Monday, April 16, 2012

can't stop thinking about breakfast

For some unknown reason, breakfast has been on my mind a lot lately. In general, I'm not really even a big breakfast fan. That is---I alwasy eat it; I just don't get excited about it. Lunch, dinner, even afternoon snacks, excite me. Breakfast not so much. That wasn't always the case, however. When I think of what I loved about breakfast in the past, my mind goes immediately to extra-crispy hash browns and Eggs Florentine, then skates on to chile verde omelets and shrimp and jalapeno burritos. At one time not so very long ago, anything drowned in hollandaise would quickly catch my eye and my imagination. Mmm, thinking large grilled shrimp, resting on a bed of hollandaise, edged by crispy hash browns and softly poached eggs.

Okay, back to reality, Pamela. Most of that no longer works for me, though the best parts still do. And one of these days, I swear, I'm going to figure out a way to enjoy the hollandaise experience dairy-free. Mayonnaise, even beautifully creamy homemade mayo, just doesn't do it for me.

Still, this is an ode to breakfast present, not a lament of breakfast past. And while I love a breakfast of meat and veggies, eggs are what I've focused on as of late. Eggs cooked lots and lots of different ways. Steak and eggs, poached eggs, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, omelets, shrimp and eggs---seems to be no end of possibilities.

grass-fed beef strips, kale and beet greens make a bed for eggs to gently poach
One of my favorite things to do is to start by sauteeing whatever veggies look tempting (often meaning cleaned and ready to use) in the fridge. Often that means mushrooms, scallions or onions, broccoli, asparagus, or leafy greens. I love them all. I may or may not add meat. When all is near done, I drop an egg or two or three on top, then cover it all with a lid, letting the eggs gently poach on the veggies until softly cooked. This can be varied in so many ways; you could follow almost the same steps each day for a year and never repeat---unless, of course, you want to. Without the eggs, even, it's still a great breakfast. I could eat a version of this everyday.

soy-free egg "poached" on a bed of beef and spinach with raw sauerkraut

As I've mentioned often, we go to great lengths to get soy-free eggs. I recommend them wholeheartedly. And while we're talking tasty and healthy, a little raw sauerkraut on the side makes almost any breakfast better. Trust me on that one and give it a try.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

theme song

This is not my favorite prompt. I simply do not like it and will not write a lot. Maybe that's in keeping with the song that keeps running through my mind.

Are any of you old enough to remember "It's my Party and I'll Cry if I Want To"? Yeah, maybe not, but possibly your parents or grandparents would.

For my theme song, chosen under duress (sort of) and while laughing at myself and sung to the tune of the afore mentioned tune---

"It's my blog, and I'll whine if I want to,
Whine  if I want to, whine if I want to,
You would whine too if it happened to you."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

dear pamela at 16

A letter to myself at sixteen.

Dear Pamela at sixteen,

You have so many exciting things ahead of you. I know you think of yourself as inept, unattractive, unpopular, and way too skinny. The good news is all these concepts will pass and very quickly, really. Your self-doubt is not going to last a lifetime, believe me. You love to write, and you will continue to write. You love to cook, and you'll continue to cook. You'll also discover soon that others don't view you in nearly as harsh a light as you view yourself. I know you have a hard time believing that.

There's so much I could say, so much I would love to say, but most of it you would not believe. You are going to have a fairly easy life as compared to others, not without hardship, but easy. You may be surprised to see the rebel in you, as well as the leader, come to the surface with a bit of a vengeance. Your love of public speaking and debate will serve you well. You will be loved, you will love, and wholeheartedly. You'll know how it feels to love unconditionally and have that put to the test. You'll come out knowing that, yes, unconditional love exists and is the only love worth the effort.

You'll struggle with health, as you always have, and you'll be relieved to learn that all the lethargy and total lack of strength you're going through now is valley fever, not laziness. It'll take a couple of years for them to figure that out. And at some point you will stop waiting for others to figure it out, and you'll learn to follow your intuition rather than doubting it. I could tell you "eat this, drink that, avoid those" but that means far less than these simple words, trust yourself. Trust that you know when something makes you ill. You know when something makes your heart sing. You know when you can breathe freely. You know that swollen ankles and stomach pain are not ways your body tells you you're in balance. Just listen. Not to those with credentials or degrees or loud followers. Listen to yourself, your body, your spirit, your mind.

And always know you're loved.

Monday, April 9, 2012

is eating well too expensive?

My post for day 9 of 30 days of health posts has taken a bit of a curve off topic.

Still, for many if not most of us, the question of cost is a huge one. We have a peculiar method of dealing with food budgets. We hide our heads in the sand and pretend. And heck, if we can't see it, it can't see us. Clearly, this approach may be flawed, and always, at some point, we have to face up to reality if only briefly.

Today, while grocery shopping, I thought a lot about such things. About budgets and choices and just how any of us manages to put this crazy puzzle together. We have a decent income. There are only two of us. It should be easy, but...clearly, it's not. It's not easy for lots of reasons, but most of those are universal, not ours alone. We want to eat healthy food. We want to eat safe food. We want to eat delicious food. Don't think we're alone in much of that.

I do not profess to have all the answers. I'm not sure I have all the questions. I do have a few tips. I'm a foodie. I'm a health nut. I'm also good at making my money go a pretty long way---never far enough to satisfy me, but a long way, nonetheless.

For most of us, our protein sources are the biggest portion of our food bill. (While it may be naive on my part, I'm assuming for the moment that none of us is still buying pre-made, boxed, frozen, or packaged food.) We drove well over a hundred miles to shop at stores that carry the meats we're comfortable eating. While that may sound odd to some, I know many of you know this experience only too well. When we do this, we stock up as much as we can. At New Frontiers in San Luis Obispo, the choices are amazing to me. They must have 30 different fresh sausages with all sorts of meat bases, and the complete list of ingredients is displayed in front of each one. I am a sucker for full disclosure.

They carry many types of beef, but we usually buy grass-fed beef from Hearst Ranch. They promise happy, healthy animals and humane conditions. We like such things. Rib eye steaks and New York steaks are $18.99 a pound at New Frontiers. That price is considerably less than if you order from their website or directly from their display in the visitors center at Hearst Castle. Still, that's hardly budget friendly. Sirloin tip steaks, on the other hand, sell for $6.99 per pound. While they made not carry the same name appeal, they have the same protein content and are equally flavorful. They are delightfully tender if not overcooked. One steak at just under a pound can easily serve two. I like to cook one, cut it into strips, and take it to work with a fresh vegetable or salad to serve as both breakfast and lunch. That is less than picking up a breakfast sandwich on the way to work and far, far more healthy.

My obsession with braising is pretty obvious, I know. If you also enjoy braising or a slow cooker, another great option for less expensive grass-fed beef is the chuck steak. We bought some yesterday for $5.99 per pound. This morning while breakfast was on the stove, I browned one that weighed in at 1.3 pounds and popped it in my small crock pot with sliced onion, 2 carrots, and a few cloves of whole garlic. This entire meal, which will serve 2 with leftovers for another meal (possibly my lunch tomorrow,) had a total cost of under $8. That includes all veggies and seasonings.

Of course, there are other inexpensive cuts, and sales are great options when you can find them. But for everyday choices, these cuts are two of my favorites.

Friday, April 6, 2012

health haiku for day 6

Moving through April.
the path is clearer, the mood,
the food, a healthy life.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

i am such an (expletives deleted)

My post today will be short. Our prompt was delightful; I on the other hand, was not.

In my defense, today was not a normal day. I has amazing plans. Really. A super duper wonderful facial with Rhonda (who is next to impossible to book) plus a "Swiss Bliss" body wrap,  a few other cool body treatments and hair with Michelle. This is a great day for me. But, how is it that life keeps getting in the way?

Okay, cut to the chase, I got in my own way, but it took the entire day to realize that.

About an hour after getting up today, I noticed a very large lesion of some kind on my right forearm. I freaked. I do not freak. Although, clearly, I can no longer claim that. It's hard right now to give this story justice. For most of the day that should have been relaxing and wonderful, I worried that I may be faced with melanoma and chastised myself for hours spent in the tanning bed.

Gk went with me to my doctor's appointment this afternoon. He's a sweetie. I'm a baby. And I must add, I rarely go to doctors. I just freaked. This thing looked awful.

Turns out, it's a bruise. An odd looking sucker for sure. But a bruise none the less. Yay! Slight blush of embarrassment and on to the next foot in mouth adventure.

Tomorrow, I'll do better.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

why i write about my health

When I first read the prompt for today, all sorts of happy thoughts raced through my head. I love to write. I love the topic of health. I love to cook great tasting healthy food. Blogging is a rather personal avenue. Why wouldn't I write about my health? And then the truth sort of hit me. I write about my health, mostly---so I won't cry about my health.

I am not in really bad health. That is not a perception I would ever want to leave. I take no medications. I can get up and go to work at a job I love every day. I can do my own shopping. I can do my own cooking. I can travel and entertain. I have a loving family, delightful friends, and an amazing little Frenchie, Coco. So very many people have far worse issues to deal with than I. My health issues are not the worst. They are, however, my issues, so they're the ones I deal with. And what I write about. 

Over the last few years, I have managed to identify one at a time many of the foods that have plagued me for years. I don't know when I started having problems with what seems to be 95% of the foods on the planet; it may have been in childhood. I didn't know what it was. I knew my stomach hurt. I thought I was whiny. I knew I had no energy. I thought I was lazy. I had no idea it could be the foods I was eating. And when I did make that connection, I tried all sorts of remedies, all in vain. I couldn't eat the foods I loved. I couldn't cook the foods I loved. And what the hell?! The pain never really went away. I kept trying and trying. Maybe I hadn't given it long enough. Maybe I made a mistake, missed an ingredient on a label. I tried so many different "cures" over the years, I probably couldn't remember them all, much less list them.

Now, even though I feel I have a little more of a healthy handle on the issues around my health, in the back of my mind I can always hear my own questioning voice wondering if this again will prove futile. Gee, I hope not. (That's my G-rated language for it.) I am still not pain free. I am, however, far, far healthier than I've been in years. And I get to cook real food. And write about it.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

if i had a superpower

If I had a superpower, I would want it to be...

I have mulled this over and over as the prompt for day 3 of the 30 day health writers' challenge. I would pretty much like any of them, I think. Okay, maybe not shooting spider webs from my finger tips, but I wouldn't mind super speeds or super strength. I love being in an airplane, but I could do without airports and coughing passengers. Speed would be good. But if I can only choose one, it won't be speed. I don't travel enough to warrant the opportunity cost.

If I had a superpower, I think I might like it to be the ability to tell truth from BS. I'd like to know when I read a medical study if there's good science behind it or a lot of hot air. I'd like to know if the foods I'm told are healthy are actually slowly poisoning me. I'd like to always be sure that the "experts" have some real expertise. Over the years, I have subjected my body to all sorts of nonsense because I believed it to be the healthiest, most reasonable way to go. I cringe thinking of some of those choices, of eating virtually everything artificial while looking in disdain at real foods. I cringe at what I fed my children. I didn't make all that up. Experts recommended it. The current literature confirmed it. And it's not like I just took their word for it each time I read about the newest, greatest idea. I researched; I read what I could find. Every time. And you all know what that's like. We don't blindly follow like so many sheep. We check; we question. But we keep looking for answers, for something that will work. And we hope. Even when the next step calls for a screeching halt and a complete u-turn. So, yes, there are some definite upsides to the power of knowing truth from untruth or propaganda.

Clearly, there could be a few drawbacks to this power. I like it when my mom tells me I look like I'm losing weight. I like it when friends rave about my cooking. I like it when GK says he loves my writing. I like it when my daughter is complemented for any of the hundreds of things she does exceedingly well, and she says she gets it from her mother. I like thinking all those things are true whether or not that is the case. Still, I'd have to consider it.

Monday, April 2, 2012

day 2 post with wego's health challenge

"I always prefer to believe the best of everybody, it saves so much trouble." --- Rudyard Kipling

I wish I could say I always do exactly this. That would not be true. What is true for me is that I do always prefer to do so. And what is also true is that it does always save so much trouble. On the surface, for me this has always suggested that thinking ill of someone and being wrong could cause all sorts of trouble, and this I still believe to be true. It does have other layers though and reminds me of a conversation with GK a couple of days ago.

We were joking recently while driving about the probable direction the car to our right would take. Odd, I know, but we are a bit weird. We're entertained, when driving a route nearby, with one of the lanes that begins and ends rather quickly. The purpose of the lane is to allow drivers who will turn right to continue on without adding to the long line of cars continuing on the same road. The lane is directly connected to that particular exit. It ends there. Should be a simple driving exercise, but people often, very often, use it to pass the cars in the lane that continues on. It's annoying and can be downright dangerous when drivers challenge one another for position. (I shall refrain from discussing how often I may have been a passenger in one of those challenging cars, the ones going straight, never the ones passing on the right.) Two cars had just passed us on the right as we were following a slow procession of vehicles up the overpass ahead. "Are they turning right or cutting in ahead?" I asked in our usual let's make a wager on this mode. GK laughed. With some slightly descriptive language that need not be repeated, he indicated that the drivers' intentions were to pass on the right and squeeze into the lane ahead of us. I always say they'll turn. In that setting, I always expect the best, that they're turning right and using the lane as intended. Wish I could say I'm always right, but we all know better than that. This day, however, I was right. No forcing their way into an already slow lane of traffic. The cars veered right and exited. We laughed; he may have accused me of being complicit in their actions. Silly talk. But as we talked about it then, I realized very clearly why I always make the choice I do in our little "bets." If I'm right, when I win, I get to feel good about it. I get to acknowledge the courtesy of the drivers, their willingness to follow the rules of the road and contribute to the safety of all involved, and I get to be right.

It's far nicer to be right and feel good about it, than it is to be right in the knowledge that, yet again, people or an individual person, has let you down. That's a bonus for expecting the best.

Granted, this would appear to have little to nothing to do with food or health on the surface. We all know, or at least suspect, that our health has far more to do with our minds and our attitudes and our full acceptance a connection with others than we often admit. Thank you, Rudyard Kipling, I love this quote. And thank you, WEGO, for this second writers' challenge to choose a favorite quote and write about it.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

my time capsule

Along with many other bloggers who have an expressed interest in health today, I'm participating in WEGO's Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge.  Each day we'll each address a different subject. Today, I'm preparing a time capsule that will not be opened for 100 years.

Oh my, where to start? So much is changing day to day, it's hard to get a grip on right now. What would I choose to send into the future to let a glimpse of that live on? My first thought, and I do apologize for this, is that I don't want to record for posterity what I view as an atrocity to our heath and our species. Somehow, in the name of profit and arrogance, we as a whole seem to be intent on annihilating ourselves. That said, I still have a time capsule to fill.

I'd start with several current health magazines and newspapers, each with its own take on health and healthy living. They contradict each other with a vehemence that's hard to imagine if you don't look it in the face. Exercise, diet, food choices, clean air, fresh water---no one agrees. We can't even agree, it seems, that natural is better than engineered or that toxic should be avoided. Unfortunately, we all occupy the same small planet and have few options, especially if we don't agree.

I'd include a bit of pink slime, along with the statements of its opponents and proponents. I'd also add some GMO products with similar statements. A few heirloom seeds would round it off.

I'd also add some current news. I would love to know what the take one hundred years from now would be on the current war against women and their right to have a say in their own health. Forty years ago I would not have seen this coming. I'm guessing 100 years will take us in a better direction.

I'd like to include some of my favorite things from 2012, as well. For the life of me, I can't see how lamb shanks and grass-fed fillet of beef are going to make it in this time capsule. For posterity though, I must include DVDs of the complete series of West Wing, one of my all-time favorite TV series.

Talk to you tomorrow, when I will have something more substantial to say. At least I sure hope so.