Lentils, black wild rice, and mustard greens soup

lentilsoupSunday is soup-making day!  I make a big pot of bean soup so I can have enough to take with me to work during the week.  Usually, I use whatever veggies I have that are “near death” in the fridge, but this week I harvested some mustard greens and some yellow chard from my garden to put in a soup with some dried lentils.  It is quite tasty.  Here’s the recipe:

One cup of dried lentils
One cup of black wild rice
2 cups of fresh mustard greens, roughly cut
1 cup of yellow swiss chard, or use something else if you don’t have any
1 can of organic, no salt added, tomato sauce
one-half cup of sliced fresh mushrooms
two stalks fresh celery (sliced thin)
1 tsp ground oregano
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp black pepper

Bring lentils and rice to boil for about five minutes.  Lower heat, then add all other ingredients.  Bring to simmer for about forty minutes, or until rice is tender.  Slightly cool, and serve.

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Startling stats about the world’s changing food system | FRANK ABOUT FOOD

Link — Startling stats about the world’s changing food system | FRANK ABOUT FOOD.

The sustainability of the world’s food supply is in great peril due to the high consumption of animals.  Looked at from the viewpoint of agricultural efficiency, the math doesn’t add up.  When grain conversions to meat are 7:1 for beef, 3:1 for pork, and 2:1 for chicken, the production of grains must be increased rapidly and with a high degree of consistency.  With agricultural lands disappearing due to climate change, soil erosion and destruction through herbicides, the pace of production cannot be sustained, forcing producers to increase the use of chemicals and genetically modified foods to feed the world.

At the bottom of it all is an insatiable hunger for the flesh of living creatures.  Because of it, we are eating ourselves into an early grave and condemning the world to the same fate in the near future generations.  It is utter madness!

My sanctuary amid the throng

innerpeaceMy wife and I normally have quiet weekends with lots of time to relax, read, do some projects around the house, or watch a little television.  This past weekend was an exception.

We live in a small, two bedroom house in suburban Dallas.  It’s just the right amount of space for us and our dogs and cat.  Over the past weekend, however, we had my sister-in-law and two of her grandchildren, both of whom are teenagers, accustomed to a much busier life.  We enjoyed having them here, and we miss them a lot.

I normally have a lot of quiet time at home, so my tendency is to get a little flustered when I can’t find some quiet, peaceful place to get away.  But, I wanted to make sure our guests knew how happy I was that they were here.  It was an honor to share our home with them.  I know, however, that my need for privacy sometimes gets me a little edgy and impatient, so I was on guard with my attitude all weekend.

My job was to manage the grocery shopping and meals…and to wear a smile as much as possible.

I spent some time with my great-nephew on Friday night and had a great time.  He wanted me to know about his five tattoos and how he had found this perfect tattoo artist, until suddenly the guy started charging him more, so my great-nephew was going to change to another artist.  Of course, my thoughts were, “you mean, five isn’t enough?…is it essential to have another one already lined up for the next tattoo you want?…do you conduct interviews with tattoo artists and rank them in order of preference before making a decision?”  I’m really not knocking the idea…I grew up in the 60’s, and we were a tad on the odd side according to most of our parents and relatives, too.  It’s just that when I think of professional services that I would want on a retainer, of sorts, I would think of things like “my accountant”, “my doctor”, “my lawyer”, “my contractor”.  I just never thought about “my tattoo artist.”  But, I’m good with that…it’s just new, that’s all.

Anyway, by Saturday morning, I was glad to get away for a couple of hours for my yoga class.  When I got home, it was time to get serious about meals.  I love the kitchen, and unfortunately, I’ve become quite possessive about it being “mine.”  My wife and sister were playing some card games in the kitchen, so I was getting regular advice on how to do things, though my wife doesn’t cook (she can, but she doesn’t enjoy it like I do).  I thanked them profusely for all their help, but I went ahead and added as much turmeric and other spices as I wanted…things they had never heard of.  They were exuberant in their accolades about the meals, and of course, this brought a smile to my face.  Even the tatted one said he had especially enjoyed the healthy food.  Music to my ears!

Later, on Sunday, my sister-in-law and I were at a table eating alone.  She said she had watched me in the kitchen and realized how much I enjoyed what I was doing, and that I had gone through all the meal preps, the serving, the dishwashing and cleanup, without ever becoming frustrated or stressed over it.  She reminded me that stress had always been their family’s way of getting through family gatherings…multiple trips to the grocery store to pick up last minute items, two hours late serving, etc….  She was right!  I had enjoyed myself very much, and here’s why.

Sometime before I came home from work on Friday night, I decided I was not going to get stressed.  I was going to enjoy the family time, and I was going to take on all the responsibilities of the food so that my wife and sister could spend some quality time together.  During my shift from early morning yoga on Saturday to food prep later on Saturday morning, I found my peaceful place in my mind.  It was a place of health, service, food, laughter, pleasure, and immense peace.  It was quiet in my mind, though there was noise all around, loud and relentless.  It was a refuge.

After they packed their bags on Sunday afternoon, I was really a little sad that they were leaving because we had had such a great time, and they had enjoyed their time with us.

This was a great lesson for me.  Peace comes from within, from mindfulness about what I am doing.  It is intentional, volitional.  It is contentment with the circumstances, knowing that there are challenges all the time, but that the essential refuge is a quiet mind, not the quiet household.

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Cheat meals work against us

I don’t believe in building a “cheat” meal into a diet program.  When I have fallen off the diets in the past it has always started with allowing some “bad” foods back into my diet on an occasional basis.  A bite of cheese becomes a plate of cheese and crackers; a lean piece of red meat becomes a Sonic burger or Big Mac; a taste of chocolate cake becomes pie and ice cream — it’s always just a matter of time.

Watching the scales is not a great way to solve the problem.  If you’ve lost 50+ pounds, a pound gained doesn’t look like much.  If at the end of a week, the one pound becomes two, it’s just a matter of time before you stop watching the scales at all.

And, those new clothes you just bought because you lost a lot of weight and want to wear smaller, sometimes more fashionable, clothes, they get a little tighter, and eventually, you can’t be comfortable in them any more.  You finally have to yield to your weight gains and put on clothes that are more comfortable, the ones you wore before you decided to get healthier.

The problem with cheat meals is that they give us a taste of what we really want to leave behind us.  Breaking up with “the old you” is a very emotional and traumatic divorce, one that can only be successful if it is clean and sure.  The more we cling to it, the more we are slaves to the past, the past we want to leave behind.

We tell ourselves, “Putting on a few more pounds isn’t the end of the world.  I can relax for a awhile.”  Months, or sometimes, years later, we go through the shame and the self-loathing, and we know that the motivation to try again is almost impossible to get back.  If we’ve done the cycle more than two or three times, the length of time between our efforts lengthens further, and eventually, we end up with health conditions and diseases that could have been avoided.  We only have a few chances to do it again and to make it a permanent life change.

Cheat meals aren’t the cause of our failures in dieting; they are symptomatic of the problem that played a huge role in our obesity to start with, the lack of self-discipline.  While green veggies and terrific salad combinations taste great, it’s hard for them to compete with  cheesy, fat-loaded casseroles, if these are the foods we enjoyed in our past.  The lack of self-discipline is the real culprit; developing self-discipline works in our favor.

There are ways to develop it.  Meditation, journaling, yoga, are all things we can do to heal ourselves and to give ourselves the power to say “no.”  Scheduling a cheat meal takes our focus away from healing ourselves and puts it upon how we can keep the old obese self alive.

Eating from a common platter

It seems reasonable to assume that every mouthful of food we eat represents a tiny portion of the global resources, and that over-consumption is the same thing as robbing from those persons who do not have enough to eat.

If this is true, then it can also be applied to the food itself, that is, to the costs of producing the food in the first place.  If the cost of resources is higher for one form of food, as it is when eating beef instead of beans, a bite of the higher resource food may represent ten times the resources than the bite of the lower resource food, or, perhaps, much more.

But, it is more than mathematics; it is also a matter of eating mindfully, that is, eating as if the plate from which the food comes is a common plate with all people in the world.  If every person in the world sat at the same table to eat, and one platter of food was set before them, would we be so insensitive and gluttonous as to take far more than the share that is ours, seeing the eyes and faces of those who did not get theirs?

Mindful eating is consciousness of the value of every bite of food.