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.

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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 

RABBIT! RABBIT! Welcome 2019!

Can you believe it’s already 2019? Time sure flies when you’re having fun. When I was a child, the days seemed interminable, but now I’m a seasoned senior, I can’t seem to find enough hours to do everything I have in mind. I’m either slowing down or time is moving faster. I’m thinking it’s the former! Or there’s some weird Doppler effect that falls around our aging bodies, but doesn’t affect the younger generation among whom we live. Then again, I may have just decided to live at a slower pace because I want to and I no longer am constrained by outer forces such as schedules, paychecks, or responsibilities.

CAN WE TEACH AN OLD DOG NEW TRICKS?
A new year is always a good time to turn over a new leaf. Contrary to popular myth, a dog’s capacity for learning generally doesn’t decline during the aging process. In fact, older dogs may have a more developed attention span than puppies, which can actually make the training process a little faster. They might need extra training to unlearn bad habits, but they can acquire good ones in their place.

KUNG FU MASTERS
Since human beings are smarter than dogs, we can all change behaviors that drive us or our loved ones to distraction. As a survivor of decades of broken resolutions, I think picking one specific behavior on which to focus is better than choosing a general goal, such as “I’m going to get healthy this year.” This overgeneralized goal has too many moving parts to it. Bruce Lee, or some Kung fu master, might be able to pick a whirling ninja throwing star out of thin air in mid spin without slicing off any bodily appendages, but we ordinary mortals will be riding in a speeding ambulance, hoping for a five star surgeon at the end of the route.

SHORT TERM GOALS
When I sold insurance, I would focus each week on a specific goal. For one week only, I would be the best cold caller, and the next I’d give the best service, followed by the next week of setting the most future appointments, and the next week of closing sales. In a month, I’d hit every skill and then I’d repeat the cycle. I was always fresh, always excited, and had a short term goal to accomplish on the way to the long term goal of making a living helping people while being paid on commission.

MAKE LONG TERM GOALS INTO SHORT GOALS
Many of us work in occupations with long term goals. These are difficult to meet, but having short term goals along the way to celebrate helps us keep our attitudes positive. When we look at the long year looming ahead, we might be overwhelmed. It we take one day at a time, or a week at the most, Life is more manageable. If we want to “be healthier,” we can chop this goal into several parts:
1. Sleep 7-8 hours per night
2. Drink 8 glasses of decaf non-sugared liquids a day (half water)
3. Eat more fiber, vegetables, and whole grains
4. Eat less processed foods and more home cooked foods
5. Exercise 30 minutes to an hour daily or a minimum of 150 minutes weekly
6. Reduce our sugar intake (sweetened beverages)
7. Quit smoking or reduce our nicotine use
8. Limit our alcohol to 1 drink daily for women or 2 drinks for men

SURVIVOR ISLAND
If we were to attempt this entire change all at once, we might last at most a week, unless we were under lock and key, or offered a giant reward in some “Survivor: New Year’s Resolution Island” spin-off. However, we could achieve at least one of these goals if we worked on them just one week at a time. If we make to week 8, we can feel comfortable adding in some of the other week’s behavior goals, but not all at once, when we go for months three and four. The whole purpose is to change and transform a person, not to institute a structure from the outside which they will resist or reject the moment life gets in the way.

THE ART OF PICKING A GOAL
Trust me, at some point in 2019, life will throw a monkey wrench into the best laid plans of everyone. It always does. This is when we discover if we’ve made new habits, or if we’re just play acting. By Valentine’s Day, 80% of New Years resolutions will lay beside the road of good intentions. I think this isn’t because we are failures, but because we pick the wrong resolutions. Pick a small, achievable, and measurable goal instead.

“Losing weight” is a lesser goal, since it is measurable, but it may not be achieved in a healthy manner. Drinking red pepper water isn’t healthy. Eating only 500 calories a day isn’t healthy. We have to eat enough to cover our basic metabolic needs.

“Writing an hour a day” is measurable and attainable, and it serves a purpose. We don’t have to be paid for everything we do. Our spiritual and mental health may depend on this hour well spent! Whatever goal you pick, give yourself permission to come close on most days and to try your best on all days.

GOALS AND GRACE
Some days the monkey wrench will mean 25% is all you can give as your best. Give yourself permission to celebrate achieving that much, pick yourself up, and try with God’s help for better tomorrow. We always get a fresh start at the dawn of a new day, for each sunrise is a new beginning, as if it were the first day of the rest of your life. Therefore, every day is a little new year, for there’s 365 days to follow it! Rabbit! Rabbit! Happy New Year!

Joy and Peace, Cornelia

Archaic Torso of Apollo
By RAINER MARIA RILKE, 1908

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

Rilke was secretary to the artist Henri Rodin in 1905-1906.

From Ahead of All Parting: Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Stephen Mitchell and published by Modern Library. © 1995

This is the Japanese zodiac year of the Boar. Instead of my usual rabbits, I’m celebrating with a poem in homage to Ancient Greek art as well as Japanese art with New Year themes.

https://komabatimes.wordpress.com/2015/07/13/junishi-the-unknown-aspect-of-the-japanese-zodiac/

Toyohiro Utagawa: Tai no yume Ebisu no soroban or The red snapper’s dream: Ebisu using an abacus.

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)

Thankful for Health

As I enter yet another decade of Thanksgiving, I’m most thankful for my health. Once a person enters “senior status,” good health means “managed diseases.” My young friends often whine about the difficulty of taking a single prescription per day. I just laugh, for they don’t know what truck will hit them after age 50! Most people my age have pill minders or get theirs in daily prepared packaging ready made.

One health condition that can’t be standardized is the blood glucose reading, unless you qualify for a new 24 hour wearable monitor. Otherwise you do the stick and read at different times of the day. If you’re like me, keeping track of the blood sugar readings gives you a window into your body’s response to your food choices and your commitment to an exercise plan.

I have prediabetes, so I measure my glucose in the morning and before I go exercise. My doctor says the morning should be under 100 and the preexercise reading needs to be over 100 if I’m going for anything more vigorous than a gentle walk. I don’t yet have the high readings because for 14 years I’ve eaten a Mediterranean diet and exercised daily. I still eat around 2000 calories per day, so I’m not starving myself, since my BMR is 2060.

Would they like me to lose weight? Yes, and so would I, but my blood pressure is finally normal without medication, my arteries are clear, and my depression is in remission due to medication and lifestyle commitments. We have to pick the battles we want to fight. If our weight is fat, our bodies will metabolize food differently than if our weight is muscle. Weight bearing exercises such as walking, lifting weights, or climbing stairs, will build muscle over the long haul.

When I first started walking, I couldn’t make the whole way around a city block without stopping for breath, I was so out of shape. I set a smaller goal, mastered it, and made a bigger one. I can walk a 5K now, and even if I’m the last to finish, I still am faster than everyone who didn’t enter the race. Keep a positive attitude!

Health isn’t a number on the scale or a size of clothes into which you fit. Health is more about reclaiming your positive attitude towards food as nourishment for your body, rather than as a sedative for your emotional distress. I’ve been in this place myself. I never met a chocolate donut that wouldn’t soothe my inner angst, only to give me eater’s remorse afterwards. It was a downward, addictive spiral, for I’d eat again to feel better, only to feel icky once more.

Health is also about leaving behind the bad habits that bought on high blood pressure, high blood sugar of type 2 diabetes, and prediabetes: stress, excessive caffeine, and processed foods. These foods are the heart killer trifecta of the Standard American Diet—fat, salt, and sugars. These show up in our processed meats, dairy products, and bakery goods, not to mention our condiments and desserts.

Thanksgiving Feast and Desserts

Just as we learned negative habits, we can learn positive behaviors. We don’t have to change everything all at once, but we do need to begin somewhere, sometime. Perhaps the holidays seem to be the worst time, with all the extra cooking and treating surrounding us. If we pick one behavior each week, such as measuring our food portions this week and not eating second helpings the week of Thanksgiving, we’ll be on the way to a healthier lifestyle!

Cooking a Thanksgiving Feast

Remember the words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18–

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing,

give thanks in all circumstances;

for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

SEE SLIDES ON WHAT AFFECTS YOUR BLOOD SUGAR READINGS

https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/daily-control-17/slideshow-blood-sugar-swings

HALLOWEEN SPECTERS

HALLOWEEN COSTUMES
Have you readied your costume for the annual Trick or Treat event? I saw folks shopping for costumes as early as mid September, for both adults and children. Most of these garbs aren’t scary at all, unlike the one worn by the ghosts and ghouls of ancient lore, by which I mean my neighborhood companions and I.

19th Century Spookiness

We protect children today from such horrors, but back in the 1950’s, ritual exposure under adult protection was considered part of growing up. A very small child dressed as a ghost with a pillowcase over her entire body. Only the eyes and mouth holes were cut out, plus a slit in the front for holding the basket of treats. The shifting nature of the pillowcase was part of the plan—the child couldn’t race to the next house in the dark or the eyeholes would slip and then they’d slip too. I never realized how cunning my parents were.

1950’s Neighborhood Ghost Costume

LET THE HARVEST FESTIVALS BEGIN
Halloween is the official beginning of the harvest festival season in America.
First is the Chocolate Candy season, also known as Trunk or Treat in the church. Then 22 days later is Thanksgiving, a day given over to cooking and eating, with leftovers for a week afterwards. For the next month until Christmas, cookies and homemade treats roll out of our kitchens as if we were our grandparents. Once the New Year arrives, even if we make a resolution to stop this madness, we get an invite to a Super Bowl party on February 3rd, 2019. This is all happening in less than one hundred days (95).

We do this in addition to our regular lives, of course, for we don’t let anything go. No, we merely pile stuff higher and the wonder why it collapses. It’s called the Western Life Style.

TEEN COSTUMES

LIFESTYLE POSTER CHILD
The main negative features of this lifestyle include stress (long-term and continuous, psychological), positive energy balance (excessive energy intake and low physical activity), low-quality food (both high fat and energy dense, and at the same time poor in micronutrients), and disruption of chronobiology(insufficient sleep). What toe have I not stepped on yet? As my old congregations used to say, “At first you were preaching, but now you’ve done gone to meddling!”

WESTERN LIFESTYLE DEADLY
As countries around the world adopt the Western Lifestyle, rates of metabolic syndrome and diabetes are also increasing. For 2017, the International Diabetes Foundation estimated there were 451 million (age 18-99 years) people with diabetes worldwide. These figures were expected to increase to 693 million by 2045. Almost half of all people (49.7%) living with diabetes are undiagnosed. Moreover, an estimated 374 million people are likely living with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and almost 21.3 million live births to women were affected by some form of hyperglycaemia in pregnancy.

In 2017, approximately 5 million deaths worldwide were attributable to diabetes in the 20-99 years age range. The global healthcare expenditure on people with diabetes was estimated to be USD $850 billion in 2017.

DISTURBANCE IN THE FORCE
“An acute disturbance in any of the physiological regulatory systems evokes reactions that tend to reestablish equilibrium. When the stimuli, even of moderate magnitude, tend to be repetitive or chronic, change and allostasis in one system impact on the other, and vicious cycles are created and reinforced.” The plain language translation is our bodies tend to seek equilibrium. If we lose weight, our bodies try to regain it. The vicious cycle many of us are most familiar with is losing the same amount weight over and over again.

Homemade Pizza Costume

THE FOOD WE EAT
Does what we eat make a difference? Every day a new diet fad comes down the pike, or at least a new packaging of an old one trots out for us to ride it for a while. Then we fall off that horse and look for another, with more appeal (cookie diet, anyone?).

Our food choices interact with our genetic, metabolic, and environmental factors. In obesity and metabolic syndrome, often dietary patterns are considered of central importance. In these, attention has been focused over calories, amounts, and proportions of macronutrients, and their effects on the energetic balance by themselves, and through metabolic regulators. You recognize this in the shorthand “calories in/calories out” slogan.

However, obesity, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and diabetes are way more complex operations than mere subtraction. A calorie isn’t just a calorie. That is, not all calories are created equal, although all whole foods have nutrients. Only recently have the acute effects of food ingestion, taking into consideration the type of food, and the specific effects of some nutrients, namely, fatty acids, began to be studied in relation with obesity and inflammation.

INFLAMMATORY ROLE OF FATS
Total dietary fat and saturated fat are associated with insulin resistance and high blood pressure as well as obesity-related inflammation. An immediate postprandial increase in plasma inflammatory markers after a high-fat meal had been shown in abdominally obese men. Consumption of a saturated fatty acid-rich diet resulted in a proinflammatory “obesity-linked” gene expression profile, whereas consumption of a monounsaturated fatty acid-rich diet caused a more anti-inflammatory profile. This means carnivores eating well marbled steaks every day aren’t doing their bodies long term good, but of course they’re too busy being important to have a real doctor test their blood. And they “feel fine.”

MUFA’s are foods and oils with higher amounts of monounsaturated fats, such as Nuts, Avocado, Canola oil, Olive oil, Safflower oil (high oleic), Sunflower oil, Peanut oil and butter, and Sesame oil. Everyone needs some fat in their diet, for it keeps our skin smooth, our hair lustrous, and our appetite satisfied. We don’t need fried foods or animal fats on a daily basis.

LIVER AND FAT STORAGE
The liver has two functions that directly impact the formation of excess fat: metabolism of carbohydrates (sugars) and digestion of lipids (fats). When we consume carbohydrates, our blood sugar rises, triggering a rise in insulin. That rise in insulin signals our liver to begin storing the excess glucose within its own cells. When the liver is full, it begins storing the excess carbohydrates as fat in our body fat. Sometimes that fat begins to accumulate in the liver cells, and the liver becomes fat.

Similarly, when we consume more lipids that the body can use for energy, the liver stores the excess lipids in body fat, and this excess of lipids can begin to accumulate within the liver as well. Whether the excess of food is made up of carbohydrates (sugars) or fat (lipids) —the liver stores the excess energy for future use. Often this results in excess fat accumulating in the liver itself. This is known as Fatty Liver, the first stage of NAFLD and should be viewed as a warning to change unhealthy lifestyle habits and adopt a low carbohydrate and low fat diet that is high in fresh vegetables and lean proteins.

TAKE OUT BOX
We need to eat enough quality nutrients to lose weight. Starving ourselves won’t do it, since this messes up our metabolism. Eating the good food, complex carbohydrates with fiber, for instance, and lots of vegetables full of water (spinach, zucchini, mushrooms) will help us meet our nutritional goals. Foregoing fried foods, highly processed foods, and fast foods will also improve our health. Exercise every day, if just to walk around the block. I sometimes fail on this. But I find a way to move more around the house or do big muscle chores.

Cornie’s Batgirl Costume

Time—we all have the same amount of it. What we do with it is the important thing. If I add an event to my schedule, something else has to go away. I’m not Wonder Woman. I’m not God. I might be Batgirl. I can’t do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me, but I can do all the IMPORTANT things Christ calls me to do in his power.

MORE SCIENCE
Below I’ve made some notes on the role of obesity, free fatty acids, and insulin resistance if you want more information. The link below has an excellent paper if you want to dig deeper. Low grade inflammation and free fatty acids are both implicated in NAFLD, non alcoholic fatty liver disease, which occurs when fat is deposited in the liver.

OBESITY AND INSULIN RESISTANCE
The reason why obesity is associated with insulin resistance is not well understood. Obesity is a condition characterized by an increase of body weight beyond the limitation of skeletal and physical requirements, as the result of excessive accumulation of body fat.

NOT A ROCK BAND
Free fatty acids (FFA) cause both insulin resistance and inflammation in the major insulin target tissues (skeletal muscle, liver and endothelial cells) and thus are an important link between obesity, insulin resistance, inflammation and the development of T2DM, hypertension, dyslipidemia, disorders of coagulation and ASVD.

FAT TISSUE: FACTORY AND WAREHOUSE
Adipose tissue not only stores and releases fatty acids but also synthesizes and releases a large number of other active compounds. According to this concept, an expanding fat mass releases increasing amounts of compounds such as FFA, angiotensin 2, resistin, TNF-α, interleukin 6, interleukin 1-β and others. Some of these compounds, when infused in large amounts, can produce insulin resistance.

However, any substance, in order to qualify as a physiological link between obesity and insulin resistance, should meet at least the following 3 criteria:
0. the substance should be elevated in the blood of obese people;
0. raising its blood level (within physiologic limits) should increase insulin resistance and
0. lowering its blood level should decrease insulin resistance.

So far, only FFA can meet these 3 criteria in human subjects.

Plasma FFA levels are usually elevated in obesity because
0. the enlarged adipose tissue mass releases more FFA and
0. FFA clearance may be reduced

Moreover, once plasma FFA levels are elevated, they’ll inhibit insulin’s anti-lipolytic action, which will further increase the rate of FFA release into the circulation.

The liver is more insulin sensitive than skeletal muscle.

FAT PILLS ARE REAL
Nevertheless, there is convincing evidence that physiological elevations of FFA, such as seen after a fat rich meal, inhibit insulin suppression of hepatic glucose production (HGP) resulting in an increase in HGP (1).

Acutely this rise in HGP is due to FFA mediated inhibition of insulin suppression of glycogenolysis or releasing glucose from carbohydrates.
Longer lasting elevations of FFA, however, are likely to also increase gluconeogenesis, or making glucose from non carbohydrate substances.

Chronically elevated plasma FFA levels, as commonly seen in obese diabetic and non-diabetic individuals, also cause insulin resistance.

GENES AREN’T OUR DESTINY
We know there’s a genetic component linked to the UCP3_HUMAN or mitochondrial uncoupling protein 3 and 2. Healthy pancreatic β-cells are poised to respond rapidly and efficiently to acute changes in circulating nutrient availability to maintain metabolic homeostasis.

CHRONIC EXPOSURE TO OVERNUTRITION
However, it is well recognized that chronic exposure to overnutrition, such as what occurs in obesity, results in a blunting of the insulin response to an acute stimulus.

INFLAMMATION
Whatever its origin, be it or not obesity the main initiator, the chronic low-grade inflammatory condition that accompanies the metabolic syndrome has been implicated as a major player in both the installation of the syndrome and its associated pathophysiological consequences.

WEIGHT LOSS HELPS INFLAMMATION
In good agreement with this interpretation of things, weight loss of obese patients is repeatedly verified to be associated with a decrease of inflammation biomarkers accompanied by improvement of metabolic parameters, namely, insulin sensitivity.

Monteiro, Rosário, and Isabel Azevedo. “Chronic Inflammation in Obesity and the Metabolic Syndrome.” Mediators of Inflammation 2010 (2010): 289645. PMC. Web. 11 Oct. 2018
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2913796/

Diabetes Impact on World
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29496507