Posts in Category: Kitchen Letters

Kitchen Letters # 15: When Body and Mind Aren’t in Sync

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Dear autumn friends,

Time away from ourselves can be largely upsetting and unnerving, especially if this time is felt physically.  I’ve recently experienced major separation anxiety from myself and because of this anxiety I have come to realize I didn’t have a proper mechanism for dealing with it.  This deficit of coping mechanisms has led me here to you all, today, to talk a little about taking the time to show appreciation to your body.

You may be asking yourself, ‘How do I show my body appreciation and why is that important?’  It’s not like I awake each morning and pinch myself, greet my skin, pet my hair and scratch myself behind the ear, but there are ways to show a little appreciation to your body.  Recently, something involving my health has arisen that felt, initially, completely out of my control. Or so I thought.  I was feeling unlike the me I’ve known all these years because my well oiled machine began to squeak and grind and nobody could tell me why.  What I’ve noticed is that the ‘why’ has been of the utmost importance to me.  It’s been stifling my healing.  All I’ve been able to think about for weeks is why this is happening to me.  What’s causing this, and why is it that nobody can give me a definitive answer?  The truth–the ‘why’–isn’t always as important as the ‘what’ you’re going to do to heal and accept what you cannot change.  This is something my Mama (maw-maw) emphasizes often.  In a way, the ‘what’ is understanding time and the respect we must have for it.

Let’s get down to it.  Here are some thoughts I have on how to show appreciation to your body:

  • Get up when your body is ready to get up.  Whether you have a strict bedtime you set for yourself or you stay up all hours until you’re conking out over your book or in front of your computer, make it a practice to take a cue from your body each morning.  I’ve found that extending my sleep for the sake of getting ‘extra rest’ can do more harm to the way I’m feeling, than good.  This is, of course, difficult to do when you have a regimented schedule, but on those days of rest you may have a couple of times each week, tune in a little closer to your body and listen.
  • Get plenty of rest.  Though this may seem in contradiction to my first suggestion, hear me out.  I find that there’s a vast difference between over resting and not resting enough.  As a fast-paced person who insists on utilizing most of my time for productivity, the concept of self-imposed rest is sometimes a hard one for me to grasp.  Resting can often feel like a waste of time to me, but I have come to understand that resting is crucial to appreciating your body and respecting your mind.
  • Eat to live.  Though I’m certainly an advocate of appreciating edibles and indulgence, I also feel like our bodies are best maintained in the right environment–think your gut–with the right care–think acidity vs alkalinity–and through consumption habits–think sugar, salt, fat. Eat a diet that nourishes your vitality, not one that depletes it. In our most vulnerable times, it’s our responsibility to eat those comestibles that will not interfere with healing.
  • Be honest.  Insincerity with ourselves can be an easy trap to fall into when you’re not feeling well.  You have a long to-do list for the weekend and yet you just aren’t feeling up to completing nearly a fourth of the listed tasks.  Start by asking yourself why.  If being idle is rooted avoidance, understand this and address these circumstances accordingly with your own motivational tools.  However, if your reticent to start your day because you are not feeling apt, pause and hear this message from your body.
  • Laugh.  As cliché as it might be, laughter is the best medicine.  Let yourself become distracted and lose yourself a little in laughter. It’s sure to boost your spirits.  Your body will thank you for it.
  • Sing, damn it, even if you don’t sound very good.  I’ve been singing since I was a wee lass and inevitably, singing is a release.  Much like dancing, you don’t need to be a top 40 singer to do it, just belt out some notes every once in awhile.  Make a playlist and go at it.  Maybe turn the music up extra loud and jam the hell out.  Just sing, it’s a huge relief and your body will love you for it.
  • Drink a lot of water.  I could go on and on about this, like every article out there, but really, just drink a glass of water, and when it’s empty, fill it up again.  Water flushes out a lot of toxins from your body and generally helps you feel energized.  H20!
  • Don’t take advantage of your energy by wearing it out too fast.  I’ve been going to acupuncture for years and I remember one of the first things my Acupuncturist told me was, “Don’t run around the block when you get home. Rest, and conserve your energy.”  After acupuncture, a person can feel extremely energized and vivacious, but it’s important to store your energy up for later. Hoard it, if you will.  If you focus that exuberance on healing, you’ll be happier later.  Acupuncture aside, sometimes in life we feel overwhelmed with an abundance of energy–and I don’t mean from caffeine–and it’s easy to use that energy to clean your entire house–baseboards to crown molding–write a novel and then make a gourmet meal, but resist this urge.  Store it up a bit and spread it out.

When our mind and body aren’t in sync we can become miserable molds of carbon and then we’re useless.  Treasure your gift–your body–and find ways to keep the balance even when the  the scale is tipped.  I’m trying a little harder lately to care for my body more and show it all the appreciation it deserves.  You can too!  I’m sending everyone out there a lot of love and hoping to feel much better and much more balanced soon.

Healthy and Happy Healing Regards,

RAM

Kitchen Letters #14: Reclaiming the Liquid Diet

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Dear friends,

Some of you may know that I recently had a pretty extensive oral surgery, the extent to which I won’t go into here, but let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.  I have an incurable disease called periodontal disease. For me the risk factor is genetic, meaning despite my most tenacious and stringent efforts to keep a squeaky clean mouth, harmful and diligent bacteria strike back.  Luckily for me, I have a wonderful support system and a fantastic periodontal and dental team.

The reason I mention this here is not to discuss oral hygiene–I’ve covered this before here and here–but because I feel it imperative to chat with you all about how much we take for granted simple actions like chewing, salivating, and digestion (it starts in your mouth).  Anticipating this surgery for months, I knew what kind of diet was on the horizon for me, and by pure accident I planned this surgery at an ideal time of the year; summer or a warm weather month.  Warm weather months are ideal for beginning extensive oral care because your body isn’t anticipating caloric storage and warmth due to declining temperatures in the environment and your body.

Too often, the ‘liquid diet’ is associated with cleansing, fad dieting, and a quick, temporary fix to what could be a larger underlying problem you may have.  I thought I’d turn the direction of this liquid meal conversation in a different direction; maybe it’s just nice to mix it up a bit, give your digestion a rest, and in my case, eat the only thing I could.  I’ve talked before about having comfort foods, eating habits while menstruating, and approaching your food choices with mindfulness, but today I want to talk about how a scary dietary change can actually shake your apple tree up just enough that you may find a few ripe, tasty bites you wouldn’t have found or looked for otherwise.

Here are a few recipes to help guide you through your own possible liquid diet:

Liquid Diet Tips:

  • Be prepared.  Stocking up on what you may need is key.
  • Pick out some recipes ahead of time.  Here are some tips on general meal planning.  This is a great chance to expand your palette, widen your recipe horizons and get some fresh, new ideas.
  • Pay attention to time.  Don’t underestimate the time you may need to prepare a smoothie. Sometimes getting out ingredients and using a new recipe is more time consuming than you’d think.
  • Have a few large jars on hand.  I use Ball mason jars; the lining of the lid is BPA free.
  • Have a nice deep bowl and your favorite spoon around for tasty soups.
  • Try to sneak greens in somewhere.  I like to toss handfuls of greens into smoothies, drink chlorophyll, drink green juices.  Love them, can’t live without them.
  • If you’re in a situation where your immune system is compromised, eat your way to a stronger immune system.

I’ve healed since the surgery and I’m happy to say that despite the necessity to drink only liquid, I’m continuing to partake in lovely liquid noms.  What are some of your favorite recipes for juices, smoothies, teas, and soups?  Have any tips or thoughts? I’d love to hear them in the comments (below) or under the hashtag #kitchenletters and take a look at previous Kitchen Letters.  And remember…bite responsibly!

Healthy and Sunny Regards,

RAM

 

 

Kitchen Letters #13 : Meal Planning

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Dear thoughtful readers,

I told you I would write to you about  meal planning–I know it’s been a while–and I’m here today to do this very thing!  Approaching meal planning has been a task I’ve had to wrangle myself in, to do.  I have weeks where the weekend escapes me and a meal plan is never made. Then there are the weeks when I’m able to sit down and sift my mind through simple ideas for meals that would be easy to approach, are not time-consuming and won’t require excessive meal prep.

Meal Planning Tips:

  • Take inventory, either physically or mentally, of what you have in stock.  I like to take a quick peek into our refrigerator, produce baskets and our cupboards.  When I began meal planning, I would write all the unique produce items in our refrigerator, as those were the items I felt most likely to forget about.
  • Organize your week’s meals by longevity of foodstuffs, schedule for the week, and who’s preparing what–if you’re in a multi-person home.  On that note…
  • Plan meals based around who will be preparing the meal and what their skill level or interest in cooking is.
  • Decide on the number of days you would like to plan.  I decided on just week days, as time is most restrictive on week days for us now.
  • Decide on the meals  you want to plan; breakfast, lunch & dinner.  I decided to just plan dinners, as the evenings can be the most hectic in our home.
  • Consider the time of year.  Most of our meals are seasonally based because of the produce contained in our C.S.A. box.  Consider the produce that is in season and how hot your kitchen might become after the preparation of a certain meal.  In Texas, the Spring arrests the idea of preparing meals that require too much heat.  Creativity comes into play in the Summer when baking veggies and dishes in the oven produces a sense of dread from the heat wave that accompanies the prep and cooking process.
  • If you know you have a busy month coming up, plan.
  • Have realistic and non-judgemental expectations about the types of meals you can prepare.
  • Search for recipes and organize them using an online tool such as pinterest.
  • Know your audience.  Make food that’s appropriate for who you’re cooking for, and your life will be much easier.  Keep in mind food allergies, sensitivities and preferences.
  • Start with what you have.  Most of us have to semi-regularly restock our pantry with our staple items, but try to plan your meals around what you have on a regular basis.
  • Create a base grocery list and adjust as needed.
  • Buy what you need and eat what you buy.  (When I was a little girl, I have a vivid memory of being in Epcot Center at one of the Italian restaurants and I wanted a big plate of spaghetti, far more than I could have possibly handled–I may have channeled The Lady and the Tramp.  My Papa (pawpaw) told me my eyes were bigger than my stomach and he was right.  They had a big box of left-overs that night.)
  • Find a method of keeping track of your planned meals and stick to it. I’m a paper and pen gal, so I just cut up some scrap paper, draw some lines, label the days of the week, and go for it.
  • Find a way to make it fun.  Planning meals should help make your life easier and less stressful, not more.  Don’t put too much pressure on yourself when you first start.

I hope meal planning this summer makes for a happier you, and remember..bite responsibly!

 

Healthy & Happy Summer Regards,

RAM

 

Kitchen Letters #12: Thoughtful Meal Prep and Seasonal Produce

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Dear friends,

It’s fair to assume that this winter has been a hellish one for many across the United States.  Some of you who have experienced a comedic amount of snow probably don’t feel like this.  Here in central Texas, mother nature’s ambivalence has been difficult to adjust to, but I feel fortunate to not have to plow through snow and scrape ice off of my car every morning.  There’s a reason everything shuts down in Texas if there’s even a hint of ice headed our way; we don’t know how to handle it, for the most part.  All that to say, the strange fluctuation in the weather has played a role in my exhaustion with certain ‘seasonal’ veggies.  Our winter season has been a strange mix of winter and spring and I need a change.  A girl can only eat so many turnips, ya know?  Honestly, my first reaction to feeling this way is guilt.  I should be able to flow with what nature provides me and see that every season eventually passes, and for the most part, I can.  But perhaps this winter, with schedules growing busier and time feeling more scarce and precious, I have become a little impatient with our produce abundance and assortment.  At times there has been too much of one particular veggie and not enough of another.  I’ve decided to let this guilt wash over me and move on.  There’s no harm in feeling a certain way about the food that you’re eating. What’s important is being responsible and mature enough to recognize your feelings, and to not block them out for fear of adhering to a label or self-imposed restriction.

On that note, meals prepared with love and positive happy energy are the best meals.  Recently, a colleague and I discussed a previous job she had in a bakery; she had to arrive for each shift around 4 a.m., wherein she would stock the shelves and the display cases and make the bakery storefront presentable.  She said one baker’s pastries and loaves looked distressed and lumpy, while the other baker’s pastries and loaves looked fluffy and well-formed.  She correlated the contrast in quality with the personality of the bakers and I’ll let you guess which was the happier, more active person.  Our energy and heart truly do affect not only the manner in which we’re able to appreciate our food, but also the way the food we prepare turns out.  Although I think that being in the kitchen can be a great stress reliever for some on a taxing day, consider how your mood will impact what you’re preparing and try to change your attitude before immersing your hands.  What’s you’re take?

If you’ve followed Connect a Bite long enough you may have come to know me as the type of person who has not–despite my necessity to plan and organize every other aspect of my life–made planning in the kitchen a priority.  However, I’ve been experimenting lately with meal planning and it has been sort of fun.  As it goes for most things in life, having a design to reflect on in the midst of spontaneity is comforting.  It’s great to know that I have something to fall back on and so does my husband.  Although I’m the type of chef who can check out our current weekly inventory of foodstuffs and dream something up, my husband does not favor that kind of ambiguity when it comes to preparing a meal; honestly, some days it’s nice to just know what you’re getting yourself into ahead of time.  He likes a recipe or a stand-by dish, and that’s why having something to reference like a week-day meal plan is helpful.  I won’t expand on the specifics of my meal planning tactics this week, but keep an eye out for a post to come where I break down my process.

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Finally, I wanted to comment on the rejuvenation of thoughtful meals.  I don’t just mean preparing a surprise meal for a loved one, I mean allowing yourself the room for culinary growth.  It is very easy to become complacent in the kitchen by regularly preparing ‘stand-by’ meals because you’re on your best chef game with those dishes, and maybe they don’t take very long to throw together.  But I’d like to pay attention to the key verb in the last sentence, “throw”.  Why is it that our minds are set on ‘throwing’ our meal together and moving on to something else?  I understand the inescapability of this circumstance some days, but soon, after a routine is formed, all of your meals with be ‘thrown’ together.  As stated previously, are we doing ourselves and those we’re making food for a disservice by not being more present and thoughtful with our preparation?  Are we not depriving ourselves of a potentially meditative experience because we just want to gormandize our food so we can move on to a task that bears more importance on our docket?  Maybe take the time to flip through some of those cookbooks you were given over the winter holiday that you haven’t touched, or those pinterest boards you’ve spent hours organizing, and find a new recipe or recipes to inspire your own, special creations.  Treat yourself!  Treat the loves in your life to something that was mindfully prepared and happily sought out.  Sharing a meal is a beautiful thing.  Let’s give this thoughtful meal prep a chance, what do ya say?

Thank you for taking the time to read Kitchen Letters !  Have any seasonal veggie and meal prep stories to share?  I’d love to hear them!

Have an enchanting Vernal Equinox this Friday and if you’re in Scotland, let me know if you’re able to see the total eclipse!  And remember…bite responsibly!

Healthy and Happy (almost) Spring Regards,

RAM

 

 

 

Kitchen Letters #11: A Food-Loving Friendly Reminder

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Dear patient students of life,

Routine can often be very comforting to me.  The methodical piecing together of the day’s events, both necessary and nonessential is something I take pleasure in.  However, a regimented life can easily lose any semblance of comfort and reliability if we allow ourselves to become too comfortable in our habits.  Recently, I had the pleasure and joy of teaching a friend how to prepare a meal I make often during the autumn and winter months.  It was an incredible experience that challenged the way I approach preparing a meal and it was infused with the irreplaceable gift of teaching myself a lesson too.

What did I learn?  I learned to pace myself in life.  If you know me at all, you understand me to be a fast-paced person, but when you’re teaching someone else the steps to making a meal, pacing is key.  I learned that teaching others is fulfilling because it presents you with the gift of spreading knowledge, and in this instance, breaking down the daunting barrier of food that is unknown, was very exciting.  I learned that it takes more than writing about something regularly to truly understand what you’re writing about.  I learned that putting your hands and heart into a meal make it taste all the better.  I learned that making a meal with love makes it taste better too.  I learned that sharing a meal is one of the most special gifts you can give.  More than anything, I broke down the idea of being fully content with what consumption habits that I had carried with me and re-purposed the content nature with one more aligned with what I write about here on Connect a Bite, being evaluative and connected.

Labels in life are stifling, but nonetheless we’re asked to label ourselves. It is imperative to not restrict myself to a point of personal confusion that leads to arbitrary decision-making. I choose to not label my diet or my consumptions habits, and I vow to be true to only some self-imposed standards when it comes to food.

  • Take care of yourself, first and foremost.
  • Listen to your body, it’s sending you signals all the time.  Each person is different, so pay attention to what your body is telling you.
  • Envision a world where little harm is imposed on other creatures, and strive to make your meals based around this principle.
  • If within your means, try to eat food that’s grown organically.  To be more specific, eat foods that aren’t laden with chemicals, pesticides, fillers, and preservatives.
  • Eat whole foods!
  • Indulge yourself sometimes–*sometimes is key–and be grateful for the ability to indulge.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings, the environment you’re enjoying your meal and maybe even strike up a conversation with those around you.
  • Be generous, but understand your own personal boundaries and respect them, no matter what.

I’m happy to be able to share with you a few thoughts, and here’s to less unhealthy labeling of ourselves, more friendly meals and spreading our knowledge onto others.

Healthy Regards,

RAM

 

Kitchen Letters #10: I Choose My Choice!

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Dear free thinkers,

How are you all feeling this week?  I am writing to you now–after a week of a “cool-down”–because I wanted to tell you about a recent confrontation that, in its aftermath, left me dumbfounded as to what had just occurred.  So much so in fact, that I reached out to a former colleague to not only commiserate, but to share my tale, as I knew that she too has been put in the same, uncomfortable and unnecessary position as I.  After realizing the umbrage I took at this unpleasant encounter, I knew I needed to write about it in a more public manner.  I understand that what I’m about to describe is not an isolated occurrence, and its meaning weighs much more heavily in my mind with respect to human rights than I think was ever intended.

A little background.  I attend catered events, and being someone who does not eat within the boundaries of the typical diet, oftentimes it behooves me to speak up about what my dietary “restrictions”–as they are often referred to by many–are.  Otherwise, I’ll be politely drinking 6 cups of water and making percussive noises with my utensil set all throughout the dining event, just to distract myself from the hunger pangs.  Knowing my grub circumstance, once a formal invitation is sent out, I typically send a notification to the necessary party, informing them of my food needs.  However, this time a chance was not given.

I was approached directly.  This dialogue, if it can even be called that, quickly took a turn for the worst.  Upon approach, a feeling of guilt was implied by the turn of grammatical phrase from this person and soon I was compared to another individual who, by her own demure nature, did not stand up for herself when approached, but merely avoided confrontation by yielding to the antagonist.   Soon I felt myself being verbally sabotaged with nowhere to turn but my own–what I hope was graceful– verbal sortie.

Yes, I follow a plant-based diet.  I am a person who eats, and its’ selective, yes, but it’s my choice, and I make this choice with love and care.

person planning event:  “Is this a medical choice or just a personal choice?”

me:  “It’s a personal choice (inside my head, “as if it even matters!!!”), I’ve been vegan for years and it’s important to me.”

I won’t say more about the actual remarks of the circumstance as that defiles the meaning of this post.

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When being asked about why I have chosen to eat a certain way, which is, in essence, asking me why I have chosen to live my life a certain way, I endeavor to have an open heart and mind.  In all honestly, it’s often strange to me that dietary choice, if you’re fortunate enough for it to be a choice, is not considered with more brevity in defining your lifestyle.  Of course in today’s world, the idea of foodies and following food-trends is socially acceptable, which has engendered a more accepting community to the many dietary limitations out there, but I don’t think this foodie world has given much reverence to those on the fringe.  In an ideal world, people wouldn’t reproach at the very thought of my decisions in regards to comestibles, but would converse with humility and acceptance.  Instead, acerbic rhetoric that was aligned to make me feel nothing but disrespected and discouraged about my choices was hurled in my direction.  I would like to note, that I don’t think this was entirely the intention of this individual, just the unfortunate outcome.  It is often the case that as humans, we react in defense of our own insecurities or ignorance, for this, I cannot fault anyone, as I’m sure I too have been guilty of such an affront at some point in my life.

Additionally, and as eloquently pointed out by my former colleague, would I have been approached in the same accusatory and dissatisfied manner were I a man?  I think not.  A male counterpart, I’m certain, would have been confronted with a much calmer and appeasing tone, or not at all.  Not to dwell in gender, but I find this to be incredibly disconcerting.  HeForShe!

Food choices don’t have to be approached with a confrontational tone and our reactions shouldn’t be that of a defensive nature, either.  And this is why I write to you today.  It’s not to rant about something you may find trivial; something like food choice.  I write to implore you to take a look at how you’re approaching others in your day-to-day.  I entreaty you to take a moment to STOP and ask yourself why you’re approaching a circumstance a certain way.  Be mindful.

Here are some ways you can feel more prepared when you’re sitting around the table with family and friends this coming holiday season.

  • Be open.  I understand that most holidays are rooted in tradition, and with this tradition are certain food stuffs that need to adorn the table, but be open to new dishes and creative ways to approach a traditional dish that’s long loved.
  • Do NOT torpedo question the person or people who are not participating in consuming the same fare as you.  If you are curious, don’t feel as though this person will crumble into tiny pieces upon questioning, just be thoughtful and calm in your inquiry.
  • Educate yourself before the event.  If food is being served at an event you’re attending and you know someone or multiple people with an alternative diet, take the time to read about their dietary alternatives.  Read about it for the sake of learning.
  • Be generous, provide a substitute dish or meal if that’s within your means.
  • Don’t stare.  If you’re at the table or standing around munching with someone who doesn’t eat the same things as you, remember what your mother told you as a young child, try not to stare.  One can easily feel ostracized when multiple sets of eyes are on the “freaky food” you’re eating.  Look away.

I’m sure there are some of you out there who think, “GET OVER IT”, and you don’t want to tread lightly for others.  When you’re feeling this way, think of any situation in life where you, as a functioning member of society, have been taught to have manners, integrity, and respect for other people’s choices.  Food choices are no different, and they are a human right that’s being denigrated, not uplifted, even with the foodie movement.  Help be a part of the acceptance and change!

Joining together in conversation about food and our choices is crucial, but remember to be tactful and considerate.  The idea of reaching harmony can come to us cloaked, and that cloak may be in the form of a meal with someone you know or love or both.  Be tender if you can.  And remember…bite responsibly!

Healthy Regards,

RAM

p.s.  My catch phrase lately, “I choose my choice!”  #ichoosemychoice

Kitchen Letters from the past.

Kitchen Letters #9: Mindfulness and Mint Tea

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Dear morning muffins,

What’s new with you this week?  As I’m sure you have already noticed, this week I write to you about mint tea and a special state of mind.  It stands to reason that there is always space in our hearts and minds to discuss a refreshing cup of tea and to transcend whatever is ailing us currently, but somehow this space can become crammed with doubt and judgement.  In all honesty, I cannot say that the stronger, more meditative moments always overwhelm the weaker.

I begin this way to emphasize that sometimes, I find, it’s helpful to look outside of ourselves to gain temporary peace, even if for a moment.  I’m learning to stratify my best moments and allow them to germinate, and maybe, just maybe, a cup of mint tea is the catalyst in this experiment called life.  Too heavy?  Another thought then.

For over two years I’ve written about our connection to food and why this connection is significant for each person.  Our connection to food should not, at any time, be jettisoned.  Apathy is not the answer.  During a recent visit to a thoughtful and well-informed massage therapist, I was reminded of this.  Throughout my healing session, she and I began discussing Connect a Bite, but more importantly, what it means to connect to your food and be conscious and aware of what you’re eating and how it will affect not only you, but the environment, and other creatures therein.  She told me of the small farming town she grew up in, and how disconnected from what they ate most of the people in the town were.  She said, though many of the farmers within the community sold fresh produce, they ate very little of it, and that there was generally a “tough shit” mentality when it came to food.  What does this gruff and pithy idiom mean in relation to food?  I don’t think I can say what it meant to the members of her hometown, but I can tell you how I perceive this statement in relationship to the public at large.  The idea, eat what you’re given–no matter what it is–and be grateful. Another blatant aphorism that aligns with this thought, “beggars can’t be choosers”, essentially.  Perhaps this is a Southern mentality, but encouraging the stunting of one’s ability to be inquisitive is something I cannot abide.  Soon, our conversation became more about the present and our personal regard for what we’re eating.

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The truth.  It’s easy to allow the consciousness regarding your comestible choices to become a burden.  I’m sure there are times when many of you want to eject yourself from your aware minds and just be.  This I can sympathize with and very much relate.  However, I wouldn’t trade what many would classify as food neurosis for anything.  Maybe this is a burden I’m supposed to carry and maybe writing about and finding a way to connect you all to food is a part of my life path.  Maybe, I shouldn’t say “maybe”.  With mindfulness, it is within my best intentions to just be.

Why mint tea?

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Drinking tea is a state of mind.  It is with this thought I would like to share a cup of mint tea with you.  A truly clarifying experience that will brighten your mind, calm your heart, and enliven your spirit.  If you can’t get on board with any of that, at the very least it will help you slow down, even for just a moment.

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 Fresh Mint Tea

~full pot

Ingredients

  • 4 or 5 sprigs of mint (decrease or increase the amount based on the weakness or strength you prefer)
  • 2 to 3 cups hot, nearly boiling spring or filtered water (depending on your teapot size and how many sprigs you choose)

Instructions

  1. With a sieve handy, pull mint leaves from each sprig and place them into the sieve.  Rinse with cool water to remove any dirt
  2. Muddle leaves just enough to allow essential oils to release and then place the leaves into teapot strainer (take care not to demolish the leaves, as this could release the chlorophyll and introduce a bitter taste to your tea, not very pleasant)
  3. Bring water to a boil and pour over leaves making sure to quickly cover the teapot (this traps the essential oils in the tea rather than escaping into the air)
  4. Allow leaves to steep for approximately 8 to 10 minutes
  5. If teapot strainer is housed within teapot, your choice of allowing leaves to remain (what I did) or removing them.
  6. Pour and serve.  Enjoy with a friend, partner or in solitude.

For more thoughts on mint, check out The Mint and Food and Oral Hygiene.  Here’s more on Kitchen Letters.

I hope you enjoy this cup of tea and remember…bite responsibly!

Healthy and Mindful Regards,

RAM

Kitchen Letters #8: Packing Up the Kitchen

Good day movers and shakers,

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24 July

The time grows nearer.  Yes, that’s right, MOVING time.  I seem to live a transient life, and in the evanescent days that remain in our current abode, there’s one area of the house I feel disquieted about boxing up, and that’s the kitchen.  Why?  Most people have a place in their home that’s their sanctuary, their refuge.  Sometimes, on the hottest days–and our current kitchen gets uncomfortably hot–the kitchen is still my retreat.

Dream scenario:

One day, I’ll have a generously sized kitchen, and among the other delightful additions, I’ll set up a projector so I can watch films whilst cooking or dreaming up recipes, and I’ll set up a dual use chopping block/writing station/tech area where I can write and stare out of a window at some charming landscape, drinking tea, petting my kitty–away from the food of course–and in intervals, play music on my nifty dual digital/radio player–because records in the kitchen would be too much.

Okay, now that you have a glimpse at one of my dream scenarios, I think I’ve adequately set the stage for you to empathize with my conundrum.  Packing up my kitchen is a total drag, but I too must face the clowns in the closet and begin the process.  I’ve decided to approach this in waves, so what you will see in this post is a few days worth of tackling the kitchen box up.

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25 July

Yesterday, I came to terms with the soon to be containment of my kitchen, and saying goodbye to my incredible stove.  Today, I’ve decided to get organized.  I decided a list was my best route, as I like having a strategy in mind ahead of time, and lists help in maintaining order when things are in disarray.  After the refrigerator collapse and the much-needed overhaul that occurred, it has become apparent to me that this new kitchen journey shall be a approached with the mentality of ‘letting go’ and utilized as a meditative experience, not simply a mandatory one.  And so it goes.

Here’s the list I came up with.  Hopefully it will be of use for the next few days!

  • Take inventory of what you have [food, tea, coffee, alcohol, dry goods, canned goods, jars of bulk, books, appliances, decorative items, dishes, utensils]
  • As you move closer to your actual move date, minimize the amount of food-stuffs you have on hand as moving food can be problematic and stressful, especially if you’re in a hotter climate.
  • Decide what you’re okay living without and donate.  Make this a practice of simplifying.
  • Clean any item you are packing or re-arranging.
  • Label your jars! [Only if you’re into this sort of thing.]
  • Consolidate.  You may have multiple items stored in multiple areas, shift things around some.
  • Wrap all breakables securely.
  • Set aside the essentials & Prepare an ‘essentials’ box/bag
  • Pack least important to most important
  • Categorize and sort!
  • Label your boxes and tape securely
  • Collect packing materials:  boxes/bins, packing paper(don’t use paper with print or newspaper or you’ll have an inky mess), bubble wrap, markers, tape

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28 July

I paced around some this weekend trying to decide if it was fully time to pack up the kitchen.  As predicted, I was fraught with an uneasy tiger on my back and I decided I would take this task on in doses.  Saturday’s kitchen adventure consisted of me packing up the books I have collected on our bakers rack that relate to food, natural healing, recipes, nutrition, etc…  It was a big step!  There were no books I was willing to part with, but I was pleasantly reunited with some books that had laid unopened, tucked away in a corner.

Note:  Books that are housed in your kitchen stand a higher chance of being covered not only in dust, but the strange aftermath of kitchen air.  I found I had to gently rub most of my books with a barely damp cloth to removed the strange coating that had built up on some of them.  Keep this in mind!

Although this past weekend was not nearly as productive on the kitchen-packing-front as I wanted it to be, I’m pleased I started with something small and approachable.

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3 August

Saturday came and tackled the majority of my day, but folks, my kitchen is, for all intents and purposes, packed.  All that remains are those items that are of necessity until the actual move date and those items are minimal.  Saturday, was filled with ample breaks that involved kitty petting, and refreshing beverage sipping.  In the end, my kitchen plan was useful and I’m grateful for the forethought I had.  All I can say in finality, is be realistic about what works for you come moving day.  I couldn’t bear the idea of packing all my cooking utensils and supplies because they are utilized consistently, but if you’re the type of gal or guy who likes to rely on eating out, maybe just having everything snuggly packed away in boxes is the best route to take.  Either way, don’t wait until the last-minute.

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I hope this kitchen packing journey helped give you all a few ideas how you can plan for your own move and perhaps come up with even better ideas.  What’s most important is to relax, stay refreshed and take it one step, or one day at a time.  And remember…bite responsibly!

Au revoir!

RAM

Kitchen Letters #7: Attack of the Mucky Refrigerator

Good morning visionaries,

I awoke Sunday morning and realized enough was enough.  Soon we will be departing our current abode, we call her San Gabriel, and we shall be moving on to our new digs. Before that can happen though, the intensive cleaning MUST commence!  Do not misunderstand. I, as a general rule, help in keeping our home in shipshape–organizing and cleaning is a happily greeted past-time for me–but for some reason, of all the places in the house I neglected for awhile, the refrigerator was one of them.  I’m not pleased at this fact, especially considering my self-proclaimed chef status, but the facts are the facts. The photos that follow may appall you, and I’m not pleased with them either, but the after is one arresting refrigerator–if that’s even possible!  Thus, rather than harping on what is, I shall move forward and help all of you keep from getting into my sticky–all puns intended–situation.

Here are some rules and checks for maintaining or sprucing up your refrigerator.

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RULE 1:  Work with what you’ve got.

  • Some of you may be in my shoes; you don’t own the refrigerator you’re currently or soon to be using.  Don’t let this discourage you from tip-top care, or making what space you do have work for you!

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RULE 2:  Start Early, stay cool & fuel up!

  • Before I start any project I know will be an absolute undertaking, I like to make sure I’m cool and not remotely hungry.  Thus, I started early in the morning–my early may be different from yours, so go with what feels right to your schedule–to stay cool and knock out the project.  I also prepared a delicious smoothy to help make my mind and body happy.

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This scrubby came in extra handy for the elbow grease areas!

This scrubby came in extra handy for the elbow grease areas!

RULE 3:  Get your supplies ready before you start.

  • In the past, if I’ve ever haphazardly begun a project without having all materials ready, that remiss behavior leads to stress, mistakes and worst of all, time wasted.  And who in this world has time to waste?  I say, have all of your materials readily available in one easily accessible location.  Also, think about what you’ll  need.  I must admit, I thought I’d use some supplies that I didn’t need and didn’t think of some supplies that I could have used.  But luckily, they were all on hand!
  • I suggest rubber gloves to protect your mits and microfiber cloths to wipe surfaces, not smear.  Although they are wasteful, there are situations where I like to have sanitizing wipes on hand.  Right now I’m using these.  I had bon ami on hand because I use it to clean many surfaces, but I didn’t end up needing it this time.  I still suggest having it out for problematic areas.  I also suggest making a chemical free cleaning spray made from:  1 part white vinegar, 4 or 5 big drops of dish soap, and 1 part water, and whatever–if any–essential oil you choose to use.  I keep mine scent free, but everyone is different.  I reuse an old spray bottle to keep things simple.
  • Also, something to keep in mind, I don’t consume animal products–and my husband rarely keeps any at home–so there are some extreme sanitation processes I don’t have to go through in my refrigerator or on our counter-tops.  If you do consume animal products, I would look into the correct and most useful sanitizing tools and processes.
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I think those little barnacles are the remains of fennel greens and I’m not sure what the crusty thing is there in the middle. AVERT YOUR EYES!

 

This was my ever so neglected veggie drawer.  There are so many monsters in there!  Look away!

This was my ever so neglected veggie drawer. There are so many monsters in there! Look away!

RULE 4:  Observe your area–in the fridge–and take special note of problematic spots.

  • Before jumping in, I suggest taking a look through the fridge to see where you’ll need to focus your cleaning powers.  This will help you gauge how long this endeavor will be and whether or not you’ll need to let some shelves or drawers soak in some hot, soapy water for a bit, to break down any food monsters.

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RULE 5:  Take special note of your edible inventory.

  • I didn’t take actual notes, but I did try to get a mental picture of what I had on hand.  Some produce is in abundance right now, and some produce is newer than others.  We’re overflowing, so I go by fifo (first in first out) rules.  Remember earlier I talked about limitations?  Well, I only have two produce drawers, which leads to improvising!  Try it out, I’m sure you’ll do just fine.

RULE 6:  Start from the bottom and work your way to the top.

  • I’m sure in many ways, this doesn’t make sense, but in our situation, when it came to shelves both internal and on the door, it made the most sense to clean what was down lower and work my way up.  The lower areas were the most problematic and most neglected, as that’s not where the eye lands.  Try it out and see if that method works for you.

RULE 7:  Start small.

  • Now that you’ve observed your area and started problem spots/areas to soak, tackle the smaller more confined areas, like the inner door(s).  This helps manage the stress of all the bigger items to come and gets the most tedious part of this cleaning labor out of the way FIRST!

RULE 8:  Clean off all of your bottles, jars & containers

  • Why put sticky/grimy back into clean and sparkly?  There’s no sane reason to, so make sure with every container or bag your take out of your refrigerator, you wipe it down thoroughly.

RULE 9:  Expired and old…no more!

  • If you happen to have older items in the fridge, go ahead and rid your space of them.  If there are edibles in jars that are no longer edible, see if you can empty out the jars and re-purpose them.  Compost or toss any items you’ve neglected eating because your fridge was overtaken by a monster and forgive yourself.

RULE 10:  Don’t forget to clean down REALLY low and clean all of the gaskets!

  • You may be surprised to find what gunk ends up in those rubber areas around the perimeter of the door and the very bottom may have become a splatter party, but it’s okay, you got this!

RULE 11:  As my mother would say “put some elbow grease into it”.

  • It’s no surprise that as I’ve emphasized, some of you may have tricky spots to take care of, don’t be afraid to scrub with all you’ve got to loosen those icky areas.  I believe in you!

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RULE 12:  The handles, the handles I say!

  • An often overlooked area when cleaning–and not just on the refrigerator–are the handles of anything.  The knob to your front door and the area that surrounds.  The handles in your car.  All of these handles, no matter how clean you think  your hands are, get covered over time in dirt and that dirt can easily be missed if you’ve gotten used to seeing it.  Just think how shimmery white those fridge handles will look once you’ve scrubbed them.

RULE 13: Clean the outside of the doors

  • That is all. :)

RULE 14:  Realistically decide what you have space to hold.

  • I’m a bulk buyer in many ways and I often have to re-evaluate our fridge space and realize I’m making that compressor work harder by jamming my fridge with stuff.  Consider this when you’re shopping.  A helpful email from a reader and more research have led me to an update of the statement above.  It is best to keep your refrigerator at least 3/4 full because either too full or overly barren creates a less than ideal scenario for the energy efficiency of your mechanism.  Here’s a little more info. provided by G.E.  Thanks to the attentive and thoughtful reader for pointing this out! ^_^
The after. ^____^

The after. ^____^

RULE 15:  Consolidate and arrange.

  • Decide if you really need 4 bottles of the same kind of mustard, or three jars of ground flax.  I know we all get in a rush, and sometimes taking a step to clean out a jar or bottle to merge items seems like a LOT of work during a busy afternoon, but it will be worth it later when you cannot find anything in your fridge.  Organize your food items in a way that makes logical sense.  Veggies like higher humidity environments, so fill up those drawers and correctly set the humidity knob if your fortunate to have one–we do not currently.  Place your herbs–like parsley, cilantro, basil–in a small jar with water–almost like you would flowers–and cover them with a mesh bag or plastic bag if that’s all you have on hand.  Put items that need to stay the coldest at the back of the fridge.  Make sure, according to what you are keeping in your fridge, your temperature is set accordingly.  If you’re housing animal products, I would monitor the temperature more closely.  Finally, a personal organizational tip, arrange like with like.  Try not to put a container of leftovers on the same shelf as something outside of that category, like overflow veggies. You will never find the leftovers or you may end up hiding a delicious veg or fruit.  Maybe that last tip sounds extra anal, but trust me, you’ll be happier in the long run!

Some of you may have come across the most recent genius that is Weird Al Yankovic, but I felt that this track in particular spoke to today’s post.  Don’t want to deal with that “fungal, rot, bacterial formation…”  Enjoy!

 

Monday, I brought a lot of produce into the office to give away, because during the spring/summer season, we’re busting with fresh produce from our CSA box.  This minimized what we had to store and assured us no waste.  It was very fun to share!

Let’s just say by the end, I felt obscured by the whole cleaning event.  Zonked!  It needed to be done.  I’m glad I did it. Happiest of all that it is now over and the refrigerator is happy again and not climbing with icky fridge monsters.  Fridge attack…SUCCESS!

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At this moment, I cannot think of a better way to appreciate my eatables more than giving them a happy, clean home to reside in–please excuse the personification. :p  Show me all of your fridge projects under the hash-tag #fridgeattack !  I cannot wait to see.  And remember…bite responsibly.

Healthy and happy fridge cleaning regards,

RAM

Check out more Kitchen Letters here!

Kitchen Letters #6: What a Difference a Cup of Tea Makes

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Dear daydreamers,

What’s new?  I’ve been absent in posting this last month and then administratively, my site was down, but here I am now, and ready to talk about TEA!

I can’t write enough about how much tea means to me.  I hate to place so much power on an object, really, but there’s something disturbingly refreshing, replenishing and delightful about tea.  I don’t mean to belabor the ‘object’ as an issue, but I think in American society, though tea has its popularity, it is often overlooked and gazing eyes settle onto sodas, coffee or even energy drinks.  Not to project a nauseating elitism, but I must say none of those drinks, the occasional teeny cup of black coffee straight from our press is the exception, does it for me.  I must admit, due to my barista past, I do have a bit of a squishy spot for coffee:  the scent is intoxicating, the graceful oily top layer is mesmerizing, and of course for most–not me–the caffeine liberates.

However, coffee is no tea substitute.

I’ve decided, and happily so, to give tea the power to aid and transform a blossoming mood, be it decisive or doubtful. This is because tea, for me, makes all the difference. There is something terribly magical and exquisite about the dainty nature of the leaves. The aroma, even before brewing, is intoxicating. I find the infinity of selection both daunting and comforting. A person could become easily entrenched in the plethora of products available to ‘help’ your tea enjoying experience. But, simply a teacup, some filtered water and those leaves is all you need to be on your way to your own kind of transformative and magical tea palace.

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I’m sure tea, in the great canvas of life, is a relatively frivolous topic to write about for some, but for me, it envelopes so much of what it means to be me and why I have an affinity for writing about the milieu that is the comestible world.  I just wanted to say, what a difference a cup of tea makes!

 

What are your experiences with tea? I was thinking it would be fun to share pics of your tea experiences these days and how it is transforming your day. Post the pics with the hash-tag #teacanvas

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Thanks for sharing and I can’t wait to see all the beautiful pictures you’ll be sharing! And remember…bite responsibly.

 

Healthy Regards,

 

RAM

Check out more Kitchen Letters here!