Leftovers aren’t for everyone. Some folks turn their nose up at them. But to those of us that grew up in a big family, leftovers were the holy grail! After a big family dinner or holiday party, the leftovers were fabulous! The next morning, it was a race to the fridge to dig through the tupperware and find some delicious tidbits from the night before! That also seems to be the case for the next generation…my children love leftovers. Truth be told, I still love them too. My children usually beat me to the punch though. There is nothing like getting some bread out, slathering it with mayonnaise, slicing some leftover meatloaf, and having a cold meatloaf sandwich! Yum! I have friends that do not relish the thought of leftovers. I just cannot relate to that. Many foods are better the next day. After sitting in the refrigerator some flavors get better. Being certified in sanitation means that food safety is always first and foremost when considering whether food goes into the garbage or the refrigerator. When food does count as leftovers, I use clear plastic ware to store it in to make for easy choosing the next day! My children also love leftovers for breakfast. There is nothing wrong with leftover tuna noodle casserole for breakfast! I have made creamed spinach for dinner and used the leftovers the next day as filling for a savory omelet. Leftovers can certainly be reinvented into a wonderful new dish. Or just use them as they are. Easy! There have been times when my leftovers pile up for a day or two and I can make an easy dinner from them. I may have to add a fruit or a vegetable to balance the meal, but it is a quick meal on a busy night. So don’t discount leftovers. Being a busy mom, student, and employee, sometimes they are a downright lifesaver!
We all have them. Highs…and lows. They hit us at unexpected times. Joy can turn up in the form of a friend at the door with an arm full of flowers. The joy stemming from something like that sinks in and really lasts. The heart really warms up when a friend extends selfless gifts. These are ultimately gifts of love. Sometimes the gifts are hard to accept, and it may even take practice to accept gifts with the intent in which they are given. When such gifts are given, one must resist the temptation to immediately reciprocate. That is not necessary when joyous gifts of love are given, but again, accepting that may take practice. And it is worth the work. So much happiness, and life’s “highs” can come from friends, from impromptu visits, from kind words spoken at just the right moment. Learning to accept these allows the love to tumble over a person, creating a wonderful moment that can penetrate a being with positive energy. It is important to not only accept them, but to create them as well. It is easy to get wrapped up in our “lows” and let the good things fly by unnoticed. Why is it easier, at times, to focus on the negative instead of the positive? The year is ending. It is a time to reflect. Let the “highs” take us into the New Year, and leave the “lows” behind! It takes practice, but the joy in doing so is immeasurable!
“Chanel No. 5.” -Marilyn Monroe when asked what she wore in bed.
Puleez! This quote gives us flannel jammie loving women a bad name! Growing up in the midwest gives a girl a great appreciation of flannel. Winter days in the midwest are cold and gray. There isn’t much warmth to be found. The sun doesn’t shine for days at time. The sky is dull, flat.. Snow piles up. This is where comfort food comes in. Long cold days give way to warm kitchens, savory smells, and cozy family time. It feels so good to lean against a hot oven with delicious smells wafting from it, swirling around, causing an involuntary mouth watering reaction. The promise of tasting something fresh out of the oven warms the insides instantly!
Flannel pj’s are second only to comfort food! When the roads ice over in the evenings, and it hurts to take a breath in because your nose hairs freeze with each breath, spending the evening inside is the way to go. When the sun sets early, the internal clocks ticks a person toward an early bedtime. Grabbing a good book, tossing on cozy flannels and heading to a bed piled high with wool blankets and a thick down comforter is too tempting to put off for long. A satisfied tummy filled with midwestern comfort food makes heading to bed on a cold winter night almost decadent. Flannel pajamas are a must in this case! Tossing those pajamas in the dryer for a few minutes to warm them up makes it even more luxurious. Marilyn Monroe had her Chanel No. 5, and the rest of us have our cozy jammies!
I love to mix it up! Snack mixes and dips have that all time balanced flavor burst that I just love! There is nothing like balanced food on your palate. Ask any foodie. A nonfoodie will probably have the same sensation and just express it differently. When food is properly balanced, it is a joy to the palate. It can be something as simple as my all time favorite: goldfish crackers and cashews. That is one of my guilty pleasures of balance. I am a sucker for the snack mixes at Whole Foods and Fresh Market. I also mix up my own, and my children love it too. A balance of sweet and salty is a big winner, and so easy to achieve. It is as simple as tossing some raisins dried cranberries or carob chips in my goldfish/nut mix. I am an afternoon snacker, and most days I like that snack to count in my “healthy” column. But I don’t always quite get there. Pita and hummus. A bowl of raisin bran. And some days, its a dip. Another balanced pleasure of the taste buds. I love to mix a little tuna with some chopped water chestnuts, green onion tops, and mayonnaise. Add a little salt and pepper, toss it on a rice cake, and its a balance not only of flavor, but of texture. The crisp rice cake balances the moist tuna, which is juxtaposed with the fresh crunch of the water chestnuts. When I really want to go big with this, I toss on a slice of swiss cheese and put it under the broiler until bubbly. That has a big yum factor!
Don’t get me wrong. A beautiful piece of fish cooked to perfection with the right sauce and crispy veggies is an amazing taste sensation. Especially with perfectly paired wine. But there is a “munchie” factor that I crave. I have always said that I could have every dinner at a cocktail party where there are dips galore! No one cares when I float around the food, tossing a little of this and a dash of that on my cocktail plate. After stopping to chat along the way, I sneak off to delicately, slowly, look, mix, and balance the foods and textures. My palate is happy happy happy!!
It sometimes seems that the day is sailing along just fine until dinner, and the pushing and pulling for control begins! Food issues can turn into control issues very quickly! As a parent I want to have pleasant meals, good conversation, and mostly empty plates. Sometimes, though, meals can turn into an unpleasant push for control by both kids and parents. And there are no winners in that situation for sure! I always give my kids 2 options for dinner: Take it or leave it. Thats it. Now I am no ogre and always make sure that something is on the table that everyone will eat. In fact, when I introduce new foods, I always have a delicious beloved comfort food too. (After all, change must come slowly!) When there is a new food introduced, everyone must taste it. Just a taste. I recognize food preferences, which everyone has, and it is different from “picky”. Children are picky because parents allow it. I adore this Fran Libowitz quote – “Ask your child what he wants for dinner only if he is buying”. I think it is important, though, to listen when someone says they have a taste for something because to some extent I think the body craves what it needs, but I am not serving Oreo Ice Cream Cake for dinner! Children come around the bend when parents are consistent and stand their ground. That is what I do to avoid food control issues. I have been known to say to my toddler “What would you like for a snack, yogurt or a banana?” If the response is, for example, cookies or M & M’s, my response is “Ok, I can see you have chosen not to have a snack today.” Then I just turn away. I only answer a question one time and try not to get engaged in a toddler fit! Believe me, this conversation only happens once. Suddenly a banana doesn’t sound too bad! Children will eat what parents present, and variety is the spice of life…so spice it up!
Dry mouth. Ugh! Everyone has had it, and it is the pits. In the US, we tend not to keep ourselves properly hydrated. We simply don’t drink enough water. We always hear “drink eight 8 ounce glasses of water a day”. That may be a good starting point as far as getting people understanding how much water a day is needed by our body, but it is not the whole story. Food contains water and that contributes to our over all hydration. Water from food can be counted in the “eight 8 ounce glasses” category. Water, and foods that contain water such as many fruits, keep our mouth moist. That is beneficial for many reasons. But did you realize that you cannot taste anything unless saliva is present? Pull your tongue out of your mouth and let it dry off. Then put any food on it. Spoil yourself…try an m & m. A sweet piece of apple. A cookie. When the tongue is dry, there is no ability to taste the yummy treat sitting on it. It is also difficult to figure out the difference between hunger and thirst when the mouth is dry. That can lead a person to eat when a drink is really what the body is craving, and can lead to overeating. It is important to all of the bodily systems to have enough hydration as well, any time of the year and in all climates. The critical body systems need water to run their cells, their engines. So make sure you are hydrated. Pay attention to your saliva! Don’t slap that lip balm on those dry lips, have some water! Get that mouth good and wet. Help those body systems run like they should. A pitcher of water in the fridge is always easy to grab, and is so refreshing. Try it..you will feel better!
This is a time of year when there are lots of moments one could panic about the shear volume of demands of a family to fit into the same 24 hour time frame of a “non holiday” month. One of my children has an October birthday, and I have always felt that the birthday kicked our family into our holidays. I work, am a mother, and a student pursuing a Masters in Nutrition. That is a full plate! Time management has to be the most profound issue I face daily. So my motto, especially this time of year, is cook twice, clean once. If I am going to cook, I am going to make enough to put stuff in the freezer, and that is especially important now. In addition, I also enlist the help of the children quite a bit. No one can sit at the table for a meal if they have not helped get that table set. There isn’t much to setting the table, and it is basically the same every night. It is important to have this expectation of the family to help, and to encourage the children to live up to this expectation. Placemats, glasses, plates, utensils, and some trivets if hot food is coming to the table. Thats it. Simple, and the contribution to a meal is huge. As a mom, sometimes it is easy to just do things myself. That is such a bad trap to fall into because it just stretches someone too thin, and that means you can’t be your best. When there is time after school or dinner, it is time to fold laundry and put it away. Every one needs to be involved! Asking for help seems, at times, to be a learned skill. It is a skill that is imperative though. Some people may think that asking for help is a sign of weakness, and that can not be farther from the truth! It is a strength. Reaching out for help is humbling, and that is a sign of strength. It can be done gently, and with humor. Even an eye rolling at times with a request can illicit a healthy giggle from some one before they step up to help. Go ahead…try it! Practice. It will get easier. And it is empowering. Feel the power of asking for help!