2020 Year in Review (10 Things I’m Grateful For)

Our family is happy and healthy. Two in the clan were infected with SARS-COV-2. Thankfully both were mild cases and both have fully recovered.

We welcomed a newcomer back in March. Tiny Human Too has brought much needed joy and happiness to the family.

No worries Tiny Human One. You have also delivered much joy and happiness.

After 34 years The Boss and I are still a team. We spent a LOT of time together his year and learned we still like each other (strange but true).

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

I lost 20 pounds and The Boss lost 10. We have done some take out meals but the combined weight loss was the result of a lot less restaurant food. More home cooked meals = healthier food = weight loss.

Fried Rice Edmond OK and Pad Thai Carbondale CO (this sliding thing is COOL)

Cooking and grocery shopping skills improved. I’m tweaking old recipes, trying new recipes and shopping more efficiently.

Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

I finished reading 10 books this year. At one point in my life I was reading a book a week. Now I’m reading less and enjoying it more.

Photo by Huy Phan on Pexels.com

My client company extended my contract for 2021. Retirement has been postponed.

TOMC still running well but likely to be replaced in 2021.

Whiskey.

Stay safe and stay well.

Guacamole – Asian Inspired

Xmas 2020

Guttenberg New Jersey is a tiny town on the Hudson River. Guttenberg (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guttenberg,_New_Jersey) was where I first tasted Guacamole. I was in my early 20’s and a restaurant on the river named The Lighthouse was reported to have the best Fettuccine Alfredo in the state. So if a restaurant had the best fettuccine I had to go. The night I went the crowd was out the door and everyone was shuffled into the bar so that the business could sell more alcohol while you waited patiently for a table that was probably empty the entire time you were waiting. As I made my way to the bar atop the counter sat a large bowl filled with green stuff.

“What the hell is that?”

The bartender gave me a look like what planet do you live on and said,

“Guacamole.”

“What the hell is Guacamole?”

Realizing I was a true Yankee who lacked any sense of cultural awareness outside of the NY-NJ area his tone softened.

“Avocado dip. You eat it with chips.”

Next to the bowl of green stuff was a bowl of chips. I still didn’t know what Guacamole was because I didn’t know what an avocado was. My educational enhancement options at the time were limited in the pre-Internet, pre-cellphone days and the bartender left to serve someone else who was more likely to spend more money on alcohol. I wasn’t getting enough information to discern what the green stuff actually was. I remember grabbing what I thought was a potato chip, took a dip, and ate Guacamole for the very first time in my life. Funny to think back on this because I recall nothing about the Guacamole. All I remember was the chip.

When the bartender came back hoping I would finally order an beverage I asked,

“What the hell kind of chip is that?”

“Corn.”

And with an attitude of this guy is asking too many questions and wasting my time he went off to serve someone else. Thus ends the story of my first encounter with Guacamole and CORN chips. I wouldn’t have any more such encounters until I moved to Texas and tried Mexican (actually Tex-Mex) food. But this is another story altogether.

BTW I love Guacamole now and I know what a corn chip is.

Asian Inspired Guacamole

  • 3 ripe avocados, halved, pitted, peeled
  • 1/2 large lime fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons medium red onion, minced
  • 1 medium sized tomato, diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  1. Scoop the avocado into a small mixing bowl.
  2. Squeeze most (but not all) of the lime juice over the fruit.
  3. With a fork or a spoon mash the avocado but leave some small chunks (for chunkiness).
  4. Fold in the remaining ingredients and mix well.
  5. Sample for seasoning and adjust to your taste.
  6. Serve with CORN chips.

Tips

I take a paper towel and gently drain the tomatoes before adding to the fruit. The paper towel will absorb excess juice, pulp, and seeds. This dip is basically the kid version and is very mild. The adult version can be bold. I usually add several dashes of hot sauce. Fresh garlic and jalapeño peppers will also give a nice kick. Remember the most but not all part of the lime juice? If you’re not serving immediately, squeeze some lime juice over the top of the dip (don’t mix in) and stick it in the fridge. This will help delay oxidation. No one likes brown Guacamole.

An Avocado a Day Keeps Your Gut Happy

Avocadoes May Lower LDL

This Guacamole is Daughter-in-law Approved.

Tiny Human Avocado Smash

Random Thoughts Xmas Eve Day 2020

Thurs 12/24

“Keep a diary or journal. Record your reflections on your life experience in a journal. You will find this simple practice to be invaluable in your quest for wisdom.”

Warren G. Bennis 1925-2014

Wednesday 26 January 2005

I downloaded this application last night from the Treepad website. Someone on the planet took the time to create a tiny word processor in the Treepad file format. S(he) uploaded it to the site and the app is free. It can be used to document just about anything you want to track by date.

I’m going to use this app for tracking food consumption, exercise, and any other random thoughts that enter my mind. I will also use this space to capture notes on my progress towards my goals.

It is also a good space to write. Just write.

I started keeping a journal 15 years ago. Bennis was brilliant and 100% correct in saying keeping a journal is invaluable in your quest for wisdom. I don’t feel I’m wise enough yet so I keep writing. Most of what I’ve written will never be read by anyone other than me. And for some strange reason that bothered me. When I started a blog I was troubled by sharing my most intimate thoughts online. As the years have passed I’ve begun sharing more online. I came to the realization that if I only help one person through sharing my life experiences it’s worth it. Even if that help is merely my One Rotisserie Chicken, 50 Meals – #3 Sour Cream Chicken Enchilada Casserole recipe.

This morning I did the Old Person Hour at the grocery store. Not exactly the best time to do your grocery shopping because there were a lot of empty spots on the shelves and restocking had just started. It was hard to tell which items were unavailable due to hoarding. Still managed to get everything I had on my list except fresh cilantro, a specific brand of tortilla chips and canned green chilies. The lack of chilies is a hoarding thing but no tortilla chips is a restocking issue. Trust me on this.

I must have stood in front of a neatly stacked tower of light beer for at least five minutes. Before me was a new offering from a major brewery, low carb, low calories (probably tasteless too). At this very moment I realized my fat jeans were feeling kind of loose and baggy. I didn’t buy any beer. The holidays are hard enough for those of us struggling with our weight. I ate three cookies yesterday! So for the rest of this holiday season beer stays on the Don’t Have It in the House List.

Losing weight is hard. Keeping the weight off is harder. Remember not to get too high nor too low. Make the The 90% Solution your strategy. I’m probably around 60/40 now but always strive to do better. Which reminds me, I should work on my book today.

Eat More Carrots – VRG Scientific Update

Researchers began studying close to 50,000 women in 1984 when their average age was 48 years old. They collected information about the women’s diets over the next 22 years. The women’s cognitive function was assessed at 28 or 30 years after the start of the study. At that point, 41% had good cognitive function, 47% had moderate function, and 12% had poor function. Women who had the highest long-term intake of total carotenoids were 33% less likely to have poor cognitive function and 14% less likely to have moderate cognitive function than those who had the lowest intake. The same results occurred when the researchers examined individual carotenoids.

VRG > Vegetarian Journal > 2020 Issue 4 > Scientific Update — https://www.vrg.org/journal/vj2020issue4/2020_issue4_scientific_update.php

HOW MANY BLACKS, LATINOS, AND ASIANS ARE VEGAN AND VEGETARIAN IN THE USA? – Updated 12.26.20

Asian
6% Vegetarians (not including vegans)
6% Vegetarians (including vegans)
<1% Vegans
59% Eats vegetarian meals including vegan sometimes or always when eating out
23% Eats vegans meals sometimes or always when eating out
Most important when making food choices: taste (55%); cost (40%); personal health (36%)


Total
3% Vegetarians (not including vegans)
6% Vegetarians (including vegans)
3% Vegans
54% Eats vegetarian meals including vegan sometimes or always when eating out
24% Eats vegan meals sometimes or always when eating out

HOW MANY BLACKS, LATINOS, AND ASIANS ARE VEGAN AND VEGETARIAN IN THE USA?https://www.vrg.org/blog/2020/12/17/how-many-blacks-latinos-and-asians-are-vegan-and-vegetarian/

The Vegetarian Resource Group national Harris Poll. See: https://www.vrg.org/blog/2020/08/07/how-many-adults-in-the-u-s-are-vegan-how-many-adults-eat-vegetarian-when-eating-out-asks-the-vegetarian-resource-group-in-a-national-poll/

See the full article for survey results on other ethnic groups. Sorry. Asian guy just interested in other Asian’s dietary habits.

Updated 12.26.20 for Political Affiliation

Fifty-six percent of Democrats, 53% of Republicans, and 54% of Independents always or sometimes eat vegetarian meals. With the seeming great divide in the country by political leanings, perhaps we’re really much more alike than different when it comes to food. So maybe here is some common ground. The type of location you live in may have a little more of an impact, with 28% of urban dwellers being more likely to say they sometimes or always consume vegan meals when eating out, compared to only 20% of rural individuals. Yet there is not as much difference as people might expect.

HOW MANY ADULTS IN THE U.S. ARE VEGAN? HOW MANY ADULTS EAT VEGETARIAN WHEN EATING OUT? — https://www.vrg.org/journal/vj2020issue4/2020_issue4_poll_results.php

Genetically Modified Pig OK to Eat

“It shouldn’t have been approved until they had adequately addressed the allergenicity of the product,” said Jaydee Hanson, policy director for the Center for Food Safety.

FDA approved its first GM pig for consumption, potentially safe for red meat allergy sufferers — https://thecounter.org/fda-approves-first-gm-pig-galsafe-red-meat-allergy/

What’s in that sausage?

Frankenpig. This too shall be placed on my Never to Eat List along with…

Genetically engineered salmon goes on sale for the first time – New Scientist

Random Thoughts at Christmas – 2020

Sunday 12/20

Random Thoughts

Thanksgiving is now three weeks ago. The scale read 175.4 two weeks ago and as always I reminded myself never get too high, never get too low. In a past life I would gain five pounds in a weekend just doing weekend stuff followed by an agonizing week or two to lose the pounds I found. I have a funny habit that if I believe a particular strategy works I try to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t work. The strange thing is what works doesn’t always work again which is frustrating as hell.

The Digital Devil surprised me this morning at 173.8 and I always have to remind myself to never get too high, never get too low. Honestly I shouldn’t be surprised. I can’t remember the last time I had a beer (I majored in beer at college). When did I make chili? One week ago Sunday according my recent Pandemic Pantry One Bean Chili post. Part of my Pandemic Life is to be kind to old people. At my age it’s not easy finding people older than me to be kind to but our friend across the street qualifies at the spry age of 80. So last week I traded a healthy portion of chili and some homemade Texas Corn Bread with the spry one in exchange for two beers. A fair trade no doubt and I drank one that night and the second the following night. So the last time I had a beer was nearly a week ago Monday. This is not rocket science. If you’re not sucking down 300 extra liquid calories a night your weight should come down.

All of this is intentional since I believe this calorie restriction strategy is working. The last time I bought beer was well over a week ago. I’ve added beer to my Don’t Have It in the House List along with potato chips, ice cream and M&M’s. If it’s not in the house you can’t eat or drink it. So not buying beer translates into less beer consumed. You don’t have to go crazy restrictive with your own not in my house list. Allow some relaxation of self-imposed austerity. For example, pizza is not on this list. Pizza is a food group and absolutely essential for good health and a long life. Additionally my total alcohol consumption pattern is different. Single malt scotch or bourbon on ice, single shot, not every night.

Losing weight is hard. Keeping the weight off is harder.

That’s it. Do the hard things you know you need to do. Speaking of hard things time to continue pecking away at the keyboard on my book.

An Avocado a Day Keeps Your Gut Happy

The researchers found that people who ate avocado every day as part of a meal had a greater abundance of gut microbes that break down fiber and produce metabolites that support gut health. They also had greater microbial diversity compared to people who did not receive the avocado meals in the study.

University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. “An avocado a day keeps your gut microbes happy, study shows.” ScienceDaily. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201215175758.htm (accessed December 16, 2020).

Journal Reference

Sharon V Thompson, Melisa A Bailey, Andrew M Taylor, Jennifer L Kaczmarek, Annemarie R Mysonhimer, Caitlyn G Edwards, Ginger E Reeser, Nicholas A Burd, Naiman A Khan, Hannah D Holscher. Avocado Consumption Alters Gastrointestinal Bacteria Abundance and Microbial Metabolite Concentrations among Adults with Overweight or Obesity: A Randomized Controlled Trial. The Journal of Nutrition, 2020; DOI: 10.1093/jn/nxaa219

Funding for the research was provided by the Hass Avocado Board and the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Pandemic Pantry One Bean Chili

chili madness

See Three Bean Chili Madness for my odd tips and tricks for making chili. Or not. Up to you.

It’s snowing today so clearly chili had to be made. I made a trip to the grocery store yesterday but didn’t have chili on the brain so I was missing some ingredients. I know I had two green peppers in the fridge but somehow I used them both yesterday. No worries because part of the Pandemic Pantry mindset is to use whatever is on hand, improvise, and try not to waste any food. So if you don’t have two cups of leftover sauteed onions and peppers sitting in the fridge, it’s OK. Use a fresh pepper. No stewed tomatoes? No problem, use what you have on the shelf. Sub ground beef for ground turkey. Let your provisions and imagination be your guide.

1 T extra virgin olive or grapeseed oil
1 /2 medium sweet onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cups leftover sauteed onions and green pepper from last night’s dinner of faux fajitas OR 1 large green pepper
2 tsp garlic powder OR 2 cloves fresh garlic chopped
1 tsp each oregano, paprika, chili powder, cumin
1 can (15 oz) stewed tomatoes
1 cup low sodium beef broth

1 small can mild green chilies
3 T tomato paste
1 cup red wine
1 pound dried pinto beans
1 lb ground turkey
Salt & pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste

  1. Place the dried beans into a stock pot large enough to hold the beans when fully plumped up.  Rinse the beans with water several times.  Fill the pot with fresh water and soak overnight OR use the quick soak method of bringing to a boil, cover and let sit for one hour.
  2. Drain then add fresh water to the beans.  Bring to a boil, add your soup recipe seasonings, then lower the heat down to a simmer.  The seasoning for the beans is based off my Sopa de Frijol con Vegetal soup recipe.  Leave out the tomatoes until later.  (No salt and no chili powder yet).
  3. Allow the beans to simmer for several hours.
  4. In a different large stock pot heat the oil and saute the onion, celery, and green pepper (if using fresh) until softened. Add the garlic (fresh or powder) and saute for another minute.
  5. Add the meat and brown.
  6. Add red wine and cook off the alcohol.
  7. Add the stewed tomatoes and break up the tomato chunks into smaller chunks. Add tomato paste, stir well and simmer until mixture thickens.
  8. Time to toss everyone else into the pool.  Spices, tomatoes, chilies, broth, cooked beans.
  9. Simmer for several hours.  Stir occasionally.  Add more broth if the chili gets too thick.
  10. Serve with grated cheese, sour cream, and your favorite hot sauce.
  11. Yum.

More odd tips

Don’t add salt until the beans are cooked through and soft.  If your chili powder has salt in it I would add after the beans have softened. The recipe will make approximately eight servings. You need Texas Corn Bread with this or ANY chili. I’m not kidding. As always this chili is mild because you can always add the heat but if you make the chili too spicy to begin with…good luck. I had some kidney beans but decided not to put them in this chili.

This recipe is not in the book pictured.  But I always flip through the book to see what other cooks put in their chili. Besides, I love the cover.

Mid-afternoon seasoning adjustments

You’ll need more than one cup of broth. I’ll end up using between one and two cups to get the consistency where I want it to be. I might change the OR for garlic powder and fresh garlic to AND. Added more onion powder, chili power, dried cilantro, salt and pepper. The beans are soft and will get softer because I’m letting the chili go another two hours on the stove.