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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!