|Gas pump copyright 2012|
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Monday, January 30, 2012
Since the time that I worked at Paragon, in the late 1980’s, prices for synthetic wicking clothing has gone down tremendously. Back then you had to pay top dollar and buy expedition level gear from companies like Patagonia or Marmont to guarantee you’d be warm. LL bean always had moderately priced clothing and jackets but now - fleece from Target will keep you considerably warm for a minimum about of money, thought the product probably won’t last you very long. You would be better off investing in at least mid-range outerwear from LL Bean or Land’s End.
Why am I going on about getting good gear? Because I want you to get outside this winter. You will feel so much better about the cold weather if you spend some time in it daily. At lunch take a brisk walk outside, or if you can take a walk in the morning before your commute. The sun exposure will help prevent SADD, the depression caused by lack of light, and the chill is actually good for stimulating your mind and your immune system. People get sick more in the winter because they are indoors with dry heat that is bad for the functioning of their sinuses. Outside is were the air is germ free.
So, if you ask me specifically what should you wear outside on a cold day I would recommend:
Head: A fleece hat that is not skin tight. When there is about 1/2 inch between your head and the hat this creates insulation. It is very import to keep your head covered because you loss a large percentage of your body heat through your head.
Face: If it happens to be a particularly windy day you might want a scarf (fleece is the warmest and the most itchless) around your neck that is larger enough that you can cover the bottom of your face with it. You can also invest in a Gortex face mask if you live in a really windy area. They are nice because they stay put and they wick away the moisture from your mouth.
Upper Body: Layers: undershirt, turtleneck (holds in body heat and keeps your neck warm) and a top sweater (a light weight fleece is a very comfortable layer for walking) Parka: waterproof, with a hood, that covers your butt. I wouldn’t recommend down for exercising. Down tends to get too warm. A Polartec fleece lining would be best.
Hands: This depends on how your body distributes heat. I am definitely a cold hands warm heart kinda person. If you are like me the warmest gloves you can wear are waterproof outer, fleece lined or down MITTENS. If your hands don’t get very cold you can might be able to get away with cotton gloves.
Lower Body: I recommend sweat pants or corduroys. Denim get’s too cold. If it is windy you can cover your pants with a shell pant or insulated snow pants.
Feet: Socks, wicking wool socks are the warmest. Waterproof lightweight hiking boots are great for cold weather. They will give you good support for walking and keep you warm.
These are my recommendation. I guarantee if you wear all of these items you will be cosy and warm. You’ll be able to get outside, clear your head and get your heart pumping in any snowy, blustery weather that may come your way.
Friday, January 27, 2012
|Spaghetti with Clam Sauce copyright 2012|
When I say this recipe is “to die for” I mean it quite literally. When my great aunt Jenny was in the hospital for the last 2 weeks of her life my mother had to bring her spaghetti and clam sauce every night for dinner. “I don’t want to go out eating hospital food.” Jenny would say, “I want to go out eating what I love.”
Jenny was 96 yrs. old and comfortable with the fact that she was dying. She had lived a rich and full life. She was very involved in her church and local politics, and never missed a good party! So, when she told me, “I’m gonna die now.” All I could say was, “I think that’s OK.” “I know it is” she said, “but you listen to me, you need to have another baby. That one is lonely.”
So a year later I had my daughter and she loves spaghetti and clam sauce so much that she asked me to make it for her 3rd grade food heritage party. “Don’t you want me to make lasagna or raviolis, something that most kids will eat.” “No it’s my favorite dish.” So I made it, and she was right. The kids and parents gobbled it down. I will never doubt my daughter’s culinary sense again, and I will never underestimate what a 3rd grader might eat.
Spaghetti with Clam Sauce
by Diane Balch
prep: 20 minute serves: 4-6
1 pound of Barilla Plus Spaghetti or Schar's gluten-free Spaghetti
1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of anchovy paste or crushed into paste whole jarred anchovy
4 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon or more of red pepper flakes (or ground cayenne if serving to kids)
1/2 cups of dry white wine
1 can chopped clams with juice
1 can chopped clams no juice
1/4 cup of fresh chopped parsley
(or 1/8 cup dried parsley)
1/4 cup of fresh chopped parsley
(or 1/8 cup dried parsley)
grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
- Bring a well salted sauce pot filled 1/4 with water to a boil for the pasta.
- Put oil, garlic, red pepper, & anchovy paste in a large skillet. Heat on medium low. Do not brown the garlic. Mix and incorporate the anchovy paste until it dissolves into the oil.
- Add wine and clam juice bring to a boil for about 5 minutes until water starts to evaporate.
- Turn heat off, add clams mix.
- Let sauce sit on heat while pasta cooks.
- Add pasta and parsley, mix well and let stand for 5 minutes.
- Sprinkle individual servings with parmesan.
- Serve with a side green salad and white wine.
NOTE: If you want to make a gourmet version of this dish use fresh clams and fresh spaghetti. (The anchovy paste is key to this recipe do not (I know it's anchovy, but trust me.) delete it.
Italian, fish pasta
Italian, fish pasta
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
|To Do List|
The way I maintain my sanity and compensate for my ailing memory is by writing notes to myself. I used to laugh when I would visit my mom and she had “post it” notes by the telephone, on the refrigerator, on the door... I would say, “Can’t you remember anything?” and her reply was simply, “No.”
Now, I do the same thing. I even have a sticky notes post in my car. I have a note pad by my bed, anywhere that an idea or a “thing that needs to be done” may suddenly pop into my head. I have a note pad ready to catch it.
I can’t wait until I am eligible for an upgrade on my cell phone. I am definitely getting the sticky pad app. I also can’t wait until I can link my phone calendar with my computer calendar. But for now I’ll make due with my old fashion system of collecting all of these notes and putting them into a basket each night. Then I sort through them. I add things “to do” to my “Master to Do” list and I put ideas for work on another sheet. It is helpful to keep about 3 separate “Master to Do” lists: home, work, and personal.
Every day I take 1-3 things “to do” from a master list and put it on to my “Daily to Do” list. The important thing to remember is to never take anything off of the master list until you have actually done it. Life is just not that predictable. We don’t always end up with the time to do everything.
No stress, just try for another day. By keeping the item on the master list you will not loss sight of the task. I really recommend trying to keep “to do” lists. It really does help relieve stress to have everything written down. Especially on those days when you wake up feeling anxiety. You know there is something you need to do, but you’re just not sure what it is... because you didn’t write it down.
Monday, January 23, 2012
|Pantry copyright 2012|
I’m always aiming to simplify my meal planning and I believe that a key to doing this is to have a well stocked pantry. What foods you keep on hand should be determined not by what is on sale that week at the grocery store, but by what you like to mostly eat.
My heritage is Italian and I tend to enjoy primarily Italian cooking. Italian cooking really melds with the simple living philosophy because it is simple to cook, and it usually requires few ingredients per recipe. It is also healthy, especially traditional, as my mom calls it, “peasant food.” “Peasant food” tends to be high in nutrients and low in fat because meat is used as a condiment, much in the way that Chinese use it, vegetables and grains are really the centerpiece of this type of Italian cooking.
So what is in my pantry? Things that can make a quick meal. When I plan my meals for the week I don’t think about rotating different types of meat. I think about which grain will we have tonight. So, I tend to have on hand: different whole grain pastas, brown rice, quinoa, barley, polenta and potatoes. To work with these grains I keep: jarred tomato sauce, jarred Asian sauces like: Trader Joe’s Curry Simmer, they also have a really good lemongrass sauce. You can pour these over any fish or meat, make a grain and a veggie - and you got a delicious ethic meal.
I also keep cans of tuna, beans, and olives, along with some pickled vegetables. Any of these items or all of them can be mixed together with pasta or rice for a yummy quick meal.
In my refrigerator I usually always have celery and carrots, along with onions these three ingredients are the foundation for most soups and stews. In France these vegetables are called, Mirepoix, they are viewed as the French Holy Trinity. Of course, as an Italian, I have garlic on hand too. And staples like: cheese, eggs, and milk. (Keep some Parmalat non-perisable milk on hand, in case you run out.)
In my freezer I keep: hormone free chicken tenders or breasts, uncooked peeled shrimp, fish sticks, meatballs, sausage (either pork or chicken) veggie burgers and buns, along with a loaf of bread in case we run out. The vegetables I have frozen are peas, spinach, and green beans, plus a stir fry veggie mix. I also keep some frozen corn, which is a grain, I think the dish succotash is at fault for confusing this grain for being a vegetable in American’s mines.
From just what I have on hand I can make a week’s worth of dishes. I don’t usually do this. I usually pick one new recipe a week and buy the ingredients for that dish then see what leftovers I have too, but if I was forced to cook from my pantry this week here is what I would probably make: (Because my pantry is well stocked. I rarely have to make emergency trips to the grocery store which are time consuming and waste gas.)
Sunday: Tuna, olives, and tomato sauce over pasta. (If mixing a can of tuna fish into tomato sauce sounds strange to you, trust me, it is really delicious. This a cheap version of a classic Sicilian dish. If you add a jar of capers it would be truly authentic. This is such an easy, refrigerator free meal we often make this dish on camping trips.
Monday: Chicken tenders with curry sauce, roasted potatoes, and green beans.
Tuesday: White beans, spinach, tons of garlic sautéed together over polenta.
Wednesday: Stir fry veggies, shrimp, soy sauce, garlic and ginger over brown rice.
Thursday: Veggie burgers, salad, pickles.
Friday: Chicken noodle soup with onions, carrots, celery. (Freeze some of this for another dinner)
Saturday: Frittata with leftover vegetables and cheese served with rustic bread.
- The Scent of a Meal: A Simple Guide to Flavorful Cooking (simplelivingdianebalch.blogspot.com)
- Menu Planning Simplified (simplelivingdianebalch.blogspot.com)
- Kitchen Basics: What you need in the kitchen...no uni-taskers! (simplelivingdianebalch.blogspot.com)
- Meat Lasagna: You're Born, You Die...You Get a Lasagna! (simplelivingdianebalch.blogspot.com)
Friday, January 20, 2012
|Breaded Shrimp Escarole & Beans copyright 2012|
Do you still have the leftover escarole from last week’s egg drop soup? Well, if you do I had originally said to sauté it with some white beans and put it over pasta.This is still an option. Though I was fishing around in my freezer and noticed a bag of shrimp. So, I decided to use the escarole for a shrimp dish. Shrimp is a great fish to keep frozen. It doesn’t taste mealy like some fish can when you thaw it out. Also, it is very versatile; shrimp can be added to rice and pasta dishes. You can make salad with it, and of course, it makes a great appetizer.
Breaded Shrimp with Escarole and White Beans
by Diane Balch
by Diane Balch
25 minutes serves 4
6 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 Italian bread crumbs can use Aleia's gluten-free bread crumbs
1 tbs dried rosemary or oregano
1 pound medium peeled and deveined shrimp (thaw if frozen)
dash or more cayenne pepper
3 cloves garlic minced
1 19 ounce can of Cannellini beans (or any white bean)
1/2 - full head of escarole, chopped
Optional: splash of white wine
- Heat oven to 400 F.
- Mix 3 Tlbs. of olive oil with bread crumbs, rosemary, and cayenne.
- Add shrimp to bread crumb mixture.
- Spread out shrimp mixture in large baking dish.
- Bake shrimp for 10 minutes or until bread crumbs start to brown and shrimp becomes opaque.
- While shrimp is cooking heat 3 Tlbs. of olive oil with garlic in a medium skillet. Do not brown garlic. Add escarole, salt and pepper.
- When escarole wilts add cannellini beans and water directly from the can.
- (Optional: add splash of white wine) bring to a boil and remove from heat.
- Serve with shrimp on top of escarole/beans.
- Serve with any grain or potatoes. (brown rice is my favorite, along with a side salad of tomatoes with red onions)
This recipe is part of a new "Foodie Friday" link with Adelina from the blog Home Maid Simple . Click on and check out the other recipes listed below. Feel free to add a recipe. Enjoy!
Thursday, January 19, 2012
|Daily Routine copyright 2012|
We tend to lay out our house to look nice, not to flow with our daily rituals. Often we decorate our house as we go a long without forethought. Oh, I bought this item today. “It looks nice here.” or, “I don't really have a space for it, I'll just put it hear for now.” And that is where IT ends up staying because we never find the time to move IT.
This weekend I want you to step back from your work day routine and really look at what you do when you get up in the morning, come home from work, cook dinner, get ready for the next day, and prepare for sleep. Be as objective as you can, follow your path through your house, and really think about the flow and placement of the objects in your home.
Is this item in a convent spot for what I do with it? Do I waste time every morning looking for my hairbrush or make-up? When I make coffee in the morning are all the items I use stored together? Are my coffee mugs on the opposite side of the counter that I keep my coffee pot?
Move your things together, so that they are grouped by activity. The bottom line is: you will only put things away when the place you have designated for them is easy and conveniently located within your normal activity flow.
Morning Routine: Group all morning grooming products as closely together as possible in a medicine cabinet or closet. I have labels on baskets that say: hair drying stuff, make-up, medicine, back stock (extra toothbrushes, soap, etc.)
As I get ready in the morning. I pull out a basket, use the items, and then throw them back in to the basket. No one sees the mess, when you open the closet. You see a neat line of organized and labeled baskets. Occasionally, when I find that it is taking too long to find something, I sort through the items in the basket.
I discard anything I haven't used in a while, (donate unused items), and then I neatly put everything back in to the basket. The neatness lasts for a little while, usually until I am running late one morning. Hey it’s OK, the basket which is the foundation of the organization is still there. The items may not stay neatly together, but they are still together by catagory. The physical basket itself maintains a neat facade. A neat appearance is always nice to have, and I find it calming too.
Home from Work/School Routine: When you pull into your driveway, arriving home from your day at work do you stop and get the mail or do you leave it in the box until you see it seeping out, and then go empty it? When you enter your house, do you throw your coat on a chair, lay your pocketbook, briefcase and keys wherever they land? Do you check if the phone has any messages? Do your kids come in the door and plop their backpacks and jackets on the floor?
Well, if you don't have a designated place to hang all the items just mentioned; walking into your house each day is creating a disorganized mess. You will either have to deal with the mess later in the day when you should be relaxing; or you will push it aside each day until you can't walk through your hallways anymore, and then you will have to spend a day of your weekend cleaning instead of doing something fun.
Establish homes for every item. If you don't have a closet to hang coats, put up some hooks enough for: backpacks, pocketbooks and briefcases. Place a basket on the table by the door and throw the mail and your keys in it as you walk into the house.
A solid, consist routine will keep your home organized. The hard part is the initial discipline needed to train yourself and your family to follow the routine. You may have to spend a week standing guard at your door and directing everyone into the routine. Pointing your finger saying, “ Coats over here, bags there.”
A coming home routine can look something like this: pull into driveway, get mail, walk in door, hang coat, put purse and briefcase on a hook. Deposit keys and mail into the basket by the door. Kids enter and hang up coats and backpacks on hooks. (OK, this one may be a fantasy.) They sit down for a snack, while you check their backpacks, immediately reading, discussing and discarding notes each day at the same time.
Next, look through your mail daily. All bills to be paid are place directly into a basket designated for bills. When you sit down to pay them they are all together. No hunting on countertops and no late fees for lost bills. I put all junk mail right into my recycling bin, so it doesn't accumulate on my counters.
Prepare for the next day during this transition time. Insert any notes, etc., into backpacks, pack lunches, write your "to do list" for tomorrow. Now you are ready to prepare dinner. Refer to the menu plan that you made at the beginning of the week. Because you went grocery shopping for an entire week's worth of dinners, you can switch and choose whatever meal you feel like preparing for that night. It doesn't matter which one you choose, because you have the ingredients on hand for all of your dinners. Though do keep in mind to use the most perishable items first.
After dinner you want to establish a set routine for clean up. Who does the dishes? Who wipes down the table? If your kids are younger, now is a good time to get them ready for bed. Again, establish a routine. Clothes go in this hamper, floss before you brush, etc. The same routine, in the same order every day. Sounds BORING, IT IS! But, it is also FREEING. Kids crave consistency and routine, it makes them feel secure knowing what is expect of them, and what will happen next in their day.
If you tackle each task as it presents itself in the day, things "to do" will not build up. You end up having free time to relax and enjoy, your quiet time or family time. If you don't pick up the mail when you drive past the mailbox, and you don't check backpacks and prep for your next day when you have those items in your hand, you are going to have to backtrack. Backtracking wastes time. Precious time to enjoy with family and friends and precious time to sleep.
Bedtime Routine: On the topic of sleep, did you know that a 100 years ago people sleep 8-9 ½ hours a night. What has changed? We work longer, we have our kids involved in more activities, our homes are a blaze with bright lights, TV's, and computers are on all evening long. How can your body relax enough to sleep with this much stimulation?
Sleep, unless you are ultra-exhausted does not happen instantaneously. You have to spend up to an hour doing relaxing activities to transition into sleep. The word transition is key. Transition requires time, and because we over fill our schedules and are unorganized, we don't allow for the time in ours and our children's schedule for relaxation.
You can be physically in need of sleep, but you will not fall asleep until your mind is also relaxed. So, how do you get a good night's sleep? Establish a bedtime routine that you begin at the same time each night. This routine needs to start a least an hour before you want to fall asleep. Read a book, watch the news, take a bath, talk on the phone with friends, have a conversation with your spouse or kids.
If you wrote down your “to do list” for the next day earlier, and took care of all the sorting and cleaning that needed to be done when you arrived home, you shouldn't have anything preoccupying your mind. Preoccupations can cause anxiety that will prevent or disturb sleep. If you think of something else you need "to do" tomorrow, don't fret about it, just add it to your list. A “to do list” can be very calming. It presents you with a structure for your next day and insures that you will not forget to do something important.
To signal to your mind and body that is time to get ready for sleep dim the lights. Some people's bodies are more light sensitive and need to be exposed to less and less artificial light as their bedtime approaches or their bodies will not release the hormones needed to induce sleepiness. Computers, because of how close you sit to the monitor, can be too stimulating to use before bedtime. Also, avoid caffeine after, whatever time in the afternoon that you find it will affect your sleep. You might need to cut off caffeine after 12pm or you might not need to cut it off until 3pm. You should ask yourself on nights you have trouble falling or stay asleep: how much, and at what times did I have caffeine?
How do you know if you had enough sleep? When you wake up before your alarm rings and you are refreshed. Keep moving back your bedtime 15 minutes a night until you wake up naturally at the time you need to rise.
Life truly is simpler when you establish routines. You do need to slow down for a moment and step back from your life, and really look at the workings of your day to decide which routines work and which ones do not. With a little tweaking and a lot of determination things can run more smoothly in your life and you can have time to socialize and relax.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
|space heater tornado copyright 2012|
Keep your home heat down low. Use a space heater in the one room you spend most of your day. I use a Vornado air circulating unit. You can set the temperature of the room and because the air is circulated the entire room, not just near the heater, stays warm.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
There are a lot of organizing books on the market that I find quiet intimidating to an unorganized person. These encyclopedic volumes filled with pictures of perfectly color coordinated items, professionally folded, and placed on sparsely filled shelfs may be realistic if you are Martha Stewart, but the rest of us will never have that much space, no matter how much we par down our belonging. I think many of these books, as beautiful as they are to look at, make the task of getting your things together more daunting because the of implied level of perfection these books project.
I have told friends over and over again, that I really am a very scattered person who has just created routines that keep my deep seated desire, to just throw everything up in the air, at bay. Once in a while the mess monster does escape, and it is OK. Being in control all the time is too stressful, I think it might actually inhibit creativity, or at least stifle spontaneity. Being basically organized, most of the time relieves stress. So relax, the goal of this blog isn't to have your house look like the cover of House Beautiful. The goal is to devise systems in your home that keep your daily life's routines flowing with out wasting time. My next post “Analyzing your Daily Routine” gets you thinking about how to set up your house so it works well, it may not look “perfect” but you will be more comfortable living in it.
Friday, January 13, 2012
It wasn’t hard for me to decide on what recipe to share with you today. Myself and my whole family have been sick. My son has been home for a week with the flu and pneumonia, unable to eat anything but soup. So,soup it is... I love making soup for someone sick. I think it is one of the most nurturing, healing dishes you can make, and it is simple.
I would like to share with you a very special soup, one my Italian nonna made every Easter: “Egg Drop Soup with Meatballs” It is a very East meets West kinda of concoction. I remember when I was 16 I went to my first Chinese restaurant with a friend who is Jewish. He asked if I wanted to see what “the heathens” do on Sunday. It sounded like something I might have to confess in church the following week, but I went with him anyway. Of course, the menu was truly foreign to me, except: Egg Drop Soup. I said, “Oh, my grandma makes this, but with meatballs.” I got a few “Oh, isn’t that strange” nods from my friend’s parents... as they suggested I start with Lo Mein since it was like spaghetti.
The following is my adaptation of my grandmother’s soup, because, of course, she didn’t cook with a recipe, so no one knows how she actually made the soup.
Nonna Marietta’s Egg Drop Soup with Little Meatballs
by Diane Balch
by Diane Balch
Serves: 6 Prep time: 20 minutes
2 32 oz containers of chicken broth
1 pound ground turkey or beef
2 tsp of Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp olive oil
2 big shakes of Emeril’s Original Essence or another Italian Seasoning Blend
1 dash cayenne
1 dash nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste.
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup tubettini or other tiny pasta (quinoa can be used as a gluten-free substitute)
1/4 head of escarole chopped, or 1/4 10oz package of frozen chopped spinach
1/2 cup of grated parmesan (for garnish)
* optional lemon zest for garnish
* optional lemon zest for garnish
- Bring chicken broth to a boil in a large sauce pot.
- While the broth is coming to a boil. Roll the ground meat into 1 inch diameter tiny meat balls. (This is the fun part, especially if you have little kids to help.)
- Add meatballs, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce and spices to the boiling broth, lower the heat and let everything simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Separate the eggs. Beat the yolks.
- As you stir the soup with a whisk, slowly add the yolks.
- Next add the escarole or spinach. (You may want to add more than 1/4)
- Add the pasta. Then bring the soup back up to a boil for 2 minutes.
- It would be best to let the soup sit for at least 30 minutes or longer to let the flavors blend. If you don’t have the time to let the soup sit, boil it for the cooking time recommended for the type of pasta you are using.
- Garnish each bowl of soup with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.
NOTE: Use the leftover escarole in a pasta dish. Chop it up and sauté it about 5 Tlbs. of extra virgin oil with about 3 cloves of garlic. Add some cannelloni beans (any white bean), salt and pepper. Cook some medium size pasta, like penne, and add it to this mixture. Top with parmesan cheese.
soup Italian beef meatballs
soup Italian beef meatballs