Archive | July, 2012

Produce. Fruits and Vegetables?

12 Jul

Ok. I am really honked off now! This beats all!

I am signed up to receive specials from my local grocer. A weekly flyer lands in my email every Wednesday. I can peruse specials by category and make my grocery list online. The convenience of this sure works for me as a busy working mother. But today, there was a glaring addition to the produce section of the e-flyer.  Right there, sandwiched between cantaloupe and black plums was listed the unthinkable. AN ENERGY DRINK!! Oh no! This cannot be!!  Is that how we categorize produce?

Let’s see.  Dictionary.com defines produce as “agricultural products  collectively, especially vegetables and fruits”.  Hhhmmm. Don’t see “energy drinks” in that definition.  So I took a stroll through the store that sent me the e-flyer.  Nope.  No energy drinks in the produce section.  In fact, the energy drinks were by the soda products.  Interesting.  And to me, appropriate merchandising.

Health and wellness have been core values of mine for as long as I can remember, and I have worked in the field of clinical nutrition for many years.  The local schools that my children attend have always asked me to come visit a couple of times a year and speak to the children about nutrition.  I absolutely love doing this.  I love going into the schools and educating the kids about nutrition basics.  (Do my own kids love it? Um, that might be another story which would include some huffing and eye rolling on their part…).  Last spring, with a son in 8th grade, I was invited to his school to talk to the children.  I asked what topics the teachers wanted me to touch on.  Were there any problems, I asked the teachers, that they saw in the student’s diet that they wanted me to specifically address.  The emphatic answer was energy drinks.

So talk to them I did.  We discussed caffeine and sugar.  Appropriate hydration.  And what “energy” in food really means.  And guess what?  When I asked how these students had gotten their hands on the energy drinks, most of them said “vending machines”.  The kids also admitted to sneaking them when their parents weren’t around.

So.  Here are the game stats folks.  The parents had not picked these items up in the produce section of their local grocer.  In fact, most of the kids had to sneak it.  They did not necessarily want their parents to know that they were imbibing in energy drinks.  And reeling from the negative affects of them.  The children reported a racing heart, mild panic attacks, and a little bit of a “rush” from energy drinks.  Not exactly the epitome of good health that we want to instill in our children.  Or what any parent would want their middle schooler to experience at such a tender age.

For many reasons I am outraged by this grocer putting an energy drink in the produce section of their e-flyer.  I think it gave the appearance of the drink being healthy, like a natural juice.  I do not like the idea of these drinks, or any sugary manufactured drinks in fact, being mainstreamed in ads like this.  I will be the first to admit that I can be hyper sensitive at times to how food is marketed and presented, especially unhealthy food options.  Like I said, good health is important to me.   And teaching our children about it is even more important.  I felt that this ad muddied the waters a bit.  So I vent on my blog.  Hey, be grateful that I didn’t call you today to express my disdain like I did some of my other friends!

I will continue to go into the schools and talk to the students about nutrition.  I will try to stay on my path to wellness.  But most importantly, in the end, I will just go to another grocer!

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Comfort Food (in summer??)

10 Jul

That’s right.  I started craving comfort food.  But that seems a little counterintuitive when it is 100 plus degrees outside.  The south is reeling from a blazing heat filled summer, yet I want some warm filling food.  Usually good summer meals for my family consist of grilled meats, lightly prepared vegetables, and cold salads.  For some reason, though, today I needed comfort food.  So that is what I made!

I started letting my taste buds run amok, listening to them with wild abandon! I needed some heat and some spice.  So I decided to make roasted red pepper soup.  I made the recipe up as I went along, and I must say, it was fabulous!  Let me share the recipe with you.

Amy’s Summer Roasted Red Pepper Soup

1 clove garlic, minced

1 sweet onion (I used Vidalia) finely chopped

2 T olive oil

1/2 cup white wine

3-4 cups chicken stock

1 t. thyme

2 jars roasted red peppers, drained, rinsed and chopped  (my short cut!)

Salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste

Heat olive oil and add onion and garlic over medium heat.  Stir and let brown a bit.  Add the white wine a little at a time. scraping up the garlic and onions.  After all the wine is added, cook down for 5 minutes over medium high heat.  Add the chicken stock, red peppers and seasonings.  Let cook for 30-40 minutes.  Use a stick mixer (also called an immersion blender), being careful of the hot liquid, to blend the mixture to a smooth consistency.  Turn heat to low.  This can be served this hot, warm, or chilled to use the next day.

I was pretty heavy handed with my black pepper and red pepper flakes.  It is easy to adjust the heat level of this soup.  It could also be cooled down for the palate by whisking in some cream, about 1 cup, toward the end of the cooking process.  The intensity of the roasted pepper flavor can also be easily increased by adding more roasted peppers.  And of course you can always roast your own peppers.  But I needed a short cut so I used jarred peppers.  Soup is so easy to make, and easily adjusted to match any desired flavors.

I made open faced tuna melt sandwiches on french bread to go with the soup.  We ate it hot, and the 4 teenagers gracing my dinner table gobbled this up.  Evidently I was not the only one needing a little comfort food!  Sometimes you just have to give into cravings.  Bon appetite!

Enjoy the serenity!

8 Jul

“The love of learning, the sequestered nooks, And all the sweet serenity of books.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Longfellow is my all time favorite poet.  I am sure that it is related to the fact that my father used to read his works to me as a child.  My father has the most beautiful deep gentle velvety voice.  One I have always found comfort in hearing.  Even as an adult I can recite Longfellow’s “Village Blacksmith” from heart.  My father read it to me as it was a favorite at bedtime.  And to read the poem now as an adult, I can see why I loved it.  To me, it reflects the strong work ethic and unbreakable family ties that I value in life.

When I read the poetry of Longfellow now, I can still hear the lilt of my father’s voice.  The comfort of the familiar words.  The smell of the worn book from which he read.  Books were always valued in my home growing up, but the large volume of Longfellow was one that I gravitated toward.

Growing up in a large family, books were passed around.  Most often purchased used, we had book cases full of amazing books. And we were all encouraged to be readers.  Heaven forbid any of us go to my mother and say we were “bored”.  Those words drove us directly to the book shelves with a stern warning from mother to read!  And read we did.

Wellness is about balancing the mind, body, and spirit.  Reading certainly feeds all three!  I will forever be grateful to my parents for instilling a love of reading, words, and books in me.  It is a value in my own home that hopefully I am passing in some way to my own children.

Don’t waste another moment.  Head to the book store.  Go to the library.  READ!  Summer has some lazy moments built in, so take advantage of that and start reading.  I call reading “theater of the mind”.  Feed your mind.  Let your spirit soar.  Move your body when it is motivated by a particular author.

Better yet, grab a book that will bring you back to happy times, valued moments, cherished memories.  As an adult, I have re-read many books from my youth.  And they are completely different to read as an adult, which is so exciting.  I was obligated to read To Kill a Mockingbird in high school.  I read it again as an adult, and even discussed it with the ladies in my book club.  It was completely different to not only read it as an adult, but to discuss it.

Gifts in life come in many packages.  Memories, music, nature, a kiss.  And yes, books!  What is your favorite?

It’s a dogs life

6 Jul

The princess in her trench coat!

“You can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the dog will give you a look that says, ‘My God, you’re right! I never would’ve thought of that!” ~Dave Barry

Pets are fabulous. I always had pets growing up.  When I became a mother though, motherhood, to me,  felt full enough with children.  I didn’t need a pet.  Although I loved having pets as a kid, as a parent I felt stretched a bit too thin to fit a pet into family life.  I also had a child that was allergic to dogs and cats.  So as much as my children asked for a pet, I resisted.

I began to feel the pangs of wanting a dog around.  I began to imagine how a dog would fit into the family.  I started researching “hypoallergenic” dogs that would be safe to have around my allergy ridden child.  The children and I would spend time thinking of good names for a dog.  Yup, I started down that road.  And once you start, there is no turning back.

I called some breeders.  I started visiting them and got to know some puppies.  I began reading up on how to train a puppy.  I did not want a nutty pooch that was all consuming.  I wanted a companion to the family and a way to teach my children responsibility of pet ownership.  I wanted a comfortable relationship with an animal for my family.  The research, visiting breeders, and reading up on puppy training sure paid off.  I took the leap and got a puppy for my family.  And she has been a wonderful addition to the family.  In more ways than one!

There is compelling research indicating that pets are good for mental health.  Pets can offer comfort and companionship.  Pets can actually be mood boosters!  And the routine of caring for a pet, particularly a dog, can reduce anxiety.   Also, having a dog to walk can actually increase activity level.  After all, dogs need to be walked!  The health benefits are adding up!

I work in the health care field, and I certainly have seen therapeutic benefits from dogs with some clients.  Therapy dogs are totally legitimate in my book.  Many animals are used for different kinds of therapy, so any animal can be therapeutic.

Any animal can be a fabulous addition to a family under the right conditions.   And you will be surprised how quickly pictures of your pet add up.  I have become a little ridiculous with my “cute pet” photos that I think are hilarious and adorable.  I have to admit, looking at those pictures brings me joy, so there are many ways that a pet can add to happiness and wellness!