Category: Life

Feel the Burn!

We get invited to parties and cookouts all the time. We are not complaining, of course. We love the festivities and socializing.  I know it’s because people expect us to bring homemade food. We have a reputation among friends and family that we provide tasty, spicy food that wakes up the taste buds and stimulates the palette. It is all very flattering, but we wonder if anyone cares about having our company. We specialize in food that is hot and saucy, meaning we use pungent spices and fresh chilis. Our recipes get accolades and we often don’t know what to bring since there is so much from which to choose.

For a cookout we attended, and practically catered, last week, red sauce meat chili was the specialty of the day. The host was also serving grilled hamburgers and we thought it would pair well with the entrée. To tone it down, we knew there would be fruit salad and fresh sorbet. It was a gorgeous day that dissolved into a balmy evening and everyone had a great time. A lot had to do with the weather and the food, but a lot had to do with the kids’ smiling faces as they bounced up and down, over and over again, on the small trampoline. The parents were thrilled that they couldn’t stop and the tots fought over who would be next.

I spoke with some of the parents as they were commending us about our food. They explained that they encouraged social occasions so the kids could get to know others their own age and also get some exercise in the fresh air. The backyard cookout was the perfect venue for everyone. A few adults tried a few tricks on the trampoline, perhaps remembering the old days in gym class. I took gymnastics for beginners and the first thing we did was learn the trampoline. As a result, I could give the kids at the party a few pointers. I became a spotter and a coach. I showed them how to jump higher and how to do a tuck, bringing the knees up to the chest. I even remembered how to do twists and double bounce with a partner, but they were quick to look at this web page on their smart phone and tell me what I should be doing. After my amateur demonstration, adding in one somersault and a few seat drops, I resumed my time at the dining table. The kids ended up with muscle fatigue and needed a rest. They were too tired to talk. They did eat chili and expressed the desire to have some again at my house.

We topped off the evening with ice cream sundaes, the kind you make on your own. We put out a few basic flavors and five or six toppings from everyday sprinkles and jimmies to crushed oreos and nuts. It was a huge success as a cookout and we know that we will be attending one very soon. Chili anyone?

When it Doesn’t go Away

I love spicy food—in a restaurant or made at home. It keeps away depression and anxiety. It peps you up and gives you energy to meet the needs of your active day. It is said that spices in certain combination help you lose weight when normal diets aren’t working. I can’t be more positive about it. However, now that we have made it through winter, I must say that it has been a tough season. I experienced a bout of winter blues that I couldn’t shake no matter what I ate. I hear this is common in certain parts of the world and certain climates where daylight is at a minimum. Why me? I don’t know, but I went to my doctor to see what was wrong. He did a mental and physical assessment and ruled out an overactive thyroid.

After discussing how often I felt depressed, he considered the condition known as SAD—seasonal affective disorder. He felt that nothing had changed in my life and I hadn’t experienced any tragedies or upsetting events. My winter blues did not seem to have an identifiable cause. Hence the SAD diagnosis. I started to research the subject. It is a common ailment in Sweden, Finland, and Norway. It is said to exist in Iceland, Greenland, and Denmark. The statistics are high in Alaska and low in Florida, as you can imagine. Studies have been conducted there to decipher the cause and determine a treatment. Of course, it is not surprising that reduced daylight hours are the culprit. Many people are sensitive to the lack of light inn winter, and this could explain my problem. If you are lucky, the condition will go away in time. If not, the situation is more serious based on what I read at Be Right Light. Most of the time, however, it can be treated with artificial light. You buy a lamp that you use when it is dark outside and you can put it in any room of the house or your office according to where you spend the most time – you can get advice from Be Right Light’s Facebook Page if you have any doubts. It is said that sitting in front of it for a pre-determined number of hours will set your body clock right. But never use a tanning lamp.

Not having a serious case, where therapy is added to the treatment, I felt the light would be enough. If you want to practice self-diagnosis, consider the following symptoms: sadness, grumpiness, feeling moody or anxious. The signs are like depression: you lose interest in work or play, you gain weight as you binge on comfort food, and you sleep excessively. Many can’t concentrate for a long period of time. I suppose if it gets really bad, you can move to Arizona. In any case, you need to regulate your serotonin levels that affect the mood center of the brain. The good news is that as people age, they are less susceptible to SAD. In the interim, you can learn how to reset your biological clock.

Refreshing with Filtered Water

Welcome spice enthusiasts to our blog. We are committed to discussing our favorite foods that have zing and zest. If it doesn’t have tang, it doesn’t get made in our house. We have shelves full of dried chili peppers of every kind from poplano and Fresno to paprika, Anaheim, and ancho varieties. I could go on and on about the distinctive characteristics of each. I could do better than that and offer five or ten recipes. If you love chili, stay with me through the year and tell me your preferences. I will dig up some unique information to help you extend your palate and carry it to new heights. At the very least, you should have jalapenos on hand all the type.

When I serve a meal laden with spices and hot flavors, I separate each course with a palate cleanser such as sorbet or apple slices. I wait just a few minutes, however, so guests can savor a dish before moving on. After the cleansing, they are ready for a new course. And so it goes throughout the evening. There is an art to making hot, spicy dishes without burning people’s tongues. I like to test how far I can go. Some people like ten alarm chili and others two or three. If it isn’t rated over five, to me it isn’t worth eating. You should stock a number of dried spices as well as some fresh. You can learn how to remove the seeds, the hottest part of the chili, and prepare the vegetable properly for cooking.

Some cuisine like Thai or Indian is super hot and spicy by nature and you better have a glass of milk by your plate. I used to think that water would take care of too much fire, but it is not so. I even resorted to filtered water to cool my mouth down after indulging in these traditions. While clean and pure water is nice to have, right from your own tap, it is something to be imbibed for other reasons. It won’t calm down your taste buds on its own. Nevertheless, if you want a nice frosty glass, I will serve you one. I have my own whole house water filtration system and so you won’t get your own plastic bottle of Evian – but it will be just as tasty and served in a nice glass that you’ll want to post on Twitter.

I believe in filtered water for health reasons and I use it for cooking to get a pure flavor, completely chemical free. I hate the lingering taste of impurities like chlorine that are prevalent in many areas. Unless you boil the water, these elements stays with your food. Sure, I could buy the jumbo size bottles of mountain spring water, but it is far more economical to install a special purification system. I usually put a glass pitcher of ice water on the table no matter what I serve. People are coming to expect my self-produced filtered water and they enjoy the fact that I make coffee and tea with it. It is one of the secrets of great cooks I am told.