Cooking Club Chronicles Update (With a Bonus Double Duty Recipe Twist): Part Two

After all my talk about how our last cooking club failed because there were people who just weren’t committed, I was the jamtart at the last meeting. It was at my house and the last few weeks I have been in what I call crisis mode, when I’m so busy that I can just think about the next hour or so. I use detailed lists for my every move to make sure I get some regular tasks done in between dealing with the real crises at work. Sometimes when I really need some relief I begin my lists with “write list” as my number one task, so I have something I can cross off immediately as done. It provides some “Toad” perspective and helps me to me slow down and smile.

Anyway, crisis mode does make the work week fly by, but also tends to result in a house I’d be ashamed to let people in. Which reminds me of a true story. A good friend of mine came home one day to find her door kicked in. After checking the house, a police officer came out and told her that it was safe to enter, but unfortunately the crook had ransacked the place. He was very kind and sympathetic as they went in to the house together so she could tell him what had been stolen, and she was horrified to see that things looked just the same as they had when had left it that morning. In fact, since the thief had taken her husband’s electronics and games which had been strewn around the living room, it was marginally cleaner! When my house gets to the state it was in last week, I think of how humiliating it would be to have to admit to the police that it is not the result of a crime.

So that’s my excuse for why, instead of prepping for cooking club, I did a really good houseclean. It was a nice foodsafe kitchen we worked in, but my recipe choices were a little last minute and based on what I actually had on hand. Even so, they turned out to be pretty darned good, and when I combined Marg’s recipe with one of mine I got the bonus of another “double duty” recipe set.

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Cooking Club Chronicles Update (With a Bonus Double Duty Recipe Twist): Part One

I’ve had an unfortunate week (some time later I may post about it) so I have not put anything out for a while. I’ll remedy that now, beginning with a cooking club update.

Cooking with flax was the Cooking Club mission last weekend and we accomplished it despite some glitches. Due to inconvenient things (like work, and rainy weather) we had a hard time meshing schedules and we did not get our run in before the meeting. But we did get some serious cooking done and we have the recipes to prove it. See, here is Sarah attempting an extremely serious look, as Marg tries to “help” by adding random spices. (Just kidding, she really was helping).

Today I will cover Marg’s recipe for a lentil flaxseed loaf, and also throw in a quick vegan gravy recipe. In part two I will share my flax crackers and walnut-flax hummus, and tell you about the double-duty twist. And in the final part, I’ll share Sarah’s Perfect Veggie Burger recipe.

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Double-Duty Dinners: Chili/Wraps

Some weeks I know in advance there won’t be a minute to spare, so I like to play a game by giving myself points for planning super easy dinners that can be eaten over a few days. Bonus points if I don’t have any pans to wash, and more bonus points if I can get a lunch or two out of them. Oh yeah, points are lost for exact repeats, and points are doubled if the family wants seconds on the second day. Today I will share with you one of my highscore DDD recipe sets.

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What I Miss About Meat (And What I Do About It)

The other day I encountered an unexpected pleasure that made me think about some of the inconveniences of eating a meat-free diet. I am an itinerant counsellor for a school district, and school staffs often arrange potluck lunch days for their celebrations. If I happen to be in their school on one of those days, I am usually kindly asked to join them for lunch. However, typically most of the dishes are meat-based so they are out for me.

But the other day a school’s staff asked me to join them for their potluck salad and dessert bar lunch! Although I love my FITR salads, it can sometimes be hard to sit among all the great smells and sights of staff potlucks and eat a cold salad. It was such a treat to see all the delicious fruits and veggies made into colourful dishes, and I even found a source for a new mouthwatering quinoa salad recipe (thanks Cindi!). In retrospect, I realized it was the first time that I felt really “part of” the staff celebrations, and that led me to think of some of the other things I miss about eating meat.

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Thanksgiving- Vegan Brussels Sprouts and Bacon in Horseradish Cream

Here in Canada it is Thanksgiving long weekend. For the last few years we have gone to the house of one of my sisters for Thanksgiving and wrestled with the “vegan problem”. Over half of our family is now vegetarian or vegan- mostly the women- and yet we tend to be the ones who end up cooking the feasts, including turkey. Last year the hostess (a vegan) bowed to long-standing family traditions and cooked a free-range cruelty-free turkey for the carnivores but also adopted a turkey (“Velma”) from Farm Sanctuary (farmsanctuary.org-check them out for some smiles, some tears, and great gift ideas too).

This year we had an added complication- since Thanksgiving is freakishly early this year, it also fell on the same weekend as the Victoria Marathon and 8K, which several of us entered. Because the run begins so early in the morning, we booked hotel rooms and went to Victoria on Saturday, to run on Sunday. None of us wanted to then go home after the run and begin preparing a Thanksgiving meal for our last day off. So, we completely broke with tradition (or perhaps started a new tradition?) and instead had a Thanksgiving vegan buffet brunch today. My sister also adopted a second turkey (“Antoinette”) from Farm Sanctuary and both of their portraits sat up at the buffet table. It was done with a sense of humour and we had many laughs as we talked about the weekend’s activities, gave thanks, and ate lots of delicious food.

I have a big family with lots of siblings, so you’ll hear about them a lot. In the last few years some of us have close calls with various health issues, but we’ve been lucky enough to not lose anyone other than our parents. And, due to lifestyle changes, we hope that we will all be around a long time more. Remember the sister I just wrote about, who quit smoking last New Year? Well, she also joined us for the first time in the Victoria 8K race. Each year that we do these various runs, we drag in more and more family to join us, and as the group gets bigger, I believe that it is strengthening our family bond as well as improving our health. At brunch today, she shared a Thanksgiving poem she composed on the way home from yesterday’s run. I thought it was funny and nice and captured so well the new hope in my family, so I asked her if I could share it with my readers. Here it is:

Well, first of all I’m thankful that we’re all alive today,
Though some of us are creaking now, and turning slightly grey.
Now, to hang out with my fam’ly there’s a price I’ve had to pay,
At first I thought, “Oh I can walk for five or seven K”.
But I can see the writing on the wall as clear as day,
I know you’re gonna make me run a marathon one day!
So thank you very much for that. That’s all I’ve got to say!

And all I have to say is- it sounds to me like a challenge, so if my sister J. is getting ready to train for a marathon, I can promise that I (and several others, I’m sure) will be right beside her. I think she may have just upped the ante for us all, what do you think?

OK- enough family stuff, on to the recipe. Because we can’t have a feast without Brussels sprouts in our family, that is what I took to the buffet. But, since we were already breaking with tradition, I decided to try veganizing a recipe I had seen for making them with bacon and horseradish cream. Instead of the fatty cream, I used my old standby, silken tofu, and garnished with the easiest bacon substitute you’ll ever find. It all turned out excellent, if I say so myself, and I can assure you that nobody will know that you didn’t use real cream if you make this sauce.

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Aged Means Stronger- Part 2

Part 2- Physical Health:

In part one of this, I talked about the trend toward increasing mental and emotion health in aging boomers, as they pick up new challenges to make a mark in the world. Today’s post talks about how boomers are maintaining control over their physical health. I am writing these posts in the hope that others will also be empowered to take on new challenges and join the wave of strong agers. Again today I have an anecdote to begin:

I mentioned that last Sunday I was part of a team that participated in the Run For the Cure. Well, two of my older sisters were also on that team. One sister began on a new health journey last January first, when she quit smoking. In April, she joined us in a 10K race in Victoria. She walked that race and finished near the back of the pack. In fact, she jokes about how there were some parts of the race where only the ambulance was behind her, driving slowly along, and she kept trying to pick up her pace just a bit for fear that they would tell her she had to get in and ride the rest of the way. She felt she was successful then because she did not finish last in that race.

In the Run for the Cure we all went at our own pace, and those who finished earlier waited at the finish line to cheer in our other team members. Imagine how much we whooped and hollered when only about half our team had arrived in and we spotted this same sister running to the finish line! She had been training in secret (just her and her dog on their own walks) and it has taken her less than six months to increase her speed and stamina that much!

She is not alone, either. As the boomer generation ages, they are becoming known as the fittest seniors in history. People 55 and better are the fastest-growing population in U.S. health clubs, up by 380% since 1987(1). And the best news is that so many of them are actually improving their health as they get older. Some criticize them for refusing to age “gracefully”, but what the boomers are really doing is demanding (and working for) a good quality of life throughout their entire lifespan, and more and more of them are discovering  key components are diet and exercise. In a survey conducted by the American Arthritis Foundation, 40% of athletes older than 40 years of age believed that they now live a healthier and more physically fit lifestyle than they had in their 20s (2).

The news gets better for the latecomers to exercise, as new studies are showing that you really can turn the clock back, and you are never too old to become fit. In the past it was believed that muscle loss was inevitable with aging, and women especially were told to expect to lose 30% of their strength during and after menopause, with additional losses of 30% more per decade after age 70. However, we have recently learned that this muscle loss only happens if we stop working the muscles (3). But what if you missed the boat on this and never built the muscle mass in the first place? Well, also contrary to old beliefs, studies have now shown that a 90 year old has nearly equal capacity to a 30 year old to create new muscle fibre (4)(5). A mere two months of resistance training can reverse up to 20 years of muscle loss in seniors!

This is exciting on so many levels. For many of us older people it means we need to take another look at our bucket lists, and start putting some things back on there that we thought we were too old to do. And for the younger people, it means you can breathe a sigh of relief- we aren’t going to wipe out the healthcare system after all. And just think of all the new career opportunities in providing the services to support the aging health nuts! (For example check out  Fitness Centers: The Hottest Club for Single Seniors, on SeniorPeopleMeet.com).

(1) IHRSA/American Sports Data Health Club Trend Report, 2012.
(2) Manley, M., Wright, V., Benefits of Exercise and Sports, http://vondawright.com/images/pdf/benefits_of_exercise_and_sports.pdf
(3) Wroblewski, A., Amati,F., Smiley, M.,Goodpaster, B.,Wright, V. Chronic Exercise Preserves Lean Muscle Mass in Masters Athletes. https://physsportsmed.org/doi/10.3810/psm.2011.09.1933
(4) McComas AJ. Skeletal muscle: Form and function. Human Kinetics v2 (2005).
(5) Fiatarone, M.A., Marks, E.C., Ryan, N.D., Meredith, C.N., Lipsitz, C.A., Evans, W.J. High Intensity Strength Training in Nonegenarians. Journal of the American Medical Association 263 (1990): 3029-3034.

Aged Means Stronger- Part 1

I sometimes feel discouraged and a little cynical about the state of the world. In my counselling job I work all day with younger families and individuals in crisis and every now and then I become frustrated with people’s apparent lack of critical thinking skills. I see people making poor decisions for themselves and the planet and I wonder why so few seem to question a capitalistic society that puts profit before wellness. I also see daily the effects of trauma and violence on individuals and even entire communities and I wonder how the younger generations will find the resources to heal all these wounds.

In addition, I keep hearing dire warnings about how the aging baby boomers will start putting a strain on the economy and healthcare resources as they begin to retire and become frail and elderly. However, in the last while I have been impressed by several senior women I know and I began to have suspicions that the media may be looking at the boomer “crisis” all wrong. In fact, I do not believe that aging boomers will be a drain on any part of the system. My argument for this has two parts, each of which I will preface with a personal story.

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