SHARK WEEK CHOCOLATE BARK

Shark Week always grabs my attention. After all, that’s what sharks do! Or maybe because it’s far too hot to be outside in Arkansas or because my inner child loves to learn new things. I always loved the beach as a child, since the sea breezes kept the heat tolerable. Inland, folks just suffered in the sweltering humidity pods. Thankfully we now have modern air conditioning, an invention that didn’t come to my home until I was a teenager.

When the temperature was 99F at 10 PM, even a ceiling fan wouldn’t make sleeping comfortable. Cooking was out of the question. Daddy would barbecue or we’d eat cold cuts and fruit. Chocolate candy bark didn’t take long to heat on the stove, so it was a treat to make in the cooler mornings. It also reminds me of coral reefs, which Shark Week shows us nightly on the Discovery Channel.

Corals come in a wide array of shapes, sizes, and colors. Some resemble deer antlers, trees, giant fans, brains, and honeycomb. Although many corals may look like plants, they’re actually animals; they’re most closely related to jellyfish and anemones. There are three different types of coral reef formations—barrier reefs, coral atolls, and fringing reefs. Barrier reefs help to protect lagoons and other types of shallow water; coral atolls (which are often mistaken for islands) are made from volcanic remains; and fringing reefs are found right along the coastline.

Coral reefs, which only grow at a maximum depth of around 150 feet, also grow very slowly, at an average rate of just two centimeters per year. This is because their biomes must maintain a temperature of 70 to 85º Fahrenheit. (Shallow water is more easily warmed by the sun.) Strangely, most coral reefs seem to grow on the eastern side of land masses, where the temperature is believed to be warmer than the western side. Stony coral groups are primarily responsible for building up reef structures.  Coral reefs grow upward from the sea floor as the polyps of new corals cement themselves to the skeletons of those below.

When I make Shark Week Chocolate Bark, I gather the following dry ingredients in a plastic bag or in a bowl:

120 gram(s) Wonderful Pistachios Roasted & Salted Shelled Pistachios

0.5 cup Dried cherries (tart montmorency)

12 pretzels Splits pretzels—break into pieces 1 inch long (I used the broken pieces in the bottom of the bag).

Also needed:

1 tbsp Vanilla extract —divided into 2 tsp and 1 tsp

12 tsp Coconut Sugar—divided into 8 tsp and 4 tsp

Then I weigh out 571 gram(s) GHIRARDELLI chocolate premium baking chips 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate — divided into 400 grams and 171 grams.

Take the larger amounts of chocolate baking chips first. Take chocolate and put into microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds and melt them in the microwave. Stir well. The first or larger amount may need a second 30 second cooking. The hot melted pieces will melt the unmelted ones. Stir after each heating. Bowl will be HOT! Don’t over cook the chocolate.

Remove & add vanilla 2 tsp. Stir. Add 8 tsp sugar. Stir.

Turn out onto parchment paper on cookie sheet. Spread chocolate with spatula. Spread nut and pretzel mix out over it evenly. Gently press it into chocolate.

Take remaining chocolate and put into same bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. Stir well. The hot melted pieces will melt the unmelted ones. Don’t over cook the chocolate. Add 1 tsp vanilla and 3 tsp sugar. Stir well. Drizzle over the surface and spread out. It will almost cover the whole nut layer.

Put into icebox for for 30 to 45 minutes to harden. Afterward, cut into small pieces about 1” x 1 1/2”. It will keep in an airtight container for about two weeks.

Serving Size: Makes 36 pieces appropriately 1 inch by 1 1/2 inch.

Number of Servings: 36

As you can see, making chocolate bark with broken pretzels, pieces of dried fruit, and nuts comes together much like a coral reef: it gets all the various pieces cemented with a binding agent, which in the kitchen is chocolate. I don’t suggest you go out into the sea and nibble on a coral reef. It wouldn’t be good for the pearly whites.

The Benefits of Coral Reefs

Scientists have discovered that many parts of a coral reef can be harvested to make medications. According to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, coral reefs are emerging as the medicine cabinets of the 21st century: “Coral reef plants and animals are important sources of new medicines being developed to treat cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, viruses, and other diseases.”

Coral reefs are among the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. There are often more types of fish living in a two-acre area of healthy coral reef than there are species of birds in all of North America!

Coral reefs help to improve the quality of the surrounding water. They do this by filtering out things floating in the ocean, which leads to cleaner water. In addition to protecting shorelines, coral reefs are immensely valuable to the fishing and tourism industries. According to the World Resources Institute, the destruction of one kilometer of coral reef equals a loss of between $137,000 to $1,200,000 over a 25-year period. And yet, they estimate some 60% of the world’s coral reefs are currently threatened by human activity.

Dark chocolate has its own benefits to humankind. Without it, some of us aren’t fit for civilized company! We don’t need a massive shark bite full of this calming food to bring us into a harmonious state. This is because chocolate has multiple chemicals that produce positive feelings in us. Phenylethylamine is sometimes called “the love drug”, because it arouses feelings similar to those that occur when one is in love. Another neurotransmitter, serotonin, is a mood-lifter, as well. One chemical that causes the release of serotonin into the brain is tryptophan, found in (wait for it!) chocolate!

If chocolate were a drug, we might need a prescription. Or we might find the law regulating how much chocolate we could have in our candies. As far as I’m concerned, the darker the better, but small children often prefer milk chocolate due to the greater sugar and milk content. Dark chocolate has probiotics and prebiotics, magnesium, iron, copper, and antioxidants. Even commercial dark chocolate bars will have large amounts of sugar, so not all dark chocolate is good for people with diabetes or weight issues. Look for 15 g carbohydrates per serving as a limit. Chocolate is a snack treat, not a meal.

A little afternoon pickmeup or as a side nibble with coffee and a friend, and your mood will be adjusted in no time. Then you can go back to swimming with the sharks and they can’t bite you, since you now have on your impervious dark chocolate shark repellent suit. Enjoy!

Joy and Peace,

Cornie

Nutrition Facts

Servings Per Recipe: 36

Serving Size: 1 serving

Amount Per Serving

Calories

127.9

Total Fat

8.1 g

Saturated Fat

3.9 g

Polyunsaturated Fat

0.4 g

Monounsaturated Fat

0.8 g

Cholesterol

0.0 mg

Sodium

65.2 mg

Potassium

39.4 mg

Total Carbohydrate

15.1 g

Dietary Fiber

1.6 g

Sugars

9.1 g

Protein

2.1 g

Vitamin A

2.2 %

Vitamin B-12

0.0 %

Vitamin B-6

2.2 %

Vitamin C

0.3 %

Vitamin D

0.0 %

Vitamin E

0.0 %

Calcium

0.4 %

Copper

2.2 %

Folate

0.0 %

Iron

7.1 %

Magnesium

0.9 %

Manganese

2.2 %

Niacin

0.0 %

Pantothenic Acid

0.0 %

Phosphorus

1.7 %

Riboflavin

0.0 %

Selenium

0.0 %

Thiamin

1.7 %

Zinc

Advertisements

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.

2C6D41E7-2B72-45E2-A14E-12DB705A4471

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).

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1955826

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.

Go Big or Go Home

60c5b5e4-b7fa-4a9d-ab4b-5c091c35b9d3

I meet the best people. 

I always meet the most interesting people in my local Kroger, especially on senior discount day. My younger friends say, “Never go on senior day–there’s too many old people! You’ll never get out of there and they drive down the center of the aisles.”

I just laugh. I live in a tourist and retirement community, so I’m used to folks with strange driving habits. No one here knows where they’re going, or they might be under the influence, since they’re away to play. Driving defensively is always a good choice in our neck of the woods. Besides, some of these older people are lonely, have difficulty making decisions, or just need human interaction. I consider my grocery day an opportunity to raise the general good mood of my community. After all, we have enough people across the globe who rattle sabers and stir up the dystopian pots boiling on the back of our communal cook stoves to make us want to shoo those cooks out of our collective kitchens as soon as possible, but I digress.

I was out getting some new grub, since I’d been laid up with bronchitis. I was feeling better due to antibiotics and rest. I kept bumping to this wonderfully dressed older gentleman as we passed each other up and down the canned food, coffee, and snack aisles. Finally I had to get his photo and find out more about him. Of course, in the great southern tit for tat, I shared my story too. He’s a grandfather from New York down to visit the children and grands. I like his style, for sure, and he’s used to posing for artists in his colorful fashion. I noticed him right away, since he didn’t dress like anyone from around here.

When we try to eat better as a way to improve our health, to lose weight, to lower our blood sugar or blood pressure, or just to put some discipline into our otherwise chaotic lives, we have to ask, “What does eating better look like?” We know it doesn’t like what has been “usual and customary for our neighborhood,” so we have to look for something “out of the ordinary.”

Food companies make health claims all day long some of which sound good, but are just blather. A bread marked 100% WHEAT isn’t the same as 100% WHOLE WHEAT. Also a 100% GRAIN BREAD may not have many WHOLE GRAINS in it! It just has many different ground up or milled grains in the recipe. To be a whole grain, the entire kernel has to be included. For instance, white rice is what results when the brown outer covering of the grain gets removed. This is why brown rice has more fiber and fills you up longer. You also get a larger portion size to eat. I personally go for larger portion sizes! Always go big or go home! It’s a RULE!

Another health claim is fiber. Yes we all want more fiber, because regular people are happy people. This is why I can shop on senior day and laugh. One way to get your fiber is with whole grains. The other way is with cellulose or sawdust. Yes, the FDA does let a certain amount of finely pulverized and sterilized sawdust into certain foods to keep them from caking and clumping (Parmesan cheese) and to add fiber. If you shop on a slow poke day, you have time to go with the flow and you can read the ingredients. If you’re in a hurry, use the “square inches of coverage” test: fewer words means fewer ingredients and less processing usually. Many words covering a vast space means you should leave this item on the shelf. If you can’t read the print within a magnifying glass, step away from the box! Run!

I found two 100% whole wheat tortilla brands, but one had cellulose in it. The one I took home was Mission 100% Whole Wheat Tortillas because I always ate that brand when I lived in Texas. It began in Mexico and has been around since 1949. It’s authentic. We don’t mess with a good thing in Texas, and we like our Pace piquante sauce too, because it’s still Texas made, according to a 1947 recipe.

Of course, at Cornie’s Kitchen, I go for the HOT sauce. If you’re going to have a taco or a tortilla, you should always “GO BIG OR GO HOME!” Plus, a little goes a long way and really clears out your sinuses. This is also a really good wake up greeting on scrambled eggs in the morning or on chicken/beef tacos at night

Even this heritage brand had “cellulose gum” in it, since it prevents caking and clumping, binds water, improves texture, thickens, emulsifies, and is used as a filler. Grated cheese, breads, diet foods, frozen dinners, sauces, salad dressings often include cellulose.

Cellulose is a safe and inexpensive carbohydrate that comprises the woody parts and cell walls of plants. It is a type of dietary fiber found naturally in fruits, vegetables, and cereals. The cellulose added to processed foods usu­ally comes from wood pulp (saw dust) or cotton lint. It’s also a cheap way to boost the fiber content on food labels, but it isn’t as healthful as fiber that comes from natural foods, such as chicory.

Whole Wheat Tortilla Recipe:

This is delicious, healthy and an easy alternative to store bought tortillas. While they keep well in a zipper bag, in the refrigerator, making them in small batches fresh for a quick breakfast or lunch wrap is very easy.

Number of Servings: 6 large or 12 small

Ingredients:

1.5 Cups whole wheat flour

2 Tbsp. shortening

1/2 Cup warm water

1/4 Tsp. salt

1 Tsp. Baking powder

Directions:

Combine dry ingredients. Cut in shortening either with a pastry blender, a fork, or knife, or crumble by hand. Add water slowly, to form a non-sticky dough. Amount of water needed may vary due to humidity, etc so start slowly. Dough should be able to be handled without sticking to the hands. Knead just enough to combine and form a smooth dough. Break off 12 equal size portions and roll into balls. Cover and let rest at least 10 minutes.

After dough has rested, roll out into circles, approximately 8 inches. Dough should be fairly thin. You can make less tortillas and make them larger if you like. Heat griddle or cast iron pan to medium high heat. Put tortilla into pan and allow to cook until light brown specks appear. Flip tortilla and cook the other side the same way. It’s ok if bubbles appear, as these will go down when the tortilla cools. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

img_7127

Chicken Mushroom Tortillas

Carbohydrates             Protein                    Fat

Mission tortillas 2–         28 g                           6 g                  4 g

Chicken–4 oz                                                  26 g                 3 g

Mushrooms–1 cup            3 g                         2 g

Spinach 1 1/2 oz–              1.5g                        1 g

Cheddar cheese 1 oz–                                      7 g                 9.4 g

Sour cream 1 Tbs–                                         .5 g                  2.5 g

This was a very satisfying lunch because of the whole grains, protein, fiber, and the addition of some fat. I try to keep my carbohydrates at around 30 to 40 grams per meal. I just feel better, even if I don’t lose much weight quickly. I eat the whole food, not the low fat versions, since these usually are more salty and over processed than the originals. I figure it’s better to have less of something great, than more of something terrible (this opposite is the corollary of go big or go home!).

Next time you go shopping for the family groceries, check out the interesting characters in your local store. They might be the stocker, the greeter, or someone just visiting in town. You never know what bridge you might build, or whose day you might make.

For a discussion on the difference between whole wheat and whole grain, this is a good link:

http://time.com/4639314/the-case-against-whole-wheat-and-whole-grain-bread/

The Chemical dictionary: cellulose

https://cspinet.org/eating-healthy/chemical-cuisine#hsh

Gourmet Trail Mix

Happy first day of Fall! I’m spending my day doing light duty around the condo, which means I’m not out enjoying the tempering breezes and the first colors changing in our surrounding forests here in the Lower Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. Some say the early colors are the result of heat stress or wet summers. The lack of sunlight is the reason for leaves not making the chlorophyll or green color, so the other colors in the leaves begin to show through. Actually, any stress will make the trees change early! Stress certainly makes me change, but not usually for the best. Color seems to be running about a week early across the country in most places I checked.

I found a handy interactive USA map for 2017 Leaf Color. You can move the date line and watch the colors change across the country. Very fancy these internet gurus!

https://smokymountains.com/fall-foliage-map/

While you entertain your family and plan your road trip, you might want to whip up a gourmet mix of pistachios, macadamia nuts, and deluxe unsalted mixed nuts for a healthy snack. This takes at most 5 minutes to prepare and a couple more minutes to store in airtight canisters or mason jars.

Ingredients

1 cup Wonderful pistachios (preshelled)

4 oz Planters Unsalted Premium Blend

160 grams Raisins

1 cup sahale tangerine macadamia nuts

4 tbsp Chocolate, Nestle Real Semi-Sweet chocolate chips

Mix by hand in oversized bowl. Put into large mouthed mason glass canning jars or air tight BPA free storage containers for your cabinets. Store away from heat, moisture, and sunlight.

Tips: You can vary the mix by adding different dried fruits to this trail mix.

Directions: Merely measure on a scale, mix in a bowl, and store in an airtight jar. Enjoy.

Serving Size: Makes 20 one ounce or 1/4 cup servings

Nutritional Info per serving:

• Calories: 133.9

• Total Fat: 8.4 g

• Cholesterol: 0.0 mg

• Sodium: 52.9 mg

• Total Carbs: 14.1 g

• Dietary Fiber: 1.5 g

• Protein: 2.8 g

VITAMIN AND MINERALS

• Vitamin A 0.4 %

• Vitamin B-12 0.0 %

• Vitamin B-6 5.0 %

• Vitamin C 0.4 %

• Vitamin D 0.0 %

• Vitamin E 2.3 %

• Calcium 2.0 %

• Copper 10.3 %

• Folate 0.1 %

• Iron 3.7 %

• Magnesium 6.7 %

• Manganese 11.3 %

• Niacin 0.3 %

• Pantothenic Acid 0.0 %

• Phosphorus 5.8 %

• Riboflavin 0.4 %

• Selenium 0.1 %

• Thiamin 3.8 %

• Zinc 0.1 %

Monday Morning after a Trauma

Most of us don’t much care for Monday just because. Yep. Says it all, right? Work, the daily grind, routines, dealing with problems, and the people who want it yesterday already! What are they thinking, we’re magicians? Or they’re the only customer we have? Get a grip. And it’s not even 9 AM yet. This eight hour day is going to be a Bataan Death March to quitting time if it isn’t fueled by copious amounts of caffeine. 
Monday after a national trauma is even worse. On Monday, September 11, 2001, my only thought coming into my office was to take care of the dead headlights on the church bus. It was a small thing, it was of no consequence. I hadn’t been listening to tv or radio. My plans changed from taking care of things to taking care of people. 
This is another Monday, now remembered for the largest mass shooting in our beautiful America, a country founded on the principles of religious freedom and equality for all her people. While we’ve not always lived up to these lofty ideals, we are still going onto perfection. 

Just because one person or a group of people may be fueled by hate doesn’t mean the rest of us should join them in their cesspool. This doesn’t mean we open ourselves up to harm, but we don’t have to hate, for this emotion will destroy our souls and empty our lives of joy. 

My compassion and prayers go out to all who have lost loved ones in this tragedy, including the family of the shooter. I lost a mentally ill young daughter to a drug overdose. When we discover the background of this lone gunman, I suspect untreated mental illness will play a factor. We may discover this is another “suicide by cop” wrapped in lone gunman jihad mythology. This is a sadness, since many people with depression and other mental illnesses, myself included, live active and productive lives helping others in our messed up world. 

As the chief cook in Cornie’s Kitchen, I can tell you when I get stressed over traumatic memories or undergo new new stressors, I go off my food plan big time. Does this mean I’m “bad?” No, but it is a sign I need to deal with my situation. Traveling home, I was listening to CNN on the radio. The longer I listened to them fill up the airways with words about nothing new, the hungrier for junk food I got. 

I was carrying apples, but I didn’t eat them. I had cheese and whole grain crackers, but I didn’t break these out. I did eat my salad and chicken during the stretch of city road when I hit every single stop light. Once I made the interstate however, I was the junk food queen all the way home. Braumn’s brownie chocolate ice cream sundae with hot fudge syrup, nuts and whipped cream is definitely medicinal for soothing emotions. Much better than any drug and less risky than alcohol when driving. I cannot do this on a daily basis however. 


Monday has come and gone. Even as I post this on Tuesday, we don’t know much more than we did yesterday about this horrific event. I only know I’m not afraid, for I believe and trust in God. I’ve been to the dark places and God was there. I’ve been to the high places, and God was already there. I’ve even said “God doesn’t exist,” but God still was there for me. This is what we mean by “God’s steadfast love endures forever.” 

So after a traumatic day, God will be here the rest of the week, the month, the year, and forever. Be glad, hug your weird neighbors, your neighbors of color, your neighbors who eat different foods, and sit a spell in the Kitchen and tell one another about your day. Work to build bridges so people of peace can come together in our common humanity. Take care of one another, for we are all made in the image of God. 
Love, joy and peace, Cornie.

Dinner on a Prom Night in Kentucky

20140504-191427.jpg

On my way to Mammoth Cave National Park, I stopped in Bowling Green on a Saturday night. Dressed in my hiking clothes, I didn’t look any different than any other traveler or ordinary working person from the area.

One by one, the young people came into Ruby Tuesday’s dressed up fit to kill. The grey tuxedos of the boys were a great foil for the bright red and blue long gowns of the girls. These dresses had large silver spangled bodices and laced up backs. The lower portions of their gowns flowed like chiffon, although I didn’t touch the material to know if their gowns were made of this or another fabric.

Instead, I exclaimed, “oh! Y’all look so great tonight!” The kids just smiled. They had heard their parents say the same thing, and the same words from every grownup they came across this evening. Little did they know that they had crossed a bridge tonight: they had made a rite of passage.

Wearing the grownup clothes, the high heels, and the makeup for real instead of just playing dress up means that a young woman can now make more of her own decisions and live with with the consequences. The tuxedo, the cummerbund and the tie and cuff links aren’t just articles of clothing, but they are the outward and visible signs of a new status in life. No longer a boy, this person can fill man sized shoes. The world of work may call him soon, or greater responsibilities beyond.

Tonight, the kids aren’t thinking about this, however. They’re just out to have a good time. Their parents and grandparents have much to chew over with their dinner.