Sunday, September 14, 2014

How the Sun Sees You

We all know that, as wonderful as it feels, the sun causes lifelong damage to our skin. Check out this YouTube video to inspire you to protect yourself from sun damage.

Sunday, August 31, 2014


Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) dates back three or four thousand years when the Incas first realized that the seed was fit for human consumption. Quinoa was the "gold of the Incas" because they believed it increased the stamina of their warriors. Often confused as a true grain, quinoa is actually a pseudo-grain -- the seed belongs to a family of beets, spinach and Swiss chard. Extremely versatile, it provides numerous cooking and meal options, especially for those with gluten sensitivity.

Quinoa packs in a powerful amount of protein (14-18 percent) for a plant food and includes a balance of nine amino acids. It also provides a quality source of dietary fiber, phosphorus, magnesium and iron, as well as being very low in cholesterol and sodium. A cup of cooked quinoa has 220 calories, 8 grams of protein, 3.5 grams of fat, 39.5 grams of carbohydrates and 5 grams of fiber.

How to Prepare Quinoa
  • How much cooked quinoa does 1 cup dry quinoa yield? 1 cup dry quinoa yields about 3 cups cooked quinoa.
  • How much liquid do I need to cook quinoa? To cook 1 cup quinoa, you need about 2 cups liquid.
  • How long does it take to cook quinoa? I cup quinoa will cook in about 20 minutes on the stove top. In a pressure cooker about 6 minutes.
  • How do I make quinoa less bitter? Nearly, if not all, of the natural bitterness of quinoa's outer coating can be removed by a vigorous rinsing in a mesh strainer.
  • How do I make better-tasting quinoa? Quinoa is really excellent when cooked in vegetable or chicken broth. Also, add about 1/4 teaspoon salt to each cup dried quinoa when cooking. Try adding other spices or aromatics during cooking: a clove of minced garlic, a sprig of fresh rosemary, and/or a dash of black pepper.
  • How can I tell if quinoa is bad or spoiled? Since quinoa has a long shelf life if kept dry, it is hard to tell if it has gone bad. It generally does not become rancid or smell. Cooked quinoa that has gone bad will show a loss of texture as it hardens and then can grow mold.
  • How can I store quinoa to extend its shelf life? The best way to store quinoa is in an airtight container in the pantry or another cook dark place with constant temperature. Do not allow cooked quinoa to sit out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. For a long-term option, you can freeze your dry quinoa in an oxygen free freezer-safe container. Cooked quinoa also freezes well in an airtight freezer container.
Here are some tempting quinoa recipes from

Quinoa with Toasted Almonds & Cranberries

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 cup sliced blanched almonds
  • 1 cube broth stock
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
Cooking Directions
  1. Over medium heat, sir and toast the slivered almonds until golden brown. Add quinoa and toast a few more minutes until quinoa begins to darken.
  2. Transfer the toasted quinoa and almonds to a 2-quart saucepan and add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, covered, then reduce the heat to simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Fluff gently with a fork and serve.

Quinoa Salad with Grilled Vegetables & Feta

  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 3 1/2 cups water or vegetable stock Kosher salt to taste
  • 1 red onion, cut into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 2 zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
  • 2 summer squashes, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, larger leaves torn
  • 1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, larger leaves torn
  • 4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
Cooking Directions
  1. In a 3 1/2-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the quinoa and cook, stirring until lightly toasted, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the water, season with salt and bring to boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the grains are tender and the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Let the quinoa cool.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat a grill pan or outside grill on medium heat. In a large bowl, gently toss together the onion, zucchini, squashes and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Working in batches, grill the vegetables, turning once, until nicely grill marked and tender, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool slightly, then cut into rough 1/4-inch dice. Add the diced vegetables and the tomatoes to the pot with the quinoa and stir gently to combine.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil and lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Add the vinaigrette to the quinoa along with basil, mint and half of the cheese and stir to combine. Top with the remaining cheese and serve.

Gluten-free Moroccan Skillet Quinoa & Chicken

Makes 4 servings
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 Tbsp. of paprika
  • 2 tsp. of ground coriander
  • 2 tsp. of ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. of kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. of black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup organic quinoa (pre-rinsed)
  • 2 cups gluten-free chicken stock
  • 1/2 cups sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 2-inch pieces
Cooking Directions
  1. Juice one of the lemons and thinly slice the other. Cut the slices into quarters so that you have small pieces of lemon. Set both aside (separately) for later.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the paprika, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Add the chicken pieces and toss to coat.
  3. In a large skillet with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and brown, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes. Add the lemon pieces, onion, garlic and apricots. Cook, stirring frequently until onion softens, about 5 minutes. Add the quinoa and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and lemon juice. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Cover pan, lower the heat to a medium-low and cook covered for 20 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed and the quinoa is tender. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes.
  4. While the quinoa and chicken sits, toast the almond slices. In a small dry skillet over medium heat, toast the almonds for a few minutes, stirring often until they are browned and fragrant.
  5. To serve, put the quinoa chicken mixture in a serving bowl, fluff gently with a fork and top with toasted almonds and parsley leaves

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Storage for Bartering

In a long term emergency situation, money could become useless and bartering could be an important way to obtain items your family needs. Consider storing these inexpensive items not only for your own family's use, but as bartering possibilities.

1. Toilet Paper
2. Chap Stick
3. Eye Drops
4. Matches
5. Bleach
6. Bandages
7. Warm Clothing (Purchase used coats for bartering at your local used items supplier. At D.I. you’ll find tons of coats and other clothing for under $5)
8. Tape
9. Water
10. Sugar
11. Flour
12. Feminine Supplies
13. Condoms
14. Flu/Cold Medication
15. Lotion
16. Soap
17. Ziploc or Garbage Bags
18. Seeds

19. Sunscreen
20. Fever/Inflammation Reducer
21. Pain Relievers
22. Pens
23. Ramen
24. Neosporin
25. Toothpaste
26. Water Purification Tablets
27. Milk Powder
28. Utility Cord
29. Plastic Wrap
30. Sanitizer

This is a suggested bartering list to fit into your budget. There are other great items you could trade that are on the more costly side like fuel, bullets and batteries.

The easiest way to come up with cheap trades is to think of scenarios throughout the day in which you feel discomfort and would use something small and cheap to remedy the situation.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Making Hard Career Choices

Regardless of your political persuasion, it's hard to miss that Hillary Clinton is on a national tour for her latest book Hard Choices. But if you're facing your own hard choices, be it in love, living conditions, or a career, a better source to consider might be the lesser known TED Talk by Ruth Chang similarly entitled How to Make Hard Choices. Released in May 2014, Chang's talk pre-dates Hillary's release, takes only 14 minutes to absorb from beginning to end, is free, and falls much closer to home on how we face our own hard choices in careers and other key walks of life.

"Understanding hard choices uncovers a hidden power each of us possess," Chang notes in the beginning of her talk. Using examples from her own life where she had to choose whether to be a lawyer or philosopher, she deconstructs why we agonize so much over major life decisions. The answer may surprise you, and her own choices may surprise you as well.

A child of immigrants, Chang chose to become a lawyer. Like many overachieving first-generation Americans she not only got a law degree, but has a J.D. from Harvard. She admits that she did what most people do when faced with two hard choices. She took the easy way out.

Although few would consider a law degree from Harvard an easy route, for Chang it was clearly the safer choice. Here's why: A legal career closely matched what she felt her parents would want for her. By becoming a lawyer, she was helping to achieve her parent's dreams, if not her own.

Career choices are value judgments
Career choices, Chang notes, are value judgments. There are no right or wrong choices, just individual values. One person may value being creative and become an artist, while another might value money and become a banker. Neither value is wrong – just different. And since there is no right or wrong, the choice of whether to become a doctor, coach, or any other profession, becomes hard until you define your own values.

It's not the age-old question of "What do you want to become when you grow up?" Instead, it's the new question of "Whom do you want to be now and for the rest of your own life?"

According to Chang, there's a hidden gift in hard choices. Here it is: Each hard choice allows you to better define who you are. For instance, Chang became a lawyer because it matched the reasons her parents would pick a career. Once Chang became a lawyer, she realized it wasn't the life she wanted for herself.

Today, Chang is a philosopher at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ studying how the rest of us make our own hard life choices to pursue alternate passions including careers.

In facing hard choices, Chang states: "We become the authors of our own lives." People who avoid hard choices are in contrast "drifters" -- people who let others determine whom they'll be. While many people might choose to avoid the agony that comes in deciding between hard choices, Chang suggests hard choices be viewed as "Godsends." They are, she says, "special opportunities" to become distinctive.

How the long-term unemployed can think differently
Many people, particularly the long-term unemployed might argue they have no choices so any job offer is easy, and certainly not a hard choice. Chang might challenge them to think differently.

Did they decide not to relocate, not to invest in training, pre-decide before sending in a cover letter that not having a degree was disqualification, not try an alternative career, or simply to keep hitting the same brick walls? Hitting brick walls doesn't sound easy, but for some it is easier that climbing over them and taking a peek at potential new landscapes.

What story are you writing for yourself?

Is it a political career instead of a legal career as Hillary Clinton seems to be pursuing, or a philosopher's life over a legal one as Ruth Chang has chosen? What are your hard choices, and how can they help you define whom you want to be versus whomever you were becoming before?

Remember, there are no wrong answers.

To watch Ruth Chang's Ted Talks video, click here.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

So Much Zucchini!

Wondering what to do with the zucchini that is already becoming prolific in your garden? Freezing zucchini is a great option to preserve it for the winter months when some chocolate zucchini bread would hit the spot! Blanching is recommended to preserve the quality of the zucchini. These guidelines come from the National Center for Home Food Preservation:

Summer Squash

(Cocozelle, Crookneck, Pattypan, Straightneck, White Scallop, Zucchini)

Preparation – Choose young squash with tender skin. Wash and cut in 1/2-inch slices. Water blanch 3 minutes. Cool promptly, drain and package, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Seal and freeze.
Grated Zucchini (for Baking) – Choose young tender zucchini. Wash and grate. Steam blanch in small quantities 1 to 2 minutes until translucent. Pack in measured amounts into containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Cool by placing the containers in cold water. Seal and freeze. If watery when thawed, discard the liquid before using the zucchini.


Blanching (scalding vegetables in boiling water or steam for a short time) is a must for almost all vegetables to be frozen. It stops enzyme actions which can cause loss of flavor, color and texture.
Blanching cleanses the surface of dirt and organisms, brightens the color and helps retard loss of vitamins. It also wilts or softens vegetables and makes them easier to pack.
Blanching time is crucial and varies with the vegetable and size. Underblanching stimulates the activity of enzymes and is worse than no blanching. Overblanching causes loss of flavor, color, vitamins and minerals. Follow recommended blanching times (see below).

Water Blanching

For home freezing, the most satisfactory way to heat all vegetables is in boiling water. Use a blancher which has a blanching basket and cover, or fit a wire basket into a large pot with a lid.
Use one gallon water per pound of prepared vegetables. Put the vegetable in a blanching basket and lower into vigorously boiling water. Place a lid on the blancher. The water should return to boiling within 1 minute, or you are using too much vegetable for the amount of boiling water. Start counting blanching time as soon as the water returns to a boil. Keep heat high for the time given in the directions for the vegetable you are freezing.

Steam Blanching

Heating in steam is recommended for a few vegetables. For broccoli, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and winter squash, both steaming and boiling are satisfactory methods. Steam blanching takes about 1½ times longer than water blanching.
To steam, use a pot with a tight lid and a basket that holds the food at least three inches above the bottom of the pot. Put an inch or two of water in the pot and bring the water to a boil.
Put the vegetables in the basket in a single layer so that steam reaches all parts quickly. Cover the pot and keep heat high. Start counting steaming time as soon as the lid is on. See steamblanching times recommended for the vegetables listed below.


As soon as blanching is complete, vegetables should be cooled quickly and thoroughly to stop the cooking process. To cool, plunge the basket of vegetables immediately into a large quantity of cold water, 60ºF or below. Change water frequently or use cold running water or ice water. If ice is used, about one pound of ice for each pound of vegetable is needed. Cooling vegetables should take the same amount of time as blanching.
Drain vegetables thoroughly after cooling. Extra moisture can cause a loss of quality when vegetables are frozen.

Blanching Times*

VegetableBlanching Time

Small Stalk
Medium Stalk
Large Stalk

Beans-Snap, Green, or Wax3
Beans-Lima, Butter, or Pinto

(flowerets 11/2 inches across)

Brussel Sprouts
Small Heads
Medium Heads
Large Heads

Cabbage or Chinese Cabbage

1 1/2
Diced, Sliced or Lengthwise Strips

(flowerets, 1 inch across)

Small Ears
Medium Ears
Large Ears
Whole Kernel or Cream Style
(ears blanched before cutting corn from cob)


All Other


Whole (steamed)
Buttons or Quarters (steamed)
Slices steamed)

3 1/2
Small Pods
Large Pods

(blanch until center is heated)

10-15 seconds
Peas-Edible Pod1 1/2-3
Peas-Field (blackeye)2
Peas-Green1 1/2
Strips or Rings

Potatoes-Irish (New)3-5
Sweet Potatoescook
Turnips or Parsnips

*blanching times are for water blanching unless otherwise indicated.

This document was extracted from "So Easy to Preserve", 5th ed. 2006. Bulletin 989, Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia, Athens. Revised by Elizabeth L. Andress. Ph.D. and Judy A. Harrison, Ph.D., Extension Foods Specialists.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Maybe Laughter Really is the Best Medicine

We’ve all heard the phrase “Laughter is the Best Medicine” but what exactly does that mean and how do we get the full benefits from laughter? Vigorous laughter can be stimulating; it can increase heart rate, blood pressure, circulation, enhance circulatory immune function, pulmonary ventilations and alertness, and provides exercise for some skeletal muscles. Immediately following laughter, there is a brief period in which blood pressure goes down, and heart rate, respiratory rate and muscle activity decrease resulting in relaxation (Fry, 1994 as quoted by Mahony et al. 2002).

There’s even a new type of yoga called “Laughter Yoga”. It was started in 1995 by Dr. Madan Kataria of Mumbai, India. It combines unconditional laughter with traditional yogic breathing. Many participants report greater general health such as fewer infections like cold and flu while others swear by the positive effects it has had on their chronic diseases and illnesses.

Laughter is universal, has no language barriers and knows no bounds. It can bring people together, ease stress and hardship, and help with coping. One thing is for sure, there is no harm in laughing and it has the potential to provide wonderful health benefits. So, have you laughed today?

Creating opportunities to laugh
  • Watch a funny movie or TV show.
  • Go to a comedy club.
  • Read the funny pages.
  • Seek out funny people.
  • Share a good joke or a funny story.
  • Check out your bookstore’s humor section.
  • Host game night with friends.
  • Play with a pet.
  • Go to a “laughter yoga” class.
  • Goof around with children.
  • Do something silly.
  • Make time for fun activities (e.g. bowling, miniature golfing, karaoke).

Excerpted from Have You Laughed Today? By Rachel Larson

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Laundry Essentials

Ever wonder how you would wash your clothes in an emergency situation? Here are complete instructions!


ü 2 - 6-Gallon Buckets
ü Gamma Seal Bucket Lid (threaded bucket lid w/hole in middle)
ü Hand Agitator
ü Detergent or Homemade Laundry Soap in a Storage Bag (see below)
ü Fabric Softener or Homemade Fabric Softener (see below)
ü 1 Teaspoon Scoop
ü Stain Remover or Fels-Naptha Soap
ü Heavy Rubber Gloves
ü Package of Clothespins
ü Clothespin Bag
ü 100’ Clothesline

Homemade Laundry Soap

·         1box 20 Mule Team Borax (76 oz.)    
·         1box Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (55 oz.)
·         4 bars Fels-Naptha Soap
·         1 Large Zip Lock Bag

Directions to make soap:
Take 3 bars of the Fels-Naptha Soap, unwrap and let these bars dry out for two days.  After two days, finely grate or use an electric grater (it is just soap) to grate these bars.  Take the zip lock bag and put 6 cups of Borax, 1 box of Washing Soda, and the 3 grated bars of Fels-Naptha Soap, and mix together.  This is enough soap for 10 bucket loads per week for 1 year.  (To use this soap in an electric washer use 1-2 tablespoons per load.)

Directions for washing: 
Put 1 teaspoon scoop of soap in ½ bucket of water with a few articles of clothing.  Put the agitator in the bucket and twist the gamma lid on tight.  Pump the agitator up and down for a few minutes to clean the clothes.  Put clean clothes in the second bucket to rinse.

Some Washing Tips:
-       To pre-treat stains use the other bar of Fels-Naptha.  Wet the stain and rub it firmly with the corner of the bar of soap. Use a soft brush for tougher stains.
-       Wash whites first with warm or hot water if possible.  Wash coloreds next and save the dirtiest clothes for last.
-       Bleach or boil if possible all clothes and linens used to care for the sick.
-       Clean water is all you need not your emergency drinking water.

Rinsing your clothes:
You may want to use another bucket for rinsing.  Fill the bucket ½ full of clean water and add the washed clothes.  Pump the agitator up and down for a few minutes, drain and repeat.  After the second rinse, remove the clothing and then use the water for your next batch of wash. 

You may wish to add homemade fabric softener to your clothes. (If you use fabric softener do not use the rinse water for your next batch of wash.)

Homemade Fabric Softener

Small Batch                                                 
2 cups water                                    
1 cup baking soda                          
1 cup vinegar                       
1/3 cup hair conditioner

Large Batch
6 cups water
3 cups baking soda
3 cups vinegar
1 cup hair conditioner
Put the baking soda in a large bowl and pour the vinegar over it, while it is bubbling pour cold water in the mix.  Once the mixture is combined add hair conditioner.  Store the softener in a sealed container and shake well before using.  Add three teaspoons of softener to rinse water.  (Use ¼ to ½ cup in electric washer.)

Wringing and drying the clothes:
After rinsing, you will need to wring each item to remove as much water as possible.  It is helpful to wear heavy rubber gloves when hand wringing your clothes to make it easier on your hands. 

The easiest way to dry your clothes is to hang them on a clothesline with clothespins.  You may need to occasionally squeeze the water from the bottom of your clothes for faster drying.

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