civil War, when France entered the conflict to create a Mexican state friendly to the confederacy, as well as to recoup Mexico’s debt to France. It’s a reminder for us today that even a century and a half ago, countries exercised global influence to gain world power and obligations.

“By the time [Latinos in California] heard about the news of the battle, they began to raise money for the Mexican troops and they formed a really important network of patriotic organizations,” says Jose Alamillo, a professor of Chicano studies at California State University Channel Islands. “They had to kind of make the case for fighting for freedom and democracy and they were able to link the struggle of Mexico to the struggle of the Civil War, so there were simultaneous fights for democracy.”

As the Confederacy collapsed, U.S. leaders were able to shift resources to resisting French intervention in Mexico and to deploy troops along the Texas-Mexico border. U.S. pressure, combined with Mexican resentment and military success against Emperor Maximilian ultimately compelled French Emperor Napoleon III to end his imperial venture in Mexico.

On the 5th at sundown, Ramadan begins. It’s the holiest month of the year for Muslims, who’ll fast from food and drink during the sunlit hours as a means of learning self-control, gratitude, and compassion for those less fortunate. If health or age make this discipline unwise, a person can limit the hours of the fast or can feed a poor person each day instead. Work days are shortened during this time and traffic is monitored more carefully, since hunger and dehydration reduce performance.

The ultimate goal of fasting is gaining greater God-consciousness, in Arabic, taqwa, signifying a state of constant awareness of God. From this awareness a person should gain discipline, self-restraint and a greater incentive to do good and avoid wrong.  In commemoration of the revelation of the Qur’an, Muslim’s holy book, which began during the month of Ramadan, Muslims attempt to read the entire book during Ramadan and gather nightly at mosques to hold special prayers during which the entire Qur’an is recited by the end of the month.

Most religions have a tradition of fasting to come closer to god and to depend less on material substances. In the dieting and health world, intermittent fasting is one of the latest fads to take hold. This ranges from a 12 hour window (7-7), which sounds like normal eating, to a 6 hour window (12 noon-6 pm), which would leave me hangry as all get out, due to hypoglycemia issues. I eat every 2 or 3 hours, but divide up my calories so I don’t overeat during the day. This is a discipline all unto itself, since I have to plan, shop, and cook. The days I have to take snacks out for away trips also involve planning.

Some people treat these diet plans like a religion. They are zealous for their weight loss journey and share it with everyone. Every body is different, so what works for one may not work for another.

What happens if you fast all day and then eat a meal? Muslims have learned to have a small, sweet snack of dates first, and then a light meal, but nothing heavy or fried. After dinner and fellowship, sleep, and early rising before sunrise to eat another meal. This is the month of Ramadan for the faithful.

On the May 11, we can Eat What We Want, and I’ll have chocolate, thank you. Remember to treat your Mother right on Mothers’ Day, or remember her blessed name.

By the end of the month, we’ll be ready to Carry a Towel on May 25, in honor of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. This book/movie is a lighthearted romp through the space time continuum, complete with initial disasters and intermediary mayhem before finally providing the answer to all of life’s questions, which is 42.

If we survive this, we’ll drag out the grill and cook us some good old burgers to celebrate Memorial Day Weekend, or as our modern world calls it, the first weekend of summer vacation. This holiday began as an effort to bind up the wounds of a battered nation. First called Decoration Day, then Memorial Day, loved ones honored the graves of America’s bloodiest war ever. Today we honor all warriors who died in the service of their country as we shoot off a bunch of fireworks and burn some burgers on the grill for the start of the summer holidays. A century and a half has dulled some memories, but not all. We still have reconciliation work to be done and wounds to heal, not to mention a lost cause to put to rest.

Speaking of conflicts, many hold claim to the hamburger. One of the most colorful is Charlie Nagreen of Seymour, Wisconsin. At the age of 15, he sold meatballs from his ox-drawn food stand at the Outagamie County Fair. Business wasn’t good and he quickly realized it was because meatballs were too difficult to eat while strolling around the fair.  In a flash of innovation, he flattened the meatballs, placed them between two slices of bread and called his new creation a hamburger.  He was known to many as “Hamburger Charlie.”  He returned to sell hamburgers at the fair every year until his death in 1951, and he would entertain people with guitar and mouth organ and his jingle:

Hamburgers, hamburgers, hamburgers hot;
onions in the middle, pickle on top.
Makes your lips go flippity flop.

I would most likely buy a burger from Hamburger Charlie, just for the entertainment value. I hope you enjoy the Month of May—we get 31 days of fun, food, and foolishness, so how can that be bad?

Joy and Peace, Cornie

SPECIAL DAYS IN MAY 2019
4—Kentucky Derby Day—Hats and Mint Juleps
4—Star Wars Day—May the fourth be with you!
5—Cinco de Mayo—An American holiday to celebrate Mexican culture
5—Ramadan begins at sunset
11—Eat What You Want Day
12—Mothers’ Day
25—Carry a Towel Day/read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for bonus points
27—Memorial Day Observance celebrations
28—National Hamburger Day
31—Memorial Day celebration

$1,000 Mint Juleps for Charity at the Kentucky Derby
https://www.courier-journal.com/story/entertainment/events/kentucky-derby/festival/2019/04/10/1-000-woodford-reserve-mint-julep-ingredients-age-churchill-downs-for-kentucky-derby/3244985002/

Ramadan in the UAE
https://www.thenational.ae/uae/ramadan-2019-faqs-what-you-need-to-know-about-the-holy-month-in-the-uae-1.853719

Ramadan in the USA

Ramadan Information Sheet

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 

Spicy Sweet Nut and Seed Mix

Cold and grey weather in December makes me want to bake in the kitchen. I must have my mother’s DNA for sure, since some of my fondest memories are of her up to her elbows into a giant mixing bowl as she stirred together the various candied fruits and nuts for the fruit cake cookies and loaves she produced in mass quantities every Christmas.

This recipe also had a significant amount of cheap whiskey in it, so when I was preaching in small towns in Arkansas, I usually let one of the ladies of the church know of my need. “Don’t you worry,” they’d tell me, “we’ll make sure this gets covered.”

A few days later I’d be invited over to this kind lady’s home for lunch. She’d have a Christmas gift for me. Inside the colorful bag would be a small flagon, double wrapped in a brown paper bag. “You don’t have to tell anyone where you got it. That’s a secret, just between you and me.”

I’d nod and smile. Christmas has always been time for secrets. My parents would hide presents up in the attic until we got big enough to pull the rope for the hidden stairs. Then they hid the gifts in the trunk of my daddy’s black Pontiac. I never knew why we weren’t able to find the keys. When we were truly old, my folks managed to keep the Christmas secrets by gift wrapping the presents at the store before we came home from school.

One of the mysteries of Christmas I discovered along the way was Santa could write as elegantly as my daddy, but I never told anyone else. After all, I had two younger siblings and I wouldn’t want to spoil his visits for them! This recipe makes a Spicy Sweet Nut and Seed Mix for snacks. You can vary it infinitely and even use it as a base for a Chocolate Bark recipe. It’s great for a share party.

Fresh out of the oven!

Ingredients

4 cups unsalted, roasted whole nuts (almonds, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts)

1 cup seeds (I used pumpkin, quinoa, and sunflower)

1/4 cup agave

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

1 Tbs brandy

227 grams chocolate chips (1 cup)

1 teaspoon kosher salt (divided)

1 teaspoon turbinado sugar

Red pepper flakes from three chili peppers

Step 1

Heat the oven to 325 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the nuts and seeds.

Step 2

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine agave, butter, red-pepper flakes and ½ teaspoon salt. Microwave until the butter has melted, about 30-40 seconds. (Alternatively, you can melt the mixture in a small saucepan on the stove.)

Step 3

Pour the butter mix over the nuts and seeds, and stir until well coated. Dump onto the prepared baking sheet and spread in an even layer. You want the nut mix spread out as much as possible.

Step 4

Bake, stirring occasionally, until the nuts are tacky and look and smell toasted, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle over the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and all of the turbinado or dark brown sugar. Let cool on the baking sheet, then transfer to a bowl and serve (or transfer to an airtight container, where they’ll keep for up to 4 days).

Nutrition information for 1 serving (24 total servings)

EGG NOG RECIPE FROM SCRATCH

Before the first frost is on the Halloween pumpkin, my local grocery store stocks the milk case with flavored egg nogs. While I think they might be rushing the season of good cheer a bit, and the rest of the world is going Gaga over the PSL, I’m not yet ready for this rich holiday beverage just yet.

Christmas in my corner of the world

I like to mark the seasons and the holidays as they come, and give each one proper due and respect. These have become like old friends, with whom I can share my memories of the way things used to be, as well as our hopes for the future to come. Once Thanksgiving’s interminable meals of turkey variations had ceased, we couldn’t bear to face another bowl of turkey soup, turkey casserole, turkey and dumplings, or chipped turkey with gravy on toast. My daddy had an uncouth expression for this recipe, so mother only served it once and last of all.

When it finally appeared on the dinner table, it was a sign of rejoicing for us, for Christmas was just around the corner! We knew soon we’d be making fruit cake, cookies, candies, and other seasonal specialties in mother’s kitchen. The grownups usually had a party at our home, so we’d get a taste of that wonderful concoction, homemade eggnog with a bit of spirits added for the celebration. We got the cup without the spirits for the early party, but I remember tasting my parents’ cup to experience the grownup beverage.

As I’ve aged, I have lost my taste for these exceptionally rich foods. I’m more like the babies in their high chairs: I want my flavors and textures distinct and discernible. One day I may need a divided plate to keep my foods from touching, but not yet. Of course, the idea of a milky, alcoholic drink with eggs in it dates back to a medieval British drink called “posset,” writes Elizabeth Dias for Time. “By the 13th century,” she writes, “monks were known to drink a posset with eggs and figs. Milk, eggs and sherry were foods of the wealthy, so eggnog was often used in toasts to prosperity and good health.”

The dead of winter was good time to celebrate survival and to lubricate the social bonds to bring about continued prosperity of the community. The wealthy could afford those expensive ingredients to make eggnog in Britain, but in America it became a common drink due to the number of farms. Rum became the alcohol of choice, since rum from the Caribbean wasn’t taxed as heavily as European spirits like brandy.

George Washington’s recipe for eggnog suggests the founding father had a strong stomach. He forgot to specify how many eggs should be used in it, but cooks of the era thought a dozen or so would be good. Washington’s recipe includes the usual ingredients—sugar, milk, cream, eggs—but adds one pint of brandy, half a pint of rye, half a pint of rum and a quarter pint of sherry to the mix. Raise one to the father of the country!

FAMILY EGGNOG RECIPE

My aunt gave me a handwritten book of over one hundred recipes when I got my first apartment in art school. One was for Christmas Eggnog, which isn’t “just something to drink, but a traditional Christmas ceremony in Dixie, when friends and family gather together to enjoy Yuletide festivities.”

Her recipe served 12 and had 12 of nearly everything:

12 eggs separated

12 Tbs sugar

12 Tbs whiskey

12 Tbs Jamaican rum

1 quart whipping cream

Nutmeg

For Auntie ‘s recipe, separate the yolks and whites. Beat the yolks till light, then add sugar slowly, and beat again till light. Add the liquor very slowly; don’t dump it in all at once! Keep beating while adding the liquor. Beat egg whites to stiff peaks in separate bowl and fold into yolk mixture. Whip the cream till it expands to double in size. Fold this into the mix of eggs and whites. Tradition serves this drink in small cups with grated nutmeg topping and a silver spoon. A thin slice of rum soaked fruit cake accompanies it on a plate. My understanding is with fruit cake, the more rum it has, the better it is, or that may be the eggnog talking.

TRADITIONAL EGGNOG RECIPE

I put a traditional egg nog recipe through my recipe program. I didn’t care for what I saw! This drink wouldn’t be on my healthy eating plan. Then I decided to adjust the recipe. I decided not to use the full sugar or whole milk, but opted for the lesser caloric bombs. I kept the full fat whipping cream, since it’s there to give body and thickness to the drink. This texture is important. Save the 2 egg whites for adding to an omelet for a meal. Don’t waste them.

Nutritional Values

Ingredients—

1 vanilla bean (or 1 Tbs real vanilla extract)

4 cups milk 2%

2/3 cup sugar (2/3 cup or 32 tsp Splenda for diabetics)

4 whole large eggs

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Scotch whisky, bourbon, or rum (optional)

Cinnamon or allspice for topping

Servings–Makes 12 servings of about 1/2 cup each (before adding 1 oz. alcohol)

Directions–

Split the vanilla bean in half by holding one end down on a cutting board and running a knife away from your hand and down the length of the bean. Open up the bean, and then use the back side of the knife to scrape out the black seeds. Place the seeds and the husk (or the 1 Tbs real vanilla) in a small saucepan along with the milk and sugar or Splenda.

Heat over medium low heat, stirring regularly to prevent burning until the surface is foamy and the milk is steaming hot.

In a large bowl, add the whole eggs and egg yolks and whisk until pale yellow and foamy. Place the bowl on a wet towel so it doesn’t slip, and then pour the hot milk into the egg mixture while whisking constantly (it may be easier to have someone help you). It’s important to keep the egg moving as you add the hot milk, otherwise it will clump.

If you’re concerned about Salmonella, measure the temperature of your mixture with a candy thermometer and if it has not hit 160 degrees F, pour it all back into the pot and cook over low heat while stirring constantly until the mixture reaches 160 degrees. If you heat it anymore, the egg will curdle.

Whisk in the cream and serve warm, or chill in the fridge. I like to serve the alcohol on the side, so people can add as much or as little as they like. This respects the designated drivers, as well as those who don’t drink alcohol for personal reasons. Remember adding alcohol adds calories and carbohydrates. One ounce of alcohol per hour is the most the average person can metabolize. Consuming more than four (4) drinks on a single night is considered binge drinking, an unhealthy lifestyle activity. Consider drinking every other nog beverage without spirits to slow your imbibing down, or choose water instead.

HOLIDAY GREETINGS

I hope you have a safe and blessed holiday, whether you celebrate Christmas, Kwanza, or Hanukkah, and may the joy of life and the promise of hope be always in your hearts and minds. Let’s all pledge to choose one better action for our health in 2019 and keep after this one thing! We can do it!

Love, Joy, and Peace,

Cornie