Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Challenge to maintain a healthy diet in a fast food society

I would say that about 85% of my diet is very healthy; the rest of it? Well’ I have to have an occasional MacDonalds hamburger, a Chile dog at the State Fair, bacon for breakfast, and a few handfuls of M and M’s...a throw-back from my younger days when I didn’t give a darn and my body didn’t know the difference. But I don’t drink soda or eat food from cans or boxes. And I prefer to do my own cooking...that way I know exactly what I’m eating.

Now that I’m over 50...or 60...or whatever....my body is much more sensitive to what I’m shoveling in it. I’m fortunate enough to have been brought up enjoying lots of fruits and vegetables. I learned along the way to cut back on red meat and starches; although I love potatoes, rice and corn, which are not really bad for you. Pasta, if you can believe it, I can do without.

Let me tell you about me and pasta. I’ve eaten a ton of it in my life, from Spaghetti to Rigatoni, to Lasagna. Had it with tomato sauce, pesto, Alfredo sauce and cheese, as in Mac and Cheese.  Added Parmesan, vegetables, and meat among other things. I ate so much pasta for most of my life that I just got sick of it. I know...amazing declaration. Everybody eats pasta. There are zillions of ways to prepare iteirou can buy it frozen or canned and kids love it. Just about every ethnic group has there own special way of preparing pasta for their cultural dishes. But I don’t like it anymore.

No, my favorite dishes are white chili, chicken fajitas, all kinds of soups and stews, a really good steak and baked potato occasionally, wild salmon with dill, butter, and lemon, a wonderful curry with rice, and sweep potatoes and ham. There are more, of course, but this gives you an idea.
And oh....just about any kind of vegetables on the side except for okra, unless it’s in an authentic gumbo.

Why people limit themselves to pizza, hamburgers and mac and cheese is beyond me. There are so many wonderful things you can do with food.
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Vegan breakfast
I still have my week-end with the Vegans running around in my head. They stayed with me (in the bed and breakfast) for four days, along with several diabetics who were here for the Civil Air Patrol Conference. They were not all in the same room, of course. In fact they didn't know each other until they started eating breakfast together.

Anyhow, my problem was how to find a way to accommodate they dietary needs in an efficient manner. One obvious solution is to feed them at different times...which, as it turned out, worked for the first couple of days. The diabetics wanted an early (7:00 am) continental breakfast 'cause they had early morning meetings at the conference. The Vegans wanted to eat at 9:00 ...they were here for a little R&R.

And so, the diabetics were easy...just avoid real sugary things, they said. I could do that. Not the Vegans, that's another story. These people were not Vegetarians, which aren't too hard to cook for, they are Vegans and there is a big difference. Besides not eating meat or fish or fowl, they do not eat eggs, milk products (butter, cheese, and yogurt) or honey. But they do eat a lot of tofu. And vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, and grains.

So, I hopped on the internet to review the Vegan diet and a few of their recipes. Then I decided to just make up my own. First thing to do was to run to the store and get a couple of essential Vegan items: a brick of firm Tofu, Almond milk (I could have also used Rice milk), Soy Yogurt, and Vegan butter spread made from I don't know what. It's on the package down in the kitchen. I don't think I even read the list of ingredients, but I trusted that it would be okay as it was a brand that my Vegan guests used themselves.

When I got home, I drained the brick of Tofu by pressing it in between two very heavy cutting boards for 20 minutes. Then, I cut the brick in half. I would use half the first day and half the third day. Vegan pancakes would be served on the second day and Vegan French Toast on the fourth day.

Curried Tofu with spinach and  tomato
For their first breakfast, I sauteed sliced mushrooms in olive oil with fresh garlic the way Julia Childs suggests: "...very hot oil...flame high...spread mushrooms out flat in pan and saute both side until brown. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper while cooking." Done!  Next, I added chopped onion, green pepper, and ribbons of fresh Basel from my herb garden and continued to saute...loving every minute of it I might add. You have to love cooking to own a B&B. Or have a partner or employee who does.

The final step was to add the Tofu. I crumbled it into the pan and continued cooking. if you add Tumeric to the pan (a yellow spice) the Tofu would look just like scrambled eggs. I didn't have any and wasn't about to go out and buy some. It's expensive and I probably would have another Vegan guest for a year.

For their first  breakfast, I scrambled the Tofu, but for the one on the third day I cubed it and added Spinach, Tomatoes, and Curry.  I served it with rounds of sweet potato baked in brown sugar, Vegan butter, and cinnamon. For fruit, I sliced fresh peaches into footed dessert dishes and tossed in some dried cranberries. Then poured a warm clear simple syrup over the top to mingle the flavors. It was delicious and they loved it

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

One way to take a summer vacation in a sagging economy

This year, all of us are going to have to come up with some creative ideas for summer travel. The economy is still in a slump, but the kids are out of school, they've worked hard all year and, hopefully have gotten passing grades! They really deserve a break. One of the most painless ways for folks to take the kids along on vacation is to take a car trip. You can stop along the way, they sleep in the back seat, play video games, and listen to music with ear-phones on. They can eat snacks and drink beverages in the car and even take fido along. Most dogs love to travel with the family. And, it's a lot cheaper than air flight.

There are many cities in the US that make good central locations for a week-end or week-long getaway and Louisville, Kentucky is one of them.  The choices in accommodations are better than ever. You can spend the day in a nearby state park offering a beautiful woodland setting, or on a farm, or spulunking at Mammoth Cave.  All are great places for kids. Worn out from sight-seeing but happy, you can return to your central location in Louisville and relax in one of Louisville’s beautiful bed and breakfasts.

Bed and Breakfasts are ideal for combining what a city has to offer with the surrounding area. You can situate yourself in a beautiful Inn for a week and take day trips to small villages, farms, lake, beaches or whatever you like. A city like Louisville, in Kentucky, is perfect. It has all of the above, plus outstanding restaurants, museums, theater and many attractions. There are a whole host of events and festivals going on all summer, from the Shakespeare Festivals in Old Louisville's Central Park to My Old Kentucky home pageants to the Kentucky State Fair.

Another advantage to staying in Louisville is that it is very accessible from many other states; such as Illinois Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, Iowa and Arkansas, etc. The innerstate highway system is amazing and easily leads right into downtown Louisville. Another advantage is that Louisville has aproximately 18-20 amazing bed and breakfasts,  most centrally located.

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