Ten a Day: A Winter Bean and Vegetable Soup

Lately, Clif and I have been talking about improving our diet. We are, ahem, at that age when the body needs all the help it can get. It’s not that we don’t eat well—we eat a fair amount of fruit and vegetables—but our diet is definitely heavy on the carb side. So, we decided to ramp up the vegetables and replace white bread and wraps with whole wheat.

On the weekend, we’ll allow our selves some treats. After all, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

How appropriate, then, to come across this in the Guardian: “Forget five a day, eat 10 portions of fruit and veg to cut risk of early death.” Basically, the gist of the piece is that we need to dismiss the advice to eat five servings of fruit and vegetables per day. Instead, we should be eating ten. Lest this sound too daunting, three tablespoons of peas count as one serving, as well as two spears of broccoli, and one half grapefruit. There is a chart in the piece outlining what ten a day would look like. (Oh, if only there were a similar requirement for chocolate!)

This advice is based on “[t]he analysis in the International Journal of Epidemiology [that] pooled the results from 95 different studies involving a total of approximately 2 million people.”

The studies indicate that eating “up to 800g of fruit and vegetables – equivalent to 10 portions and double the recommended amount in the UK – was associated with a 24% reduced risk of heart disease, a 33% reduced risk of stroke, a 28% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, a 13% reduced risk of total cancer, and a 31% reduction in premature deaths.”

As always, further studies are needed to confirm the results, but how can you go wrong eating more fruit and veggies?

And, to round out the coincidences, a day or two before I read the article, I made a vegetable and bean soup that includes carrots, celery, cabbage, tomatoes, and black beans. I’m not sure if a big bowl would tick off five servings of veggies—beans count, too—but it must come pretty darned close.

This soup has other benefits as well. It is not expensive to make, even if you use organic ingredients, and everything can be tossed into a slow-cooker, where the soup will simmer away, filling the whole house with a delightful smell. Best of all, as my Yankee husband put it, the soup is pretty darned good.

A word of warning about the following recipe: As is my habit, I did not make this soup following a particular recipe. I just added ingredients as I saw fit. Soup is very forgiving this way. Therefore, much of what I’m suggesting will be guidelines. Feel free to experiment with the ingredients and the spices.

In the end, you will have wonderful, nutritious soup, and you will be well on your way to fulfilling your ten-a-day requirement of fruit and veggies.

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Bean and Vegetable Soup
Serves 8

Ingredients

  • Five or six cups of chopped vegetables. (I used cabbage, carrots, and celery.)
  • 2 (16 oz) cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 (28 oz) can of fire roasted crushed tomatoes. (I used Muir Glen.)
  • 1 (1/2)  cans of water—using the can from the fire roasted tomatoes. Add more water if you want a thinner soup.
  • 1 pound of ground turkey
  • 1 tablespoon of chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon of coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt to taste

Directions

  1. Cook and brown the ground turkey in a large skillet.
  2. Put the cooked turkey in a slow-cooker.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients.
  4. Cook on low for nine or ten hours; high for five or six hours.
  5. Enjoy and feel virtuous.

 

Fire at the Post Office

img_6194Yesterday, there was a fire at our town’s post office, and the fire was so intense that it gutted the building. All morning the fire raged, and Facebook was full of images and descriptions. This put our little town in an uproar, and Clif and I had a hard time concentrating on anything else.

With that fire and destruction, we have lost an essential part of our town. Despite email, FedEx, and UPS, the postal service is vital to our community—indeed to many communities—and now there is great big burnt shell where the post office once stood.

Many people criticize the U.S Postal Service, complaining of how the federal government can’t do anything right. I beg to disagree. Sure, every once in a while my New Yorker goes missing, or we receive mail that should have gone to someone else. But not very often. Mostly, day in and day out, our mail comes, delivered by conscientious carriers who actually bring the mail to our doorstep when we have a package.

While it does cost money to send letters—still a bargain, as far as I’m concerned—and packages, it doesn’t cost anything for individuals to receive mail. You might even call the U.S Postal Service a common good, a concept that today seems as dated as poodle skirts and saddle shoes. Spending for the common good? Where’s the profit in that?

And while I’m on the subject of the common good, I must praise the firefighters, from our town and from surrounding towns, who put out the fire and stopped it from spreading to other buildings. At town meetings, there is always grousing about how much the fire department costs. Yes, there is a cost. But what would our town be like without it?

Schools, fire departments, libraries, police departments, trash removal all cost money, but they are essential to having a decent society. (I could add other things such as public transportation, too.) The point is not that they cost taxpayers money. The point is, how do we collect the money fairly so that taxes aren’t a burden on those who don’t have much?

The postal service has already sprung into action with a plan for Winthrop’s mail. Working out of Augusta, carriers have already resumed home delivery in Winthrop. For those who had post office boxes or need to pick up packages, they will go to the Manchester post office, in the town next to us. The mail will be delivered, despite the loss of our post office.

Right now, fire marshals are investigating the cause of the fire. I’m hoping it wasn’t arson.

And I expect a new post office will replace the burnt wreckage of the old one. But it will be quite a while before that happens, and, in the meantime, our post office will be sorely missed.

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A Finest Kind of Day at a Great Little Craft Fair

Yesterday, Clif and I were at the Fairfield Craft Fair, and what a wonderful time we had. Although the fair was small, we got so much out of it that I’m still somewhat in a daze.

First of all, we sold quite a few books, and that is always gratifying.  So many, in fact, that people had to come to our table to see the book that everyone was carrying around the fair. (It also helped that we were the only vendor selling books.)

Eleven- and twelve-year-old children were drawn to the book’s cover like bees to honey, as the expression goes. I really can’t take credit for the cover—the praise must go to Bookfly Design, who will most certainly be doing our second book, Library Lost.  For new blog readers, here is what the cover of my current book looks like.

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One little girl was thrilled when I signed her copy of the book, and her face just beamed with pleasure. This is something I will always remember.

Next to us, a woman was selling jewelry. Her twelve-year-old son wanted a copy of the book, and she kindly bought one for him. He immediately read the first two chapters and told me what every writer longs to hear: “Those first two chapters really drew me in,” he said. “I love it when books do that. It always makes me want to read more.”

Music to my ears, that’s for sure! And the woman, who home-schools her son, gave me an excellent tip as to where I could market my book.

A Franco-American woman from Waterville’s South End—a place that is featured in my book—stopped by, and we giggled and reminisced about the South End. I told her how I had woven my own Franco-American heritage in the book, and I ended with, “Let’s face it. How many fantasies feature Franco-Americans from Waterville’s South End? Not many, that’s for sure.”

Laughing, she agreed and bought a copy of the book.

We didn’t sell many cards—I guess customers were drawn to the book—and Clif and I decided that from now on, we are going to focus solely on the book. This is just fine with me. Although I enjoy making cards, it’s not my life’s work, the way Maya and the Book of Everything is. By just focusing on our book, we’ll have the table space for a snazzy slide show of Maya, and I’m looking forward to adding that to our display. (I’ll still take pictures for this blog and continue to send cards to family and friends.)

I’m going to end this post by featuring the young woman who encouraged me to come to this fair. Her name is Sara, and I have known her since she was very young. Sara makes beautiful jewelry—among other things—and her business is called Tooth Fairy Handmade. Here are some pictures of Sara and her jewelry.

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Sara’s jewelry is very reasonably priced and would make a great present for that special someone—mother, daughter, aunt, cousin, or friend.

A Mid-Winter Craft Fair in Fairfield, Maine

Tomorrow, Clif and I will be taking our cards and books to a craft fair in Fairfield at their community center.  A friend recommended this craft fair, and she will be returning with her jewelry for the second time. After the flurry of the holidays, things have quieted down for us, and we are looking forward to being out and about again with our cards and books.

Even the weather is cooperating—a sunny day today and a sunny day is predicted for tomorrow.  Clif said last night, “It’s great not to have to think about clearing snow for the next day or two.”

Indeed it is. Much as we both like winter, clearing all that snow is, shall we say, a bit tiring, especially at our age. So we appreciate the break and the chance to get out on Saturday. (That’s another thing about snowstorms. They keep you pretty close to home.)

Clif even got a chance to take Liam for a walk this morning, something he hasn’t been able to do for some time.

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Onward to the craft fair in Fairfield!

Winter Wonderland

I got up this morning to a most lovely sight—the little snowstorm from last night left a fluffy covering on the branches, the fence, on everything. I immediately grabbed my camera and went out to take some pictures. As I was surrounded by this winter beauty, my spirits felt buoyed by the white, quiet landscape. Yet again, I reflected that I am a true Mainer—five generations on my mother’s side, and before that they came from Canada. I belong here spring, summer, fall, and winter.

Maybe in ten or fifteen years I’ll feel otherwise and want to head to warmer climes. But for now, at least, Maine is the place for me.

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This last one is for Ruth, who works with my daughter Shannon. I wanted her to know that we can still see outside our window.

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What the World Needs Now…

Happy Valentine’s Day to all readers near and far. Such a sweet holiday to show love for  your partner, your children, your friends, and even yourself.

In the spirit of, ahem, treating myself,  I’ll be heading to the store tomorrow, if the weather allows, to get a box of chocolates for half price. As we Mainers would say, it’s a wicked good deal to get chocolates the day after Valentine’s.

Unfortunately, it’s supposed to snow yet again, and I might not be able to go out and get those chocolates. But, there’s a good chance some will still be available on Thursday, so all is not lost.

Clif and I have been married for many, many years. In fact, we have a big anniversary coming up next month, but more about that when it’s closer to the day. Once upon a time, I would have been seriously miffed if Clif forgot to get me something for Valentine’s Day, and indeed that did happen now and then.

Somehow, though, gift-giving holidays have faded in significance for Clif and me, and often we don’t exchange gifts at all for birthdays. We might go out for a special treat, say, Chinese food, or a bike ride and call it good. It’s not that I don’t appreciate receiving presents—I sure do, and my daughters give me lovely ones—but when it comes to Clif, it doesn’t matter at all.

We have a good life together. We support each other in our various projects, and we help each other out. Age has mellowed both of us, and it seems like a blessing rather than a loss not to make a fuss about holidays and birthdays.

However, after writing the above, I must confess that every year I like coming up with a Valentine’s card to send to my special daughters and a few special friends. I was especially pleased with how this year’s card turned out—just the way I envisioned it, which doesn’t always happen, that’s for sure. Also, blue is my favorite color.

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I’ll be using this card for birthdays as well as Valentine’s Day.

After all, what the world needs now, is love, sweet love, and true blue as well.

 

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