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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Do You Throw Away Money?

Back in August, I wrote about hunger in America.  Now I am writing about the overwhelming amount of food wasted in America each year.  Before you skip this post, give me a minute to explain why you should  read on.

We all must eat so a large part of every household budget goes towards food.  When you throw away food you are throwing away your hard earned dollars.  Interested now?  You might not be able to control the price of gas, your mortgage, rent or electricity but your food budget is pretty flexible.  I've been keeping track of how much money I can save by using coupons and buying things on sale.  So far, I'm on track to save about $2000 in one year for a family of four plus four cats and a dog.  Another way to save money on food is to cut out chips, cokes and sweets, or at least cut back drastically.  You can shop for the brands that cost the least and have meatless dinners once in awhile.  The final way to save money is to plan carefully so that food isn't wasted and thrown away.  The whole family must learn the importance of not wasting food.

On Thursday, I'll give you several tips to prevent wasting food, thus saving money.  Food waste has a huge economic and environmental impact so I'll end today by giving you some startling statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency and other sources.  I hope it will make you think before you toss anymore food.

Americans throw away 34 million TONS of food each year.  That is roughly equivalent to 8500 average sized cars.  Only paper is a larger component of msw or municipal solid waste but we recycle more paper.  Food waste is the single largest msw component in landfills and incinerators.  We spend about 1 BILLION dollars each year to dispose of wasted food.  At the home level, we throw away about 470 pounds of food for a family of four each year or about $600 worth.  What could you do with $600?

Food waste has a tremendous environmental impact.  Rotting food in garbage cans attracts rodents and smells bad.  Rotting food in landfills produces methane gas which has 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

Much of the food waste could be composted which has many benefits.  Composting improves the soil which reduces the need for fertilizer, water and pesticides.  It is easy to compost right at home by collecting fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and egg shells.  You can place these scraps in a fancy store bought com-poster or create one of your own.  I do this everyday and avoid putting quite a bit of food in the trash.

A tremendous amount of food could be redistributed to those in need.  Day old bread is perfectly good but is often tossed unless a food recovery program is nearby.  With so many in our country going hungry each day, we need to do better than throwing away usable food.

So it seems that there are economical, ethical and environmental reasons to avoid food waste.  I hope you'll check back on Thursday for some tips to save food.      

Thursday, January 26, 2012

National Peanut Butter Day

Since my whole family loves peanuts and peanut butter, I can't imagine how we all missed National Peanut Butter Day on January 24th.  Had I known, we would have celebrated with all our favorite ways to eat peanut butter.  It would have been hard to choose between peanut butter pie and chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting for dessert, but we could have started our meal with a nice peanut butter soup and moved on to Peanut Butter Chicken for the main course.  I must admit that the girls in the family are the big peanut lovers, followed by my husband and then my son.  My son doesn't like Peanut Butter Chicken but I will share the recipe and you can try it for yourself.  I have been known to have a serious peanut addiction that meant I ate a small amount of peanuts every day.  The last couple of months I haven't felt like eating peanuts though so I must have finally burned myself out on them.

 Peanut butter has an interesting history.  It is thought to have originated in South America where the Indians ground peanuts into a kind of paste.  The modern version of PB probably started in the late 1800's with Dr. Kellogg of Kellogg cereal fame, who made peanut butter and served it to his patients as a nutritious protein.  Other Americans perfected the spread or invented machines to grind up the peanuts.  The National Peanut Board claims that Americans eat more than 6 pounds of peanut butter a year.  Wow!  Peanut butter is very nutritious though high in monounsaturated fats and calories.  It is high in fiber, protein, vitamins B3 and E and iron.  Peanut butter contains more antioxidants than apples and carrots and contains Resveratrol,  a natural anitmicrobial agent that can protect against cancer, viruses, and has anti-inflammatory properties.

I didn't cook with peanuts or peanut butter until several years ago.  Peanut butter was for PB and J's.  Once we were having an early American dinner when the kids were really young and I made peanut butter soup.  The rest of the family wasn't crazy about it but I discovered that peanut butter had so many more possibilities.  The following recipe is is pretty easy and a different from your ordinary chicken.  You'll like it if you like peanuts.

Peanut Butter Chicken
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
8 pieces of chicken such as legs or thighs
Place these ingredients except for the chicken in a microwave safe bowl and microwave 30 seconds at a time until easy to mix.  Place chicken in a large zip top bag, add marinade and close bag.  Massage chicken to make sure it is all coated then marinate about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile mix the following ingredients in a pie plate or similar dish.
1/2 cup ground peanuts
1/2 cup fine bread crumbs
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. red pepper
After 30 minutes, remove chicken from bag and roll in the peanut/crumb mixture.  Place in a lightly greased baking dish and bake at 375 for 35 minutes or until lightly brown and done.    

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Update On Fish Oil

Back in September I wrote about the benefits of fish oil, one of them supposedly being that it was good for achy joints.  I promised to report back after taking fish oil for at least 12 weeks so here it is.  First of all, let me say I have not taken the recommended 4 pills a day for joint pain relief.  If I have to take that many honking big pills a day, you can forget it.  There, confession is out of the way.

Second, I must also say that I have switched from Meloxicam, the drug which made my stomach hurt, to Celebrex, more expensive but easier on the stomach.  So I have been taking Celebrex at the same time as the fish oil.  I did that because I hurt so much in my lower back that I couldn't wait 12 weeks for the fish oil to take effect.  However, I ran out of Celebrex about 7 to 10 days ago, so I decided to see how I felt off the drug.  For the first several days I was amazed that I had no pain.  I was beginning to believe the fish oil was working, even on 1 pill a day.

But the last two days, I have started hurting again and will be headed to the pharmacy later today.  (It is now 6:13 a.m.)  This may be due to the fact that I went dancing into the wee hours at the Rhumba Room Saturday night plus had a few really vigorous workouts close together.  Maybe all that extra exercise finally put me over the edge.  Whatever the cause, I've got to get back to a pain free state again.

Constant pain really wears you down and makes it difficult to be in a good mood and to do your regular activities.  When I hurt, I tend to snap at people more and be really crabby, as do most people.  Therefore, it is so important to do something for constant pain.  You should consult with a physician first to find out what is wrong and to follow his or her advice.  Don't ignore pain, wherever it is, or try to treat it yourself if it doesn't go away after a couple of days rest and some Motrin or Tylenol.  If you have really severe pain, see a doctor right away.  And for heavens sakes, don't take someone else's prescription medication!

Exercise can be really good for certain types pain and helps keep achy joints moving more comfortably.  Obviously, pain from an injury needs rest, not exercise unless it is physical therapy from a licensed professional.  The more I sit around, the more my joints get stiff, so movement definitely helps.  Soaking in a hot tub also helps those stiff joints or muscles as does massage so consider both therapy, not an indulgence.

So what do I think about the fish oil?  I plan to keep on taking fish oil as I felt really good for several days off the Celebrex but I do plan to take two pills a day now.  Plus there are heart benefits to taking the fish oil and I'm not aware of any potentially harmful side effects.  I'll report back in another couple of months on the increased dosage.  I'm not convinced it works for joint pain for everyone but I'm willing to try.  I'm also thinking of visiting my doctor again soon especially the foot doctor to discuss my other foot which has begun to hurt in the bunion joint.  (I hate my feet.  I've worn sensible shoes, tennis shoes and flats most of my life and yet I have painful bunion joints.  It's just not fair!)  Anyway, here's hoping you have a pain free week!          

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fast Sides

We all want to get a fabulous dinner on the table quickly but some nights are more rushed than others.  My family is no different in that we are all going in several directions many nights.  However, we still manage to sit down together for a family dinner most of the time.  It takes planning and the help and cooperation of everyone to pull it off.  I have always said that one person doesn't have to be responsible for meals all the time.  Young children can set the table or help with simple tasks.  Older kids can cook or clean up after dinner.  Both spouses should be able to prepare a decent meal that doesn't involve takeout.

If you have been solely responsible for the cooking in your family, it's time for a change.  Have a family talk and get everyone's input but don't allow anyone to say "I"m too busy" or "I can't cook".  Assign jobs or nights for everyone to pitch in or take over the cooking job entirely.  After all, your children will be on their own someday and who will feed them then?  In the mean time, here are a few ideas of fast sides that anyone older than 9 should be able to do.

Salads:  Anyone can open a bag of salad greens, dump them in a bowl and pick over them for wilted pieces.  It is easy to add some craisins, nuts, grated cheese, chopped boiled egg, grated carrot, cut up apples or pears to make the salad more nutritious and tasty.  Use your imagination for different toppings.  Anyone can make a fruit salad by opening a can of mandarin oranges, another of pineapple, draining them well and then adding some sliced banana.  Once again, use your imagination for different combinations.

Spicy fries:  I had my son prepare spicy fries the other night and these couldn't be easier.  Simply bake a bag of steak fries according to package directions.  Meanwhile, mix up 1 tsp. of chili powder, 1/2 tsp. cumin, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 or more of cayenne pepper in a small bowl.  When the fries are done, place them in a paper bag, add the spices, close the bag and shake.  They were very yummy with the sloppy joes we had.

Steamed squash:  Wash and trim ends from yellow squash.  Slice in 1/4 inch rounds into a microwave safe bowl and add 1 tbsp. of water.  Cover tightly and microwave for 5 or 6 minutes or until just tender.  This depends on how many you cook.  Drain well, salt and pepper to taste with a small scoop of Brummel and Brown or other butter substitute.

Steamed asparagus:  Wash and trim tough ends.  Place in a pan and add about 1 inch of water.  Bring to a boil and cook 3 to 5 minutes until asparagus is fork tender.  Season with salt, pepper and a small scoop of butter substitute.

Anyone can prepare these sides while a meatloaf or some chicken breasts bake in the oven and Mom picks up little Johnny from basketball practice.  It really is that easy, it just takes some planning.  Don't forget to brag on the efforts of those who help out in the kitchen.  They will be more likely to help next time.      

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Paula Deen and Diabetes

I don't know if you heard in the news but Paula Deen, that great lover of butter, sugar and all things fried, has confirmed on the Today show that she does indeed have type two diabetes.  However, she assures everyone that it is not a death sentence.  Well, lets look at some statistics from the American Diabetes Association and you decide.  I assume they know all about diabetes there.

There are 18.8 million people in the U. S. who have been diagnosed with diabetes BUT, about 7 million more are undiagnosed and perhaps as many as 79 million are pre diabetic.  No, that 79 million is not a typo.  Having diabetes greatly increases your risk for that triumvirate of heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.  Diabetes is also a leading cause of blindness and kidney failure.  Sixty to seventy percent of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nervous system damage while 60 % of non traumatic amputations are to diabetics.  Does all that sound like a serious problem to you?  It certainly does to me, in fact, I'm thinking more along the lines of earlier death.

What are some of the causes or risk factors for Type Two Diabetes?  1. Age.  The older you are, the more likely you are to develop this disease.  2. Diet and being overweight.  (Ah Hah!)  Eating too many calories of a high fat and high sugar diet leads directly to obesity which leads to diabetes.  That simple.  3.  Race.  Non-white people are more likely to develop diabetes.  4.  Life style.  Being physically inactive leads to obesity which leads to ______.  You know the answer.  5.  Family history.  Having a close relative with diabetes means you are more prone to the disease.

Prevention is always the best answer.  I have harped on this subject so often but I can and will harp again in hopes someone gets it.  Take care of your health now because your doctor can't always put a bandaid on your booboo and make it all better.  So what is the treatment for diabetes?  You must commit to a lifelong monitoring of your blood sugar.  You may test it once a day or more often depending on your situation.  You need to change your diet to a healthy one and learn to be careful of your carbohydrate intake.  You need to exercise regularly.  You should lose weight.  All of that may be enough to control your blood sugar but if not, your doctor will prescribe medicines or possibly insulin.  Insulin must be injected.  There really is no cure and if you neglect to take care of your diabetes?  Read paragraph 2 again.  My Aunt lost both her legs to diabetes and I knew a young woman who died before we were out of our twenties because she refused to take her medicine.  So Paula may be putting on a good face for the public but I hope she takes her diagnosis seriously.

And yes, I too say that you don't have to eat only roots, nuts and tofu but treats like Paula Deen makes should be eaten very infrequently.  I eat fried chicken only about 2 or 3 times a year for example.  So rethink what you are eating today and ask yourself, is it worth it?  

OMG!  I was just checking the news on MSN as I ate lunch and I came across more Paula Deen info including a reference to a hamburger with bacon and a fried egg on a DOUGHNUT!  I couldn't believe this was possible but I goggled it and sure enough there was a video, I assume of her show.  I watched in complete horror as she assembled the doughnuts, hamburger, bacon and fried egg and then took a bite.  She also offered it to her guest!  Her comment was something about you get your savory and your sweet.  She did not mention you get your fat, your sugar overload, your spare tire, your diabetes, your heart attack. On the news, she is claiming she has always promoted moderation.  There is no "moderation" in such an offering.  She is also stating that she cooks food for plain folks who don't have a lot of money to spend.  She should consider that these same people don't have a lot of money to spend on health problems either!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Rebate Offers and General Information

I have some new readers and I thought I'd just take  a moment to explain what this blog is all about.  I do scan other blogs from time to time and while there are some excellent ones out there on all kinds of subjects, some I just can't figure out.  This one is pretty easy, it's all about health and how we can all lead a healthier, better life.  I am not a nurse, doctor or nutritionist.  My husband is a cardiologist and we share a passion to promote better health, me through the things everyone of us can do every day.  The main thing you need is a desire to learn more and do better.

I share recipes that my family actually eats, most are easy, fast and good for you but I try to present the whole picture.  We don't eat 'nothing but vegetables' so sometimes I share dessert or fattening recipes too.  You can eat a balanced diet.  I try to provide motivation; don't we all need a push now and then to do the right thing?  I share exercise tips and suggestions and once in awhile, I do some research and present a few health facts in an easy to understand way.  I also confess "our sins" so that readers don't think we are the perfect family who exercises and eats roots, nuts and tofu.  I hope you enjoy reading this material and share it with your friends and family.

I've been writing since August about my attempt to master the coupon system and save more money on groceries and household goods.  I thought I'd briefly update you on something I did this month that has saved me $30!  REBATES.  Maybe you've sent off for rebates before or maybe you did and didn't get your money but I have had success with this in the past.  If you read magazines or the sales circulars in your newspapers, you will find rebate offers from time to time.  Wal Greens is particularly good to put rebate offers in their weekly sales circular.  Rebates are not hard to do but follow the instructions carefully in order to be eligible.  Make a copy of everything you send in and mark the expected arrival date of the refund on your calendar.  Most require you to purchase an item, send the register receipt and perhaps the UPC code off the product package.  I think this is a great return of money for about 5 minutes of my time and a stamp.  All I know is that I'm going to be on the lookout for rebates on the things I use regularly.  I am not going to stock pile goods in a spare bedroom just because I saved money, but I have no problem buying 3 or 4 extra items to save $30 on something I use frequently.

In 5 months, not including January yet, I am on track to save $1800 this year by using coupons, rebates and watching for sales on the things I buy regularly.  Not bad.  Not going to get me on the extreme couponing shows, but I can definitely put that money to use elsewhere.  Have a wonderful weekend saving money!      

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Top Ten Reasons To Be Active Or Exercise

I am into finding reasons to exercise today.  Believe it or not, I have trouble making myself dance, ride my horse and especially do my weight workout.  You know I love to dance and I have loved riding since I was a wee child but I do have a laziness factor.  This morning for example, I was excited that it wasn't raining because I could get in a quick ride before the deluge starts.  Still, the couch called out to me and the unmade bed looked appealing.  I got into my riding clothes and out of the house as quickly as I could, before I was seduced into slothfulness.

So why do I do it?  What keeps me motivated?  How do I keep going?  It isn't always easy but here are the answers.

1.  I don't want to be fat!  I do however, want to eat pretty much what I want.  I am a foodie first and foremost.

2.  I like the way I feel.  I have more energy when I exercise.

3.  Exercise helps keep the achy joints working.  The more I move, the better my joints feel.

4.  I like feeling strong.  The weight work I do has given me stronger arms and legs, indeed just stronger all over.  That makes anything physical I do easier, like lifting the heavy slow cooker over my head to it's spot in the cabinet over the refrigerator or toting a basket of laundry up the stairs.

5.  I know it helps my heart and the rest of my body stay healthy and work properly.  I don't want to die young!

6.  It's a great way to socialize.  You meet people and make friends when you go to the gym, yoga or play tennis.

7.  Helps to relieve stress and to keep a positive attitude.  Don't we all need more stress relief and an attitude adjustment?

8.  I like the way I look.  Don't we all admire toned arms and legs?  Who wants to have underarm flaps?

9.  I like the challenges exercise brings.  I try to change my routine frequently or to try new things so I don't get in a rut.  Gives my brain a workout too when I'm learning something new.

10.  I like being labeled athletic.  Who really wants to be known as a couch potato?  There's more prestige to being a tennis player, a runner or a gym rat.  It makes you more interesting as a person when you are active.

Now get out there and get moving.  Surely some of these reasons motivated you and what reasons can you name for not being active?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Bucket List

A friend has inspired me to think about a bucket list.  I'm not sure what is on her list, besides learning to salsa, but the conversation definitely made me think about my own goals.  Sometimes we get so caught up in day to day living, just making ends meet and making sure everyone is fed and clean, that we forget to really live.  It is those extra little things that make life worth while, otherwise life is day after day of drudgery.  The beginning of a new year offers a promise of change and it is as good a time as any to think of your bucket list.

What are your dreams?  What would you like to accomplish?  What kind of example do you set for your children and others?  Your goals don't have to be big, just meaningful to you.  Maybe you just want to read the whole Bible in one year rather than climb Mount Everest.  Go for it.  If you are 60 something and think you are too old to learn to surf, think again and make it happen, even if for only one day.  This year, set aside some me time and take a painting class or learn a different language.  You may find that whatever you attempt is not really something you want to continue doing but at least you'll know.

Many of the things on your list won't be that hard to accomplish, it is more a matter of making time to actually do it and looking at your options.  I'd always wanted to learn to dance but didn't dream there were any opportunities in my little home town other than ballet and hip hop for children.  Then I was introduced to a young Mexican who has now been teaching me Latin dancing for 2 years.  I have envied my friends who are wonderful amateur photographers, while making excuses for my own photos.  This past fall it became obvious our trusty point and shoot was on it's last legs so I decided to get a decent camera and take a class.  I found a local one day class scheduled this January and received a Cannon Rebel for Christmas.  I've already taken some nice photos and you'll be seeing some here soon.

The point is that everyone should have a list of things they'd like to do and to work at achieving at least some of them.  Instead of plopping in front of the TV tonight, get a piece of paper and write down the things you'd love to do, big and small.  Think how good you'll feel when you can cross something off and say "I did it!".

Here is a sample of my bucket list.
Travel to somewhere in Europe, Italy being high on the list.
Travel to somewhere in Africa.
Learn basic Spanish.
Climb down into the Grand Canyon.
Finally have a decent yard and landscaping while learning more about growing things.
Have a small green house so I can grow vegetables year round. (Ha!  I have a black thumb!)
Grow more flowers, especially to attract birds, bees and butterflies.

     OK, not the best photo but not bad for someone who really still doesn't know what they are doing.  There are a lot of buttons on that camera!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Too Much Sugar - First Confession Of The Year

I'm going to start the New Year off with my first confession: I overdosed on sugar New Year's Eve.  We were invited to a party and I guess I took leave of my senses as I overindulged on the treats offered.  My friend had gone to a lot of trouble and everything looked and tasted so good.  I really don't know what got into me as I normally have better self control.  Just goes to show that we all blow it sometimes.

I had at least 4 cups of wassail, made with fruit juice and rum.  It was so yummy, warm and good.  Plenty of sugar there.  Then she had made beautiful squares of shortbread with a cream cheese and fruit topping.  Each was carefully decorated and no two were alike.  I had 4 of those.  Then there was the chocolate trifle with small chocolates and raspberries ringing the bowl.  I had a large serving of trifle and that was my downfall.  I did have several crackers with a smear of the snowman shaped cheese ball, not that that helped.  At any rate, I began to feel rather yucky, as we do when we've had too much sugar.  A lesson remembered.

I'm fine now but what if I consumed large amounts of sugar every day?  Do you know that the average American consumes 22 tsp. of sugar a day or around 75 pounds of sugar a year?  Pretty gross if you think about it, considering sugar is just empty calories with no nutritional value whatsoever.  The USDA recommends eating only 10 tsp. of sugar a day and since each tsp. contains 16 calories, that means you are eating 352 extra calories a day if you eat those 22 tsps.!

Some scientists refer to sugar as poison and they are deadly serious, no joking around.  The body metabolizes refined sugar differently than sugar that occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables.  The liver is responsible for breaking down refined sugar and if you consume enough sugar quickly, the liver will convert it to fat.  While sugar does not directly cause diabetes, it does cause obesity which leads to diabetes.  It is also a major cause of tooth decay and causes your skin to wrinkle.

It is all too easy to eat too much sugar in America.  It is found in foods you wouldn't think contained sugar like tomato sauce and salad dressing.  A 16 ounce bottle of chocolate milk contains about 11 tsp. of sugar so you can consume more than your daily amount in just one food.

So what can you do?  First of all, watch what you are drinking.  Here is another great reason to give up sodas (even the diet drinks!) and other sugary drinks like sports drinks and coffee drinks.  Avoid products with high fructose corn syrup but watch for sugar in all it's forms like honey and brown sugar.  Read food labels for hidden sugars.  Take vitamins B1 and B6 and wear sunscreen to counteract the effects of sugar on your skin.  Also eat a fiber rich diet high in antioxidants.

I don't know about you but I am vain enough about my skin to try to avoid sugar so I won't look like an old hag.  I also don't want a Michelin tire man look nor do I want to deal with diabetes.  I think I can cut back on sugar!  I hope you will join me this year in an effort to eat less sugar and lead a healthier life.