How old would you be, if you had no idea how old you really were?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Skewed Views - Sticker Shock

The turn signal on my three year old van was misbehaving. Left was right, then right was left. Sometimes the signal didn't work at all. Had to get it fixed. Went to the Dodge Dealer and asked for a turn signal fix and an oil change. I knew it would be expensive, but thought I just might pay cash. I had $250 in my pocket.

They did a courtesy inspection, no charge. Came back to tell me that my water pump was leaking. Ouch. Knew I had to take care of the water pump, so I said OK put in the new pump. Then we might as well drain and flush the radiator while we are at it, right? Sure, that makes sense.

Two hours and forty minutes later the work was done.

Turn Signal Fixed

Oil & Filter Changed

Water Pump Replaced

Coolant Flushed

Total Parts $297.64
Total Labor $533.50

Two hours and forty minutes. $533.50 labor. By my calculations that's about $200 an hour.

They did have free coffee in the waiting room, but no donuts. In the morning, while I was waiting to check in, with 20 other unsuspecting victims, a perky young woman pranced up and down the line of cars taking names and giving out cardboard numbers. She was pleasant, and I guess that made the job of the actual service writer much easier. I wonder how much an hour she makes.

I've bought whole cars for less than the bill that morning. Good cars that ran a long time. When they were finished fixing and flushing, I thought maybe they'd wash the car. Nope, no car wash, no donuts. I hope the dealer's kids appreciate me sending them to college.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Why We Eat More Than We Think

By now you know that this old salt is not a big fan of diets.

Here is a bit of support for that theory, which makes sense to me so I am passing it on. It's a book called Mindless Eating, Why We Eat More Than We Think. The author, Brian Wansink, describes his research in which he discovered that we often fool ourselves into thinking that we are eating less.

The answer - smaller plates, tall thin glasses, and simple changes in our eating routines.

Check it out at Mindless Eating. At Wansink's Blog, there is an article today about the halo we float over Subway food, (you know, Subway, where Jared got skinny just by eating Subway sandwiches all day long for the rest of his life). When we order what we have been programmed to think is a virtuous, healthy sandwich, say the veggie six-incher in the picture, we tend to think some chips or a cookie and a coke might go better with that sandwich than a water and that little tiny cup of yogurt.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Loose Weight without "Dieting"

It was really easy to gain weight. Basically my secret was to eat a bowl of ice cream every evening. Put on 10 to 12 pounds in about a year.

So how does one reverse the process. Well, for me, the obvious answer was to 86 the ice cream. And for certain that was a start.

Here are are a couple more specific guidelines for trimming that waistline without really dieting. I really don't have a compulsive bone in my body, so it is hard for me to count calories, or stay with any sort of prescribed program for more than a few days, so these are guidelines that make sense to me. If you resonate with these you might like to track down the books.
  • The first is from the book, What to Eat by Marion Nestle (and reviewed by Maria Duncan at Book Reviews for Real People)
    "The basic principles of good diets are so simple that I can summarize them in just ten words: eat less, move more, eat lots of fruits and vegetables. For additional clarification, a five-word modifier helps: go easy on junk foods."
  • The second is an appetite guage from Nourishing Body and Soul, the Chopra Center Cookbook. The gauge is designed to help us listen to our body's signals of hunger and satiety and then to eat appropriately, which would mean eating at level 2 or 3, and stopping at level 7.
10 Stuffed
9 Uncomfortably Full
8 Rather Full
7 Satisfied
6 Almost Satisfied
5 No Hunger Awareness
4 Could Eat
3 Definitely Hungry
2 Very Hungry
1 Hunger Pains
0 Completely Empty
The key of course is awareness. The amazing truth is that we can probably keep ourselves at very trim weights when we find ways to pay attention to the signals from our bodies.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Blueberries and Sour Cream

This is a classy, easy dish. A great dessert to calm down the palate after a spicy meal. For me it's a more than acceptable substitute for the big bowl of ice cream that was, and maybe still might be, my favorite.

The Recipe
  • 1 Handful of fresh blueberries
  • 4 (More or Less) T no-fat sour cream
That's it. And it's not too hard, as you can see, to create a very attractive presentation. There are only about 50 mg of sodium per serving. Total calories estimated between 80 and 100. No fat.

Maybe, if you are just not too wild about sour cream, you would like a sweeter version. Replace the sour cream with a low, or no-fat aerosol, whipped topping. Lite Cool Whip might be an another alternative.

But hurry, while you can still find fresh blueberries in the market.

Don't tell anyone, but the blueberries in the picture were actually this morning's breakfast.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Black Bean & Sweet Corn Salad - Low Sodium

How about an easy, attractive summer salad, that tastes as good as it looks.

You will need:
  • 1 15 ounce can of low sodium black beans
  • about one cup of frozen sweet corn
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1 small can diced green chilies
  • 1 T (more or less) olive oil
  • a splash of red wine vinegar
Rinse and drain the black beans. Then gently mix all of the ingredients together. The dressings are optional. In this version I sprinkled the mix with a bit of olive oil, then the red wine vinegar. Sprinkle easy then taste. Need to brightened it up a bit, sprinkle a bit more vinegar.

You might just try the salad (minus the oil and vinegar) with a bit of a medium salsa for a dressing. That works well. If you search you can find salsas with little or no sodium. Mine comes from a farmer's market type store called Sprouts.

Or you might like to experiment with other low sodium, fat free dressings.

If you get six servings, the sodium for the salad (without any dressings) would be about 70 to 80 mg per serving.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Sailing Upwind

There is an old Jim Croce song that say's
You don't tug on Superman's cape
You don't spit into the wind
That makes good sense to me and maybe gives us a hint about how to live a full life in the face of lifes little (and big) challenges. It's not a good idea to spit into the wind. You can't sail directly into the wind. Under sail you have to tack your way back and forth at an angle to the wind to reach that upwind destination. You have to work a little harder, but sailing upwind is actually the most exciting sailing, with the boat heeled over and the spray coming up over the bow.

Same way on land. If you've got a nasty problem, one that you really can't solve with a direct attack, try an end run. For example, right now I've bunged up my hip, probably by playing too much racquet ball. It really honks me off that now, when I have the time and resources to play, that I can't, or shouldn't. So what am I doing? Swimming. Not quite as much fun. Lonely compared to a foursome of old farts in a racquet ball court. But I am still doing something that helps me stay fit. That wasn't hard.

But what do you do when the doctor tells you that you have slowly progressing sort of cancer. One that will probably get worse. One that could kill you some day. But at the same time a very slow and treatable condition. Not curable but treatable. Well you can dive in and learn all you can about the condition, and try to do whatever to keep the thing in check. But there is a point where it doesn't help to think about it all day long. Time to move on. Live life. And how do you do that?

For starters you say, "How am I feeling right now? Am I in pain? Fatigued? Nauseous?" And if the answers add up to, "Hey, today, not bad at all," then that's what you focus on. What's going on today that's good and makes you smile

Finally, humor and meditation, are a couple of tacks that I know that help me stay focused on what's going on right now, and help to keep things in perspective. More on both in the future. For now check out what happened to a picture of this old salt when he played around on a web site promoting the new Simpson's movie, and Simpsonized himself.

You really can sail upwind, if you are willing to try a new tack.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Extending Our Stay on the Planet - Part 4 Muscle Mass

Am easily distracted. Have wandered away from the blog for a while. Temporary change of venue now as we are off the mountain and down in the Arizona valley where a high of 95˚F is a cool day.

Here is what I know about muscle mass. Loss of muscle mass is one of the key signs of aging. The more you sit, the more likely you are to lose muscle mass. When you lose muscle mass not only do you lose strength, but your metabolism slows and muscle mass is replaced by fat.

The good news is that studies *show that even people in their nineties can increase muscle mass in relatively short periods of time (8 to 12 weeks) with exercise routines. And those revived muscles mean faster metabolism, more strength, better mobility, and better balance.

So what do we need to do?

You don't need to be Jack LaLane, but he's a pretty good example of somebody, who's older than dirt, who still keeps himself in pretty good shape. Get up and walk for starters. Do some stretching. Start working out with weights. None of this needs to be, nor should be, extreme. Start easy and increase the activity and or the weights as you go along. The minute you get up off your butt the picture starts to brighten.

Currently I am a very happy camper. At home in the mountains we have a pretty good assortment of dumbbells, and free weights. We also have a hand-me-down home gym thing with weights and pulleys called a Hard Core Gym. But, here in Tucson, where we will be for the next several months, I immediately joined LA Fitness, where I hang out in the morning and play racquetball with other old salts, and then work out using the weight machines and treadmills. And, there is a very nice pool for lap swimming.

Am also riding one of my bikes here in Tucson, where roads are paved and relatively flat, and most automobile drivers are aware of and courteous to cyclists. This is the first that I have ridden since my leg was amputated, and I am having a great time. In my youth, (40's and 50's) I was a strong rider, sometimes covering a 100 miles a day. Now I'm starting again from scratch, five miles this morning, but that's OK.

No doubt about it, hanging on to muscle mass improves our chances of sticking around and stay in motion a bit longer.

Want more muscle? Keep moving. Make a plan that works for you.

If you have time and funds you might like a gym. A place like LA Fitness is more or less reasonable. $149 one time sign up then about $30/month. At the place I go you'll find everyone from bulging, ripped, tattooed body builders to some old salts who almost shuffle from machine to machine, and everyone in between. They have aqua fitness sessions that fill the pool with golden agers. Everyone is friendly and helpful.

Funds lean? Time short? No access to a gym or physical rehab center? Don't let these very real excuses stop you. Remember this is a life and death matter. Find a way to move and stretch on a regular basis. Get on line and look for exercises you can do at home with little or no equipment. Get out and walk. Walk in the mall. There are ways and when you are ready you will find them.

*Protecting Muscle Mass as You Age
*The Physiology of Aging: What You Can Do to Slow or Stop the Loss of Muscle Mass

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Desperation Soup - An Almost-Instant, Low Sodium Potato Soup

I'm trying to adjust my life style, and that means not eating stuff with fat or sugar. Actually I'm pushing it a bit these days. I'm really tired of this fat belly I've acquired in the last couple of years. And today it was noon and the refrigerator was bare and the pantry wasn't much better. There was an envelope of a creamy potato soup mix that was a strong lunch possibility, but it had 500 mg of sodium. Too much.

And then what to my wandering eye did appear, potato buds and non-fat dry milk. Desperation breeds creativity. I could make my own potato soup, almost instantly. Sounds a little weird but it turned out to pretty darn good.

Try it. For a one cup serving you will need.
  • 1/3 C Potato Buds
  • 1/3 C Non-fat dry milk
  • 2 t All Purpose Chef's Shake (Spice Hunter)
  • 1 t Butter Buds
  • Boiling water
  • Ground black pepper
Just mix all of the dry ingredients together in a bowl and add enough boiling water to get the consistency you like. Let it sit just a minute or so to cool and to rehydrate the dried spices in the Chef's Shake.

This is a no fat recipe with a total of 160 calories, 145 mg of sodium, and a bonus of 10 mg of protein per serving

You could easily substitute other no-salt seasonings that contain garlic, onion, black pepper and usually an assortment of other spices.

Want more servings? Just multiply the ingredients.

I was surprised. Hope you like it too.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Extending Our Stay on the Planet - Part 3 Unloading Extra Pounds

We want to stay on the planet for many more exciting years. We've got an intense desire to be around when those grandkids graduate from college and we're pretty good at adapting to the changes that lurk beyond every bend in the road. Does that guarantee we get to watch that kid throw his or her cap in air? We know better. No guarantees. But we are going to take reasonable steps to tip the scales in our favor.

And it's that bathroom scale, the one we climbed onto this morning, that we need to tip in our favor. Carrying too much weight, will shorten our life span. Too much weight is too much fat and too much fat means big-time health risks, that can include heart and blood pressure problems, muscular skeletal problems, breathing problems, self esteem problems and on and on.

So here's my take on getting skinny and staying there. If you want to lose weight you need to do three basic things.
  1. Eat less fat
  2. Eat less sugar
  3. Shake your bootie
How you do that? Well you could go on a diet. There are lots and lots of diets. You could try a grapefruit or sauerkraut diet or you could eat lots of paper tasting rice cakes. You could live exclusively on magic protein powders that you mix with water. You could try the Atkins diet, or the South Beach diet, or sign up for Weight Watchers. Jenny Craig, for a price, will deliver breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks to your doorstep. Dr. Phil who knows exactly what to do about everything, will sell you his book The Ultimate Weight Solution. I found a list of 24 diets and diet descriptions at a site called Evaluate the Latest Diets. Check it out.

Do diets work? Sure they do. Stick to the plan and you will lose weight. So what's the problem? The problem is: after the weight comes off and the diet is done, the weight comes back and the cycle repeats.

What works better? Life style changes or, diet and life style changes, works better. Say, every day before you go to bed you have a 300 calorie bowl of ice cream, but one day you say, "Hey, I'm going to stop eating that bowl of ice cream at night." And you actually do stop. That's more like a life style change than a diet. Your routine doesn't include ice cream at night anymore. The result, if you keep the same eating pattern, except for the ice cream, and continue the same activity or exercise patterns, could be a weight loss of about 30 lbs in a year.

Weight gain or loss is a matter of calories consumed balanced by calories burned. So to lose weight you can consume fewer calories (eat less) or burn more calories (more activity/exercise) or both. That works. But if you want to keep the weight off you need an approach that you can literally use for the rest of you life.

The Old Salt approach works like this.

Fat = calories. I know I can reduce the amount of fat in my diet. I used to eat a steak about once a week. A really fine, nicely marbled steak, tastes great but has lots of fat, fat that I don't need. Now I have a steak about once a month, and lately, especially when the steak is a big 6 to 8 ounce piece, my wife and I split one steak.

Sugar = calories. I'm the guy in the ice cream example. After heart surgery, I had no appetite, everything tasted bad. But I could eat ice cream, and I did. Gradually my appetite returned, and two years later I was still eating ice cream and everything else in sight. Gradually I had gained about 25 to 30 lbs. Now I've almost stopped eating ice cream. Sometime in February I stopped keeping ice cream in the fridge. Gradually and slowly I'm loosing weight.

Both the steak and the ice cream are life style changes I can maintain. Much easier (for me) than dieting and counting calories. Weight loss will be slower than dieting, but more likely to be permanent.

Walking or running or bicycling, or just working at a job that requires a high level or activity are ways to shake your bootie and keep burning those calories. Maintaining an increased activity level, over an extended period of time, will change the amount of calories burned, and, assuming you don't increase your intake, will result in a weight loss.

So life style changes work for me, but not everyone is like me. I know that different approaches work for different people. Some folks, like my friend Joel, do very well with a very systematic, diet. Joel keeps records of what he eats on a daily basis and carefully limits both calories and sodium. He also keeps track of his workouts. And he is losing weight. Joel's blog has his daily records and lots of other interesting information.

So find an approach that works for you. If you love diets, go for it, but remember that to keep the weight off, to keep on wearing those new skinny clothes, you will need to make life style changes that impact both calories consumed and calories burned.

Coming Soon - - Muscle Mass . . . (A religious service for weight lifters???)

Zucchini and More - Colors Galore

Yes, that's a skillet, but we are not going to fry this colorful batch of low calorie, low sodium veggies. We are going to steam them. No need for any special steamers. All you need is a decent sized pan with a lid and low heat. Because the zucchini and yellow squash have a high moisture content you can actually steam them without adding any liquid. But for this batch we are going to add a half cup (more or less) (actually a healthy splash) of white wine, today a Cabernet.

The combination and amount of vegetables is up to you. To clone this batch,

You will need:
  • 2 medium to small zucchinis - sliced
  • 1 yellow squash - sliced
  • 1/2 large sweet onion - sliced and broken into rings
  • 1 medium sized tomato - cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 sweet red pepper - cut into small strips
  • l large carrot - sliced diagonally as thin as possible
  • 2 cloves garlic - finely chopped
  • 1/2 C white wine or apple cider
That's it. Put all of the ingredients into a large pan with a lid. Non stick is a good idea but not absolute. Lid is absolute. I start with high heat, just until the pan is hot, and then turn the heat down very low. Put the lid on and cook until veggies just barely retain a bit of their crunch. For these to turn out just right you will need to check periodically. Overall time for this batch was about 6 to 8 minutes. When they are almost perfect, take the pan off the heat. You can leave the lid on a few minutes until you are ready to serve. Very low calories. Not enough sodium to count.

A batch of steamed veggies like this is great served over brown rice or noodles. For a real treat top with a bit of the spicy peanut sauce also found in this blog.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Extending Our Stay on the Planet - Part 2 Adaptability and Goals

Today, while were walking down the road in a Spring snow storm, and while trying not to get blown into the ditch, Sarah says to me, "Not everybody is all that worried about how long they are going to live." And I thought, "She's right." Teenagers think they're immortal. Young adults are busy with jobs, mating, families, recreation. A fair number of adults workout and pay attention to what they eat, but their immediate issue is probably not how many years they are going to live. But when you wake up one day and realize that you are the oldest person in your clan (that's me) you really do start to pay attention.

So what is the key to sticking around as long as possible while still being able to remember your name and being able to find your way home on your own? I would have voted for genetics, or possibly a positive outlook, but one of my favorite experts, Deepak Chopra, tells it this way:
Emotional adaptability is the most important single factor in keeping a person well and living long. Everyone undergoes crises, but people who can bounce back, who look toward the future instead of dwelling on the past, and who demonstrate emotional resilience are the ones who survive best.
And that makes sense to me. Lance Armstrong gets a cancer that knocks him flat on his back, invads his brain, takes one testicle, and almost takes his life. What does he do? He marshals every possible resource, learns everything he can about the cancer, submits to frightening surgery and months of nauseating chemotherapy and gets well. He calls his cancer a "bump in the road." Then what does he do? He wins the Tour de France seven years in a row.

Put positive spin on what some would call disaster and it's not hard at all to move on. My own experience having a rotten smelly leg amputated, seemed like a relief to me, an opportunity to get on with my life, a "bump in the road."

If we can change our perceptions about old age we may also be able to extend our own lives. We've all heard that we are what we eat. Take that a step farther and know that we all create our own realities. If we truly believe that old age begins at 65, we will behave in ways that will make that come true. Old rocking chair will get us. Hearing about 102-year-old Elsie McLean, made me realize that I was thinking that anyone over a hundred years old was probably drooling, and in a rocking chair. Not Elsie, she's out playing golf and making a hole-in-one.

For me, the most important keys to extending my own stay on the planet are goals and a sense of purpose. I've got 16 grandkids. One of my goals is to stick around long enough to see everyone of them graduate from college. My intention is to show up and be sharp enough to know what's going on and fit enough to locomote under my own steam.

Up next - An Old Salt's take on unloading those extra pounds.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Extending Our Stay on the Planet - Part 1

My dad died when he was 53. My mom died when I was about 4 years old. I'm already in my 70th year and my medical records are the size of a Chicago phone book. So what does that say about my life expectancy? Some would say I'd best not buy any green bananas. But I'm not listening. I've got 16 grandkids ranging in age from almost two to 16 years old, and I intend to see each one of them graduate from college.

So what can we do to outrun crappy genetics and whatever else already ails us? What can I do to give my self a chance to attend my youngest grandson's graduation while still reasonably sound in mind and body?

There's hope. We can begin by taking steps today to extend our stay on the planet.
  1. Start by knowing that there are folks out there sneaking past the century mark who are still coherent and who get around on their own locomotion. My wife's mother and aunts and uncles make it into their eighties and nineties in pretty good shape. How about 102-year-old Elsie McLean, whom you might have seen on TV a last week. Elsie made a hole-in-one playing golf with the “girls” on a 100 yard, par 3 hole at a golf course in Chico, California. Maybe you and I won't make a hole in one, but we can extend our stay.
  2. People who live the longest tend to be sort of narrow. They don't carry around much adipose tissue, that greasy yellow stuff we call fat. We have to unload those extra pounds to give ourselves a chance.
  3. Aging = loss of muscle mass. If I want to see my grandson graduate I will have to get out there and walk and I will have to push myself to find a way to lift some weights to keep and increase my upper body muscle mass.
  4. We're going to need a maintenance program. If you had a new car you would probably follow a maintenance program. Our bodies are more important than cars or trucks. We need regular checkups, and good medical care when we are ailing. We need nutritious foods and maybe a vitamin or two.
  5. We need to manage the stress in our lives. You may not be able to change what is happening around you, but you certainly can change what you say to yourself about what’s happening. “Ain’t if awful,” will raise your stress level. Finding a bit of humor in a stressful situation will lower your stress level. When I had a leg amputated my four-year-old granddaughter had us all laughing with, “Now grandpa will be like a weal piwate.”

To be continued. In days to come we'll expand on specific steps we can take to extend our stay on the planet. Know that I write about these topics with a dual motive. These notes often serve to remind me of what I need to be doing. If they ring true and are helpful to some of you out there in cyberspace that makes me smile. Please comment or send me an email.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

A Very Narrow Course

Spent a good part of the afternoon today in front of the TV watching the Master's Golf Tournament. Mercifully the program was almost commercial free, and commentators commented sparingly. However, one of the commentators, filling the gap between Tiger Woods' final attempts to salvage his chance for a playoff and the presentation of the green jacket to Zach Johnson, quoted Bobby Jones, legendary golfer of the 1920's and 30's. "Competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course, the space between your ears."

Oh yes, how true, for golf, and for all of the other games of life. What we say to ourselves, think to ourselves, what we believe to be the truth, may have more influence on our lives and our happiness than the external forces we like to blame.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Go Fly a Kite

At 79 years old, Ray Bethell is a world record holder many times over in multiple kite flying. He continues to break records and offers escape to both young and old. Despite the unfairness of life, the human spirit endures, "and that’s good stuff."

Here are two really interesting and inspiring short videos showing Ray flying his kites and talking about his outlook on life and on his take on dealing with the bumps we encounter along the way.

This link will take you to the video called "Good Stuff"

Here is another fun short video of Ray flying kites.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

NO Salt or LOW Salt

A lady in a white coat caught my attention. I was only a few days out from an open-heart surgery that almost did me in. I was out cold for three days after the surgery, and it was 30 days before I escaped from the hospital. So when she told me that patients who took their medicine and limited their sodium intake tended to stay alive longer, I listened.

So I went home and tried to avoid eating or drinking anything with sodium. And of course nothing tasted right. I tried to cook with absolutely no salt and the results were just awful. But now, a couple of years later, the low salt restriction has become a little easier to live with. That is due in part to getting used to less salty foods and to finally realizing that 2000 mg of salt per day means low salt not no salt.

Cook up a pot of pinto beans with out salt and the result is tough to swallow. But when you add a little salt then the beans began to taste like something you might want to eat. How much salt? Estimate the number of servings in the pot. Eight servings? OK. What if each serving had 300 mg of sodium? 8 X 300 = 2400 mg, or one teaspoon of salt. That will work and the beans start to taste sorta like the ones mom used to make.

We bake most of our own bread now. A half teaspoon of salt per loaf means that if you get twelve slices from the loaf, you are looking at 100 mg of sodium per slice. Not bad, when every loaf you can buy off the shelf at Safeway has 180 to 300+. And the bread we bake, particulary the no-knead is really good.

I’ve also found that I can eat potato chips, and tortilla chips, if, I shop carefully and limit the amount I consume. Chips range in sodium content from 80 mg per ounce to 300 and more mg per ounce with some brands of chips topping out near 500 mg per ounce. Go for the low numbers and enjoy them chip by chip. Don’t inhale them. A small kitchen scale will really help you to know how many ounces of chips, or cheese you are eating, and will keep you honest in your estimate of a one ounce serving.

So I am gradually finding ways to eat and stay within the very stingy salt restriction 2000mg/day and at the same time enjoying what I eat. A little moderation goes a long way.

Friday, March 9, 2007

BBQ Shrimp with a Corn Relish- Low Sodium

My oh my, you are gonna like this one, a low sodium recipe fancy and tasty enough for company. (580 mg sodium per serving - 2 generous servings)

You'll have to do a little preparation, but it's easy and fun. You'll feel like you are getting ready for your own TV cooking show. It combines a corn relish we are going to mix up with some awesome "barbecued" shrimp. Here we go. Three basic steps.

Mix up the corn relish

For the corn relish you need.
  • 2 C of frozen corn
  • 1/4 C chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/8 C chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 small white onion chopped
  • 1 t chili flakes
  • 1/4 C low sodium chicken stock (less than 500 mg sodium per cup)
  • 1 T Worcester sauce
  • 2 T cider vinegar
  • 1/2 t sugar
  • Cajun Spice (Spice Hunter Cajun Creole Seasoning - salt free)
Heat a large non-stick skillet. Add the frozen corn and the pepper to the dry skillet and roast them until the corn just barely begins to brown. When the corn and pepper are barely roasted dump then into a bowl, add the rest of the relish ingredients, sprinkle with the Cajun spice to taste, and mix. Set aside to marinate while we prepare a roux and saute our shrimp.

Prepare a roux

Easy now, a roux is simple, and we need it for a thickening when we put this very cool dish together.
  • Melt 1 T unsalted butter over medium heat in a small sauté pan
  • When the butter is melted gradually stir in 1 T white flour, continuing stirring and heat slowly until the mixture turns a nice golden color.
  • Take the pan off the heat and set it aside.
Sauté the shrimp
I use raw, frozen, tail on shrimp that I buy at Costco. These are medium sized. (31-40 count per pound) Watch the sodium content on shrimp as it can be high. The ones I use have 280 mg of sodium per serving (about 9 shrimp).

You will need
  • About 18 shrimp, thawed and patted dry
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 T oil
  • 1 T (or more) minced garlic (you can buy it already minced in a jar)
  • 1/4 C chicken stock (low sodium)
  • 1 T Worcester sauce
  • Cajun Spice
Melt the butter, oil, and garlic together. When the skillet is hot and you can smell the garlic, add the shrimp and sauté quickly, less than a minute per side. Add a little oil if necessary. Sprinkle generously with the Cajun spice, add the Worcester sauce and chicken sauce and sauté until everything is hot.

Combine and Serve
Add the corn relish to the skillet and heat. Scrape the roux into the relish and shrimp mixture and stir until it is mixed in. Heat just long enough to thicken and your are ready to serve up an awesome dish.
This is recipe adapted from a TV cooking show where the chef magically sprinkles the ingredients without obviously measuring and puts the whole thing together in about 5 TV minutes. I could not find an actual recipe so the measurements here are my approximations. Feel free to wing it and adjust according to your own tastes. The original dish is a creation of Chef Brett Maddock at Arnold Palmer’s restaurant in La Quinta, California.

Monday, February 19, 2007

No-Knead Bread - What To Bake It In

Hooray for No Knead Bread. We’re hooked here and this bread has become our staple. We haven’t bought a loaf of bread since Christmas. Sarah and I have both had a hand in it and have baked over 30 loaves of bread, most of them one at a time. Here’s what we’ve learned.
  • It’s hard to make a mistake.
  • Rising times are very flexible. We’ve let it rise as little as 10 hours, and as long as 30 hours (when we forgot it).
  • Because the dough was so sticky we had problems when we tried to wrap it in a towel. Couldn’t get it unstuck so we began just dumping the dough out of the bowl onto a floured board and covering it with plastic wrap. Worked fine.
  • We’ve only thrown one loaf away and that was the one that stuck to a pot that was the innards of an old crock-pot. Just couldn’t get it out without busting it all up. The problem was that the pot was scored on the bottom and hard to get completely clean.
  • The baking container doesn't need to be as big as we thought. We found an old bowl in a thrift shop that works great. (On the left in the picture) The inside diameter at the top is 9 inches and it is about 6 inches deep. Lid came from the thrift shop too. Just the other day found a second pot at the thrift shop. It’s the one on the right, a bit smaller but works fine. Bowls were five dollars apiece. Makes sense to me to cook a very basic, inexpensive bread in a very basic, inexpensive pot.
Happy bread baking. So simple, yet better than you can buy almost anywhere.

Here is a link to our original No-Knead Bread Post

Thursday, February 15, 2007

How To Be A Great Cook

Want to be a great cook? You need three magic ingredients:
  1. Olive Oil
  2. Garlic
  3. Onions
That's it! You're on your way.

Heat up that skillet. (Make it non-stick skillet and save your some grief) Pour in a little olive oil, add some chopped or smashed garlic (several cloves not the whole bulb, unless of course there are vampires hovering) and throw in a fistful of chopped onion. Sauté just long enough to fill the house with that wonderful bouquet of garlic and olive oil and you’re on your way to a great quick entrée and a great reputation as a cook.

Now add chicken breast, cubed, strips, or whole pieces. Brown both sides then lower the heat and cook gently for a few minutes. Get the skillet off the heat just a soon as chicken is barely cooked through while it is still tender and juicy. Season with pepper a tiny bit of salt if you can afford it. Serve with a dash of a good barbecue sauce.

Or when that great bouquet fills the kitchen, add sliced and diced vegetables, zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, whatever, you can find in the fridge. Put the stuff that takes longer, like carrots, in first or add them as very small pieces or slivers that will cook quickly. Quit cooking while there is still a bit of crunch in some of the veggies. Serve your sautéed veggies over rice, brown of course, unless like me you sometimes still yearn for that plain and quick white stuff. For a real treat dribble a bit of Thai Peanut Sauce on top.

Make a spaghetti sauce starting with the three magic ingredients. Add tomatoes, mushrooms, something to spice things up (red pepper flakes or chili oil or jalapeños or green chilies) and you’ve done it again.

So their you have it, culinary magic. Use your imagination. Experiment. Have a good time. Let me know how it turns out.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Half empty? Half full?

Planned to get outdoors and walk this morning, but with the temperature below 30, and the wind above 30, I waffled and went for a trip on the treadmill, which just happens to be located strategically in front a TV, where I found an old (1999) Starwars movie.

Well this old salt found some comfort and humor in this bit of entertainment. Lots of robots in this tale and it occurred to me that in some ways I’m not too much different. I’ve got a heart valve made out of left over pig parts that helps the pump work more efficiently, a neat little pacemaker/defibulator tucked in under my collar bone to keep my rhythms syncopated , and a very cool below the knee prosthesis, complete with an air shock, to let me stand on my own two feet. (Both feet are “my own” even though one of them is not original equipment.)

So is my cup half empty or half full? Should I despair about all the parts that have broken down and get ready for the next disaster, or rejoice at my ability to breathe the mountain air, canoe, hike, drive, delight in grandkids, build stuff in my workshop, and generally do as I please?

Today the choice is obvious and easy. Rejoice. Damn, I’m a lucky guy. And I post this note not to brag, but in part to remind myself of my good fortune, because with all that I have going for me it is still possible on a cold and dark winter day to get a bit worried and depressed and waste my time in a black mood.

And because today is the only day you and I can really count on, I plan to have a hell of good time. May the force be with you.