Monthly Archives: February 2017

Deals for Every Season

For this blog post I was asked by the powers that be, aka “the Man,” (who in this case is a very pleasant woman named Melody)…anyway, I was asked by Melody to highlight MagicKitchen.com’s special seasonal deals that are located here http://www.magickitchen.com/seasonal-special-deals.html.

However, she gave me free rein (her mistake) to write about these deals as I saw fit.  And since I recently rediscovered 1980s rap music, I decided to write a song, or “flow” about MagicKitchen and their awesome seasonal deals.  If you’re not a rap fan, don’t worry, just think of it as a Shakespearean sonnet…ok, I just re-read it…I wouldn’t use “Shakespearean” to describe it.  If you do like rap, then just lay down a phat beat and let it flow.  Play this one below, for full effect.

Deals for Every Season

Lookin’ for a good deal, with profound appeal

Not forced to chase it in your automobile.

Then MagicKitchen’s for you, no drive through,

Just delicious meals that will soon ensue.

Delivered to your door, not from a store,

But prepared by a chef, perhaps named Steph.

Prepared with fresh ingredients, we’re always expedient

And to your needs we’re quite obedient.

The meal’s flash frozen, then it goes in

A container that’s been chosen

To deliver your food, with proper attitude

And little to no ineptitude.

Seasonal deals we got, they’re smokin’ hot

Just check our site, that’s the upshot.

Deals change every season in this age of reason

So take advantage, it’s not like it’s treason.

Beef Bourguignon- tender beef & mushrooms in wine sauce. -gluten free

Specials depend on the holiday.  It’s like a buffet

That’s so easy to order, it could be child’s play.

Could be for Valentine your herr or fräulein

Wants a romantic meal he or she can’t decline.

So check our page, don’t disengage

From our meals that stick to your rib cage.

Peace, out (insert mic drop here).

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February 17th is Random Acts of Kindness Day

When I was in college, I worked at a dry cleaner. I was there long enough to get to know several of the regular customers. Quite often some would linger and strike up some great conversations and some would share wonderful stories. One elderly gentleman did this most times he came in. He knew enough about me to know I was a Freshman in college and that my family was overseas.

One day he walked in, handed my boss an envelope and left. That envelope contained a check and a note. My boss read the note out loud and my jaw hit the floor. The check that was included in the envelope covered my tuition for the next semester, paid in full.

I couldn’t figure out why he would want to pay for a stranger’s college tuition and not expect anything in return. My boss told me that the man had been doing it for years. He would select a student he felt would appreciate it and help them out. This random act of kindness, made 26 years ago still brings tears to my eyes.

People have been committing random acts of kindness for hundreds of years. We may not know exactly what they have all been, nor have we always given them the title of “Random Acts of Kindness”.  It has its very own day assigned to it. This year’s Random Acts of Kindness Day is February 17, 2017.

The first Random Acts day was created in Colorado in 1995. The concept is designed to make the world a little bit better by each of us doing a kind deed. Participating does not mean you have to spend money to be kind.

In case you might be having a difficult time figuring out something nice to do that you may not do on a regular basis, I have compiled two lists. One list is of kind deeds that will only cost you a little bit of time. The second list is for those of you who would like to show kindness via money.

Random Acts of Kindness that Won’t Cost You a Thing

  • Open the door for someone, complete with a smile
  • Volunteer time at an animal shelter or rescue
  • Simply smile at people
  • Do a favor for someone without expecting anything in return
  • Babysit for free
  • Sweep your neighbors porch/shovel their sidewalks
  • Walk a friend’s or neighbor’s dog
  • Volunteer at a food bank or homeless shelter
  • Read to the elderly at a retirement home
  • Send an encouraging card or email
  • Thank a veteran, police officer, or firefighter
  • Give a hug, it’s not just a kind act but a stress reducer as well
  • Donate blood (Perfect for American Heart Month)
  • Be tolerant
  • Compliment a stranger

Random Acts of Kindness for Those Who Can Spare Some Change

  • Pay for the food of the people behind you in the drive through
  • Take flowers to a retirement home
  • Leave a zip bag of quarters on a washer at the laundromat
  • Donate food to an animal shelter
  • Leave a bag of cookies with a note in the mailbox for the postal carrier
  • Take coffee and donuts to your local fire station
  • Donate cat litter to a cat rescue
  • Donate a new toy to a children’s hospital
  • Take muffins and coffee to work
  • Donate money to your electric company to be used for someone who is struggling to pay their bill
  • Plant a tree
  • Hire a house cleaner for an ill friend or one with children
  • Buy a gift card from a car wash and leave it in an envelope on a dirty car at the grocery store
  • Grab a few cases of water and take them to the Red Cross
  • Donate canned goods to your local food bank

Even though Random Acts of Kindness Day is recognized on February 18th this year, you don’t have to limit yourself. Imagine how much nicer the world would be if we could all do just one random act once a week…imagine twice a week. Maybe some of the nice things could begin to draw some of the attention away from all the bad things that happen. Wouldn’t it be nice to shift that focus? How do you plan to take part this year?

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This Valentine’s Day, Start Taking Care of Your Heart

This Valentine’s Day, Start Taking Care of Your Heart

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far…wait, that’s another story…humans believed that the heart was the center of all our emotions.  This had to do with the fact that the heart, more-or- less, is in the center of our bodies and that all roads, or blood vessels, seemed to lead there.

Since many considered love to be the strongest emotion of them all (come on, who among us hasn’t done something stupid due to love?), the heart began to be written about as the seat of love…see: ”I love you with so much of my heart, that none is left to protest.” – Beatrice to Benedict in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing for just one example.

Since then, we’ve become more enlightened as to the true function of the heart, perhaps as a result of the Enlightenment…perhaps not.  It serves one vitally important purpose and one purpose only, to pump oxygenated blood to all our muscles and organs and it does this by beating an incredible 115,000 times every day!  Since your heart health is a matter of life or death, perhaps we should take better care of it and here are five tips to do just that.

  1. Quit or don’t start smoking. The chemicals found in commercial tobacco products damage your heart and blood vessels by causing a narrowing of the arteries due to plaque build up.  This restricts the flow of that oxygenated blood to all those muscles and organs.  Smoking also causes carbon monoxide to force out some of the oxygen in your blood.  Both effects increase your blood pressure and cause your heart to work harder to  deliver the necessary amount of oxygen to your body.
  1. Get moving. No surprise here, regular aerobic exercise (defined as at least 30 minutes most days of the week) is good for your heart and helps control your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and weight.  I seem to remember some physics law from high school that said something about bodies at rest tend to stay at rest…yada, yada, yada.  So just apply that rule to your body as well.  It’s tough to get that sedentary body of yours (mine too) up and moving, but once you do, it’s easy to keep it moving for at least 30 minutes…I think that rule has a second part about bodies in motion tend to stay in motion.  I’ll Google it later.
  1. Maintain a heart healthy diet. No surprise here either…fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fiber, lean meats and fish, these are some of your heart’s favorite things.  Salt, sugar (especially processed), trans and saturated fats, these are NOT some of your heart’s favorite things.  One way to avoid these things is to read food labels on a regular basis and learn the recommended daily allowances.  For example, vegetable juice, what most consider to be a healthy drink, can have up to 700 milligrams of salt per 8 ounces.  The FDA recommends we consume no more than 2,300 mgs of salt per day.  Read those labels!
  1. Get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Those who do not have higher risks of obesity, heart attack, diabetes, and depression.  I can remember when my kids were cute little babies and not the crazed tweens they are now, my wife and I made sleep a priority in their lives (model parents, right?  Probably not).  Come hell or high water, they went to sleep at the same time every night.  No late night, drunken parties for them, ever.  If you’re not getting that 7-9 hours every night, you might want to reconsider your priorities.  Just sayin’…a phrase my adorable tweeners keep repeating.
  1. Stay or get social. Ok, this one is a bit of a surprise.  Numerous studies have linked loneliness to depression and physical health problems.  One Swedish study conducted by Ikea (I jest, of course) followed 17,000 people and found that the ones with the fewest number of social contacts had a 50% higher risk of cardiovascular disease.  So what’s going on here?  Medical and psychological professionals believe that friends and family serve as stress relievers, which helps control your blood pressure, which is good for your heart as well.

Interested in reading more?  Here’s MagicKitchen.com’s link to other articles that deal with maintaining good heart health: http://www.magickitchen.com/news/heart.html

 

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The Rich and Flavorful History of Soul Food

Please, when I mention soul food, do not think only of the food marketed by some older gentleman parading as a colonel from Kentucky.  Soul food, as I discovered while researching this post, is so much more than just fried chicken, corn bread, and sweet potato pie.  Although those dishes do play a role, they are not the end-all, be-all of soul food, far from it.  Soul food has its origins, as one might expect, from West Africa, but it also contains ingredients from Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas as well.  It is, in fact, a fusion cuisine that has evolved over the centuries and is, perhaps, rediscovering its vegetable roots (no, not like turnips or carrots).

What we now refer to as soul food has its origins in West Africa.  When millions of African slaves were forcibly removed from their homeland and brought to North, Central, and South America, as well as numerous Caribbean islands, one of the memories they brought with them were of the culinary variety.  The Columbian Exchange (the transfer of foods, animals and ideas among the Atlantic world) began almost immediately after Columbus first landed in the Bahamas in 1492.  Eventually, African plants and seeds arrived in the slave states of the South, sometimes via the Caribbean.  One of the most significant was rice, along with okra and black-eyed peas.

The West African diet consisted mostly of vegetables and meat was usually only used to flavor the dish.  This tradition easily transferred itself to America as Southern slaves usually only had access to limited amounts of meat.  And what meat they did obtain was of the variety not eaten by their owners, such as ham hocks, oxtail, chitterlings (or chit’lins…pig intestines), or gizzards.  Many slaves also were permitted to supplement their diets through the use of their own gardens, where they grew vegetables that were common to the Native Americans…sweet potatoes and corn.  Hence the inclusion of many corn based items, such as hominy, grits and cornbread under the soul food umbrella.   The slaves also grew “new” greens such as collard, mustard, turnip, cabbage and kale.

After the Civil War, many Southern blacks became share croppers, still tied to the land that others owned.  However, by the time the U.S. entered World War I, in 1917, many Southern blacks began what has come to be known as the Great Migration as they headed north in search of manufacturing jobs and they took their soul food recipes with them, along with their music.  These African-Americans then began to use lard to cook the meat that they now acquired through better paying jobs, to include chicken and pork.  Some of these transplanted Southern blacks managed to open their own restaurants and they became community gathering places within cities, both north and south.

As for the term “soul food,” African-Americans began to use that term in the 1940s, but it went mainstream with the arrival of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements of the 1960s, as “soul” was also placed in front of man, brother, sister, and music.  Simply stated, during this time, “soul” equaled African-American, while “Southern” came to be associated with white.

Around this period, the American diet began to change with the mass consumption of processed and fast food and this is when soul food was transformed and came to be considered part of an unhealthy diet.  While a soul food diet has always had healthy and unhealthy elements, this equilibrium was unbalanced when processed and fast food manufactures altered its composition.

However, recently, many African-American chefs have been leading the way back to the roots of soul food as they take it back to its veggie-centric beginnings.  Often referred to as “down-home healthy soul food,” it features meat dishes, but they’re now grilled or baked rather than fried in lard.  Dishes are also prepared with less salt and sugar and are flavored with onions, pepper, garlic, herbs and spices.  It has been referred to as a sort of homecoming by African-American chefs and culinary experts.  Imagine, soul food as a synonym for health food…well, imagine no longer.

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