History of eggnog: What’s in a name?
Step 1: Pour all the ingredients into a blender. Blend on high for a few seconds. Pour into a mug and dust with cinnamon. This makes enough for about 4 glasses.
You’ve made it through Thanksgiving with a few pounds of meat, stuffing, potatoes, beans, cranberry and pie stuffed into your stomach. If you still made it under your daily expected calorie allowance, great job! We’re all proud of you. If you didn’t, welcome to 90% of America. But don’t despair. Even if you had that extra slice (or three) of pecan pie, you still have time to make up for it before we ring in 2014.
But how can I avoid overeating? you may ask, since Christmas is just around the corner, and everywhere I go tempting cookies, cakes, candies and buffets will be shoved in my face 24/7? Never fear, dear readers, I have scoured the internets and personal experiences to come up with ways you can avoid the “December 15” (like the Freshman 15, except it accumulates every year and intramural soccer plus late teen metabolism no longer gets rid of it over spring break).
15 Tips to Avoid Overeating During the Holidays
1. Have a plan
The best way to avoid any food traps is to have a plan of attack. Where are you going, an office party, a family reunion, a friend’s big bash? If you’ve been to a similar event, you’ll have an idea of what types and portions of food will be served. Decide ahead of time how much you expect to indulge, put that amount on your plate, then avoid the food tables the rest of the night.
2. Plan exercise
Part of a successful holiday weight maintenance plan is to follow your exercise routine, or start a new one. If you normally run three days a week, put it in your calendar in pen, and keep that appointment with yourself. Even though holidays are crazy busy and all about spending time with family and friends, don’t forget that YOU time is important too. You can also make a more conscious effort to be more active in general. Go up and down the stairs for each ingredient you need, do squats while you mix dough, play with the pups or kids in the snow (or leaves, whatever your weather) and take an after-dinner stroll each day.
3. Bring your own snacks or meals
If you are going to a potluck, great! Whip up a healthy casserole or slow cooker dish you know won’t damage your waistline if you have seconds. Stuff a small bag of nuts, cut veggies or fruit, or granola bars in your purse. That way you can tame cravings if hunger strikes without having a gallon of egg nog with bacon-wrapped-ham and double cheddar mashed potatoes.
4. Don’t skip meals
Remember that trying not to gain weight is NOT an excuse to skip meals. This actually slows your metabolism because you’re essentially telling your body that food is scarce now, to which it responds by holding onto every morsel you do eat in the form of fat. Be smart about what you eat, but please do continue to eat. Especially breakfast.
5. Be realistic
It isn’t always possible to bring baby carrots and have a salad only while those around you nom on piles of holiday treats. Sometimes you have to judge the options and simply choose the best of what’s available. Holidays are busy, so there will also be days where you just can’t cook a healthy meal for yourself or don’t want to bother thinking about it. Just keep an eye on portion sizes and moderation is always key.
6. Allow occasional indulgence
As above, this is also important in “real” life. No one is perfect, we all have that holiday treat or two we wait all year for. Whether it’s Aunt Mary’s peanut brittle, grandma’s perfect pecan pie, or your family recipe for the perfect cookie, make sure to build into your holiday eating plan some indulgences. This helps keep you on track the rest of the time.
7. Know your limits & when to say no
If there is a treat that you just cannot help yourself around, be mindful of that and remove the temptation. If you know you will eat every gingersnap in sight, don’t bake or buy nine dozen and leave them out on the table. Also don’t accept and eat food just to be polite or out of a feeling of obligation. Learn how to say no politely, or thank you and then move the treat along to someone else who will enjoy it.
8. Browse and graze
Before you hit a holiday buffet guns blazing and head back to your table with five plates full to the brim, take a lap. See what is there and prioritize the foods by what you like and don’t get to eat as often, then focus on those dishes. Had green bean casserole seven times in the past week? Don’t waste space on your plate and stomach. Don’t really like stuffing but feel its necessary? Forget about it. On a similar note, you don’t have only one chance to eat each day. Pick a few tiny samples of things that look good and try them. Then stop. You can always go back for more or to try different things.
9. Focus on experiences, not the food
Rather than giving in to the holiday food-frenzy, make the season about the experiences. Take a walk in the wintry air, pick out a tree, share holiday stories with friends, or drive around to look at light displays. Anything to take the focus off the sugar rush all around and create memories that will live in your mind and not in your abdomen.
10. Drink lots of water
This is just a solid tip every day of the year. Water is fantastic for your skin, hair, digestion, immunity, and more. It also helps you stay satisfied; a lot of the time we mistake hunger for thirst without realizing it. Drink a big glass with lemon when you wake up, sip on some hot tea by the fire, have a glass between each alcoholic beverage, challenge your cousin to a chugging contest. Do whatever it takes to get your daily 8 glass minimum.
11. Fill up on fruits and veggies
If there are any fresh, raw options, those are always your best bet. Allow some heavier foods too, but fill the majority of your plate with salad, cut veggies, and raw fruit. If you fill up on three cups of veggies, you’re still probably only 300 calories into your day!
12. Skip dips, dressings and gravy
Some of the worst health offenders are well-known. Gravy, ranch dressings, fruit or veggie dips, anything cream or oil based. If you must have gravy on your potatoes, just go easy.
They will taste fine with 1/4 cup versus 1 1/2 cups.
13. Observe yourself
Pay attention to trigger foods or situations. Don’t allow yourself to hang around near the food tables. Don’t eat if you aren’t hungry, just because the leftovers are there. Distract yourself by chatting with family you only see once a year, or making a new office friend.
14. Limit alcohol
Alcohol is a two-fold danger. For one, it has fairly high amounts of calories alone, and if you’re the type to enjoy fruity mixed beverages rather than the straight stuff the calorie count can become absurd quickly. A 100 calorie shot or a 900 calorie peppermint kahlua with cream are both excess calories that don’t leave you feeling full. Secondly, alcohol lowers our inhibitions. Who hasn’t gotten the “drunchies” after a night of partying hard, only to regret the next morning the 5000 calories’ worth of tacos we ate at 3am? As above, drink a glass of water between each beverage, choose wine or hard liquor in small quantities, and behave yourself. Mostly.
15. Analyze your reasons
There are so many varied reasons for over-eating, what is it that prompts you to pick up that fork again? Are you hurt by family pokes about your current weight? Does being home make you feel like a kid again and you’re seeking comfort? Do you feel left out if you don’t stuff yourself? Are you afraid that you’ll never have access to this particular kind of cookie again so you must eat two dozen tonight? Ask yourself why, be honest with the answers, and then be rational in how to deal with the issues.
Don’t forget: Forgive yourself for slip-ups
We are all human. That’s a fact of life, we all have goals and ideals, but we all will sometimes mess up. And that is OK. Really. If you just ate three days’ worth of food in one sitting before you even realized it, just acknowledge it happened, think about why, and resolve to not let it happen again. And probably seek some help for the severe stomachache you now have.
For more great articles on holiday overeating and how to avoid it:
In my previous post about Thanksgiving on a budget, I laid out the history of the North American Thanksgiving holiday. While it’s taken quite a while to get to this point, the more recent incarnation of this holiday has been centered around giving thanks for what we have. Or at least it should be. As with most holidays in the US, the big companies try to take over and commercialize the living daylights out of everything.
Now we can buy decorations, tablecloths, dinnerware, and all manner of turkey-themed knicknacks. The President of the United States even gets to issue a T-day proclamation and “pardon” a turkey, which ensures that particularly lucky bird will spend the rest of its life roaming freely and not trussed, stuffed, and roasted on a dinner table. Though there has been some suspicion involved in that whole process. The Huffington Post wrote a story last year about the fates of previously pardoned turkeys. Mental Floss also wrote a thorough post on the whole history of Presidential poultry pardoning.
There are also plenty of companies out there offering to cook part or all of your holiday meal. While that may be a good option if you’re hosting a huge amount of people and would rather spend time with them than spend thirty straight hours in a kitchen, that is not the case for most people.
And honestly, this holiday should be about spending time with your loved ones. They won’t care if you don’t have a perfect spiral, smoked, honey baked ham, if the turkey skin isn’t just-right crispy, if the stuffing is a little dry (that’s what gravy is for). We tend to put so much stress and importance on the perfect meal that we forget the purpose of having it: to be thankful. To count our blessings. To spend time with people we care about and share a meal together.
There have been tons of psychological experiments on the psychological and physical benefits of an “Attitude of Gratitude” with more being published all the time. People who practice gratitude consistently report stronger immune systems, more joy, optimism, and less feelings of loneliness. The Huffington Post wrote a great article on 10 Reasons Why Being Thankful Is Good For You. The reasons include better sleep, better grades, better relationships, improved heart health, and boosted immunity.
Gratitude has been purported to help in many chronic health diseases like depression, CFIDS and Fibromyalgia. The CFIDS & Fibromyalgia website has an article summarizing a well-know gratitude book “Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier” by Robert Emmons. The NYTimes also wrote a nice article about the main points in Emmons’ book.
The CFIDS & Fibromyalgia website also included a 5-point list of things you can do in your life to increase gratitude right now. To sum it up:
5 Things You Can Do To Increase Gratefulness Now
1. Keep a daily gratitude journal. Write down 3-5 things every day you are thankful for. You only need a sentence, and it could be as simple as the sunrise to a hug from a friend to a raise.
2. Use a visual reminder. People are forgetful little things, out of sight out of mind. Write yourself post-its of all the good things and people in your life. Set an alarm to go off at different intervals to remind you to take a thank-you break.
3. Have a gratitude partner. Any habit is easier to maintain if you have accountability. Plus gr-attitudes are contagious. Make a point to cultivate relationships with other thankful people. One of your daily gratitudes can then be your thankfulness partner.
4. Make a public commitment. This goes along with #3 but is directly related to achievable goals and should be made more public, like a weekly thankful Facebook status, family, or join a support group.
5. Change your self-talk. Also known as an inner monologue, this is the voice running constantly in the back of your mind. Most people have lower mood when that voice is negative, “you’re not good enough”, “you’ll never lost that weight”, “that raise isn’t gonna happen”, etc. With conscious practice, you can rewrite the script to be more kind to yourself and the other people in your life.
|This list is at my desk in lab, where I see it every day.|
The University of California, Berkeley is launching a 3-year long, $6.5 million initiative: Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude. This project aims to increase scientific knowledge of the process and benefits of gratefulness as well as to educate the general public on current knowledge and future findings. They will be exploring everything from the neuroscience of gratitude to gratefulness in romantic relationships to how thankfulness may reduce bullying. All good stuff I think. You can find out more about the project here.
Please share: What are you grateful for?
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The time of giving thanks is approaching! Everyone knows the beloved American holiday featuring a rather large, ugly bird. Kids drawn pictures of feathered Native Americans and buckle-hatted Pilgrims gathered around the cornucopia and a turkey drawn from your hand’s outline.
But like most American holidays the original meaning has become commercialized and veered a bit from the original. The first Thanksgiving meal happened in fall of 1621, sometime between mid-September and mid-November. It was to give thanks for a successful harvest, and the Pilgrims joined the local Wampanoag tribe to eat fowl, fish and deer, and probably local plants like berries, plums and boiled pumpkin.
After that, it was not immediately a national holiday. That didn’t happen until George Washington proclaimed Thursday, November 26, 1789, a “day of public thanksgiving and prayer” in honor of our new nation and brand new Constitution. Even then the holiday was not a set annual day. During Lincoln’s presidency, when he needed a way to unite the states, he turned to Sarah Josepha Hale, writer of the famous “Mary Had a Little Lamb” rhyme. She thought the holiday would be a way to infuse the nation with hope and belief in itself and the Constitution. Thus Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November a national holiday.
FDR caused a bit of a ruckus when he tried to change the date, causing TWO Thanksgivings in 1939 and 1940. Sounds awesome, two days of paid vacation, stuffing yourself and football right? Not so much, because some states kept the traditional date while others followed the President. Thus it caused some familiar discord as people had different days off, schools had to reschedule tests and vacations, and it sure is lucky airplanes weren’t around yet, because that would have caused a lot of date-change booking fees. Congress finally got around to making it into law that the fourth Thursday of November was the official and forever Thanksgiving Day.
If you’re heading into T-Day with a lot of things to be thankful for, but a large bank balance isn’t one of them, fear not. You can still have a stellar feast, and for less than an Andrew Jackson.
Now, for the remainder of this post I will make a few assumptions. Don’t be offended if they don’t apply to you. Adjust the advice accordingly.
1. You will be feeding 2-4 people.
2. You want turkey and not a ham.
3. You want the most “traditional” American dishes.
4. You have twenty dollars.
5. You have basic cooking equipment and knowledge.
Ok, so for the “traditional” American feast, the most common dishes are:
*Green Bean Casserole
That’s what we need to make, as inexpensively as possible. If those don’t sound right or aren’t quite what you want, try here for thousands more Thanksgiving day recipes.
*The Turkey (free – $7)
Here we have a few options. You aren’t likely to find a whole bird under $20. There are a few ways around it. Some stores run specials leading up to T-day such that you purchase a certain amount of groceries and get a free bird. If you had planned spending $100 in groceries into your budget anyways, pick up that free bird! If not, you still have choices. One option is to purchase only turkey drumsticks rather than the whole bird. I just saw these at a store, four drums for $5-7. Your other option is to purchase mini hens/ducks or a whole chicken. If the people you’re cooking for won’t care what type of fowl they eat, this can get you a bird for $4-7 as well.
*Stuffing ($1 – $3)
If you’re good with boxed types, keep an eye on sales. These can be picked up for $1 or less per box, and you’ll probably need at least two. If you want to make your own, you’ll need a loaf of stale bread, 2 cups stock, seasoning, and 1 cup diced & sauteed celery/carrot/onion. all together the ingredients shouldn’t cost more than $3. Mix it all and bake at 350 inside the bird or in a casserole dish for 30-40 minutes.
*Mashed Potatoes ($1 – $3)
Again, if you don’t mind the boxed stuff, I’ve seen this at the dollar store as well as on sale for $1 or less. To make your own, peel and dice about a pound of potatoes per person. Boil the potatoes in salted water until soft, about 10 minutes. Drain and put back into the pot. Mash or use a hand blender. Add in garlic salt, butter, sour cream, and/or milk to your desired taste and consistency.
*Green Bean Casserole ($2)
A good old stand by favorite, this is nothing more than a can of cut green beans mixed with a can of cream of mushroom sauce. If you’ve been good about sales you should be able to get at least two cans of each for less than $2. You can also be fancy and use a pound or two of fresh green beans, cleaned and boiled. The fanciest is to add some french friend onions or crushed potato chips on top.
*Cranberry Sauce ($1 – $2)
Buy a can of this jello like fruity goop for $1 or less, it will probably not all be eaten. Or you can get yourself a bag of fresh cranberries on sale. Mix 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar and the cranberries in a sauce pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about ten minutes, or until cranberries burst. At this point you can add anything you like, such as cinnamon or nutmeg, chopped almonds or pecans, orange zest or blueberries or raisins. Cool and then put in the refrigerator until served.
*Pumpkin Pie ($1 – $3)
If you get lucky and find a frozen or fresh pie on sale you like, go for it. However if you want the homemade touch, take 1 can pumpkin puree, 1 can sweetened condensed milk, 2 eggs, and pumpkin pie spice (or combination cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice) and a pie crust. Mix all ingredients and pour into the crust. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and bake another 30-45 minutes, until set.
Total: $6 – $20
So you see you can indeed enjoy an all-American thankful feast for under $20. Also of note, there are lots of things that go on deep sale during the holidays that you use other times of the year. If you’re an avid baker and find a 4 for $1 sale on condensed milk, snap that up! If celery is .50 per pound, buy a whole bunch and freeze some for soup, or use it at Christmas. Especially if you have a big freezer, when the birds left are taking up space the day after Thanksgiving, head to the grocery store after your Black Friday shopping for steep discounts on fowl, and freeze it for Christmas or any time of the year. Happy bargain-hunting!
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Raw Juice: what’s fact and what’s hype?
For several years now I’ve been dabbling in “healthy stuff” like juicing. As most things do, it began as just a curiosity, what’s it all about. I read articles and books and opinions of people who have tried juicing in various ways and for various amounts of time. There are some super-intense proponents of juicing, like this guy. His name is Joe Cross, and he claims juicing saved his life. He has a documentary on Netflix and free online called “Fat Sick and Nearly Dead” as well as a blog. Before you think “ok, crazy extremists who make these claims just want us to buy their juicer”, let me say that recognized sources like WebMD and even Dr. Oz tout the benefits of juicing while giving adequate attention to the possible drawbacks.
Fruit and vegetable juices retain most of the chemicals which make them so good for us in the first place, like chlorophyll, anthocyanins, antioxidants and flavonoids. It is important to note that although adding juice to a well rounded, healthy diet is an excellent idea, beware falling into thinking that juicing is the only or best way to be healthy, or that only juices are good for you and you should avoid whole foods. That is not at all what I’m saying. Juicing also takes out all the fiber from these wonder foods, fiber that your body needs for its normal digestive process. For a list of nearly 50 more fascinating raw food juice facts, check this out.
Now, before you rush out and buy a $300 juicer, consider your needs. Are you just beginning to dabble in this juicing craze? Do you just want a healthy beverage now and then, as well as pulp to put into soup and muffins? Are you already a hard-core health nut ready to begin adding daily juices to your diet? There are two types of juicers, a centrifugal juicer or a masticating juicer. Centrifugal machines work by chopping the food into tiny pieces and spinning it to separate the juices. They are typically smaller and less expensive. You won’t get as much of the nutrients, but they do the job. Masticating juicers work by mashing and grinding the food, producing a thicker, pulpier juice with the majority of the nutrients. They are typically larger and more expensive. You can check out a wide array on Amazon (not an affiliate link. I will get no benefit if you look or buy).
Funny story, my juicer was actually free. I’m a member of an online community called SparkPeople which has nutrition and exercise trackers, recipes, articles, community boards and much more. I highly recommend it if you want a simple, informative website to keep track of your health stats. Anyways, there was a forum about juicing, and I posted in it that I was curious about juicing. It lead to several conversations about types of juicers, uses, etc. A fellow member sent me a personal message saying that she had just gotten a newer, larger juicer as a gift and had an old one she didn’t need anymore. Of course I was skeptical, but sure enough two weeks later a gorgeous little blue and white juicer showed up!
|My gorgeous gift, courtesy of a kind fellow Spark-er!|
I was thrilled, and thanked her profusely. Since then I’ve dabbled on and off with various types of fruits and vegetables and recipes, and learned a little along the way. Following is a list of rules I’ve determined for myself. They may not all work for you, but enjoy learning from my experience.
Jen’s Five Juicing Rules:
1. Take the time to cut off the peels. Seriously, juicing the peels too gives the final juice a bitter, sour taste that is not really pleasant, regardless of what other goodies are in there.Of course, mine is a centrifugal juicer, not meant for large pieces of whole fruit. If you have a masticating one, it might be ok.
2. Know the limits of your machine. If you have one of the huge, fancy juicers you can pretty much throw a whole watermelon into, good for you! Most likely you do not, so know how large of a piece of food your machine can handle at a time, and if you’re doing a large batch clean it a few times throughout to keep it from clogging up.
3. Wash your juicer immediately once finished. Dried on fruit and vegetable bits are gross, start to smell, and are much harder to scrape off the inside of a fruit chute than fresh. I promise the chlorophyll and phytochemicals in your juice won’t fall apart in the time it takes to give it a quick rinse.
4. Always throw in a little something sweet. Even the most hard-core purist who drinks three glasses of green juice a day has to admit kale, spinach and carrots alone don’t taste super great. Especially if you’re just starting out with juicing, give yourself some slack and add some apple juice or berries to everything.
5. Don’t be afraid to try new things. I juiced anything I could get my hands on for a while. Sure I made some mistakes (see the list at the end of things that are HORRIBLE juiced) but I also found a lot of new fruits and veggies I didn’t know I liked.
|Prepping for juicing: lots of fresh fruits and veggies|
|This will become many tasty beverages for the week.|
|Mmmm green juice, that’s the best way to start the day.|
Things that are seriously gross when juiced:
Garlic – maybe for cooking, but holy cow this stuff is strong! Gag-inducing, even in small amounts.
Things that will overwhelm the taste (use small amounts only):
Best things for juicing:
Berries (most of them)
Now that you know the facts, go ahead and find yourself a juicer (Amazon, Ebay, Walmart, Christmas present, Craigslist…) and get to creating! The Beginner’s Guide to Juicing is a great article full of helpful information, reviews of different types of juicers and blenders, and includes more recipe ideas.
Some recipes to get you started:
~2 oranges, peels cut off
~2 large carrots
~1 lemon and/or lime
~1 large handful spinach or kale
~4 stalks celery
~1 large cucumber
~1/2 a grapefruit
~1″ chunk ginger
When I moved into my new apartment, I went on a stock-up grocery trip as I always do. One thing that was on sale was whole chicken (90 cents a pound or something). Since I had already brined and roasted a whole pheasant, I figured a whole chicken shouldn’t be much more difficult. So I got one and stuck it in the freezer.
Then one day I decided it was starting to get cold enough to count as fall, and chicken soup is great fall weather food! Of course, I roasted the meat and just enjoyed some tasty baked chicken meat first. The carcass is in the crock pot today to make stock for chicken soup.
I took out the bird, made a nice brine*, and roasted it the next day. And it turned out tender and amazing!
*If you don’t want to brine it overnight first, don’t worry about it. Skip right to the roasting part.
Ingredients for brine:
Step 1: Mix all ingredients in a pot large enough to hold the whole bird. Add water to the top (once bird is added, not before, or you’ll spill everywhere. Not that I’ve ever done that…).
Step 2: Stick it in the refrigerator overnight (or at least for 4 hours. You can put it in there in the morning, head off to work and finish roasting it later that night too). I had to put my milk sideways on the bottom shelf to make room for a day, but I feel it is well worth the space-hogging.
Ingredients for the bird:
Step 3*: Take the bird out of the liquid, and pour the brine down the sink. Wipe off any moisture with a paper towel and place in a large baking pan. Rub it down all over with margarine. I despise raw chicken, so this part is super disgusting for me, but it is a necessary evil of epicuriosity. (*IF you skip brining, this is where to start)
Shove some butter chunks under the skin if you can too. If there are bits and pieces inside the cavity, take those out and dispose of or cook separately. Then sprinkle it all over with spices, and shove the aromatics (apple, onion, lemon) up the butt. Sorry, inside the cavity…
Step 4: Put the bird breast-side down into an oven at 425 for 15-20 minutes covered with aluminum foil. Flip it over, take the foil off, and roast uncovered for another 10-15 minutes. This will lead to a nice crispy outside skin. Then lower the heat to 375 for about another hour, or until the temperature is at least 165 F.
Once it’s all nicely browned and roasted, it looks and smells divine!
Take the aromatics you stuffed it with out and discard (or compost it). Use the meat any way you like! It is tender and moist and super flavorful. Not bad for $5 a bird.
Now I think I also need to work on learning how to properly carve the thing rather than just stabbing and sawing until a piece falls off…
One of the main things any good cook knows is what a difference a pinch of this or that can make to the overall flavor of a dish. The kinds of spices there are is nearly limitless, especially if you’re willing to drop some serious cash on things like saffron and cardamom.
However, the vast majority of dishes can benefit from a few affordable key spices: