Delicious and Nutritious breakfast porridge recipe and my protein powder preference quandry

A healthy day begins with a healthy breakfast. I know this not only from the plethora of pointed press I have been force fed or voluntarily consumed about nutrition, but also from personal experience. In fact, this is perhaps the only nutrition fact that has remained consistent in my 50+ years of trying to eat right and eat well.

In my life of battling unwanted weight gain and episodes of malaise, general joint pain and depression, as well as acknowledged opportunities to find healthy options during life altering illness, I have seen the rise and fall and rise again of low carb, low fat, low sugar, liquid food substitutes, calorie counting, and cabbage (or other single healthy food) heavy diets. I have been taught four food groups, food pyramids, glycemic index, inflammation ratings (IF), and ONQI ratings, and the latest (and I think at this time greatest) ANDI score; and through them all the need for a good breakfast was always clearly stated regardless of how that “good” was defined.

Personal experience also reinforces the belief that breakfast makes everything better. I am more energetic, able to cope with pain, frustration and the good things in daily life with a nutritious breakfast. So what does a good breakfast look like for me?

I  find myself less likely to make poor food choices later in the day if I start my day with at least 14 grams of protien, a bit of fiber, and coffee. (Getting enough carbs is never an issue for me.)Ok, maybe the coffee just wakes me up enough to make my breakfast, but I can’t imagine breakfast without it.  Since I am training to compete again in a triathlon, weight loss is a priority for me as well and I restrict my daily calories to 1800. (If I ever doubt the benefit of 1800 calories a day, I just carry my dogs 35 pound bag of food around for a few minutes and I am again convinced that the best thing I can do for my knees, hips, feet and race times is shave another 35 pound off the old body. My doctors are in complete agreement on this fact as well. At 5’5″ I am currently weighing in at 218 lbs, definitely obese by medical standards.)

A side note here for those who privately express horror at my telling my actual honest weight, I think lying about it is even funnier. I mean look at me, this is obviously my weight. Yes my weight makes me uncomfortable, therefore I am doing something about it. Lying about my weight would change nothing. However, telling the truth motivates me to face and change that which makes me uncomfortable.

Anyway  porridge and smoothies are my two favorite breakfasts.  One fast, one more preparation intense, they both include the protien I need and the flavor I crave as well as other important nutrients.

Quinoa Porridge, 30 minute prep/cook time. 3 servings

2 cups filtered water, or 1 cup filtered water and 1 cup organic apple cider

1 cup quinoa (I like Trader Joe’s Red)

2/3 cup dried fruit (I like it with dried cranberries, dried cherries, dried blueberries, or chopped prunes)

2 tsp fresh grated ginger

healthy dash of nutmeg, or cinnamon or cardamom (only use one and experiment with fruit and spice combinations. I like cardamom with cranberries, nutmeg with prunes and cinnamon with cherries and for cranberries and tart cherries I use apple juice)

1/2 cup soy, rice or almond milk

Place everything but the fruit and milk in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower to slow simmer and cook for 12 minutes. Stir in dried fruit and milk choice and recover and cook for 5 minutes more. Turn off heat and leave for 10 minutes to finish absorbing fluids.

I eat one serving right away and  place the other two servings in containers in the fridge. They are delicious reheated or cold with a bit of creamer over them like rice pudding.

As to my smoothie, my recipe is very usual and completely basic. I throw a cup of frozen organic berries in my blender, add 1/2 cup of filtered water, 1/2 cup organic vanilla soy milk and a scoop protein powder and blend. If I feel like mixing it up I will add 1/2 banana and 1 T of flax meal. Smoothies are easy and fast, but they are the source of my greatest diet dilemma at the moment.

I am in a complete quandry, my favorite protein powder is whey based. I love Aria’s vanilla protein powder; the cost, taste, texture, and what it puts into my diet (the hard-to-get-enough B-vitamins, calcium, and iron) and what it leaves out (artificial ingredients); but what I am struggling with is that protein powders have a large manufacturing, shipping and container carbon footprint and the basis for this powder is also whey, hence NOT vegan, hence even BIGGER carbon footprint.  I love Aria, but feel it doesn’t fit my big picture of ethical living .

I am slowly working my way through trying vegan alternatives, so far the “not gonna do it at all” contenders are Trader Joe’s Soy Protein powder, Alive and MRM’s vegan protein powder. Sadly, I had a vegan protein powder that I  really, really liked from Spouts (store brand) that was discontinued about 2 years ago. Right now Aria is on my shelf while I muster the courage to bring home a hemp one to try (courage is necessary because finances and personal philosophy require me to actually finish the can of protien even when its sand box grainy (TJ’s)or tastes waaaay to “healthy” (MRM) or weedlike (Alive).

It all comes back to the same question, the needs of the one over the needs of the many. Where do my needs for nutrition, convenience and enjoyment end and my need to leave my circle a little better tended for my having been here begin, or better yet how do I make the two mesh well? So that is my protein powder problem and my blog for today.

I am tagging it for Sally Frye folowers as this porridge recipe would be very apropos for the Rennaissance, although it would not be served for breakfast but be a supper or nursery dish. Also my quinoa use and my struggle with the politics of protein powder speak to the key elements of my training and my homesteading/living green goals so going to those readers also.  I hope all of you enjoy.

I can’t believe its almost May, 2012. I must be off the cyber verse now, because I have a Puppy Shower to prepare for and many errends to run.

Namaste, friends.

Jo Crowfae


Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe

Back in the water this morning, first time in 6 months, I went with the goal of at least putting my face in the water, and best case scenario completing a length or two without a kickboard.  I far exceeded my own expectations. The water was cold  on my feet and even colder on my shins and thighs but then the windy day made staying out of the water worse than diving in, so in I went.

I borrowed Dawn’s kickboard as mine is lost somewhere in the interim off training and I did my first length swimming head waaaay above water and psyching myself off for face in the water breathing on the back length.  Fear fought back and the excuse wheel spun but I learned last year that the best way to push past my “face in water” phobia is to just do it, so I did. I turned, kicked off and face went in the water, breathed out all that useful air and panicked. No breathing back in that time. Kick, kick, kick, face in again and this time turn my head and take a breath. So far, so good.

Three laps with kick-board done my DIL had to get out of the pool so I pushed forward and asked her to take my kick-board to the far end of the pool, which meant I had to swim for it.

I created the need to swim and so I did. One length without pausing was a good three weeks into last years training but I nailed it first time in the pool, then back with kick-board; one full lap with kick-board. Then Phil took it where I needed to “fetch” it, so I again swam to other end and kick-boarded it back.

Time to go for broke, I was going to swim there and back again; I caved 3/4 of the way on the back again and I touched my toes down at one point because the phobia just needed to make sure the bottom of the pool was still there, but only touched and finished swimming.

So now I am at five kick-board laps and two full swim laps. Two more kick-board laps, one more swim lap, one more kick-board lap, and a final full swim lap means I completed 8 laps with my kickboard and 4 swim laps, that’s 600 meters or .37 miles.

After which I walked almost three miles.

It was fun. I am sore tonight and fully aware of how de-conditioned I am cardio-vascularly speaking but I am proud of myself. I showed up, I did me best, and I amazed  myself!

And that is the beginning of this years “try”athlon training!

Now gentle readers, go out there and amaze yourselves as well.  There are so many little ways to exceed your own expectations of yourself today.


Spring Lamb with Fennel, a Tudor England inspired pottage.

Of first importance in creating any delicious and nutritious concoction is the purchase of fresh and tasty ingredients.  Vegetables should be firm and smell fresh, no need to bruise, just a light squeeze on the onion or fennel bulb will allow you to determine its freshness. I recommend local and organic, but managing at least one of these will help the flavor of your soup immensely. The meat should also be fresh, I find meat that adheres to my standards of cleanliness and compassion at Eastern markets, Whole Foods and sometimes even Costco. I do my research online before shopping but if you can’t find organic Humane Choice accredited free range lamb, then go with Halal lamb as the requirements of being certified Halal ( are strict enough to provide a lean and delicious lamb that was humanely raised.

3-5 lbs lean lamb. Wash the lamb and then cut into large chunks. Throw the lamb chunks into a bag or coating bowl of 1 cup flour and 1 T of herb mix like Bragg’s Organic Sprinkle (I actually make my own mix but if you have none then just add 1/2 tsp thyme, 1 tsp rosemary, 1 tsp parsley, 1/2 tsp tarragon). Braise in 2 T Olive Oil in hot oven proof roasting pan on top of stove or if not available then use a frying pan and try and get all the oil and spices into the roasting pan once browned.


1 baseball size onion studded with cloves

5 lbs carrots scrubbed and sliced

2 turnips well scrubbed and chopped (bite size with substance)

4 medium zucchini sliced

1 cup chopped celery ( I love to use all that leafy parts and end pieces that don’t scoop hummus well)

1-2  fennel bulbs (I use two) chopped.

12 golf ball sized potatoes cut up. (Heirloom potatoes are best and just quartered, but new reds are also good.)

Add another T olive oil and T of spice mixture and toss everything.

Roast in 425 degree oven for 25 minutes.

Immediately upon removing from oven Add 1/2 cup of Burgundy (or substitute an Oregon pinot noir, although buy good; if you don’t want to drink it, you don’t want to cook with it. Tell the sommelier at the store what you are making and get a recommendation)

Put everything in your crockpot (slow cooker, soup pan, whatever…) and cover and set in the fridge overnight. The flavors are having a party. Not a mandatory step, but it helps.

4-6 hours before serving barely cover with water and turn the crock pot to high for two hours. Taste, and now add salt and pepper, turn to low and continue cooking.

Serve with fresh bread and enjoy!


brain cell conservation

Since writing is not currently the primary way I support myself, but pediatric homecare is, I apologize to me readers for the lack of new blogs this week. Maybe some pictures of how the homesteading is progressing, a recipe or two and how my first time back at “try”athlete bootcamp went will be posted tomorrow but for now this is all the post you get.

I am practicing brain cell conservation as I go into the fifth day in a row of working 9, 10 and 12 hour days. Need all those little buggers to keep my patients healthy and alive AND leave their space orderly, etc.

Thanks for your patience fellow conservationists, and for those young enough to still be killing them off not conserving them, I can only plead forgiveness.

Namaste, mates!

Unbelievable how hard a little discipline can be, and to what am I listening?

My training blogs are probably my most self-serving blogs of all. Why are they self-serving? Isn’t trying to lose weight and get fit a national obsession and therefore sharing how I am achieving broadly useful?

Although I do hope that another non-athlete, someday stumbles across my blog the same way I stumbled across others writings and are inspired to realize they can have fun if they get off the couch and out of their comfort zone (James Owen (in the inspiring sense) and Jayne Williams (in the athlete who looks more like me sense) were the two primary writer’s who helped me get started and keep going last year, but the real reason I keep training blogs is that it keeps me accountable. Telling others what I am going to do, and then honestly reporting whether I have done it or not, is the support my weak self-control needs to make it through the tough choices. Getting fit is not easy, it goes against my very nature, at least until it becomes second nature.

Last night was a perfect example. I am back in the habit of television grazing at night. Aware of the obstacle coming up in the course of my first night back into healthier behavior, I closed out my “MyFitness” as soon as I finished my last bite of dinner.  I also reminded myself that I intended to blog today about how well that first day of training went.

See, it went like this, wander out to the kitchen to check on dogs or watering or phone charging, hand on fridge door thinking of See’s chocolates I got for Easter (most awesome gift from the family I serve), then “Wait,” my brain says to my appetite, “You have no reason to be hungry, in fact you aren’t hungry I can tell, AND you closed out your calories for the day AND you have to blog tomorrow, you really want to blog about how you screwed up the very first day!” I remove my hand from the fridge and get a glass of water. I even actually resort to a glass of calorie free flavored water on the third trip which seemed to help quiet my candy craving for the rest of the night.

I drank a lot of water last night.

But I did meet my exercise goals, and I did meet my calorie goals. Today is a sit-up, push-up, stretch and roll day (yes, it is true, my calves and glutes are slightly sore today but not horrible) and I will walk 3 miles today as well . But that is all later, off to deal with some other self-care responsibilities. So on to the final question…

What am I listening to….? Well I have been crooning along with my old buddy Doris Day, housecleaning to Leo Kotke, and being moved by Jason Isbell and the 400 (all of course courtesy of my friends at Hoodlum Records who are about to have the best vinyl sale EVAR! for Record Store day April 21.  Go check out the list at )

Funny thing though, that when I really need to de-focus from pain, discomfort, or the inner whine of the excuse wheel I find my motivation not in music but Podcasts and Audiobooks. So what did I listen to yesterday? I am running and listening to a marathon of all the DML podcasts from I-tunes. My AZRF friends will know these guys as “The London Broil”, they are just intelligent enough and silly and funny enough to hold my interest indefinitely. I am back up to episode 10 (they just put out episode 23) and I have to say, I would totally go with the adult size Big Wheel, how about you?

Back in the saddle (or running shoes) again.

Last October I managed to complete a sprint triathlon, a big accomplishment for me. This time last year I had never taken a swimming lesson or ridden a bike, I weighed 247 pounds and I couldn’t run a full city block without getting breathless.  At the time of the race I was 207 lbs and managed to complete the Sprint, my times sucked, but I finished.

I kept at the training with less intensity for another couple months but the pool we had used was unheated and an injury I had sustained two weeks before the race needed healing and some long term medical issues resurfaced which threw my finances into complete disarray so I had to stop the chiro care and couldn’t sign up for a race and I had two more deaths of people close to me which triggered some demotivating depression…and…and..and…..

Bottom line is I started freely spinning my excuse wheel. Stuff happens to everyone, some good, some bad; usually it becomes good or bad by whatever we choose to label it.  I just chose to suddenly call my circumstances bad and use life as an excuse to quit doing what made me feel healthier and happier; I pretty much quit entirely all my “try”athlete adventures. Simultaneously I started eating food I know doesn’t benefit my system, at times that truly were bad for me, in amounts guaranteed to make me ill and fat, and to complete my downhill slide I pretty much quit regular meditation in the mornings.

So here I am today. I am back up to 220 or thereabouts, if I weigh less it is only because I have lost muscle mass. My finances are still in horrible shape and I don’t have a complete plan on how to fix them so definitely do not have money for a trainer anymore or Backfit appointments (the chiropractic office whose massages and adjustments took my pain down form a constant 5 or more to sometimes gone), and I don’t have the money to sign up for any races. I could remain in the place where my excuse wheel is spinning freely in all the things I don’t have, can’t do, etc. or I could use Spring as a motivation to do what works.


I got up this morning and went for a run. I am restarting a beginner program for the swimming, biking and running and using My Fitness Pal to track my nutrition and calories.

Discipline does not require any resources I do not already have within me and I know from experience discipline (like all muscles) gets stronger with use!

Fear of failure, pain, and well, looking stupid, didn’t stop me last year and its not going to stop me this year either.

Even if its just a one person timed event by a friend or maybe a family thing with my sons and DIL, I will complete a my size “trY”athlon in 2012. I will swim 10 laps, bike 10 miles and run a 5k, together, at the same time. That’s me goal.

And now I have a concrete goal, I will actually start training. Let me rephrase that, I started training.

That is where I failed myself before, once I finished the race meeting my current goal, I left the next goal too nebulous and soon it was easy to ignore. Most things in my life are like that. Stay tuned for some ramblings on how I hope to fix the other broken places in my life.

So this SOFT athlete is back at it again.

Namaste my friends, and lets all keep moving….

Social Q’s and Wonderstruck, a reading blog

I finished two books this morning, this lovely holiday morning for the Judeo/Christian cultures, this very alone but not lonely spring morning.

Well, maybe a little lonely.

Well, not so much lonely as a missing the hugs, the hearts, the faces, the focus and certainly the family energy of the AZRF season. However, I am cherishing the alone time and recharging my personal battery and back-up battery that both were fully spent.(Proof that regardless of other’s opinion of my visible outsides, my insides are significantly introverted, I charge in solace only.  I love giving; food, hugs, laughter, care, etc. I find inexpressible joy in giving, but slowly I empty to the point my “self” disappears. I love, love, love being alone. In fact, when I was a child my big dream was to grow up, buy and live on an uninhabited island.)

And now for a final digression before returning to my review of the two books I just finished reading. This digression is my observation on living with a cat who just accidentally (Ha!, not likely!) unplugged my computer as I was writing. Cats are not dogs and although I do enjoy petting a purring Esme (the cat), I am a dog person. The cat is now shut in the bedroom while I finish and I express gratitude for WordPress’ automatic draft saves. Now back to the book reviews.

So I just finished reading “Social Q’s” by NYT advice columnist Philip Galanes. The book is just about everything a person familiar with his column would expect, and nothing they wouldn’t. Bits of his column are nicely collected, archived and joined with light narrative for easy reading and reference; sort of a hipster’s Emily Post anthology. Others not familiar with his style, might actually be pleasantly surprised to find a humorous guy  who knows his way around a thank-you card as well as how to manage the quirky and uncomfortable situations unique to the technology age. I can think of a lot of Christmas stockings and birthday baskets I would love to slip this book into, but just having finished Galane’s book, I instead will mind my own business.

Biggest highlight for me with his book is the graphing method of problem solving which Galanes introduces in the  “Beauty Experiments” chapter.  I have been internally devising similar graphs my whole life to assist in a plethora of baffling situations involving other people.  It works.

I am not sure if it is a cause of or a reason for my introversion, but with my augmented intuition, sensitivity to stimula and certainly speaking a different social language than most, I spend a lot of time in public situations internally interpreting. For those of you who studied a second language, being with other people for me is like being in a room full of native French speakers after studying French through high school and college; I think in one language and must speak in another, so sometimes what comes out is inadvertently funny or offensive. Which is why I read Galane’s columns and why I read the book. Maybe I am not the only one who needs this kind of help, maybe polite and kind is a language they should teach in High School, like they taught French?

Thoughts about feeling like one is surviving in an alien culture brings me to the second book I finished this morning, Brian Selznick’s “Wonderstruck.” I read it again all the way from the Gregory Maguire quote to the Maurice Sendack dedication at the back. Do not be dismayed or intimidated by the size or the weight of the book, it will pull you with alacrity through its map of the marvelous. I gulped it all down the first time in one long draught, standing amazed in Changing Hands bookstore. I cannot tell you anything about this book that would not impinge on its own ability to inspire wonder except to  tell you to read it. I can tell you that it does relate well to my need to read books like Galane’s, I, like you and maybe all of us, know what it is to feel isolated and to suffer loss.  I can also tell you that the words tell one story and the pictures  tell another until it all blends  together at the end like butter and cocoa or stars and a night sky, unimaginable without the other. I shall read this book many times again.

So to summarize today’s musings both Philip Galane’s “Social Q’s” and Brian Selznick’s “Wonderstruck”  get a definite “Go Read It” rating, and Wonderstruck also gets a “Buy It” and “Give It” rating, in fact give it in a wooden box you picked up at Hobby Lobby or Goodwill with a shell or rock or flattened coin with a story of how they were found and it will be a never forgotten gift.

Now I must go actually accomplish a few errands on this lazy, lovely, alone day before returning to make my leftovers into casserole, because although I won’t see any friends this week-end, I intend to indulge my love of cooking.

Sally Frye’s Summer Pickles

So life gets busy and its all the little things we mean to do or thought we did that slip away from us, like leaving the “Indiana Jones Adventure” blog in my Word drafts instead of posting it. *sigh* Just realized I had done that today when I was looking to see if it had received any comments and prepared to post today’s recipe.  AZRF is over so I will bank it for next year when the schedule is published and re-adjust as needed for new stages and new excitement. Next year I will also update the other two itineraries and hopefully create at least two more.  Anyway, enough of the prattle. Here follows the recipe for Sally’s Summer Pickles.

Cassandra’s Summer Pickles

3-6 larger firm cucumbers (wash with white vinegar to remove any wax if not fresh from garden or farmers market) Use your peeler to stripe the sides evenly to allow better access for the pickling process and slice into 1/4 inch medallions. (No, I do not measure exactly but too thin and they will be limp not crunchy, to thick and they don’t pickle thoroughly. Practice will help you “eye”dentify the best size for your tastes.)

Place 1 cup of boiling water, 1 T salt and 1/3 cup sugar into sterilized quart jar and stir till completely dissolved, fill with pickle medallions without spilling any of the brine. When full, cover and refrigerate 3-12 hours. I usually leave them in the fridge over night. If there are more medallions than room in the quart jar (usually is) duplicate process with second quart jar, and third if necessary (those were some big cucumbers!)

When ready to finish process drain the pickles, leaving the medallions in the jars although you may be able to combine your 3 jars worth into 2 jars now. On the stovetop bring 2 cups cider vinegar, 1 cup sugar, 3 cloves garlic pushed through a press, and 1 tsp mustard seed or 1 Tablespoon of the seeded prepared spicy mustard just to a boil and pour over the medallions evenly distributing between the bottles to cover. may be eaten warm or sealed and chilled!

Enjoy. And feel free to experiment, replacing the mustard with another spice that stands up well to pickling, or adjusting the amount of sugar. Summer pickles are all unique so find the recipe that speaks to you. And save the juice when you dish the pickles out and try another historical treat by brining chopped pieces of firm apple and pear in the pickling juice for at least 3 hours. The combination of sweet and salty is uniquely delicious.