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

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.