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Come On Get Healthy!

Statistics show that most people have already abandoned their New Year’s resolutions—especially resolutions to get healthy. If that’s true of you, don’t give up yet.

Making a change for the better shouldn’t be daunting for you. Think of health changes like snowflakes. Snowflakes are tiny and of little significance on their own. But when you pile enough of them up they can bring a large city to a standstill. Here are a few little snowflake changes that are easy to make. Add one at a time, and pretty soon you’ll notice an avalanche of good health.

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Fresh in January

I don’t usually think about fresh produce in January, since we’re well past harvesting anything fresh from our gardens here in Miami County, Indiana. Of course, a lot of people are thinking about fresh produce as they start working on the number one New Year’s resolution—losing weight/getting healthy. Have no fear. There are plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in your local grocery store to help you with that resolution.

The term “winter squash” covers a wide variety of squash. You’ll find hubbard, acorn, butternut, banana, buttercup, delicata, kabocha, spaghetti, sweet dumpling, and turban squash. Don’t worry, though. Choosing and storing rules will be the same for all of them. The thick skin that protects the squash makes it a little harder to make a choice. You can’t squeeze them to judge freshness. What you want to look for is a squash that’s heavy for its size and free from soft spots, bruises, and mold. Don’t worry about bumps and discolorations. They’re part of the charm of squash.

Store your squash in a cool (50°-55°F), dry place until you’re ready to use it. You should be able to store your squash for a few months as long as you keep it cool and dry. Wondering how to use a new variety of squash? You can use it the same as any other squash. The one exception is the spaghetti squash, which is often used as a substitute for (surprise!) spaghetti. Just roast or steam it, then scrape the flesh into strands and top it with marinara sauce. It doesn’t taste like pasta, but it has a similar texture. Also, the mild, almost bland, flavor (not sweet like most squash) won’t interfere with the flavor of your sauce.

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Setting Goals for 2019

On Tuesday, 2019 will begin. What do you want to see happen in 2019? You know the old adage: those who fail to plan have planned to fail.

Now, I don’t do resolutions. My joke is that “resolution” is Latin for something I know I should do but have no real intention of doing. You know—lose weight, stop smoking, eat better, exercise, etc. Goals are different.

Goals are measurable and have timelines. Instead of “lose weight” you set a goal of losing 10 pounds by Easter.

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What I Love about Christmas

Christmas is Tuesday. I love Christmas. I love the time with family and friends. I love finding just the right gift for someone special. I love figuring out something fun for those white elephant exchanges. I love the cooking and baking. I love the look of expectation on children’s faces.

I know that we complain a lot about the season. It’s busy. It’s commercialized. Kids get the dreaded give-me disease. It’s a lot to pack in a few weeks of the year. So take a few minutes to take a deep breath. Think about the good Christmas memories. (My mom once used baby powder to make Santa footprints from the ashes in the fireplace, all around the tree, and back. We thought Santa had messed up Mom’s newly cleaned carpet. Santa was in sooooo much trouble!) Think about the hysterical Christmas disasters. (My husband once opened a lobster claw at my mom’s house and sprayed several people and the wall with fluid.)

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Christmas Pudding

When we think about Christmas, many of us think about the yummy stuff. In England, all desserts are called “pudding.” So, that figgy pudding you sing about in We Wish You a Merry Christmas could be fig cookies (aka biscuits in England) or a fig cake. Though, it might just be a fig pudding.

Christmas desserts can be everything from the very simple (cookies for Santa) to something elaborate (my café crema brucciato). At our house, we always have a birthday cake for Jesus. This year I’m making a carrot cake with mandarin oranges for Jesus’ birthday cake. So, our Christmas pudding will be carrot cake. My recipe is below.

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How Much to Serve

This time of year we’re often serving crowds. Whether you’ve planned a dinner, a cocktail party, or a potluck, you want to make sure you have enough for everyone.

Let’s start with snacks/appetizers. This will all depend on what you expect from your appetizers. If you’re serving them before a meal, plan for 6 pieces or bites per person per hour. If they’re in place of a meal, you will want to have 12 per person. Serving something that isn’t in pieces such as Brie or dip? Consider an ounce to be a bite. That would mean 12 oz per person if you plan for it to take the place of a meal.

If you’re serving soup or salad as a starter course, plan on 1 cup per person. If soup will be the main course, you’ll want 2 cups per person. Make that 2½ cups for a main dish salad.

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Fresh in December

Those of us in the upper midwest don’t usually think of December as a fresh product month. But, thanks to the fact that we live in a time when foods from all over the world are available to us, there are great finds in your grocery store.

Pomegranates are only available for a short time, but they are one of my favorite fruits. I love them! You want to choose a pomegranate that’s heavy. Lighter ones don’t have as much juice. Choose one with a deeply-colored, glossy rind that has flatish sides. Unripe pomegranates are more round. It should be firm with no soft spots. You should be able to scratch the rind, though. Unripe pomegranates have hard rinds that you can’t scratch. You can store an unopened pomegranate for up to two months in your fridge. Once you have removed the arils (seeds), you should store them in a sealed container. They should be good for about five days.

Grapefruit, lemons, oranges, and tangerines should be plentiful this month. Citrus fruit doesn’t ripen after being picked, so all of the citrus you find will be ripe. The question is whether they’re fresh and flavorful. Look for smooth, blemish-free rinds. Choose the heaviest fruits for the most juice. Avoid fruit that has soft spots and/or wrinkled skin. Smell them, choosing the ones with a strong, sweet scent.

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Christmas with Kids

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard someone complain that Christmas has gotten too commercial and/or too many kids get the “gimmees” at Christmas, I’d have a lot of nickels. Here are a couple of ideas for making Christmas a little more meaningful for the children in your life. Being greedy is natural. It’s up to the adults in their lives to help them get past that.

A Story a Day

I wish I’d gotten this tip when my son was little. Individually wrap 24 children’s Christmas books. Every night let your child choose one of the wrapped books. Unwrap it, and read that book at bedtime. If you have more than one child, let them take turns choosing. Don’t rush out and buy a bunch of new books, though. Wrap up the ones you already have or find them at a used bookstore.

This can help pass the time during what seems like a horribly long wait between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It can also help older kids remember that the things we already have are also gifts to be grateful for.