What I Made With The Beans

Less than two weeks out from Christmas, and I have yet to buy any presents. My priority was figuring out how to use those beans.

If you recall from last week’s blog, I had a few unruly items running amuck in my pantry that were barely out of date for best flavor and taste. Two cans of beans–Garbanzos and Great Northern–were on the list.

Should you happen to discover cans of beans hiding somewhere in your kitchen, here are some ideas for you, along with a recipe for Tuscan White Bean Salad. This is a copycat recipe from Houlihan’s that I found on Pub Chain Restaurant Copycat Recipes. If you are looking for a favorite recipe to recreate, this is a good site to check out.

That being said, I changed the copycat recipe to suit my tastes. I encourage you to do the same. Nothing really bad will happen when you stray from the original recipe a little. For example, if you don’t have a red onion, use whatever onion you have, or a few sprinkles of onion powder. The red onion looks pretty and has a little different flavor than other varieties, which is why it works well. Oh, and Mr. Non-Compliant missed out on this dish, which I’m sure will make him very sad.

Other ideas for the beans:

*Add to any soup you make. Extra protein and fiber are a good thing. (It’s a good idea to drain and rinse canned beans to get rid of the excess starch, sodium and any metallic taste that may come from the can.)

*Make hummus by mixing a can of garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed) in a food processor or blender with ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, 1 clove crushed garlic, 1 tsp. ground cumin, ½ tsp. salt. Add a tablespoonful or two of water if needed to make it the right consistency. Blend until smooth. Adjust seasonings to your taste.

*Make white bean and chicken chili for a change from traditional.

*There are LOTS of recipes for beans. I’m stopping with the salad recipe so I can go buy some presents!

Tuscan White Bean Salad

1 can Great Northern or Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 tomatoes, diced
2 cups salad greens
½ red onion, diced
¼ cup feta or goat cheese, crumbled

Place ingredients in a bowl and toss with the dressing.

Balsamic and Olive Oil Dressing

Whisk together:
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/8 tsp. salt
pinch of sugar

Once dressing is blended, add to the salad and lightly toss. Serve with your favorite crackers or toasted, crusty bread. Perfect as a light lunch or dinner.

This simple salad would be a nice addition to a holiday buffet, since it offers some nutritional value, which is often missing from those amazing Christmas cookies!

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Pantry Surprises and Crab Cakes

As I was rearranging my pantry the other day, my discoveries made me laugh. It also gave me fun content for another blog.

Earlier this year I cleaned out the pantry. At that time I tossed out an interesting variety of foods that were SO OLD, there wasn’t even a “Best if used by_______” disclaimer stamped on them. YIKES! How could I be so negligent? What in the world am I thinking when I shop?

Always more questions than answers in life.

Back to present day: I decided to take my latest discoveries that were on the verge of the “Best” date and see what I could make. Here’s what I pulled out of my what-I-thought-was-organized pantry:

*A partial box of Prince Jumbo Shells–the kind you stuff with ricotta cheese, and since my boys who are now well into their twenties are allergic to dairy, I quit stuffing them long, long ago. Only God knows how many years those shells were in my house. In the garbage they went with no regrets.

*Several boxes of Organic Chicken Stock—still in date, barely. I buy a case at a time and since it was just summer, I didn’t make much soup. No big embarrassment here.    

*One can of Bush’s Best Garbanzo beans and one can of Great Northern beans. Mr. Non-Compliant is not a bean fan. Once in a while I sneak a can into a recipe that calls for two or three cans. I better practice my sneaky skills, since these are dated October 2017.

*Three cans of Bumble Bee Crabmeat. I recall I was going to make crab cakes and somebody didn’t feel like having those for dinner. Ever. Date: November 2017. Now I have to figure out something with crab and beans.

*Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix. This was about the only mix I’d buy, since it is not full of a thousand ingredients and this particular one was dairy free. Note the word was. The new recipe contains dairy, along with many of their other brownie formulas and chocolate chips, so this box is a collector’s item. Guess what Santa will find on his special Santa treat plate this Christmas Eve?

*A jar of maraschino cherries and a jar of strawberry preserves. I don’t think they ever go bad.

In order to regain my reputation for using food on hand, I got right down to business and made crab cakes. They are easy and tasty. “Somebody” simply didn’t get a choice about what was for dinner that evening. The beans are going to be a surprise another time.

Crab Cakes

3 cans of crabmeat, drained (6 oz. each)
2 Tbsp. bread crumbs or rice cracker crumbs (I made rice cracker
crumbs by finely crushing some crackers I had on hand.)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley or about 2 tsp. dried
1 egg
1 ½ Tbsp. mayonnaise
½ tsp. ground dry mustard
¼ tsp. paprika
Dash of hot pepper sauce or St. Elmo Cocktail Sauce (found this in the fridge and it was perfect!)

Mix together the crabmeat, bread or cracker crumbs, salt, pepper, and parsley. Whisk together the egg, mayonnaise, dry mustard, paprika and hot sauce. Add to the crab mixture and mix well. Make into patties of uniform size. Place on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. This keeps them from falling apart so easily since they have a chance to set. Broil for 10-15 minutes until lightly browned, turning halfway through.

Serve on a bed of lettuce or bun. This recipe made 6 patties and two of us ate them all as a dinner with sides. These would make a nice appetizer or light lunch.

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Broiled Crab Cakes

3 cans of crabmeat, drained (6 oz. each)
2 Tbsp. bread crumbs or rice cracker crumbs (I made rice cracker crumbs by finely
crushing some crackers I had on hand.)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley or about 2 tsp. dried
1 egg
1 ½ Tbsp. mayonnaise
½ tsp. ground dry mustard
¼ tsp. paprika
Dash of hot pepper sauce or St. Elmo Cocktail Sauce (found this in the fridge and it was perfect!)

Mix together the crabmeat, bread or cracker crumbs, salt, pepper, and parsley. Whisk together the egg, mayonnaise, dry mustard, paprika and hot sauce. Add to the crab mixture and mix well. Make into patties of uniform size. Place on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. This keeps them from falling apart so easily since they have a chance to set. Broil for 10-15 minutes until lightly browned, turning halfway through.

Serve on a bed of lettuce or bun. This recipe made 6 patties and two of us ate them all as a dinner with sides. These would make a nice appetizer or light lunch.

 

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Embrace Imperfection

Wait, what? Embrace imperfection? Yes, you read that correctly. Today, we are going to consider doing some things imperfectly, rather than not doing them at all.

It is about now that the seasonal roller coaster ride begins. It lets up, oh, sometime in February—or July. What often accompanies this roller coaster ride (also known as “real life”) is what one of my mentors, Dr. John Berardi, refers to as “pause-button mentality.”

Examples of this phenomenon go something like this:

*”With all the parties in December, I may as well wait until January to start my health and fitness program. It will be one of my resolutions.”

*”I’ll go to the gym once my job settles down, the kids finish their __________ season, and I get my mom moved into her condo.”

*”It will be easier to eat better meals once the holidays are over. With all the baking, card writing, shopping and decorating, I have NO time.”

*”I was going to start eating more vegetables this week, until I remembered it’s my Birth Month. So many of my friends like to take me to lunch, I can’t possibly consider doing such a crazy thing until NEXT month!” (I’ve used this one before…can you believe it?)

Do any of these stories sound familiar? Okay, perhaps they aren’t exact—you get the picture. For the record: I am guilty of playing the pause-button game. Also for the record: It doesn’t work very well.

We all like to start over, begin again, and erase the slate clean. So do I. The problem: Hitting the pause button delays us living our life and playing full out.

Say your “ideal” routine includes nicely balanced meals every evening, your favorite workouts 5 days a week, quiet prayer/meditative time daily, 7-8 hours of sleep each night, and a good dose of family and social time mixed in with work. Perfect!

We all know that what we plan in life and what happens are usually not the same. We have to take the good stuff along with the not-so-good stuff.

Short term, we can stick with a regimented plan, which is why there are lots of 30-day programs. Life may allow us to get away with a fairly “perfect” 30 days. Then what?

Here’s an alternative to hoping for perfect. Always do something. Pausing the button on various aspects of our life when things get out of whack only leads to regret, and sometimes a more difficult road in the future.

If you are unable to get in your typical workouts, take a 10-minute walk at some point in your day. It will bring mental and physical benefits. Can you get to the gym at least twice a week instead of five? Stay for thirty minutes instead of an hour?

So you can’t get in your wonderfully balanced meals every evening, eat a salad once a day and do the best you can. If you must resort to drive-thru, skip the soda and fries. Practice doing just a little bit better. A little bit better is awesome!

And all those holiday parties? Choose a few of the “healthier” options, drink lots of water, and go for those decadent treats only when they are AMAZING!

Living your best life is not about having lots of willpower, or constantly denying yourself the fun of parties, friends and great food. This game is about developing the skills to hang in there and do what you can, even when you really want to pause. It’s knowing that life is always going to happen, no matter how well you plan.

Plan to embrace the imperfection of doing something. Always.

“Fitness in the context of real human life is just like the rest of life. We’re all just doing the best we can in challenging, complicated circumstances. We are all living messy, imperfect lives. We are all human. If we can just keep moving forward, no matter what happens, no pause buttons, no do-overs, we win the game.”—Dr. John Berardi

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Thanksgiving

Blessings to you this Thanksgiving, and throughout the year. Today I offer you this poem. I think it captures the realism of life; the struggle when some blessings are quite hidden, and the amazement when others are bigger than we could ever dream.

Thanksgiving

Sitting in gratitude
Every breath given, another opportunity
Alongside days of heaviness
Having potential to crush my spirit
Sadness of life and accompanying grief
And yet, I am blessed

Sitting in gratitude
Every breath given, another opportunity
To live my story
Intertwined with others’
Perhaps even lifting their narrative
And they, lifting mine

Sitting in gratitude
Every breath given, another opportunity
Appreciating this moment in all its glory
Receiving and waiting
Dazzled by the unfolding
Pursuing the dream

Sitting in gratitude
Every breath given, another opportunity
Joy beyond measure
Fleeting at times
Savor the richness and linger
Thanksgiving

Thank you for reading. Enjoy your day of Thanksgiving.

Much love,
Carol

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Pre-Thanksgiving Tips

A week out from Thanksgiving and I’m feeling the pressure of lots to do and my ability to pull it all off without experiencing symptoms of a panic attack. Can you relate?

As I was thinking of some ideas, I figured perhaps some of you could benefit from them as well. Here goes.             

*If you are hosting dinner, or contributing your favorite dish to a gathering, this week is a good time to pull out your favorite recipes and put your grocery list together. Buying your groceries before Tuesday would also be ideal. It’s good to avoid the frustration of empty shelves, jammed aisles, and extremely long checkout lines whenever possible. I’ve messed this up on many occasions and I am certainly old enough to know better!

*In preparation for all the food that will be filling your refrigerator and pantry shelves, see if you can use what you currently have on hand to make dinners this week. Are there some meats or vegetables that can be made into soup? Do you still have a bag of frozen cranberries from last year? Take inventory. Google recipes to use whatever you find, be bold, and experiment. By doing this, you do a little clearing out and save money. Sweet!

*Even though you have a million things on your “To Do” list, remember to take care of you. Continue to get your sleep, drink your water, eat a salad, get some exercise, and spend some time at the end of your day relaxing in a way that suits you. Some days the energy just isn’t there, so honor the way you feel and remember the words of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, “After all, tomorrow is another day!”

*When there is more to do than you can handle, ask for help. Family members may not volunteer to do dishes, vacuum or run an errand, however, most of them are willing to help when they know EXACTLY what to do. I used to take pride in doing it all myself, which led to exhaustion and crankiness. Those days are long gone and now I assign tasks for projects like Thanksgiving dinner. This leads to even more gratitude and a sunnier disposition on my part.

*As you do your grocery shopping, remember the many food drives that are accepting non-perishable goods. If you are able, add a few cans of vegetables or fruit to your cart to donate.

*Enjoy the process of getting to the Thanksgiving dinner finish line. Each year I am amazed at how quickly the actual meal is consumed, yet the preparations begin days, even weeks, earlier.

Full disclosure: we fry our turkey on Thanksgiving and it’s AMAZING!

Thanksgiving blessings to you and your family~

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” — John Fitzgerald Kennedy

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Ingredient Substitutes for the Holidays

Recent text from my son: “Say something involves breadcrumbs and looks good and I want to make it. Any suggestions/alternatives to stay away from the breadcrumbs? LOL”

I picked up the phone. Too much texting to cover that ground and my fingers get tired. It’s a great question, and with the holiday gatherings almost upon us, I thought it was the perfect time to cover substitutes for some allergenic foods.

 Instead of breadcrumbs in case of gluten intolerance

A few options to choose from: 1) Grated Parmigiano or some other type of hard, aged cheese is good. A bonus with hard cheeses is that there is little to no lactose in them, since most of it disappears when the whey is poured off. If you are using them to top a dish, shake a bit of paprika on top too for a bit more color; 2) Find rice or other gluten-free crackers that have only a few ingredients. The fewer, the better! Crush them into a fine meal-type consistency. At this point, you could add some type of fat like melted butter, coconut oil or olive oil to lightly dampen the crumbs. Add any seasonings you like and remember the paprika trick. Sprinkle on your casserole or whatever it is you are making. If the recipe calls for breadcrumbs IN the dish as a binder (like in meatloaf), I would choose the cracker crumbs, since the cheese may change the flavor too much; 3) Finely grated nuts could also be used to top a casserole. Again, keep in mind the flavor that you may add by choosing this option; 4) Gluten-free oatmeal finely ground in a food processor or grinder is a good binder. I have made my meatloaf with basic oatmeal, soaked in some water, for decades—no food processing needed.

Instead of nuts

There are a variety of tree nut and peanut (a legume) allergies today. Many dishes taste delicious even when the nuts are omitted. You may substitute sunflower or pumpkin seeds for nuts.

 Instead of cow milk in your pumpkin pie (or other dishes)

When you make your pie filling, use plain, unsweetened almond milk or fresh or reconstituted goat milk (my choice). I have used goat milk for years, the same amount as the evaporated milk. It’s delicious and no one can tell the difference.

 Instead of regular pie crust with gluten

Namaste Gluten Free Perfect Flour Blend is a very good substitute for regular wheat flour. I have used it to make bread, pie crust, brownies, coffee cake, etc. and the final product always disappears. There is a Namaste website that offers some great recipes.

 Instead of Cool Whip or Whipped Cream

CocoWhip, which is found in the frozen food section of the grocery, is made with coconut milk and is delicious. No dairy and no partially hydrogenated fats.

Instead of mashed potatoes

Okay, this is one I won’t do, however there are lots of folks that love this: Mashed cauliflower. I suppose if you add lots of garlic, butter, bacon and cheddar cheese, I could force it down. LOL. There are a variety of ways to make these if potatoes aren’t your thing, or if you have an allergy to them (nightshade family). This Thanksgiving, I’m going to stick with my usual REAL mashed potatoes and sweet potato casserole, eat them slowly, and stop at 80% full.

Remember, unless there is an allergy or food sensitivity, there are times when the best option is to eat the AMAZING dish and savor every moment. Have fun planning your holiday meals!

“You are what you eat, so don’t be fast, cheap, easy, or fake.”– Unknown

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Healthy Aging…at Any Age

Healthy aging. It almost sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Is this even possible? The simple answer is, YES!

There are numerous ways we can maintain good health as the years add up. I know this will surprise you—they all involve lifestyle!

First of all, the younger we are when we start doing these things, the better. So, no matter what age you are today, begin now and you’re right on schedule.

Note: When I refer to inflammation in the information below, I’m referring to chronic, unregulated inflammation that is found with autoimmune conditions, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, chronic pain, allergies. Well-regulated inflammation saves our lives! There are many ways we can keep inflammation (and disease) reduced. Some of them are listed.

A Few Tips for Healthy Aging:

*Exercise. This is about more than burning calories and working out so you can eat ice cream (yes, I have used this reasoning). Moving helps your immune system and autonomic nervous system (the system that controls functions you don’t have to consciously think about, like your heart beating and food digesting). Lots of things count. Choose activities you enjoy so you reap the most benefit. Choosing activities you hate are not beneficial for relieving the stress—plus, you won’t be committed.

*Play a musical instrument. I’ve heard numerous people in their later years express the desire to learn how to play something. JUST DO IT! This is great, especially when you do it with other people, like in an orchestra or band. Doesn’t playing (fill in the instrument of your choice here) with a bunch of your friends sound like fun? Who knows where that could lead!

*Get involved in your community and get socially connected. There are so many opportunities here and the social aspects are critical to longevity. Loneliness is associated with poor health, and greater sensitivity to pain. People who feel socially excluded and have negative emotions experience increased inflammation, which affects health adversely. Social stress and bullying have a more severe effect on immune functioning than other stressors.

*Volunteer. Volunteers have less inflammation, better quality of life, and less intensity of illness when it does strike. We need to care about others and feel cared about. Our lives must have meaning.

*Eat a diet that does not increase inflammation. This is a topic that is HUGE. I’ll break it down and cover it more in future blogs. For now, here’s the short story: the typical Western diet tends to increase inflammation. The Mediterranean way of eating is one good option. There are others, however, this is probably the most well-known. Basically, it consists of eating mostly plant-based food (beans and legumes, vegetables, fruits, whole grains); eating fish and poultry at least twice a week; eating primarily olive oil; limited red meats and sugars. None of this is a surprise.

*Meditation. Meditation can help maintain cognitive function and reduce inflammation. Simply sitting quietly and focusing on your breathing counts as meditating. There are Loving Kindness meditations and many others. This is not some hocus pocus idea, in case some of you are raising your eyebrows and thinking “Yeah, right!” In a couple controlled studies of stressed caregivers and lonely adults, it was discovered that the expression of genes in immune cells can indeed be influenced by meditation.

Breathe.

Cheers to one new habit today~

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. “—C.S. Lewis

Reference: Goehler, Dr. Lisa E., “Mind-Body Interactions and the Stress-Inflammation Connection.”

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