Mom’s Weird Rules

When I was a kid my mom insisted I follow weird household rules like not shoveling four cups of sugar on top of my Froot Loops, not painting the dog’s toenails, and not wearing my unmentionables over my clothes.

Such a control freak.

As an adult, when I asked her to explain herself, she conveniently claimed not to remember saying any of this.

But she also insisted I boil potatoes a persnickety way — which I still do, even though she’s not the boss of me.

She always told me to start potatoes in cold water, but even when I asked forty-leven million times — or perhaps because I asked forty-leven million times — she never explained why. Turns out, her instincts were right. Not just about ignoring my many and varied queries, but also regarding the spuds.

Potatoes are dense which means it takes longer for the inside temperature to match the outside. If you toss potatoes into boiling water, you’ll get spuds that are, ironically, both over- and under-cooked. Mushy outside, crunchy inside. But by starting them in cold water, their internal temp heats in tandem with the water, making perfect pertaters every time.

Still don’t believe her about the underwear thing, though.

What bizarre, Kafka-esque rules did YOUR mom have? 

Quick, Effective Workouts

As you have probably gleaned, I am all about the quick and easy. But when talking about workouts, that’s not enough. They also have to be effective.

I’ve talked before about my intervals on the treadmill. I warm up for a couple of minutes, then raise the speed to at least 8.0 mph. I move my short, stumpy legs that fast for 30 seconds, then hop to the rails and recover for 30 seconds. I do that nine more times. Then I cool down for a couple minutes. My workout is done in 15 minutes. When I feel like 8.0 isn’t as challenging as it was, I raise it to 8.2 mph. Lather, rinse, repeat.

But now I’ve also discovered AMRAP — As Many Rounds As Possible.

You can do any targeted exercises you want, but I’m doing 10 squats, 10 push-ups, and 10 jumping jacks. As many rounds as I can in 10 minutes.

I only did two rounds of regular push-ups before my form sucked and I had to drop to my knees, hence the towel. (I’m quite delicate, you know.) The green twist ties are to help me count. I just toss one in a different pile after each round. I’ve learned not to attempt a memory workout at the same time. Virtually impossible for a bear of very little brain.

AMRAPsI was quite optimistic this morning — probably since I’d never done it before — and counted out 15 twist ties. Alas, I only got to 10. Tomorrow I’ll try for 11. I’ve already vowed I must do all three exercises to earn the coveted twist tie.

Again, it was a great 10-minute workout that felt effective. I was huffing and puffing and it was difficult to hold a pen and write legibly afterward, which everyone knows are the hallmarks of a good workout.

Try it and see what you think. There’s something very satisfying about getting your workout done in 10 minutes — physically AND mentally. I actually had time to blog!

Try 10 cardio intervals too. You don’t have to do speed intervals on a treadmill like I do. Run the length of your street, then walk back. Or run the straightaways on a track and walk the curves. Or do hill intervals. Or do them in a pool or on a bike. Or with a jump rope. Or with a fox. Or in a box.

A Package of Fig Newtons ISN’T One Serving??

new label

This is the proposed new design of the FDA nutrition label. I’m sure you’re not surprised that I like the calorie count in a much larger font.

But I really like the new “added sugars” category because that’s one thing I always pay attention to. It saves me from having to squint at the tiny ingredient list searching for those sneaky words like HFCS, dextrose, mannitol, or ethyl maltol or trying to decide which is ‘natural’ sugar and which only seem natural, like evaporated cane juice, carob syrup, or fruit juice concentrates.

Just the fact that food manufacturers can’t be sneaky about it any longer gives me hope that we’ll find our road to good health a bit easier.

I’ve gotten pretty good about not being tricked by the serving size, but they say they’re going to make more realistic portion sizes also. For one thing, I heard they will designate 1 cup of ice cream as a serving, instead of the standard half-cup they use now. So even though I always measure out a half-cup of ice cream to eat, I guess now I have to eat one cup. That’s how it works, right?

I kid, of course, but I do worry a bit about those people who see that a soda is now labeled as “one serving” and that’s as far as they look, feeling justified that they’re within good limits. [Soapbox note, here ... there's no good limit on your daily soda. Knock it off.] old label

Here’s the official word from the FDA on the new nutrition labels.

Here’s the old one, for comparison →

They’ve opened the 90-day comment window, so make your opinion known, whether you like the new labels or not. Someone’s asking your opinion for a change … go give it!

I better check out the new label for Fig Newtons before I voice my opinion, though. I’m almost certain those are single serve packages.

What do you think about the new nutrition labels?




Is Food Too Cheap?

Plenty of research about obesity comes to the conclusion that there’s a genetic link. But between 1980 and 2000, the number of obese Americans has doubled. I’m no deep thinker, but that seems too fast for genetics to play a role.

But consider this — before World War II, families spent an average of 25 percent of their income on food.

Guess how much the average was in 2011? Go ahead. I’ll wait. Prepare to be shocked.

In 2011, families spent an average of 9.8 percent of their income on food. People are obese because food is too cheap. It’s simply too easy to eat more than we need. We also eat out more often. And I’ll venture a guess that the vast quantities of food we’re eating is less nutritious than in decades past.

So if we’re going to blame something for our obesity, we should blame the food industry for creating so many products with more calories per bite than is necessary for good health.

Scratch that. Instead of blame, let’s just start eating real food and not so much of it. That’s more fun anyway!

What’s for dinner tonight? Here in the Lazy Kitchen I’m experimenting with Citrus Glazed Shrimp. If it turns out, I’ll post the recipe.


Food Triggers for Allergies

I’ve been lucky this season and haven’t had much problem with allergies, but some of my friends have had an awful time of it.

I was surprised to find a link between outdoor allergens and the food we eat. But when I thought about it, I guess it does make sense. After all, our foods come from plants too.

Well, most of them. For instance, I’ve never seen a Wine-and-Bacon Tree. But I’d sure like to.

So, if you’re allergic to grass … avoid tomatoes, melons and oranges.

If you’re allergic to ragweed … avoid honeydew, zucchini, bananas, chamomile, watermelon, cucumbers and cantaloupe.

If you’re allergic to trees … avoid cherries, parsley, almonds, pears, apples, hazelnuts and celery.

If you’re allergic to weeds … avoid sunflower, carrots, pepper, fennel, celery, coriander and parsley.

I’m happy to see neither wine  nor bacon is on any of those lists.

Nutrition on a Budget

I’ve seen this meme from the Environmental Working Group floating around facebook lately and wanted to share it.

most nutrition - lowest cost

I love almost everything about it, especially the “Fun Fact” because I have a funny character in my work-in-progress novel who says that all the time. He calls it his ‘conversational bonus feature.’ His fun facts are always ridiculous and often inappropriate, unlike this one.

Good food on a tight budget is NEVER ridiculous or inappropriate. The one thing I take exception to is the orange juice. Prepared OJ often has a lot of added sugar. I wish the chart simply said “oranges.”

I also take exception to starfruit just on principle. I can never make it look pretty like they do in the magazines. It mocks me and hurts my feelings. So be off with you, Starfruit. You’re not welcome around the Lazy Kitchen anymore.

Have you mastered starfruit?

How to Spot Genetically Modified Produce

PLU stickerYou know those little stickers on produce you peel off and ignore? Turns out they’re useful!

There’s a 4 or 5-digit code for each piece of produce.

Conventional produce starts with a 3 or 4.

Organic starts with a 9.

You’d think Frankenfood would start with a 666, but you’d be wrong. Genetically modified produce starts with an 8.

This is how I remember. While perusing the produce I sing a Gregorian chant I like to call “Hate The Eight.” Here’s how it goes: “Hate the eight … Hate the eight … Hate the eight … Hate the eight … Hate the eight … Hate the eight.”

Catchy, huh?

Next time I go to the store, I’m going to do a little survey of my produce department. I suggest you do the same. If it’s alarming, be sure to tell both the Produce Manager and the Store Manager.

Like ending a sentence with a preposition, genetically modified food is something up with which we should not put.


The Fountain of Youth Is Behind You!

I read about a fascinating social experiment where the researcher sent a group of old men to a location where they were surrounded by all things 1950 — magazines, music, TV shows, newspapers, clothing. They were told only to discuss events from the 1950s and only in the present tense, essentially pretending they were their younger selves for a week.

Before and after their week of ducktails and leather jackets, they were given a battery of physical and mental tests. At the end, the men all tested “younger.” They had better grip strength, dexterity, posture, gait, memory, hearing AND vision!

Isn’t that astonishing?

If you need me, I’ll be in 1972.


What I Hate About Food Writing

The June 2013 issue of Smithsonian Magazine is a Food Issue. Lots of interesting articles about food. One about Dwight Henry, a New Orleans baker who was plucked from his doughnut shop to play the Dad in ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild.’ A you-are-there free-ranging discussion between Ruth Reichl and Michael Pollan over dinner. Another fabulous journey by Mary Roach to find the world’s hottest pepper. Astronaut food. Why you like the tastes you like. And more.

But also an article about ‘food ephiphanies’ that a long-time food critic has had over her career. She claims “21,170 restaurant meals in 49 countries since 1953.”

Wow. A fascinating culinary life, I’m sure. But here’s a passage about a pasta dish that steels my resolve not to read food writing.

“Touted as a late-night hangover preventive in Rome, thick bucatini provide sensuously chewy satisfaction heightened with the nutty garlic bits, verdant mincings of parsley and, for the brave of palate, fiery red flecks of the dried chilies peperoncini. (No cheese, please.)  To achieve perfection the pasta should be Italian – made of durum wheat flour and molded in a brass die. It should be cooked only slightly al dente so it is not too stiff to wind yet is not mushy, and its cooking water must be well salted. The bits of garlic have to be sautéed in the best virgin olive oil to only the lightest, sunniest gold, and the flat Italian parsley leaves (no stems) must be freshly minced and sprinkled on just before serving, with luck in a warm wide bowl.”


Only Italian pasta? Molded in a brass die? In a warm wide bowl? No cheese? No stems?

No thanks. I prefer my food writing less condescending.

How ’bout you? Does this kind of description float your boat?


What To Do With the Pulp After Juicing

Now that I’ve been juicing for awhile (which a friend pointed out makes me sound like Lance Armstrong), I’ve started to experiment with using the pulp too.

We make a tasty juice from yams, oranges and carrots. That pulp is marvelous in smoothies and in baked goods like pancakes and quick breads.

We also make a fabulous green juice using kale, cucumbers, lime, green apples, and celery. I love that one, too. I couldn’t figure out how to use the pulp, though — because it’s a weird combination of flavors — until it occurred to me to separate it and just use the kale, which is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. So now, I put the head of kale through the juicer first, then scoop out thepulp1 pulp.

I’ve been using it in my scrambled eggs. I like it much better than using spinach. First, because the pulp is completely dry so it doesn’t make my eggs all runny. And second, because it has a much milder flavor that’s easier to swallow so early in the morning.


You can see how dry it is. Like moss. Tastes better, I’m guessing, but I don’t know for a fact, having been lucky thus far in my life not to need to eat moss. I fill those little containers with my kale pulp, some in the refrigerator and some in the freezer.

This kale can certainly go in smoothies, but we have so many other things for smoothies, it’s nice to have something quick and easy for other stuff. I also use it on my sandwiches, topping my baked potato, and baked in my chocolate pancakes. Excellent on all counts.

We’ve already gotten into somewhat of a rut with our juicing — a good one, but a rut nonetheless — making mainly the orange and the green juice. I try to juice with veggies rather than fruit, since it’s easier for us to eat plenty of different varieties of fruit. I’m also trying to buy the veggies that are economical and aren’t so fragile that if you look at them cross-eyed they wilt. I’m looking at you, asparagus.

It would be nice to have one more veggie drink in our rotation. I’m also thinking of interesting and useful ideas for pulp in our continuing juicing journey. Any suggestions?