Posts tagged ‘food’

Cooking Light (and Veg!) for the Holidays

I love the smell, taste, and feel of fall – the crisp, clean air, the warmth of vegetables roasting in my oven, and getting cozy with a steaming hot cup of cocoa and a book.  Fall is also a time of holidays and for many of us Boomers, a season of abundant eating and quality time with family and friends.

Although a day of stuffing probably won’t derail your diet plans all that much, there’s no reason why holiday fare can’t be comforting, wholesome, and delicious.  In the spirit of a healthy holiday, I’ve listed some dishes you may want to incorporate into your menu this year.

To start, I consulted some of my favorite go-to food and lifestyle magazines  – Cooking Light, Martha Stewart’s Whole Living: Body & Soul in Balance and Living, and Everyday with Rachael Ray. The November issues of these magazines have many features on holiday recipes.   Many of these publications also have ideas for what to do with dinner leftovers (sweet potato biscuits, turkey tacos…and more!), as well as meal planning tips and festive decorating ideas.   All magazines are available at the Katy Geissert Civic Center Library and at many of the library branches.

Here’s a sample of what I found to be some of the most tantalizing dishes, making use of seasonal produce and fall flavors, and not too taxing on your waistline!

For sides and starters, how about Cauliflower Leek Puree, a savory and sweet Brussel Sprouts Salad with Apples, Pecans, and Manchego, or Sweet Potato Soup with Cranberry Cream (a good way to use up leftover cranberry sauce)?

Try Spicy Moroccan Chickpeas as an alternative to a meat main course, and round out the meal with these sweet delights – Spiced Persimmon and Pecan Muffins or Pear Tarte Tatin.

The Internet abounds with recipes.  Here are some of my favorite places to hunt:

  • Chow – THE source for foodie conversation, recipes, and advice.
  • Epicurious – Includes recipes from the publications Bon Appétit, Gourmet, and SELF, plus there is an Epicurious app for your smartphone!
  • 101cookbooks – My absolute favorite blog for fresh and modern vegetarian fare using whole foods and always a source of inspiration!

Finally, here’s a link to a photo collage of delicious vegetarian holiday recipes that’s sure to tantalize your palate – Happy Holidays!

– rs

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November 22, 2010 at 11:37 pm 12 comments

Fun and Easy Canning (Yes, Really!)

The end of summer means many fruits and vegetables are at their peak and it’s time to take advantage of them by canning and preserving…and it’s not as difficult as you may think!

Canning’s last heyday was during World War II along with victory gardens, as part of the home front war effort.  But the end of the war brought prosperity, supermarkets, and more processed food so many Boomers grew up with Swanson’s TV dinners instead of Mom’s canned green beans.  For those of us who were around in the 1970’s, Ruth Hertzberg’s best-selling book, Putting Food By, generated some interest in making use of the bounty from home gardens.  I recall several friends bringing in homemade pickles and jams to work and sharing such goodies with less “domestic” friends such as myself.  Now some thirty years later there’s been a resurgence in canning as people look for ways to cut their food budgets and eat healthier.

A recent story heard on National Public Radio, “Overloaded From Your Garden? Just Can It,” had me swooning over the recipes described on air.  Canning is a great way to preserve the flavors of the season and just thinking about spicy peach salsa or pickled green tomatoes made me want to learn how to do it and encourage others as well.

The first step on one’s canning adventure is to obtain the necessary equipment. Canning jars, complete with lids and seals, are available from many hardware stores. Other basic tools you’ll need for canning are a jar lifter, magnetic wand, jar funnel, and a non-metallic spatula. Canning starter kits may be purchased at local stores such as a Target or Walmart, as well as many online retailers, for as little as $15 – $20. You’ll also need a pot for your canning, and if you don’t want to buy a boiling water canner with a built-in rack for the jars, you can simply use a stock pot with a homemade rack of lid rings wired together.

Next, you may want to visit the Torrance Certified Farmers’ Market, held each Tuesday and Saturday, 8am-1pm, to stock up on seasonal goodies. Torrance’s Farmers’ Market has been a tradition at Wilson Park for twenty-five years. More than sixty farmers and vendors from throughout California bring their fresh wares to the market, so there’s plenty of fresh products to choose from. And don’t be shy about trying the free samples!

Finally, you’re ready to can, pickle, and preserve your way to healthier eating.  The library offers many books on canning to help walk you through the process, and there are plenty of yummy recipes, too!  Listed below is a sampling of some canning and food preservation materials available at the library:

Do you have any favorite canning recipes you’d like to share with us? Please post in our comments section below!
– mz

October 12, 2010 at 1:20 am 6 comments

Eating to Sleep

I have often reflected on my inability to fall asleep and hoped that as I grew older I might fall prey to those little cat naps I often caught my parents indulging in.  No such luck for me and my insomnia has only gotten worse as I’ve aged.  In my Boomerhood, I have tried some of the typical remedies recommended by friends – aerobic exercise during the day (not shortly before going to bed), warm milk, decaffinated tea, and while it was in vogue, tryptophan.  None of these seem to affect me and as such, I read with great interest a recent article in the Washington Post, “More Foods Hinder Than Help Sleep,” by Jennifer LaRue Huget

Ms. Huget researched foods that might help individuals sleep better and rather than find that wonderous substance that might send me off to dreamland, I did learn what to avoid!

First and foremost, it seems I have to change my diet. Based on research conducted by Dr. Michael Grandner (University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Sleep and Respiratory Neurobiology), the biggest culprit associated with getting less sleep is fat. In tracking the diets and sleep habits of women enrolled in a 15-year study, the more fat the women ate, the less they slept. No more late night chocolate chip cookie binges, coffee cake, or ice cream for me! Another finding, if eating fat stops you from sleeping, being fat also affects your sleep. Grandner is quoted, “People who are obese sleep less and report that the sleep they get is not as good.” He relates this to the possibility that some obese individuals may have undiagnosed sleep apnea or that the hormones that control feelings of hunger and being full are disrupted when sleep is disrupted.

A few items to avoid:
• Caffeine
• Spicy foods
• Alcohol – it disrupts the sleep cycle by delaying the onset of and
   shortens REM sleep (restful sleep)

Another medical professional quoted in the article, Dr. Christine Gerbstadt, mentions that melatonin, a hormone that has sleep-inducing properties, is found in red and white wine, but rather than risk alcohol’s interference with restful REM sleep, one might benefit from eating red grapes with the skin on to get a little boost of melatonin.

Both doctors stress that foods such as milk and herbal tea may help by making one more relaxed, they are calming foods, and ingesting calming substances might enhance a person’s ability to fall asleep by reducing anxiety. However, Dr. Grandner says, “when it comes to calming foods, there are a number that may have calming effects, but honestly the evidence suggests that it is mostly placebo.” In other words, if you believe that having a warm glass of milk calms you down enough to go to sleep, you may just fall asleep!

In addition to eating or drinking recommended substances, I’ve tried other suggested methods to help myself fall asleep – read a boring book (my problem with this remedy – no book is boring to me!), listen to soothing music on a personal disc player or iPod (calming music makes me nervous), watch television, engage in a repetitive non-stressful task such as folding laundry, and most of the time I’m still wide-eyed and wondering if I’m ever going to fall asleep. Personally, deep breathing associated with yoga (pranayama) has helped to slow me down and get my mind to focus on something other than the problems of the day, what I want to accomplish tomorrow, etc. Practicing yoga breathing has allowed me to relax and while I may not fall asleep, at least I generally don’t become more anxious about my lack of sleep.

Working in a library certainly has its advantages and I have checked out several of our excellent collection of books on insomnia and sleep disorders. Here’s a small sampling of titles to get you started if you wish to do some reading on the subject:

Do you have trouble falling asleep?  Have you found any techniques or remedies that work for you?  Please post a note below and share your experiences!

August 26, 2010 at 6:42 am 6 comments

Got Lunch?

j0175437If you are like many Boomers thinking about saving a little money right now, one of the easiest ways to do so is to give up going out to lunch during your work day. From $12.00 and up per meal at a restaurant to $5.00 or less for a nice home packed lunch, that saved money adds up, and more and more people are finding uses for the lunch box!

The Los Angeles Times ran an article on the “grown up” packed lunch, “Grown Up Lunches that Pack a Punch,” featuring French, Italian, and Middle Eastern options that pack and keep well. Back-to-school lunchbox ideas (for kids and adults), an accompanying photo gallery from the Times, displays lunch box treats that look good enough to make anyone hungry. Parents need to remember that a healthy lunch is as important for them as it is for their children, and the vending machine just won’t do. This list from the Mayo Clinic includes many useful ideas for packing lunch, such as pre-heating insulated containers before putting soup into them, or packing frozen food that will thaw by lunchtime, such as the drink, to help cool the rest of the lunch.

Find a container for your lunch, from an insulated carrying case to a retro tin lunchbox from childhood. Laptop lunches makes boxes based on the “Bento Box” and also provides tips on packing healthy and imaginative lunches for all ages. Vintage and antique stores are full of lunchboxes, and what a conversation you can start with colleagues with a collectible Star Trek or Marvel Comics character lunchbox (as long as it isn’t valuable enough to get stolen from the communal fridge). Label your lunch and include all your silverware and condiments such as salad dressing and salt. Plenty of napkins and a wet wipe will have you going back to work neat and clean, even if you had to lunch on your lap.

Once you have made your lunch, find a lovely place to eat – the City of Torrance has many parks with picnic tables under trees, not to mention ponds, treehouses, and walking paths if you want to pair a little fitness with your soup or sandwich. I personally love the Pine Wind Garden which is just a hop across the parking lot from the Katy Geissert Civic Center Library. Keep a big hat in your car or at your desk to take advantage of nice weather, get out of the corporate lunchroom at least to the patio, and feel the fresh air fill your lungs as your fresh food fills your stomach.

If you eat alone, bring along some lunchtime crosswords or Sudoku puzzles, or a good paperback book you can hold with one hand leaving the other free for your food. The Chicken Soup for the Soul books are packed with brief passages that can be read even if you only have twenty minutes to eat before work calls you back to your desk. The Library also has magazines that check out at all branch libraries, books of poetry, essays, and short stories that are perfect for lunch hour reading. Or keep reading that fabulous novel you started…just don’t get so absorbed in the story you forget to go back to work!

If you pack a lunch for someone else, don’t forget to include some fun. A “lunchtime limerick” from Stephen Krensky’s There Once Was a Very Odd School, or a riddle or inspirational quote is easy to write on a napkin and packs more punch than a fortune cookie if it comes from someone you love. You can cut a sandwich into fun shapes with cookie cutters, or use food coloring to generate a harmless and fun surprise at lunchtime. In the middle of a bad day at the office or at school, a little pick-me-up from someone who cares can make all the difference.

So what was your favorite childhood lunchbox? Have any great lunch sandwich or soup recipes to share with us? Add a comment below. Take a look at this fun history and start thinking about delicious things to put in your next home packed lunch!

– ht

September 28, 2009 at 4:49 am 1 comment


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