Blog has moved, searching new blog...

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.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hunger In Our Own Backyard

Last week, I gave some pretty harsh statistics on hunger in America and even right here in Arkansas.  What can you do to help?  The Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas is based here in Jonesboro and works to combat hunger in an 11 county area.  The Food Bank distributes food 4 to 5 times a year in 18 different locations within these counties.  Other programs include providing 20 lb. box of food every other week to an elderly person in need and a backpack of food for the weekend to school children who would otherwise go hungry.  Statistics from the Food Bank show that 89% of recipients have incomes below the government poverty level, 25% are children under 18, 8% are elderly, and 3% are homeless.

You can help with these efforts by giving money or time.  Volunteers deliver senior packs, organize food drives, sort food, pack food boxes/backpacks, assist with office work or help with food distributions.  Call 932-3663 or check their website at for more information.  Giving money is important too.  You can sponsor a senior for $120 a year or a child's backpack for $144 a year.  By simply giving a check, you can ensure that the Food Bank is able to buy what is most needed at the time.

Another worthy organization here in Jonesboro is the Helping Neighbors Food Pantry which serves Craighead county.  Helping Neighbors is an all volunteer organization supported by area churches.  Donated money is used to buy food from The Food Bank or from local merchants who sell the food at cost.  Helping Neighbors provides food for about 21,000 individuals annually.  Volunteers are needed for office work, sorting and packing food, or picking up food from different locations.  Call 935-7298 or visit the website at for more information.

City Youth Ministries provides dinner during the school year and lunch or dinner during the summer and snacks daily to disadvantaged youth, among other programs.  They can always use volunteers and donations of money to help.  Call 932-9398 or visit their website at for more information.

Last, ABC News is starting a new series on Hunger at Home; Crisis in America.  This series starts Wednesday and will air on Good Morning America, World News with Diane Sawyer and Nightline.  The federal government has released new data showing that America now has the largest number of people living in poverty in 50 years and nearly 51 million have no health insurance.  Unemployment is around 9%.  Watch this series and do what you can to help.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Starving In Arkansas

As you know if you've read my blog long enough, my focus is often on food.  What to eat, what not to eat and sometimes just plain good food.  My daughter came home from youth group this week with a project that has changed my focus.  They are talking about poverty, extreme poverty, and the youth minister provided an excellent challenge for the youth to emphasize with those who live daily with poverty.    Over 7 days, the youth will sleep on the floor, wear the same clothes for 2 days, live a day with out any media, find their own transportation, beg for their lunch, eat only rice one day and finally, fast one day.  A pretty daunting task for these teens but no where near as daunting as facing these problems every single day of your life.

Our society is obsessed with food.  In America, 1/3 of the population is obese or overweight.  Food seems to be everywhere in abundance.  Therefore it is hard to believe that there are starving people in our own backyard, but there are.  I did a little research and learned that in 2009, 50 million Americans lived in food insecure households and that includes those most helpless to do anything about it - the elderly and children.    (A food insecure house is one where there is often not enough for everyone to eat.)  Worse, 5 states had higher rates of food insecurity than the national average between 2007 and 2009 and Arkansas was at the top.  Not Mississippi or Alabama or West Virginia.  Arkansas.  Nearly 25% of Arkansas' children don't know where their next meal will come from.  Most of those children come from single parent homes with the parent working.  I find it sad that Heifer International, a high profile non profit based here in Arkansas which works globally to help people rise above poverty, even has projects right here in their home state.

The government sets the poverty level for a family of four at $22,350 but a single mother with three children, working 40 hours a week at minimum wage only earns $15,080, considerably below the poverty level.  It shouldn't take a genius to realize that a hungry child won't learn as well, will suffer health and developmental issues and ultimately, won't be able to rise out of poverty.  As for the elderly, they may be too proud to ask for help and may be making tough choices between medicine, rent, utilities and food on social security wages.

Seems strange that we Americans should be busy helping other nations in times of crisis when we can not solve our own problems.  Rather we prefer to ignore them as much as possible.  Next week, I will take a look at hunger closer to home and give you some suggestions on how you can help.  After all, don't we want our younger generation to be strong, health productive citizens?  

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Warning: This Post Could Be Hazardous To Your Health

I want to share a link to another blog today but I warn you, this blog could be hazardous to your health.  Ree Drummond is an interesting woman who married the love of her life and moved to the middle of nowhere to be with him.  She began blogging to keep up with the friends and family she left behind but she soon developed quite a following.   To pass the time and feed her four children, she also went to work in the kitchen in a big way.  Now she has at least one cookbook out and another on the way and has appeared on such shows as Good Morning America.  Soon she will have a Saturday morning show on Food Network.

Ree is a fine cook but she never met a stick of butter or a cup of sugar she didn't add to whatever she was making.  To use some of her own words, she is a very, very, bad, naughty girl.  I find coffee undrinkable but she has a recipe for iced coffee that makes me want to whip up a batch.  I couldn't bring myself to make her positively sinful Milky Way cake this weekend with the eight Milky Way bars in it.  In other words, we are pretty much polar opposites.  Still, being the foodie I am, I have been willing to try some of her recipes and found them to be good.  Last night, I made her meatball sliders.  They were a huge hit and super easy to whip up; just right for a school night.

I encourage my readers to check out her site.  She writes about life on a cattle farm, her children, farm animals and more.  She has a section of beautiful photography, hers and others.  And then there are the recipes, conveniently divided into sections such as dessert, breads, cowboy food and cowgirl food and filled with helpful photos.  You could just lick the screen looking at some of her food.  However, don't say I didn't warn you if your diet is wrecked.  You need some self control in looking at this site and you probably need make no more than one of her recipes a week, or even a month.  I plan to make the peach-whiskey barbecue chicken this weekend.  Sounds too good not to.

Check her out at and keep an eye out for her new show.  But don't say I didn't warn you several times!

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Sandwich For Carnivores and Herbivores

I try to include vegetarian friendly recipes from time to time because several of my friends don't eat meat and I also like to encourage others to eat more vegetables.  I had to try this sandwich recipe because it sounded so good and it was.  My son said and I quote, "It's good but not great."  High praise from a 17 year old boy who prefers meat in his meals and I'll take what I can get.  Without further ado, here is the recipe.

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich With Mozzarella
1 lb diagonally sliced zucchini
2 Vidalia onions, sliced in rings
1 bell pepper, sliced in wide strips
1 small eggplant, peeled and cut in 1/2 inch rounds
3 to 4 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 to 3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
fresh basil leaves
fresh mozzarella
loaf of Italian or French bread
Heat grill to medium high heat.  Combine all vegetables except onions in a large bowl, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Toss well.  Place bell pepper and eggplant on grill coated with cooking spray.  Cook 5 to 7 minutes on each side or until brown and soft.  Remove and cook zucchini about 3 minutes on each side.  Meanwhile heat an additional 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet and add onions.  Cook onions at least 10 minutes, turning occasionally until nice and brown.  Slice the loaf of bread horizontally and hollow out the top and bottom.  Save torn bread for another use or stuff it in your mouth like I do.  Layer the bottom half of the bread with mozzarella, basil and vegetables.  Replace top and carefully place on grill.  Heat about 7 to 10 minutes or until cheese melts.  Cut into 4 pieces and serve.

For the carnivores, add some prosciutto under all those veggies.  I found the neatest mozzarella at Kroger's deli for this sandwich.  It is actually in a roll lined in plastic so all you have to do is roll it out on your bread.  It also had a very good taste.  The veggies acquire a nice smoky flavor and I dearly love browned onions.  I can eat them all by themselves.

Now that I've dispensed with the good food, I'd like to encourage my readers to check out my other blog at this week.  I think the post about colonoscopies, though something rather unpleasant, is important to discuss and think about.  Note: there are no pictures on that blog this week.      

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tips For Back To School

Unfortunately, school does start next week for us; it may have already started in your area.  I say unfortunately because I am never ready for school to start, unlike most parents.  I wish we could play all year.  But because I want my kids to have the best possible educational experience, I start early with back to school prep.  Here are some tips for getting your child ready for school.

1.  Set a bedtime and have your child start going to bed at that time now.  Sleep is one of the most important factors in the learning process.  A tired child is not going to be able to pay attention or learn.

2.  Eat a decent breakfast.  A donut or skipping breakfast will not do.  A hungry child can not learn; all he or she can think about is their stomach.  Eat a boiled egg and have some juice or banana, peanut butter and milk.

3.  If you didn't hear the news last night, tests show lunches from home most likely are not cold enough to keep food safe until lunch.  Freeze the child's drink as well as including an icepack to keep food cold and avoid food borne illnesses.

4.  If your child is nervous about the start of school, make sure they attend the open house and meet their teachers.  Try to have them attend open house and the first day of school with a friend.  Don't ignore or make fun of their feelings but don't add to their anxiousness either.

5.  If they had summer projects to do for school, make sure they are done now, don't wait until the night before school starts.

6.  Talk with your child about what to pack for lunches and let them make some decisions.  Just make sure their choices are nutritious, not disastrous.

7.  Make sure their shoes and clothes fit well.  Ill fitting clothing and shoes are uncomfortable and distracting.

8.  Wash all clothes before the big day and pick out something to wear for a couple of days.  This will speed things up and lessen stress on school mornings.

9.  Organize everything your child needs to take the first day on the night before for the same reasons listed in 8.

10.  Tell your child you love them and you just know this will be the best year ever!  A positive attitude is inspiring.  

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Another Winner For Hot Summer Nights

It's way too hot to cook these days so what are you preparing for dinner?  I try not to use the oven and use only the stove top, microwave and grill these days.  I was flipping through my cook books looking for something different and came across this recipe that I had forgotten about.  It really fits the bill for keeping the heat down in the kitchen and it is ready in no time.

Skillet Stuffed Bell Peppers
2 large bell peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded
Cooking spray
1 lb ground turkey or beef
1/2 cup water
1 package taco seasoning
1 package refrigerated mashed potatoes
1/2 cup grated cheese such as cheddar
Place bell pepper halves open side down in a microwaveable dish.  Cover with plastic wrap and microwave until tender, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, heat a large skillet and brown meat.  Drain and return to pan.  Add water and taco seasoning; cook and stir until heated.  Heat mashed potatoes according to package directions.  Spoon meat mixture into pepper halves, top with heated potatoes and some cheese.  Microwave 1 minute more until the cheese is melted.

I served canned ranch style beans mixed with a can of Great Northern beans on the side.  Made a tasty dinner without standing over the hot stove too long.  

I hope you are taking precautions while the heat is this severe.  I have found this heat hard to exercise in as well as to do any outside work, like clean the barn.  Yesterday afternoon I went to check on the horses and I felt like a chicken turning on a spit just walking across the yard.  So drink extra water, check on your pets and the elderly and take it easy till this heat breaks.

Meanwhile, here is a fantastic dessert idea you can whip up on these hot nights.  Put a pint of raspberries in a small pot and add 3 Tbsp. of sugar.  Heat over medium heat and stir until sugar is melted and berries break up.  Let cool completely.  Scoop some lemon sorbet into a small ice cream dish, add a Biscoff cookie, graham cracker or ginger snap cookie on the side and top with the raspberries.  Cool and delicious and light on the calories.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Some Real Food To Eat

I hope you enjoyed my reminiscing last time.  Maybe it reminded you of what your parents or even grandparents cooked for you.  Last night, I made a recipe I haven't used in awhile and was reminded how good it is.  While it requires a good bit of chopping, nothing is hard and it goes together fast.  The flavors are a nice blend of ginger, hoisin sauce and garlic.  Try this recipe on these hot summer nights when nothing sounds good.

Ginger and Garlic Asian Lettuce Wraps
1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
1/2 cup water
1 lb ground turkey
1 cup sliced shitake or button mushrooms
1 8 oz can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
1/3 cup teriyaki sauce
1 Tbsp. creamy peanut butter
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1 head iceberg lettuce, separated into leaves
Cook carrots and 1/2 cup water in microwave, covered, about 2 minutes.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat and cook turkey, stirring till brown and crumbled.  Drain turkey and add carrots and mushrooms and next 8 ingredients.  Increase heat a bit and stirring occasionally, cook 4 minutes.  Add green onions and mix well.  Serve mixture into lettuce wraps, roll up and eat.  Don't worry if you are missing an ingredient.  I left out the sesame oil and it was fine.

This is fun to eat and my kids have always liked it.  Last night for a side dish, I stir fried sugar snap peas and sliced carrots in some olive oil.  When nearly done, I added some garlic, cooked 2 minutes more and seasoned to taste with salt and pepper.

I always have a hard time separating the lettuce leaves without tearing them to shreds.  If you have a fool proof way to do this, please share.  I cut the bottom around the core and gently work the leaves free.