Planning meals, the Idaho Plate Method, Families, traditions and lockdowns

There are many different families — singles, couples, big and small. Eating right and making it easy, while not over-worrying about “proper nutrition” is a constant concern I hear. The lockdown has helped some people “learn” more and discover hidden talents, while others are struggling with their own melancholic tendencies or even “Zoom fatigue” (I’m sure this will be added in a future Diagnostic manual!) . This post is about food 🥘 mix-and-match ideas and tips, with some traditional recipe ideas!

Start off thinking slow cooking …. and healthy “fast” foods going back to ancient times. Anyone see the recent post on the Ancient Pompeii food stand? Ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus’ noted simple healthy combinations leading to the “basis” of modern diets with his writings about Mediterranean food, herbs and cooking. Do you know why bitter Oregano is added to Greek salad? It has antiseptic qualities and wards off bacteria which get worse in the hot 🥵 Mediterranean sun 🌞.

If one is lucky to come from a family whose roots are based in gardening, farming, and Mediterranean cooking — one of the healthiest diets in the world — it adds to one’s “food literacy” an important part of health literacy, increasing the value of seasonal foods\eating. This all might seem easy, but it’s not to everyone. In times of financial imbalance, food scarcity, disinterest, or lacking access (e.g. urban poor neighborhoods complain about food “deserts” lacking produce or markets); thus, challenges will ensue. However we live in the digital age and we can learn. Current efforts of sustainable urban gardens and food collaboratives contribute positively globally !

There are always things to learn and share. Asking amazing cooks and “superwomen” (or men) helps one gather excellent recipes and ideas. Remember, it’s important to have the ‘rainbow colors’ fruits (fresh or dried) and vegetables (fresh or frozen) in our daily diets as much as we can. Eat mindfully
🧡 checkout some tips for various physical conditions by an amazing doctor, triathlete and longtime friend ChefMD Kathy💙

Here are some images of recent favorites 🏡 from quince with pork and salad, bean soup, rice with avocado and shrimp, mozzarella tomato with fresh (or dried) basil, traditional “trahana” and Covid immunity building supplements (vitamins and teas) with some room for a cinnamon-apple 🍎 tart…. and yes cinnamon is great to help us lose weight and ‘heat’ the system in the winter months!

One has to “think ahead” to pass on their “skills” to future generations especially help teens and young adults find a “purpose” and build life skills. There are fabulous food shows, we like Akis’ food lab. We also encourage young people to learn about sustainability and such things as urban gardens are great! During winter months, we need to give ourselves an OK ✅ to eat more comfort foods and not over stress about calories. Sparingly 1 Wine 🍷 or 🍺 1 glass is fine for adults, but we aware of extra calories and of course we never drink and drive (think designated driver!).

NOTE 📝 We are not nutritionists here! No need for you to be wealthy to afford food “supplies”, just food smart. If you’re told you’re a great cook and meal host, share your knowledge! Sharing is indeed caring.

Having worked over five years with people who have diabetes, some work with anorexia and obesity recovery from eating disorders, being in tune with the “science” of diets and food resources, having family working in eating establishments (from restaurants to schools), and experiencing the lockdown — including sometimes working and eating too late, meeting and cooking with a ‘master chef’ years ago, many things “rubbed off.” What works and what doesn’t, reality of time and money, cultural issues (e.g. no lard for me despite having had some good fried chicken in the southern U.S.!). Here are a few good tips:

❤️ 6-8 glasses of water 💧 daily including tea (morning or midday) or 1 cup black coffee — with an extra glass of water, are a great way to retain your necessary body fluids. Summer months +2-3 glasses and more fruit!

❤️ Always eat breakfast, be a good role model to your children. Your body is like a 🚗 car, it cannot run on “fumes” (water and coffee are nice but EAT some protein!). If your kids like the sugary cereals mix all up with bran or cornflakes, add some fresh or dried fruit inside or on the side — you’ll feel better about it, and in the long-run they will too.

Choco balls and corn flakes

❤️ The Idaho plate http://platemethod.com/ method is easy to “visualize”— think half your plate of veggies (keep olive oil and lemon 🍋 nearby as it’s better than high calorie sweet sauces) use during lunch and dinner, you’re ahead of the “keeping healthy” game!

❤️ Learn about family food traditions — it’s ok to binge on the heavier calorie ones in the winter just take an extra walk (some smart phones even tell you how many steps you’ve done — aim between 8-10,000 steps daily). This year I learned about curing olives. We made some good meals like quince with pork chops; chestnuts 🌰 with walnuts and raisins stuffed in small to medium-sized turkey; a bean soup combination for Fall-Winter. Did you know that eating about six olives is equivalent to a small piece of meat for protein? 🧑‍🍳 A recent Epicurious food post had wonderful Dutch oven recipes, which one can easily use crock pots as well ….slow, easy, good for you, and your family, and of course delicious.

Despite mom’s chronic arthritis she still makes her traditional and awesome Christmas-New Year aromatic orange, cinnamon, cloves in fried dough recipe “tiganides” or “lalaggia” (they’re made in 2-3 different ways depending what part of the Southern Peloponnese) are a favorite to eat warm, plain or with aged cheese, as a breakfast alternative 😋 … families loved this during cold January. More traditional holiday foods are pictured in this article by Protothema.

❤️ Healthy snacks including protein shakes or bars between meals (XS bars and Body Key by Nutrilite / Amway are some favorites) for busy people, a small piece of dark chocolate every other day as a pick-me-up, accompanied with black coffee/espresso (kids need more calories so don’t be afraid of giving cookies) they also love apple 🍎 or peach 🍑 pie!

Whether you’re making browniesHome for the holidays w/ coconut 🥥 oil for winter or a peach tart for summer, they’re simply good !

I’d like to do an entire post on quince — it has a tangy flavor (wear gloves 🧤 when cutting up because it colors the skin) and is great with regular potatoes and meats like chicken or pork, oven-baked. It’s also amazing as a sweet preserve; eat plain or w/ strained yogurt. It’s high on selenium and kids like it too!

pre-cut quince and quince sweet preserves


❤️ Keep to a planned mealtime schedule as much as possible — lunch between 1-2 pm and dinner about 7 hours later (with a snack in between) is ok. There is a lot of talk lately about “metabolic types” and fasting periods. Note 📝 if you eat a bigger lunch, eat LESS for dinner. Dinner before 8(ish) is best. It’s simple, but not obvious. Think smart prep, some extra meals can be kept frozen, pre-cut salad kept in Tupperware-type containers (that can last up to a week!). Active kids need more snacks so keep yogurt, protein bars/shakes, and fresh or dried fruit close at hand!

We aspire to ‘mix-and-match’ foods, store and reuse for future meals and an ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ philosophy!

❤️ Aspire to an Eat, Pray, Love philosophy as our times make things difficult and it is vitally important to keep the faith in times of uncertainty. This means appreciating what you have, mindful eating, forgiving and loving those dear to you, lending a hand to a neighbor and your community (via donations or in-kind goods). Do what you can, you will feel better in the end! And yes, when you are creative and DO more, especially good cooking and baking you become stronger and more resilient to our difficult times. Remember it is not just about YOU, it is about all of us, big and small, all creatures, a new philosophy for a healthier life.

“So many things are possible, just as long as you don’t know they are impossible.”

–Norton Juster

Roses are red, poppies are too…

Roses are red, the Poppies are too
It’s not just the red Easter eggs But also what you intend to do.

Red eggs tradition for Eastern Orthodox Easter
Poppies at Zeus sanctuary in Theision (Athens, GR). Courtesy of N. Pavlikaki, Arhchaeologist, Art Historian & Tourguide

Thank you to all the hospital 🏥 staff, RED Cross & Red Crescent. The majority are women. A reminder and thank you to our friends & family who continue to donate blood 🩸vital to emergency medicine. And yes we keep missing blood.

Thanks to all the street artists who help us stay positive and strong with inspiring artwork. Let’s fight this little bugger Covid19 and be grateful for all that we have learned.

Thanks to our hardworking parents and loving grandparents who manage to make us all happy with their oral histories and their special contributions.

Thank you to Ms. Penny who slaves away each year to make her Sweet Easter bread and cookies. She actually had the strength to give one of her baked goodies to our alcoholic neighbor in the midst of his yelling randomly (loneliness my friends is a human’s worst experience…..as we are social creatures). Guess what? It worked and he finally quieted down.

This my friends is “the way” and why we need guidance and light no matter how “dark” our days and nights are. We hope they all stay healthy and strong as we push forward to a cure .

March onwards… Spring Traditions

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There are many traditional sayings for March, one of the most unpredictable months weather wise of the year!

Best to have a warm March rather than a cold March — “Κάλλιο Μάρτη καρβουνιάρη, παρά Μάρτη καψαλιάρη”. (Καλύτερα κρύο παρά ζέστη)

I hung the bracelet on a tree for the ‘healthy’ swallows (χελιδόνια) to supposedly carry to their nest to protect them from the diseases that may come from other birds traveling to Southern Mediterranean from colder climates. Since it turns out the sick birds avoid the red, thus why people allow these bird nests on their property today.

This cotton woven bracelet traditionally goes back to Ancient Greece and Rome and almost identical traditions exist in many areas in the Balkans including Greece, with similar language names (past blog post on Lent and the Ides of March). It is interesting to me how many of these traditions have survived today and are reflecting cultural health literacy. Perhaps the Institute for the Preservation of Medical Traditions is the one of the best vehicles to spread the value of traditions and medicinal plants, to recreate such medical centers as Asclepius  [Ασκληπιός]  intended (Ancient healing centers in article by Visit Greece).

Πάει ο Μάρτης — March is gone, but Spring is in full bloom quote “April showers bring May flowers”. No surprise, around the world due to extreme rainfall and other natural disasters because with climate change we’ve had several tragedies and more public health community problems. Some of us understand the value of community planning including creating more eco-friendly environments to attract more animals, and keep spaces cooler with less water such as this seaside succulent (cactus like) plant.  Let’s March onwards and think smarter.