Menu in a Processed Food Wilderness

After a NASCAR vacation and a Spiritual Formation Academy, I’ve been off my food plan. Yes, I’ve been living just like the majority of other people. I eat food without weighing, measuring, or knowing its provenance. While I tried to avoid my known risk foods (rolls), often low fiber parboiled white rice was on the menu. Also nitrate cured sausages full of salts, and canned vegetables, also salted, made frequent appearances.

 Once again, I was in the wilderness of eating what everyone else eats. Others may not have difficulty with this method yet, but for my prediabetic body, it’s not the mana of God’s providence. It will keep a body going, but it contributes to my gaining weight quickly due to the high glycemic index. The salt was worse for my blood pressure, since I don’t cook with this spice.

 I managed to get my steps in on most days, but not being in my own kitchen had its drawbacks. At least I could cook my own meals at the races, but an excellent Detroit pizza in Austin, Texas may have exceeded all of my nutritional goals for several days. Oh well.


Uncured Bacon, Avocado Toast, Spinach Omlette health

This is now water under the bridge and maybe also water on the body. I think much of it was salt induced water retention, since any outside food has more salt. This is by definition, since most commercial kitchens use industry providers as their food sources. While this saves money for them, it causes the customers to spend money on their health complications from high blood pressure and obesity, or from metabolic syndrome.

 If we think of the needs of the few and the needs of the many, and the costs of treating diseases, we might rethink the system of “cheap is good” with regard to food. The total estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes in 2012 was $245 billion, including $176 billion in direct medical costs and $69 billion in reduced productivity.

 People with diagnosed diabetes incur average medical expenditures of about $13,700 per year, of which about $7,900 is attributed to diabetes.

 People with diagnosed diabetes, on average, have medical expenditures approximately 2.3 times higher than what expenditures would be in the absence of diabetes.(Jun 22, 2015, American Diabetes Association)

 The indirect costs are—

1. increased absenteeism ($5 billion) and

2. reduced productivity while at work ($20.8 billion) for the employed population,

3. reduced productivity for those not in the labor force ($2.7 billion),

4. inability to work as a result of disease-related disability ($21.6 billion), and

5. lost productive capacity due to early mortality ($18.5 billion).

 Metabolic syndrome, number of risk factors, and specific combinations of risk factors are markers for high utilization and costs among patients receiving medical care.

 Diabetes and certain risk clusters are major drivers of utilization and costs. Costs for subjects with diabetes plus weight risk, dyslipidemia, and hypertension were almost double the costs for subjects with prediabetes plus similar risk factors ($8,067 vs. $4,638).

When I began to eat more home cooked meals, more low glycemic vegetables, fewer potatoes, less white rice, more whole grains in moderation (portion size), and leaner meats cooked with less oils, not only did I lose some weight, but I could exercise and boost my attitude. Exercise helped control my blood sugar readings too. Reducing salt by omitting processed foods lowered my blood pressure. I spent less time and money at the doctors’ offices, so I could spend more for better quality foods.

If the average person with prediabetes saves about $4,000 per year in medical costs over a person with diabetes, this adds about $75 a week to your food budget.

If money is something you burn every day of your life, you just have more money than you have sense, as we say in the Kitchen. Of course, I was raised by Depression Era parents, so leftovers are always a meal choice (think soup) in Cornie’s Kitchen. Wasting food is wasting money, but that’s a subject for another day.

God bless you, and be well! Cornie.



Can I live on $4.17 per day for 7 days? I went to Texas Motor Speedway for NASCAR and Indy Car racing. While I was at the Lodge I stay at when I go over for these weekends, I usually shop at the Brookshire’s grocery in the next town over bay. 

I just spent $86 on a week’s groceries–my normal average. I normally eat “high on the hog,” as the old timers used to say. Eating unprocessed foods cooked in my own kitchen is healthier for my pre diabetic body than foods manufactured with too many salts and added sugars. These boxed preparations also have the fibers ground out of them for some reason. Maybe they’ve been between too many steel plates or under too high heat during the processing. Or, it could be the difference between a food cooked to an al dente texture versus mush. 
I did buy things I didn’t need: 

  • $ 4 Stacy’s Pita Chips (2 bags for price)
  • $10 olive oil (I didn’t remember if I had any)
  • $ 5 Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate baking cocoa
  • $10 beer (for medicinal purposes, you understand…)
  • $29 Extra food items. 

 This is still $57 total or about $28 over my total SNAP budget of $29.17

Obviously, I joined the SNAP challenge after shopping and while on vacation. In hindsight, this isn’t the best way to go! An interesting aspect of food insecurity in America today is how the economy is affecting younger seniors, aged 50-59, who typically don’t have small children at home and who are often the first to be laid off since they often have the highest pay. 

“Good nutrition is important to help keep the body’s immune system healthy and to prevent chronic diseases. Research has shown that access to enough food is necessary for a healthy life.20 However, we know that in America not everyone has access to nutritionally balanced meals at all times. As a result, millions of Americans feel the physical, emotional, and psychological effects of hunger and our nation feels the negative economic effects. Those who are food insecure experience significantly poorer health, are more likely to suffer from depression, and are more likely to see a psychologist.21 ”….pdf (page 3)

This is the dinner I call Spinach Taco Salad. I don’t use lettuce because it has almost zero nutritional value, so it’s a waste of the food dollar. It has a tomato, a bell pepper, onion and garlic, and 4 ounces of 85/15 drained ground beef. It also has about one cup of baked sweet potato and one serving of Stacey’s jalapeño chips. This is 510 calories, 29 grams carbs, 29 grams protein, and 16 grams of fat. This is acceptable nutrition for someone with prediabetes who has their blood sugar under control with diet and exercise. 

Maybe we don’t shop with our eyes open because we’re worn out just trying to make it from day to day. How much emotional energy do you spend just trying to get home in one piece from your job? Some people spend that same amount of energy trying to hold their lives together while they look for meaningful work or any work at all. When you get home, your day got “valued” with a pay check, but their day was devalued because they received no remuneration. Unfortunately, we tend to devalue them as people also. This is wrong, but we do it. No wonder they become depressed–we would go there too, most likely. Maybe we need to rethink how we view those who struggle with hunger and unemployment. 

Seniors in Arkansas rank first in food insecurity in the USA, with nearly 40% of Arkansas seniors affected. That is a huge number! For resources see:  and

Families have difficulty meeting the calorie needs of growing children, but WIC/Women, Infants & Children food subsidies can help. For a complete listing of acceptable foods see this link:

An interesting note: the only WIC acceptable potato is the sweet potato, never the white or baking potato, whether fresh or frozen. This is because the sweet potato has more nutrients and fewer calories than the ordinary potato. I almost never eat the white kind anymore. Just don’t sugar and cinnamon the baked goods up to equal the calories of the old white ones!

Some folks object to the WIC program’s restrictions on choosing the least priced item in the store (these are marked with WIC labels). As a frugal shopper, I shop the sales, what’s in season, and determine my menus from what’s available. There are months in the year when I don’t eat fresh tomatoes: too expensive, too little value, as well as too little taste. I will wait until a “real” tomato comes back into the store. 

I have a life of privilege. I’m on vacation. I was able to go to my doctor’s office to get treatment for a lingering sinus infection. I was self treating because I try to avoid use of needless antibiotics. When I began to over use nonprescription analgesics, lose my appetite, and snarl at all comers, I knew I needed real medicine. However, more than 4 out of 5 families unable to afford basic necessities are also classified as food insecure, illustrating that struggling families have difficulty not only meeting their basic needs, but also their need for food as well. People will brush their teeth without toothpaste, or use a toothbrush which has outlived its usefulness. Other ways to deal with food insecurity are skipping bills, delaying payments, putting off needed medical or dental care, or not changing diapers on babies as frequently.

The middle class calls these activities “slow pay,” or “robbing Peter to pay Paul,” but some of the efforts are the same. I used to cry when I couldn’t pay my bills by the due date. I felt like a failure. One of my clients told me, “You’re no different than most of my customers. I can’t pay my bills till they pay me. This is how America works. You pay when you get the money. Just don’t go crazy spending what you don’t have!” 

In a recent survey, in January, 2016, 56.3% of Americans admitted to having less than $1,000 combined in their checking and savings account. Over half the country is living “paycheck to paycheck.” In an emergency, 56.3% of Americans would need to borrow in order to survive. Rather than focusing on building wealth, the primary focus of a majority of American families is to get through the month.

While I was shopping, I noticed a small carton of six eggs was $1.78 with the second second carton only a penny more. Normally a whole dozen eggs at $3.29 is a bargain over two regular priced half dozens, but not if the small size is on sale. Usually you pay less if you buy in bulk, but not if they are selling the small stuff out. If you pay attention to the pennies, you can come up with the dimes later on. 

The same went with the salad I bought. I had the choice of a bag or a cellophane box, but I chose the bag for the $1 saving. This also means I’ll have to eat it quicker, for the box keeps it fresher. I did bring a keeper box with me, for I plan to take a meal out to the track each night. Yes, I brought those pieces of chicken pre cooked & ready to eat along with avocados and tomatoes from last week. 

One of the good aspects of the WIC program is it covers whole grains: whole wheat bread, pasta, oatmeal, tortillas and cereals. Both dry and canned beans are covered, but not flavored beans (baked beans, most likely exceed the sugar content). Likewise, mixed beans with flavors aren’t covered (high salt content, I suspect). Frozen and fresh vegetables and fruit are covered, but not if they are sugared or spiced up in any way. Cooking and prep work is encouraged. 

This might be the most difficult aspect of the SNAP challenge for modern families: cooking a meal nightly and sharing it. Many young people don’t have the experience of being at the table each night with the whole family. Dinner began early, after homework and play was done. My brothers and I would begin hovering nearer the kitchen steps, anticipating the smells coming from the oven and the stovetop, soon to be floating out over the Camilla blossoms and mixing with their scent 

“Wash your hands!” My mother would shout at us, as the screen door slammed behind the last whirling dervish to bolt into the cut through to the hallway. 

More slowly we returned, chastened by the scrubbing of the soil and sweat from our hands and arms. Most of the time we even washed our faces too, for once we were arm and hand clean, our faces looked and felt as if they belonged to someone else’s body. Looking into the bathroom mirror, we could tell we weren’t all that clean. Afterwards, we felt renewed, even if we didn’t have fresh clothes. By this age, we knew better than to get that dirty right before dinner!

Arriving in the kitchen, we lined up for tasks. My youngest brother got the simplest tasks, as was right. Later, after he mastered placing metal, he would move onto others. My next brother was onto the breakables: he was placing dishes and glasses in place. I was in charge of drinks and other service before hand. As the oldest, I was trusted not to spill. Tonight we all hoped daddy wouldn’t have late rounds, so he make dinner on time. I remember most of these meals as times of learning how to share about life, telling about heartache and triumph, and receiving encouragement and sometimes reprimand for my day. Other times, we regressed into silliness, telling jokes we’d heard at school, and playing I spy games. 

My family tolerated my sculpting my food into shapes when I was a child or my playing games while I told stories about it as I ate it. I tolerated my daughter’s preoccupation with white foods. I knew she would eat a colored food when she got hungry. Every day she got a vitamin. My parents told me, “people are starving in China. You need to clean your plate.” I told my daughter, “I’m not cooking in between meals. Eat what’s on your plate or make it yourself. ”

I’m not sure either of these messages are good, but we don’t battle over food in my family. Parents aren’t short order cooks at a restaurant to meet a child’s whim of the moment. Parents know what a child needs because they are the grownup in the relationship, they have the experience, they have the training, and because, as my folks used to say, ” Because I said so, that’s why!”

After dinner, the cleanup goes apace: the brothers did their same chores quickly and daddy took them back for their baths before bed. Mother and I washed and dried the dishes. This was back in the 1950’s, when we were glad to have a clothes washing machine and an outdoor clothesline, but we still washed dishes in the kitchen sink. There’s a lovely rhythm of this routine if two hearts beat as one and four hands work together as if they belong to one body and one mind. Mothers and daughters can find this rhythm easier than sons and fathers or sons and mothers, I think, for we’ve not only heard the maternal heart, but we are connected to all the mothers’ hearts all the way back through our line. 

The sink fills with hot soapy water. A large hand washes the dish, passes it under the flowing stream of clear water in the empty sink, and passes it off to the small hand who drys it and lays it aside. If the washing, rinsing, passing, and drying work correctly, the laying down happens as the next dish comes up for drying. This can be done in silence, as is it were a meditative dance, or it’s an activity full of chatter and sharing. Sometimes it’s one, the other, and at other times some of both. One or both partners can get out of sync so easily, if only by following a stray thought too far. 

“A penny for your thoughts,” my mom would say to me. She was interested and valued my daydreams. Once upon a time, a penny was worth something. Then again, if you take care of your pennies, you’ll come up with your dimes when you need them. 


Off to the Races! 

  It’s morning in the kitchen and opening season at Hot Springs’ biggest tourist draw, the venerable Oaklawn Race Track. Since 1904, the jockeys have worn their stable owner’s colors and ridden horses to the joy or heartbreak of the attending crowds. Today nearly a 1,000,000 people yearly come to watch these swift beasts run, for this track sends up its winners into the big leagues with the big purses. 

I do admit to being one of the few city dwellers who’s never been to Oaklawn, for my racing preferences tend to lots of horsepower under the hood and the brightly painted color schemes of NASCAR events. Both environments have their rabid fans, a group that parties too hard, and the majority who are well behaved. The bad apples in the barrel spoil the reputation of the rest, my nanny used to say. 
No matter how they party at these races (and I’m counting down the days to Speedweek at Daytona!), I figure almost everyone gets started with a little wake up cup. Some folks will only drink Folgers “Good to the last drop” coffee, perhaps because they grew up drinking it, or their mouths aren’t adventurous in the morning. I grew up in Louisiana, so Community Coffee was our wake up brew. “Now that’ll put hair on your chest,” my old daddy used to say. 

In my early married life, coffee beans became almost as precious as gold. A blight or fungus hit the trees, so the crop failed. A short crop means a high price. Early married is an euphemism for poor for most young couples, so we switched to an herbal tea brew called Morning Thunder. While it didn’t have the caffeine content of coffee, double bagging it did the trick until the price of coffee came back down to earth again. 

  In my case, coffee is my caffeine of choice. Yours may be tea, Diet Coke or Dr. Pepper. If you had a good night’s sleep, you might need less caffeine rather than more. I find I sleep better if I listen to quiet music and color in a picture before heading to bed. Reading facebook or email keeps my brain too active. 

Likewise exercise will keep me awake if I do it past 7 pm. You will need to listen to your own body. What works for me may not work for you. Be flexible, adjust. Lately I’ve been sleeping very well, thank you, for I’ve rearranged nearly every piece of furniture in my condo. I got rid of a few excess pieces, for my small space seemed crowded. It was like a stew that had a few too many ingredients, so the taste was off. 

Plus I was storing things  for which I no longer had a use, since they were remnants of my former professional life. I’ve donated those items to younger, active women. Sending these reminders of my working life out to others frees me to walk into a new direction with my work. I’m no longer visibly reminded by the old responsibilities and duties, but can forge ahead on the new path to respond to my new callings. 

I’m going for another cup of this new Red Light Roastery coffee. I found it at my local YMCA, so part of the purchase benefits the Y’s programs. The coffee is roasted right here in Hot Springs!! I always like to support new businesses in my town. I hope you will too, wherever you live. 


Home from the laundromat and cooling down on the couch with the last hot laps of the nascar race at New Hampshire. Went out into the heat to clean clothes because I’d have to go out into the same heat to buy clean clothes or wash the dirty ones in the laundry bags. Washing seemed a better choice. 

It was so hot, I tried to take another person’s clothes from the dryers in addition to my own. But the heat has fried everyone’s brain. Folks were putting laundry down on tables already occupied by others, as if the heat waves were distorting and hiding their presence. If I could figure out how to patent this, I could sell it to the armed forces for stealth technology. 
A little rest on my parents’ antique couch in the air conditioning has revived my spirits. Cold mint green tea and a little snack of homemade pimento cheese on rye crisp crackers have brought me back to life. I can put my freshly cleaned clothes in the closet and dresser drawers one bag at a time. 
The ironing board can stay in the closet, however, along with the fancy steam iron, which makes neat any fabric from silk to linen. Thankfully I don’t have to use the great-grandmother’s iron. That object was heated on the wood stove until it was piping hot, then it was laid upon a material until the heat and weight pressed the fabric smooth. Keeping it moving took some muscles and not a few calories, so eating heavier didn’t much matter. 
Then again, I may not use my own lighter iron. Ironing is a supererogatory work. It will not gain our salvation, and the lack of it will not cause us to lose our salvation. I think we can safely set aside all compulsive desire to be neat in the midst of humidity pods the size of Jupiter. No amount of starch or sizing will prevail against these foes! 
I’m voting instead for fresh squeezed lemonade and watermelon, preferably with lots of ice in the glass and an extra chilling in the freezer for the watermelon. It sounds so good, I might even get off the couch!

TRAVELERS’ RESTSTOP: restoring life to our past

  Ever wish you could pull over to the side of the road, refill your gas tank, grab a bite to eat, and maybe sleep overnight? The Petrified Wood Station in Denton, Texas, would suit you to a T if you were around in 1927. I recently traveled to Texas Motor Speedway for the NASCAR and Indy Car races. I usually stay in Runnaway Bay, well north of the track, but my place was hit by flooding and a tornado. I stayed with a very hospitable Indian couple managing the Staybridge Suites in Bridgeport instead. 

On Sunday I ate dinner at Sweetie Pie’s steakhouse on the square in Decatur. I took the wrong highway out, even though I could see the setting sun down the road I should take, I turned the other direction. I’ve found that when I ignore my good sense, it’s because I need to see or learn something down this alternate path. This is the mark of a creative person. In kitchen terms, this is the difference between a chef and a cook. The chef creates and the cook executes. Chefs will take alternate paths or make unusual combinations. Cooks make the food the same way every time. I don’t cook, in case you haven’t guessed. 

As I drove along the Old Chisolm Trail on what was the old highway before the interstate and bypass were built, I realized I was following the railroad tracks also. I was back in 1950’s America, when cars were large and gas was low. I turned the corner and saw this old Texaco station made of petrified wood. I thought, “Oh yes! I have traveled back in time for sure!” Then I read the sign, NO GAS. Nope: no time travel, just an historic property that called me from afar. 

This place closed up in the 1960’s or thereabouts, so the motel is closed completely. The old station belongs to the original family who keep it as an office. The cafe reopened a few years ago and seems to do a good local business. This place has memories it could tell if it could only speak. The locals claim Bonnie and Clyde stayed here a few weeks before their gory demise. 

Today I travel homeward, with a layover in Shreveport. The Red River there is at a 70 year flood crest. Not the “100 year flood” but close enough for plenty of troubles. How’s your day going so far?

Pour up a cup of good coffee, sit for a spell, talk with God about these things. Getting them off our chest and out of our minds is a form of cleaning spiritual house. They no longer clutter up our thoughts, so we’re free to think clearly about the now in which we live. 

If we put our thoughts or feelings out in a journal (paper or computer), we gain power over them. Every time we write a word, a sentence, a story, a memory, a song, a poem, or a dream that woke us up in the night, we survive. A collection of moments of survival is life! Days of moments is living! 

 One day we’ll wake up to realize we are stronger than our memories, braver for our pains, and more compassionate for our woundedness. This is the day we discover the Christ who lives in each of us. 
Romans 8:37-39

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Folks don’t like change. The track changed the provider for the famous $2 hot dogs at MARTINSVILLE, the NASCAR short track known as the “Paperclip.”

We are like cats: if we have something new thrown at us, we ain’t gonna take it! This is why eating healthier, exercising more, drinking less, or making any other change in our lives is so difficult. 

Change isn’t impossible, however, for if we are faced with enough hunger, we’ll eat only healthy food if that’s all we have in our kitchen. The secret is to eliminate the purchase of nonnutritive foods at our grocery runs. Making a grocery list of fresh and frozen vegetables and fruits, dried beans, whole grain items, and dairy products that don’t have sugar or corn products added to them will help us keep our health goals in mind. 

If we are eating well in the kitchen, we aren’t self-medicating with carbs and fats. These make us feel good in the short term, but not for the long term. A balanced protein and low glycemic carb meal will be full of bulk and filling too! 

If we exercise before a meal, we also won’t feel the need to stuff ourselves. Since I have low blood sugar, I have a 15 gram carb snack before an hour’s walk. Then I’m not really hungry for another two hours later. A light 400 calorie dinner is enough to carry me off to a deep sleep. (I usually eat my larger meal at lunch.)

Sometimes we try to make all the changes at once and get overwhelmed. I think it’s better to write down all the changes we want to make, but only focus on doing one each week intensively. If we have 17 changes, this will take us 17 weeks to practice each one fully for a whole week. Not that we ignore the other 16, but we don’t berate ourselves for not measuring up to perfection on all of these. I’ve found that we will do better than we imagine if we relax and focus one thing at a time. We can trust our peripheral vision to pay attention to the other goals in the intervening times.  


What Keeps You Up At Night?


Some folks have difficulty getting to sleep, while others can’t stay asleep. Sometimes this is due to an underlying health condition, but often it’s due to stress in a person’s daily life. Once you rule out the medical causes with your health provider, then you can work on your sleep habits.

Most of us fill our daily lives to excess: we stuff our hours as if they were pasta shells. We have oodles of meat and cheese appointments, chores, tasks, and details that fill our pasta shell days and leak out into the pan that we call our bedroom. Some of us carry our cares and plans for tomorrow into this container, for we’ll pour more sauce over it once we are ready to put it into the slow cooker that we call sleep.

Instead of our bedroom being a sanctuary away from our day, often it is a continuation and more of the same. If we aren’t watching the late news, we are thinking about the stories of pain, anguish, war, and mudslinging. Today’s work and tomorrow’s worries all twine together. No wonder we twist, flip, and turn until the wee hours of the morning! Then the next night comes and our anxiety about getting a good night’s rest prevents up from sleeping once more. We are on the downward spiral into a deep hole of tired.

I’m a NASCAR fan, so indulge me a bit of racing analogy. If we treat our bodies like race cars and drive them hard into the turns without hitting the brakes or letting off the accelerators, we are most likely going to hit the wall! This isn’t good for the car. Usually we take some other cars with us also. What I’m saying is, sometimes going less than the maximum speed means that you will finish in one piece and finish up front, rather than run fast and quick for a bit, but then finish in the back of the pack at the end of the race.

How can we discipline ourselves so we can have an opportunity for a restful sleep? We can learn this behavior, for I was taught this during a stressful time in my own life.
1. Cut back on caffeine during the day.
2. Eat breakfast, lunch and a light supper.
3. Do some physical exercise each day.
4. Clean one room each day.
5. Cut back on alcohol use in the evening. (It interferes with sleep)
6. Take a warm bath or shower 2 hours before bed
7. Put on music or comedy on the tv. No tense or violent shows, no news shows.
8. Read fiction, preferably of no redeeming value whatsoever. No heavy lifting. Save that for tomorrow!
9. Warm fluids, decaf. I recommend Tension Tamer by Celestial Seasonings. It has chamomile, for those with flower sensitivities.
10. Take Rx at same time every night. Get into bed at same time each night.

When I first started this routine, I had difficulty slowing my life pace down. I was too accustomed to hitting the wall each night. As a result, I would get into bed, be stiff as a board of uncooked lasagna, and be gritting my teeth trying to eat it raw! I started progressive relaxation exercises while lying there on my bed. These gave me a bodily focus, rather than my worries. I began with my toes, squeezed these tightly, relaxed them; tightened my feet, relaxed them; tightened my calves, relaxed them; and so on until I reached the very crown of my head.

On occasion I would have to start over again, but soon I could put myself to sleep by the time I reached the top of my head. Having been through that difficult time in my life, when my child was ill, my ex was a pain, and I had financial difficulties because I was so stressed I couldn’t work, meant that I learned to handle a lot of stress fairly well. Today, I go to sleep within minutes of hitting the pillow. As the sleep study doctor said, “it’s remarkable how quickly (I) go to sleep!”

If you want better sleep, try writing down those things that keep you up at night. Put them on a sheet of paper at 8 pm. Set this paper on your notepad next to your keys. Don’t look at it again until tomorrow morning. You can’t fix it till tomorrow anyway. Don’t think about it anymore tonight. Rest your body and mind. Start working that 10 item list above. Try the progressive relaxation techniques. Do this for a couple of weeks. If you don’t improve, I suggest a visit for some talk therapy in addition to these actions.