Double Chocolate Pudding Pie

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

Best Pie Ever!

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

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

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

This was the easy part.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nutritional Comparison of Half and Half vs. Heavy Cream Recipe

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

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

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

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

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

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‘Stranger Things’ and Ice Cream

Stranger Things Upside Down Sundae

The star of Stranger Things, David Harbour says season three of the will be “lighter,” while also promising “all the dark stuff that we’re kind of known for.”

The two new flavors the Canton, Massachusetts-based chain plans to unveil are Eleven’s Heaven, a waffle cone-flavored ice cream with chocolate-coated sugar cone pieces and a chocolate-icing-flavored ribbon, and Upside Down Pralines, a chocolate ice cream with praline pecans and a chocolate-caramel flavored ribbon.

For those unfamiliar with the show, Eleven is the name of one of the key characters on Stranger Things, and the Upside Down is an alternate dimension on the series.

Baskin-Robbins and Netflix are also partnering to create a Scoops Ahoy ice-cream truck, a reference to the ice cream parlor that’s on the show. It will serve fans on the West Coast in June.

I’ve included the nutrition link for these specials. They’re entire meal portions in their own right. As snacks, they’d best be shared by two persons, so like don’t be strangers.

Upside Down Sundae —a sundae made with Upside Down Pralines, but built upside down with the toppings on the bottom

Demogorgon Sundae —a waffle bowl sundae that looks like a Demogorgon monster

Eleven’s Heaven Cone

Byers’ House Lights Polar Pizza Ice Cream Treat — a chocolate chip Polar Pizza crust with Snickers ice cream, topped with strings of fudge and M&Ms, Christmas lights, a reference to the lights hung up in the Byers’ home on the show

USS Butterscotch Quarts —butterscotch flavored ice cream with butterscotch toffee and a toffee ribbon

Stranger Things Pizza and Pints

Elevenade Freeze — a drink made with vanilla ice cream and Minute Maid lemonade

“When Netflix originally approached us about a partnership, we immediately recognized a number of fantastic synergies between Baskin-Robbins and ‘Stranger Things,’ including the fact that Steve Harrington was going to have a summer job at an ice cream shop,” said Dave Nagel, senior director of consumer engagement at Baskin-Robbins, referring to one of the show protagonists.

The ice-cream chain also will sell exclusive “Stranger Things” merchandise, such as a Steve Funko figure, 1980s-inspired magnets and sticker sets, and Stranger Things T-shirts. Fresh-packed ice cream also will be sold in four limited-edition take-home containers with show-related designs.

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

Junk Food Addiction

Quitting junk food produces similar withdrawal-type symptoms as drug addiction. We common folk have known this for forty years, but now science has confirmed it. I visited my WayBack Machine to find the lyrics for this 1976 Golden Oldie: “Junk Food Junkie” by Larry Groce. The chorus goes like this:

Yeah, in the daytime I’m Mr. Natural
Just as healthy as I can be
But at night I’m a junk food junkie
Good Lord have pity on me!

Trigger Image for Junk Food Junkies

In the Kitchen, we know food eaten any time of the day or night affects our bodies for good or ill. When I was an art student, I had a roommate who thought fasting during the day and eating in the dark would help her maintain her weight. Half a century ago, we called this theory “unseen calories have zero calories.” She never figured out why she gained weight.

A University of Michigan study confirms what has long been suspected: highly processed foods like chocolate, pizza and French fries are among the most addictive. Moreover, highly processed foods are linked to addictive eating.

This is one of studies to examine specifically which foods may be implicated in “food addiction,” which has become of growing interest to scientists and consumers in light of the obesity epidemic. On my recent visit to Israel, we were eating wonderful Mediterranean foods at every meal. Some of my tour companions were “lusting for the flesh pots of Egypt,” or wishing they had a sausage and egg biscuit from McDonald’s on the first morning out. I chose not to eat with them again. No one needs to travel over 5,000 miles to eat the same food as home. Then again, these folks may have been experiencing withdrawal symptoms if they were accustomed to their daily fix.

Processed Foods

Previous studies in animals conclude that highly processed foods, or foods with added fat or refined carbohydrates (like white flour and sugar), may be capable of triggering addictive-like eating behavior. Clinical studies in humans have observed that some individuals meet the criteria for substance dependence when the substance is food.

Despite highly processed foods generally known to be highly tasty and preferred, it is unknown whether these types of foods can elicit addiction-like responses in humans, nor is it known which specific foods produce these responses, said Ashley Gearhardt, U-M assistant professor of psychology.

Unprocessed foods, with no added fat or refined carbohydrates like brown rice and salmon, were not associated with addictive-like eating behavior.

Cornie’s Kitchen Chicken Soup

Individuals with symptoms of food addiction or with higher body mass indexes reported greater problems with highly processed foods, suggesting some may be particularly sensitive to the possible “rewarding” properties of these foods, said Erica Schulte, a U-M psychology doctoral student and the study’s lead author.

“If properties of some foods are associated with addictive eating for some people, this may impact nutrition guidelines, as well as public policy initiatives such as marketing these foods to children,” Schulte said.

When my daughter was young, I limited our visits to fast food outlets to Friday nights after my work week was over. Mr. Microwave and. Mr. Crockpot provided meals during the week, and we grilled on the weekends. I grew up in a household with food and family at the table as a central part of our life. Food doesn’t have to be fancy, and leftovers were offered at least once a week as “druthers” night. Companionship was more important than the meal itself.

Nicole Avena, assistant professor of pharmacology and systems therapeutics at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, and a co-author on the study, explained the significance of the findings. “This is a first step towards identifying specific foods, and properties of foods, which can trigger this addictive response,” she said. “This could help change the way we approach obesity treatment. It may not be a simple matter of ‘cutting back’ on certain foods, but rather, adopting methods used to curtail smoking, drinking and drug use.”

Future research should examine whether addictive foods are capable of triggering changes in brain circuitry and behavior like drugs of abuse, the researchers said.

If you plan to try and quit junk food, expect to suffer similar withdrawal-type symptoms—at least during the initial week—like addicts experience when they attempt to quit using drugs.

A study by University of Michigan is believed to be the first of its kind to evaluate withdrawal symptoms people incur when they stop devouring highly processed foods, such as pastries, French fries and pizza. Previous studies have focused on sugar withdrawal among animals and the literature regarding humans offered only anecdotal evidence, said Erica Schulte, the study’s lead author and U-M psychology doctoral candidate.

Processed food scientists design foods to hit a satiety point or “yum factor.” This involves adjusting foods to salt, fat, and sugar levels that meet consumer preferences, as well as enabling enhanced shelf life. Employing scientists to dissect elements of the palate and tweak ratios of salt, sugar and fat to optimize taste, the processed food industry, Michael Moss says, has hooked consumers on their products the same way the cigarette industry hooked smokers on nicotine.

What all researchers can agree upon is that the addictive qualities of tobacco, drugs or alcohol affect the brain similarly and cutting back can lead to negative side effects that can make it difficult to reduce intake. Anxiety, headaches, irritability and depression are some of those outcomes.
Understanding whether withdrawal may also occur with highly processed foods was an essential next step in evaluating whether these foods might be capable of triggering similar addictive processes.

Schulte and colleagues created the first self-report tool to measure the physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms among people, then asked 231 adults to report what happened when they reduced the amount of highly processed foods they ate in the past year.

The participants reported that sadness, irritability, tiredness and cravings peaked during the initial two to five days after they quit eating junk food, then the negative side effects tapered off, which parallels the time course of drug withdrawal symptoms, the study found.

The U-M researchers did not focus on the method used to change their eating behavior, such as participants quitting “cold turkey” or gradually phasing out junk food. Schulte said future studies will analyze the behavior in real time rather than a retrospective approach as in the current findings.

The study implications suggest that withdrawal symptoms may make dietary changes challenging, which may contribute to people reverting back to bad eating habits, said Ashley Gearhardt, associate professor of psychology and co-author, along with U-M graduates Julia Smeal and Jessi Lewis.

Bottom line is the processed food industry designs their products to keep you eating them. When you hear their siren call, it’s best to put plugs in your ears and row on by. Choose frozen bananas and cocoa powder, with almonds, and add some protein powder if you need a little extra oomph. Enjoy each spoonful slowly. Drink flavored tea. I like hibiscus green tea, mostly decaf over ice. We can do this!

More information: Erica M. Schulte et al. Development of the Highly Processed Food Withdrawal Scale, Appetite (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2018.09.013
Provided by University of Michigan

Moore’s book—

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-02-highly-foods-linked-addictive.html

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-09-junk-food-similar-withdrawal-type-symptoms.html

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 

Black Bean Pizza Crust

BLACK BEAN PIZZA CRUST

The end of the old year always makes me rethink my food choices for the new year. Perhaps the numerous cookies I quality tested also encouraged my recipe experiments. I always try to modify my recipes toward the healthier side, even while I keep the good taste. I’ve made great whole wheat and almond flour pizza crusts and I enjoyed the beautiful, red beet crust variation. What would a black bean crust taste like? My “wild side” wants to know!

Ingredients for one large single pizza crust—
¾ cup black beans (about ½ of a 15oz can) = 7.5 oz low salt beans
7 oz water warm
1¼ tsp sugar (or sweetener of choice, optional, but recommended to feed the yeast)
2¼ tsp yeast = 1 package
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup almond flour
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp salt

Black Bean Pizza Crust

1 Drain beans, then mash with a fork, or purée in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add water as necessary (in 1 Tbsp increments).
2 Whisk together warm water, sugar, yeast, and bean purée.
3 Mix together flours and salt, add slowly to yeast mixture (if not using a bread machine, stir as flour mixture is added).
4 Knead until the dough is elastic.
5 Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
6 Shape pizza dough on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
7 Arrange toppings and sauce of your choice on top of shaped dough. Put half of cheese on dough, then tomatoes, spinach, spices, rest of cheese, finishing with tomatoes, and dusting with more spices.
8 Bake 15 to 20 minutes (or until toppings are cooked through). Cut into 8 pieces. Two pieces make a very filling meal for most ladies. One piece would fill a child, and a hungry man might three.

Nutrition for Black Bean Pizza Crust

I admit the crust doesn’t taste much like a typical pizza, yet I enjoyed the difference. It does need a tad longer to cook, and the moisture in the beans are the reason for that. It might be best to go all “Mexican” with the seasoning, as well as to use a ground beef for the protein. A habanero jack cheese would be excellent too. In the new year, we might “walk on the wild side” with our recipe choices on occasion! I hope you enjoy it and have a blessed New Year!

Joy and Peace, Cornie

OTHER INGREDIENTS FOR FULLY DRESSED PIZZA:

Pizza blend cheese 8 oz x 80 is 640 calories
Tomatoes 3 oz x 8 servings is 24 oz is 600 calories
Baby spinach 6 oz is 40 calories
Mushrooms 1 cup is 15 calories
Chicken breast 8 oz is 272
Total pie topping = 1567 calories or each serving is 195 calories

896 calories total for 8 servings = 112 calories for crust
Total pie topping = 1567 calories or each serving is 195 calories
Each serving total is 307 calories total.

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)