Seven Ways to Make Food Prep Exciting

Eating at home can be better and more fun than dining out every day.  Here are seven ways to make home food preparation interesting.

For many years, it was my responsibility to feed our family of seven three healthy meals a day.  I decided to approach meal preparation as a hobby to keep myself engaged. Now, my years of others relying on me for meals are gone.  

BUT, eating out presents some challenges to maintaining the healthy approach to life my husband and I are intent on following.  A focus on nutrition and some food allergies and our slowing metabolism that seems to accompany the accumulation of birthdays make eating out a lot a challenge.   

Cooking for fewer people has required some adjustments. But, I am finding that cooking at home for most of our meals is not only better for us but it can be fun and give us some new shared interests.

Here are some ways we keep meal prep from becoming boring.

Find new recipes

Cooking shows on television can inspire new recipes. Themes, slants, approaches, points of view….any time of day on multiple channels, there are cooking shows to inspire.  

Websites can help!  Pinterest is a great source of recipe inspiration.  Have coconut milk in your cabinet and need the inspiration to use it?  You can find a multitude of options there.  Want to make gluten-free, vegan brownies?  There will be a number of recipes to choose from.  Want a new take on meatloaf or spaghetti or need to know how to use that mystery ingredient that your gardening neighbor bestowed?  Find it online.

My daughter has almost replaced me with AllRecipes.com.  She has found family favorites there that for me were hand-written on 3×5 index cards.

We subscribe to at least one food-related magazine at all times.  When it comes, I sit and peruse all possibilities and tear out the pages with foods we might like to try.  If we try it and like it, it gets filed.  If it is forgettable, out it goes.

Try new foods  

By “new” I don’t necessarily mean “weird.”  (Unless weird sounds good!)  

Growing up, the vegetable choice was pretty much green beans, peas, corn, or carrots.  I remember broccoli showing up when I was in my 20’s as a “new” veggie.  Zucchini came a little after that.  Now, with improved refrigeration and shipping and preservation methods, you can get all sorts of foods that were unknown to you even a few years ago.  

Try something new!  You might like it!

Explore different cuisines  

When we moved the small-ish “micro-urban” community we live in, more years ago than I can believe, there were 3 restaurants in town, not counting the common fast food places.  One was a chain family restaurant, one was locally owned and had good burgers and sodas and soups, and the third was a more-upscale Italian-ish place.

Now, same town, we can choose from a long list of places to eat different cuisines. Thai, Indian (from different regions), Mexican (both authentic and Tex-Mex), Chinese (buffet, sit-down, carry-out), Korean (especially if we are willing to brave the campus area), and others that I am sure I am not currently aware of.  

So many options for so much fun and exploration!

Buy unusual (to you) ingredients

My husband is an avid runner.  As he has had more birthdays, he has gotten more interested in the mechanics and technology of long distance running. Several books he has ordered have opened us up to new ingredients.  We now have several types of miso in our refrigerator. Seaweed. Tahini. Quinoa. Agave syrup. Chia seeds. Various types of “milk.”  And we are learning how to use them successfully.

Turmeric is a new spice to us.  We now have Garam Masala and Cumin on the spice shelf. I discovered Ginger Juice that I use regularly. And the oil and vinegar stores know me by name. (Wild mushroom and Sage Olive Oil are my favorite. Balsamic fig vinegar is all I need on a salad.)

Learn new techniques  

Back to television, watching competitive cooking shows has taught me a lot.  PBS has great cooking shows for techniques, as do other broadcast channels.   Even simpler television cooking shows have introduced me to smashing garlic cloves with the side of a knife to easily remove the skins and having a “discard bowl” nearby to save time when chopping and preparing.

Googling recipes for gluten-free bread has given me the information I needed to have a measure of success in baking yeast bread with flours that are not made from wheat (which required me to buy and learn to use unusual ingredients).  A simple technique I ran across online made my bread go from flat to raised, actually resembling the wheat bread I made for years.

Remember old favorites

Don’t forget those family favorites.  I remember once when I was on a roll to make meals interesting to our children that my husband requested spaghetti—at least once a year.  I had gotten so into meal prep that for one whole year, I never repeated a recipe.  Variety being the spice of life and all that, he just wanted an occasional “comfort” meal (even though he did assure me he enjoyed my creative efforts).

Now, with me being gluten-free and us both watching our caloric intake, we can substitute spaghetti squash with a favorite sauce. Chili is easily accomplished in the crockpot. He has perfected nachos that are healthy and tasty.  Sometimes the old favorites hit the spot.

Divorce yourself from perfection.

Food prep and dining at home should be fun and nutritional, not perfect.  When you are trying new ingredients, or preparing new recipes or learning new techniques, sometimes it comes out less than what it looked like on television or online.

No worries!  If it is edible, then that is a success.  If it is not (which will happen rarely, I promise!) then, don’t eat it.  It’s as simple as that.

Do you enjoy cooking at home?  What have you found to be successful for at-home meal preparation? What new ingredients have you tried?  What will you never try again?!

 

 

 

 

 

* This was originally posted by Debbie at SixtyandMe.com

 

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Less Stress and More Joy

I’m in my ThirdThird now (ages 60-90) and I find there are things I used to care a lot more about than I do now.  Priorities, experience, wisdom, adapting… whatever the reason, I am much more flexible in my thinking.

The result? Less stress and more joy. A greater appreciation for each day, each opportunity, and each interaction.

Here are five ways that I can be much more relaxed now that I have lived long enough to recognize what is truly important to me:

 

Fashion “rules.”

 

Rules that try to dictate details like you have to wear brown with navy or that you can’t wear white after Labor Day (or before Easter) or that after a certain age you “shouldn’t” wear leggings or high heels.  While I care about my appearance and want to be (relatively) stylish, I am much more inclined to be motivated by comfort and common sense now that I am older.  Put myself together in a way that I feel confident and off I go.

 

Grocery store attire.  

Continuing on with a clothing theme, I care much less what I wear to the grocery store, even though I have lived in our town for a long time and there is a good chance I might run into someone I know.  If I know them, they should not be distracted by my casual attire and we should be able to enjoy an exchange of pleasantries in the aisles, with or without makeup.

 

Other people’s opinions about my family.  

Once, my husband and I made a decision that (evidently) seemed rash to outsiders without much information. We both quit our jobs and headed in separate directions, temporarily, to take opportunities we were excited about. Pretty soon, there were all sorts of rumors. One of us was dying. We were splitting up. There was trouble brewing. None of it was true. We were just taking advantage of the trust we had built over many years that allowed us to each seek our own for a period. Since then, I don’t try to explain.

 

Keeping up with the latest.  

Technology, slang, exercise, diet. Trying new stuff that is going to disappear or be replaced before I fully understand it is an exercise in futility that I no longer am tempted by.  I am dependent on technology, but try to make what works for me last as long as possible. Slang, I just try to avoid so I don’t misuse, much to my grandkids’ amusement. Exercise and diet, I know what works so being consistent is the best approach at this point.

 

Everyone agreeing.

Ha! In the current political climate in the US, there is obviously little hope of everyone agreeing. But even in a family or social or work environments, I am much more willing to adapt to someone else’s idea than I used to be. For years, I have been considering a family vacation that involved passports and planes and trains and mountains and beaches. Our kids, however, asked if I would consider, instead, a week at a Florida beach. 17 people. No passports. No train. Just sand and sun and relaxing. They all agreed, so exchanging my plans was simple.  That they all want to be together AND they want their parents there, too….that was a fine adjustment for my thinking to make.

 

Life is simpler now that I can let go of a lot of the rules and expectations and assumptions I had when I was rushing around and holding things together in my FirstThird (ages 0-30, mainly focused on learning) and in my SecondThird (ages 30-60, mainly focused on earning).  

This is one key to me making my ThirdThird my very BEST Third.

 

 

 

* first published at Sixtyandme.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luca Upper

It’s Here!

I’ve been telling you about my new book and now it is ready! 

I’m excited to share with you that my ebook is available for purchase on Amazon for just $2.99!

 

 

I’ve been gathering content for a long time by keeping journals to record life lessons and significant moments. This book, “Which Old Woman Will You Be?” is my first. It takes a practical look at ways to be sure you are becoming the person you want to be in your ThirdThird of life, ages 60–90.

As we age, two things happen.
1. We have less energy to pretend, and
2. We care less what others think of us.

The result is that who we really are, who we have been at our core, is what comes out. By living on purpose and determining who we want to be when we are younger, we can intentionally become the “Old Woman” (or Old Man) that we want to become.

I think you will enjoy the book and I am thankful for your support!  Purchase your copy here: http://a.co/9FEn4bg

If you enjoyed the book, write a review on Amazon or share with somebody you know who would benefit from this book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staying Fit When You Hate to Exercise

 

Do you want to stay fit, but hate to exercise?  Me, too!

The effects of living on this earth for more than half a century has begun to take its toll. But I refuse to believe that accepting “aging” and becoming less active is my only option.

However……no matter how hard I have tried to convince myself I like to exercise, I just don’t enjoy it.  

BUT, now that I am in my ThirdThird (ages 60-90), I know that it is more important than ever to find some way to stay active.  

So, here are 11 ways I convince myself to keep moving.
Maybe one or two will boost you along as well.

1. Know the big why that makes the effort worth it.

Keeping up with grandkids and being able to enjoy their activities requires climbing bleachers, carrying camp chairs and other movement.  I  like to travel and being able to get in and out of a vehicle and making it to an airport gate are easier if you are somewhat fit.  Want to start a business? You’ll need energy and stamina.

2. Be satisfied with reality.

You don’t have to run a marathon or even a 5K to be fit. My husband loves to run. I have tried and tried to love running with him, but I just don’t. Walking, I can do. But walking in an organized event that times me and compares me I don’t think of as fun.  So, reality is that taking a walk alone and listening to podcasts gets me moving, so that is what I do. And, I will do yoga classes or cds.

3. Find something, anything.

Don’t like to run? Swim. Don’t like to be in cold water? Walk. Don’t like to be outside? Find an indoor track. Want to be outdoors? Try a kayak.  Just find some way to keep moving and active that you will do regularly.

4. Get convinced it’s important.  

In my recent reading, I see common information saying 95% of disease is life-style related. Also, I read that the number one reason people enter assisted living is because they need help to get themselves off a toilet.  Those two statistics motivate me to keep moving.  And to eat intentionally to control my weight.

5. Find your motivation.

Mine has changed over the years.  For a while, I was motivated to “look better than my sisters.” (Not the purest motivation, I admit, it worked for me for a long time.)  I have a friend who has a personal rule of “no larger sizes.”  One of my “mantras” for the BEST ThirdThird is, “It’s easier to keep it off, take it off.” [Read more HERE] The older I get, the stronger my motivation needs to be, so searching for “it” is key.

6. Be realistic

Something is better than nothing and you don’t have to prove anything to anyone.  If a walk around the block is what you are able to do, then do it…every day. If you used to run marathons and now a 10K is what you are able to do, enjoy a 10K. If Pilates or weight lifting has become too strenuous, find an appropriate yoga or tai chi class or cd. Injuries or aches and pains will de-motivate, so start where you are able.

7. Dress for comfort.

If you are going to walk or run, get shoes that will give you the support. Invest in some non-binding, stretchy clothes that make moving comfortable. If you are joining a class, ask or observe the best clothes to wear.  This is not a place to make fashion too important. Comfort is key.

8. Dress for fun.

But….exercise can also be a great excuse for some fun colors and styles. Try some yoga pants. Get some bright shoes. Find a t-shirt with a slogan you believe in. Move proudly in fun clothing.

9. Take a class.

It is not hard to find a class that will accommodate any level of fitness. In our small community of 150,000, there are multiple gyms and park districts that offer a myriad of classes. Water aerobics, yoga, weights, Pilates, spinning, walking, etc., etc. A class is a good way to try something new and it is a great social outlet.

10. Start somewhere.

Buy the shoes, or get the membership, or find a partner, or walk around the block after dinner. Do something to get yourself moving. Anything. That one step can make a big difference in the quality of your life going forward.

11. Reward yourself.

No chocolate until the walk is complete? An extra half-glass of wine if you’ve had a good bit of movement? A nice soak in the tub with bubbles and a good book? Be sure you pat yourself on the back for making the effort at staying as fit as possible.

 

People are motivated either by avoiding something they fear or by being rewarded by something they enjoy. What works for you? Do you have some good ways to reward yourself for being active? What keeps you moving?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Describe Yourself

It takes some forethought and practice to know how to describe yourself.

I once had a meeting set up by a friend who knew I was starting a new venture.  He knew someone who was generous and who had some experience similar to mine and arranged for us to meet.  I prepared what I had and was very excited to impress this stranger.  I had great ideas, plenty of experience to validate my approach, and some written explanations and examples.  I shared them all.

Finally, I  stopped my “presentation” and looked expectantly at him.  He said, <direct quote>, “You have been talking for 20 minutes and I still don’t know what the hell you do.”

Ouch.  But a really, really good ouch.

I went home and Dave took one look at me and said, “Something just happened to you…and it is good.”  He was right.  I had asked some questions of my “benefactor” and he had headed me in a good direction.  I gathered up a flip chart, post it notes, an easel and a myriad of colored markers and pens and my journal while Dave reserved a suite room for me at a hotel in a town an hour away.  I stayed two nights and three days.  I created and defined and practiced and read and came back with an elevator speech and a list of services I provided.

It was the first time I had heard of an elevator speech and it was the spark I needed to launch a successful coaching and training business that has taken me to some very interesting places, learning some very interesting lessons, and meeting some very interesting people.  It was the start of significant growth for me, professionally.

All from a failed attempt at describing myself and what I do.

I sent a note of appreciation to the man (whose name I honestly don’t remember) and a bookmark with a quote on it with:

 

 

It’s never too late. Are you in your third third? Make it your BEST third.

 

 

 

Know Yourself

There is more to DiSC or any personality or behavior style assessment than just knowing your dominant style.  The mixture of styles is an important layer and there are tools to know yourself deeply and to have greater understanding.

For instance, my “D” is high so, I know that I can be opinionated, energetic, decisive….maybe even, at times, domineering, forceful, and direct.  (Though years of being married and having kids and training others on relationships has helped me learn to manage those strengths so that they don’t often get out of hand any more.)

But, my mid-line “i” and “S” has significant influence on my behavior.  The “i” factors in to help me genuinely enjoy people, find conversation easy, and care how I appear to people.  The “S” factors in to make me like things in order, appreciate a system, and to avoid too much conflict in relationships.

And, my very low “C” means that I know when details are important, I need to get help.  Or have a program for it.  Or just simply make myself concentrate…..then plan for re-energizing.

One practical application for me has been to know that there are times when I just have to express my opinion or join in the argument.  I just can’t keep from saying what I know to be true…..BUT, afterwards, I have some angst about how my opinions or expression was received.  Or, I may be concerned about how they made someone else feel.

I used to waste a lot of time fretting and worrying about past conversations.  Now, I have learned the conflict within myself and I try to weigh the outcomes before I say what I am thinking.  I try to hold those more forceful strengths for times when the topic or the project or the situation warrants it.  Then, if I have said what I believe to be true and helpful to others around me, I don’t take all of the responsibility for their reactions on myself.

Not only have I learned to use my strengths in positive ways, I sleep better at night!

Each part of the DiSC graph is significant and offers
deeper self-awareness that can lead to much greater
success in work and play.  In very practical ways.

How well do you know yourself? What is a first step you can take to begin your journey of self-awareness and understanding?

We don’t accidentally become the people we want to be, intentional actions in our second-third lay the foundation so that who we really are flows out of us in our third-third.

 

 

New Tools

The DiSC method of understanding is potentially powerful tool.  While there are all sorts of online assessments that will give a basic reading of a person’s behavior style, and plenty of fat personnel files in HR offices, I still prefer to have at least an hour-and-a-half and a paper version to take people through a bit of practical personal discovery.

The paper version I use is self-scoring and has several built-in ways to validate the information.  It is not threatening and can actually be a lot of fun, with people who are open to understanding themselves and are willing to be understood.

 

Understanding Your Wiring – invest in knowing yourself better so that
you can be intentional with your life choices.

 

My goal, when I take a person or a group through a DiSC workshop, is to fill each person’s personal, relational toolbox with new tools.

Here are a few:

  • Understand that you are wired a certain way and you will function best within that style.

    For example, a young woman came up to me at the end of a presentation and began by saying, “I don’t usually seek speakers out…”. Then, she went on to tell me that all her life, she has been told that she always has to be right, as if that were a weakness.  “Now,” she said, “I realize that I am simply wired to be thinking ahead of others and that it is a strength, not a weakness.”

  • Understanding your style can help you identify energy sources and drains.

    When my husband was a pastor, we finally realized that extended people-intense times drained him.  When we moved to the country and he had space and quiet in nature to re-energize, he overcame a long struggle with depression. In an opposite way, there are types who recover with socializing…..hence happy hours, I suspect.

  • Knowing that other people have unique styles, possibly different than my own, gives understanding and a lot of freedom.

    No wonder some people love a meeting and others dread it. No wonder some people actually like to research facts and others prefer to fly by the seat of their pants. No wonder shopping is fun for some and like pulling fingernails off to others. We are wired with different strengths and preferences.

  • Embracing my own preferential pace and focus helps me find my sweet spot for success.

    An “S” needs peace and a predictable environment. An “I” wants interaction and celebration. A “C” has to have quiet and wants to have their work validated. A “D” thrives with independence and a challenge. Just knowing that I shouldn’t expect to enjoy, much less be productive in random environments, allows me to create my own space for better results.

 

Quality tools make your relationships, your work, and running in your strengths easier.

 

Assuming or Understanding

Assuming is one of the biggest mistakes we all make in relationships.

We often assume that the person we are around is the same as we are. We assume we know what they are thinking. We assume they will enjoy the same things we enjoy… will appreciate the same gifts, the same food, the same approach.

Assuming is rarely helpful. Unless it is assuming the BEST, until proven otherwise.

In contrast to assuming, understanding is key to any relationship. And DiSC is one of the best tools for understanding that I have ever come across.

A concern some people have about taking the DiSC assessment is that they don’t want to be labeled. There can be temptation to “label” some obvious people-traits. However, the reason to learn about your pre-wired behavioral preferences is to understand yourself and others and that should trump the fear of a few people misusing information. And, it can help you avoid making assumptions.

I write about DiSC and behavior preferences so we can all grow in understanding… we can all getting along… we can all succeed.

» Understanding that a “D” will come up with quick solutions helps you to be ready to tap into that potential problem solver.

» Understanding that an “I” will process information verbally helps with patience in hearing them out.

» Understanding that an “S” fears conflict and will usually look for the compromise helps make use of their strengths.

» Understanding that a “C” is thinking while others are talking helps as a reminder to access that brain trust by opening the door to hear their ideas.

As a manager, as an employee, as a leader, as a team member, as a coach, as a friend….in any relationship, awareness and understanding from DiSC can give you an edge. It is much more effective than making assumptions.

Grow in your understanding by discovering your unique wiring.

 

 

Energy Drain

Understanding where your energy comes from and
where it goes is key to living life well.

Do you know what drains you? It is a first step in managing your own energy.

The DiSC is a personal assessment tool we can use to understand the way we are wired. We are each a combination of D and I and S and C. Understanding these basic 4 types of behavior styles is the first, really great step in understanding your own personal wiring.

ENERGY DRAINS

For D’s and C’s, too much time with people contact is a drain. D’s are fast paced and can manage people and time well, as long as it is attached to getting something done.  Just to “hang out” or be entirely social can be a drain. C’s generally are drained by any type of prolonged people contact. Meetings, parties, shopping, chatting…..all deplete a C.

I’s and S’s are drained by having to focus too much on the task. Sitting and staring at a computer, in an office while everyone else is at lunch, working on a project alone can be a sap on energy for those that are people-oriented.

We can’t always avoid the energy drains,
so we have to know how to replenish our energy.

 

For I’s and S’s, energy comes from interaction with others. I’s like a party. They like groups and action and noise and fun. They get energy from being in a crowd and interacting. S’s like connecting, one-on-one and with some depth. They value serious conversation and true friendship.

For D’s and C’s, energy comes from a task. D’s like to start things and to solve problems. They like competitive games that move fast and then end. C’s like research and detailed plans. They like computer games that require concentration and knowledge and that can be played alone.

With some simple tracking and awareness, you can identify your draining times and activities. Once you’ve identified what is zapping your energy, you can limit your exposure to those sources and, more importantly, be intentional and schedule time for replenishing activities that give you life.