Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Drinking hot things

Last night after supper I sat down to write a Hug and noticed I was achy, and an hour later I was in full blown head cold mode complete with sore throat.  How could I get hit so fast, especially when I have been eating virtuously such things as bowlfuls of arugula every day??

I wanted to share the recipe for this lazy approach to salad and today will do, now that my sinuses have agreed that any more mouth breathing is not helping, and I can work slightly more comfortably.

Lazy Rocket Salad

Put the rocket (arugula) in a bowl
Drizzle it with olive oil
Drizzle balsamic reduction over top (Our grocer sell Nonna Pia's; there are other kinds)
Salt as desired
Optional: cut tomatoes

Seriously, it's taken me decades of salad consumption to realize you don't actually have to mix the dressing separately (or even refrigerate the ingredients of same.)  But now that I know, I am never going back!

The 'drinking hot things' menu is slightly more labour intensive - you have to cut and squeeze the lemon into a mug, decide how much honey to spoon in to make it bearable, boil the water to dilute them both, and wait for it all to cool.  Such an ordeal... and at the moment this process requires several breaks for Kleenex as well.

Ditto the chicken broth with Worcestershire sauce.  You have to go to all the trouble of finding the box of low sodium OXO broth packets in the pantry, tear open the bag and dump it into a mug, then tap to be sure you got everything out, add water, and drip in the sauce enough to warm your throat but stopping short of So Spicy It Burns.

Tea is much easier, thanks to a small change I made a month or two ago and which has proved to be more freeing than I could have imagined.  It's 'pour boiling water over a tea bag, steep, cool, and drink.'

Yep, after many years of wanting to, I am finally figuring out how to give up sugar.  And that is a huge thing for me to say because I am a HUGE fan of sugar.

Because I have relied on it my whole life long, I didn't need all the articles that have come out about it lately to tell me that sugar is not good for our bodies - we're designed to like it, but not to process it in the huge quantities we face today.  You can feel that's true without being told it, if you depend on it the way I have.  And I feel the clock ticking - right now, my blood pressure/blood sugar is smack in the middle of Healthy, but I know I have several relatives, going several generations back, whose lives were cut short by diabetes.  Odds are good that the same thing would have happened to me by now if I didn't walk as much as I do most days. 

My life experience based on these relatives' stories is that even if doctors are able to intervene with the other circulatory implications, diabetes = huge risk of late-life memory loss.  And I do not want to go through that.  I would take broken bones, extreme arthritis, and even a slowly-filling clear plastic bag attached to my walker over losing my memory.  So I am highly motivated by the desire for a forever-healthy brain, or as close to it as I can manage through choices within my control.

The trouble is that sugar is so addictive, and the only way to really beat it is to go cold turkey, and cold turkey is really really hard.

If I can manage to stay committed, after three tough days of cold turkey I find I don't crave sugar.  I can accept a slice of cake at a party, enjoy some of it and then stop as soon as I feel the sugar starting to make me feel ill, and go on not craving it.  But if I feel like I should eat the whole slice, or like I should order ice cream too when everybody else I'm with wants to go to Dairy Queen, or that I'd really like to have a tiny bit of root beer because it's so nostalgic, and ESPECIALLY if all those things happen on consecutive days? 

Well, I have to go cold turkey all over again. 

So this winter I thought, Maybe I could at least stop putting honey in my tea. 

I mean, milk is sweet, and I put milk in, so maybe that would be enough? And it's such a small step.  It took a few cups but as it turned out, milk is enough, especially if I have very basic crackers with the tea instead of sweet cookies, which just play up how not sweet the tea is.  After a week or so my poor honey jar just sat and sat and didn't need to be replaced, which was actually kind of a bonus because honey is not cheap and I was always running out at the one moment I didn't have time to get to the store, even now that the store is right downstairs. 

(also I always feel a little guilty about taking it from the bees.)

Then in late May I read that all the good and healthy stuff in tea is negated if you add milk - something about the chemical combination.  So I thought, Maybe I could try not putting milk in, either.

This wasn't as hard for me as it would have been if we hadn't just been away in Germany.  I had to be creative about my tea consumption on that trip because I need caffeine before about 1pm if I'm to avoid a huge headache, but I also need bathroom breaks pretty urgently in the first 90 minutes after tea consumption and the tour schedule couldn't accommodate that.  At first I tried getting up over two hours earlier than we had to leave for the day but that wasn't sustainable for obvious "7:30am departure time" reasons. 

It wasn't long before I asked myself, What would a sensible person do? I put on my 'Trish' cap and realized that I could brew the tea, then pour it into my stainless steel water bottle to take with me, and sip it very very slowly over the morning when I knew we would be getting off the bus or better still, getting 'free time' soon.  It wasn't an insulated bottle, so I topped up with cold water to keep from burning my hands, and I slipped in lemon slices to keep it from tasting too strong.

(Bonus: on days when I could fill the bottle with plain water, it tasted deliciously lemony.)

So - when I was back home and feeling like I should give up milk in my tea, I thought - I've already pulled this off out of necessity, so why not just go on?

And here's the freeing bit.

If you are not putting milk or sugar in your tea, all you need is the tea and the kettle and water and a cup.  You don't need a refrigerator beside your tea making area (which is lucky since Andy and I designed the kitchen at our house with the tea station far from the refrigerator.)  You don't even need to drink all the tea in the pot before it goes cold.  I mean it's nice to drink hot tea, and I still like to have my tea cosy on the pot, but if I come home after a few hours and have forgotten to pour out the leftover tea before dashing out, I am happy to drink it as I find it.

Suddenly, I can drink green tea without wincing, and enjoy all its health benefits.

And because I am trying not to have a glass off milk too close to the time I drink a cup of tea, I don't run out of milk as quickly, which is nice.  I love milk and drink way more than I need to even to keep my bones strong, and was going through a TON of milk every week. 

Thanks to this small change, I am not looking for cookies every time I have tea.  And when I read about heart-healthy diets that advocate drinking black tea and lots of plain water in place of other more delicious beverages, I don't shudder or cringe or write them off as impossible for me.

I guess what I'm writing about it today's Hug is that even if you're a bit slow on the uptake like I am, small steps can actually result in big changes in how you get through your day.  As I've made these adjustments in my tea consumption I've also been trying to eat more vegetables and adapting how I cook them to make them less labour-intensive - drizzling olive oil over cubed sweet potatoes, for example, right on the baking sheet where I've tossed them before pushing the pan into the oven, thereby saving myself from washing an extra bowl.  Or cubing a lot of sweet potatoes at once while listening to an audiobook, so that I can bag up enough for a meal or two later in the week when I know I will have less time. 

And the salad thing - well, even though there is sugar in balsamic reduction, it's only enough to make me crave arugula, and I'm pretty sure that isn't a bad thing.  The nitrites are another story but let's ignore them for now.

As I type - even though I did just go through three days in a row with ice cream, then root beer, then more ice cream I didn't even enjoy and now have to start all over again with cold turkey on the whole Dessert Thing as soon as I don't need hot honey and lemon for my throat - I am eating better for less money, every day.  It years and years since I've felt as healthy as I have lately, and on top of that, I've lost a little weight without making more time to exercise, or creating strategies for eating less.  I'm happy to eat whatever I want that isn't sugar, but I'm just plain less hungry.

Mind you, I got this darned cold anyway, and at breakneck speed to boot, but I'm going to give that a pass because I lost sleep and had to work super hard for almost all of last week battling the phone scammer who victimized my aunt.  There's bound to be fallout from that, right? 

Do me a favour and just nod and agree while I sign off and go make myself another cup of green tea for my sore throat, sigh.

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