When a Beautiful Hike Can Go Wrong

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Posted by Manisha Pandit

I wouldn't say we are avid hikers or adventurers but we do like to hike as a family. That usually limits us to easy to moderate hikes with moderate gains in altitude. The longest hike we have done is a 5.4 mile hike along The Loop in Rocky Mountain Park. We always take the necessary precautions:

  • we carry enough water for each person
  • we wear sunscreen
  • we carry or use insect repellent
  • we carry several layers of clothing, including one that is water resistant, as the weather can change in a heartbeat in the Rockies
  • we carry walkie-talkies just in case. Most of the time, my daughter uses these to sing to everyone else who might be on the same frequency.
  • we do not let our daughter walk alone ahead or behind us - we're usually in mountain lion territory.
  • we carry energy bars or fruit leather on short hikes. On slightly longer hikes, I carry boiled eggs - it's the only time I eat boiled egg yolk - and sandwiches.
  • the hikes we go on have well-marked trails so we don't need a map but we carry the one the Park gives us anyway.
  • we stay on the marked trail.
  • we don't pick wildflowers or mushrooms or any plants.
  • we're keyed into the weather and if we see a thunderstorm approaching - a very common afternoon phenomenon around here - we pack up and head for safety.
  • we do not hike in the dark, except at Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, where the hike back is well after sunset and partly in the dark.
  • we carry flashlights.
Is it possible then that anything could go wrong? It can and it did. On a very easy hike - you could even call it a stroll. You see, there were a couple of important things that are not covered in the list above and add to it a sense of complacency.

Like out of a dream, the kind that suddenly goes bad without any warning
We were hiking in Yosemite National Park over spring break late last month. The hike or stroll in question was around Mirror Lake, a shallow pool of water along Tenaya Creek that has fabulous reflections during spring. As the season progresses, the water dries up to reveal sandy beach-like areas along the creek. People walk off the trail and onto these beaches for a picnic.

YO-12

I was so enamored by the reflections that I started to lag behind as we walked towards the beach. Usually, we are always within earshot and sight of one another and no matter what, my daughter is never alone. Soon, my family had gone so far ahead that I couldn't see them. When I reached what looked like the access point to the sandy area, I looked out and couldn't see them. I saw other picnickers frolicking away instead. Irritated, I continued along the trail thinking that it was rather typical of my significant other to keep going. He is known for pushing us further and further on every hike. Hmmph. He might have waited for me to catch up!

As I hiked on alone, the forest started getting thicker and there was no-one ahead of me or behind me. I looked in my backpack and oops! I'd forgotten the walkie-talkie in the car. There was no way I could ping them and my cellphone was also in the car - not that it would have helped any as T-Mobile has no reception, whatsoever, in the Park. AT&T does have a signal in some parts of the Yosemite Valley. After about 20 minutes, the terrain started becoming rockier and I decided to turn back. A short while later, I met a couple who were planning to hike to the head of the creek and they promised me that they would let my family know that I had turned back, if they ran into them. The couple then advised me to stay put at the trailhead, which was 1.2 miles from the parking lot, because my family would have to go past the trailhead to get back to the car.

I returned and waited at the trailhead. And waited and waited and waited. It was nearing sunset and becoming progressively colder. After an hour of fuming, I decided to give them another half hour before going in search of a ranger. Luckily, I didn't have to because two very worried and very angry persons showed up soon thereafter.

They had not walked on ahead along the creek like I had assumed. Instead, they were trying to get back onto the trail from the sandy beach and could not be seen from the trail. When they got back onto the trail, they assumed that I was still walking towards them and so walked back. When they didn't find me along the trail, they walked back to the car. [3.4 miles total at this point] They had tried calling me on the walkie-talkie and got no answer and realized why when they saw the walkie-talkie in the car. That was my first Oops! Since it was an easy hike, I was not careful about ensuring that I had my walkie-talkie with me.

They found the second set of car keys also in the car. That was my second Oops! Always keep a second set of car keys with another person in the group so that if you split up, the other group has access to the car, especially if you traveled in one car. Of course, if both keys end up with the group that gets lost, not much can be done!

Since they now knew why they could not contact me, their irritation levels were higher than their concern levels. They walked back to the trailhead [4.6 miles total at this point] and found me. This was my third Oops! If you get separated from your group, head back to where you left the car or always have a place that you will meet at and, also agree upon the latest time that everyone should expect to reconvene in such an event. We never expected to lose each other and while it seemed practical to me to wait at the trailhead, it wasn't for several reasons. The trailhead was a short loop and returning hikers usually take the shorter route out to road that leads to the parking lot. Not that it mattered, in this case, because when I reached the trailhead, they had already gone past it on their way to the parking lot! Also, I would have been exposed to the elements at the trailhead had there been a storm. Another point to consider: discuss how long each party should wait before going in search of help.

After taking turns to vent, we walked back to the car together and when we reached the parking lot, two out of three of us had walked 5.8 miles of which 2.4 miles was completely unnecessary and could have been avoided easily.

So learn a lesson from our experience where I made several basic mistakes on a very easy hike, despite having hiked for so many years.




This post was written by Manisha

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Declutter

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Posted by Dee






Most of us have a problem of over accumulation.We acquire things throughout our lives, some are given to us , some left to us , some we find and most of them are purchased and we keep them because we think , they evoke memories , hold answers , contains a promise or might serve a purpose some day. But we tend to forget that too much stuff can actually create a physical barrier of whats really important and also creates a sense of unease with the things we own and finally is overwhelming.

First and foremost we keep most things , even if we want to let go of them because we think we might need it some day. For instance , I know someone who has a penchant for empty shoes boxes and keeps them in the storage area of their home because they think they might need to move some day and can reuse them for packing. I do agree that reusing the stuff is a great way of minimizing cost , but as far I know they haven't moved in the past 3 years. So imagine the number of shoe boxes they must have accumulated in 3 years. I follow a simple mantra when it comes to decluttering my home , First of all a lot of thought goes into buying anything, secondly if i dont use anything and its kept there for more than 3 months and its in great condition , it either goes to a consignment store or I give it away to someone who can put it to good use .. or I keep my garbage can really happy by filling it up without a second thought or regret.

Remember one thing, clutter stops us living in the present.

Secondly , we keep things because of sentimental value and they are too important to let go ... I completely understand this .. I am already having trouble letting go of my daughter's first hat , It no longer fits her... but I ask myself.. How am I going to put it to good use ? Is this the only thing I am going to keep of hers ? What comes next and where will I put away all that stuff ? I am so sure .. that all the stuff I am going to keep will end up in a pile of unwanted clothes or occupy maximum space in the closet or lost in the clutter of the house and I have to say that most of us dont live in palaces to keep as much as stuff we want to. Be merciless , pick and choose what you want and then discard the rest. Anything that holds sentimental value , needs to be treated with respect and cherished and if it can , displayed and reflected in a way that you store it, and definitely not lost in a pile.

Thirdly we cling on to stuff because they are worth a lot of money. Always put a lot of thought into what you buy , Imagine the cost incurred for what you dont use and the cost of holding onto it . If you have a spare room and its unusable and cluttered, imagine the rent / mortgage you are paying on that unusable square footage. The money you could be saving from all this could help take a long wanted vacation or a great appliance you always wanted and use regularly. Follow the rule , One in , One out i.e if you buy one thing which is and upgrade of what you already have or something which is similar to what you have , make sure , you find a way to discard the older one before you get the new one into its place.

Decluttering is something that cannot come to a person in a one day , It is a continuous process and takes time and effort mentally and physically. If you start a process of decluttering , do not be overwhelmed by the amount of work you need to do .

1. Set realistic goals. Dont think of accomplishing the 26 tasks on your to do list in one day. Im sure one will be so exhausted that they wont think of working on de cluttering their home for a long time.

2. Take short breaks every hour or half hour , like a tea break, sitting down for a minute ,or at least staring out of the window will help you refresh and tackle your task with vigor.

3. Everyone has trouble doing certain tasks, for instance I have trouble folding laundry, I am not sure why, but I always put it off until the very end. So when I want to accomplish this task, I do not work on anything else that day so that I can focus better and finish my task before I decide to put it away for the next day. It works for me !

4. Assign spaces for everything in your home , starting from utensils to paper clips , rubber bands . Make sure that its put back in place after its used, that ways its one job less for the person who cleans the house. The house need not look sterile , some people cannot live without clutter , i am one of them, so organize clutter and make it look beautiful in a part of your home. I do that with my books.

5. Once you start to see larger flat surfaces in your home , you realize its a better place to come back to . Also it will be a great place to socialize and proudly show off your home and then if you felt that your home was too small before de cluttering , you wont feel the same way now. De cluttering in general will make life seem a lot simpler , easier and a lot more organized.


Trust me , when you start this process, you will feel much better , life seems organized


Hence , De clutter your home, workplace and life !





This post was written by Dee



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Very Berry Recipes

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Posted by Mansi

berry-recipes
Berries are a super-house of healthy nutrients, and right this moment, it is raining fresh berries all around California, and probably in several other parts of the world where the Heat chart has gone up, and Summer has officially set in! I simply cannot resist picking up the cute baskets loaded with strawberries, blueberries, goji berries and blackberries that line the fruit aisles. And though I am a hard-core sweet-tooth person, this craving for cooking with berries has introduced me to several sweet & savory berry treats, along with desserts. Check out some of the advantages of including berries in your summer diet, and then head on to explore some delicious recipes that I've specially bookmarked for our DT readers! (Image courtesy of Wikimedia)

5 reasons to Eat Berries
1. They are the best source of anti-oxidants, packed in a fruit full of flavor!
2. Most berries, like strawberries, contain as much Vitamin C as Orange Juice, which is great for the immune system and for growth of connective tissue.
3. Berries are the best low-calorie snacks filled with nutrients like calcium, potassium, magnesium, folate and other vitamins.
4. The colored pigments, or flavanoids, contained in berries help reduce diseases and infections, as well as reduce risk of cancers.
5. Dark-colored berries also contain Lutein, which helps improve your eyesight.

And most importantly, they are so full of flavor, and can be used to make so many mouth-watering delicacies, whether you prepare something elaborate, or just slice them and top them with yogurt or cream, Berries are indeed Good Eats!

Berry Recipes
Start off your day with these delicious Raspberry Mega Scones from 101Cookbooks. These giant and bright red scones look and smell wonderful, will serve each member of your family, and will be a breakfast feast that they'll boast about for a lifetime!

If you want to load up on the goodness of all the different kinds of berries at once, try this Berry Tart from SimplyRecipes. With ingredients like Mascarpone, Orange Marmalade and Berry liqueur, its hard to say no to this recipe!

For those looking for non-sweet options, this Savory Berry Compote by Rachel Ray looks like an innovative twist. Flavored with different kinds of berries along with onions, lemon juice and a hint of ginger & thyme, it sure sounds adventurous and intriguing at the same time!

Then there's the Spicy Blueberry-Citrus Marmalade over at Sunset Magazine that I found interesting. The flavors gel so well together, and it would be a perfect spread for breads, toasts, warm muffins or scones! A great way to pack in summer flavors in one exquisite recipe.

If you are looking for a lighter and low-calorie version of a berry pudding, here's my version of Baked Strawberry Pudding that you can find at Fun and Food. Baked with macerated strawberries, and topped with whipped cream, fresh fruit and chocolate sauce, its a treat you'll cherish even after its over!



This post was written by Mansi

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Fresh, Frozen, or Canned?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Posted by Andrea Meyers

In my dream world, I walk out to my bountiful garden several times a day and pick whatever we need for the next meal, whether it’s tomatoes, onions, greens, cabbage, herbs, squash, eggplant, beans, corn, almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts, berries, apples, plums, oranges, lemons, limes, mango, bananas, grapefruit, or passionfruit. All of these things are available year round and crops produce perfect yields, neither too much or too little. Now that is a dream! I would love to have all of those things growing in our yard year round, but like most people in the world the climate and soil type determines what we can grow and when, and the ever-changing weather affects the harvest. Some years we struggle to get enough and some years we have a bounty and store the excess.

When faced with an excess of produce from our garden, we preserve foods by freezing or canning, and each has its own benefits.

Andrea's Recipes - Pickled Green Tomatoes
Pickled Green Tomatoes.

Freezing

Frozen fruits and vegetables are often nutritionally equal or even sometimes superior to fresh as they are usually frozen just after harvest, locking in the vitamins and minerals that would otherwise leech from the food if stored in the refrigerator or on the counter. Harmful organisms are not destroyed in the process, but the freezing temperature inhibits growth. Some vegetables and fruits can be frozen whole, such as tomatillos and berries, but others should be cut, such as zucchini and carrots. Spread out on a baking sheet the produce you plan to freeze and leave it in the freezer for at least one hour, then put into labeled freezer bags.

Leafy vegetables such as spinach should have stems completely removed. Many vegetables should be blanched or even cooked before freezing, but fruits are often frozen after rinsing clean. Herbs can be frozen as whole leaves or chopped and put into ice cube trays, then frozen. Store the whole frozen leaves in plastic containers and frozen cubes in plastic containers or bags.

Always label everything you freeze with the contents and the date. Storage time for frozen produce varies from 1 to 3 months, but that is based on quality of the product not safety. Properly frozen foods are safe indefinitely.

Andrea's Recipes - How to Freeze Basil
Frozen basil cubes.

Canning

The canning process applies heat to the food to kill any harmful organisms such as bacteria, molds, and yeasts and destroy enzymes and remove oxygen that break down food. Heat does break down some beneficial vitamins (C, thiamine, folate), but most are stable when heat is applied, so canned foods still have health benefits. Canning at home requires some basic equipment:

  • boiling water canner or pressure canner
  • jars and lids
  • large pot for sterilizing jars and lids

Low acid foods such as vegetables and meats require a pressure canner to ensure the temperatures get high enough to destroy harmful microorganisms such as Clostridium botulinum, so don’t try to just boil them in an open pot. Fruits have enough acid and can be processed in an open pot (the boiling water method). Once you have canned your foods and the lids have properly sealed, they will be shelf stable for up to one year and can be stored without refrigeration until opened.

Andrea's Recipes - Home Canning
Canned jams and jellies.

We can pickles, jellies, jams, and fruit butters, and then freeze the rest. Last year we put up about 40 jars of canned goods and froze 5 pounds of tomatillos, several batches of pesto and frozen basil, and then slow roasted and froze about 5 pounds of leftover ripe tomatoes. We have enjoyed the bounty of our summer garden throughout the winter and are looking forward to doing it all over again this summer.

References

National Center for Home Food Preservation

National Center for Home Food Preservation – Freezing

National Center for Home Food Preservation – Canning

WebMD – Frozen Vegetables are Hot

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service – Focus on Freezing

University of Minnesota Extension – How to Prepare Vegetables for Freezing

Beyond Vegetarianism – Effects of Cooking on Vitamins

Andrea’s Recipes – Home Canning (Boiling Water Method)


This post was written by Andrea

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THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT YOGURT...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Posted by Deeba PAB

There's something about YOGURT, & I'm hooked to it. Sometimes I think I'm taking it too far, & substituting cream with yogurt too often, but it's a habit that grows on you. On indulgent days my panna cotta will have cream, but otherwise, it'll have a thick hung yogurt, referred to here as 'curd cheese' or 'shrikhand'. Yogurt is the most versatile ingredient in my fridge, & the benefits are manifold. Amongst others, yogurt
  • may help you to live longer, and may fortify your immune system
  • can significantly improve the cholesterol profile
  • contains lactoferrin, an iron-binding protein that boosts the growth and activity of osteoblasts (the cells that build bone)
  • has Lactobacillus, a probiotic (friendly) bacteria which offers "remarkable preventive and curative" effects on arthritis
  • strengthens the immune system
  • is helpful in the battle against ulcers

Chocolate Yogurt Cake

Yogurt is a very good source of iodine, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin B2. It is also a good source of protein, vitamin B12, potassium, molybdenum, zinc and pantothenic acid. These 10 nutrients alone would make yogurt a health-supportive food. Some of the most interesting health information about yogurt comes from its potential inclusion of live bacteria.

It's no secret at home that I make my ice-creams/frozen yogurt desserts, my egg less cheesecake & sour cream etc with yogurt, & the results are delicious. Might well be a good idea to introduce kids to a 'yogurt habit' when young. Mine have been hooked on to it since they were very young. Come summer, winter, spring or fall, there has to be fresh, home-made, chilled yogurt every single day. The daughter isn't so much of a yogurt addict any more (teen thingy?), but the son is a complete 'yogurt freak'! He eats 2-3 bowlfuls with every meal, just plain, sans sugar. The daughter will usually add a tsp of sugar but wolf it down anyway. I set 2 litres of yogurt every alternate day... it's that much part of our existence!! I use it in sauces, in kebabs & curries, in lassi (sweet & sour), to make dips, to make sour cream, to make my cheesecakes (with eggs & without), to make ice-cream, to make chocolate yogurt cake, to make muffins...oh the list is endless! Here's a simple David Levobitz recipe I adapted. It might be a good way to introduce yogurt to frozen desserts this summer, but be warned, it's very addictive. And oh yes, you don't need an ice-cream machine to make this one!

Frozen Strawberry Yogurt
Adapted from David Levobitz
Ingredients:
1 cup (240g) hung curd
1 pound (450g) strawberries, rinsed and hulled
2/3 cup (130g) sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
Method:
Tie the yogurt in a cheesecloth and let it sit in a strainer in a bowl overnight or for at least 2 hours. This will help drain off all the whey and result in a very creamy frozen yogurt dessert. (I find overnight a better option)
Cut the strawberries and toss them in the sugar until the sugar begins to dissolve. (I used vanilla sugar).
Blend it together to a puree. (Strain if you don't like the seeds in)
Next, blend in the yogurt and lime juice until the mixture is smooth. Adjust the sweetness if required.
Freeze the mixture in a wide dish or plastic container. (The larger the surface area, quicker the freezing – since we have to pulse this mixture a couple of times).
Keep checking on the mixture every 30 minutes or so and use the stick blender to break the icicles, 4, maybe 5 times. (I used a sturdy whisk).
Once it's almost set, you can add a handful of finely chopped fresh basil, or else, some chopped pistachio nuts if you like. Just plain is good too!
Garnish with sliced strawberries & a sprig of basil, or, chopped pistachio nuts & mint!



This post was written by Deeba



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Vegetarian Food Pyramid - Wheat Germ

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Posted by DK




Of all the grains that I have been talking about in my previous editions of the Vegetarian Pyramid series, I consider Wheat to be one of the pivotal ones. The amount of wheat that I consume is a standing joke in my family. Chapathi this, wheat bread that and only god knows what else. That being said, the next few editions are going to be solely about wheat and wheat products - yeah, they are quite a handful in number. The various by products come from the main grain wheat - which comprises of three parts - bran, germ and endosperm. Each one has a substantial role in providing nutrition. In short, wheat as a whole is one of the nutritious wholegrain. Let me start off with one of my all time favorites of wheat products. The number of recipes in my blog which have wheat germ is quite a large number where I find ways and means to incorporate them in my day to day food.

Image courtesy:Wikipedia

What is Wheat Germ
Wheat germ is the nutritious seed from which the wheat plant grows. Hence, it is needless to say that it forms the nutritious heart of whole wheat berry. Why the term "Germ" then you might ask? Don’t worry, it has nothing to with any creepy crawlies from the mud - the term here actually denotes to "Germination" since it is the reproductive part from which the wheat grass grows. The wheat germ has only small real estate in the whole of the kernel - only about 2-1/2 percent.

How to use it in cooking?
Using wheat germ in cooking is a like dream. From normal roti's (flatbreads) to almost everything in baking, they are the easiest ingredients to work with. Their taste often goes undetected in your baked goods. Its that mild. Next time you plan to make your own bread, cookies etc, just substitute about 1/2 cup of the required flour with wheat germ. Or use it as a topping for your baked goods. They can also be used in normal day to day vegetables, meat or yogurt Because wheat germ tends to absorb moisture, you may want to add one to two tablespoons of water for every one-quarter cup of wheat germ you add to a recipe esp. if its baked goods.

Here is a sample recipe to work with.
This Wheat germ and molasses bread is one of my absolute favorites. In this recipe I have used wheat germ extensively and it works immensely well with molasses. Its moist yet firm in a delicious way. This bread keeps very well and is a blessing for those evenings when snack attacks are likely to happen :)


How to buy and store
Wheat germ is available both toasted and untoasted. My personal choice is to buy untoasted and if I really require it to toast some when needed. There is really not much of a difference to me personally between them in taste. They can be bought in health stores although I find them often enough in my regular supermarkets too.

Since it is brimming with unsaturated fat content, it is inevitable that wheat germ will go rancid pretty fast if you store it at room temperature. Once you have removed the seal, make sure to store it in a air tight container in your fridge.

Health benefits
This section is probably going to be much bigger than rest of them put together. Yes - that’s the health factor in wheat germ for you :) To make it easier, let me place them in points.

  1. It is immensely rich in protein. It contains about 28 percent protein and supposedly has more than most meat based products.
  2. It contains more potassium and iron than any other food source
  3. It is an excellent source of important B vitamins, such as folic acid, thiamin, vitamin B6
    and minerals like magnesium, manganese, and zinc
  4. It contains a phytonutrient called L-ergothioneine, a powerful antioxidant that is not destroyed by cooking.
  5. It has fiber that will put even most of the other "fiber rich" foods to shame.
  6. Some research show that the oil from wheat germ gives strength and longevity.
  7. It helps to fights colon cancer
  8. It can prevent constipation and it can improver digestion.
  9. In addition it protects us from heart disease and can help stop strokes
  10. It contains a substance called as Octasanol which :
    a) Helps to fight against muscular disorders such as muscular dystrophy and neuro- muscular problems.
    b) Boon to people suffering from cholesterol since it helps to lower the same.
    c) Improve muscular energy
    d) Improves reflexes
    e) Improves the utilization of oxygen during exercise.
    f) Helps the body to cope with stress.


With so many factors, are you still going to ignore that wheat germ packet the next time you cross that aisle? :)

This post was written by Dhivya


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