Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for January 14th, 2011

One-pot experiment: Chicken, spinach and mushrooms

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Trying out another homemade recipe using the Glorious One-Pot Meals technique of building layers in a 2-qt cast-iron Dutch oven and then popping that into a 450º F oven for 45 minutes or so. This one should be for 45 minutes based on my first time making the recipe. The layers, in chronological order (thus the first layer listed is at the bottom):

1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1/2 c whole-wheat Israeli couscous
1 Tbs water, to wet the couscous
8 oz chicken breast cut into chunks
salt and pepper
6 domestic white mushrooms, sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced thinly
Fresh spinach, washed, drained, and chopped (as much as will fit: it cooks down a lot)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small Meyer lemon, cut into chunks
1 small yellow crookneck squash, chopped coarsely

Whisk together in a small bowl:

2 Tbsp vinaigrette (I used Bragg All Natural Ginger & Sesame Salad Dressing)
1 tsp Dijon mustard

Pour that over the top. Cover, and put in 450º F oven for 45 minutes.

Two meals is the result.

Let’s see how that works.

UPDATE: I knew that my own recipe would taste better. This was great, so far as I was concerned. The original recipe had one problem:  too much liquid (probably because a lot of liquid cooks out of the lemon, squash, mushrooms, and spinach). I have now changed the recipe above so that it’s correct, but obviously recipes are made to be tinkered with, right?

UPDATE 2: I just remembered that Yarnell writes that you can readily use frozen spinach: just place it at the right layer. Frozen spinach will probably add even more water, so I would skip the 1 Tbsp at the beginning, too.

UPDATE 3: I’m going to make it again but using 1/2 c. rice as the starch.

UPDATE 4: Just made it again, the rice variation. For me, 1/2 c rice is too much—I will go with 1/3 c next time. (I do recall that this is for two meals, but 1/2 c rice raw is a lot of rice cooked.) The fresh spinach I used had sat out overnight and was probably drier than yesterday, so I’ll add a bit more water in such circumstances, and it also occurs to me that the rice might require more water. Because I was a little short on spinach, I chopped up several stalks of asparagus and put those on top, along with the squash, minced garlic, and chopped lemon.

The Eldest observes that a little crushed red pepper would go well in a lot of such recipes, and that tempeh might work extremely well as the protein since (a) you can’t overcook it, and (b) steaming improves flavor. She sent along this idea:

Pork strips or tempeh or firm tofu
Cabbage in large chunks
sliced carrots
Chopped green onions
chopped garlic
grated ginger
soy sauce
walnut pieces (for texture)
chopped water chestnuts (for texture)
chopped bell peppers
sliced mushrooms
Parboiled brown rice

Doesn’t that sound tasty? I certainly will try this. Parboiling the brown rice (rice in cold water, bring water to boil and boil rice a couple of minutes, then drain) is to make it cook in the 45 minutes this method uses. You could go longer, of course, but by the time brown rice is done (it takes close to an hour), the vegetables will be inedible.

But you can see how you can get into this—and filling the little pot is actually quite a bit of fun. From the health point of view, the starch and protein layers don’t use up much of the pot, with the result that you get a LOT of vegetables—all to the good. This method requires little fat—2 tsp for the whole pot seems plenty, but even 1 Tbsp (3 tsp) wouldn’t be bad.

Because you’re building the entire meal (for two, or two meals for one) in the pot, you eat everything you cook: no leftovers. And because you’re building by layer, it seems easier not to get carried away and, for example, double the amount of protein you’d use. Measure and layer, and Bob’s your uncle: a healthful meal with a lot of vegetables.

Here’s the only 2-quart enameled cast-iron Dutch oven I’ve been able to find.

Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2011 at 12:49 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, GOPM, Recipes

More CoreAlign work

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The CoreAlign is a strange little machine, but it really seems to do the job—at least if you also have an instructor’s help. My Pilates studio has one of these. Take a look:

And another look:

What’s sort of strange is working at some exercise for a while and then suddenly discovering (as it were) the muscle you need to use in the exercise. Makes a world of difference.

Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2011 at 12:42 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness, Pilates

An effective strategy to deal with test anxiety

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Useful information in Science News, by Bruce Bower:

High school and college students go from choking to smoking on big tests by writing about their exam fears beforehand, a new study suggests.

In what amounts to a Heimlich maneuver for choking under pressure, writing down test-related worries for 10 minutes before taking a major exam appears to dislodge those concerns and clear the way for higher achievement, say psychologists Gerardo Ramirez and Sian Beilock, both of the University of Chicago.

Writing about unspoken fears of failure and related anxieties lets students reevaluate such concerns and keep them at bay during a test, Ramirez and Beilock propose in the Jan. 14 Science.

“One bout of writing about test anxiety can substantially increase students’ test scores and prevent the dreaded choke,” Beilock says.

Ramirez and Beilock provide the first evidence of people reaping immediate benefits from expressive writing, remarks psychologist James Pennebaker of the University of Texas at Austin. His earlier research linked writing about personal conflicts and traumas over several days at the start of a college semester to improved physical health and final grades by semester’s end.

Researchers have also found that depressed people who write about distressing personal experiences over several months ruminate progressively less about melancholy topics.

It’s unclear whether students plagued by test anxiety can repeatedly raise their test scores via expressive writing, Beilock notes.

Pennebaker agrees. “As with any novel intervention, there is a strong possibility that the effectiveness of the writing exercise diminishes over time,” he says.

Over two consecutive school years at a Midwestern high school, Ramirez and Beilock had teachers randomly assign one of two writing exercises to a total of 106 ninth graders about to take final exams in biology. Each student spent 10 minutes writing thoughts and feelings about the upcoming exam or a description of a biology topic that they suspected wouldn’t be on the exam.

On questionnaires administered six weeks before the final exam, 54 students had reported constant worries about taking, and potentially failing, tests.

Among test-anxious students, those who wrote about exam-related feelings scored an average of 6 percent higher on the final than those who wrote about biology topics. Expressive writers received a B+ average on the final, versus a B- for biology writers.

Worriers who wrote about their feelings scored as highly on the final as students who . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2011 at 8:48 am

Power marketing: Gillette Razor Company

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Fascinating post at

Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2011 at 8:45 am

Posted in Business, Shaving

Triple-milled soap, artificial badger brush, great lather

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There is an odd notion about, unsupported by experience (at least, unsupported by my own experience), that a soft brush cannot generate lather from hard shaving soaps—e.g., triple-milled soaps. I fully understand that some may prefer a brush that’s on the stiff side—we all have personal preferences—but a preference for a stiff brush does not imply that a soft brush doesn’t perform equally well in generating lather.

I think the mistaken notion arises simply because some men fail to load the brush with soap—they brush the surface of the soap briefly, then try to make a lather. Surprise! You cannot make a good lather with insufficient soap. But a soft brush can pick up plenty of soap through this technique: Wet brush with hot tap water, shake the brush, then brush the surface of the shaving soap briskly for 30-45 seconds. Move the brush to your wet beard and brush vigorously. Voilà! Lather.

Except maybe not: If you follow the above instructions and still get miserable lather, I suspect that you may be a victim of hard water.To check, go to the drugstore and buy a gallon of distilled water (sometimes called “purified” water—it’s sold for use in steam irons and humidifiers and the like). Heat some of that and try making the lather with that water. If that works, you pretty clearly have hard water.

I am lucky to have soft water, and the Omega artificial badger brush above—not especially soft, IMO—generated a terrific lather from the triple-milled Vintage Blades LLC shaving soap. Three smooth passes from the Eclipse with a Swedish Gillette blade, a splash of New York, and I’m ready for the day.

Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2011 at 8:41 am

Posted in Shaving

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