Tales From A Hungry Life

October 21, 2016

The Best and Worst Halloween Candy

By Maria Schulz

I ventured outside my cubicle the other day and saw that my old nemesis had returned to haunt me. No, I’m not talking about one of my coworkers. I’m talking about this guy.

IMG_0216

Come to me…

Do you remember him? I’ve written about him before because someone in my office takes him out every year about this time and fills him with things I can’t resist: Snickers, Almond Joy, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Three Musketeers, and 100 Grand Bars.

betty-white-snickers-ad

I can’t resist either

I was hoping to research all that candy and get permission to indulge my raging sweet tooth, but instead I found this article that ranks the 52 Best and Worst Halloween Candy.

almond joy

When you feel like a nut.

When I was little, I didn’t worry about eating candy. I simply spent weeks dreaming about getting as much as humanly possible. First. I would spend weeks thinking about what costume I’d wear, assembling the ensemble, and getting every detail just right. Whether I was Snow White (hot plastic mask and all) or Raggedy Ann with red yarn hair, my costume had to be thought out and ready for my big day.

Well, that was the way until I was about 9 and I decided that being a gypsy or bum was the easiest and fastest way to get out the door and begin my quest for more candy than one human could carry in a brown paper bag.

VALUE VILLAGE - Pop Culture Inspires Halloween Trends

Back then, I was guaranteed to walk around the neighborhood for a couple of hours. I didn’t worry about having to burn off all the calories because I knew I’d bring that bag of candy home and six big, hungry boys would eat 95% of it within hours of my arrival.

I miss those days. Now, if I bring home two tons of candy, there’s a good chance that my little family and I will eat more than is good for a small village. So I try to keep the candy out of my house until the very last minute, and then give away big handfuls to anyone who comes to my doorstep. Yes, even the mailman gets Kit Kats and 100 Grand Bars so I don’t eat them myself.

kids playing

Did someone say CANDY?

The fact that Smilin’ Jack is right outside my office door makes it harder for me to stay on the straight and narrow, but I’ve learned something along the way of this “eating right” journey. Deprivation is the mother of all food binges. If I want one tiny candy bar, I have it. That way, I can stop thinking about it. I don’t let that pumpkin scare me anymore. I save my energy for the truly scary things in life.

clown

Now that’s scary

Once I’ve satisfied my craving,  I watch all the people sticking their grubby hands into that pumpkin and I realize…maybe I’m not so hungry after all.

Recipes: Healthy Halloween Ideas

healthy-halloween-ideas

Here are some really fun, healthier treats that you can whip up for your kids (or keep ’em for yourself…I won’t tell). You’ll find recipes for Monster Sandwiches, Frozen Banana Mummies, Goblin Potion, and more.

So, Hungry Lifers: what’s your favorite Halloween candy? How do you avoid eating too much of those little candy bars? What’s your best Halloween recipe? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

 

 

April 6, 2016

Happy 6th Anniversary to Me

by Maria Schulz

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but my blog and I are celebrating 6 years together.

wish_us_a_happy_6th_anniversary_throw_pillow

When I wrote my very first blog, I had the paralyzing fear that my words would be read by NOBODY. Or, even worse yet…EVERYBODY. I wasn’t sure anyone would be the least bit interested in what I had to say, but I hit “publish” anyway. You know what? Nobody didn’t show. Neither did Everybody. But Somebody came regularly.

Once I wrote that first blog post, the words just came tumbling out. I found that it was a thrill writing something that people actually read and commented on. Some comments I could live without, but most comments showed that I was not, in fact, shouting down a big black well. I spoke, and someone heard me. How cool is that?

The Flying Nun

You like me! You really like me!

Over the last six years, I’ve covered a wide range of topics that let me talk about everything from the sweet and sentimental to the serious and zany. These include:

My Book Reading

TFAHL-Book-Reading

Extra! Extra! Read all about it

What I Learned in Catholic School

Cartoons

What it takes to live 100+ years

Multiple Choice Tests for Parents

James Garner

JamesGarner

What a smile

My grandmother’s house and eggs in a basket 

Must-Read Books

Marriage

The Dead Celeb Blog

The Trouble With Girls

#distractinglysexy

You’ve got to laugh

My book: Tales From a Hungry Life: A Memoir with Recipes

Tales From A Hungry Life A Memoir with Recipes cover

Now available on amazon.com

In some ways, my blog has been like a partner in a long-term relationship. There were the early days, when I just couldn’t wait to see it again. There was a rush whenever I sat down to write, because everything was new and there was so much to learn about each other.

Bloggie and I saw each other as much as we could. Sometimes, I couldn’t wait to post again. There would be two posts in a week! Eight posts in a month! There could never be enough time spent in each other’s company.

couple running towards each other

At last

Now, six years later, things have changed. Oh, I still love my blog…but if I post once every six weeks, that’s okay too. The early rush I had from sitting down and posting something has faded. I think my blog senses it too.

So, now that I’m in my sixth year…and the seven-year-itch is just one anniversary away…I’m rededicating myself to my blog. For awhile, I would post every Wednesday like a religion. But life, work, and sheer exhaustion took over.

student sleeping at desk

Too tired to blog

There have been times that I also wondered if anyone would really care if this blog just stopped showing up. Who needs to know what I think of marriage? Holidays? School tests? Crazy kids? Scary movies? Books? Bike riding? James Garner? (but that’s just silly. Who doesn’t want to hear about James Garner?)

GREATGARNER[1]

Awwww…Jimmy

I’m not going to renew my vows with my blog. That would be so Hollywood, and besides, every celebrity couple that does that ends up divorced within a year. No, instead, I’ll make a promise to myself to write more, read more, and build up my blogging relationship again. It’s one that’s made me happy over the years, and I still think it’s worth the effort.

Besides, it’s gotten me in touch with so many wonderful people. Old friends and new friends, people just passing by and others in it for the long haul. I’m grateful to all of you, and hope that my blog and I can keep making your days a little bit more amusing in the years to come.

In the meantime…does anyone have any ideas for what I can write about next week?

Recipe:

7 Days of Super Healthy Dinners

Grapefruit-and-Avocado-Salad-Seared-Salmon-XL

Besides trying to write my blog, create new chapters for Book #2, work a full-time job, exercise, be a parent and spouse, and strive for world peace, I’ve set out to eat better. These 7 meals seem like a good addition to my routine, which is already starting to get old. There are just so many ways you can eat greens before you go stark raving mad and head screaming out the door to White Castle for a sack o’20 murder burgers, a big thick chocolate shake, onion rings, and enough French fries to choke a horse.

White_Castle_meal

You like me! You really like me!

So, Hungry Lifers…what are your suggestions for keeping the passion alive in your hobbies? Do you have any ideas for future blog posts you’d like me to tackle? No, really…any ideas? Please leave a comment and let us all know. My blog and I thank you!

March 16, 2016

March is Read-Aloud Month

by Maria Schulz

These days, families are stretched thin because we’re all very busy and very stressed. Do you exercise 3 or more times a week like you should? (Not always). Do you eat home cooked meals instead of fast food (I try). Parents, do you read out loud to your kids every single day? This one’s a no-brainer…except for many these days, the answer is no.

At readaloud.org, there’s a movement to help parents carve out a minimum of 15 minutes a day for reading aloud to their kids. Now here’s a revolution that I’m all in for!

Untitled

house_infographic_web

There was nothing better than cuddling with a book when my girls needed to wind down from an activity before naptime, in the bath (yes! You can get waterproof books and kids can act out the stories while splashing and playing), and of course, at bedtime.

Bookstack

Let’s read. And talk. And eat.

I knew it was good for them, but you know what? It was good for me too. I got the chance to discover what made them laugh, what interested them, and experience wonder at the world around us. It was fun to watch my girls discover the simplest things, from colors and numbers in the beginning to concepts like sharing, being kind, compromising, compassion, and empathy. Hey! Maybe we should read aloud to our politicians, too.

Many parents will say, “I’m just too tired and there’s no time to read. I’ll give my kids their iPad or Kindle Fire and they can read audio books. That’s the same, right?”

Wrong. It’s not the same. Children and parents forge bonds as they read together, and if you start reading to kids from they day they’re born, their brain will make more vital connections than children who don’t have books read to them. It gives them a bigger vocabulary and gets them ready for school, tests, and success. Yes, it even helps them succeed in S.T.E.M. classes (if you can’t read, you can’t learn).

High Stakes

highstakesforparents_infographic

These were the books that my girls enjoyed:

Pat the Bunny

Goodnight Moon

Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born

Muldoon

Rufferella

rufferella

Sing it, baby

Guess How Much I Love You

Where the Wild Things Are

My Somebody Special

C is for Cookie

The Cat in the Hat

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

The Rainbow Fish

The Velveteen Rabbit

the velveteen rabbit

The Kissing Hand

Winners Never Quit

Madeline

Detective LaRue

my somebody special

The best part about reading aloud? You get to act out the scenes and have fun together. To reap the benefits, you just have to do this 15 minutes per day. If money is tight, the library is free. Go once a week and stock up on books you can enjoy together.

Reading to your kids is just like exercising, eating right, and taking care of yourself. It’s hard to make the time, but when you do, you realize it was the best thing you did all day.

Recipe: Quick Breakfast Burritos

breakfast-burritto

Eggs are brain food! This breakfast burrito recipe looks delicious, but if you don’t think you’ll ever have the time to make this, prep ahead, omit whatever you don’t have on hand (I don’t usually have green chiles on hand and my kids won’t eat them anyway), and create a healthy breakfast that will send them off ready to learn. You can even make these ahead and freeze them. That way, all you have to do is defrost them in the microwave for 30-45 seconds, and go. P.S.: Pack a book with that burrito, for a truly brain-boosting breakfast experience.

So, did you/do you read aloud to your kids? What was your favorite book? What’s your favorite “reading moment” memory? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

January 13, 2016

Unresolved

by Maria Schulz

New-Year-Resolutions

Happy New Year! Yes, it’s probably getting a little late to wish everyone this, but I’m just wrapping my head around the fact that it’s 2016. That number looks SO WEIRD to me. I remember being a kid and thinking that the year 2000 was so far away. Now, the year 2000 seems far away again, but only because it’s in my rearview mirror. Remember the hysteria caused by Y2K? Good times.

This being January, it’s time to consider how we want to reframe our future, as opposed to letting it all hang out come December holiday time. Yes folks, it’s time to talk about resolutions.

Wait…don’t run away. It’s not that bad! Here are the usual suspects when it comes to the most popular resolutions on people’s lists:

lists

It’s go time

  1. Lose weight
  2. Eat right
  3. Go to the gym
  4. Spend more time with family
  5. Cut down on stress
  6. Learn something new
  7. Volunteer
  8. Cut back on alcohol
  9. Stop smoking
  10. Travel and see the world

Some of these are easy for me. Spending time with family and traveling anywhere comes as naturally to me as breathing, and smoking was never my vice. I love learning new things (or at least trying), I’m always happy to volunteer, and I don’t really like the taste of alcohol. Plus, who doesn’t want to cut down on stress?

augustus gloop

But…it’s the gym/weight/eating thing that gets me. I know I should go to the gym, but there are days I just feel like putting on a snuggly and going to sleep. Of course, they frown on that at work, so I am conscious far more often than I’d like. By the time I get home from work, I don’t want to go back out again. What I would like to do is eat chocolate chip cookie dough while laying on the couch and binge-watching stand-up comedy routines, Jeopardy!, and The Office re-runs.

Jabba_the_Hutt

I’ll just lay here

However, since I don’t want to look like Jabba the Hut by 2017, I will not lay around until they have to cut a wall down from my house in order to get me out. I’ve been looking up inspirational quotes to keep me motivated. Here are some of them:

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” –Ghandi

“Dreams don’t work unless you do.”—Anonymous

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”—Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

elizabeth-taylor

You tell ’em, Liz

“Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and get yourself together.”—Liz Taylor

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”—Henry David Thoreau

“Do one thing that scares you every day.”—Eleanor Roosevelt

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic. It takes sweat, determination, and hard work.” –Colin Powell

ralph-waldo-emerson quote

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”—Eleanor Roosevelt

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, and hope for tomorrow.”—Albert Einstein

albert-einstein

Here are some of my own quotes:

“I hate change almost as much as change hates me.”

“Why don’t you stop whining and just shut up.”

“Dreams are like the popular kids in middle school who smiled at you but never let you sit at their table during lunch period.”

“What the hell am I doing on the ocean trying to sail during a fx!c@ng storm!!!”

Funny-new-years-resolutions-calvin-and-hobbs

“Where’s my resolution list from 2000? I can probably use the same one.”

“Forget about yesterday…you’re living in the past, man.”

“Did they take The Office off channel 5? I got scared there for a minute.”

“When did sarcasm go out of style?”

“You are right. I should stop laughing at you.”

“Resolutions are for those of us who aren’t perfect. Good luck with yours.”

Recipe:

salmon swimming upstream

Keep swimming

Poached Salmon with Champagne Sauce

I liked this recipe because it looks easy, and Food Network included it for New Year’s  because they said: “swimming ahead and never looking back, fish symbolize hope.”

So, what are your resolutions? What’s your favorite inspiring quote? What are your own personal words to live by? Please leave a comment. Thanks, and Happy New Year.

November 21, 2015

All You Can Eat, Or Not

by Maria Schulz

I was reading the Huffington Post’s “Weird News” section the other day when I saw an article titled “Woman Flips Out Over All You Can Eat Pancake Rule.” It seems that this lady FREAKED OUT because she was not allowed to share her $4 plate of all you can eat pancakes with everyone at her table.

all you can eat

When the waitress pointed out that “All You Can Eat” really only refers to YOU and not your table full of friends and relatives, the diner went crazy. She began screaming, swinging her fists at the waitress, and then went outside and started kicking in the door.

I mean, if you can’t feed a party of 12 with $4 worth of all you can eat pancakes, what is this world coming to?

4-all-you-can-eat-pancakes

Warning: May Cause Insanity

This story cracked me up, but it didn’t shock me. It’s only surprising to people that never worked in a restaurant or in retail. People who are normally nice and not insane really lose their minds when it comes to freebies or sales. As we head into the holiday season, I thought it might be helpful to give a few examples of Behaviors to Avoid When in Public. Ready? Let’s go…

lists

I’ll give you seven good reasons…

It’s An All-You-Can-Eat Soup and Salad Bar. But everything else will cost you. Diners would lose their minds when they couldn’t get an extra Coke for free, or when they had to pay for a slice of chocolate cake. You just ate 12 bowls of kale, iceberg lettuce, carrots, chickpeas, broccoli, fruit, chocolate pudding, and croutons, and downed enough soup to fill a river, for $7.99. But you’re going to beat me senseless for a 99-cent drink? I know croutons make you thirsty, but come on.

Yes, we run out of things sometimes. Shoppers would become apoplectic when a wine set that was on sale for $19 was out of stock. Never mind that it’s closing time on day 5 of a 5-day-sale. Or that the circular says we have very limited quantities and offer no rain checks. You want that wine set! You want that rain check! I should call every store on the globe to get it for you! Or maybe you could buy an identical wine set that costs the same thing? Nah.

baked potato

Life. Liberty. And the pursuit of baked potatoes.

Baked Potatoes Are NOT an Unalienable Right: when I worked at a local steakhouse, the lines would stretch out the door. By the time I was taking order #237, we would have run out of baked potatoes. Or beer. Or even steak. This would cause some customers to turn red-faced with rage. Shouts of “HOW COULD YOU NOT HAVE STEAK IN A STEAK HOUSE?”, “I WANT A BAKED POTATO!”, or “ALL I WANT IS AN ICE COLD BEER!” would ring out. Meanwhile, the manager hid behind the swinging door, only peering out long enough to whisper, “just give them a free salad plate and maybe they’ll go away.” Read all about my hazy crazy Salad Days in my book, Tales From A Hungry Life: A Memoir with Recipes, available at amazon.com!

Now available on amazon.com

Now available on amazon.com

No, this isn’t a flea market: one day, a man came into the store and offered me $5 to sell him a $300 tea set for $30. He insisted that I had agreed to do this for him the week before the sale. I had to explain that I had never laid eyes on him in my entire life, and since I did not personally own the tea set, I could not sell it to him for 90% off. Also, I didn’t want to go to jail while he sat at home admiring his almost free sterling silver tea set.

Tea_set

Warning: May Cause Insanity

Food always looks better on the commercial: lots of folks would come running in when we ran commercials about our specials. What they could never understand was why the shrimp was microscopically small or why the chicken didn’t look as fresh or delicious as the commercial made it seem. Folks, it’s all about the camera angle. Plus our 17-year-old chef isn’t very good at what he does.

Special Orders are By Definition specially ordered: if you want to place an order for an expensive, hand-crafted gift that you know will be shipped on a slow barge from China, why are you surprised that you can’t have it in time for cousin Susie’s wedding this Saturday? You’ve known about the wedding for months, right? No, I can’t get it for you in time. Sure, you can talk to my manager…but he can’t get it for you any faster either.

Donkey-on-slow-boat

Sure, your order will get here soon

When Confronted by Your Own Thoughtlessness, Insult the Personnel: when my friend got a college internship at a well-known theme park, one of his jobs was to ask patrons who were hoarding tables (but not actually eating) to please move on so that diners coming off one of the many food court lines could eat. One day, one of his fellow interns asked a man sitting at a table for hours to please relinquish it. The man became enraged and started screaming to his kids: LOOK AT THIS GUY! HE’S A LOSER! THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DON’T GO TO COLLEGE! WORK HARD IN SCHOOL KIDS, OR YOU’LL HAVE TO STAND GUARD OVER A TABLE FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIVES!

Recipe: Banana Pancakes

I chose this recipe in honor of all the people out there that go bananas in public. This recipe got lots of rave reviews, but as some of the reviewers said, add a little vanilla, some cinnamon, walnuts and whipped cream for a delicious treat. Make sure you cook them on low so that the outsides don’t burn AND the insides get fully cooked. No one wants mushy pancakes…it’s the kind of thing that might make you insane!

banana pancakes

Looks good to me

So…what’s your funniest Customer Gone Wild story? Please share it in the comments section. Thanks!

April 29, 2015

The Food Stamp Challenge

by Maria Schulz

Recently, my daughter Maddie told me about something called The Food Stamp Challenge. It started with Chef Mario Batali, from ABC’s food and entertainment show, The Chew.

Mario Batali raises awareness about hunger in America

Mario Batali raises awareness about hunger in America

Batali wanted to highlight how tough it is for the poor to buy food—even if they worked, and even if they are on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP—formerly known as Food Stamps). With SNAP, they receive about $29 per week (per person) to eat all of their meals—that’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner for 7 days, at a rate of a little over $4 per day for each family member.

With the goal of careful budgeting and high quality nutrition in mind, Batali set off with a stack of coupons to sales at the local supermarkets and the Dollar Store. He hoped to feed himself and his family on a small budget—about $31 per person, or $1.48 per meal for the entire week.

Of course, Batali quickly discovered that it’s easier to buy cheap carbs than protein, fresh fruits and vegetables. He bought cheaper cuts of meat like pork shoulder and chicken thighs. His grocery list included such things as eggs, lentils, rice, beans, lettuce, bananas, peanut butter, jelly, bread, pork, and chicken.

Batali said that he was starving for most of the week. He spent most of the time thinking about food and worrying about money. He told The Chew viewers: “This was really tough! I imagine it’s what it feels like to be hungry all the time. It’s not easy feeding a family of four for $1.48 per meal. Could you do it?”

Paltrow accepts the challenge

Paltrow accepts the challenge

Always one to jump in where she probably shouldn’t, the actress, foodie, and Goop blogger/yogi on the mountain Gwyneth Paltrow said, “Yes I can!”

So off she went to the grocery store with $29 in hand. She proceeded to buy romaine lettuce, an avocado, 7 limes (yes, 7…was she concerned about getting scurvy?), eggs, peas, beans, rice, an onion, leeks, cilantro, kale, corn, one tomato, a jalapeno, and soft tacos. Unlike Chef Batali, she didn’t really think about what she would need to sustain herself and she didn’t budget wisely.

I'm set for today. Wait...this has to last me ALL WEEK?

I’m set for today. Wait…this has to last me ALL WEEK?

As a result, four days into the challenge, Ms. Paltro up and quit—and went on a binge-eating blitz that included fresh chicken breasts, fresh veggies, and black licorice.

Obviously, Gwyneth is not a great shopper and probably has no idea how to live on a budget—she is the same person who famously said: “I am who I am. I can’t pretend to be somebody who makes $25,000 a year.” But let’s face it: not everyone is a world-renowned chef that knows how to shop wisely, stretch a budget, and cover all of the nutritional bases. Even Mario Batali struggled.

Either way, here’s the real issue: poor people can’t just quit their challenges. At the end of the week, they’re still hungry and struggling. I bet they’d love to run out and get some organic chickens, fresh vegetables, and candy just to break up the monotony of beans, potatoes, pasta, and more of the same every single day, if they’re lucky…but then they probably couldn’t eat for the rest of the month.

Cheap eats

Cheap eats

Another, completely different challenge that many poor people face is that they can’t get to a discount grocery store to get wholesome yet inexpensive food. Why? Because they live in what’s known as a food desert. If you have limited transportation options (no car, can’t afford to take the bus to shop, or have to walk everywhere) and live in a neighborhood with only corner bodegas, convenience stores, and fast food, you will have fewer options to eat well on a tight budget.

Peanut-Butter-Jelly-Sandwich

I’m one of the lucky Americans who don’t have to live on $1.48 per meal, per day. Could I do it? Sure. Or maybe. But probably not. I could eat lots of spam, deviled ham, peanut butter and jelly, and pasta if I had to—it would be a flashback to my childhood. However, if I ate this way all of the time, I would weigh a ton and have lots of health issues that have nothing to do with how lazy or shiftless I am.

The point of the Food Stamp Challenge is not to fixate on how ridiculous Paltrow’s basket of food seems. The real point is to show people that Congress is looking to slash SNAP, and it’s not even adequate now! Unless this is 1950, there’s no way that $29/week is enough. Yes, I know it’s a supplemental program, but when someone is struggling, you don’t take away their lifeline.

In this land of plenty, millions of hard-working Americans are going hungry. They are not lazy slugs that lay around all day doing nothing. They are at or below the poverty line and struggling to keep their heads above water. Children and the elderly are also suffering.

So, we can all feel better about ourselves if we do the Food Stamp Challenge, because we think we’re imagining a poor person’s pain. Or, we could skip the challenge and find a local food bank, food pantry, charity, or soup kitchen that needs our help.

Today, I will thank my lucky stars that my family has enough to eat. And then, I’ll find a local charity that needs me so that I can help a child, family, or elderly person who is hungry.

HOW TO HELP

To find a Food Pantry in your area, go here.

To find a local Food Bank, go here.

To help someone on Long Island, go to:

Long Island Cares, Inc.

RECIPE:

Note: even this meal costs about $2.49 per person

Note: even this meal costs about $2.49 per person

Find healthy recipes here to feed 4 for under $10:

Do you think you could do the Food Stamp Challenge—and succeed? What would you put in your basket? What’s your favorite, budget-friendly meal? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!