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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Getting Ready For New Year's

There are only a few Christmas cookies left and it's already time to think about New Year's.  I'm a big believer in getting plenty of black eyed peas for good luck and some leafy greens for cash in the new year.  However, not everyone gets excited about black eyed peas so its best to disguise them somehow.  My sister has a wonderful way to eat those peas and enjoy it at the same time - Georgia caviar.  If you eat it on a chip it doesn't seem like you're eating something healthy does it?  Disguising vegetables in a dip is a great trick with kids and certain adults, just make sure the fat and salt content isn't too high and that there are plenty of vegetables to justify it.

Georgia Caviar
1 lb. peas, drained and rinsed (you can use dry peas and cook them or use canned)
2 cups Italian salad dressing (use a light version)
1/2 cup diced and seeded jalapeño
1 1/2 cup diced onion
2 oz. diced pimentos, drained
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 cups diced bell pepper
pinch of black pepper
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and chill several hours.  Serve with corn chips.  I couldn't use that much jalapeño and still eat it so use the amount you can tolerate.

It's the next to the last holiday in the line up (Valentines is coming, remember?) so use some judgement and skip the high fat party food.  Visit the fruit and veggie trays, skip any dip that has mayo, too much cheese or sour cream like spinach dip or artichoke dip and you'll be better off.  Don't eat too many chips period.  Remember those alcoholic drinks are loaded with empty calories so drink some sparkling water or at least a diet coke in between.  Besides, you don't need to drink and drive!

Most of all, reflect back on the year that is passing.  Remember the good times, learn from your mistakes and look forward to a new year full of promise and opportunity.  Your number one New Year's resolution?  Make time for your friends and family and share your love.

Note:  I received a new camera for Christmas so let's hope I can figure out how to use it.  The old one is breathing its last and won't last much longer.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Menu

As you may know, I've been struggling with what to cook for Christmas dinner.  I am usually full of enthusiasm for any special menus or trying something new but this time I just haven't got it in me.  So here's where having a stock of tried and true recipes comes in handy.  I decided to keep it simple since we don't need any more extra calories anyway.  Here is our traditional Christmas Eve menu, eaten right after the 5 p.m. church service.

Ham (Petite Jean is our preferred brand)
Cheese grits (Barry lives for cheese grits)
Mandarin Orange/Spinach Salad
Chocolate Mocha Punch
Assorted Christmas Cookies

The ham and cheese grits never varies but the rest varies each year.  I decided I hadn't had enough Mocha Punch at the Cookie party so I'm making it again plus it whips up in no time.  None of this is hard to prepare and the grits can be assembled earlier in the day then cooked at dinner time.   Here is the Christmas Day menu, breakfast included.

Cheesy Scrambled Eggs
Brown Sugar Bacon
Grapefruit Compote in Rosemary Syrup
Mini Cinnamon Rolls

Spicy Beef Tenderloin
Mashed Potatoes
Cranberry Brussel Sprouts
Cranberry Salad
Guinness Chocolate Cake
Hot Cidar

Once again, all of this is super easy, especially since my sisters are in charge of the cranberry salad, the brussel sprouts and rolls.  I'm making the cake Saturday and marinating the beef over night.  Recipes for the Mocha Punch, Beef Tenderloin, and Brussel Sprouts are on this blog.  The recipe for the spinach salad is on under the title, "The Cardiologist's Wife Goes Green For Easter" on page 4.  I hope your Christmas meal plans have gone more smoothly and everything turns out wonderfully.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Coupon Savings Update

Have you overspent this year on Christmas?  Do you need to save money somewhere in your budget?  If you are a regular reader, you know I started a coupon clipping effort in August to see how much money I could save.  I never expected to equal the savings of those super shoppers on TV but I hoped for modest savings.  Here is an update on my experience so far.

First, let me say I really hoped to do better.  However, the fall months are always so busy with school, the kid's extra curricular activities and the birthdays and holidays, that I had a hard time with the coupon side of shopping.  I was too rushed to visit coupon sites and I seem to have a problem using the coupons I've loaded on my Kroger card but haven't taken the time to figure it out.  I still looked at sales circulars and tried to plan my menu around things on sale or to stock up when I saw a good deal, like the time when Kroger, then Target, offered Del Monte canned vegetables at the unheard of low price of 49 cents a can!  Certain things like deodorant and shampoo I try to never buy without a coupon or it being on sale or both.  So many items are on special during the holidays that it can be easy to save money on things like sugar, flour, canned pumpkin, green beans, etc.

Here are my savings in total for 4 1/2 months: $680.16.  Coupons accounted for only $163.40 of that total, not too impressive.  Still at the rate I'm going, I will save about $2000 for the year and that is a nice savings all together.  I suppose the real coupon kings and queens would scoff at my tiny savings but I think some of them have a real problem so we're even.  After all, how long does it take to use up 20 bottles of shampoo or who needs 10 lip balms just because you got a good deal?  If you are looking to cut back next year or would like to save up for something, or pay off your Christmas debt, your food/toiletries budget does have wiggle room even if you think it doesn't.

To save money, I have done a few things I'd never considered before like trying brands I never would have before and finding some that are just as good.  I have bought Tide recently instead of Gain and saved money for example.  You can easily save money by shopping the weekly sales circulars and eating a vegetarian dinner at least once a week.  Visit some coupon sites or read my previous posts on couponing for more tips.  I intend to pick up the coupon pace again next month to see if I can increase my savings.  If you really need to save money, this is one of the easiest ways to do it, you just have to make the time.

Thursday, I'll reveal the Christmas dinner menu I've been agonizing over.    

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Oh My Gosh, What's For Christmas Dinner?

Since I love to cook, and love to eat even more, I am seldom at a loss when it comes to menu planning.  But here's a BIG confession, I have no idea what I'm serving for Christmas dinner.  There will be 10 people to feed so this question deserves a good answer.  I've considered my favorite beef tenderloin recipe but for some reason, I can't get excited about it.  I certainly don't want another turkey.

Part of the problem is I'm cooked out from Thanksgiving, all the birthdays and cookie party.  See, even the most dedicated cooks get burned out sometimes.  It's not like I haven't been researching the issue either.  I've checked my most reliable cookbooks and websites and magazines.  Nothing catches my fancy.  I thought about lamb but some members of the family don't eat lamb.  I can't criticize, I refuse to eat veal.  I thought about a crown roast but that seems like more trouble than I care to undertake right now.  I'm thinking elegant, delicious but easy.  I thought briefly about fish but that seems very odd and would not go over well with my family.  I'd almost like to hire someone else to do the cooking!  Now I bet several of you are really shocked and don't think I'm not serious.  However, if I did that, my family would probably disown me and be terribly disappointed.

So what will you be having for your special meal at Christmas?  Do you trot out another turkey?  Ham will most likely be a top contender for many but we always have ham and cheese grits right after church on Christmas Eve.  That is very much a tradition in our family and I can't change it.  I ran the idea past my husband and met with stiff resistance.  So let him cook I thought.

I do get a chance to relax this weekend with NO cooking for me.  I'll kick back with more cookbooks, take some opinion polls and check more websites.  Next week, hopefully Tuesday, I'll have that menu squared away and a grocery list started.  Maybe we should just grill hamburgers.................

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Check In For Christmas Game Plan

Wow, another cookie party has come and gone!  If you have been reading my blog, you know all about cookie party but if you don't, read Confession of the Year, December 2009.  I have now made it through all the Christmas parties we will be going to and my weight has been stable.  I just have family gatherings and one really good restaurant visit to get through.  How about you?  Have you tried my suggestions on portion control, exercise and eating healthy foods most of the time?  It has worked for me though cookie party and its remains have almost done me in.  There are several tins of cookies left lounging on the kitchen counter, calling out to me whenever I'm near.

This year, the cookie line up included the traditional favorites: Oreo Truffles, Peanut Butter, Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Cookies and World's Best.  New cookies were Oatmeal Creme Pies, Red Velvet Brownies and a Pecan Praline cookie.  All new cookies received high ratings.  Then I made a double batch of Mocha Punch.  FOUR cartons of ice cream, 2 each of coffee and chocolate, 2 cups of coffee, and 1 quart of chocolate milk, all gone.  One gallon of apple cider, almost gone.  Twenty cups of coffee drained and who knows how many sodas?  Oh the outrageous decadence of it all!

I covered myself by exercising almost every day, even the morning of the party.  I've been mostly eating light, healthy meals like the grilled tuna and steamed vegetables I had for dinner after the cookie party.  The point I always try to make is that you can have your treats some times; just not all the time, every day.  You have to exercise, you have to learn what appropriate portions are and you can't eat junk day in and day out.

Don't think it's too late and give up.  You can always do better today and the next day.  Don't' wait for New Year's and those resolutions to jump start your healthier new self.  Today's weather promises to be decent so slip in a 15 minute walk at lunch.  Cut out extra helpings at meals.  Drink a glass of water instead of that coke.  You slip in a few good things every now and then, and before you know it, you're doing better overall!

So here's my wish for your Christmas Eve; may you have visions of vegetables dancing in your head and may those pesky sugar plums leave you alone!

Note: In the interest of helping my readers to avoid temptation, there will be no pictures of the unrestrained revelry this past weekend.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Overblown Portions

My husband and I were in Memphis yesterday for Christmas shopping and of course, we had lunch at a restaurant.  We tried a new place, Swanky's Tacos and had a nice experience but I noticed a disturbing thing while there.  Swanky's is what I'd call an upscale fast food restaurant.  They serve a variety of Tex Mex food that is prepared using fresher, better ingredients than say, Taco Bell.  My husband and I ordered grilled fish, tacos for me and red snapper with a mango salsa for him.  The fish was cooked and out to us in about 10 minutes and was delicious.

However, you could also go through a line and order burritos in a bowl and pick out exactly what you wanted in them from meats, beans, cheese, lettuce, salsa, onions, etc.  The problem was the size of the bowl.  This seemed to be the most popular item as several customers in line with us ordered them.  By the time they got through the line, there was more than enough food in each bowl for two people.  There is a terrible problem with portion distortion going on here.  Unfortunately, I also noted that each person who ordered one of those bowls was overweight.

I've taken a picture of one of my mixing bowls that my husband and I agreed was close to the size of the restaurant bowls so you can get an idea of how much food these people were potentially consuming.

  Not the best photo example, but you can see that would be a lot of food if the bowl were approximately half full of meat, beans, cheese and salsa.  I've seen similar problems with portion sizes in all restaurants, not just Swanky's of course.  I'm just using this to point out how we allow ourselves to think it's ok to eat large amounts of food.  If you aren't an elite athlete who works out several hours a day, there is no way your body needs to consume huge piles of food several times a day.  Even athletes need to be careful what they consume to perform at their peak.  I think you'll find that you actually feel better when you eat less.  You won't feel as heavy, bloated and lethargic.  So treat your body better and think before you eat. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Past Time To Pay Attention

This topic has been on my mind for some time and I feel I must write about it today so brace yourselves.  It's more than time to sit up and pay attention people!  Your driving is horrible and you are probably lucky you haven't caused a serious accident yet.  Now don't move on to your Facebook page or another blog because you don't think the topic is unimportant or doesn't concern you.  It does.

There have been a couple of horrible accidents lately which have made me think more about my own driving and I realize I could improve.  While on my way to school to pick up my daughter one afternoon, I nearly had to get off the road because the oncoming car was half way in my lane.  He looked up just in time and swerved back over. 

How many times do you cross the center line going around even the slightest curve?  I see that happen all the time.  How many times are you driving with one hand while chatting on the phone?  Can you not at least buy an earpiece?  Is the conversation that important?  God forbid any of you are texting but I bet you are.  I understand one of the accidents I'm thinking about recently was due to texting but the young man involved isn't alive to confirm that.  A friend of mine was there and tried to help him but there was nothing she could do.  He died on the scene but luckily the man in the other car and his daughter survived the accident after being flown to Memphis.  It was a bright sunny day with great road conditions so what happened?  The driver was distracted in some way.  I assume most of my readers are adults and that some of you are sitting there smugly thinking that it's kids who are the worst at texting and driving but you'd be wrong.  I have yet to see a kid with a phone in their hand while driving but the adults all around me can't put theirs down.  

I understand we all need to be connected and multitask but you won't be doing it from the grave.  Some of my other observations are that people have no idea what the turn signal is for and seldom use it nor do they understand the stop lights apparently.  If you have ever been through the pick up line at any school but particularly at local junior highs, you know it's a free for all with everyone feeling free to park and block other traffic and not move up to fill gaps.  It's ridiculous that adults act this way.  Any parking lot is almost as bad as everyone thinks they are the only ones there and can do as they please.  People have no idea how to merge or who has the right of way.  Last, if you are on the highway, slower traffic should stay in the right lane.

Lets all make driving better a priority.  We can all improve our driving skills and pay more attention to the road.  The life you save may be your own.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Disaster in the Kitchen

Just so you know, not every one of my dinners goes smoothly or turns out great.  Now some of you may find the following story funny, but it's not funny to me yet, maybe in another week or two it will be.  If only I'd had the presence of mind to take photos.

Last night I decided to make broccoli cheese soup.  I'd never made any but I saw a recipe that looked wonderful and sounded easy.  Actually, it sounded almost like dip and I started thinking about chips, but I digress.  It was easy to make until you got to the puree part.  But let me back up.  I had a bad afternoon yesterday, wrestling with reconciling bank accounts, then trying to figure out some problems on an accounting system.  And the horses decided to be spooky and ran around, refusing to come in the barn.

Back to the soup.  I poured the first batch in the blender, turned it on and discovered that the bottom wasn't screwed on firmly enough so that the soup oozed out the bottom and all over the appliance.  Several unkind words were said.  I mopped up that mess and proceeded to process the remaining soup.  Then I did something I'd never done before: I poured in the last batch and turned on the blender without the lid!  Fortunately, there was very little mess as I clapped my hand over the top and quickly shut off the machine.  At this point, I really didn't want to eat that soup at all.  To top it all off, I burned the some of the rolls but was able to salvage them by pulling off the burned part.

My daughter did laugh quietly and since it was her birthday, I didn't cuff her ears.  I can tell you that I will never, ever make broccoli cheese soup again.  Barry did eat three bowls but I think it was only because he was desperately hungry.  Cameron barely ate one.

So there you have it.  An epic kitchen failure by the cardiologist's wife.  The lesson is that everyone makes disasters in the kitchen but that shouldn't stop you from trying to prepare nutritious meals at home.   I also warned my family that I have cooked myself into a coma lately with two birthdays and Thanksgiving in a little over a week so they had better not expect culinary greatness from me for awhile.  There will be some pretty basic and simple food served next week but no nasty pizza or fried chicken take out I can assure you!

Try to have a simple, easy going weekend.  I know I am.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

After The Indulgences

Well, how did you do over Thanksgiving?  Did you keep your eating down to a reasonable amount?  Did you exercise any?  I was pretty successful on both counts and I must say I felt really good about not being bloated on Thanksgiving night.  I'm learning to eat enough to make me happy, not sick.  Believe it or not, I sometimes have found that to be a problem.  We had a great time with friends and family and that is what matters most.

I made a really good pot of bean soup last week before Thanksgiving and I'm going to share the recipe.  It's hearty and filling, just right for the snowy weather we experiencing.  Plus, you need all that wonderful fiber to counter the sugary calories you consumed recently.

Lisa's Bean Soup
2 1/2 cups Navy or Great Northern beans, rinsed and picked over
1/2 lb. ham, Petite Jean if you can get it, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 to 2 cups diced carrots
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 onion, diced
1 bay leaf
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. thyme
Place beans in a slow cooker and add water until the beans are well covered.  Add bay leaf, cover and cook on low for 1 1/2 hours.  Give beans a stir and add ham, carrots, celery and onion.  Cover and cook another hour.  By this time, the beans and vegetables should be getting soft.  Add remaining seasonings and adjust to taste.  If you want a thicker soup, you may need to spoon off some broth, mine was a bit too soupy.

 My Daddy would have been proud!

Make a nice pan of cornbread to go with the soup, or at least serve a nice crusty bread like sourdough.  This soup should please everyone; it's tasty, warm, filling and inexpensive.  You can cut back on the ingredients easily to make less, or add more to make enough for a crowd.  

Friday, November 25, 2011

Heritage Free Range Turkey

Well, if you were curious to know how the Heritage free range turkey turned out, here is the official report and pictures.  Since the turkey was very expensive compared to the frozen Butterballs you can get everywhere, I was somewhat nervous about cooking it.  However, I have Alton Brown to thank for my last two turkeys now which have turned out beautifully.  I don't think I have ever had a fowl brown up so perfectly and evenly.  It was simply lovely to look at.  Follow step by step as the turkey is brined and roasted so you can do the same, even with a Butterball.

This is the way the turkey looked upon arrival.

Next I washed the turkey and trimmed the fat.  There was quite a bit of fat around the breast and neck area.  I was surprised because I had read that free range turkeys had much less fat than their captive, overbred brethren.

I placed the turkey in a large bucket (used only for brining turkeys) and poured the brine over it.  Next it was placed in a large ice chest and filled with ice to keep it cool overnight.  I simply do not have enough room in my refrigerator to put it in there, plus the whole turkey should be submerged.  I have heard that there are brining bags but I have not looked for one.  The turkey should not brine more than 24 hours.

The next day, I rinsed the turkey and discarded the brine.  I placed it on a rack in a large roasting pan, filled the cavity with an apple, rosemary sprigs and an onion.  The outside was rubbed with canola oil.

Alton Brown recommends roasting the bird for 30 minutes at 500 to brown it.  I then turned the turkey breast side down to finish roasting for 2 more hours at 350.  I read that roasting it breast side down results in more tender, juicy meat and it seems to work.  It was done in 2 1/2 hours and I tented it with foil while we finished the rest of dinner.  Gorgeous, isn't it?

The taste test, which is most important?  Everyone agreed that it was very tender, juicy and delicious.  Was it better than the average turkey?  Hard to say.  I wish I had a commercially raised turkey side by side to compare.  The consensus was that the white meat was better but maybe not that much better considering the price.  However, if your conscience bothers you about commercial farming in light of recent revelations of McDonald's eggs, perhaps you'd rather buy more humanely raised meat.  I know I would.  Anyway, for the rest of Alton Brown's recipe, go to  

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Warning! Excess Calories Ahead!

I'm just in time, I hope, to head off excess calorie consumption and weight gain over the holiday ahead.  I read a short article this morning that should help prevent disaster. (  I am starting my Thanksgiving cooking today and yes, sampling the food or licking the bowl can be a huge problem for a cook.  Personally, I'm thinking of wearing a Hannibal Lecter style mask to keep unwanted food from straying into my mouth.

I always preach mindful eating though I don't always achieve it.  Cooking for a big party or event is always a recipe for disaster.  Yes, cooks do need to taste food to make sure the seasoning is right but try to keep it under control.  Perhaps a baby spoon would be useful to taste broth, soup, etc.  Really there is no reason to lick the entire cake or icing bowl, is there?

I hope you all have been busy exercising and eating right to get ready for the big day.  I know I have been, even though I had to be out of town over the weekend at a swim meet.  I still exercised in the hotel and took a long walk during warm ups when ordinarily there is nothing to do but watch my daughter and hundreds of other kids in the pool at one time.  I ate oatmeal for breakfast, drank lots of water, limited myself to only one martini.  The biggest downfall was being drug along to a pizza place that is a favorite of the team.

Anyway, check out the link, and think, think, think before you sample the cooking!  I am anxiously waiting  for my free range Heritage turkey to arrive today.  On Wednesday, I will slip it lovingly into a nice brine bath to soak and relax before roasting.  I have a beautiful new white platter for it's big debut.  I will write about it in my next post on Friday.

Have a wonderful, slim, Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Enjoy Fall, Be Thankful, De-stress

Yesterday I took my dog Molly for a walk.  The wind was pretty fierce and the temperature cooler than it had been but we both enjoyed the walk so much.  I had such a good positive feeling from being outside in the fresh air and looking at Mother Nature's handiwork.  Sometimes I don't think mental health is emphasized enough and that we don't do enough to encourage good mental health.  With all the stress in our lives and the problems we all face, it would seem that we would take better care of ourselves and our loved ones but we don't.  That is why I'm challenging each of you to get out this holiday, not to shop in the mass of frenzied humanity, but outdoors with friends and family or even alone and take time to be thankful.

Be thankful for the beauty of autumn all around you.  I love walking along and looking at the different shapes and colors of the leaves that have fallen.  The road I live on is a kaleidoscope of infinite possibilities, green mixed with brown, orange, yellow, red and purple, straight lines, sharp points, and curves.  Look up at the sky and observe the color whether it's a clear blue or smoky gray.  If I'm lucky I'll see a deer while I drink in the quiet.  That is what you need too, an escape to someplace quiet with fresh clean air to breathe.

Be thankful for all you have; the friends and family who are always there when you need them, your home and job.  Take along your family dog and show him some unconditional love.  (Two of my cats like to go on walks but that may not be the case at your house.)  Drag everyone out of the house and play dodgeball, shoot some hoops or toss a frisbee.  You'll be surprised at the bonding that occurs when everyone is breathless and laughing.  Take the family to the park to ride bicycles.  You won't even notice you are burning off Thanksgiving calories.  Take a big deep breathe of cold air and notice how it makes you feel and the different smells.  Much better than the stale air indoors.  When it is time to go back inside, take the peace and good feeling with you.        

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I advised getting ready for the holidays on my other blog by exercising and eating better so you won't fall into the plus side and you know what I mean.  The plus side is the dark side of health and there is nothing good on the dark side.  This time of year is full of danger for my family.  There are four birthdays, five holidays (Halloween thru Valentines) and numerous parties to get through without packing on the pounds and consuming calories like we are Olympic athletes.

Get busy and exercise now; don't wait for New Year's to get started.  If you just add 15 minutes a day, you will be better off than if you do nothing.  Of course, I expect those 15 minutes to increase to 30 at least 3 or 4 times a week and for you to actually sweat on those days!

Think about what you are shoving in your mouth right now too.  Make good choices at most meals (and snacks) so you can feel better about indulging at parties and holiday meals.  But that doesn't mean you should go whole hog and eat as much of whatever you want at parties and events either!  It doesn't have to be difficult; forego seconds and eat the grilled chicken breast, not the burger and fries.  Stuff yourself with vegetables, at least the kind that haven't been fried or covered in fat.  To help, I've got a recipe that was served at supper club recently.  You can make this for dinner and take leftovers for lunch the next day.  Once again, it is packed with nutrition and good taste.

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
2 cups water
2 cubes chicken bouillon
1 minced clove of garlic
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 large red onion diced
1 large bell pepper diced
1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Bring water, bouillon cubes and garlic to boil in a saucepan.  Stir in the quinoa, reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer until the quinoa is tender and the water has been absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Pour  quinoa into a large bowl.  Gently stir in onion, bell pepper, olives, feta, parsley, chives and salt.  Drizzle with the lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Stir till mixed well.  Serve warm or refrigerate and serve cold.  Add some chopped cooked chicken to make it a heartier main dish.

So join me in warding off the evils of the holiday season, not waiting to repair the damage next year.  Damage control is always more difficult and doesn't always work as we've seen time and again in the news.    

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Examples From The Tube

I love to watch Good Morning America while getting the kids ready for school and then while I exercise every morning.  I'm addicted to the news.  This morning while huffing and puffing away, I saw a piece on a man who has lost 200 lbs. since January.  He weighed in around 370 and his wife was worried about him.  She decided a challenge would be the best way to motivate him so their joint New Year's resolution was to see who could lose the most weight the fastest.  He realized he had a problem and since he had just turned 30, he thought it was now or never.

So how did he do it?  The hard way: no pills, no surgery, just eating right and exercise.  He described what he might eat at night before; the largest steak on the menu, THREE baked potatoes loaded with all the goodies.  Then when everyone was in bed, he'd sneak off to the local burger joint and order two triple hamburgers with cheese and two chicken sandwiches and eat ALL four of them.  He'd consume upwards of 10,000 calories a DAY.  Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps trains for 6 hours a day, 6 days a week and consumes around 12,000 calories a day but this man was only in training for early death.  His before and after pictures are amazing.  I would not have recognized that the man who appeared on GMA was the same man in the photos.  His children were asked what they thought of their Dad.  The oldest replied that now their Dad comes out to play with them whereas before he made excuses not to because he was too tired.

How sad is it that through our own fault we miss out on so much in life?  It was not due to a gland problem or his "genes" that this man was obese.  It was because he ate enough for 4 average men and was physically inactive.  I'll bet he never gets that way again.

So no, I wasn't exactly enjoying myself this morning while doing crunches or squats.  And I'd really like to eat bag of chips quite frequently.  But I do the right things so that I don't stand in my own way of doing the things I really like to do, like horseback riding and wearing a hot dress when I go dancing.  For further inspiration I have a few pictures to share with you.

These pictures are of some fat I trimmed from a pot roast (top) and a whole chicken.  Gross and disgusting isn't it?  Beef fat is often really hard but chicken fat is greasier.  When you think about fat like this packed around your waist, arms, thighs and butt, it's even worse.  Now do you want that extra piece of pizza?  How about another soda?  Did you have any vegetables today?  When was the last time you sweated?  Gives you something to think about doesn't it?  So don't look like the turkey this Thanksgiving - get busy and get healthy.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thanksgiving Desserts - What Do You Serve?

Now I don't know about you but when it comes to Thanksgiving meals, there are certain foods I feel are necessary or it's just another day.  I have slowly come to realize that what is on the table at Thanksgiving is a matter of region and individual family traditions. (Heavens, I've heard that some people of Italian descent even serve pasta on the big day!)  I believe we can almost all agree on turkey except for vegetarians.  I guess y'all can have tofurkey.  I think we can all agree on dressing although there are endless varieties of stuffing or dressing.  After that, it gets murky.  But I really thought that Thanksgiving desserts were set in stone.  Then I got married.  That was my first clue that not everyone ate pumpkin or pecan pie on Turkey day.

I have written about suffering through Thanksgiving meals in Mississippi where I thought I'd be safe.  We're in the deep south aren't we?  But there has yet to be a pumpkin pie served to me nor a pecan pie, that other traditional pie, in that state.  Or even a sweet potato pie, that other Southern substitute for pumpkin.  In my family there were only two options for dessert on Thanksgiving, both lovingly prepared and proudly served: pecan and pumpkin pie.  Imagine my dismay when I was served lemon meringue pie one Thanksgiving in Mississippi!  In my family, that's what we serve at fish fries in July!

Recently, several people got together to plan Thanksgiving dinner for a mutual friend who is ill.  I scanned the dessert list and saw things like blueberry pie.  ??  I still didn't see any mention of pumpkin or pecan.  Really, is there something wrong with me?  I did a bit of research this morning and found that pumpkin pie is considered the most common dessert at Thanksgiving but after that it is a free for all with fruit pies like cherry and apple perhaps the next most common.

So good readers, please share with me what desserts you will be serving this Thanksgiving.  I'm really curious.  We will have pumpkin; even my kids demand it and I may have pecan pie but I'm also thinking about pecan pie cake.  Who knows?  Maybe we'll throw tradition to the wind and have some cookies!  No, wait.....we have cookie party coming up.

I'll leave you with one more thought: in my research I came across a small study which showed that men are more turned on by the smell of pumpkin pie than by women's perfume.  Vanilla comes in a close second.  If you are looking for some action this Thanksgiving, give dessert some careful thought.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Already Excited About Thanksgiving-Heritage Turkeys

Being the foodie that I am, I am already thinking about Thanksgiving and what we will be eating.  Last night at 10:30 I was online ordering a turkey.  Not just any turkey, but a heritage, free range turkey.  Heritage means it is one of the old breeds we had before those poor white turkeys came along that are prized for their large breasts, fed all kinds of antibiotics and growth hormones and are kept caged up.  They reach maturity in about 18 weeks while heritage turkeys need 24 to 28 weeks.  Free range means the turkeys are allowed to roam in fields eating grasses and insects like nature intended.

Heritage turkeys are supposed to taste better and have less fat than commercially raised turkeys.  Since I have never been a huge turkey fan, I decided I had to try one.  The bird will be delivered to me on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, fresh, not frozen.  I will brine it lovingly and roast it Thursday morning, watching it closely and basting frequently.

I am a big fan of poultry and meat raised the old fashioned way.  I think it is better for us and certainly tastes better.  There is organically grown beef in our area but I haven't heard of anyone raising free range poultry.  I have to admit that the price stops me sometimes.  I think if there was more competition locally, the price would drop.  I think quality and taste always suffers when food comes from large commercial growers but I also realize it would be hard to grow enough food otherwise.

I will be reporting on the Heritage turkey and letting you know if it is worth the trouble.  Like I said, turkey meat is not my favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal but I will also report every one's opinion on the bird.  As time draws closer I will share the rest of the holiday lineup and recipes.  In the meantime, I have an update on my birthday.  I did not get to go out to dinner as I planned.  Oh no, my family had other plans.  I had a surprise birthday party at my friend's house.  The whole family knew about it and did a great job of keeping it from me.  Since my husband can't lie about the smallest thing, I totally missed any clues and my children are unfortunately awesome at keeping secrets.  Thanks to everyone who came out and helped celebrate my big day.  And yes, there was dancing!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


The cardiologist wife is taking a holiday.  Please check back soon.

Friday, October 28, 2011

16 Candles and Fried Chicken

Today is my birthday and I can do what I want so if I want 16 candles, there will be 16 candles right?  No one will be fooled but I will be happy.  So far, my family has done well; roses, Grace's biscuits for breakfast, sunshine, beautiful fall colors everywhere, everyone happy and in a good mood.  Fifty isn't so bad and would even be great if I weren't still tired.  Life has been lived at a breakneck speed lately with me needing to be in more places than physically possible.  I did get a good night's sleep last night and I will the next three nights so I should be much better by Monday.  I have a massage scheduled later this afternoon so I'm getting a bit of pampering.  My husband will take me to dinner and though he doesn't know it, I plan to have some dancing later.

It is only right to spoil yourself once in awhile.  If you spoil yourself too often, you are probably selfish or foolish or both.  Take a day once in awhile to slow down and rest.  Listen to your body.  When you stress yourself out too much and don't take time to rest, bad things can happen to that poor old body that carries you around.  So that is my agenda for the weekend - taking care of myself.  I will still eat right most meals and I've already had a good workout this morning, and every morning.

However, one gift I look forward to all year is the fried chicken dinner I will indulge in on Sunday.  I've mentioned it before, that my sister cooks fried chicken and makes chicken gravy with it.  One of the best experiences on earth if you ask me.  Then the Apple Betty pie my husband and children make and I will be one happy woman.  

So there.  I've shown that you can indulge once in awhile, over do once in awhile and still survive if you do the right things most of the time.  My philosophy of life is that you take care of your body like you would any precious thing and a few over indulgences are acceptable.

So have a lovely weekend with friends and family.  Get out and enjoy the cool weather and nature's beautiful display.  Rejuvenate for the next week.  And if you are inclined, drink a toast in my honor.  I'm 50 after all.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Computer Wrestling

Warning:  Today's post will be a bit odd.  Wrestling with computers or any type of technology should count as exercise.  I have just spent the last hour and a half trying to upload the Wellsphere badge (explanation to follow) to my blog.  Oh, the instructions say that it is easy, even if you are not technologically savvy but I beg to differ.  I feel more tired now than I do after an average workout and I haven't even reaped the benefits of the nice calm feeling I get after exercising.  I am so irritable now I could spit nails.  Along with the badge, I was trying to upload a photo to go with it but that didn't work so well either.

As for those of you who are snickering right now, thinking how stupid could I be, I need to catch up to the 21st. century, etc., you can stop right now.  I have seen plenty of you stumped by your iPhone, dragging your computers into the "docs" to be fixed and on the verge of a melt down too.  The truth is most technology is too complex for what the average person really needs or wants and makes perfect sense only to the designer.  Maybe not even then.  So, those of you who want to consider computer wrestling a sport, type a smiley face.  :)

Wellsphere is a web page devoted to helping readers connect with health information on a variety of topics.  I was honored to be asked to join this page, especially as I didn't seek them out.  I am always looking for ways to connect to others and encourage good health on the home front, where good health begins.  Around the same time, I also received an email from nursing, a web page that serves as an online guide to nursing careers.  I was very honored to be included in the article "50 Best Blogs For Physiology Students", especially since all the other blogs under cardiology were written by physicians.

I sometimes feel like I am talking in an empty room as I know personal health isn't usually viewed as an interesting topic until something goes wrong.  I just like being here for those who are interested in taking better care of themselves and want some support along the way.   Despite all my wishes, there is no magic wand to wave or words to say to ensure perfect health.  You know that.  Anyway, I'm off to manage my high stress level by exercising.  I know I'll feel better after I've sweated.        

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fit2Fat2Fit, A Blog You Should Check Out

I read a lot and watch the TV news so I can stay informed on any health news whether it is a new medicine, the latest exercise craze or people who make a difference.  Today on Good Morning America, there was a feature on a personal trainer who is trying to make a difference.  After years of listening to his clients complain that he just didn't understand how hard it is to deal with food cravings and to lose weight, Drew Manning decided to walk in their shoes.  Literally.  So he embarked on a 6 month reverse diet.  He's been eating the typical American diet; whatever he wants, whenever he wants, consequences be damned.  Exercise has gone out the window.  After the 6 months, he plans to get fit again, all in an effort to reach people and show it can be done.  So far, his weight has blossomed from 193 to an alarming 263 and his waist line has dramatically bloomed as well.  I will be following his blog, especially when he starts the fitness phase, to see how he progresses and the lessons he learns.  If you need some inspiration in your life, you may want to check out his blog as well.

Also today I want to thank my friend Kara for sharing a wonderful new recipe with me, Baked Oatmeal.  I admire Kara because she will spend a day now and then, cooking, baking and freezing so her family can still eat homemade, healthier food on those busy days.  I whipped this recipe together last night, put it in the fridge, then baked it this morning.  I think if you didn't tell your family it has oatmeal in it, they probably won't know.  Just tell them it's a breakfast cake, or coffee cake.  I think next time I will try some raisins or nuts in it or add a bit of flax seed.  I'm sneaky like that.  The peanut butter version would probably be good with chunks of banana as well.  Make a batch this weekend; I know you will like it.

Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal
3 cups quick  cooking oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup milk
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 eggs
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
Mix all ingredients and spread in a 9x13 pan that has been lightly greased.  Spread an additional 1/4 cup brown sugar over the top.  Bake at 350 for 20 to 30 minutes until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Bake less time if you prefer it to be more moist.  Serve warm with a bit of cream or Pet milk poured over the top.  This keeps well in the refrigerator if it lasts that long.

The peanut butter version is the same but substitute 1/2 cup peanut butter for the pumpkin.  My son did fuss about having oatmeal last night when he saw what I was making.  However, he grudgingly said it was OK this morning and ate every bite.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Planning Ahead

This is such a busy time of year with all the band competitions, football games and swim meets we attend.  I always want my family to eat home cooked food so I was happy to find another super easy yet good crock pot recipe this weekend.  I also want to encourage my readers to make extra and freeze for those busy days when it will be impossible to cook.  Make a big pot of soup, chili or spaghetti so you can freeze the extra portion.  I will be making my beef vegetable soup later this week which is more than enough for several meals.  I also want to encourage you to plan ahead for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.  If you are having a bunch of people at your house this year, make your life easier by cooking now and freezing food so you can enjoy your holiday too.  You can even freeze baked goods like cookies and muffins.  You'll be glad you did your prep work early!

Back to my new recipe.  Five ingredients and a crockpot.  Dump it all in and forget about it.  How much better can it get?  Oh yes, it tasted good too.  Leftovers were good the next day.  Cleanup was a breeze.  It was almost like eating fast food but way, way better.  So here it is.

Herbed Beef Sandwiches
3 to 4 lb. beef chuck roast, trimmed
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil or 1 Tbsp. dried
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano or 1 Tbsp. dried
1 1/2 cups water
1 envelope onion soup mix
your favorite sandwich rolls
Place roast in a slow cooker that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Combine remaining ingredients in a measuring cup.  Pour over roast.  Cook on high one hour, then on low 5 or 6 or cook on low 8 hours while you are at work.  Before serving, shred meat with 2 forks and serve on rolls.

Because we all like onions, I sliced a couple of onions and browned then in olive oil and put them on the sandwich too.   A nice white cheese like Harvarti or Provolone would be good too if you like.  These sandwiches are kind of juicy and sloppy but it was a nice change from pot roast.  I also like that you don't brown the meat first which makes it faster and less messy to make.

Still haven't worked out the problem with the photos.  I need a home computer nerd to come help but mine seem to be busy all the time.      

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Lentils: Tiny In Size, Big In Nutrition

I have alot of cookbooks as you can imagine.  Most were given to me or they belonged to my parents; a few I bought for fundraisers.  I try to cull through them once in awhile as it seems that recipes get repeated so much.  Really, how many ways can you make spaghetti or bake a chicken?  My advice on cookbooks is that everyone should have one basic cookbook that can serve as a reference book such as Joy of Cooking.  This cookbook has all kinds of cooking and food information such as cuts of beef and a whole section on ingredients.  It is my go-to book when I need to know something.  Then you should be really, really picky about every other cookbook that comes into your home.  They take up so much room after all.  The only other cookbook that I feel is absolutely necessary is Traditions, A Taste of the Good Life, published by the Junior League of Little Rock in 1983.  I have found more great recipes in this cookbook than any other and if you can locate a copy, you will have a treasure.  They were still available a few years back in local cooking stores.

The soup recipe I promised to share comes from this cookbook.  It contains lentils, a member of the legume family that we don't see used very often around these parts.  That's a shame because lentils, like other beans, pack alot of nutrition.  Lentils are high in fiber, contain 2 B vitamins, protein and 6 important minerals.  They have an indefinite shelf life and are quick to cook.  This soup is very comforting on a chilly night.  Just serve with crackers or bread.

Sausage and Lentil Soup
1 lb. lentils
8 cups water
2 16 oz. cans diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
8 slices bacon, diced
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 large onion, diced
1 cup chopped celery
2 lbs. sausage, browned and drained
Wash lentils and combine with water, tomatoes and seasonings.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat.  Fry bacon until limp, then add carrots, onion and celery.  Saute' over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add bacon mixture and browned sausage to lentils.  Simmer for 1 hour.    

I am having technical difficulties with downloading photos.  I hope to have a picture of the soup posted soon.  Enjoy the soup!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Couponing Update

In August, I decided to try to maximize my coupon savings and learn to be a more savvy shopper.   I am also tracking my coupon and shopping savings so I can see my progress.  I felt there was possibly a great deal of money I was basically throwing away by not using coupons.  So I am now in my third month and I feel like I have stalled.  Where are the good coupons?  The best coupons I have found are for things I don't use or that I have plenty of like shampoo and hair products.  I'd like more coupons for fresh vegetables, milk, orange juice, meat and eggs.  We don't eat many processed foods or drink sodas so the free liter of Dr. Pepper at Target did not excite me.  Neither did the coupon for .99 air freshener at Walgreens.

Don't get me wrong; I'm very excited about the savings I've accumulated so far.  Total savings to date are $367.70; of that $106.63 are coupon savings, the rest is sales price savings.  The trouble is you get sucked into believing that you should only pay maybe $5 for $100 worth of groceries like they do on TV.  Maybe I should watch the show for some tips.  One thing I am better at now is really looking at the sales sheets that stores send out.  I've been trying to plan meals around the items on sale that week and of course, matching coupons to sales items when possible.

One new coupon site I've found is  There are several pages of coupons each week and they are easy to scan quickly and print.  I have also tried a few other brands I normally wouldn't have because I had a really good coupon for them, making them a much better buy than my favorite brand.  I have also discovered that Walgreens is a great place to shop for all sorts of items.  I never really shopped at Walgreens before but lately I have picked up things like mascara, soup and and shampoo at really great prices.

So here are my tips: be open to shopping some place different and to trying new brands.  Check out many websites, magazines and newspapers for coupons.  Planning meals and having a shopping list saves money and keeps impulse buying to a minimum.  Watch for promotions such as buy two and receive a coupon for money off your next shopping trip.  I received $3.50 in such coupons yesterday while buying spices and toilet cleaner on sale.

If any of my readers have any coupon tips to share, please do!  We'd all love to save more money wouldn't we?  On Thursday, I'm going to share a new soup recipe I just tried.  I think it's going to get cooler sometime and my family thought this soup was great. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Do School Lunches Measure Up?

I was excited to see a segment on Good Morning America this week about a teacher who began to blog about the school lunches which she felt were less than desirable.  The majority of the kids at her school receive free or reduced lunches, meaning that lunch at school might be their best meal of the day.  Yet what are schools serving up but fat, salt, highly processed foods and empty calories?  I even give my local schools a less than stellar grade on the lunches they serve though they have improved a tiny bit lately.  Let's look at a sample from this week from two different schools:  Clux Delux Chicken sandwich with RF chips; Mac n cheese and beef sticks; Mystery beans, apple wedges, juice bar and choice of milk; Hot dog, potato wedge, pickles, crisp rice square; Mac n cheese, black eyed peas, cornbread, peaches and gelatin.  I don't know about you but I very curious about beef sticks and mystery beans.  Any food with the word "mystery" in front of it is immediately suspicious and probably to be avoided in my mind.

I'd like to see more fresh fruit and raw veggies offered at schools.  I'd certainly like to know that a "choice of milk" meant 2% or skim, not chocolate or strawberry which usually contain more sugar than a soda.  I'd like to see chicken nuggets outlawed all together and a nice chicken leg or breast on the tray instead.  There are healthier ways to cook potatoes other than frying them too.  I'd like to see food served that kids actually want to eat that won't leave their arteries clogged and their waists bloated.

This week I made lunch for 6 of my son's friends because they were all longing to eat whatever he brought that day.  They were tired and disgusted with the school lunches and wanted something fresh and different.  I made a ham salad sandwich on wheat bread with lettuce, grapes and pretzels.  They were so excited and grateful.  It didn't really take more than 20 minutes to assemble 8 lunches that morning.  Some of it could have been done the night before but it shows a healthy lunch isn't hard to make.  Though I can't do it every day, I plan to make them another lunch soon with a turkey, avocado and red onion sandwich to see their reactions.

Are you concerned about what your children eat at school?  If so, get involved.  Let the school board know you expect better for our kids.  If you'd like to check out that teacher's blog, go to  She also has a book out this week.  We can improve our own health with our actions!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

ATV Safety

A friend of mine recently had an accident on an ATV (all terrain vehicle).  He suffered a couple of broken bones and several bad bruises and it will be 6 weeks or so before he is fully recovered.  It could have been much worse.

I have never been a fan of ATVs and never let my children ride them.  Most people take them for granted and treat them as a toy and source of entertainment for themselves and their children.  I have seen children turned loose in the woods near my house, riding on adult ATVs with no supervision.  If they were to have an accident, it would be some time before their parents realized they were missing and then it would take awhile to find them.  The same goes for golf carts and other types of farm vehicles known as gators and mules.  Children don't treat these vehicles with respect and unknowingly take risks.  Earlier this year, a couple of girls suffered broken bones when their golf cart overturned while riding down a steep hill in their neighborhood.  Another teen who lived near me was thrown from his ATV because he was going too fast.  He suffered a broken back.

I never cease to be amazed when parents let children operate such vehicles.  They are not toys and should not be used as such by immature, thrill seeking children.  But back to ATVs specifically.  In 2009, there were 376 deaths and 131,900 ER visits tied to ATV accidents.  Kids were involved in 32,400 of these accidents and 61 died.  In fact, the risk of serious injury to kids from an ATV accident is 61% higher than in football.  Rollovers are the most common accident involving ATVs and children are easily pinned or crushed beneath their weight.  

If you and your family still feel like riding ATVs, here are some basic safety rules.  Number one - GET TRAINED.  Every rider should take a course on operating and using an ATV.  Two - Always wear a proper helmet, long pants and sturdy boots.  Three - Don't ride double.  Children should not ride with another adult or child.  ATVs are controlled in part by body weight so an extra rider could throw off the driver.  Four - Children should never ride adult sized vehicles.  Buy an appropriately sized one.  Five - Don't operate an ATV while drinking.  This should be a no brainer but many accidents are a result of alcohol.  Six - Don't ride alone and always supervise children.

If you use your ATV for work and hauling, make sure you know how to properly load it so it is balanced.  ATVs tip and rollover easily so make sure the weight is distributed in a balanced manner.  Once again, don't work alone when using such equipment or at least make sure someone knows where you are and when you will be finished.  My friend was using his ATV for work but had someone else along who was able to call for help.

Think twice before treating these machines so casually.  The life you save could be your child's.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fish Oil

Because I have stiff, achy joints, I have been taking an anti-inflammatory drug for some time.  But what helps one pain causes another.  I had been experiencing some stomach pain and nausea for about a week when my husband finally convinced me to try some Prevacid and to stop the anti-inflammatory drug.  In two days, my stomach was much better but my achy, stiff joints were not.  A friend recommended that I try fish oil.

I knew fish oil was good for your heart, one of the reasons I feed my family so much fish and that I recommend everyone else eat fish.  But I knew nothing about what fish oil could do for your joint pain.  I did a little research and found that for some, fish oil does help relieve pain and stiffness but it could take 12 weeks before I notice a difference.  So I am experimenting again and I will let you know the results.  If you  are currently taking fish oil for joint pain and have had success, please let me know in the comment section below.  I am already so miserably stiff and sore that I know I can't wait 12 weeks for results.

Since I had technical difficulties yesterday in that I could NOT upload the photos I took of the recipe below, I did not get this post posted.  The pictures are on the computer but for some reason do not appear when I try to add them to this post.  Even my husband couldn't figure it out.  Usually I have no trouble.  This time you will have to imagine how good this dish looks.  If I get the problem worked out, I will post the pictures.

Polenta with Meatballs
1 cup polenta
4 cups water
1 tsp. salt
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 bell pepper sliced
1 onion, sliced
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 26 oz. jar of your favorite pasta sauce
1 12 oz. package of meatballs, thawed
Cook polenta in boiling water with salt added according to package directions.  Spray a 9 by 13 baking pan with cooking spray and spread cooked polenta over the bottom.  Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and set aside.
Saute bell pepper and onion in 2 or 3 Tbsp. of olive oil in a large skillet.  When lightly browned, add pasta sauce and mushrooms.  Add the meatballs at this point or make your own meatballs, see my recipe on January 19, 2010 and cook covered in the simmering sauce about 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Heat broiler to high and place polenta dish in the oven.  Watch closely and remove when top is lightly browned.  Spoon meatballs and sauce over the polenta and serve.

My sister brought a nice green salad with herbs and fresh homemade bread.  It was an easy and great dinner.  This is one of her favorite dishes so she said it was like her birthday because I'd also made a chocolate layer cake.

Hoping you have a pain free week.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Benefits Of Massage

Yesterday was a very hectic day.  I was up at 5 a.m., feeding animals, making lunches and taking Grace to swim at 5:30.  Back to the house to fix breakfast, finish lunches, clean the barn and make sure Cameron was up.  Then back to pick up Grace and drop her off at school.  Home again, where I got in a quick workout, showered and rushed off to pick up groceries.  After a fast lunch, I was off running errands: picking up laundry, fulfilling my duties as swim team treasurer, dropping off a T-shirt for my son at school and putting up flyers for Bark in the Park for my daughter.  I picked Grace up from school, then took her back to afternoon swim practice.  I raced home and threw together dinner (tortellini soup, recipe on the blog), fed horses and went to a 2 hour meeting about scholarships and financial aid at the high school.  I missed dance class but got home at 7:30 finally.  Worse than my days usually are but it explains why I didn't write yesterday.

I left out one thing: I squeezed in a massage between the workout and grocery shopping.  OMG!  I took an hour for myself, how selfish and wasteful!  How decadent!  But with today's post, I hope to change opinions that massages are just expensive self indulgences to massages can be part of your health care plan.  

Yes, massages can be a wonderful treat but more and more, people realize that they can be good for your health.  Studies have shown that massages can help with stress, anxiety and depression, stiffness, lower blood pressure, help with low back pain, sports related injuries and cancer treatments, boost immunity, release endorphins (the body's natural painkiller) and improve circulation.  People often report having more energy, reduced fatigue, improved concentration and better sleep after massages.  Does that sound good to you?

There are several types of massage so if you plan to have one, consider which one may be best for you.  Here are some of the more common ones.
1.  Swedish - a gentle massage to relax and energize you.
2.  deep tissue - a more forceful massage to target deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue, usually to recover from injuries.
3.  sports - like a Swedish massage but geared to help prevent or treat sports injuries.
4.  trigger point - focuses on trigger points or sensitive areas of tight muscles that form after injury or overuse.

If you have certain conditions such as blood clots, cancer, fractures, rheumatoid arthritis, severe osteoporosis or are pregnant, you should talk with your doctor before getting a massage and certainly you should inform your massage therapist.

There are sure to be many options for massages at many price points near you.  Ask your friends for references or check the yellow pages.  Remember that if you don't particularly like something such as you feel the therapist is too rough, speak up.  Try several places till you find someone who suits you too.  I think you find a massage to be very beneficial.  I know it helps me with stress, stiffness and sore muscles from workouts.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Something Smooth To Warm You

If you remember, I love soup in the fall and winter.  Soup is an easy way to get a balanced, nutritious meal in your family in just one pot.  So I get really excited when I find a great new soup recipe.  A friend of mine recently brought me a big pot of this soup and my whole family loved it.  It is smooth, warm and comforting; just the thing for chilly nights.  The rather complex mix of flavors intrigued me and I couldn't wait to get my hands on the recipe.  So here it is just in time for another dip in the temperatures later this week when fall officially begins.

Butternut Squash Soup

2 Tbsp. butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 large potato, chopped
1 medium butternut squash
1 32 oz. container of chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste

Cut off stem, cut squash in half lengthwise and scrape out seeds.  Roast halves on a cookie sheet on foil, flesh side down at 400 for 45 minutes.  While squash cooks, peel and chop other vegetables.  Melt butter in a large pot and cook vegetables 5 minutes or until lightly browned.  Pour in enough chicken stock to cover vegetables.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.  Remove squash from oven, let cool a bit, then scoop out the flesh.  Transfer squash and vegetables to a blender and blend until smooth.  May need to do in several small batches.  Return to pot and mix in any remaining chicken broth to attain desired consistency.  Season with salt and pepper.  Note: use vegetable broth for vegetarians and skip the butter for vegans, substitute a nice vegetable oil.

I added a dollop of sour cream to our soup but I want to try a few shavings of parmesan cheese next time.  This soup would be a wonderful meal on Halloween, a great first course for a Thanksgiving dinner or as an appetizer served in small glasses.  If you have picky young eaters, tell them it is pumpkin soup like Harry Potter eats and make a jack o lantern face on the surface of the soup with cheese slices.  Or add a few sprigs of parsley for hair and a couple of olives for eyes and tell them it's a ghoul.  Hey, you have to make food fun and creative once in awhile!

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Little Inspiration

Yesterday I was thinking about how hard it is sometimes to go exercise.  Believe it or not, I really am lazy at heart.  I long to lay in bed till at least 7 (seems pitiful that 7 would be a luxury doesn't it?), eat a big breakfast of pancakes and read the newspaper.  But that seldom happens, even on weekends.  Instead I am up by 6:20 most mornings, 5 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays because our evil child has talked us into morning swim practices, and going hard once my feet hit the ground.  I make breakfast for my kids several days a week, oatmeal, eggs or a breakfast sandwich.  I have 7 animals to feed and take care of and I send a good lunch to school with the kids.  Soon after they are gone, I am exercising.  After that, I shower and get on with the day.

Many days, my laziness fights to take control and steer me back to bed or to the fridge for something wonderful.  I love dancing and go to class twice a week.  Some days I am so tired I don't want to go to class, I just want to stay home on the couch and watch TV.  Sometimes I have to drag myself out to the barn to ride my beautiful horse, another activity I live for.  Everyday there is something I'd like to eat that I know I shouldn't and I wage a terrible battle with my conscience.  Last night I almost had a chocolate milkshake but heartburn after dinner stopped me.

The point of all this rambling is that I am just like you.  I have cravings, love to eat, live a busy life and yet I manage to exercise and try to eat healthy most of the time.  Why?  How do I stay on track?  Why is easy.  I love the way I feel.  Right now, my exercise routine is the best one yet.  I have more energy and feel really good.  I feel like I did 25 years ago, ready to do anything.  I also like the way I look.  Yes, I'd love to have a tummy tuck and have more muscular arms but I've kept my weight in a normal range.  The second question is easy too.  I have a strong willpower and I've put my health at a high priority.  I've seen what neglecting your health does all too often and I don't want to be that kind of person.  That is why I'm out dancing and having fun with my husband.  I plan to ride my horse as long as I can because it is a huge part of who I am and I can't imagine not riding.  I want to live life, not watch others live theirs.

Me, the couch potato.  Notice I am wearing exercise clothes.

Hopefully, this will be a bit of inspiration for you to go for that walk today, to not skip your workout this weekend and to put down that donut.  That is the other key to what keeps me going: finding inspiration from others.  My daughter inspires me with her swimming, as does Dara Torres, another swimmer in her 40's and so does a friend of mine who has serious health problems.  So find your motivation and get going.

Participating in Wanna Dance last year with my partner, Brandy Lloyd.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Join The Coupon Craze

If you haven't joined the coupon craze, you're missing out on an opportunity to save money.  Now I'm not talking about extreme couponing like on the TV show but just making some effort to cut your grocery bill, putting that money to use elsewhere.  I've clipped coupons for years but often I'd forget to use them and they'd expire.  Recently with all the talk about couponing, I decided to get more serious and see how much money I could save in one year's time.

I started by cleaning out my coupon box.  I already had a small box with dividers for cereal, dairy, pet supplies, etc.  Then I found a couple of websites with advice to help me save even more money.  Of course, I set up a spreadsheet to track my savings month by month.  Reading the first website gave me some good advice.  Don't be partial to brands, watch for sales and try to match coupons with them, look online as well as in the paper for coupons, know when each store offers new promotions and sales, and be familiar with each store's coupon policies.  Now I have a problem with the first one; brand partiality.  There are some things I simply won't substitute another brand for like orange juice, the facial moisturizer I use and pet food.  However, there are other things I'm willing to be flexible with to save money.  I am also not going to have a closet dedicated to the stockpile of goods I've collected because I "saved money".  I don't mind buying an extra tube of toothpaste or a few extra cans of vegetables but I think some people get too carried away.

So get to the good part, you may be thinking.  How much money have you saved, a few bucks?  Hundreds of dollars?  Well maybe $166 dollars the first month doesn't impress you, but it did me.  After all, if I just average $100 dollars a month, that is $1200 dollars for the whole year!  And that was just the first month; hopefully, I'll do better as I go along.  Of that $166, $45 was the result of using coupons, the rest was the money I saved buying things on special.  So far this month, I've already saved $109.  One day I even had $23 dollars in coupons.  I was as excited as kid at the fair!

I've spent about an extra hour a week clipping coupons from the paper and checking online for coupons.  Not too much time for the savings I'm enjoying I think.  Here are the online sites I've tried and like so far: and  I even sent off for some free samples for the first time today from; horse treats, Hugo Boss cologne, and Sooo Sweet, a sweetener.  The only downside I've found so far is that some sites want you to sign up for free offers and then try to sell you something so be careful.  The least you can do is the make sure to sign up for and use a store's frequent shopper cards.  You can even load coupons onto these cards from the store's website in some cases.   I'll be writing about my savings from time to time this next year and updating you on any tips I learn.

   The flaxseed oil was buy one get one and I had a coupon for $1.50, the green beans were on sale for .63 a can and the Aquafresh was nearly a dollar off and I had a dollar coupon.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Just in time for fall, I have a quick new recipe to share which could become a family favorite during school nights.  I'm always looking for good recipes to share which show that you can cook a healthier dinner at home faster than you can go get take out.  This is another dinner that anyone can cook if they can use a can opener and turn on the stove.  Seriously.

Pierogies with Meat Sauce

1 12 oz. package frozen potato pierogies
1 package turkey Italian sausage ( I used sweet sausage, not hot)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
Bring 4 cups water to boil in a large pot.  While waiting for water to boil, brown sausage in a large skillet till crumbled and no longer pink.  Drain and rinse fat and return to pan.  Add tomato sauce and cherry tomatoes and bring to a simmer.  When water is boiling, add pierogies and cook according to package directions.  When pierogies are done, drain and add to meat sauce.  Stir gently and serve immediately.

I added about a teaspoon of basil to the sauce but no salt was needed due to the spicy sausage.  A bit of Parmesan on top is nice.  I added a large green salad with mandarin oranges, almonds, grated cheese and chopped bell pepper.  You can see for yourself that this dinner is much better than Burger King or Pizza Hut.  It can be on the table in just under 30 minutes and your family might just get a serving or two of vegetables.

If you aren't a sausage fan, substitute your favorite ground meat, mine being turkey.  You'll definitely need to add some salt, pepper and basil to flavor it up though.  This would double nicely too, if you are feeding a crowd but this served 4 well last night.

I wanted to quickly recommend two restaurants in Greenwood, Ms. in case any of you are thinking of making a trip there.  We ate lunch at the Delta Bistro where I had a tasty grilled salmon salad.  You can get the recipe on my other blog at  Then we ate our anniversary dinner at Giardina's, which is part of the Alluvian Hotel.  The lamb sliders with jalapeno slaw on cheese biscuits were just divine.  I wish I had one now.  However, I also had catfish cakes and Barry had the Giardina's oysters.  Both were really good; I'm inspired to find a recipe for catfish cakes now that I should avoid crab cakes.  I loved the quirky decor of Delta Bistro and the private booths at Giardina's were leftover from prohibition days.  The booths provided privacy so that the law couldn't see you sneaking a drink.  Now they just make for an intimate dining experience.

Have a wonderful weekend and get out and enjoy this exceptional weather!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Viking Cooking School

Cooking school is lots of fun!  Nothing like regular school, no tests, no studying and best of all you get up out of your seat and move around and talk alot.  Why wasn't school that way back in elementary and high school?  Anyway, I'm reporting on our trip to the Viking Cooking school in Greenwood, Ms.  Viking has their headquarters in Greenwood, Ms., which is about a three hour drive from Jonesboro.  There are other Viking cooking schools scattered around but Greenwood is popular in our area due to the Alluvian Hotel and Spa, the shopping, restaurants and local museums that have sprung up.  It makes a nice weekend get away for couples or groups of friends.

We signed up for only one class on Friday night,  the Italian Alfresco Dinner Party.  We skipped the tamale class going on at the same time because that would have been too much work.  There were two other couples in our class and we all hit it off right away.  Soon we were chopping, mixing Bellini's, marinating and laughing.  In no time at all it seemed, we were eating a delicious dinner.  I'm going to share our favorite recipe from the class which coincidentally, is the easiest.  I want to add that we were using all of Vikings famous products and I must say their ovens and cook tops are nice.  The dessert we made was delushious as my daughter says but I'm not sharing that because it isn't heart healthy.

Asparagus With Prosciutto
20 fresh asparagus spears
2 Tbsp. olive oil
pepper to taste
10 thin prosciutto slices, torn in half lengthwise
Preheat oven to 450.  Trim the tough ends of the asparagus and arrange on a baking sheet.  Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with pepper.  Roast until just tender, about 5 minutes.  Wrap with prosciutto (do not wrap tips) and serve at room temperature.  Note:  we wrapped ours before cooking and grilled them.  I liked this version better as the prosciutto was a bit crispy.  Delish.  Serve as a side dish or an appetizer.

After class, we had an opportunity to shop in the Viking store of course.  We picked up some handy gadgets; a mop brush for barbecue, a shot glass with measurements on it, and a poach pod for poaching eggs.  I can't wait to try the pod as I love poached eggs and mess them up every time.  One of the men in the class said they are great to use.

To find a Viking Cooking School near you, simply go to and select a town.  The upcoming classes, prices and descriptions will be listed as well as whether the class is sold out.  I'm sure there are also local cooking classes in your town.  Check around as they are fun and educational, not to mention tasty.  

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Labor Day Weekend

Labor Day Weekend is one of my favorite holidays.  Maybe it's because my anniversary falls near Labor Day or that it signals the end is near for the heat, humidity and mosquitoes.  Maybe it's because it is another excuse to have lots of fun, food and swim with my kids.  This year my husband and I are spending half of Labor Day at the Alluvian Hotel and Spa in Greenwood Ms. for our anniversary.  We will attend one of the famous cooking classes at the Viking Cooking school located in Greenwood so I will be reporting on that next week.

The kids will be left to fend for themselves and take care of the seven animals we have.  I think they can manage, particularly if I text them to remind them what they should be doing.  Once we get back, I'm planning a cookout on Sunday and Monday plus lots of swimming.  Got to swim to work off the calories you know.  As you know, Barry loves his Big Green Egg smoker and has even been hinting that he'd like a bigger one.  Anyway, one of his favorite ways to smoke a chicken is to set the whole bird over a can of beer or other liquid if you prefer and let it cook away.  The liquid in the can keeps the chicken moist and supposedly lends it some flavor.  Best of all, it is super easy to do.

Barry found this ceramic jar made for holding liquid for smoking chickens.

Along side that chicken, I'm serving fried corn cut from the cob, some sort of salad and for dessert, pound cake with peaches.  Pound cake with peaches is a delectable dessert.  Pound cake should always be made the day before serving because it gets moister with time.  I simply peel and slice a few fresh peaches into a skillet, add butter, brown sugar and cinnamon and a splash of your favorite liquor such as bourbon, amaretto or perhaps peach snaps.  Stir that over medium heat till the peaches soften a bit.  Spoon it over a slice of pound cake and you have a little bit of heaven.  Yum Yum!

Monday we are going to keep it simple - burgers of some sort, maybe salmon burgers for a change.  A few sweet potato wedges would be good too.  Of course, there will be leftover pound cake.

Whatever your plans this weekend, have some fun with friends and family, eat some good food and stay safe.  Wear your sunscreen!            

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

La Dolce Vita

Oh yes, living the good life!  I wrote recently about my struggles with turning 50 on my other blog at  I was not looking forward at all to 5-0.  I was depressed about the whole thing and tried to deny my age.  But age just won't be denied.  It creeps up everywhere.  You can get a facelift only to notice how wrinkly your hands are and how many sunspots you have.  And your joints ache no matter how many sit-ups you do.  Your doctor won't kindly overlook your age; he just smugly tells you it's time for a colonoscopy.  After all, he's a good 20 years younger.

However, I couldn't help but notice how good I've been feeling lately.  I have more energy and I am in better shape than I was 5 years ago.   I am rarely sick.  My family is in good health as well, though some members should exercise more.  Not going to name names, they know who they are.

Yes, some of our health is related to good luck.  We are lucky certain diseases that can't be helped have avoided our family.  But most of our good health is due to eating right and exercise.  The payoff is in the way we feel and the things we are able to do.

So I realized I'm living the good life and how sweet it is!  I have to brag; my husband and I went out dancing this past weekend with friends Alex and Caitlyn and had so much fun!  Now I must hasten to say that this was a first.  We are normally home with the kids but this past weekend, we branched out.  And we learned something.  Doing something different, maybe outside your comfort zone, is a wonderful energizer!  We feel totally stimulated and ready to tackle other new things.  Doing something new as a couple is great for your marriage as well.  Everyone needs to get out of their rut and see what's happening on the roadway.  

If you want the good life, you know what to do.  Yes, you can ignore me and all the others who nag about your health.  You may be living the good life now you say, without all the work.  But sooner or later, that kind of lifestyle catches up with you and kicks you hard in the butt.  So make a choice.  Take charge of your life or sit on butt in your little rut.  Smoke your cigarettes.  Stuff your face with fast food.  But I'll be dancing.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hunger In America, A Wrapup

I hope you have taken the time to educate yourself a bit on this serious topic that affects all of us ultimately.  As I have said, hungry children do not learn well, and then aren't prepared to enter the workforce.  Then they become the next generation of poor and the cycle continues.

My daughter and others in her youth group at church had an excellent lesson this past week as they experienced different aspects of poverty.  The last day they fasted until 7:30 when they were served a surprise meal at the youth group meeting.  While my daughter said doing without food wasn't so bad, she realized it was only for one day.  She had plenty of food at home and no worries about where her meals were going to come from.  There were others in the group who found it harder to do without food.

I watched some of the programming on local and national news about hunger in America yesterday.  One of the most touching interviews was with a 10 year old boy.  When asked what the most difficult thing was for him, he replied, "Watching my Mom do without dinner."  She sacrificed so her children could have more.

So the next time you think that hungry people are those who don't work, think again.  Your co-worker whose husband got laid off three months ago may not make enough to cover the bills and buy food for the month.  She may be doing without so her children can eat.  The cashier at Wal Mart may work full time but find it hard to provide for her family on minimum wages.  Your yard man's job will run out during the fall and winter and he may struggle to find other work and his family suffers.

There is also the curious issue of obesity and poverty.  When we look at someone who is obese, we seldom stop to think that he or she is malnourished but that is often the case.  The cheapest food is usually the least nutritious and highest in fat and sugar calories.  Poor people often live in food deserts as well, meaning there are no grocery stores near them or they lack adequate transportation to get to a store.  Could you carry home a week's supply of groceries on a bus?  I think not.

I challenge my readers to contribute money to their local food bank or soup kitchen.  Instead of stopping to get your morning latte for a week, donate the cost of the drink.  Get your scout troupe or Sunday school class to do a food drive.  Challenge your family to do without sodas for a month and donate that money.  Just donate.  You never know when it could be your turn to need your neighbor's help.