October is HOT-TOBER

In my neck of the woods, we’re calling this month HOT-TOBER, since it’s started off unnaturally hot. Where are those crisp, cool fall days the calendar promises us? They must be a figment of some other universe’s imagination. We’re starting out with temperatures in the 90F+ range, instead of 80F. While our trees are changing color, we think it’s because of the drought and shorter days, more than the cool weather. This doesn’t change our desire to make pumpkin soups or swill Pumpkin Spice Lattes, so we do this in our sandals, rather than our boots. Our first freeze might not be until mid-November, but that doesn’t mean our nights won’t be cool enough to wear a jacket. Football season will still be in full swing, and Halloween will also be an outdoor activity.

Buy a GIANT pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

For health and food, October has it all: Breast Cancer Awareness Month, National Pasta Month, Italian-American Heritage Month, and Halloween, not to mention the end of the Jewish High Holy Days with Yom Kippur and the harvest festival of the Booths. As the days fly by like so many falling leaves calling us to rake, rake, rake before the in-laws and out-laws come barreling over hill and dale for the annual feast at Thanksgiving next month and we get the urge to decorate our homes for winter, let’s pause and give October its due.

Fake Fruit Headdress

When I was a child, we planned ahead for our costumes for trick or treat night. My brothers wanted to be cowboys or pirates, so they could wrangle their toy cap guns and wear their leather vests. The pirate child had an old bandana tied around his head, ripped jeans and a big hoop earring in one ear, plus a few “scars” drawn on his face. I once went as “Carmen Miranda” complete with a plastic fruit headdress and gaudy, huge earrings. The fruit kept falling off my head, since it wasn’t well secured. This did slow down my journey from house to house, while my wild cowboy and pirate brothers raced on ahead. We finished together, however. The race isn’t always to the swift and we all got the same amount of goodies and treats. 

What I remember most is we rarely wore a jacket or sweater when we walked around the block on the last night of October, even sixty years ago. I never took a coat to school my entire senior year in high school either. This is how folks live down South. Montana may have a snowstorm before Freak-Tober, but that’s not happening in the lower latitudes. We close the schools in case of snow since no one knows how to drive in that white mess. Having lived up North, I can attest not many there can drive in it either.

Of course, I’ve also been at the top of Pike’s Peak in the middle of July and seen snow flurries. It’s a sight to behold for flatland tourists, who rarely see the white stuff at home. My dad, who rode old the cog railway up the mountain to its 14,000 foot peak, needed oxygen, which was on hand at the visitor center there. This cog railway was in continuous operation for 127 years, until age required a complete makeover, including the tracks, trains, and passenger cars, since no one makes the old design anymore. It has a 2020 opening date. It’s a great trip.

Pumpkin Palooza at my Grocery

Every form of pumpkin is in season at your local grocery store now. This is good for Vegetarians, folks who make Homemade Cookies, and those who want to Do Something Nice for Custodial Workers or Bosses or Boyfriends. Also, you can use your pumpkins in crockpot soup recipes, which are good for busy Teachers, Techies, and Mad Hatters. If you want to celebrate National Frappe Day, remember there is NO PUMPKIN in a PSL or anything else named Pumpkin Spice at your local coffee shop. This refers to the spices, not the vegetable. World Mental Health Day is celebrated along with cake days. Most of us would be better off if we put more sweetness in our lives and less sourness. Some folks claim chocolate makes insects palatable. I’m not there yet, so I’m celebrating International Skeptics Day twice in a row. 

Mid October brings us the days for World Food, National Grouch, Feral Cats, and National Bosses. I sometimes wonder who puts these lists together. I wouldn’t need a National Dictionary to figure it out, but if I Wear Something Gaudy and Eat Pasta and a Chocolate Cupcake, I’d have a running chance at it. Speaking of attire, October also has Dress Like a Dork day, National Suspenders Day, Boxer Shorts day, and Tube Top day, as well as Count your Buttons Day. If you’re rummaging in your closet, you might find a fun, handmade, and creative Halloween costume. 

Second Worst Candy Ever—
after Circus Peanuts

We wrap up the month with Cranky Co-Workers day and American Beer Day on a Sunday, which must be a pre-Monday loading of angst for the folks who hate their jobs. If they can just hold it together until Monday, they can have Chocolate all day long, spend Tuesday on the Internet watching Cat Videos, Wednesday eating Candy Corn and Pumpkin Bread, and send Fright-Tober out on the 31st with a feast of Halloween Candy and Caramel Apples, while they Carve a Pumpkin. Then TGIF it’s November, and we can put all this silliness behind us. 

Butternut Squash Soup with Leftovers

I’m attaching my recipe for Butternut Squash Soup with Chicken—I enjoyed this dish. It makes three full sized servings or six cup servings (serve with a sandwich).


I hope you all have a great October and get outside in the cooler air. Yes, I know it’s only “relatively” cooler, but after a hot summer, we’ll take anything that walks like Fall or talks like Fall, even if it’s summer in disguise.

Love, joy and peace, Cornie

October 1:   World Vegetarian Day, National Homemade Cookie Day, Rosh Hashana (New Year) 

October 2:   World Farm Animals Day, (International) Walk to School Day, 

October 2:   Name Your Car Day, National Custodial Workers Recognition Day

October 3:   Techies Day, National Boyfriend Day, Captain Kangaroo Day, National Poetry Day 

October 4:   National Vodka Day,  National Taco Day, World Animal Day, International Toot Your Flute Day, National Diversity Day, World Smile Day

October 5:   World Teachers’ Day, National Apple Betty Day, Do Something Nice Day, International Observe the Moon Night

October 6:   Mad Hatter Day

October 7:   Bathtub Day, Child’s Health Day, National Frappe Day 

October 8:   Tube Top Day, National Pierogi Day, Columbus Day ,Yom Kippur begins at Sundown 

October 9 :  Fire Prevention Day, Curious Events Day, National Moldy Cheese Day, Yom Kippur ends at Sundown

October 10:  National Cake Decorating Day,National Angel Food Cake Day, World Mental Health Day

October 11:  National Sausage Pizza Day, National Coming Out Day

October 12:  National Gumbo Day

October 13:  Silly Sayings Day, No Bra Day, International Skeptics Day

October 14:  National Chocolate-Covered Insect Day: Bug Appétit!, National Dessert Day, Be Bald and Be Free Day, National Lowercase Day, Sukkot (Festival of Booths) begins

October 15:  National Grouch Day, National Mushroom Day

October 16:  National Liqueur Day, World Food Day, National Dictionary Day, National Feral Cat Day, National Boss Day 

October 17:  National Pasta Day, Spirit Day, Wear Something Gaudy Day

October 18:  National Chocolate Cupcake Day, World Menopause Day, National Mammography Day 

October 19:  Dress Like a Dork Day, Rainforest Day, Sweetest Day

October 20:  National Brandied Fruit Day, National Suspenders Day, 

October 21:  National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day, Reptile Awareness Day, Count Your Buttons Day, International Day of the Nacho

October 22:  National Nut Day, International Stuttering Awareness Day, Simchat Torah/end of Sukkot

October 23:  iPod Day, National Mole Day (Avrogadro’s Number), TV Talk Show Host Day

October 24:  National Bologna Day, Good and Plenty Day, World Polio Day

October 25:  National Greasy Foods Day, World Pasta Day, Frankenstein Friday 

October 26:  Howl at the Moon Night, National Pumpkin Day, National Mule Day, Make a Difference Day

October 27:  Cranky Co-Workers Day, American Beer Day, Boxer Shorts Day, Mother-in-Law Day 

October 28:  National Chocolate Day

October 29:  National Cat Day, Internet Day

October 30:  National Candy Corn Day, Pumpkin Bread Day, Mischief Night

October 31:  Halloween, National Caramel Apple Day, National Knock Knock Jokes Day, Carve a Pumpkin Day



Rabbit! Rabbit! Welcome to August

“The Queen of Hearts, she made some tarts, all on a summer day: 
The Knave of Hearts, he stole those tarts, and took them quite away!”
— Lewis Carroll
I don’t know about you, but this Queen isn’t baking anything in the oven until the frost is on the pumpkin. If any rabbit Knave is stealing home baked tarts, he’s raided my ice box for goodies. And he can have them too, for I’m likely on vacation, like the rest of America. 

Beach Vacation

July was the peak month for rabbit vacations, with 51% of all bunny families leaving work for more relaxing places. Eighty percent of American families take a vacation in the summer and over two thirds of them will head for the beach. At least 43% of families have taken their children to a national park for vacation. This means the remaining 49% of us bunny peeps have about two to four weeks remaining in August in which to get our summer traveling done. The more astute in the bunny bunch may notice I threw in a small mathematical computation, as a primer of the pump of the bunny brain juices that will need to begin flowing in a few weeks when the children return to school. You’re welcome. We aim to please here in Cornie’s Kitchen.
August 15th is the first day for students returning to school in these parts. Up north, students will report a week later, or in some instances, after Labor Day in September, as we did when I was a child. Even at my advanced age, the siren call of school supplies never fails to lure me into the office store, so I’ve made a purchase of multi colored ink pens and enough writing tools to keep my journal habit fed daily. Last year they had a 3 for 1 deal on bound books, so I’m still good for those. I write my sci fi spiritual journal on a different blog,  Souljournies on WordPress, but I make the rough draft in longhand. 

Practicing Handwriting Skills

Cursive writing was once an exciting and enigmatic ticket into the secret world of grownups, for they had an undecipherable language, which only they understood. It might as well have been pig Latin, or Martian, until I was initiated into its secrets. Not many school systems teach this lost art now, but that doesn’t mean children can’t learn it outside of the classroom. Currently the only states teaching cursive in the schools are the former Confederate States of America and the Border States of the Civil War. Tradition dies hard here. 
As an artist, I think good handwriting skills help develop fine motor muscles and the neural net of the brain when a person takes handwritten notes, or when they think and write at the same time. Cursive is written more quickly than printing, but either one is better for learning than making notes on a keyboard. Of course, once we train a few generations on the keyboard, we may change the way future generations’ brains develop. This will make the future interesting, to say the least. 
As I remember my own summer vacations, around August 1st, I’d pull out my reading list that I’d ignored all of June and July. Then I’d pick the shortest books and read them in that order, while saving the longest for last. At least I’d get many read, and not get bogged down with one. We procrastinators have to have a plan if we want to get anything done. 
To get all our bunny brains back to thinking in historic terms, or to give you ideas for next year’s vacation, I’m digressing from my normal listing of holidays and celebrations. Let’s talk TRAVEL HISTORY. 
Mount Vesuvius began stirring, on the feast day of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire, in 79 CE. if you visit Pompeii and Herculaneum in Italy, you’ll see cities caught in a moment of time. A short trip up the road is the city of Rome. The Visigoths traveled south to sack Rome for three days in 410 CE. I hope you treat the holy city better if you visit. 

A Journey of Many Miles Begins With A Single Leap

In 1519, Ferdinand Magellan set sail from Seville, Spain to circumnavigate the globe. This is a long, working vacation. Bring your credit card if you decide to travel around the world. If you want to get your sea legs and crew a replica of Magellan’s ship for the 500th anniversary of his historic journey, the Bark Europa out of the Netherlands has you covered for an extended sojourn. 

Lewis and Clark started their expedition to the west in 1803, by leaving Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They were off to explore the new Louisiana Purchase, a land mass which doubled the size of the United States. A hundred years later, in 1909, Alice Huyler Ramsey became the first woman to complete a transcontinental automobile trip in a green Maxwell-30, taking 59 days to travel from New York, New York to San Francisco, California. Alice drove the whole way, achieving maximum speeds of 42 mph. She was accompanied by her two sisters in law and another friend, none of whom could drive. 

Handling Hazards Along The Route Like a Boss

The first automobile race, held the same year at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, was five-miles in length with 12,000 spectators. Austrian engineer Louis Schwitzer won with the amazing average speed of 57.4 miles per hour. The track’s surface of crushed rock and tar proved a disaster, however, breaking up in a number of places and causing the deaths of two drivers, two mechanics and two spectators. Today the Indy 500 cars run in excess of an average speed of 155 mph and the pole speed is higher, at 232 mph, since no other car is on the track. While the NASCAR Cup series pole qualifying record at the Brickyard is lower, the cars race at about the same average speed. 
In other sports news, the first America’s Cup in 1851 was won by the yacht ‘America.’ The 36th Cup matches will be held in Auckland, New Zealand in 2021, with warmup races in 2020. Babe Ruth became the first baseball player to hit 500 home runs in his career with a home run in 1929, at League Park in Cleveland, Ohio. He went on to hit 714 before retiring. There’s currently 27 players on the 500+ list, but only one of whom is active. The current leader is Barry Bonds, with 762 long ones. Another summer record holder is American swimmer Michael Phelps, who became the first person to win eight gold medals in one Olympic Games in 2008.
In 1835, The New York Sun newspaper perpetrated the Great Moon Hoax, a six part article falsely attributed to Sir John Herschel, one of the best-known astronomers of his time. The discovery of life on the moon was a feat beyond belief, since everyone knows the moon is made of green cheese! The 19th century newspapers were known to be purveyors of the “hoax of the week.” Even Samuel Clemens wrote one called “The Petrified Man,” which was reprinted in papers across the country. So much for fact-checking; it doesn’t seem to be in our DNA. The Global Warming Hoax of 1874 was an early technologically inspired falsehood attributed to transoceanic communication cables emitting magnetic energy.
Of course, we only had to wait about another century for IBM to release the personal computer in 1981. Now hoaxes can spread overnight and groups can spread a conspiracy theory with no basis in fact in the time it takes to type in a search query. Sometimes people can blur reality with fantasy by concocting a hoax to gain a brief moment fame, such as Balloon Boy. His parents set off a large balloon and then reported him missing. They even got an interview with Wolf Blitzer on cable news. They might have pulled this off, except for the child’s truthfulness:  “You guys said that, um, we did this for a show.” 
What’s not a hoax is the fact you can mine for diamonds in Arkansas. First found in 1906, the Crater of Diamonds Mine near Murfreesboro is the only active diamond mine in the USA. If you go, wear a hat and sunscreen, and bring plenty of cold drinks and a picnic lunch. It’s a great way to dig a big hole in the dirt. If you don’t strike it rich with a cache of diamonds, be glad that August, 1935 was when Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act. You’ll have a safety net to fall back on. Other presidents weren’t known for such worthy deeds. August 9, 1974, is when President Richard Nixon, in a nationwide television address, announced his resignation from the office of the President of the United States, effective at noon, because of the Watergate scandal. 
Black 14-year-old Emmett Till was brutally murdered in Mississippi in 1955, for ‘flirting’ with a white woman, galvanizing the nascent American Civil Rights Movement.  At the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. This summer we have the rise of Neo-Nazis and a President who recognizes “very fine people on both sides.”
Miles Davis released Kind of Blue in 1959, the best-selling jazz recording of all time .  Ten years later, the Woodstock Music & Art Fair opened in upstate New York. Tickets for the three-day event were $18 in advance and $24 at the gate, and there was sufficient sound for the 500,000 attendees. This year, the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock was cancelled due to site changes and booking conflicts. We’ll just have to bring the Summer of Love, Peace, and Good Vibes to whatever part of the world in which we live.
In 1854, Henry David Thoreau published Walden or Life in the Woods. Some notable quotes from his writing:
“To be awake is to be alive.” 
“I have a great deal of company in my house; especially in the morning, when  nobody calls.” 
“However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names.” 
“I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.” 

The Frost Will Soon Be On The Pumpkin

The good news is mid September marks the opening of pumpkin patches across our area, and we can each get our own personal pumpkin for our front porch. The temperatures will be a tad cooler, so sitting outside on our pumpkin thrones while we watch our crazy world go by will be as comfortable as a velvet cushion. After all, remember these days will be the history our little bunnies will look back on and say, “My oh my, rabbits sure were strange back in your day, grandma.”
Love, peace, and good vibes,
Miles Davis: Kind of Blue, full album, listen here:
Family Travel Survey 
The Story of How Handwriting Evolved, and May Soon Die Off
Southern Regional Educational Board
Magellan Anniversary Voyage
Baseball Home Run Club
Newspaper Hoaxes Through the Ages
First Cross Country Car Tour
Brickyard Race Stats

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,

Betsy Ross Sews the First American Flag


By Johnny Cash
Video: https://youtu.be/mbbGi3mTjCo



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
• 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

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.


Louisiana is still knee deep in Mardi Gras beads and King Cakes, at least until Ash Wednesday, which is the official beginning of Lent. When March 6 comes around, all the feasting turns to fasting, at least for the faithful. When I was a child, we gave up candy or soft drinks for Lent, while our parents gave up alcohol. I’m not sure who had the more difficult task, but the appearance of chocolate Easter bunnies in our straw baskets made us very glad to search for the hidden eggs out in the yard. Our parents were nobly relaxed and convivial while they urged us on. Somehow they always knew where the rabbit had hidden those eggs.


If we went to the local hamburger joint in the 1950’s, a soda was 7 ounces, the burger was 4 ounces, and the fries were about 2 1/2 ounces. We call these the “child’s menu” now, but this is actually adult servings, rather than the supersize menu items we order.

In the United States, 61% of an adult’s total diet comes from ultraprocessed foods, or foods that contains ingredients such as flavors, colors, sweeteners and hydrogenated oils, emulsifiers and other additives that you wouldn’t cook with at home. This type of processed food is the main source of added sugar in the U.S. diet. Meanwhile, Americans get less than 1% of their daily calories from vegetables.

in Canada, ultraprocessed foods account for 62%, and in the UK, that proportion is 63%. Yet research also indicates that eating ultraprocessed foods can lead to obesity, high blood pressure and cancer, the study authors say.

“Ultraprocessed foods are manufactured industrially from multiple ingredients that usually include additives used for technological and/or cosmetic purposes,” wrote the authors of the French NutriNet-Santé Study, an ongoing cohort study that launched on May 11, 2009, and performed a follow-up through December 15, 2017 (a median of 7.1 years). It was published recently in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. “Ultraprocessed foods are mostly consumed in the form of snacks, desserts, or ready-to-eat or -heat meals,” and their consumption “has largely increased during the past several decades.”

This trend may drive an increase of early deaths due to chronic illnesses, including cancer and cardiovascular disease, they say. The quick and easy comfort foods and snacks you love are chipping away at your mortality, one nibble at a time, according to new research from France: We face a 14% higher risk of early death with each 10% increase in the amount of ultraprocessed foods we eat.



To understand the relationship between ultraprocessed foods and the risk of an earlier-than-expected death, the researchers enlisted the help of 44,551 French adults 45 and older for two years. Their average age was 57, and nearly 73% of the participants were women. All provided 24-hour dietary records every six months in addition to completing questionnaires about their health (including body-mass index and other measurements), physical activities and sociodemographics.

The researchers calculated each participant’s overall dietary intake and consumption of ultraprocessed foods.

Ultraprocessed foods accounted for more than 14% of the weight of total food consumed and about 29% of total calories, they found. Ultraprocessed food consumption was associated with younger age, lower income, lower educational level, living alone, higher BMI and lower physical activity level.

Over the study period, 602 participants died. After adjusting for factors such as smoking, the researchers calculated an associated 14% higher risk of early death for each 10% increase in the proportion of ultraprocessed foods consumed.

Further studies are needed to confirm these results, the authors say. Still, they speculate that the additives, the packaging (chemicals leech into the food during storage) and the processing itself, including high-temperature processing (frying), may be the factors that negatively affect health.

However, “ultraprocessed” is a huge category of foods, and by lumping so many things together, the researchers lost sensitivity in their results and cannot pinpoint what exactly is causing the effect seen in the study. Sugar may be implicated also, not just fried foods.

People who said they ate the most processed foods, which the surveys defined as soft drinks, salty snacks, cakes, pizza and frozen meals, also showed the highest intake of added sugars based on the sugar content of these foods. Nearly 90% of the average source of added sugars, in fact, came from processed foods.

Overall, processed foods contained eight times more sugar than less processed foods such as breads, cheese and canned foods, and five times more sugar than unprocessed or minimally processed choices such as meats, fresh fruits or vegetables, grains and milk.


First of all, we live in urban areas, and garden plots are scarce, unlike our rural ancestors, who had room to grow their own food. We live in a fast world, and people are looking for convenient solutions. We’re always stretched for time. Many people today have long commutes, so the time for preparing an evening meal isn’t there. People look for quick solutions and a quickly made meal.

When selecting food, taste may be the No. 1 factor for most consumers, but price and convenience are also important. With ultraprocessed foods, that convenience factor is probably top of the list: grab and go, ready to eat. In food deserts, convenience food outlets prevail and grocery store foods are either overpriced or nonexistent. Some residential properties have rooms, but no cooking facilities. Fast food becomes an economic necessity for impoverished families and this not only aggravates their health, but depreciates their ability to move up in society.


We should look not only at the front of a package when we buy ready-made meals, but also at the back. Look at the ingredients list. Do we understand all those ingredients that go into our foods? Buy only those products with the least number of ingredients and with ingredients we understand.

Reduce the amount of fast food we eat, if possible, and eat more “plain food” made at home. Rice, baked potatoes, salads and oil and vinegar dressing are easy to prepare, along with a baked chicken or pot roast in a crock pot.

If we can’t buy fresh foods, fresh frozen foods without seasonings are also good. Read the ingredients to avoid salt and added sugar. The same goes for canned foods. Many low or no sodium vegetables are available, which can be used for nutritious soups and stews.

Moreover, if we’re responsible for the donations to food pantries, we should consider the quality and types of food we provide to our people: more protein and fewer carbohydrates would be a start toward healing poverty induced diseases, rather than the need to fulfill as many calories as possible. This latter only leads to more disease and a greater burden on the person and the health care system.

Easter Sunday is April 21—we have six weeks or 40 days in Lent, not counting the Sundays, to practice a FAST FOOD FAST. Do you think you could do this? How would it change your life? Would you have to put a priority on your and your family’s health or would you let work and activities be more important? Is food for the body a last minute decision or is it foundational for life? What is our spiritual understanding of the body?

Think on this as you consider the questions above:

He will transform our humble bodies, so that they may be conformed to his glorious body, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. ~~ Philippians 3:21

Read the French Study in JAMA—https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2723626

Americans and Processed Food—http://time.com/4252515/calories-processed-food/

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!


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)


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!


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


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.


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


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)


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.


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,