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Fancy Curry

I’ve always enjoyed lentil soup.  I’ve never met a lentil soup recipe I didn’t like!  However, lately I just open a can of Progresso Lentil soup and eat it as is.  But today I was bored with that so I added my own “fancy” mix of spices: cardamom, clove, cinnamon, cumin, ginger, nutmeg, and orange zest.  I got the idea of mixing these spices together because I had some old nutmeg I wanted to use up and so I thought I might experiment with making my own “curry.”

I confess I haven’t really studied what goes into Indian curry or any other kind of curry for that matter; I only know that curry is usually a mixture of ground spices.  I also know that what I love about Indian food is how they often season meat with the spices American cuisine would normally reserve for sweets.  I wanted my lentil soup to taste richer and more “multi-dimension” so I thought a curry might be suitable.  My particular “fancy” curry is heavy on the nutmeg, while light on the cumin, ginger, and orange zest.

I used a teaspoon for a large bowl of soup.  Too much!  Not so terribly much that it gave me a burning or bitter taste (I think too much clove can do that to my palate), but noticeably too much while also conveying great flavor.  I really like this variation on lentil soup and will try it again with only a quarter-teaspoon of my “fancy curry.”  PS: I don’t know why I am calling it “fancy;” it just strikes me that way, maybe because I really fancy it!

[Extraneous tangent: I think it would be fun to write a children’s book about a family whose children are all named after herbs and spices.  Anise, Basil, Cardamom, Clove, Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Rosemary, and Sage all seem like great candidates for boys and girls names!  Maybe even Cayenne and Fennel!]


Daily Steps

My hubby and I have been walking (off and on) in the morning together for the past year or so.  There have been long swaths of time when we don’t manage to get up and at ’em in time to walk before it’s too hot or it’s too cold or it’s too wet or there’s not enough time… You get the idea.  But more recently we have been a bit more faithful in walking each day.

We are currently only up to 2.5 miles at a time.  On my retreats, I have walked more than 7 miles at a time, without noticing if I am running out of energy, just because the view is so amazing, compelling.  However, at home, we walk our road between corn and bean fields.  The view is quite predictable.  While on my last retreat (ON the Atlantic coast), I decided I can’t perpetually bemoan cornfields for not being the ocean, so I am going to have to learn to see them differently.

What I look for now are the little things, mostly because it’s much more likely I will always find surprises within the little things.  I’ve also decided to listen for “new” sounds.  If you really pay attention, the wind in the corn stalks generates many nuances of husky, wispy, crashy, highly textured layers of sound.  It’s so much more fun walking a familiar road when I can also find new little worlds hidden amongst the weeds and road-side brush.

Tasty Tuna

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Today I made a tuna salad that was simple yet sumptuous.  I drained the tuna, fork-separated the flakes, added real mayonnaise to taste along with chopped celery, McCormick’s California lemon peel, sweet pickle relish, a pinch of ginger and pepper.  I served it dolloped on thin cucumber slices.  Satisfying yet lite.  Yum!

Grande Salade

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wp-1460319008087.jpg I made a marvelous salad today: fresh spinach, romaine lettuce, spring greens, minced garlic, chopped celery, baby onions, sliced radish, cucumber, grape tomatoes, and sunflower seeds.  I used my mother’s wooden salad bowl and prepared it the way Yvette (a French trainee from the 50’s) taught her: First I cut the garlic in half, rubbed it all over the inside of the bowl, then I added extra virgin olive oil, followed by the chopped and sliced veggies and seeds except for the cucumber and tomatoes.  I mixed all these together until everything was coated with the oil.  Next I added balsamic vinegar and mixed all these together.  Then I added the greens with the cucumber and tomato on top.  I added a bit of salt and pepper to the cucumbers.  I did NOT mix everything at this point.  I wanted to let the goodies on the bottom of the bowl to soak up the oil and vinegar while I let it all sit for an around an hour.  I served it at room temperature.  My husband and I enjoyed it immensely!


Best Steak Ever

Tonight I am craving a big juicy steak!  I love the taste of a nicely broiled, medium-well done steak, sirloin or New York strip or filet mignon or any thick-cut but tender-chew hunk of meat.  I confess I don’t like the idea of eating meat.  I like the idea of eating only fruits and vegetables.  But I grew up as a carnivore and my taste-buds are fully carnivorous.  I’m not even a connoisseur of culinary cuts, but I do enjoy a great steak.

The best steaks I’ve ever had were prepared and served by Dr. Kim and his wife.  (Dr. Kim was a colleague of my dad’s and I think this yearly treat was his way of thanking dad for inviting them into the professional community.)  The Kim’s secret was in their marinade.  The taste and texture were magnificent.  Everything about the experience was exquisite.  Their tradition was to serve the eldest guest first and to continue in descending order of age, and then themselves last.  I was the youngest of seven in our family, so I always had plenty of time to watch and wait with great anticipation for my turn to receive this most splendid of savory suppers.  I remember the rice they always served too.  It was “just” rice, “plain” rice, but it was the best rice ever because it went so well with the steak!  I remember being so completely satisfied with the steak and the rice.  I’m sure they served other dishes or sides with the meal, however I only remember the steak and the rice because the steak (with its magical marinade) was so incredibly delicious.

God bless the Kim family!

Helpful lifestyle list for PMS

Several years ago I started researching what I could do for my thyroid issues and for my pms (there are some over-lapping causes/ symptoms/ approaches to these two problems).  After I had done this and consulted with my doctors, with my research and their help, I found some relatively simple and straight-forward strategies for dealing with my health issues, and I have been happy with the results.*  That is until one of the products that helped me with some of my pms issues was discontinued from the company I had relieved on to provide it.  *I should say at this point that I count heavily on doctors expertise, but because they have so many options to offer for many health issues, I believe it is important for the patient to receive as much education as they can handle on those options, and make a personal choice about which options work best for their own values and lifestyle.  For me, I knew I wanted minimal medical intervention, I wanted as-natural-as-possible interventions, and I wanted minimal changes to my life in general — I wanted a plan I could expect myself to sustain faithfully asap.

So now I am looking for a comparable product to use in place of the discontinued item.  Once I find what I think are 2 or 3 good options, I will follow-up with consulting my doctors.  Meanwhile, I’m taking a look at the over-all picture of my health, and looking at any new information available to the medical/health-&-wellness community relating to my issues.

The following is a site (see link) and excerpt from an article on that site (see below link) that contains a list of foods one should eat or avoid in order to avoid pms CAUSES, not just deal with the symptoms.  NOTE: I don’t know anything about this particular doctor.  I’m not a medical professional myself, so I am not advocating that others should do what I plan to do myself.  I’m just recording for myself here in this blog some resources I’ve come across to which I want to later refer as I attempt to learn more about how I can improve my health.

For my readers: I encourage you to do your own research and BE SURE TO CONSULT YOUR OWN DOCTOR(S) as to how you should address your own health issues.

For myself: the main reason I’ve chosen this article to post at this time is because it confirms in a more concise way the same information I’ve found in many other articles/sources as I’ve investigated this topic.  The parts I’m most excited about are those regarding diet and exercise.  I probably won’t adopt any of the other suggestions until I’ve spoken with my gynecologist and my family doctor.

What I think will be the biggest challenges in terms of dietary changes are avoiding gluten and giving up caffein, however I think I can at least cut back on caffein.  The other challenge will be increasing exercise consistently.

Here’s the link and article:

5 Simple Steps to Eliminate PMS

1. Clean up your diet.

This means:

  • Stop eating refined flour, sugar, and processed foods.
  • Cut out caffeine.
  • Stop drinking alcohol.
  • Balance your blood sugar by eating protein, such as a protein shake, eggs, and nut butters, for breakfast.
  • Eat evenly throughout the day and don’t skip meals.
  • Don’t eat within three hours of bedtime.
  • Cut out all dairy and consider eliminating other common allergens for a few months, especially gluten.
  • Increase fiber in your diet from vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains. Two tablespoons of ground flax seeds a day are especially helpful in correcting constipation and balancing hormones. Put them in a shake or sprinkle them on salads or food.
  • Increase omega-3 fats by eating more wild fish like sardines, herring, and wild salmon, as well as omega-3 eggs and walnuts.
  • Eat organic food, especially animal products, to avoid environmental estrogens from pesticides.

2. Take supplements.

A number of supplements have been shown to help ease PMS symptoms by improving metabolic function and hormone metabolism. Here are the superstars:

  • Magnesium citrate or glycinate — Take 400 to 600 mg a day.
  • Calcium citrate — Take 600 mg a day.
  • Vitamin B6 — Take 50 to 100 mg a day along with 800 mcg of folate and 1,000 mcg of vitamin B12.
  • Evening primrose oil — Take two 500mg capsules twice a day.
  • EPA/DHA (omega 3 fats) — Take 1,000 mg once or twice a day.
  • Taurine — Take 500 mg a day to help liver detoxification.
  • A good daily multivitamin (all the nutrients work together)

Herbs and phytonutrients can also be very helpful. Here are the best studied and most effective:

  • Chasteberry fruit extract (Vitex Agnus-astus) can help balance the hormones released by the pituitary gland that control your overall hormone function. Studies of over 5,000 women have found it effective. Take 100 mg twice a day of a 10:1 extract.
  • Wild yam (Dioscorea villosa) and cramp bark (Viburum opulus) can help regulate cycles and relieve menstrual cramps.
  • Dandelion root can help with liver detoxification and works as a diuretic.
  • Isoflavones from soy, red clover, or kudzu root improve estrogen detoxification by boosting the activity of specific detox enzymes. They can be taken as supplements or consumed in the diet.
  • Flax seeds contain lignans that help balance hormone metabolism and block the negative effects of excess estrogens.
  • Chinese herbal formulas may also help. One of the most effective is Xiao Yao San, or Rambling Powder. It contains: Bupleurum Root (Bupleurum chinense), Chinese Peony Root (Paeonia lactiflora), Dong Quai Root (Angelica sinensis), Bai-Zhu Atractylodes Root (Atractylodes macrocephala), Poria Sclerotium (Poria cocos), Ginger Rhizome (Zingiber officinale), Chinese Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza uralensis),and Chinese Mint Leaf (Mentha haplocalyx)
  • Replacing healthy bacteria in the gut also helps normalize estrogen and hormone metabolism. Take 5 to 10 billion live organisms in a daily probiotic supplement.
  • For intractable cases, I will occasionally use topical, natural bioidentical progesterone in the last two weeks of the menstrual cycle. The usual dose is 1/2 tsp (20 to 40 mg) applied at night to thin skin areas for the last two weeks of the menstrual cycle.

3. Get moving.

Exercise is very important for balancing hormones. Aim for 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, 4 to 5 times a week.

4. Address stress.

Dealing with stress is also critical. Take a hot bath at night, get a massage, try yoga, learn deep breathing or meditation. These techniques and others can help balance hormones.

5. Try alternative therapies.

Therapies such as acupuncture and homeopathy may help. One clinical trial showed that individualized homeopathy is effective in treating PMS. Five homeopathic medicines were used: Lachesis, Natrum muriaticum, Nux vomica, Pulsatilla, and Sepia.

If my patients are any indication, a plan such as this can have impressive effects on premenstrual symptoms.

Remember, women are not defective. You can thrive and be healthy by paying attention to a few natural laws of biology. You don’t need drugs to survive!

Sweet dreams are made of these!

I spend too much time feeling guilty about wanting to eat the things I want to eat.  So I put them out of mind and try to convince myself of what I ought to eat.  And then I typically eat something relatively healthy but not necessarily tasty.

Recently I was on a retreat at a location where there were SO many pretty rocks on the beach, but the locals didn’t want people to take them away.  So I took lots of pictures.  I realized that I don’t need to own or take captive pretty things in order to enjoy them.  The enjoyment is in my mind.  Taking them home might enable me to remember them more often and to experience them again in some tangible way, but the real memory I want to retain is the experience of encountering them in their native place.  I want to remember my experience.  Pictures can help me do that in some ways just as well as the object itself, and in some ways better — because I see in the picture more of the context.  TAKING the pictures with all this in mind helped me REALLY look and see and savor the moment while I was in it.  I like this way of living.

So today, while reflecting upon what I like about traveling, it occurred to me that maybe I could do this with foods, tastes I like, tastes I find myself wanting to savor frequently but really shouldn’t consume (for the sake of my own health).  So I’m going to experiment with remembering in place of consuming.

Here’s the concept of my experiment:  Think about the foods I like, THINK about them, REALLY think about them, but don’t eat them.  Take time to mentally savor all or any of the foods I’ve ever enjoyed.  Of course it’s good to do this WHILE eating good food, but why not do this in my memory as well?  Does it sound like lust?  LOL.  I don’t think so.  That’s not what I’m suggesting.  I don’t want to torment myself with WANTING what I’ve decided I can’t have; instead, I plan to enjoy and be grateful for the memory of having once tasted those sweet treats, magnificent meals, exotic aromas, divine wines, can’t-even-describe-how-completely-consumingly-pleasurable-they-are chocolates, feel-the-sun-on-my-skin fresh fruits, and wow, I’m feeling satisfied already!  Plus, I’m enjoying the memory of where and when and with whom I’ve enjoyed all these good foods!  Amazing!

So here’s one food I often crave, but really can’t dare to consume too often because I could eat it until I’m sick, and a steady diet of these would make me double in size, but they are SOOOOOO good, so yummy and delectable in every way:  dark-chocolate covered caramels by Marie’s Candies.  Marie’s also makes other combinations of chocolate and caramel, all of which are super deluxe-ly scrumptious, one example being her Sea Salt Sallies.  But I want to take a moment to remember and savor a simple dark-chocolate covered caramel.

Marie’s makes them in the shape of a cuboid; nothing terribly enticing about that, except that the cube is a generous size: just big enough you could eat it in two or three bites, yet small enough you can pop it in your mouth and be totally occupied with its fullness, rolling it around in your mouth, sucking off the chocolate, and then chewing the caramel that’s just soft enough to sink your teeth into, yet resistant enough to provide a sustained moment of savoring all that sweet buttery salty yumminess.

My apologies to those who will find this description erotic!  That’s not my intention.  This blog is not “R” rated!  In fact, I think my experience of the pleasure of caramel is probably more like the comfort a baby receives when suckling, savoring her mother’s milk while held in loving arms against the safe warmth of her breast.  It’s the pleasure of safety, comfort, and sufficiency.  “This is enough”.  It’s the bliss of feeling no need to consider anything beyond the here and now.  Savoring being.  The baby does this naturally without any analysis.  Caramel transports me to that naturalness of just-being.

Whoa!  What a claim for a caramel!  (Shoulder shrug). But that’s my experience!  And now that I’ve described it in detail, I find I don’t need to consume any to re-enjoy the bliss it provides!

PS — This is NOT an ad for Marie’s, and I receive no reimbursement for publicizing her world-class candies.

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