Here’s the “Skinny” on Sweets (NOT!)

various types of sugar

For the next few weeks I’m going to prime you on sugar in all its forms.  We’re going to start with the “dry” – a 5 part series, and head into liquid – a 7 part series.  Let’s start with what you have in your cupboard/on your counter (at least I do – as bad as sugar is for you I want my white granulated sugar in my coffee every morning!!)  Because everything coming out of my kitchen is scratch, I don’t feel so badly about the tablespoon or two of the refined white stuff I have every day, because there are no “hidden” sugars in the other stuff I make.

GRANULATED WHITE SUGAR: refined from either cane or beets, is the most versatile of all sweeteners – with no distinct flavor of its own.  We can substitute other stuff if we like but this most ubiquitous of sugars is a staple in every home, for use in baked goods AND savory cooking – it (as do all sugars) tempers acidity in some foods like tomato sauce, and aids in browning in baked goods like bread.  I just have to add another pic because it’s too good not to.  This is the “love”, folks! 🙂

sugar-lips-fruit

Do You Believe in Santa?

santa

My friend and gerontologist, Pat Faust, has done it once again  – with her permission I am re-printing HER newsletter because it is timely and is so close to my heart and passion regarding nutrition, aging, and dementia.  Please ENJOY!!

There is no doubt that Santa always rises to the occasion of delivering all those gifts around the world on Christmas. But he isn’t the young pup he used to be. So how does he prepare throughout the year to be in top physical and cognitive shape? Since I have never had the opportunity of seeing Santa in action, I am going to draw my own conclusions based on his performance! Let’s take a look at the parameters of a healthy brain lifestyle and see if that is how Santa maintains his youthful brain and spirit.

I have to start with physical exercise. Santa could not be that agile on Christmas Eve if he didn’t stay physically active all year. He has a workshop, reindeer farm, and a staff of elves he oversees. And ,since he is located in the North Pole, he has the extra challenge of maneuvering around in all that snow. I am certain Santa must get his 10,000 steps in everyday. His packed daily schedule doesn’t allow for him to ‘veg’ out in front of the TV for hours on end. All of this physical exercise keeps Santa’s heart beating at a nice, strong level sending lots of blood, oxygen and carbohydrates from each heartbeat to his brain. That keeps his brain functioning at maximum while stimulating BDNF to encourage new cell growth in the hippocampus, center of learning and memory!

Santa has ample opportunity to use those new cells he grows. Can you imagine the mental challenge he is presented with everyday? There are so many advances in toys and technology occurring constantly that he must be able to understand what the next newest thing is! So Santa is constantly on the cutting edge of manufacturing. He has to have a very active learning and development department in order for the elves to keep up. Santa’s leadership skills, attention to quality and providing a vibrant, creative atmosphere for productivity uses everyone of Santa’s neurons to capacity. He must have a very extensive amount of brain resilience with all of the mental activity he participates in everyday.

Santa needs to stay in tip-top shape to function on such a high level. This becomes a bit more of a challenge when you have an aging body. This is where Mrs. Claus probably comes in. Although I am sure that Mrs. Claus has just as many duties she performs on a daily basis, I just believe that she oversees Santa’s dietary needs. Now Santa appears to be a bit on the heavy side. Is that necessarily bad? I don’t believe so in his case. Remember they live in the North Pole and having some extra body insulation should benefit him. We have also established that Santa stays very physically active. Throughout the year I bet that Mrs. Claus prepares meals that contain lots of dark-skinned fruits, dark green vegetables, lean red meat, fish, whole grains, olive oil, nuts and maybe a glass of red wine with dinner. Santa needs to stay healthy and eating a brain-healthy diet protects his brain as well as his heart. Then on Christmas Eve all of those treats of cookies and milk won’t be a problem.

The North Pole may be on the edge of our world but Santa doesn’t lack friends or companions. In fact, he has quite an extensive ‘tribe’. Mrs. Claus provides such loving support and companionship that Santa is always upbeat and happy. The elves love Santa and always have his back. If something is awry in the workshop they have the ability to problem-solve the problem. Santa is very involved leader but trusts his elves to do their job. He has developed a very productive environment where morale and camaraderie are exceptionally high. Santa derives much satisfaction from his enterprise. He is passionate about making sure that children the world-round have a very happy Christmas. His passion is palpable throughout all of the North Pole.

You would think that with all of these responsibilities Santa would be totally stressed out. For 364 days he is overseeing a massive operation and then everything needs to be perfect on Christmas Eve. It is enough to stress me out just thinking about it. But he is Santa and he knows that he has no time for stress to shut him down. It turns out that Santa meditates!! He takes time for himself every day to sit and quiet his mind. That has been a practice for him as long as he has been around. Santa stays centered as the whirlwind of his activities surround him. And it must work! Have you ever seen a picture of a stressed out Santa? Not me – I am impressed with his jolly demeanor.

His healthy brain lifestyle enables Santa to stay at the top of his game. Your brain doesn’t know how old you are. Santa is proof of that. Santa should be thanked for being the model of a healthy brain lifestyle and providing a vision that we can believe in. New Year’s resolution: live like Santa Claus!   “Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Good Night!”

A Note From Chef Lori

If you have someone on your gift list that has everything and is very hard to buy for, consider Heifer International, a well vetted (by not only me but the charitable community) wonderful non-profit that helps people help themselves.  I’ve been donating in my parents’ name for several years.  The first year it was a goat (private joke – they never got it – but my mom used to call me a goat whenever my young adult choices were less than desirable to her).  This year I donated a “Flock of Hope” in their name – various chicks, goslings, etc. that will help a family or female (your choice) feed themselves and provide sustainable income.

HOW MANY SPICES ARE IN ALLSPICE?

Just one! Allspice is the dried berry of a tree that grows all over the tropical Americas – called Pimenta Dioica. The berry is historically called allspice because it tastes like a combination of several spices, especially cloves. Clove can be a VERY strong spice both in aroma and taste (oil of clove is used as a numbing agent).   So when you want a hint of clove with a complex flavor, try allspice!!

Allspice is traditionally used in stuff like fruitcakes and plum puddings; Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering uses allspice in many savory applications as well as sweet. If you have a favorite use of allspice, let us know at http://lulasforlunch.com/blog .

 

Scent and Memory – a Powerful Combination!

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Orange-Creme Ganash
Pumpkin Spice Cake with Orange-Creme Ganash

As you smell a fresh pine tree, cookies baking, bayberry or orange, do flashes of past Christmas holidays come flooding through your mind?  This very aromatic season is an easy way to describe the phenomenon of scent and memory.

The process of smelling is a thing of beauty.  Smell is a chemical sense detected by sensory cells called chemoreceptors in the nose that detect smell and pass on electrical impulses to the brain.  The brain then interprets patterns in electrical activity as specific odors and olfactory sensation becomes perception – we recognize this as smell.  The only other chemical system that can quickly identify, make sense of and memorize new molecules is the immune system (Sarah Dowdy, How Stuff Works).

Gratefully reprinted with permission from my good friend Pat Faust, Gerontologist – and her blog “My Boomer Brain”