September WAS Self Improvement Month

 

Yes, we've intentionally posted this a little late to illustrate that we all need improvement for something. You have to wonder why they've specifically designated September as Self Improvement Month when self improvement is a life-long endeavor we work on all the time. Maybe it's because traditionally, school starts in September, and from the time we are very young we associate that with new beginnings. Or maybe it's because Fall leads to the holidays, a time when our focus turns to home and family. As we look inward to the things that matter most, we may be open to making beneficial changes in ourselves.  

Whatever the reason or the timing, here are a few ideas you might consider worthy improvements that will lead to a happier life. 

Taking Time for Yourself:  If you're like most of us, every day is filled with commitments and must-do tasks. So it's important to balance them with something you do just for yourself. Even though it's a necessity, far too few people make it a priority. It may involve taking a little alone-time each day or some activity you particularly enjoy, but anything that feeds your soul makes life better and represents self-improvement.  

Stretch Yourself: Try something new. Or learn more about something that interests you. Get specific. Fill in the gaps. Not only are there a million things that might enrich your life, there are a million resources for information and experiences. Talk to people. Read more. Make discoveries using the Internet. There's no limit! 

Healthy Eating: Does it seem contradictory to talk about healthy eating just as we head into the “Silly Season?” Holiday goodies are everywhere. But it's a fact that many people gain 5-10 pounds between Thanksgiving and the start of the new year, and live to regret it come January. Might there be a way to enjoy the treats and not gain the weight? Of course! If you can watch what you eat in between celebrations and keep up with your exercise program, it can be done. If this is the first year you conquer the tendency to put on weight over the holidays, then consider it a huge dose of self-improvement and something you can keep doing once the holidays are over.  

Get Organized: If you feel overwhelmed, the cause might just be too much chaos. When things are more orderly, they are easier to control. And control is really important for a sense of well-being. It might mean straightening up your desk or cleaning out the fridge. It might mean paring down your “to-do” list by deciding that some things can wait. Going from overwhelmed to well-being... definitely self-improvement.  

Remember Love: Work, chores, obligations – they keep us on the go. We deal with people in a rush. We can become short-tempered or we can just take people for granted. Don't! Take a moment every now and then to remember love. Really think about it. Be grateful for those feelings. They are a gift. Truly experience love instead of just proclaiming it. The more you love, the greater your capacity to love. And we can't think of an improvement more important than that.   

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Common Cooking Mistakes

Common Cooking Mistakes 

Some people just have a knack for cooking – everything perfect, every time. And then there are those who've had so many disasters they just resign themselves to restaurant meals and take-out. Well, we're here to tell you that's no way to live. Get out your cookware because we believe in you!

Most kitchen flops are caused by simple mistakes, bad habits, and failure to prepare. Here are some of the problems along with easy remedies: 

  1. Heavy, Greasy Fried Food: The number one cause is that the oil wasn't hot enough. This is true for deep frying and pan frying alike. Use an oil that can get very hot without burning (canola, peanut, or safflower) and test a small amount of whatever you're making. If it sizzles immediately, the oil is ready. 
  2. Clumpy Pasta: Nobody wants pasta that's all stuck together. But that's what you'll get if you don't use a large enough pot and enough water. A good ratio is about 5 quarts of water for one pound of dry pasta. Get the water to a good boil and add your pasta. Stir immediately to separate the noodles. Let it boil vigorously until it's al dente (literally “to the tooth”). Use the cooking time on the package as a guide, but we like to test a little early. Drain the pasta; don't rinse it. If it's too dry even after you've added the sauce, add a bit of the cooking water. 
  3. Unevenly Grilled Meat. Burned on the outside, raw on the inside... no thanks. If you start cooking meat directly out of the fridge, the inside will still be cool when the surface is fully browned. For more even cooking, allow meat to come up to room temperature for about 15-20 minutes before cooking.
  4. Losing the Juice: Now that you've grilled that perfect steak – don't be in a hurry. Meat needs to rest for at least five minutes before cutting so that the juices can be reabsorbed. If you cut too early, all the juices will run out onto the plate and the meat will seem dry. Patience. Patience. Patience. NOW!
  5. Bland, Tasteless Dishes. If you wait until the very end to taste your food and add seasoning, you're too late. Taste and season as you go. Seasoning should begin early so that it has a chance to bring out the natural flavors of your ingredients. The only way you'll know you've got the right balance is by tasting.
  6. Overcooked Vegetables: Drab soggy vegetables get pushed around the plate and end up in the garbage. What a shame when bright green, crisp vegetables are so delicious. Overcooking is the culprit. Vegetables such as green beans, asparagus, and broccoli lose their color and turn soft after six or seven minutes of cooking. Watch them, and remove them from the heat as soon as they are tender to the fork. 

Simple mistakes and simple solutions. Now you're a better cook! 

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There's Pizza Everywhere!

Pizza From Around the World

Pizza! Who doesn't love it? Pizza isn't a recent creation; foods that resemble our modern-day pizza have been around since the neolithic period – in other words, the Stone Age! The concept of taking boring old bread (or some flattened base made from grain) and putting a bunch of more interesting ingredients on top of it was something even Barney Rubble could understand.  

We rightly think of Pizza as an Italian dish, and it's true that Italian chefs have set the standard. But similar dishes arose in many parts of the Ancient World, and even today, pizza is so popular that people in different localities all over the planet have given the pie their own spin. If you're not a Pizza Purist, you might want to try some of these when you travel abroad. 

Italy: Italian Pizza is so well known and so popular that you really don't need to read about it here. Crust, tomato sauce, mozzarella – and there you have it! Add pepperoni, sausage, peppers, olives, anchovies and you've stayed true to the ideal.  

Brazil: The large Italian population living in Brazil may stick with tradition, but local toppings include corn, quail eggs, beets, guava jam, chocolate (!), and cream cheese. Many Brazilians put mustard or ketchup on as well.  

India: In India, they use an unleavened bread similar to thin pizza crust which they brush with butter and garlic, so they have the makings of something familiar. Many like tandoori chicken or minced mutton as toppings, but non-meat toppings are also popular (especially with the large vegetarian population in India) as are plenty of condiments like chili flakes and ketchup. 

Argentina: They call it pizza, but without  cheese and tomato sauce, we're not so sure. The crust is topped with seasonings and perhaps onions and olives, but it's more like Focaccia in our opinion.  

Japan: As you'd expect, typical Asian flavors adorn the crust, or pancake. You might select kimchi, shrimp, pork belly, and vegetables all topped off with seaweed and pickled ginger.  

Germany: One of the most popular toppings in Germany is canned tuna fish. But at least, they do combine it with tomato sauce, cheese, and oregano. 

In Australia, toppings include crocodile, kangaroo, and emu. Your pizza in France is likely to be topped with a fried egg. In Sweden, peanuts, pineapple, and curry powder are on the menu.  

Wherever you go in the world, you're going to find something called Pizza. What that really means... we leave it up to you to decide. 

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