November 13, 2018

Varidesk for working while standing or sitting

I had been reading about the benefit of standing while using the computer or doing general desk work but this new office idea was merely on my wish list.

Much to my delight, my husband secured me a de-accessioned Sit/Stand Converter by Varidesk. This two level extension sits on the top of my regular desk and has easy to use toggles on the sides to facilitate having the keyboard and screen higher or lower.

A large screen computer sits on the top level so I can view it at eye level when standing. The computer keyboard is on the lower level and allows me to work with the perfect hand, wrist and elbow angle when on my feet.

My husband prefers to use the computer sitting so he merely uses the toggles to lower the Varidesk to the regular desk level.

Marital harmony restored in the home office! You may want to investigate this option in your work or home environment.

https://www.varidesk.com/shop

Salad greens get an update

Remember the days when Iceberg lettuce was the only game in town for entree and side salads?

Gladly, American cuisine has diversified with leaves of spinach, baby kale, Romaine, Boston or Bibb, red leaf, and mesclun.

Although a little more expensive, I also love using Belgian or curly endive, radicchio for that punch of white and purple color, watercress and escarole.

My current favorites include Organic Girl pea shoots which have an appreciable amount of protein and Organic Girl mache which is also known as Lamb’s lettuce. Other leaves I may experiment with in the future are mustard, beet and collard greens as well as Sorrel.

Salad dressings could be a large separate article, but let me say I no longer buy bottled dressings. High grade olive oil and vinegar along with additions such as garlic, mustard, fresh or dry herbs, pepper and sea salt are all one needs to make a delicious custom-made dressing.

Bring on the salad days, even in autumn and winter. How about a warm bacon dressing?

Farmhouse Culture’s Kraut

The latest buzz words in nutrition are “probiotic” and “kraut.” A nutritionist recommended that I add sauerkraut to my diet. Out I went to purchase a head of cabbage and pink Himalayan salt. After a failed attempt to make my own sauerkraut, I ended up buying a commercial version by Farmhouse Culture which is more expensive, but infinitely easier to add to my meals.

What should I find but Farmhouse Culture’s Garlic Dill Pickle Kraut in the refrigerated area of Mariano’s produce department. The cabbage and brine are packaged in a re-sealable plastic bag that has a Ferment-O-Vent which, according to the company “keeps our live active probiotics happy and this tasting oh-so-amazing.”

Garlic Dill Pickle Kraut tastes like its name and I find myself adding this vegetable condiment to rice or as an accompaniment to meats and other entrees. The company suggests adding this zesty-tasting kraut to eggs, salads, sandwiches or wraps. Yum.

The Farmhouse web site lists a variety of sauerkraut flavors such as Classic Caraway, Golden Turmeric, Smoked Jalapeno, Horseradish Leek or California Style Kimchi. All of these flavors can also be purchased as liquid brine Gut Shots. This is a harder sell for me, but I’m sure my dietician would like me to consider this product, too.

Farmhouse also manufactures bags of live-culture vegetables like Ginger Beet, Orange Ginger Carrots or Taqueria Mix with carrots, daikon radish, jicama, onion and jalapeño. Kraut Krisps are the company’s version of rice crackers using probiotics.

Not all of their products are savory. Farmhouse makes kvass-style sparkling probiotic beverages with names like Cherry Cacao, Cola, Ginger Lemon, Mango Guava or Strawberry Hibiscus sweetened with erythritol. You are still getting the gut-friendly brined cabbage in these juice drinks however. Talk about sweet and sour.

If you want to supercharge your nutrition or wake up your palate to new sensations, Farmhouse has some products worth checking out. Their web site lists places where their food items are for sale which include Whole Foods and Mariano’s in the Chicago area. Your taste buds and your microbiome* will thank you.

*Microbiome: the microorganisms in a particular environment including the body or a part of the body; a microbiome that protects us against germs, breaks down food to release energy and produces vitamins.

Sweeteners in your meat? Sugar-free bacon and chicken sausage

I decided to get serious about nosing out added sugar in my food. Imagine my surprise when I read the ingredients of most breakfast meats. Almost all bacon and sausage products list “sugar ” or “cane sugar” as part of their recipes. After reading lots of very fine print, I came up with four options that list no form of sugar.

Welllshire makes a Sugar Free Dry Rubbed All Natural Sliced Uncured Bacon which they state is made from pork raised without antibiotics, fed a vegetarian diet, contains no celery powder, is gluten-free and has 25% less sodium. After tasting the bacon, I do not miss the sugar or the lower sodium. Black pepper, fenugreek, nutmeg, white pepper, mace, allspice and sea salt make up the ingredient list. The package has an eye-catching sticker that says “Paleo Friendly – Eat like a caveman!” Count me in.

Wellshire also makes a turkey bacon that also sports the Paleo-friendly label. The package states that the turkey bacon is sliced, uncured turkey thighs that are chopped and formed, 95% fat free, 6 grams of protein and has 0 trans fat and 0 total carbs. Celery powder, paprika, white pepper, onion powder and sea salt make up the list of ingredients. To be honest, regular bacon is still my big treat, but this turkey bacon is pretty darn good while being relatively healthy.

Amylu is one of my favorite chicken sausage brands but after close scrutiny of ingredients, I could find only one version from that company that had no sweeteners. Gourmet Chorizo has chicken, Jalapeño peppers, cilantro, vinegar, rosemary extract, onions, kosher salt, paprika and garlic in a lamb casing. The package states that the product is free of pork or gluten. The Amylu chicken is raised with vegetarian feed, no antibiotics and no hormones. These sausages have a real kick so this might not be a breakfast choice for those who want a gentle first meal. In opposition, I say, “Wake up my taste buds, Amylu with your Gourmet Chorizo Chicken Sausage!”

Applegate Organics, another player in the healthy meat category likewise had very few breakfast meat options that did not contain sugar. The Fire Roasted Red Pepper Chicago Sausage met that requirement with organic chicken, organic red peppers, jalapeño peppers, organic vinegar, baking soda, organic paprika, organic garlic and sea salt listed as ingredients. Not quite as spicy as the Amylu chorizo sausage, this might be an option for more delicate stomaches.

Most people have toast, dry breakfast cereal, bagels, waffles, pancakes or sweet rolls for breakfast, but protein and fat are what keep me going throughout the morning. But that, my friend, is another complicated topic. Pass me the bacon or sausage in the morning, please.

Healthworks Cacao Powder

My current vice is Healthworks cacao powder (ordered online from Amazon) which I have used in some surprising ways. Yes, it has caffeine, but I find if you mix it with healthy carbs or protein, it seems to mitigate that “coffee jag” feeling.

One of my breakfast favorites is McCann’s Steel Cut Oats (from Mariano’s) with cacao powder and unthawed, frozen organic cherries mixed warm into the cooked oatmeal. I steam the oatmeal in a vegetable/rice steamer and pop the frozen cherries (from Costco) into a toaster oven. I no longer have a microwave, but that appliance could help you unfreeze the fruit, too. You don’t have to perch over a hot stove while these foods cook.

I use 1/2 cup of dry oats, 1 cup of cherries and a tablespoon of cacao powder. When the oats are cooked and the cherries are unthawed and warm, I mix them together with the cacao powder. You will have a modest amount for two people or one generous portion if you like a big breakfast.

Another breakfast treat is a chocolate omelet. I mix 1/2 cup of egg whites with a tablespoon of cocoa, 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence and 5 drops of stevia. My current favorite is Sweet Drops English Toffee by SweetLeaf. If this sounds strange, think of it as breakfast, caffeine and dessert, all in one.

I have even started making my own sugar-free, dairy-free chocolate using cacao butter, cacao powder and stevia. My method for making chocolate will be in a future article.

Does anyone have a sugar-free, dairy-free mole recipe? Imagine chili with chocolate. My taste buds are already dancing!

Please send me any of your ideas for using cacao or cocoa powder in recipes. Signing off, fellow chocoholics.

Throat Coat Tea to the rescue

Every other person I know is just coming down with a cold, is currently battling coughs and sneezes or is slowly convalescing from this pervasive respiratory virus.

Those of us who are singers are especially brought low by this illness when our voices are impaired.

Periodically sipping Traditional Medicinals’ Throat Coat Tea is the only way I could get through singing for a recent funeral. I was grateful that the warm liquid soothed that scratchy sore feeling in my throat between songs.

Traditional Medicinals ingredients include licorice root, slippery elm bark, marshmallow root, wild cherry bark, fennel fruit, cinnamon bark and sweet orange peel.

Another effective brand is Yogi Throat Comfort Tea which features some of TM’s same ingredients and a Honey Lemon version.

Other tea flavors that may be “medicine cabinet” candidates are peppermint and ginger for stomach upsets or echinacea and gingko for immunity boosting.

Who doesn’t feel better with a relaxing warm beverage? Milk, honey or lemon optional.