Friday, December 27, 2013

After Christmas Weight Loss

Once again it’s time to take off a few pounds. Every year I give it a try with limited or no success. A couple of weeks of holiday eating can’t be wished off or prayed off even though a good attitude should help. I can’t blame Aunt Molly, as my mother did when she put on extra pounds. Aunt Molly was remembered for her spherical shape. Mother would groan and say, “I take after Aunt Molly.” Did she lose weight with this strategy? No. She spent less time looking into the mirror.

I turn to the books. After all, I spent a lot of my life as a librarian. When I worked in libraries, every January I made displays of diet books to enable everyone to eliminate excess holiday pounds. Maybe my co-workers noticed; I don’t know. I was doing something to help the world and maybe myself. Well, we all know that making displays is nice but it doesn’t bring about weight loss. It’s better to read them. It’s even better to do something.

I have noticed some recent weight loss trends such as intermittent fasting and the paleo diet. Goodbye Weight Watchers and the Atkins program. What became of calories? What happened to too much junk food? Low carb has morphed into low glycemic. The diets and weight loss programs all have books. Pick one and live better. Are we confused yet?

The latest weight loss wonder with book, The Daniel Plan, comes from megachurch pastor Rick Warren in collaboration with Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Daniel Amen. It has a different approach. Here is what says about it:  “Revolutionize Your Health ... Once and for All During an afternoon of baptizing over 800 people, Pastor Rick Warren realized it was time for change. He told his congregation he needed to lose weight and asked if anyone wanted to join him. He thought maybe 200 people would sign up, instead he witnessed a movement unfold as 15,000 people lost over 260,000 pounds in the first year. With assistance from medical and fitness experts, Pastor Rick and thousands of people began a journey to transform their lives. Welcome to The Daniel Plan. Here's the secret sauce: The Daniel Plan is designed to be done in a supportive community relying on God's instruction for living.

I’m not sure how well this works. It deals with weight loss science from Dr. Hyman, the brain connection from Dr. Amen, and grouping from Rick Warren. These three guys have appeared on several television venues to promote their program and their book. They want groups of people to lose weight as Rick Warren has. The two doctors look slim enough already. I haven’t read the book.

Intermittent fasting is interesting. It works for some people. I have read about two types and blogged about one. They are said to be very good for health, as obesity reduction should be. One type, with book, The Mini-fast Diet, is the mini-fast, from weight loss doctor Julian Whitaker, and Peggy Dace. This program works by eliminating breakfast and thus bringing about a sixteen hour fast, with no food ingested from after supper through the morning. I tried it for two and a half weeks and gave up after seeing no results. In the book people said they lost pounds immediately. The other intermittent fast challenge is the fast diet from medical journalist Michael Mosley. The book is The Fast Diet, published in the United Kingdom. This program is supposed to work when the dieter eats 500 or 600 calories per day for two non-consecutive days of the week. The dieter does not go into starvation mode when he/she separates the days or does not eat 500-600 calories every day. The difference in calories is gender related: women 500, men 600. Both the Whitaker and Mosley programs promise weight loss and better health as long as the dieter doesn’t binge on the other days and stays to a diet that is low on the glycemic load.

Here we have three dieting possibilities for the next weight loss attempt. Would it work for Mother and Aunt Molly? Since they have gone to their rewards in the next life, we’ll never know. Will it work for me? Or you? We can check in on that next year at this time, maybe.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Swedish Rosettes

When it’s time to make Christmas cookies, it’s time to make rosettes. Rosettes are crispy delicate cookies made of batter and deep fried in shapes like the floral rosettes for which they are named, or stars, snowflakes or concentric circular shapes. They are beautiful and melt in your mouth. People who want rosettes mostly have to make them. People who want results without process are better off eating something else because the road to rosettedom is about process. You aren’t going to do this in five minutes. Dipping those little goodies in hot fat and waiting for them to turn into heaven takes time.

Is it possible to buy rosettes? I haven’t seen them in grocery stores, although at Christmastime I suspect that we can find them at Fosdal’s Bakery in Stoughton, Wisconsin, where the slogan is “here to make life a little sweeter.”

Rosette making is inexpensive and not difficult.  Rosettes are made from everyday ingredients and fried like doughnuts. They are made on an iron, which actually is aluminum. It would seem awkward to call a rosette iron an aluminum. Rosette irons can be bought in some stores or online from NordicWare or (you guessed it)

Here is how I make them. Required equipment includes rosette iron and deep fryer. Take your time.

Swedish Rosettes                   (about 3 dozen)          
2 eggs                                                  1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon sugar                             ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt                                   oil for deep frying (I use canola oil)
1 cup all purpose flour                        powdered sugar

Have milk and eggs at room temperature. Beat eggs slightly in a small deep bowl. Blend in sugar and salt. Add flour and milk alternately; add vanilla. Mix until smooth. In your deep fryer heat oil to 375 degrees. Put the rosette iron into the hot fat. When it is well heated, remove it from the fat and immediately dip it into the batter. Do not let the batter run over the top of the iron or the rosette will stay stuck and not be removable. Immediately put the batter coated iron into the oil for at least 30 seconds or until the rosette is crisp and beginning to brown. Remove it from the oil and let it drip, then slip the rosette off the iron and drain it on absorbent paper such as paper toweling. Put the iron back into the oil for a few seconds before making the next rosette. Sprinkle the rosettes with powdered sugar.

Some things to know:
That iron isn’t ready to go right out of the new box. It must be seasoned first. I learned this the hard way rather than from my mother, who never made rosettes. If your iron is already seasoned, you may disregard this paragraph. To season it, coat the shaped frying part with oil and put it into the oven (in a dish) at an unspecified temperature (I don’t remember what temperature) and let it bake for a half hour or so. At this point the iron should be ready for rosette making. If you don’t season the iron, the batter will become stuck on the iron. The first rosette onto the iron might stick anyway, so don’t give up.

If rosettes drop from the iron after cooking, the fat is too hot. If they are soft when cooked, they have been cooked too quickly. If they have blisters, the eggs have been beaten too much.

My source says the rosettes will keep for about two weeks, but in my home they have never lasted that long so I make no guarantees. I keep them in a covered container until the wild hordes discover them and start to eat.

Wash the iron in water but do not use soap or dish detergent, or you will undo the seasoning.

It is ok to use cream or diluted evaporated milk in place of the fresh whole milk.

My source for this recipe is The Electric Company Christmas Cooky Book, which I acquired in about 1962 from The Wisconsin Electric Power Company in Milwaukee, the city where I lived for about a year with my new husband Rick. The booklet shows no author and no publication date.

Another source for rosettes is Swedish Food: 200 Selected Swedish Dishes, The Smorgasbord, Traditional Party and Everyday Menus, published in Gothenburg, Sweden, 10th edition, undated. I got it from my mother, who was not Swedish but loved to cook during her life. Fortunately, the book is written in English.

A third source is a departure from the others. It is a recipe on the back of the package of an angel rosette iron piece that I got from one of my daughters. It suggests use of beer in place of milk. I haven’t tried that. Also, it suggests that you purchase ready made rosette batter. I don’t stand behind that suggestion and have never actually seen any.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thanksgiving and Excess

Next week we will celebrate the day when we fill our stomachs with our national bird, fill our heads with televised football, and now have more opportunities to fill our shopping bags with stuff. Some people might give thanks, but I suspect many won’t. It’s a day off for turkey, football and shopping.

Why will more stores be open on Thanksgiving Day? In my opinion, the answer is because a lot of people will go shopping, in person or online. Black Friday is becoming Black Thursday. I will be glad to be with my family even though one of my daughters will have to leave the festivities and go to work.

In this time of contrasts of plenteousness and less than enough for many, I am struck with the messages I receive from our culture. Not just turkey, football and shopping, but messages that we can have more. This comes home to me when I watch HGTV on television. I started to watch this channel after I bought my house in May. It gave me some ideas about how to make my small old house more up to date and beautiful even though I loved it already.

That’s the HGTV message. Whatever you live in, you can make it better. And what makes it better is renovating or buying your home. In this land of plenty, we can tear down some walls, put in new fireplaces and appliances, install lovely hardwood floors, or just buy them somewhere else. I am amazed at the purchase prices of some of the homes I see on this channel. I also am amazed at the sense of entitlement that is projected by the people who buy or renovate. They don’t settle for Adequate, they want the Newest. They complain about kitchens and bathrooms being outdated. They insist on open concept designs. They hate basement laundry rooms. They want million dollar ocean views. They might be thinking they can be Donald Trump and that it is okay to live like the Donald.

The land of promise is becoming the land of excess, at least for some people, but not for all. The other side of HGTV (not within HGTV’s scope) is inability to buy homes by people who struggle to make a living, not just beautiful homes but any homes. Does a low income person care about hardwood floors and trendy bathrooms? I think that person might be glad just to live somewhere.

I bought my new draperies from JC Penney and new living room carpet from Sergenians, but I did it because they were replacing old, worn draperies and carpeting. I bought them on days other than Thanksgiving. The old carpet and curtains were dated and damaged. That is different from spending excessive amounts of money on items that go far beyond adequacy or need. Yes, people can have a standard of living that does more than fill a need, but I see plenty of opportunities to curb some of the excess.

God has rained many blessings on us. So has the capitalist system. Thanksgiving Day might be improved by thanking God for our blessings and curbing the allure of the economic system for one day. I like HGTV as entertainment and suggestions for home improvement, but I am not enthralled about the underlying message.

Okay, folks. Let’s go to the store when we must. But let’s not do it on Thanksgiving Day. We can hold it at turkey and football.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Pumpkin Pie - the Best

It’s the season for pumpkin. Store bought pumpkin pie tastes like straw compared to this, at least for people who like spices in their pie. I made it for the family many times. Easy to make. The hardest part (not very hard) is getting the unbaked pie into the oven without spilling the filling.

Pumpkin Pie

1 ½ cups cooked or canned pumpkin
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ to 1 teaspoon ginger (I use 1 teaspoon)
1 to 1 ¼ teaspoon cinnamon (I use 1 ¼ teaspoon)
¼ to ½ teaspoon nutmeg (I use ½ teaspoon)
¼  to 1 teaspoon cloves (I use ¼ teaspoon)
3 slightly beaten eggs
1 ¼ cups milk
¾ cup evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed milk)
Pastry for 1 9-inch pie pan (bottom crust only)

Make your pie crust or buy one. I don’t stand behind purchased pie crust, but it seems to suit some people. Don’t bake it until the filling is in it.

Thoroughly combine pumpkin, sugar, salt and spices. Add eggs, milk and evaporated milk. Blend.
Pour it into your 9-inch pastry lined pie pan. Bake at 450 degrees ten minutes, then at 325 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until the mixture doesn’t adhere to a knife.

This recipe is in one of my old cookbooks, the old one that has lost its title page and has many pages coming apart. It’s the best. It is Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, 1953 loose leaf edition. I revised some of the wording but not the ingredient descriptions.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mini-Fast Diet Book

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, according to the old saying. Well, maybe so, maybe no. That’s my conclusion after reading The Mini-Fast Diet: Burn Fat Faster than Ever With the Simple Science of Intermittent Fasting, by Julian Whitaker and Peggy Dace. Testimonials abound in the book, but it hasn’t done a thing for me.

Intermittent fasting has gotten significant press lately. The book was published in 2012, and the dust jacket proclaims: “Lose up to 30 pounds in 12 Weeks!...Burn Fat faster than ever …”  Dr. Joseph Mercola, who has a widely read website with health articles, has said that he tried intermittent fasting successfully. Headlines of some of his articles state: “Burn Away Fat Cells With This Simple Eating Trick” (May 4, 2012); “Intermittent Fasting Finally Becoming Mainstream Health Recommendation” (January 18, 2013); “Intermittent Fasting Shown to Improve Diabetes and Reduce Cardiovascular Risk” (May 17, 2013); “How Intermittent Fasting Stacks Up Among Obesity-Related Myths, Assumptions, and Evidence-Backed Facts” (March 1, 2013).

Julian Whitaker, who has written fourteen books, is a physician who operates a weight loss clinic using diet, exercise and some nutritional supplements, in California.  He refers to his program as a mini-fast with exercise. The mini-fast is about sixteen hours, preferably during the night when one is sleeping and continuing the next day until about noon. No breakfast. His program includes some sweat producing exercise during the fast, to be spaced a couple of hours before eating.  Whitaker says in the book that he tried this procedure himself and saw results right away. He says he was not hungry and liked not having to worry about counting calories. That’s right. His diet is a non-diet diet.  He says in the book’s introduction that this diet is “the most successful, health-enhancing, and fastest-acting weight loss program I’ve ever come across. It eliminates the restrictive diets, calorie counting, and food cravings that are the bane of most regimens. It promotes habits that will lead to a lifetime of health. And it…selectively burns fat.”

According to the book, Whitaker’s program allows the dieter to eat a normally healthy diet and stresses the importance of exercise while fasting. He allows people who don’t want to fast during the night to fast for sixteen hours during other times of the day as long as they are eating only two meals during the twenty-four hour period and spaced within about eight hours. He says that the fasting time puts the dieter in a state of ketosis, which is a fat burning state that occurs with the fast. Some of us know about ketosis  as the basis of the Atkins diet, which comes about by severely reducing carbohydrate intake. In Whitaker’s program, the dieter is encouraged to break the fast with some protein rather than high glycemic carbohydrates. Whitaker encourages people to eat a healthy diet. However, he is no Robert Atkins.

Ok, it sounded too good to be true to me, even with Whitaker’s many patients who tout their successful weight loss. So, I tried it. I have been going without breakfast for two and a half weeks. Unlike Dr. Whitaker and Dr. Mercola, who said they lost weight in days, I haven’t lost a pound. It is possible that I may be enjoying some of the other benefits that are enumerated in the book, but I don’t have the equipment to do medical tests. I feel the same as always. I don’t miss breakfast, but I haven’t been hungry in the morning for many years.

The book has many good parts. It is assembled with headlines throughout the text, before and after pictures with dieter testimonials, and boxed sections here and there about related topics that don’t interrupt the basic text. These features give us a book that is easy to read and good to look at. The book is organized into three useful parts: The Problem and the Solution; The Mini-Fast With Exercise Program; and Exercise and Diet Strategies.

Whitaker tells us why diets normally fail and that it isn’t the person’s fault if they do. He explains diet failures in laypeople’s language while using science that is documented in footnotes. He has a chapter about why weight loss matters, with science that is pointed enough to make a normal person want to lose weight as a health issue. He writes about some roadblocks to success, such as being hypothyroid or having other medical problems. He provides menus and some recipes for people who would like to use them. His thyroid solution strikes me as too simple; get the situation treated and you will be fine. I can say from experience that it isn’t a simple situation. It occurs to me that the dieter needs to do a lot of exercise, or maybe the diet works better for men than for post-menopausal women.

Whitaker presents one type of intermittent fasting. Another that is being discussed around the water coolers  is a diet requiring the person to choose some days in which to eat a maximum of five hundred calories, while eating normally the rest of the week. This type of fast is explained in another book that I haven’t read, called The Fast Diet, by Michael Mosley.

I think Dr. Whitaker’s book has many merits. Is it too good to be true? Maybe and maybe not.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Banana Bread

Banana Bread

My daughter Mary actually had to go to a cookbook to produce banana bread. How could I have neglected her culinary education so flagrantly? She let the cat out of the bag recently on her blog, Mary’s FoodJournal.  To make amends, I am giving Mary and the world the best banana bread our family has ever eaten, or at least never complained about. I made it for the family many times and they all are well and wonderful, including Rick, who presumably is in heaven still enjoying the memories.

Here is glorious banana bread, a simple bread from the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, by Fannie Merritt Farmer, 8th ed., 1948, completely revised by Wilma Lord Perkins, page 76. Applause may begin now.

Banana Bread

3 very ripe bananas                         2 cups all purpose flour
¾ cup sugar                                    1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs                                             1 teaspoon baking soda
                                1 cup chopped nutmeats (optional)

Crush bananas with fork. Add eggs, beaten light. Lightly mix flour, salt and soda, and add to banana mixture. Add optional nuts. Put into loaf pan. Bake 1 hour at 325 degrees. Makes one loaf, 5x9 inches.

I revised the cookbook’s words slightly. Also, I am not opposed to my daughter using a cookbook, but I still believe that I could have shared this version of banana bread with her before today. She is an excellent cook.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Goodness of Summer

Summer is good. It begins with promise and concludes with the next stage of fall. The tulips have disappeared and the tomatoes are ripe. Last summer was hot and dry while this summer is cool and pleasant. That’s the story of the marvels of the natural world of summer. We have had no sinkholes, no washout floods, and no tornadoes this summer.

Summers have brought changes into my life. This summer I have been settling into my new house after leaving the condo where I lived for ten years. It is the first time in my life when I moved alone. When I bought the house in March, a foot of snow was on the ground. When I moved into it during the Memorial Day weekend two months later, the grass was green, spring flowers were blooming, and children were running through the neighborhood. Very good.

On the first day in my new home it dawned on me that most of the rooms do not have ceiling lights. I had a few lamps and quickly bought more. One bedroom continues to be lit by an artist’s clamp light attached to a bookcase. Other events at home included new draperies and curtains, the flooded basement (due to rain) that kept carpet wet for a month, repairs to the leak in the kitchen sink, and new carpet for the living room and hall. I am sure that more is to come. Old houses are not perfect.

Other summers have produced changes. Here is one. My parents had a cottage at Clark’s Lake in the woods of Door County while my brothers and I were growing up. We lived in it all summer in 1951 instead of spending time there and at our year round home. We were beginning a new adventure. We moved to Sturgeon Bay and my father started a new radio station. The cottage was home until the parents found a house to live in when September came. For me it was a good summer of swimming in the lake, walking in the woods, swatting mosquitoes and living in a cottage without plumbing. That summer my life changed as I enrolled in a new school in a smaller community than the one we left in suburban Chicago, and I made new friends. More happened after that, but it wasn’t summer any more.

Another memorable summer with change was my wedding and new life with Rick. My mother and I spent the month of June preparing for the wedding, then the big day came, and after it was over, Rick and I went off to Milwaukee to live after a honeymoon in New Orleans. Our small apartment in Milwaukee was near a park. I went to the park often because we had no yard, and I pushed the neighborhood kids on the swings. This new married life was the biggest change of my life so far. My maternal grandmother and her sister were living in Milwaukee at that time, which was a plus. I have always loved my family.  It was a good but different kind of summer that ended with my resuming my education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

I enjoy scavenging berries and apples each summer. Last summer’s drought diminished the harvest considerably. This year I found few raspberries and blackberries, and the apple harvest is just beginning. I have gone to Washington Island twice this summer and had a trip to Savannah, Georgia, at about moving time. I planted bushes, flowers, tomatoes and zucchini in my small yard. The neighbors are friendly. The yard has been populated by young rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks. Summer is good.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Camping Journal

Day 1. Sunday.  I arrived at the Washington Island Campground at about 4:00 pm. The camp office was staffed by the manager’s daughter, about ten years old. Her business acumen is still developing. I told her which unit I had reserved, and she believed me. She said she didn’t know how to use the credit card device, so I said I would pay later. She was okay with that. It’s a very trusting environment. If this girl becomes President some day, it will revolutionize the way Washington works.

Camping has various degrees of simplicity. I had chosen medium, a cabin measuring about ten by fifteen feet. It provides more amenities than a tent: electricity, a water faucet, a roof to keep out the rain, dorm size refrigerator, small microwave oven, and fewer amenities than a popup camper or RV.  The rest room is down the path.  

I wanted simplicity, but brought with me a cell phone and laptop computer. I see this as a compromise with nature. As Thoreau once said, paraphrased, “We don’t ride the train. The train rides us.”

For supper I cooked canned beef stew on the electric burner I brought with me, and ate raw green beans on the side. No campfire. No toasted marshmallows. Afterward, I compromised with simplicity again and watched a DVD on my laptop computer, Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Then I went to bed in my sleeping bag on the bed with foam mattress that came with the cabin. Windows were open. It was dark and quiet.

Day 2. Monday.  I have neighbors in the two cabins next to mine, two pickup truckloads of people including many children. The adults speak a language that is not English, French or Spanish. The kids speak very good English. They have filled their picnic tables with dishes and food and left it there with no apparent concern about wildlife joining the party.

I took the Karfi ferry to Rock Island, with a boatload of people, and stayed there until 3:00. I love Rock Island. The state owns all of it except the coast guard lighthouse at the north end. It has a primitive campground, where people bring in everything they need, including food. I walked to the lighthouse (uphill most of the way) and once again took in the current docent’s tour. Docents change weekly, and they don’t work with scripts. This docent said that some of the tour guides might make up some facts about the lighthouse. That makes it very interesting.

I walked back to the boathouse and ate lunch, which included raw carrots and cucumber, plus a container of Atkins diet drink. Then I enjoyed some time at the beach, which is better than any of the beaches on Washington Island. Today it was calm and the water was about as warm as Lake Michigan gets. Plenty of people were there on the sand beach and in the water. Some nearby people offered me a glass of wine. People here are nice.

Back on Washington Island, I drove to the local bakery and used its wi-fi while eating cherry pie. Hardly anyone was there. The person on duty said everyone was at the beach because it was hot. Hot for this place is in the eighties. After another canned meal with veggies at the campground, I watched another DVD in the evening, Founding Brothers, based on the book by Joseph Ellis. Camping alone results in some activites that might not happen with other people, such as watching movies. There is no one to argue with.

Day 3. Tuesday.  One good thing about being out in the woods is that nothing much matters. I can sleep as late as I want to without the cat waking me for breakfast. It was another warm day. I went for a walk in the morning. Relaxation is happening. I don’t care about life back home. It feels good.

I went to a local beach for a while and listened to distant thunder before finally leaving. The lake water there was fouled with dead and dying vegetation, the reason for which is not within the scope of this document.  I went back to the bakery for more wi-fi and pie. The rain poured down while I was there. After it stopped, I returned to the campground, which was dry. A few drops of rain came down for a while. More canned food and fresh veggies for supper. More neighbors arrived near me.

I have been enjoying a book today, Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy, by Chris Hayes, who is one of the commentators on MSNBC. It is about corruption and failure of our American institutions. He is a very bright person. He says that the US has replaced European and East coast aristocracy with meritocracy, which is based on people gaining power and prestige through their merits. He also says that the deck is stacked so that the people at the top, with the most “merit” stay at the top, and people with less opportunities or brain power stay at the bottom, and the gap is widening. He points out that education is a big factor in this scenario. Exclusive private schools set up the people who will have the control. Needless to say, this is not democracy. I am less than halfway through the book. While on the road, I listened to a parallel audiobook, Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success. From the first half of this, I gleaned that success in life can be attributed to when a person was born relative to social changes, and some other things. I will hear the remainder on the way home.

Today wasn’t filled with activity. The kids in the bilingual party have been riding their bikes around the campground and enjoying the man made lake. I notice that the campers here prefer amenities to simplicity. The end of the campground that is set aside for tents is nearly empty. Some cabin and RV sites are occupied. This campground must make its money on weekends.

Day 4. Wednesday.  It’s time to go home. Checkout time is 11:00. Goodbye to the woods and not caring. Goodbye to the ten year old girl who check me in and will some day be President. She also cleans the outhouse and drives around in a golf cart. Hello to the other world.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Cherry Cobbler – Gluten Free, Dairy Free

Old fashioned fruit cobbler is a favorite dessert of mine, even though it contains the big three of bad-for-us ingredients: sugar, fat and salt.  Cobbler is thickened fruit covered with sweetened biscuit topping. Cobbler is simple and unsophisticated, with no difficult ingredients. Except one: white flour. White flour is everywhere but is not okay for people who don’t tolerate it, such as daughter Sarah. So, here is how we enabled Sarah to eat this dessert along with daughter Dede/Dori,  granddaughter Dana, and me.

Red tart cherries are ripe in northern Illinois, I learned from my friend Tom, who picked some and gave them to me via my daughter Dede/Dori, who visited me last weekend.  And so we made cherry cobbler. We had two roadblocks to navigate. First, someone had to pit all those cherries. Second, in order for Sarah to be able to eat the cobbler, we needed substitutes for the all purpose wheat flour and cow milk.

Dede/Dori and I pitted the cherries (she pitted most of them), and Sarah supplied us with a box of gluten free Bisquick.  Normally I don’t recommend using prepared mixes like Bisquick, but it worked for our cobbler. Its main ingredient is rice flour. Since the Bisquick mixture already contained leavening and some sugar, I needed to modify the cobbler recipe in my old fashioned cookbook.  Here is what we created, with input from The Betty Furness Westinghouse Cook Book, published in 1954.

Cherry Cobbler – Gluten Free

Find your 2-quart casserole dish or 8x8 inch baking dish and grease it. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

1 cup sugar
¼ cup brown rice flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups fresh cherries (see below for canned cherries alternative).
Mix sugar, flour and cinnamon and blend with cherries. Pour it into the baking dish.

Make dough:
2 cups gluten free Bisquick
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup shortening
¾ cup white almond milk (cow milk works too)
Stir the Bisquick, salt and sugar together. Cut and blend in the shortening until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in the almond milk and mix only enough to blend the ingredients. Roll it to the size of your baking pan if it is dry enough and place it on top of the cherry mixture. If the dough is too wet to roll, distribute it by spoonfuls evenly onto the cherries. Sprinkle a little sugar over the top. Bake it for 25-30 minutes until it is somewhat brown.

This is good plain or with ice cream or whipped cream.

For canned unsweetened cherries: Use 2 cups canned cherries with ¾ cup juice and blend with sugar, flour and cinnamon and proceed as above.
Also, you can easily substitute wheat for the gluten free ingredients, and milk for the almond milk. I haven't used regular Bisquick for many years, so don't know if it will perform well in this recipe.
Door County cherries are my preference when they are ripe.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Proof of Heaven - Book Review

Proof of Heaven: a Neurosurgeon’s Journey Into the Afterlife, by Eben Alexander.

Dr. Eben Alexander is a neurosurgeon. A near death experience changed his life. This is a fascinating book, not just for the science (it’s mostly not about science), not for the biographical descriptions, not for the hard-to-explain experience, but for the totality, the wholeness that glows through it.

Dr. Alexander had a nearly fatal illness and found himself in the realm and wonder of God. Not the God of Christians or Muslims or any other faith, but the God behind everything.  As a scientist, he said he had believed, and had been taught, that the brain determined everything. His journey into the afterlife changed that. He returned to our world and said that the summary of all he saw and felt while in what he called “the core” was love.  He learned that thinking “outside the brain” brings us closer to our genuine spiritual selves, showing love and compassion. He learned that our world has more good than evil. He learned that everyone is part of a great wholeness.

I found this short book to be a page turner. Not preachy. It didn’t make him into an evangelist. He wrote it because he was filled with the wonderful experience that he needed to share.  I thought his attempts in a few pages to reconcile the science he knew well with his new knowledge of the spiritual realm less easy to read; I believe that it was difficult for him to express it.

After reading this book, I was more able to understand things like post-death appearances of loved ones, as well as the post-death, post-Easter appearances of Jesus which were put into our New Testament.  However, Dr. Alexander doesn’t connect his experience with any organized religion or dogma.

Read it. It’s short. It’s worth taking the time. It was published in 2012.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Kathy and Sasha's Excellent Adventure

Remember the song, “You’re so good to come home to?” That’s how I feel about my new home now that Sasha, my cat, and I are finally situated in it. The song may be about a person, but today it’s about my house. I left condo land and moved into a real neighborhood with kids, noise of lawns being mowed, dogs being walked, and my grass needing mowing.

It’s wonderful to have a yard that I can do anything (legal) with without thinking about condo association rules. It’s great to be able to sing in the house without expecting commentaries from neighbors in my former condo building. Speaking of yards, there is a rectangle of dirt where no grass is growing in my new back yard where I think they buried Jimmy Hoffa.

I chronicled my move on Facebook, with postings about different phases of the project. First I started to pack. Then, after hearing bad financial projections from three moving companies, I moved a large amount of possessions into a rented storage room in order to keep moving company costs down. Then the moving company came and loaded my furniture onto their truck and took it away. Steve and Greg were diligent and personable. I was not to see my furniture again until the next day. Sarah graciously allowed me to spend that homeless night at her home. The next day, after closing on the sale of condo and purchase of house, Steve and Greg reappeared and unloaded the furniture. After that John, Laura and Ian helped me move possessions from the storage room; it was a big job. Finally, possessions were put in some kind of order, which is to say, Dede, Sarah and I unpacked a mountain of books and a lesser one of kitchen items, plus various other things. I had plenty of help. Dede and Sarah helped with putting things in preliminary order.  Daughter-in-law Sherry gave me dinner when my children weren’t having meals with me.

It was stressful for me but worth the headaches and sleepless nights. Sasha, my cat, had her own kind of stress. She spent the weekend at the veterinary clinic’s boarding facility. I brought her home and she sped to a spot under my bed. She has come out sometimes and is settling into her new home by sitting on my lap and kneading my legs like a kitten. This kind of affection is very unusual for her. I am sure she will get back to biting soon.

Here are my Facebook postings that were the news reports about how the relocation was going:

Packing up for moving can be very interesting. You find stuff you forgot you had. You also wonder how you ever could fit so much stuff into one condo. Garbage day is tomorrow and the bin is full. It's almost time to move.

Whoopee! I am now in my new house. The unpacking is beginning. Ate supper with Sarah Whitt, who brought in Thai carryout, but we hadn't yet found plates. We had found some baking dishes so we used them. Moving is such an adventure.

Tomorrow I plan to rescue my perishable food from the freezer and refrigerator of Barbara Boone. Then maybe eating can become normal again. Thanks, Barbara.

Posting from Sarah during moving: Here is a bottle of degreaser mom says is older than Dede. It's from when mom briefly sold Am Way like 50 years ago. I counted up & I think it's been moved 9 times - Preble, Allouez, Green Bay, Beloit, Fond du Lac, Seymour, Madison Prairie Rd, the condo, and finally the new house. Except it never quite made it to the new house. It now resides in my trash bin. 

Unpacking. Arranging. Happy to be in my new home. Dori Becker is here to help today. Sarah Whitt was here last night when we put away kitchen stuff, so now I can actually eat on a plate. Small things are so important.

The Whitt family moving team has been laid off. I spent a lot of time today shopping for curtains/draperies. They don't make them compatible with the colors of my bedrooms: fuschia (really!), lemon yellow, lilac. I found white curtains but not in appropriate size. Didn't want black. I think I will be making curtains. Better than repainting the rooms to match available colors of curtains.
Comment on same post:
 I considered hanging up towels. Not a good choice.
I'm considering trying the Dig & Save next. I bought a $4.00 lamp at Goodwill yesterday and didn't find a shade that is compatible with what the lamp will share the room with, and I think there is some incongruity with buying a $30 shade to go onto a $4 lamp.

My cat's response to living in a new home is to stay under the bed.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Musings About Access to Food

Marie Antoinette said, “Let them eat cake.”  How about revising it to “Let them eat junk food?”

The thing about food is that we all need it. The other thing is that…..well, some people can have better food than others. Or more food.  Or less food.

Madison is a foodie place. It has restaurants and carry-out places for every preference and ethnicity. We can read blogs and columns about the wonderful meals available to anyone who has transportation and enough cash. It’s a wonderful environment of gastronomic experiences.  Madison also has food stores, including the usual chains and big box stores and also some specialty stores that sell organic, free range, locally produced, top quality foods. We are blessed.  But wait a minute.

Last summer I was told by none other than the mayor of Madison that my neighborhood is a food desert. A food desert is a place where the grocery store is not within a couple of miles of home, and food products at the convenience stores in the vicinity are largely manufactured items. The choices are limited. We have several sizeable grocery stores a few miles away, but they are not easy to get to without transportation. We have some convenience stores in the area. That’s okay if I want to exist on dry cereal and Twinkies. However, I want to live on real food.

Because I have a reliable car and enough money, I can choose to go to the big box food store or the specialty food store. I can choose food products of good or poor quality. I can choose from a large variety of food products from many places in the world. I can choose organic or conventional foods. I love being able to shop at the Willy Street Coop, Whole Foods and Brennan’s.  I can go to not-very-nearby restaurants and eat plenty of good or bad food, depending on my choices and my pocketbook. I can bring home carry-out foods of many delicious descriptions.  I am one of the fortunate ones.

Why is it that I can have almost any food I want and my neighbor who has no car, little money and few resources is stuck with a diet of white bread and junk food from the convenience store? Of course, it’s our economic system. It’s not the moral character of the person who has few resources.

Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me” (Matthew 25:45). What if we actually had some equitable distribution of food that nourishes body and soul?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Beans and Fake Sausage

The best news in food is this: what we eat has a lot to do with our health.  Enter the lowly bean.  Beans are a much derided carbohydrate. Well, let’s get finished with the jokes about beans and gas and deal with a positive thing about beans.

I discovered Dr. Joel Fuhrman on the Dr. Oz Show some time ago. He was there to tell us about resistant starch in healthy carbohydrates. We have heard about simple and complex carbs, and now here is something else. Dr. Fuhrman wrote a book called Simple Immunity, which is about strengthening the immune system, with, among other things, beans. The resistant starch in beans and other vegetables  including greens, fruits, nuts and seeds, gives us some benefits.  (1) these foods’ glycemic index and caloric density are low; (2) they are resistant to digestion, which means they do not break down into simple sugars in our systems, so we are less likely to become diabetic, unless we have a lot of dessert and other delicious bad foods in our meals; (3) these foods are full of fiber, which is good for what we do in the bathroom. Just remember to drink lots of water with the fiber. To sum it up, beans are good for us. Just read Dr. Fuhrman’s book. He also inhabits YouTube, where we can hear him talk. He backs his statements with some science.

I have discovered that I can have meatless sausage using beans. It is easy to make and tastes like sausage. It’s a good way to eat those resistant starches. I think this sausage is good for an imitation product. It won’t satisfy a determined meat eater, but has a place in the vegetable kingdom. It’s simple and plain, not elaborate and filled with layers of sophistication.  As some of you know, I am about simple foods.

Fake Sausage

This makes enough for one person.
1 cup cooked white beans
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon crumbled dry sage
1 egg, beaten slightly
1 tablespoon or more flour (I use brown rice flour)

Drain beans if they are in water from can or cooking. Mash them with a potato masher, or process in food processor until they are mashed. I don’t make them perfectly smooth textured. Add seasonings and stir all together. Then add egg and stir. Correct seasoning until it tastes like sausage. Stir in enough flour to firm the texture but still have it somewhat wet. With spoon, shape the mixture into about three patties, or more or fewer, depending on how big you want them. Saute the patties in a small amount of oil, at medium heat or lower, about five minutes, turning them once, until they are somewhat brown on both sides.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Thoughts About Lent

Lent is here again. It creeps up on us every year between Christmas and Easter and stays with us for a little more than a month. It is a season in the calendar year for traditional Christians.  In our pluralistic society, we can choose to observe it, ignore it, or know nothing about it. We give up something or we don’t. Or we say we will, and we don’t make it through the season with our good intentions. Or we decide to take on a good work, something to make a better world. Or we do nothing.

I have known about Lent for a long time. As a child, I saw it as a time to give up something I cared about. I didn’t know why. In my early adult years I didn’t care about it. Later in my life the light bulb went on and I came to some understanding of it. The Church taught me that Lent was a time to prepare for Easter. Ok. This is a concept that involves not thinking about rabbits and colored eggs, but rather a time to go without something in order to be ready for the Resurrection. It’s like fasting before the feast.

None of this makes sense without some inkling about fasting. I don’t hear much about fasting in today’s affluent society, either from the Church or American culture. Fasting has a purpose and a history. It’s there in the Old Testament.  Jesus did it. He went out into the wilderness, and Matthew tells us that he deliberately fasted before his temptation and the start of his public ministry. The Oxford Companion to the Bible says, “Fasting in connection with prayer, penance, and preparation for new ventures has been practiced from early times in many cultures and religions….normally it involved abstinence from all food to show dependence of God and submission to his will.” Huh? Even in church I’m not hearing much about that.

Historically, the approximately forty days of Lent are days of fasting, either partial or entire, so that we can take part in the new annual adventure of the Resurrection. Lent has come down through the ages with a set of rules.  Somewhere along the line, Lent became regulated. It’s there on the Internet, at Just point your search engine to “Lent season.” Everything is online, even rules for Lent. The website hits us with a list of questions that tell people how to “do” Lent if they are Roman Catholics. First it tells us, “Lent is the season of penance and prayer before Easter.” Then it proceeds with a FAQ about Lent, with questions about liturgy, diet and whether to fast on Sundays.  Since I am an Episcopalian, and we also observe Lent, all these rules are optional and, to me, stultifying.  The Why question is still there.

Here is my answer to the Why question. In today’s affluent culture, giving up something for Lent is a good exercise for us, for the planet and for God. We spend our lives in dietary and other kinds of gluttony, eating a lot and taking advantage of the many things around us.  We fill our stomachs with junk food. We fill our landfills with waste. We fill our lives with possessions. We can live another way, even a little bit for a month.  My son gave up Facebook for Lent. I gave up complaining, which is almost impossible for me to accomplish. I also gave up some kinds of food. The point is to impose some discipline into our busy, thing filled lives, so that we can go through our month and come out at the end a little bit more appreciative of the plenteousness around us, and unclutter ourselves to make us ready to share in the love of the resurrected Christ.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cottage Obituary

Our cottage is gone. Well, it is still there, but it has a new owner. We have the memories. He has the future.

My parents bought the little A-frame in the woods on the Lake Michigan shore at Washington Island in the early 1970s. They loved it. They helped us to love it. My brothers and I and our children crossed the Death’s Door passage and entered a different world every summer. Our children grew up and brought their children. My parents died and we continued to spend time there after we inherited it. It has been part of us for about forty years.

My father added a living room to face the Lake Michigan shore, plus a deck.  Some years later my mother added a second bedroom on one side. We still had to close the cottage every fall, and drain the water system and turn off the power. It was not built for winters. Our little home in the woods rested during the winters until we came in spring and turned on the water and power. And everyone came back to stay for weekends or weeks. It was wonderful.

It’s not that we did a lot. It isn’t Wisconsin Dells. My brothers, their wives and children found things to do, as did Rick and I and our children. We had fish boils. We ate junk food at the Albatross. When we weren’t swimming in the lake at our property, we were swimming at the Sand Dunes Park and School House Beach. In later years, as the lake receded, weeds and other vegetation grew along the shore and became smelly from decay, but our weeds didn’t smell. Our immediate family didn’t fish in the island waters, but others did. At least once every summer we took the ferry to Rock Island where we walked on the trails and swam in the lake with its big waves . Back at the cottage, Rick cut up downed trees, and we had plenty of firewood for the little cottage fireplace and the one on the beach. The kids had woods adventures. We spotted and exclaimed about the deer and other animals that called the island home. I exhibited my paintings at the Art and Nature Center.  After Sarah grew up, she participated annually in the Washington Island Music Festival. In recent years I attended the Island Forum, sponsored by the Wisconsin Council of Churches. These activities will continue. We will be back on the island and stay where we can find space.

Finally, we sold our little island home. Brother David, sister-in-law Marcy, and nephew Eric and I went back last week for a winter trip on the ice breaking ferry. We spent a day working with no heat, no water and no electricity. Our little cottage wasn’t built for winter use. It was very cold. We were working during daylight hours.  No, we didn’t sleep there; we stayed at a little hotel. We enjoyed the camaraderie that went with the end of an era.

That day on the island we threw out four pickup truckloads of possessions we no longer needed. The island dump has long been called the Island Exchange. Maybe someone else will use the items that didn’t go into the crusher, such as the world’s oldest microwave oven, or used up chairs that can only be called grade B quality. Most of the furniture is still there for the new owner, who is willing to have it. We donated bags of books and games to the island library. The next day we returned to the cottage to load our vehicles with items we wanted to save for ourselves.

We said goodbye to years of enjoyment, gave the keys to Butch, our realtor, and went back to our other lives.

Friday, January 11, 2013

You Can't Afford to Get Sick -- Book Review

“I believe strongly and passionately that every American has a right to good health care that is effective, accessible, and affordable, that serves you from infancy through old age, that allows you to go to practitioners and facilities of your choosing, and that offers a broad range of therapeutic options. Your health-care system should also help you stay in optimum health, not just take care of you when you are sick or injured.”—(Andrew Weil, You Can’t Afford to Get Sick, p. 4).

That says it all. Dr. Andrew Weil, one of our best known physicians, takes on the American medical system in You Can’t Afford to Get Sick: Your Guide to Optimum Health and Health Care, a book published in 2012, as an updated re-issue of Why Our Health Matters: a Vision of Medicine That Can Transform Our Future, a 2009 publication. The book is readable and persuasive.

Weil points out that at one time American medicine was the best in the world but it isn’t any more. He tells what is wrong with it and what to do to make it good again. Remember, this man is a doctor who has been there. His specialty is integrative medicine, a field that he heads at the University of Arizona.

The book is organized in three parts: Where We Are, Where We Need to Be, and How to Get There. He discusses the dysfunctions of the American medical system and puts blame on medicine delivered via the profit motive, especially the pharmaceutical industry and insurance companies. As a physician, Weil says he has heard many misdiagnosis and mistreatment disaster stories from patients, colleagues and others. He suggests that the system be repaired like this: “Our long-term goal must be to shift our health-care efforts from disease intervention to health promotion and disease prevention….the time has come for a new paradigm of preventive medicine and a society-wide effort to educate our citizens about health and self care” (p. 9).  His two main objectives are: “(1) Change the focus of health care in this country from disease management to prevention and health promotion. (2) Minimize interventional medicine’s dependence on expensive technology” (p. 10).

That is what Weil’s book is about. He goes into how to prevent disease and promote health, which he says will greatly improve medical services delivery, prolong lives and save millions of dollars. In the last chapter of the book, which is not in the 2009 book, he offers “a Two-Week Plan for Taking Greater Responsibility for Your Health and Well-Being” (p.224). He calls the 2010 Affordable Care Act (known as Obamacare) a step in the right direction that does not go far enough. He lists good features including providing insurance coverage to more Americans, and denial of fewer preexisting conditions, but is distressed that the new law does not reduce the high cost of medical care. He offers a path for American people to use the available services selectively and wisely.

This is good reading for those of us who are distressed about the dysfunctions of current medical services delivery and hope for improvement.