Christmas and I are just not homies (how to gain social acceptability to drink red wine for breakfast)

Generally, I’m a bit of a Scroog when it comes to the holiday season. Being that I’m pagan and surrounded by Christian celebrations was what spurred my distaste for this time of year, though as I got older, I came to accept it as a cultural holiday rather than a religious one. My main issue really was the commerciality of the season and the over saturation of poorly written holiday songs that are played on repeat with horrendous “jazzy” remakes. I don’t want to fall into the pressure of society to spend the very little money I have on gifts for everyone. Thankfully, over the years, I have trained people to know that I probably won’t participate in gift giving, but will gladly spend time with them. I think that it is of importance to show the folks you care about that you care about them all year ’round, not just during the “giving season”. What’s more–charity and good will t’ward men needs to happen year ’round as well. If you want to show you’re a good person, make it who you are, don’t participate in the annual December competition.

But I digress.

This year I wanted to do something small, let the people who do put a stock in Christmas know that I appreciate them. So I decided to make truffles for everyone. I’ve done it in the past. They were easy and delicious. 

Being the hippie I am, I wanted quality chocolate and other ingredients, and I wanted alcohol in them because I’m a grown up and I can. I spent some $45 on ingredients (though this did included spiced rum and red wine). I began this process on Thursday, planning on making a double batch of red wine truffles, and a double batch of rum truffles.  I started with te former, since it requires sitting in the fridge overnight. 

  
When the morning came, the truffle bowl was not firm. In fact, it wanted nothing to do but glop. The truffles were only vaguely formable, at best. 

It took me a while to figure out how to deal with this. I only had enough chocolate for the rum batch. Of course it dawned on me that the rum batch and ye wine batch should merge to make rum wine truffle babies. 

I combined the recipes, making sure to put in less liquid (though still added a full 10 oz of rum). I had to create a make shift double boiler to get the chocolate to melt the second time. After a lot of mess, I got it to melt and mix with the new chocolate, cream and rum. Again, I put it in the fridge over night. 

  
This morning, knowing I was going to have to get all my truffles ready for the farmers market (which I’m not participating in today due to the lies of the weather forecast (when it said it was supposed to sleet, I’m waking up to blue sky)), since the majority of my recipients are there, I woke early to get these damn chocolates ready! 

Don’t be fooled by the above picture. I assure you, the chocolate under the surface is just as gloppy as yesterday.  I attempted to make my truffles, to form them into something recognizable, though again failed.

 
Now what! I had a bowl of 36 ounces of melted chocolate, a carton of double cream, and a ton of booze that wouldn’t form into chocolate balls!  
I was getting the kettle to boil for my tea while I stared at the bastarding mixture when it dawned on me. I threw my truffle balls into the mug and added the hot water.

   

 
And that is how you solve a problem! If it’s a weekend and it’s in hot chocolate, no one is going to get on your case for drinking wine in the morning. 

11 things to remember how to eat

I have really gotten out of the swing of things – and I don’t mean in this break, I mean since I moved during the summer, since the break up, since everything. I really have gotten out of my good habits. A lot of it is just due to change of environment. Before I was sharing a space with someone who wouldn’t dream of rising before 8, and now I share a space who leaves for work shortly before I do. The change in quarterly schedule makes a difference as well.

However, while my homework habits and the like may have altered, my eating habits should not. It is time to go back to the classics of brain food – Brussle sprouts, brown rice, eggs, nutritional yeast and chia seeds. Granted, of those things that I have listed I only have eggs and rice – but it’s a start until my food stamps come in (At least, I think I have rice).

What I would like to do – what I need to do – is have a weekly planned meal schedule. Prepare at the beginning of the week and have it ready for me to take to school, or heat up for breakfast or whatever.

Things to consider for brain food throughout the day:

  1. Cashews, Almonds – any nut really that hasn’t been overly doused with salt.
    Nuts have that right-kind-of-oil to them – the stuff that makes the brain do push ups. Keeping these in your pocket or where ever to just munch on whenever you think about it can do you a world of good.
  2. Eggs
    I like to just hard boil a whole carton of them and have them ready to go when I leave in the morning. I’ll usually take a couple of them, and munch on one between classes.
  3. Kale chips
    Again, great for snacks. I personally really enjoy simple Kale chips with salt and pepper, but nutritional yeast is great on them too – almost gives them a cheesiness if you do it right.
  4. Brown Rice
    As mentioned before, this is a god starter to the day. I know that we in the Western Hemisphere don’t generally think of rice as breakfast, but it’s slow release carbs, has protein in it, and is easy for your body to process and thus won’t make you feel sluggish throughout your day.
  5. Water
    As if I am one to talk on this one – but remember your water! Tons of it! It keeps your blood flowing to your brain, keeps your body happy, and will ward of sluggishness in body and sleepiness in mind.
  6. Oatmeal
    Not the instant stuff, mind you. But good quality Oatmeal can really get you going and keep you going through the day. Don’t weigh that stuff down with sugar, either! Especially in the winter, oatmeal can really help with your mood as well.
  7. Hemp seeds
    Throw these bad boys into anything. I love them, and will usually chuck a handful into my oatmeal or rice or anything with a sauce. They’re high in calcium, protein, and the same brain oils the nuts above have as well.
  8. Avacado
    The first fruit/veg mentioned. Again with the brain oils. Plus they’re just damn good.
  9. Garlic
    This isn’t so much a brain thing so much as a keep you healthy thing. If you can stomach it, do what you can to eat it raw. I like to make some brown rice and black beans and then I’ll throw minced raw garlic in last. It dilutes the strength of teh taste but still allows me to get the raw nutritional benefits from it. When you’re out in the world, you’re exposed to a lot of different germs, and garlic will help your body fight those puppies off.
  10. Bell Peppers
    I hate them, to be honest. Any sniff of them will render a dish inedible to me. However, I cannot deny their nutritional benefits. They are along the same vein as garlic in that they will help keep a body healthy. They are packed in vitamin C.
  11. Bananas
    I throw this in here because – of course – it’s a fruit, and them things are good for ya – and because they will turn me from raging hungry tyrant to reasonable human being in three minutes. They’re a perfect snack when you’re on the edge and about to eat the person next to you purely because their shoes squeak.
  12. Water
    I know, I said this one. But hot damn! It’s important!

There are more, however, I am about to start my day back at school, and I need to actually eat some of these things before I head out!

Why We Take Pictures of Our Food

I know a great many people that post on Facebook every time they cook something amazing, go to the gym, get an A

on their test (Muggins here), posted a blog entry (and again), how many weeks its been since they’ve stopped smoking, post on their new diet – and so on.

I also know a great deal of people who abhor this kind of social network conduct. They don’t care that so and so spent an hour running on the treadmill, or that Janey managed to create a 100% vegan Thanksgiving feast that everyone enjoyed, or that Billy is five days in to a nicotine- and caffeine-free life.

Why do we/they do it?

It’s all an interactive journal.

The art of keeping a diary began with Samuel Pepys, a writer from the Restoration Era of Britain (17th century). It was after his model that – for those of us that keep personal journals – is commonly used today.

“The diary begins at a calendrical turning point, and on a kind of double bet: that the coming time would bring changes worth writing up, both in the life of the diarist and in the history of the state.” – Masters of British Literature: Volume A, p.1041

Pepys was often involved in long-lasting project, and his diary was a project which lasted nine years. He began it to track his “uprise”, starting fairly poor and eventually rising to be “the ruler of the Royal Navy”.

The psychology of a journal is that by recording daily activities, one can be aware of what they are or aren’t doing. What should be happening, instead of berating the self for messing up on their goal or achievement (me again), one simply makes aware of the times they did do what they were meaning to do.

“Epictetus, the Stoic philosopher, told his students: ‘If you do not wish to be prone to anger, do not feed the habit…[instead] count the days when you were not angry: ‘I used to be angry every day, then every other day: next every two, next every three days!’ and if you succeed in passing thirty days, sacrifice to the Gods in thanksgiving.'” – See more at: PoW The journal, from Marcus Aurelius to Bridget Jones

Aleister Crowley writes on something similar in his fictional book, Diary of a Drug Fiend, when occult practitioner, King Lamas sets out to help the two main characters that have fallen into a tragic cocaine and heroin addiction in 1920, when it became highly illegal. He allowed them access to whatever they wanted, but only requested that each time they indulged, they mark it on the calendar. There would be no scolding, no “punishment” from him. Seeing as it was a couple, each marking on the same calendar, though with separate tallies, they would become annoyed to see how well the other was doing, or find the tallies as a mockery to themselves.

This was a journal, and the simple act of seeing how much they were doing something, and having to recording prompted them to less and less use.

Nearly 100 years later, we might not be making tallies on a calendar (or maybe we are), but we have social networking – which not only works towards marking how often we are or are not doing something, but also lends the hand of social support from the people we care about and those that care about us. It’s like an AA meeting for everything – you share your experience and receive support.

Does it really help? I can’t say. However, I can just remind those that become annoyed at the constant updates of food and exercise and so on, that your friends are trying to better themselves. Be happy that they’re doing so. One day you’ll be doing the same (if you’re not already), and on some level will want the same support they’re asking of you.

 

Foood For Thought: Gluten Free and Nutritious

  1. This is something I twiddled around with recently. What You’ll need is:
  • Leek
  • Sweet Potato
  • Ginger
  • Egg
  • Butter
  • Almonds
  • Your Favorite Mushroom

So Super easy – let’s first talk a a little bit about the nutritious benefits of using these things, and how to even make it slightly more nutitious. First of all, all my ingredients are organic, and my favorite mushrooms that I chose were Chantrelles, though Shiitake is an ectremely close and more nutrient-packed second.

It is always best too to consider ingredients that are local and in season. Your body is acclimated to your specific region, and thus will cope better with said region based on the local foods that are produced. This isn’t always possible, but it can be fun, educational, and an excellent way to get to know the people that are growing your foood as well, thus contributing to your community.

  • Leeks:
    This food is one of my favorite foods that I consider a winter food. It is iin the onion and garlic family, and really is like the green onion’s big brother, though without a bulb. They are sweet yet still have that onion taste. It should be a golden rule that they are always cooked in butter and with garlic, since really they are the grandest of friends. They go great in mashed potatoes as well, and make a fantastic soup.
    They are very rich in vitamin K and Manganese. The body needs Vitamin K to help attach calcium to tissues, and acts as a blood coagulative. This means that it’s the stuff that helps wounds heal a bit better and ensures that calcium is doing its job. Also important for bone health is Manganese.  Again, it works with calcium to ensure the strength of bones and to prevent bone loss.  It is also an important factor in skin protection – protection against UV light, and an anti-oxidant. Considering the amount of coffee consumed by students, this can be quite beneficial. Some studies have even suggested that Manganese is helpful with the body’s management of blood sugar, though the link isn’t fully understood at this time.
    Leeks also act as a protector of our blood vessels. Any pathway for the blood is of the upmost importance, as it is the blood which carries the oxygen to our organs and muscles, giving us energy and most importantly, out brain optimal functioning.
  • Sweet Potato:
    Having gotten a lot of hype over the recent years, the sweet potato is definitely worth yammering about. They are extremely high in Vitamin A – a medium baked sweet potato yielding over 200% of the Daily Recommendation, and Vitamin C. It is also high in Manganese and Vitamin B1, B2, B3 and B6. While Vitamins A and C are important for supporting your body’s ability to ward off all those flu bugs that like to go around during the fall and winter months, the B vitamins are essential for that ol’ noggin.  Not only are they a vast contributor to daily energy levels, But B1 specifically promotes the integrity of the brain cells. B2’s super power is the metabolizing of iron in the body, which promotes healthy red blood cells. B3 is a personal favorite of mine, also known as Niacin. This helps the body to detox as well as acts a very productive mood stabilizer – and when anxiety around finals times hits, it is essential!
  • Ginger:
    This is one of my top ten favorite herbs – well, spices, if you want to get technical. It is superb for digestive health as well as supporting the body’s immune system. Having a healthy digestive system is extremely important for having a healthy and active mind. A sluggish digestive system can lead to an unhealthy colon – or a toxic colon. This means that food isn’t getting processed and moved elsewhere fast enough, and begins to rot, leaching toxins into the colon and onto the rest of the body. This can cause chronic fatigue, asthma, chronic bad breath, chronic back ache, other allergies within the body, and can negate the body’s ability to ward off bad bacteria, causing growths such as Candida to flourish.
    Whats more, ginger is great for increasing circulation. This is especially helpful for those cold toes and fingers, but also means that the blood is circulating better to the brain, meaning support to help it act more optimally.
  • Eggs:
    Aside from the fact that they are rich in protein, which means brain food in and of itself, they are also rich in Omega 3’s, the other amazing brain food. Not only do the Omega’s help with thinking, but they act as a mood stabilizer as well. A study was done with English inmates who were known for their violence. They were supplemented with Omegas and it was found that violent offenses were reduced by 30% (I will write more on this and give specific citations to this in a future entry).
    Furthermore, all the B vitamins are found in eggs, which is excellent news for vegetarians (such as myself) who might experience difficulties finding that needed B6 and B12 combination.
  • Butter:
    While I’m not going to go into the break-down of butter, I will mention that this should under no circumstances be margarine! You might as well melt plastic in with your food instead. I personally use a vegan butter which tastes just the same and is a little bit healthier. However, Butter from happy healthy grass-fed, field lounging cows has been yielding great nutritional benefits, and as long as you’re selecting the right butte, you will be giving to your body the good cholesterol, which is also good for the brain. However, the key is Happy Healthy Grass Fed Field Lounging  Cows! What and how a cow eats contributes just as much to your diet as it does to their own.
  • Almonds:
    Nuts are known for their excellent protein content, and almonds are no exception. In fact, just ten almonds has as much protein as half a pound of beef, and just as many almonds can ease the discomfort of a migraine, as well as ward off future ones. Almonds contain was is called monounsaturated fats – those are the good ones. These are the ones found in avocados and olive oil.
  • Mushrooms:
    While I mentioned earlier to pic you favorite ones, and I chose Chantrelles and you probably are choosing field mushrooms because they’re easy and cheep to find and you’re a college student not looking to spend a fortune (I don’t blame you!), I’m going to focus on the nutritional value of the shiitake mushroom. For one, it has amazing texture when cooked. I cannot say that enough. Many people might disagree with me, but I personally could eat ann entire bowl of pan-friend shiitake mushrooms.
    Shiitake mushrooms are highly medicinal, and a great go-to for immune system support, and is a great veggie-friendly way to get your iron intake. They are great for your heart and circulation health and also have anti-oxidant properties.

Ok, now let me tell you about the meal you can make with all these delicious things.

  1.  Slice your sweet potatoes about a quarter to a third of an inch thick. On a greased pan (I like to use coconut oil – again, thinking brain food!), lay out your slices and season with garlic granules, pepper and dill – or you know, whatever makes you happy. Put them into the preheated oven at 350 degrees, and set your timer for 8 minutes.
  2. Begin chopping your leeks, almonds, and mushrooms. When chopping your almonds, you don”t need to powder them, or make them all fancy and sliced or whatever, just so that they’re possibly quarterd or so.
  3. Once your timer goes off, check your sweet potatoes in the oven, and flip them. The bottom sides should be slightly browning, in a delicious sort of manner. Set the timer for ten minutes and chuck them back in the oven.
  4. Get out a frying pan and melt your butter. The Paula Deen side of me wants to tell you to go nuts with the butter. But the sensible side of me, with a little thought to the almonds, tells me to tell you to maybe stick to no more than a couple table spoons.
  5. When the butter begins to melt, add your almonds and grate your ginger over top with a cheese grater, unless you have a more suitable grater handy. Add enough to suit your tastes, and then maybe just little bit more, just for kicks!! Once the butter is fully melted, add the mushrooms and leeks.
  6. Remove pan from heat once the leeks are a soft and the mushrooms floppy.
    image
  7. Take your sweet potatoes out of the oven when they’re done – you should be able to stick your fork in them no problem, and put them on your plate (I like to chuck in the oven for a minute or to heat it a little so my food doesn’t cool so quickly).  Pile your buttery fried gooodness on top, and quickly crack your egg into the frying pan. I am a fan of a simple fried egg, English style, but cook it however makes you feel happy.  However, a little tip – there is nothing more awesome than having a fried egg over your food and allowing the yolk to ooze over everything as you break into that first bite.
  8. Voila! Breakfast of brainy champions is served!

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Food For Thought Intro

There a great many things which contribute to a great student, great academic, great professional. However, one thing that all of these greatnesses need is nourishment.

You always hear jokes about Ramen being the College Kid staple, but really that’s not going to be any good for that weary brain that is busting its ass so that you can get good grades.

What we put into our bodies affects us all over, from our cells to our bones, to our energy levels, to the way we sleep, from the way we respond to situations to the way we feel emotionally and physically, and most importantly, the way we think.

The new Thursday Theme is Food For Thought. During this series I will talk about foods that help enhance studying, help sleeping, how and when to eat, and so on. I’ll even give a few recipes from time to time if you’re lucky!