Got Enough Gadgets?
A well-stocked kitchen doesn’t require a massive amount of gear. You don’t need an egg scrambler, a fondue pot or even an omelet pan. Here are the 10 simple essentials that will empower you to get most any meal on the table with a minimum of fuss.
• Knives. You can get by with just three good, steel-bladed knives: a solid chef’s knife, a smallish paring knife and a serrated bread knife (which will do double duty as a tomato slicer). A sharpening steel is also good to have for regular maintenance, but professional sharpenings (annually, at minimum) will restore your knives to greatness.
• Cutting boards. Wood boards are pretty and can double as serving trays (try bamboo or teak from a reliable resource); plastic ones can go in the dishwasher.
• Spatulas. A flexible spatula with a thin metal blade (or a thin nonstick blade, if you use nonstick pans) is invaluable for turning fish, eggs and so forth.
• Cast-iron pans. A well-seasoned (that is, well-used and oiled) 15-inch cast-iron skillet is the workhorse of the kitchen. You can use it for everything from frying a single egg or searing a steak to baking cornbread or braising a whole chicken. Get a lid for it to quadruple its uses.
• Pots. A small saucepan is great for cooking things like sauces, but a 3- or 4-quart saucepan will be the pot you use for simmering, steaming, reheating and more. Heavy-bottom, straight-sided pans are the most versatile.
• French oven. Sometimes called a Dutch oven or soup pot, a good 6-, 9- or 12-quart cast-iron pot is a kitchen necessity that can move from stovetop to oven. Use it to make chili, stew, soup and even bread. The best are the enamel-coated ones from Le Creuset — if you can afford one, their heat control is unparalleled, and they’ll last a lifetime.
• Spoons. Chefs use big spoons for sauces, for plating, for everything. If you want only one, get one with a flat-edge that will allow you to clear the bottom of a pot effectively.
• Rasps. Rasps have moved out of the woodshop and into the kitchen. Choose a tiny-holed rasp for grating fresh nutmeg, get a medium-holed version for zesting citrus, and an even larger-holed one for grating hard cheeses.
• Strainers. Some people like colanders, and some prefer strainers — which are you? A colander can also double as a decorative serving basket for fruit. You can use your strainer when cleaning veggies, but if you buy your greens unpackaged, then a salad spinner will come in handy, too.
• Vegetable Peelers. The classic U-shaped ones are preferred by chefs, though the most important thing in a vegetable peeler (as with most kitchen gear) is that you’re comfortable using it. Because, after all, the whole point of a well-appointed kitchen is to help you cook contentedly.
Tips For Working Out (Without Burning Out)
• Have a plan. An unorganized, sporadic or overly intense exercise schedule can put undue stress on your body and rob you of fitness results.
•Mix it up. Periodic harder workouts (called “functional overreaching”), followed by periods of reduced training (called deloading), can lead to terrific fitness gains.
• Go hard, not long. Excessive volume (spending too much time exercising) is more likely to cause overtraining than excessive intensity.
• Embrace variety. Cross-train and adjust variables (like distance, speed, weight lifted, and sets, reps and exercises performed) in your workouts.
• Nourish yourself. The quantity and quality of the food, sleep, and social support you get can make or break the best fitness program.
• Recoup. A single “overreaching” workout can require days of recovery. Recovering from an extended period of “overdoing” may require a few weeks to a few months to bounce back. A serious case of overtraining can take several months (or even years) to repair.
• Seek balance. Remember that any and all forms of stress affect your body’s ability to recover from exercise.
• Don’t worry. Overtraining is unlikely unless you’ve been doing the same repetitive activity for years with no breaks. When in doubt, consult a trainer.
5 Ways to Start Digging Out of Debt
Ready to be debt-free? Here are five ways to get started.
1. Operate on a cash-only system. Set a budget for your weekly expenses, such as groceries and toiletries, and withdraw that amount of cash from the bank each week. Then spend only what you have in hand. “If you don’t have the cash, you don’t buy it,” says Stephanie Smith, a psychologist in Denver, Colo., who specializes in debt counseling. “We’ve become so accustomed to credit cards, we’ve lost all perspective of what cash can buy and of what we can and cannot afford.”
2. Drive a wedge between looking and buying. To help curb impulse shopping, make a list of things you want to buy, then wait, says Kelly McGonigal, PhD, a Stanford University health psychologist. The act of putting the item on a list gives you the warm fuzzies that come with the promise of reward, she says. “But, two weeks later, you’ll be amazed at how much has fallen off the list because you’re no longer under the spell of the product’s advertisement or fantasy.”
3. Reduce your wants. Think of emails and catalogs from retailers as “want generators,” says Kelly McGonigal, PhD. Contact these companies and ask to be removed from their mailing lists, or subscribe to a service that will do it for you, such as GreenDimes.com. Toss unsolicited coupons directly into the recycling bin. “When you are trying to save money, nothing excites the brain more than the idea that you are getting a bargain,” she says. “But, obviously, you’re not saving money if you’re spending it — even if it sounds like a deal.”
4. Don’t ignore debt. People don’t realize that the seed of the stress response is rooted in the unknown, says McGonigal. So trying to keep stress at bay by not opening the bills or balancing the checkbook is bound to fail. “Your mind will keep trying to solve this problem, and the less information it has, the more it’s going to worry,” she says. “That puts you in a never-ending stress response and takes a huge toll on your health.”
5. Establish a pay-off plan. Having a clear strategy for paying your debts each month and knowing when you’ll be debt-free is great for peace of mind — and motivation. For tools you can use to start your own step-by-step payback plan.
More tips for “Escaping the Burdens of Debt Stress.”
The Health Risks of Being Young and in Debt
A recent Northwestern Medicine report shows that the debt of young adults takes a major toll on their physical and emotional well-being.
The study, published in Social Science & Medicine, reveals that participants between ages 24 and 32 who have heavy debt report higher levels of depression and stress than young adults who owe less. They also have worse general health and higher diastolic blood pressure — a precursor to heart attacks and strokes.
Making a Mindful Decision
A new study published in Psychological Science shows that just 15 minutes of mindfulness meditation can be an ideal tool for helping you make decisions.
Commuters who bike to work are the happiest — and have the highest sense of overall well-being — compared with those who drive cars or use public transportation, according to a Portland State University study.
Gardening for Beginners
For many aspiring gardeners, the first step is the hardest. They fret about planting seeds that never germinate, overwatering until soil disintegrates, or being so neglectful that any plant droops in surrender. But successful gardening is easier than you think.
Elizabeth Millard is the co-owner of Bossy Acres CSA in Dayton, Minn., and author of Indoor Kitchen Gardening.