Tuesday, February 17, 2009

February 17 Spring cleaning/attic cleaning/baking and cooking

I hope everyone had a great Valentine's Day!

The results of our last poll show that many of us garden and/or care of indoor plants. We've got a new poll about your favorite area of home keeping. I'm interested to see what everyone loves the most.

How's everyone's spring cleaning coming? I'm still working on the storage areas of my home. I'm also re-evaluating my wardrobe. See the blog PHE: The Home Manager's Health and Beauty for a discussion of those all-important foundation garments, as our grandmothers called them. As with most everything, a great foundation is the key!

Basement, Garage, Attic -- wondering what goes where? Check out this article from Real Simple.


Some basics for all of us to review:

1) When cooking for our families' health, we need to remember the following: Good digestion is essential.

When we sit down to a meal, the food on our plates is not yet in a form that our body can use. It is the job of our alimentary canals (digestive tracts) to break the food down into smaller molecules that make up the nutrients our bodies use. Only then, can the blood absorb the nutrients and carry them to all the cells in our body. The liver, gall bladder, and pancreas also play a part in the digestive process, as do parts of our nervous and circulatory systems.

2) Did you know that the digestive process can actually begin before you take your first bite? The aroma, sight, or thought of food can prompt your body to begin salivating in preparation for eating. This readies your mouth to receive and process food.

3) Once you do take a bite into your mouth, the process of chewing breaks the food down into a form that can be swallowed. Also, the saliva in our mouths helps moisten the food, which also aids swallowing. There is a digestive enzyme called amylase in saliva that starts converting carbohydrates into a usable form even before they leave the mouth.

4) Obviously, once we have chewed and swallowed our food, it proceeds down the esophagus and into the stomach. Without going into any more detail about the process of digestion right now, it's worth noting that all parts of our digestive system are sensitive to emotion. Think how much of our language refers to this: "I have butteflies in my stomach." "I have a gut feeling about that." "I just can't swallow what he said to me." "My stomach's all tied up in knots."

Also, in every culture that I know of, eating together is a bonding experience. Friendships are formed over meals. Business deals are finalized at meals. Much of the fellowship of the church involves meals. Holidays are marked by meals. Food is eaten at showers, weddings, and birthdays. The Bible is filled with verses about people eating together. In fact, one of the loveliest images given to help us understand the kingdom of heaven is as a great banquet prepared by a king.

5) Our bodies extract proteins, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, fats, and water from our foods. All of these are necessary to provide our bodies with the fuel they need in order to operate. Fats have gotten a bad rap in the last few decades, but scientists are learning that there are healthy fats. While some people who have or are at risk for cardiovascular disease or diabetes may benefit from exremely lowfat diets, most of us need a little fat in our diet to be at our healthiest. Even though we do need some fats, we still do well to avoid an excess. Our bodies cannot break down fiber, but it has a cleansing role in our systems. For that reason, it is also an important substance in our foods.

So, what do these facts about the digestive system have to do with cooking and baking? One important thing is to remind ourselves of how important it is to provide -- as far as it's possible with us -- pleasant meals for our families. An unhurried and loving atmosphere, along with pleasing sights and aromas and good conversation, foster good digestion. Positive emotions at the table will enable our bodies and our families' bodies to get the most nutrition out of what is eaten. It takes some time and patience to train children how to behave at the table, and it takes self-disicpline on our part to encourage a happy family meals. It's worth the effort, though, because it adds to our family's health and enjoyment now, and it builds memories that your children will look back on with joy later on in life. It also prepares your children for an important part of adult life.

It's especially important to form the habit ourselves and to teach our children to chew their food thoroughly during mealtime. Hurriedly swallowing large pieces that haven't been chewed thorouhly can create pain in the esophagus. Also, if we swallow before the digestive enzymes in the mouth have done their work, we are cheating ourselves of the best nutrition. Moreover, if we eat too quickly, we do not give our bodies enough time to sense fullness or to signal that sense of fullness to our brains. If we eat too quickly, we will likely overeat.

If we must grab a bite to eat on the way to a ballgame or a Wednesday night service, it's better to eat a smaller portion, chewed thoroughly and slowly, rather than to gulp down a full plate. If you get hungry later, you can always supplement with a snack.

Not only is it important to provide a pleasant eating experience, it's good to consider the nutritional needs of our bodies when preparing meals. People naturally enjoy a meal that has a variety of colors, textures, tastes, and temperatures. There's probably a reason why this is so instincitvely pleasing to us. Such variety of foods in one meal offers many different nutrients. At the very least, a well-rounded meal includes a protein, a grain, and a fruit or vegetable -- thus, giving us the protein, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, water, and fiber that we need.

Proteins are comprised of a number of amino acids. Our bodies need a certain number of these acids to function. Our bodies can take certain building blocks and create out of them some amino acids. There are other amino acids that we cannot make and must get from our diets. These are called essential amino acids. Complete proteins contain all of the essential amino acids we need. Complete proteins are generally animal products.

Incomplete proteins provide only some of the essential amino acids we need. These incomplete proteins are generally plant based. Because meat has not always been plentiful, most cultures have instinctively come up with some combinations of incomplete proteins that work together to make a complete protein. For example, rice and beans is a traditional meal in many cultures. So, too, is cheese and bread or cheese and a noodle. Also, many cultures have developed ways of using a little bit of meat along with a grain or bean to provide protein.

It used to be thought that people who eat a vegetarian diet must combine incomplete proteins properly at every meal to make complete proteins. It was suggested that vegetarian cooks put much thought into this to insure that they provided all of the essential amino acids in one meal. Now, some nutritionsits think that vegetarian cooks need not be quite so exact when planning meals. They believe that by consuming a variety of incomplete proteins over the course of seveal meals, you will naturally eat enough amino acids for the body to combine them into complete proteins. Even so, it makes sense for the vegetarian cook to become familiar with the traditional ways of combining proteins. It's a sure-fire way to make sure that you are providing complete proteins. These hearty combinations are a boon not only to the vegetarian diet, but also to anyone's diet.

Happy Homemaking!


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