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7 Rituals for Spring Renewal

I stumbled upon this article and it resonated with me so much that I decided to dedicate a podcast to discuss the subject with my pal Lisa Brown~Just 2 girlfriends chatting at the kitchen table :)
Listen in on The Dish with Nancy Newcomer. Here’s the original post published by Abigail Brenner M.D. on March 28, 2013 in In Flux.How to Re-group, Re-prioritize, and Re-invent Yourself Spiritually

After a very long winter, spring has officially arrived. The spring or vernal equinox is the day of the year when light and dark are balanced. True or not, it’s said that on this day you can balance an egg on its end. And by the way, the egg is the universal symbol of rebirth.

Although we still have a little way to go to really enjoy the warmth and light that spring brings, we can begin to think about what we can do to renew ourselves and to better balance our lives. What better time than spring to re-group and re-prioritize, and even re-invent ourselves, and the lives we find ourselves living. Here are some spring “rituals” to help you get started.

1.) De-clutter your living space.

• Get rid of anything you no longer need. Here’s the rule of thumb: If you haven’t worn it (or used it) for two years, out it goes. Donate clothing and household items that are in reasonably good condition to an organization or charity and books to your local library or hospital.

 • Clear out kitchen cabinets of items that have been lying around since you can’t remember when or whose expiration date has long passed. Dispose of medications and first aid products beyond their expiration date.

 

2.) Clear out mental and emotional clutter.

When we think of renewal we often think of rebirth; something old dies and something new is born. Why not use this season of renewal as a reminder to get rid of things that are weighing you down and sapping your energy?

• Allow yourself to let go of the past to make room for new things to come into your life.

• Commit to making decisions you’ve been putting off.

• Challenge limiting beliefs about yourself and about how things should be.

• Think positively. Recent research has shown that we can actually change the circuitry of our brains. When something negative comes up pair it with something positive and stay with that feeling.

3.) Start a Practice

A new discipline will ensure that you invite mindfulness into your life. A daily practice affords you a “time-out” from your every day routine. This is a gift to your self; a promise to honor who you are.

• A spiritual practice such as yoga, meditation, or chi gong are easy to find almost anywhere and relatively affordable.

• Another practice that you can do on your own is researching and reading sacred texts from many cultures and traditions. Read them with an eye on universal themes— those things that connect all of us.

• Walking is a wonderful way to help your body while clearing your mind. Walk instead of drive. Use the stairs instead of the elevator. And remember to change your route! We all are so programmed to do the same routine every day. Change the scenery, change your perspective!

4.) Begin something brand new.

Focus on spring as a time of new beginnings and resolve to do something you’ve always wanted to do but never felt you had the time.

• Assess your health. Maybe it’s time to begin taking care of your self? It’s far better to change the way you live, beginning now, instead of waiting for things to get out of your control. Create an inventory of your health including diet, exercise, genetics, and stresslevel. Begin slowly, one change at a time, eventually incorporating others.

• Explore your creativity. Learn a new language, take piano lessons, awaken the diva within, take a computer class, or go back to school. It’s never too late to fulfill a dream.

• Volunteer your time. Teach reading to those who want to learn, become a mentor, or help clean up your community; there are so many ways to give of yourself.

5.) Spend time outdoors.

• Plant a garden. If you have no outdoor space, plant an herb garden in your kitchen or plant pots of flowers to bring the outside into your home.

• Plant a tree with your child and watch it grow together.

• Build a birdhouse with your child and watch the inhabitants come and go from year to year. This provides connection to the earth and continuity in the life.

6.) Take a trip.

This is something to look forward to annually, especially if you live in a place that experiences the extremes of winter. These could include:

• A personal retreat away or a weekend that you give to yourself every year to reflect on your life, the past year, and what new things you may want to incorporate into your life moving forward.

• A family reunion, to meet extended family at different destinations each year, allows people to stay connected and affords a sense of belonging and continuity for younger family members.

• A family vacation can do the same thing for the immediate members of your family. Camping, hiking, or fishing, visiting an historic site, or a part of the country that’s very different from your own can help family members bond and reconnect from their busy, daily lives.

7.) Simplify your life.

• Slow down. As life moves so quickly, surrounding us with the constant stimulation of the information stream, we need to find a way to quiet our minds and make quality time for ourselves.

• “Downshift”, or streamline your life however you can in order to “upshift” the overall quality of your life. Reorganize your highest priorities and re-evaluate your commitments. What do you value most in your life? How much quality time do you spend with the people and the things you care about the most? What is the best way to use your time to create the life you want to have?

Hopefully, these seven rituals for renewal will set you on course for a life that is not only fulfilling and meaningful—but fully your own.

Tips for Better Slow Cooking in your Crockpot

Now that fall is here, it’s time to break out the crockpot.., BUT, before you do, look over my Tips for Better Slow Cooking in your CrockpotThese simple techniques will help ensure you get the BEST results from the effort you put into cooking for your family. AND just for fun…take a listen to these tips and many others on my Back to the Kitchen Minute on Empower RadioHappy Cooking…and listening :)

1. Use the Right Size Crockpot

Slow cookers are available in a range of sizes. Make sure to use the size cooker recommended in each recipe or adjust the recipe to work for the size cooker you own. This helps ensure that the slow cooker isn’t overflowing or underfilled AND that your meal can cook properly.

2) Don’t Overfill your Crockpot

To make sure your meal is finished in the time listed on your recipe and to avoid potential food-safety hazards, don’t overfill your slow cooker. Most manufacturers recommend filling them no more than two-thirds full.

3. Keep a Lid on It

Resist the urge to take off the lid to peek at your meal. Doing that lets heat escape and slows the cooking process. Only open it 30 to 45 minutes before the end of the cook time to check doneness.

4. Plan Meals Ahead

If you want to turn your slow cooker on first thing in the morning, a little planning goes a long way. The night before: Cut and trim any meat, chop any vegetables, measure out dry ingredients and prepare any sauce; refrigerate the components in separate containers. (Do not refrigerate the slow-cooker insert as a cold insert takes too long to heat up and affects cooking time and food safety.

5) Keep Temperature in Mind

A slow cooker is convenient, but if not used properly, there’s the potential for food-safety hazards. Temperatures between 40° and 140°F fall into the “Danger Zone,” since bacteria thrive in these temperatures. To avoid the Danger Zone, never add frozen ingredients to your cooker, and make sure to refrigerate any ingredients you’ve prepped ahead in separate storage containers. Never attempt to cook a whole chicken or roast in your slow cooker. Large hunks of meat won’t cook thoroughly enough in the slow cooker- Make sure it’s cut into smaller pieces so that it is properly cooked.

Empower Radio

I’m pleased to announce the debut of my Back to the Kitchen Minute on Empower Radio. Empower Radio’s mission is to provide positive programming to empower people in all areas of their lives. The network also provides a forum for new thought and new perspectives.
Listen on demand for my tips & tricks for choosing healthy foods, cooking, entertaining, and saving time in the kitchen. Always a fan of farmer’s market bounty and organic ingredients, I hope to inspire you to cook fresh, real food, share a meal with family and friends, and get Back to the Kitchen.

Sucking the Joy out of Thanksgiving!

WOW! This was sent to me by my childhood friend Jeff C, an avid foodie and lover of dark comedy. He knew I would appreciate the humor and twisted perspective that is revealed in this letter. This may have made it’s way around the blogospere a time or two, but this is the first time I’ve read it. Enjoy…or be disgusted. Your choice! And by the way–PLEASE comment! Would love your take.

PS: Glad I’m not going to Marney’s this year :)

PSS: Marney, come to my house and I’ll make you a cocktail.

 

From: Marney

As you all know a fabulous Thanksgiving Dinner does not make itself. I need to ask each of you to help by bringing something to complete the meal. I truly appreciate your offers to assist with the meal preparation.

Now, while I do have quite a sense of humor and joke around all the time, I COULD NOT BE MORE SERIOUS when I am providing you with your Thanksgiving instructions and orders. I am very particular, so please perform your task EXACTLY as I have requested and read your portion very carefully. If I ask you to bring your offering in a container that has a lid, bring your offering in a container WITH A LID, NOT ALUMINUM FOIL! If I ask you to bring a serving spoon for your dish, BRING A SERVING SPOON, NOT A SOUP SPOON! And please do not forget anything.

All food that is to be cooked should already be prepared, bring it hot and ready to serve, warm or room temp. These are your ONLY THREE options. Anything meant to be served cold should, of course, already be cold.

The Mike Byron Family

1. Turnips in a casserole with a lid and a serving spoon. Please do not fill the casserole all the way up to the top, it gets too messy. I know this may come as a bit of a surprise to you, but most of us hate turnips so don’t feel like you a have to feed an army.
2. Two half gallons of ice cream, one must be VANILLA, I don’t care what the other one is. No store brands please. I did see an ad this morning for Hagan Daz Peppermint Bark Ice Cream, yum!! (no pressure here, though).
3. Toppings for the ice cream.
4. A case of bottled water, NOT gallons, any brand is ok.

The Bob Byron Family

1. Green beans or asparagus (not both) in a casserole with a lid and a serving spoon. If you are making the green beans, please prepare FOUR pounds, if you are making asparagus please prepare FIVE pounds. It is up to you how you wish to prepare them, no soupy sauces, no cheese (you know how Mike is), a light sprinkling of toasted nuts, or pancetta, or some EVOO would be a nice way to jazz them up.
2. A case of beer of your choice (I have Coors Light and Corona) or a bottle of clos du bois chardonnay (you will have to let me know which you will bring prior to 11/22).

The Lisa Byron Chesterford Family

1. Lisa as a married woman you are now required to contribute at the adult level. You can bring an hors d’ouvres. A few helpful hints/suggestions. Keep it very light, and non-filling, NO COCKTAIL SAUCE, no beans of any kind. I think your best bet would be a platter of fresh veggies and dip. Not a huge platter mind you (i.e., not the plastic platter from the supermarket).

The Michelle Bobble Family

1. Stuffing in a casserole with a serving spoon. Please make the stuffing sans meat.
2. 2.5-3 qts. of mashed squash in a casserole with a lid and serving spoon
3. Proscuitto pin wheel – please stick to the recipe, no need to bring a plate.
4. A pie knife

The June Davis Family

1. 15 LBS of mashed potatoes in a casserole with a serving spoon. Please do not use the over-size blue serving dish you used last year. Because you are making such a large batch you can do one of two things: put half the mash in a regulation size casserole with lid and put the other half in a plastic container and we can just replenish with that or use two regulation size casserole dishes with lids. Only one serving spoon is needed.
2. A bottle of clos du bois chardonnay

The Amy Misto Family (why do I even bother she will never read this)

1. A pumpkin pie in a pie dish (please use my silver palate recipe) no knife needed.
2. An apple pie in a pie dish, you can use your own recipe, no knife needed.

Looking forward to the 28th!!

Marney

Fall Comfort ~ Butternut Squash Soup

As featured on my radio program, The Dish with Nancy Newcomer along with 40 Simple Ways to practice Self-Kindness...comfort food & self-kindness go together
This recipe is also available along with all my favorite soups in salads in my e-cookbook, The Best of Back to the Kitchen~Soups & Salads, Vol 1

Fall is  my favorite time of the year. Halloween,
fun festivities, celebrations and decorations leading up
to Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years evoke vivid
childhood memories. I remember coming home for dinner
after playing outside for hours with the neighborhood
kids. The feeling of warmth on my cold, rosy cheeks as I
walked inside the house was wonderful. The smells from
the kitchen were pure heaven. My mom put a homemade family dinner on the table every night. It always tasted great, especially after working up an appetite from an afternoon of running around with my friends.

This time of year brings back those days and inspires me
to get in the kitchen and cook up my own tasty, hearty
dishes. Roasted root veggies, pumpkin bread, pot roast,
pies, soups and stews. Let’s break out the crock pot and
pressure cooker! So many choices, where do I begin?
And then there’s Thanksgiving and Christmas to think
about. Even if you “don’t cook” and all of this sounds
overwhelming, no worries. There are always fun, simple
things you can make that don’t take a lot of time and also
make you look pretty bitchin’ in the kitchen. Here’s one
of my favorites ~ easy enough for an everyday meal but so
beautiful, it’s worthy of Grandma’s bone china soup tureen
on your Thanksgiving table.  Enjoy!

Nancy’s Butternut Squash Soup
(dairy-free & gluten free)

Ingredients:

* 2 TB olive oil
* 1/2 small onion chopped
* 1 med yukon gold potato peeled & cubed
* 1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, & cubed
* 4 cups chicken broth (or veggie broth for vegan)
* ¼ cup fresh orange juice
* 1 tsp sea salt
* 1/2 tsp nutmeg
* Sprigs of parsley for garnish

Directions:

1. Sautee onion, potatoes, & squash in olive oil until
slightly browned.
2. Transfer into soup pot and add enough broth to cover
veggies.
3. Bring to a boil and the lower to a simmer for 30-40
min–until veggies are soft.
4. Let cool off a little and either use a blender “wand” OR
just throw into a blender to puree until smooth. Add orange
juice and stir in.
5. Pour back into pot and add as much of the remaining
chicken broth for the consistency you prefer.
6. I like mine a little on the thicker side. Reheat to barely
a boil. Ready to serve garnish with parsley sprinkles.

The Final Wag

We lost our good girl this week. Our dear sweet CoCo passed away Wednesday night after living a happy and healthy 9 years. Certainly a nice long life for a bullmastiff, but entirely too short for me. The house has been eerily quiet these past few days. I keep expecting to hear the “thump, thump, thump” of her big strong tail wagging, but no such luck. A friend of mine pointed out that CoCo’s thumping tail was our “alarm clock” for 9 years so it’s going to take awhile to adjust to the silence.

CoCo was my cooking companion which is no surprise to anyone. Forget about turning out a gourmet meal. That dog would happily devour any scrap, crumb or morsel that would come her way, no matter the size, seasoning, temperature or texture. She hung out with me in the kitchen every day and wanted to be where the food and the action was. How is it that a dog can distinguish between the “ripping open” sound of tortilla chips and a package of paper towels? Somehow CoCo knew the difference and would happily remain lounging if paper products were being opened, but miraculously launched her 105 lb body off the floor for the sound of crackling snack food bags.

Although food was a top priority for her, CoCo also loved her people. While most dogs start yapping when a doorbell rings, “ding dong” was the happy sound for CoCo. Never a barker, she was the ever faithful greeter who would run toward the front door, tail wagging and big jowls smiling. Everybody loved CoCo, the gentle giant, and really, who could resist that big fat head, bouncy tail, and wrinkly face?

 

Although she was often quick to greet, she also had a terrible lazy streak and spent a large portion of her day sunbathing in our driveway. She was SO lazy in fact, that she charmed the UPS man into HAND FEEDING her dog biscuits while she remained sprawled out, without lifting her head even an inch. I guess he had HER number, but JEEZ, really, how spoiled can you be?! As endearing as that quality was, we always wondered if we’d return home someday to find CoCo happily gnawing on a hunk of prime rib while our house had been looted & robbed.

Our kids were 7 and 10 years old when CoCo came into the family and it was love at first sight. She accompanied us to soccer, softball & baseball, the beach, the snow, bar-b-ques, parties and vacation. Everybody fell in love with CoCo, BUT, let’s not gloss over anything here ~ there were a few bad habits and periodic “incidents”. For starters, the puppy years of chewing on the remote control, the phones, Julianna’s feather boa, and the complete annihilation of several shoes. Then there was the sneaking on the coach in dead of night (or day—who are we kidding?), rolling in the oily, dirty driveway, and occasional drooling. In her later years, I caught her devouring an entire stick of butter that she had stolen the from the dining table as well as numerous bagel snatchings. Keep in mind, she was a big girl and could easily grab high objects. My brother-in-law and his wife spoiled her rotten at their house by allowing her on the couch and in their bed. I think they finally kicked her out after awakening them with her high volume log sawing.

It’s amazing how much our dogs add to our lives. They share in our every day routines, our social gatherings and special occasions. They are full fledged members of our families that add joy, comfort, humor, companionship, and warmth to our existence. This past year, I’ve noticed that many of our friends are going through the same thing. We all got our dogs when our kids were younger, and now, here we all are, losing our pets and sending our kids off to college. Talk about a one-two punch. I guess there is nothing new here in the scope of life. It’s just one more passage, one more transition that you go through when you get a few years under your belt. As my oldest sister said to me, “Welcome to Middle Age.” I’m still adjusting to that term which is an entirely different subject for another day!

In the meantime, we are mourning the loss of our CoCo, but are grateful for the time we had with her. She lived a good dog’s life and gave us many wonderful family memories. I’ll miss her begging in the kitchen, her jingling collar, her big droopy face, and most of all, that wonderful “thump, thump, thump.” Keep on waggin’, CoCo, and say “hi” to Cosmo, Max & Rocky…they’re all waiting for you.

Dear Darlings ~ a Quick Note

My Darlings,
Hope this finds you well. It’s a whirlwind here in the kitchen and in all other parts of my life. I have a long list of “to do’s, “honey do’s”, and “won’t somebody else do this for me” do’s. How about you?
These last few months have been a time of change, reinvention, crazy chaos, exciting new adventures, big highs and deep lows. Seems like a lot of people I know are going through transitions of one kind or another. I think it’s LIFE full throttle and I’m running with it.

I’m digging deep and going out of my comfort zone this year. You’ll see some of that happening here on the blog. I’m really excited to launch my newsletter, Nancy’s Dish in November. Don’t forget to sign up for it here on the page (over to the right). You’ll get exclusive “dish”, recipes, and other fun tips that I won’t be sharing anywhere else.

For the next few days, my dear friend Jane Asher will hanging out with you over on my Facebook page while I zero in on some of those “to do’s”. Luckily, I’m also getting some good family time in as well. My son is home from college for the weekend and we all intend to get busy with some serious cooking. Hint: The girls went apple picking yesterday and we’ll be perfecting some sort of apple pie, cobbler, crisp recipe for the newsletter :)

I’ll check in with you after the weekend. In the meantime, please give Jane some love and feel free to share your thoughts, finds, recipes, etc on Facebook or right here on my blog.

With Gratitude,
Nancy

Welcome to the World Wide Web of Foodies!

I’ve been around long enough to remember what life was like before the internet. When you actually had to go the the library to research facts and check out books. If you wanted to buy merchandise that wasn’t available locally, you ordered it from the Sears catalog or called the store and ordered it from a real person. My husband and I were discussing this with our teenagers who could NOT grasp this concept no matter how hard they tried. We felt like Ma & Pa Kettle sittin’ on the porch swing rambling on about the good ole days. It’s funny, as crazy and sped up as the world has become, I LOVE living in these times. The internet still seems magical to me. Press a button and you’re talking with someone on the other side of the planet or you’ve just purchased a new set of mixing bowls on QVC. Hey, that IS pretty cool!  Back in the day, you had to travel to foreign lands to meet people and experience other cultures…or at least have a pen pal. When I was in high school, our family was very involved in AFS (American Field Service) where we had the opportunity to host an array of international exchange students. I remember our annual fundraiser:  “The Foreign Food Fair”.  Booths were set up in the high school cafeteria with flags and foods of different countries.  I still remember Mrs. Antoniades’ baklava representing Greece ~ pure sticky honey heaven! This was a great way for us to celebrate cultures of far away lands. Nowadays, all those countries seem a little bit closer…in fact, just a click away. I’m finding this out BIG time.

During the last 15 months, I’ve noted that people from more that 24countries are following Back to the Kitchen. Just this past week, folks from Nigeria, the Philippines, Pakistan, Chile, & Malaysia have all come on board ~ THAT blows my mind!  Our top 5 countries thus far, in order, are: The United States, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, & India.  It’s very exciting to have a world wide community in the kitchen, but if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. You’ve heard of the international language of love? Well, I’m thinking the love of food may conquer all.