Category Archives: Healthy Choices

I Ate Brain-Boosting Foods All Day!

THE ONE-PAGE ARTICLE*  EXTOLLED the virtues of four foods scientists suggest may have a protective effect to enhance memory and mental abilities into our senior years.  The headline on the magazine article promised we could maintain our cognitive brilliance into old age, if we ate these brain-boosting foods every day.

OK, I’M IN!  Today, I will eat all four (4) of the brain -boosting foods.

BLUEBERRIES

IT SEEMS THAT THE ANTIOXIDANTS in the blueberries may result in more oxygen-rich blood circulating to the brain. The goal is to eat a cup of blueberries daily. In one briefly quoted study of 16,000 women, researchers found the women who ate more blueberries had “younger minds”. .

I LOVE BLEUBERRIES, so this one is easy.  When blueberries are in season, I freeze several large containers for the freezer. Since they can be frozen without being washed, it doesn’t take much time.  They freeze in separate, sweet balls.  Throughout the year, I can grab a handful, rinse them well, and add to cereal, smoothies, muffins, ice cream, or salad.

FOR BREAKFAST TODAY, I add blueberries to wheat chex cereal, with strawberries, bananas and walnuts.  The wheat chex adds additional fiber for a healthy start to the day, and a breakfast so crunchy and sweet tasting.

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LOW-FAT YOGURT

YOGURT THAT IS FORTIFIED with vitamin D  will give us about 20% of this vitamin we need every day. It is suggested that vitamin D may help strengthen connections among the cells of the brain, and some research has found that a loss of cognitive ability is associated with lower levels of vitamin D.

YOGURT CAN BE USED IN MULTIPLE WAYS in the kitchen, such as: a yogurt and dill topping for grouper or talipia; added to muffins for moistness; fruit and yogurt as a dessert or snack.

I DECIDE TO MAKE A YOGURT smoothie today.  I blend the following ingredients in a smoothie blender: ice, yogurt, skim milk, blueberries, strawberries, vanilla flavoring, honey, strawberry Slimfast protein powder.   Hmmm.  So icy and creamy and very filling!

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CABBAGE

I DO LIKE CABBAGE, BUT I don’t know if I want to eat it every single day.  We could have cooked cabbage and potatoes, a favorite of my Scotch-Irish grandmother. Or, cole slaw with carrots and onions and a creamy dressing.

I COULD SWITCH OFF and prepare roasted cauliflower or Brussel sprouts, other cruciferous vegetables with health benefits.  Some studies suggest the glucosinolates in these vegetables may lower rates of forgetfulness.  Wouldn’t it be great if it really were this simple to lower the incidence of Alzheimer’s ? Anyway, it’s recommended we eat 2-3 servings a week to benefit.

FOR DINNER TODAY, I make one of my favorite meals, a hearty vegetable soup, more like a stew with thick vegetables and a savory broth.  In this soup, I cut up the vegetables I have on hand. I like to enjoy each of the different vegetables, so I cut them up in large chunks,…toss them in the crock pot and let them cook for 4 hours until done and the flavors blend: chicken broth, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, onions, zuchinni, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper, bay leaves (3) tomatoes, 1/4 cup red wine.

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THE HOT SOUP smells rich and savory as I sprinkle it with parmesan.  This is a satisfying meal.

ALMOND BUTTER

THE VITAMIN E IN ALMOND BUTTER may be a memory booster for the human brain, by reducing oxidative damage, according to a new study in The Journal of Nutrition , Health and Aging, quoted in the magazine article.  

I HAVE ONLY RECENTLY BEEN BUYING ALMOND BUTTER.  I use it in banana-almond butter smoothies or as an ingredient for an icing for muffins. This evening, I make an evening snack of almond butter toast, drizzled with wildflower honey, and a cup of English breakfast tea.  A spot of tea on a rainy evening with a good book, is a lovely way to end the day.

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WELL, I DID IT!  I ate all four of the brain-boosting foods heralded in the woman’s magazine article in one day.  Now, where is that crossword puzzle I couldn’t finish this morning?

(* Information quoted in this post referencing the 4 brain foods and quoted health benefits were based on: “Eat These to Keep Your Memory Sharp”, p. 63, Redbook Magazine, March 2016)

Sue Marquis Bishop, PhD
2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pumpkins Everywhere in Oatmeal, Smoothies, and …?

IT’S FALL!  PUMPKINS ARE EVERYWHERE, ..and they  offer so much more, than jack-0-lanterns for Halloween, and pie for Thanksgiving.  Aside from decorating our front entrances and hearths, pumpkins can be enjoyed in so many sweet and savory foods…and it seems they are healthy too!

THE TEMPERATURE WAS IN THE HIGH 60’S  and sunny early this morning… a great morning for oatmeal. As I opened the pantry to prepare breakfast, I noticed a can of Libby’s pure pumpkin puree. The label on the can suggests pumpkin is chock full of vitamins.  Pumpkin is an “excellent source of vitamin A and fiber” and is very low in fat (no trans fat or saturated fat), only “4 g sugar and no preservatives” added.  That’s a lot of healthy beta-carotene!

WHY NOT PUMPKIN OATMEAL?   I added a couple of tablespoons pureed pumpkin to each bowl, along with raisins, walnuts and a sprinkle of brown sugar.  Pumpkin oatmeal,  orange juice, whole wheat toast, coffee and the morning paper.  What a comforting way to begin a Fall day!

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AFTER AN AFTERNOON WALK walk with our dog Bear, I enjoyed an icy… rich tasting… pumpkin smoothie.
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
2 Tablespoons almond butter
1/4 tsp almond  flavoring
1 scoop vanilla slimfast protein powder
dash of pumpkin spice and Splenda
ice cubes
After blending,  a dash of grated nutmeg was added on top.   Hmmm. So refreshing.

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WHEN I WENT GROCERY SHOPPING LATER at Trader Joe’s store, I found that pumpkins had taken over the store! There was pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, pumpkin salsa, pumpkin corn bread, pumpkin pita bread, pumpkin cereal, pumpkin cream cheese, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin latte coffee, pumpkin ravioli.  pumpkin muffin mix, pumpkin waffles, pumpkin butter, …and more.  WOW. I had no idea.

I PLAN TO KEEP SOME CANS of pumpkin puree on hand this Fall to see where the pumpkin inspiration takes me.  For now, it’s time to savor the transition to Fall and plan a weekend in the beautiful North Carolina mountains.

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Sue Marquis Bishop 2015

Sweet Potato Recipes for the Holidays: Part II

MY SEARCH CONTINUES for sweet potato recipes for the holidays to expand my culinary repertoire for using this vitamin packed and low calorie vegetable. In response to the public’s increasing interest in healthier fare beyond meat and French fries or mashed potatoes, vegetables are showing up more and more on restaurant menus and the sweet potato is one of them. Thank goodness!

WE SOMETIMES EAT OUT on Sundays after church. Today, we met our son at Long Horn Steak House for lunch. I chose a fabulous salad that would be a nice addition to a holiday lunch: spinach leaves, thinly sliced tart apples, toasted pecans, bacon crumbles, cranraisins, and sweet potato chips, drizzled with balsalmic vinegar. It was delicious – and the sweet potato chips on top added a crunchy flavor to the salad.

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I FOUND SEVERAL SOURCES for appealing sweet potato recipes that I want to share with you in this Part II post.

THE DECEMBER ISSUE of Southern Living (p. 181) has a recipe for sweet potato spoonbread that I am so anxious to try. The first time I ate spoonbread was at my mother-in-law’s house when I was first married. She was an excellent Kentucky cook who served real comfort food. I enjoy all kinds of bread – but this new spoonbread, with a crusty outside and custardy inside, smeared with butter and jam, was a new taste sensation for me. I remember she said she always used Martha White flour and white cornmeal. The sweet potato spoonbread is an old American recipe. English cooks make yorkshire pudding, and American cooks make spoonbread – a recipe dating to Native Americans, some say.

THE LOUISIANA SWEET POTATO COMMISSION has a mouth watering list of recipes of all kinds on their website to try, soups, salads, entrees.(sweetpotato.org/recipes) Many recipes sound special enough to star on the Thanksgiving table, for example, these dessert recipes sound so Big D delicious:

Brie and Sweet Potato Tart in Maple Pecan Crust
Sweet Potato Flan
Sweet Potato Souffle
Sweet Potato Bundt Cake
Old New Orleans Sweet Potato Rum Cake
Sweet Potato Cookies with Vanilla Icing
Sweet Potato Cheesecake

OK – DESSERT RECIPES HAVE A PLACE during the holidays, but what about entrée vegan recipes and healthy recipes with sweet potatoes? I found a small 35 page cookbook by Wendy Jordan, Healthy Sweet Potato Recipes (2012) that includes a few of these recipes. This cookbook is available as a book or Kindle download from Amazon for $3.99. (Amazon.com) Recipes are included for soups, sides, pastas, roasted dishes, etc. There are several healthy recipes I marked to prepare for the family taste test. Examples in her book include:

Asian Sweet Potato Soup
Grilled Caribbean Sweet Potatoes
Sweet Potato and Pasta
Mexican Stuffed Sweet Potato
Southern Sweet Potato Casserole
Crispy Sweet Potato and Pear
Sweet Potato Wedges with Thyme and Garlic
Shrimp and Sweet Potato Salad
Chicken and Sweet Potato Stew

IF YOU HAVE A SPECIAL family approved recipe you want to share, I’m interested. So.. A salute to the colorful vegetable that is so good for us.

Sue Marquis Bishop 2013

Sweet Potatoes for Thanksgiving: Soup, Sinfully Rich, Healthy Sides and Dessert

Today was such a busy day of errands that we didn’t even take time for lunch. At 3:00, we stopped at Jason’s Deli and ordered take-out of the soup of the day, along with one of my favorite sandwiches. I wasn’t sure the sweet potato and pork soup would be good, but I knew the sandwich of multigrain bread, roast turkey, philadelphia cream cheese, cranberry relish, onions and field greens would be great. We took our carry-out lunch home to relax and eat.

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I added some of my raspberry mustard to the sandwich and sampled the soup. To my surprise, it was delicious… I mean Big D delicious. I imagined this tasty soup could be a good evening meal with leftovers, using sweet potatoes, blended with vegetable stock, left over shredded pork roast, spinach and onions. I would have to experiment with the spices to try to recreate it.

When I was growing up, Mom prepared sweet potatoes often. She usually prepared some version of candied sweet potatoes, so my repertoire for using sweet potatoes was limited.

WHEN I BEGAN COOKING in my own home, I made the candied version too, but less often, and in recent years, frequently serve baked sweet potatoes with a little butter and salt. I also roast them in the oven with other vegetables with some olive oil, salt and pepper … or cook them in the crock pot with pork chops, orange juice, onions, ginger, honey.

WE COULD EXPECT TO SEE on Mother’s Thanksgiving and Christmas table, her sweet potato recipe that she called her “sinfully rich sweet potatoes” – and it was too. I don’t know where this recipe came from, but it has been a staple in the family for many years. Sure it had its share of calories, but it was the dish that some family ate for dessert, or even breakfast, if any was left over.

Ina’s Sinfully Rich Sweet Potatoes

3 cups sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter (or margarine)
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup pecans

In mixer, beat sweet potatoes, white sugar, eggs, evaporated milk, butter and vanilla. Pour into greased 2 quart casserole. Mix brown sugar, butter, pecans and coconut till crumbled and sprinkle over potatoes. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. (I have lightened the calories in the recipe by substituting half and half for some of the butter, and Splenda and Splenda brown sugar for some of the sugars.)

I CHECKED MY FAMILY’s OLDER COOKBOOKS published from 1907 to the 1940’s and found no recipes for sweet potato soups. When I searched on the internet, I found dozens of recipes for sweet potato soups, with a wide diversity of ingredients. . They seemed to be grouped into savory soups with garlic, onions, celery, chicken stock using leafy tops of celery and other spices, milk… or with lentils and spinach… or curry and carrot. There are also slightly sweet soups with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, maple syrup, brown sugar. My daughter says she recently had sweet potato soup with coconut milk.

AS I CONTINUED TO EXPLORE other recipes on line and in contemporary cookbooks, I began to realize just how versatile this tuberous vegetable really is. There is sweet potato risotto, sweet potato pie, sweet potato cookies, sweet potato pancakes. Sweet potato fries are showing up on a number of restaurant menus now. And the list goes on. Health.com lists 25 healthy recipes using sweet potatoes, like quesadillas,

THE VERSATILE SWEET POTATO is one of the oldest vegetables known to humans and is a major staple in many parts of the world. It was often quoted that Christopher Columbus introduced the sweet potato to America. DNA testing has produced other information, says Michaeleen Doucleff (www.npr.org/…How the Sweet Potato Crossed the Pacific Way Before the Europeans). There is compelling evidence that sweet potatoes originated in the western coast of South America.

SWEET POTATOES ARE LOADED – and I mean really loaded with nutrients and vitamins – vitamin A and C, some calcium and iron, lots of fiber and low calories. The versatile sweet potato will surely find a place on my holiday tables… in various forms.

Sue Marquis Bishop 2013

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE sweet potato recipe?

A Message for Christmas: The Gift of Happiness

ARE YOU A CLIPPER TOO? I occasionally clip an article or note, from a news source or research article, that I want to read again, or share with someone else. Three years ago, I clipped an article from the “Charlotte Observer” (Dec 18, 2010), that delivered a positive and powerful message – especially for the Christmas season. I shared it with a friend that I thought might find it particularly meaningful. This holiday season, the message merits repeating, as we engage in a whirlwind of activities in the build-up to Christmas. The author is Lynne Hinton, minister and author. She has graciously given permission to re-print her message as a post on the blog, Womenlivinglifeafter50.com. Thank you Lynne.

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THERE IS A LINE FROM A MOVIE that I can’t get out of my head. One character, a light-hearted woman, is trying to encourage her friend, a more melancholy character. They are on vacation together. After a few days, she tells her solemn friend to be joyful, because good things are coming her way. Her friend replies, “That’s easy for you to say; you have the gift of happiness.”

BEFORE SEEING THE FILM, I never really thought of some people having a gift of happiness, while others do not. I see now the truth of it. There are some folks who just seem to have the gift of joy and lightness of being, while it appears that the rest of us have to work to be happy. I know this, because I am more of a “glass half-empty” kind of person. I don’t come by my joy easily. It takes work – spiritual and emotional discipline – for me to be happy.

AS THE HOLIDAYS APPROACH, I have been thinking about the gifts I will give and receive that I hope will bring pleasure to my friends and family. We always want our presents to be enjoyed by our loved ones. Aren’t we looking for that present of happiness so we can buy it, wrap it up, tie a big red ribbon around it, and hide it under the tree?

PERHAPS THERE IS ANOTHER WAY TO LOOK AT GIFT-GIVING this year. Perhaps the best gift we can give to those we love, is to do the work, so we can become people of joy. If you think about it, happy people are much more fun to be around then miserable people.

I’M NOT SUGGESTING selfishness. I’m not promoting spending the money we were going to spend on others on ourselves. I am suggesting that we make the effort to be the people that others want to be around. I am suggesting that the best gift we might give away, is finding and fostering our own emotional health.

WHEN WE ARE HEALTHY AND WHOLE, hopeful and joyful, we give happiness away. And when that happens, others often make the same kind of decisions for themselves.

WHEN WE SEE HAPPY PEOPLE, we want to be happy people.

BE A PERSON OF JOY. Give yourself, and those who love you, the gift that will matter most. BE HAPPY.

Come Walk With Me in November

COME WITH ME on a two mile walk on the Greenway – and on a short cut back home.

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Entrance to Greenway
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WE GREET SEVERAL WALKERS, although it’s early for the late afternoon walkers. Everyone we pass waves and smiles, and some stop to chat briefly – such is the way in the South. We meet so many interesting folks this way.

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THE LEAVES RUSTLE like twisting saran wrap and we leave the path to walk among them. My husband says it reminds him of childhood memories of Rice Krispies – snap, crackle, pop.

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WE PASS SEVERAL PEOPLE on bicycles. We decide to bring our bicycles next time for a real workout.

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WE EXIT THE GREENWAY to our shortcut street back home (This leg of the greenway continues on for 15 miles.)

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WE MEET A COLLEGE STUDENT walking her new puppy. The dog’s name is Tansy and is a rescue dog from one of the Native American reservations out West. I remember reading about the great need to adopt dogs since the economy has been struggling. Many families in America and Europe have been forced to give up their pet animals (dogs, and even horses) because they could no longer afford to feed them.

WE NOTE THAT THE COLOR OF THE DOG’S FUR appears to match exactly the beautiful red hair of his mistress. We comment about it and she laughs – “I know,” she says. (Sorry, she didn’t want her picture taken.)

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AS WE APPROACH THESE TREES, they remind me of candles lit from within and burning bright – or multi-color pom poms at a football game. I don’t know what kind of trees they are, but I call them candle trees when we see them on our walk.

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A LONELY SCARECROW left over from Halloween keeps vigil over his family’s house.

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Almost back home.
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HOME AGAIN, I work on menus for Thanksgiving – as I enjoy a slice of pumpkin bread and hot tea.

Sue Marquis Bishop 2013

WHAT COULD BE A BETTER TIME-OUT THAN A WALK? DO YOU AGREE?

Finding Your Own Personal Retreat

EVERYONE NEEDS A PERSONAL RETREAT.  My experiences in living, and my work as a family therapist, tell me how important it is to maintain a healthy life. A retreat is just as important to us in our life after 50, as it was in our overloaded earlier years when we were competing our education, were young mothers or establishing a career. 

THE WORD RETREAT has many meanings in everyday language.  Websters Dictionary defines “retreat” as a verb: to leave, quit, withdraw – words with negative connotations.  Other definitions of retreat as a noun include: asylum, den, haunt, haven, hideway, privacy, refuge, sanctuary, shelter – words of more appeal and comfort.  Developmental psychologists teach that our more senior years are a time of reflection and consolidation, a time of taking stock and giving back.  I view this time of life as a time to set new goals and to take pleasure in the blessings of my life as it unfolds.  Having a special retreat can facilitate the process of rest, reflection and well-being.

MY OWN DREAM FOR A RETREAT has always been a cabin in the mountains.  I was born in West Virginia, and my husband in Kentucky, two states with beautiful mountains, so  we both feel nostalgic about being in the mountains.  One Fall day, 10 years ago, we found our mountain cottage on a drive into the North Carolina mountains.  Our cabin is on the side of the mountain about 3400 feet elevation.  The expansive view of the Black mountain range and the valley far below is visible from the screen porch, kitchen, dining room and living room.  We spent limited time here until we retired from academic life to pursue new interests.  We are now able to stay on extended visits.
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IN THE SPRING AND SUMMER,  the woods come to life with rhododendron, dogwood and other mountain flowers, and new green on thousands of trees.
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  In Fall, the mountains are transformed as the trees slow production of their chlorophyll and the leaves wave their many colors.  We see mountain creatures and birds wander around in their natural habitat.  In October, sounds of chain saws are heard in the distance as wood is cut and stockpiled for burning in the fireplace in Winter- for folks who live there all year.
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In November, the scent of pine is in the air as Frazier fir, cedar and pine trees are harvested for Christmas trees and bundled in trucks for transport to the cities.The early fog shrouds the mountains as we sip coffee in the morning.  
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In this little house, we feel close to nature and to each other.  And, I might add,  more open and self-aware.  Here, in our retreat, we stop, rest, create, laugh, reflect, plan – and spend time together. 

PERHAPS EACH PERSON NEEDS A PERSONAL RETREAT, a place to go that is meaningful – a space of our own. 
MY PROFESSOR BROTHER’S retreat is his sail boat, where he enjoys alone time to read, write and sail.  He says he feels free and in touch with his surroundings and his creative self on the water. 
MY BROTHER-IN-LAW’s retreat is a motor home.  He and his wife take to the roasd finding a new location near a lake or the ocean to park for a spell to relax and make new friends.  
MY SISTER HAS CREATED a comfortable retreat in the corner of her bedroom to read and make her to-do lists.  Her chair has a soft afghan, and sets beside  a small table with room for a couple of books and her journal and a floral china cup with a dainty handle for her coffee. 

A COUPLE I KNOW HAVEFOUND WAYS to carve out a personal retreats for each of them – he heads to his woodworking shop and she to her sewing niche for some time alone to work and think.
A MOTHER OF THREE tells me she has an old rocking chair on the back porch she goes to when she needs to get away for a few minutes. She says even five minutes rocking with her head back and her eyes closed is a mini vacation for her.
A SENIOR CITIZEN who is a recent widow, takes a daily walk in the park. She greets other walkers, enjoys the fresh air and the changing seasons.
A BUSY ARCHITECT says he takes a drive alone in the car in the rural countryside for about 30 minutes to clear his head, after a busy day.
MY DEAR CHINESE FRIEND has created a meditation room in her house – the room is empty except for a yoga mat, candles, flowers, Buddha statue and music.
A RETIRED NEIGHBOR says that her time alone in her garden pulling weeds and touching plants helps her “sort things out.” 

I ASKED SEVERAL FOLKS, In an unscientific survey,  about their choices of a place to get away and what it did for them. The common thread in their experiences was that each individual had found a way to “lose themselves” for a time  – an intermission, so to speak, before re-joining their lives, refreshed.  Their retreats enabled them to recharge, find the resolve to manage a difficult situation, problem-solve, forgive, brainstorm, meditate, create, rest, develop and action plan, set goals, get in touch with their optimism, appreciate their life’s blessings – and find their joy for life deep inside.

WHAT IS YOUR RETREAT?  WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU? 

 

   

Sue Marquis Bishop 2013