Thursday, January 29, 2015

CHICKEN SOUP

CHICKEN SOUP: The dish that warms the body, warms the soul, cures hangovers, clears sinus and chest congestion, and gives more energy than a cuppa joe. 


Here’s my quick and easy recipe for Chicken Soup:


Start with fresh chicken. I use chicken thighs as I find them to be the most flavorful and I always remove the skin. Boil chicken pieces in a stock pot or Dutch oven, whichever one you’re using, until cooked.  

Chop an onion and a couple of peppers, one red and one green, and throw that in the pot. These have antioxidant qualities and are considered superfoods because of their high nutrient content. Peppers are a good source of Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Potassium and Manganese, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin B6, and Folate.

Next, throw in whatever frozen vegetables you have on hand. I usually throw in those that are starting to get freezer burn: corn, peas and carrots, and cauliflower and broccoli. You decide what and how much to put in. Peas are very good for any kind of soup or stew as they have been proven to help lower the risk of stomach cancer and are also a good source of omega 3. They have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well.

Add herbs: parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme (just like that old Simon and Garfunkel song), and pepper to taste. The health benefits of herbs have been known for decades, centuries, even. Parsley is now being used in cancer research, sage is used to treat digestive problems and mental disorders such as depression and Alzheimer's, aromatic rosemary boosts brain power, and thyme is a powerful antioxidant and contains Vitamins A and C, iron, and fiber. Google these herbs to find more information on their health benefits.

Add two packages of chicken noodle soup—I use Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup. Stir, mixing up all those wonderful ingredients, and let the soup boil for another 15-20 minutes, and voila! savory, colorful, delicious homemade chicken soup.

The thing about Chicken Soup is that you really can’t go wrong. You can use fresh, frozen, or leftover vegetables, herbs, and any type of carb: potatoes, rice, and/or noodles. Of course, the key ingredient for chicken soup is the chicken, any cut will do. 

If you use hardy vegetables like turnip, carrots, or cabbage, you boil those first, then, when that’s just about done, add the softer vegetables like peppers and onions. 

Always put frozen vegetables in during the last 15-20 minutes of boiling time, unless you want these to turn to mush, as well as the packaged chicken noodle soup, rice, pasta, or chopped potato. I do not use rice, pasta, or potato as these are too high in carbohydrates and it will make you logy after you eat. 

Flavored croutons are way better than crackers or bread as they add texture and it is pleasing to the eye. Once I ladle some soup in my favorite bowl I toss some butter flavored croutons over it … mmm mmm good. 










Friday, January 23, 2015

FED UP! THE MOVIE










I just finished watching the movie FED UP! and I am so disappointed. It was about the same old issues: government cover-ups, misleading manufacturing labeling intended to blindside Americans, and the constant bombardment of subliminal commercials that make you want to order a deluxe pizza in the middle of the night when you are not even close to being hungry. 

I guess Katie Couric’s heart was in the right place with regard to trying to educate people about greedy corporations, bogus health studies, and mass marketing, but it sounded like she was placing blame rather than informing viewers of the issues. Place the blame on whomever you please, but the choice still belongs to the consumer.

What I got out of the film is this: greedy corporations dictate what Americans eat—Americans have no control over what they eat and they have no other choice but to eat processed food. 

For example: one case study was of a girl who was quite down and depressed because of her weight. It went on to show the menu in the cafeteria where she attended school. Apparently, there were no healthy options but cheeseburgers, pizza, nachos, etcetera. What I did not understand was this:  she wanted to lose weight, but there was nothing close to resembling fruits and vegetables or anything healthy at school, and she knew what she was eating was contributing to her weight gain, yet she continued to eat from the cafeteria rather than packing a healthy lunch at home to bring to school. She made the choice to eat the bad foods rather than packing a decent lunch. At one point it showed her eating Nutella. I remember the law suit back in 2012 where a California woman sued Nutella because of its false health claims. The poor girl’s mother, who was also obese, thought that cereal was a food. 

There was a cafeteria worker that stated there was a healthy choice on the menu, and only 25/350 students chose it. She said that they would rather eat pizza, nachos, and cookies. “We cannot choose for them.” she said. 

Another case study followed a boy who was obese, wanted to lose weight, but ate foods that packed on the weight. Then, he was educated on healthy foods, lost weight, but gained it all back down the road. 

There was one mother who was just watching her child wolf down a full bag of chips. In most families the mother does the grocery shopping, so she bought the chips knowing that he would eat a full bag, contributing to his obesity and obesity-related diseases that he would develop later on as a result. When she asked him what he had for lunch he told her hamburger, fries, milk and juice. Perhaps she should have taken away those chips, or, at the very least, given him the actual serving size.

Another boy, knew he was eating fattening foods, wanted to stop, but could not because those foods that made him fat were all around him. His parents bought the processed, sugary, fattening foods that contributed to his obesity.

One mother said that it was cheaper to buy processed foods. Let’s see, $9.99 for a whole chicken to feed four, $1.99 for a head of lettuce, $2.99 for a few sweet potatoes, and $2.79 for a loaf of whole grain bread—that’s $17.76. Anywhere you go these days to get take-out you are going to pay between $10 to $12 dollars for a meal per person, so it’s not cheaper, it’s just more convenient—you do not have to do the work to get it on the table and you do not have dishes to clean up afterwards.

Another mother said that being big is being beautiful. And her husband went on to say that he had no control over what his son ate. Both were obese.

The parent speakers on the show were not overly concerned about the weight of their children. Nor were they concerned about the diseases related to their obesity because they themselves were obese.

One mother took her son to the doctor claiming that he was better when in fact he had gained more weight and showed adult signs of metabolic syndrome. 

There were speakers stating that processed food is plain poison and it leads to liver disease, heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, and cancer. They talked about sugar and how it is more addictive that cocaine. 

This movie reiterated everything that we already know about processed food. It is junk, leads to disease, and will eventually kill you. Tell us something we don’t know. 

What was really interesting in this movie was a quick shot of one lady saying that healthy eating starts at home with the parents—my feeling exactly. The film was quick to blame manufacturers for the problem of obesity, but no part of the film points the finger at the parents. Children need to be educated and taught to live a healthy life, but in this film, it’s the parents who need educating. And parents are adults and adults are not likely to change. Personally, I think that’s a big part of it. You cannot expect a child to eat healthy if the parents do not.

What is even more amusing is that at the end of the film, they begin to blame environmental causes for obesity. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

DELISSIO RISING CRUST VS. MCCAIN RISING CRUST




Last week I was a little short on grocery money, so instead of buying the usual frozen Delissio Rising Crust Pizza from Southgate No Frills—it wasn’t on sale that week—I picked up a couple of McCain Rising Crust Pizzas instead, and by doing that I had enough to buy everything that was on my list. I went home and quickly put the groceries away before someone saw what I had purchased. 

A few days later I was picking my son up from school. He got into the car and asked, “Mom, can I have a frozen pizza as soon as we get home? School was rough today, I’m starving.”

“Sure,” I said, driving out of the kiss-and-ride. 

When we got home he went to his room to change and I went to the freezer to get the pizza. I quickly tore open the box and tossed the pizza into the oven, then tore up the cardboard box and threw it in the garbage. The directions indicated 20-22 minutes, so at 20 minutes I checked to see if it was done. The cheese didn’t seem to be quite done and the pizza wasn’t rising as much as I thought it would, so I let it bake another 5 minutes. 

Those extra 5 minutes didn’t make much of a difference. The cheese seemed right, but the dough wasn’t quite as high as it should have been. I knew my son would notice, but I hoped he wouldn’t. I cut it up and brought it to him. “Where do you want it? Here on the desk?”

“Yah, thanks, mom,” he got up from his bed and his TV show and kissed me on the cheek. “I love you.” 

Well let’s see how much you love me after you try this pizza, I thought to myself. “I love you, too, son.”  I placed the pizza on the desk and left the room.

A few minutes later he yelled out to me, “Mom, can you come here, please.”

I chuckled—I knew the jig was up. I went to the room to see what he wanted. 

He was sitting at the desk with a half-eaten piece of the pizza in his hand. “There’s something wrong with this pizza, it’s too doughy. And the cheese is funny.” He held it up for me to see.

“What do you mean, the cheese is funny?” I held back my urge to die laughing as best I could while examining the pizza. 

“It’s just not right, and there’s not enough on here.” He looked up at me with a puzzled look on his face. He knew something wasn’t right, but wasn’t quite sure of himself.

“Oh, you’re being silly, there’s nothing wrong with that pizza, finish that piece and I’ll get dinner started.” I walked back out and went to the kitchen and giggled. 

He came out a few minutes later with 2 out of 3 pieces eaten, “Sorry, Ma, but I can’t eat anymore.”

“It’s okay, have some juice. Dinner will be done in another hour or so.”  

He got some juice and went back to his room to do his homework and watch his shows. 

I opened the garbage and threw the leftovers out, feeling bad about having to fool him like that.

A few days later, Saturday, I decided to bake the other pizza—pepperoni. This time I baked it 30 minutes. I took it out of the oven and the pepperoni and cheese didn’t look right. My son was correct—the cheese did look “funny” and the pepperoni was unusually greasy. It did not look appetizing at all. I dished up a piece for my husband and myself and we sat down to eat. It was awful—doughy, greasy, and bland. We threw it in the garbage and had tossed salads instead. 

“I can’t believe you gave that to our son,” my husband teased. 

“I know, what a sin, I feel so bad right now.” 

“Well, it just goes to show you that saving 2 bucks on a frozen pizza is not smart, especially when it goes in the garbage.”  He laughed at my attempt to be frugal.

A week later, when I was once again baking frozen pizza—yes, it was Delissio—I told my son the truth. Oh, boy, did I get it! 

“I knew it, I knew it wasn’t Delissio, I knew it! Trying to fool, me, huh? You can’t fool me, Ma, you can’t fool me! Trying to give me cheap pizza—what the heck!” 

He went on teasing me about being cheap, and we laughed. I guess there are just some things you can’t be cheap with, and frozen pizza is one of them. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

JESSIE TEMPLAR - JESSIE'S CHRISTMAS



Jessie Templar strolled down the street oohing and ahhing at the beautiful Christmas displays on the front lawns. Almost every house and front yard had bright multi-colored strands of lights turned on. She thought, someone should organize a Christmas lights and display contest, then her thoughts went to Snoopy in A Charlie Brown Christmas and she chuckled remembering Charlie Brown’s reaction to the contest, “My own dog gone commercial, I can’t stand it.”

It was a beautiful evening, crisp and refreshing with light snow falling. Homes were warm and inviting with dining room lights on as families sat down to dinner. It was something out of a Thomas Kinkade painting. Then again, to Jessie everything in winter was like a Thomas Kinkade painting, she just loved winter time and all the great things that went with it: evening walks in the snow, skating at Gage Park, sledding at Chinguacousy snow hill, and most of all, Christmas. 

Christmas was going to be a little lonely this year since her brother Phil had gone back home. She lived alone and didn’t have many friends. She went out occasionally with the girls from work, but other than that she spent her free time staying fit and running errands.

She walked on looking up at the snow falling and thought about her brother and the incident at Churchville Village almost two months ago.  She had gone to that park several times after Phil left, but when Daylight Savings Time ended she kept closer to home. 

She passed the church and the school and kept walking until she came to the path that circled back to the apartment building. She stopped and hesitated, one of the lamppost lights had blown, but this was her usual route so she went on.  Except for the light hum of the traffic, it was peacefully quiet, and if you really listened you could actually hear the falling snow. When she got further up the trail she heard the noise of flowing water and it broke her meditation. 

Nearing the end of the trail along the shallow creek she saw two men coming out of the brush. She stopped, took a few steps back, and waited. One of the men started running toward a parked car along the street, got in, and drove away. The other man was walking fast up the trail, and was soon out of sight. She continued on until she came to the spot where the men came out of the woods. For a second she thought she heard something, but that was probably her jittered nerves. Being the curious person that she was, she couldn’t help herself and followed the footprints into the woods. She got to the creek and saw nothing, but then she heard a sound coming from down the creek. She could make out a square shape slowly drifting in the water. She ran to it, forgetting about the newly purchased Uggs on her feet, and grabbed it. At first, she was a bit reluctant to open the box, but when she did, she gasped, quickly closed it, picked it up, and headed back home, her boots sloshing in the snow.

“Emergency, I have an emergency.” Jessie began banging the bell and an assistant came running to see what the fuss was about. 

“I found this box by the creek at Crawley Park. I saw two men coming out of the woods so I waited until they were gone and went to see.” 

The assistant looked at her as if she were crazy to do such a thing then took the box and placed it on the counter. When she opened it and saw, she quickly went to the back and called the doctor. 

As Jessie was about to sit down, four other staff members came out to see. No one could believe it. They took the box to the back and one of the assistants stayed with her to ask questions and obtain her personal information. Jessie knew very little and when they were done, the assistant thanked her and sent her home. That night, Jessie had very little sleep; the image of those little creatures in that box haunted her dreams. 

A week later Jessie returned to the doctor’s office to get some information on what she had found. As she walked into the place the same assistant was behind the desk on the phone. She put her finger up to Jessie in a wait-a-minute motion. When she hung up, she smiled at Jessie and said, “I’m so glad to see you. I was just about to call you. An Animal Enforcement Officer is out back looking at what you found and he needed to contact you.”

“Oh, that’s great. But I’ve already told you all I know. I just came by to see if they survived.” Jessie followed the assistant down the hallway to a small room where the Officer had been waiting behind a desk. 

“When you’re done here I’ll take you to them,” she said and walked away.

Jessie nodded. She went in and sat down. She answered all of the Officer’s questions and signed the statement. They were trying to find the men responsible, but without a description, it was going to be difficult. All Jessie saw were two black figures coming out of the woods. The Officer thanked her then got up and left the room. 

A short time later the assistant came back and took Jessie to another room.  There were many kennels with one tiny animal in each. The assistant stopped. On a table, inside a clean, soft, bowl-shaped bed, were the six kittens Jessie had brought in. They were sleeping peacefully, tangled together for warmth and comfort.

Jessie smiled. “They all made it.”

“Yup, thanks to you,” the vet said from behind Jessie. “If you hadn’t found them and brought them in, they would have frozen in less than an hour. They weren't even cleaned. They were barely minutes old when you brought them in."

Jessie turned to face the vet. “I still can’t believe anyone would do such a thing.” 

“Yes, I know the feeling. I’ve been working here for the last ten years and I have never seen anything like this before,” she said coming up to take a closer look at them. “You were in the right place at the right time.”

“Yah, and I almost didn’t go into the woods, but I had this funny feeling something was wrong. You know what I mean?”

The vet put a hand on Jessie’s shoulder, “When they’re old enough you should take one home. They’re all spoken for except for one. Think of it as a Christmas gift. My partners and I are taking care of the vaccinations and what-not. All you need to do is give it food, water, and love. What do you say?”

Jessie thought about it. “Well, yah, okay, I’ll take the last one, which one is it and it better be female because I don’t care for male cats,” she said, laughing.

“You’re in luck, it’s this little Calico one,” the vet said, pointing to the kitten. “And it’s female.”

Jessie picked at the little critter until it moved and saw that its eyes hadn’t fully opened. “How are you feeding them?”

“With very tiny bottles,” the vet replied, giving Jessie the phone number for reception. “They will be four weeks by New Year’s Eve. If you have someone who can care for her while you’re at work, you can take her then, but otherwise she shouldn’t be left home alone at that young age.”

Jessie nodded.

The vet smiled and left the room.

Jessie touched the puffs of softness and then realized that she wasn’t going to be so lonely for Christmas after all.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

RAPTORS VS. CELTICS - AIR CANADA CENTRE



When I purchased online basketball tickets for last night’s game back in November for a Christmas gift for my husband, I had no idea that going to a basketball game was going to be so exiting. It was my first time attending a game and my first time at the Air Canada Centre and I have to say, it was an awesome night.

It was the complete opposite of what I’ve seen on TV. For instance, the Air Canada Centre itself was small, as well as the court, and the players didn’t seem like giants. Instead of commercials I saw the Raptor’s mascot doing dances, playing tricks, and keeping the audience thoroughly entertained. Enthusiastic and energetic cheerleaders danced choreographed cheers, handed out noise makers, and got the crowd roaring by giving out free Raptors t-shirts. Other dancers amused the audience, and at half-time there was a dog show! Vendors were selling snacks and beverages; you really didn’t have to leave your seat, unless you needed to “go.” We had good seats and saw 99% of the action; people tend to get excited and stand up in front of you, but that’s okay because you can see everything that’s happening on the court on the big screen above. Also, actress Susan Sarandon sat across the court from where we were sitting.

The game itself was thrilling. The Raptors were a little slow getting their game on in the first quarter, but gained the lead by half-time and accelerated by the third quarter. They kept it up winning the game with a score of 109 points with 96 points for the Celtics. All the players were quick and lively. There were a few fouls and a few time outs, during which 6-8 security guards secured the court; I mean they literally stood at attention.  I never saw so many security guards, which stands to reason that I don’t get out much.  The thing that was the most amazing to me was the three point shot. For a player to get that ball and quickly shoot it twenty-one feet to that basket is astounding! According to my husband not a lot of players can do that. If I had seen that on TV I would have thought nothing about it, but seeing it for real made me appreciate the talent and skill that’s involved. Seeing the Raptors play at the Air Canada Centre gave me a whole new appreciation for the sport.

My son was enthralled by the game, oohing and ahhing at every attempted shot at the basket, but what he liked most were the snacks.  He loved the popcorn and the nachos and cheese were delectable. Yes, snacks were a bit costly, but if you’re going to dish out money for the tickets then you may as well dish out the money for the snacks, after all, it is a night out with the family.

So, for anyone who hasn’t seen the Raptors or any other basketball game this year, I highly recommend that you see one soon. It’s a great time for the whole family, for the young and young at heart.



Christmas 2008

Friday, January 9, 2015

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

HAPPY NEW YEAR to all! Thank you to all the people who have read the contents of my blog, to the people who followed through emails and Google+, and to the people who have posted comments; it is greatly appreciated. 

When I first thought about starting a blog I couldn’t decide what it was going to be about. I had a few stories on my computer and a file box filled with bits and pieces of things that I had written over the years. I tried to organize the stuff in the file box but that proved to be tedious work, so I just started entering everything into my computer and hoped for the best. When everything was entered I started looking around the house for more subjects to write about. I had recipes in the junk drawer, poems on the bookshelf, and pictures scattered around the house. I entered the poems into the computer as they were, but had to write something to go with the pictures, and for the recipes, well, I had to try them and mark exact measurements and ingredients before entering those, which was okay because I love to cook and bake. When I felt ready to start my blog, I noticed that I had quite a collection of different things in the documents folder to post. I also noticed that the length of the majority of pieces was short and that’s when I came up with the name and description for my blog: 1000 words er less. A collection of short stories, articles, and poems intended to entertain, inform, and consider. 

And this works for me since I don’t specialize in any one subject—I know a little about a lot—and I have many interests. And, at my age, I have a lot of life experience: the good, the bad, the never-ending. 


Over the course of 2014 there is one thing that I have come to know: blogging is hard. There is so much information on so many things and I got caught up in that, trying to put my own spin on the subjects I chose to write about and copying bits of works I wanted to share, all the while trying to figure out copyright laws. For a while I had information overload and just became confused and frustrated.  But I kept at it and kept posting and people started reading. 


This year I hope to become more creative in my writing as I continue to hone my craft.  My teacher has said that my writing was easy to read, which is what most editors like, and my friend taught me how not to use so many “ands.” Her constructive criticism and encouragement kept me writing. (After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.) So, I hope that you will continue to read my stories and such and continue to post comments on what you read. For now, please keep following me on my blog until you turn the crisp cream-colored pages of my first book.


P.S.  Hugs and kisses go to my husband and son for their patience and understanding when the laundry gets neglected and there aren't any towels to dry off with, when there's no real food in the fridge to eat, and when the pet hair rolls around on the floor like tumbleweeds in the desert.