KetoLife: Bone Broth & Sprout Soup – Smoothie in a Vita-Mix

For some years now I’ve been making bone broth, and saving bones for the purpose when I don’t buy soup bones from the store (Jack’s Market in Menominee, MI.) But I often forget to drink my daily cup of broth.

I’ve also been going nuts for using my Vita-Mix lately (an old model Maxi-4000 Commercial) and have been getting good results, and am also obsessive about doing my sprouting.

So I’ve combined some obsessions to come up with my bone broth & sprout hot soup or smoothie, which I’ve had for breakfast and hope to have again tomorrow. Combining two superfoods into one hot drink is a good habit, and giving me a chance to play with my Vita-Mix adds to the appeal.

BEAN BROTH & SPROUT SOUP – SMOOTHIE (VITA-MIX)

2 cups home-made bone broth, any type

1 cup sprouts

Put the broth and sprouts into your Vita-Mix and blend for about 1 minute. Makes 2 servings. Will foam up some from the Vita-Mix. Pour out the amount currently wanted into a saucepan and heat on stove. Heat gently— it doesn’t need a hard boil, just enough heat to get it to hot-soup temperature. The enzymes in the sprouts will be killed off with too much heat.

Store any leftover servings in a canning jar in the refrigerator.

Sprouts used were salad sprouts— alfalfa, onion, radish & broccoli blend. Legume sprouts such as bean or lentil sprouts may also be used. Lentil sprouts from grocery stores sprout very well so this is a cheap source of home sprouts.

Variations: sea salt, herbs and spices, and other health-improving substances (chia seed, any low-carb ‘superfood’ in small quantities) may be added as well. Good fats (butter, coconut oil, MCT oil, avocado oil, bacon fat) may also be added— one to two tablespoons.

The Vita-Mix pulverizes the sprouts so you don’t even see that there WERE any sprouts in the mix. Common blenders might have trouble with this chore. I don’t know about other kitchen appliances— Vita-Mix is what I have and what I used.

KetoLife: Making Keto Smoothies in a Vita-Mix

With NaNoWriMo starting tomorrow, some of us Ketonians are looking for a way to simplify our eating life without going off the Keto reservation, to gain more writing time. Smoothies are one way, if they are ketogenic smoothies.

Some of us may have it in the back of our minds that drinking smoothies means drinking things full of fruits and dried fruits and honey or agave nectar sugars, and that if we tack the word ‘Keto’ in front of the word ‘smoothie’ the extra carbs will not count.

No, Keto smoothies have to follow the regular Keto rules. You won’t find any frozen bananas in OUR smoothies! Keto smoothies have low-carb vegetables in them, dairy products or substitute dairy such as nut milks, actual nuts, nutritional add-ins like cacao nibs or chia seeds or sprouts, natural and/or allowed flavorings and sweeteners (liquid stevia is recommended— 4-8 drops of SweetLeaf brand liquid stevia, any flavor, is a good place to start.)

There are two major schools of thought about smoothies: one group wants a smoothie that tastes JUST like a chocolate milkshake or other unhealthy non-food, and the other group wants a ‘green-drink’ type smoothie full of broccoli and kale and chia and flaxseed, even if it tastes awful.  I think the better approach is a bit between the extremes. No Keto smoothie will fully taste like a high-carb milkshake because, being low in carbs, it isn’t feeding the carb-monkey on our backs. But a horrible-tasting green drink daily may be a hard habit to continue, and we don’t really need to do it.

I make my smoothies in my Vita-Mix, mainly because that’s what I have. I got it before I discovered low-carb, and in the early days used it to make fruit drinks (’Total juice’) and to grind wheat into bread flour. It makes smoothies well, too. I like the fact that the Vita-Mix is easy-clean-up— you put a drop of dish detergent and some warm water in it and run the Vita-mix for a while. The blending container gets clean, with the dome top needs some washing in a dishpan. (Hint: get in a habit of cleaning your Vita-Mix and any smoothie related dirty dishes immediately after finishing your smoothie.)

To get started with smoothies you probably will want some recipes. Later you can adapt these recipes by adding things, exchanging things, or leaving things out.

Dana Carpender’s 300 15-Minute Low-Carb Recipes has some smoothie recipes in Chapter 16. I’ve tried the Mexican Chocolate and the Super Strawberry recipes and liked them. Both call for 3/4 cup of cottage cheese, which I would cut back to 1/2 cup next time I make them, since the smoothies are VERY filling. I also omitted the sugar-free strawberry syrup in the strawberry smoothie, and it tasted just fine.

I ordered Dana Carpender’s earlier smoothie book, but it hasn’t arrived yet. Another smoothie book I ordered has arrived: Dr. Mark Hogan’s Healthy Keto Smoothies. The bad side of this book is that it is self-published and looks it. Dr. Hogan should have hired an editor to go over the book with him (or a better editor.) Also, I’m not sure I trust the nutritional information on the recipes, since one has a whole avocado but a carb content far lower than even a fraction of the avocado. But the good side of the book is that it has an early chapter with comprehensive lists of the different types of ingredients you can use in a Keto smoothie. The list is great for figuring out substitutions or creating your own smoothie recipes based on what you like and what you can get.

How do you figure out the carb count of  Keto smoothie? Pay close attention to the recipe’s number of servings— some recipes from my two Vita-Mix books (neither low-carb) seem like possibilities until you notice it makes 5 or more servings and you don’t have 5 Ketonians in your family. (My newest Vita-Mix book, the author says her father used to make up smoothies in advance and store the extra servings in the fridge, but I’m not sure I want to to that— I think many smoothies get worse over time and are best very fresh.) Make a list of the ingredients in the recipe, and look up the carb counts of each in a carb-count book. You may need a calculator to figure out the carb count of the amount of ingredient that’s in your recipe. Then, if the recipe is for more than one serving, divide by the number of servings to figure out the carb count of your serving.

How do you figure out how many grams of your carb allowance you can spend on smoothies? There are two methods. If you are a carb counter, you will know how many carb grams you are allowed in a day. Figure out how many you will need for your non-smoothie meals, and you will know how many you can spare for a smoothie or two.

The other approach is based on the Atkins approach, where the carbohydrates are counted for you. Set aside some of your allowed ingredients, such as part of your salad veg, your cream allowance, your daily half-avocado, for smoothie use. If you are not still on induction, you can dedicate the extra carb grams of your level for ingredients that are useful in smoothies.

NOTE: SMOOTHIES ARE NOT A SNACK. We think of a ’snack’ as something less healthy than our mealtime meals, even if that’s not true in our fast-food, processed-food world (but we’re not doing that any more, I hope.) In our Keto lifestyle, smoothies are a nutrition powerhouse. They may also use up the bulk of our daily carb allowance. Label them a meal— not even a ‘mini-meal’ or use them as part of a larger meal. They are not the same as a bag of Fritos! They are part of our overall better-health plan. Respect them accordingly!

Ketonians = Keto (low-carb) lifestyle followers

Vita-Mix = a blender with superpowers, much famed in the (non-Ketonian) health food movement

AspieLife: Special Interests and your Writing

One of the fun aspects of having Asperger Syndrome is having obsessive ‘Special Interests.’ These interests are often described as being ‘narrow’— which I suspect means ‘focussed’ and ‘specialized.’ Which is the way of the world. We don’t have PhD ‘generic’ scientists, we have nuclear physicists or geneticists.

What Special Interests really means is that we may be obsessed with ancient Roman history or Star Trek or The Walking Dead or collecting those glass insulators they used to have on power poles….

Herman Melville, an author who is suspected of having Asperger Syndrome (even though the diagnosis wasn’t invented during his lifetime), gives us more information on whaling and sailing ships in the novel Moby Dick than many readers even care for. We might guess that these topics were his obsessive ‘Special Interests.’ And I found the book interesting enough to read voluntarily as a teenager.

Modern Aspie writers have a problem, though. There is more competition for writers, and the modern reader expects us to get quickly to the ‘meat’ of a story. No ten paragraphs of Special Interest generated meandering.

Other people often find our Special Interests peculiar. They may regard us as boring people if we talk about them. Actually, I believe that the real reason we may be boring is not that we talk about our Special Interests, but that since we lack some social skills we may not catch the non-verbal clues that our listeners are bored with what we are saying. Or we may ignore those signs because WE were bored when it was their turn to talk and they talked about their hernia surgery and their diarrhea problem, and now it’s OUR turn. But this isn’t good. We don’t want to bore people when the consequences may be they just don’t want us around.

SOLUTION: The way to make other people think you are a brilliant conversationalist it to talk about those other people, their interests, their lives…. Showing interest is a sign that we care. Or wish we cared. Or something.

SECOND SOLUTION: Join a MeWe group (or Facebook) dedicated to your Special Interest topic, so you have an outlet to ‘talk’ about your Special Interest that isn’t boring other people, or adding boring amounts of Special Interest content to your novel.

Do we have to make all our writing Special Interest free? And just write in a bland, ordinary way to please other people? No, readers don’t like bland either. You want to include the things you are passionate about. You just don’t want to bog down the story with too much Special Interest content. Keep the story action coming. Breaks in which you insert Special Interest content should be few— and connected to the overall story, if possible. Think of them as dazzling little gems that spice up your story— but adding a hundred more such moments would not be dazzling but blinding and scary.

Having Asperger Syndrome and/or Special Interests doesn’t spell doom to a writer— Herman Melville did pretty well for himself after all— but we must be sure that WE are in charge of our stories, not our Special Interests. We want our writing to be interesting, brilliant and different in a cool way— and attractive to readers.

QUESTION: I wonder if it is possible for us to develop a Special Interest on purpose? I mean, if you had to take a class in college in order to graduate, could you make American history or mathematics or Spanish your new Special Interest? Because you have to take the course anyway and you might as well be interested in the subject, and having an obsessive interest in it might help you get better grades. What do you think?

Learning the Three-Act Story Structure

One problem some of us have during NaNoWriMo is difficulty pacing our stories. The beginning goes on for 40000 words, or we reach the final battle around word 10000. If our goal is a complete 50000 word novel, that doesn’t work. (We may be OK with writing 50000 words of a longer novel, or completing a short story, however.)

Knowing about the Three Act structure will help you pace your story. The first act is where you set-up your story. In the second act you develop it, and in the third you conclude it. If you skimp on any of the acts, your story will feel unbalanced and weird.

Plotters will deal with the structure in the outlining phase. Pantsers may be keeping it in mind as they write, or using the structure to sort out the mess of randomly written scenes they have produced. In either case, at some point you need to think about structure.

ACT ONE

The first act is the first 12500 words of a 50000 word novel, or the first 1/4 of a longer novel. James Scott Bell, in his book Super Structure: The Key to Unleashing The Power of Story, gives us the following ‘signposts’ that should happen in the first act:

The Disturbance (to the Lead character’s ordinary world)

The Care Package (to show that the Lead cares about someone)

The Argument Against Transformation (Because your Lead is likely to resist the changes coming to his life.)

Trouble Brewing (Hint of the major story conflict to come)

Doorway of No Return #1 (Major change, Lead is now committed to the confrontation/conflict of Act 2)

ACT TWO

The Lead is now committed to leaving his Ordinary World for the world of the story’s conflict/challenge. In a detective novel, this change may be in taking the case. In The Hunger Games, it’s when Katniss volunteers to take her sister’s place as tribute. In Act Two, the Lead’s life has changed in a big way.

Act Two is longer than Act One— 25000 words in a 50000 word story. About 1/2 of the novel’s total acreage. Act Two can drag if you let it. Here are the signposts that James Scott Bell gives us for Act Two:

A Kick in the Shins (Lead must face an obstacle— trouble related to overall story)

The Mirror Moment (Midpoint— Lead is reflective, realizes he must change or die)

Pet the Dog (Lead character shows compassion to animal or human, in spite of danger)

Doorway of No Return #2 (Lead is now committed to Final Confrontation)

ACT THREE

The Lead is now committed to the Final Confrontation that the story has been pointing to. No chance to back out. This final act is the climax of the story, the pay-off that the previous acts have been pointing to. This act is about 1/4 of the novel, or the last 12500 words of a 50000 word novel. The Final Battle should take care of the major conflict of the story, and other loose ends must be wrapped up as well, so the Reader feels the story is done. The signposts:

Mounting Forces (The Lead’s Opposition is closing in)

Lights Out (The darkest point: all seems lost, Lead can’t win)

The Q Factor (Lead receives what he needs to win: encouragement, a weapon, knowledge)

Final Battle (Climax of the story; this battle will solve the story problem, kill or defeat villain)

Transformation (After the battle, Lead has been changed— show this)

Plotters will use the Three Act structure and the signposts before the writing of the story begins. You can use them as the framework of your outline. And, as you write, you can revise elements of that outline to make it more reflective of what you have in fact actually written.

Pantsers aren’t going to work all these things out in advance. They MAY use the signposts and the Three-Act structure to help them set the pace, and to work out what they should write next. OR, they may ignore much of the structure until the second draft stage. Yes, pantsers sometimes outline AFTER they’ve written a first draft, as a way to organize a batch of randomly written scenes into parts of a structured novel.

NaNoWriMo Prep: Clearing the Decks

Preparing for NaNo, as far as the writing is concerned, is different due to your writing style. If you are a plotter, you may need to spend all of October outlining (even though officially you are only allowed one week.) If you are a pantser, you may do nothing, or perhaps just make lists of character names and place names so you have them when you need them.

But there is another, practical side to NaNo prep. You need to ‘clear the decks’ — make things in your life ready for your extra writing hours. What do you need to do to be ready?

You may need to beg off on some volunteering-type projects for the month of November. Let someone else teach that Sunday school class for the month, or run the neighborhood kids to the rec center. Perhaps you should have prepared further in advance by doing extra volunteer things in October to make up.

Writing needs a certain amount of writing hours. You may have to get up an hour or two earlier, If you are grouchy early in the morning, you may need to start the earlier wake-up before Nov. 1st. I use a ‘dawn simulator’ type of alarm clock, which wakes me with bright light, and, later, with nature sounds, because I jump out of my skin with a normal alarm clock. I’ve already set my alarm to an hour earlier, and I lived. I even got some blog posts written.

You might also need to give up some of your regular TV shows, or your regular internet surfing time. Or quit playing Candy Crush for the month.

Your writing area may need revamping. You may need to clean it up, make it more private or less so, or set up a new writing area altogether.

What about your personal responsibilities? If you do cooking for yourself or your family, you might need a plan to make things easier on yourself just for the month.DON’T plan on feeding yourself and possibly others by going on a month-long high-carb fast-food or processed food diet. Being exhausted, sick and unhealthy for a month will NOT help you get more writing done.

Some writers think they have to be fueled by high-carb snacks. This is not so. The way to prevent this is to keep plentiful supplies of low-carb and healthy food options in the house, especially things that are easy to fix. I got myself an ‘air fryer’ and plan to lay in some supplies of chicken wings or chicken thighs I can cook in it. I may also get some turnips to make low-carb ’french fries,’ if I can manage to get to the grocery that carries turnips, and if they have any.

Mommy writers who have to watch children during their some of their writing time have to get creative. I think very short writing sprints— 2 minutes or so— might be a way to get work done on your NaNo novel and give your kids attention in between time. I’ve read about a writer who did very short writing sprints while AT WORK and managed to get writing done and not get fired. (I don’t recommend ‘cheating’ on your employer like that. If you don’t work when your employer expects you to work, why will your employer be motivated to keep paying you? And there is the moral aspect as well.)

Do you usually write to music? That can act as a ‘sound wall’ that helps you ignore distracting noises. Buy yourself some new music to inspire you.

Finally, busy people are often the best people to get things done. Don’t worry if you have to be busy with things during NaNo. I’ve just started a new blog and will be writing posts for two blogs during NaNo month. That may actually inspire me to do more writing on the WIP, since I write both things on the same computer, in both case using Scrivener.

Questions: What preparations do you usually do before writing sessions? What would you do to prepare for a more intense writing experience like NaNo?

Christian Writers and Christian Ignorance

One of the challenges for Christian writers (Catholic, Evangelical, Lutheran, all kinds) is that today’s Christians can be very ignorant of their own faith. And they are not doing anything to change that.

My mom (born in 1927) went to an Evangelical and Reformed church in Brillion, Wisconsin. When she got to a certain age, she had to take a catechism class. They had to memorize the (Reformed/Calvinist) catechism in order to learn the basics of Christianity, before they were allowed to be confirmed and to join the church.

Other Christian children went to Catholic or Lutheran schools instead of the public schools, where they had religious instruction every single day.

Contrast that to today in which many people become Christians after watching an evangelist on television. They ask Jesus into their heart, but they don’t know what to do next. They may try going to a church, but if they haven’t been to a church before it may just seem too weird. Or they may pick a church based on the type of church music used, or prefer one where the sermons sound like they were taken from a New Age self-help book.

Christian writers, people like that are a part of your audience. And it’s your mission, whether you like it or not, whether you feel qualified or not, to plant ‘seeds’ of Christian knowledge in your readers. (It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to make those seeds grow.)

One seed you could plant is the idea that it’s the norm for a Christian to have a daily Bible reading time. At least, it’s the norm today. In the early Church, Christians got their ‘dose’ of Bible at the church service when Bible passages were read. That’s why even today we have the custom of having set Bible readings each Sunday (and at daily Mass for Catholics) and many churches have united in using the same Bible readings— so that my mother at a Presbyterian church and I at a Catholic church would hear the same Bible readings.

Of course, it’s easier to plant this particular seed if you write contemporary fiction. In fantasy, things are different. Imagine if C. S. Lewis had wanted to plant a seed about Bible reading in the Narnia books. In Narnia, Christianity is represented largely by the Person of Aslan, the Jesus-like Lion. There is no holy book or holy scroll mentioned in the story. I suppose Lewis could have mentioned his characters regularly talking to one another about their memories of encounters with Aslan. Well, we’re writers. I suppose we are creative enough to find ways to plant this seed in any type of fiction.

There are three major methods that people use for their daily Bible readings. One, popular among Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans, is to read the assigned daily Mass readings for the day every day. Since these readings are read in daily Mass all over the world, people who do this are a part of the biggest Bible reading group in the world.

Another way is to follow a Bible reading plan which helps you to read through the whole Bible in a year. This is popular with Protestants— I know I had a guide to doing this printed in the back of a Bible I used during my Presbyterian childhood. There is also a Catholic guide to reading the Bible and Catechism in a year, put out by The Coming Home Network International. This is also good for Protestants who want to read the Deuterocanonical books also. (Both the King James Version translators and Martin Luther translated these books. These ‘Apocryphal’ books were not removed from English Bibles until much later. German Protestant Bibles still have them, tucked away between the Testaments.)

The third way of managing daily Bible reading is just picking and choosing passages. Some Christians are led astray by this: they may read the same few books over and over because they are familiar, or they may get into obscure Bible passages which they misunderstand. (This problem is why I encourage folks to read Bible commentaries by qualified Bible scholars, and why we attend churches with trained pastors who can help us through the difficult bits.)

Writers who are Christians may write ‘Christian fiction’ or may write for the mainstream market. But in either case, when you get known as a Christian writer, people will look up to you as a Christian leader. So we need to do our own Bible reading so we can pass on what we’ve learned through our fiction— or at least not lead people astray. (I must now end this post since I haven’t done my daily Bible reading yet today. I’m doing Genesis and Psalms with a commentary, as well as reading the Catechism passages from the Coming Home Network guide. You don’t want to know how many years it’s taking me to ‘read the Bible and Catechism in a year!)

Why Your NaNoWriMo Idea Sucks

NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is an international event held in November, in which assorted people either try to write a 50000 word novel in a month, or try to kill themselves through excessive coffee consumption. Why they are not allowed to kill themselves with tea I’ll never know….

If you have the impulse to try NaNo this November, you probably have a bit of a writing idea floating around in your head. And most of those NaNo ideas in people’s heads are simply no good.

Why is that? NaNo is a very broad-based event. Some people who do it are actual writers or aspiring writers who have written before. Others are timid souls who have never dared think of themselves as writers before NaNo came along. Some, who probably sign up for NaNo due to peer pressure, aren’t even regular book readers. And NaNo actually encourages ‘youth writers’— that is, children.

Now, children, those new to writing, and non-reader participants may be very enthusiastic about NaNo, but they simply lack most of the knowledge they might need to make an attempted novel happen. Most writers and serious aspiring writers have read hundreds of novels and have absorbed the rules of novels. Without that knowledge, attempted novel writing may be a failing proposition.

Children are a special case. Some will grow up to be real writers. Some will even be brilliant. But they are not there yet, and if they are encouraged to self-published an unready NaNo work, that self-publication will be a drag on their future writing.

NaNo’s founder has a book out called ‘No Plot, No Problem.’ We might guess from that title that NaNo encourages us to be ‘pantsers’— people who write without an outline. The problem is, some people don’t write well that way. And others, who are natural ‘pantsers,’ have story ideas that require a lot of worldbuilding and preparation other than outlining that just don’t fit in to a one-month NaNo.

Not having an outline mostly works for people who have been compulsive readers and who have the rules for novels in their head. They know your Lead character has to have a goal, or something he wants. They know there has to be conflict, even in the gentlest of sweet romances. If your character is not working toward a goal or facing a challenge, nothing is happening in your story.

I remember reading a very bad novel once. It was a near-future story, and the ‘author’ spent the first few chapters explaining how the crisis in the story could possibly happen. When we finally did get characters introduced to us, it turns out they were survivalists who weren’t much challenged by the utter disaster in the story, because they had prepped. The crisis was happening to other people who weren’t central to the story except as corpses in the scenery.

Your Lead character needs to be in the center of the crisis, conflict, or disaster in your novel. If the real action is happening elsewhere with entirely different people, you need to make one of those people your Lead. Readers won’t identify with a character who isn’t challenged, doesn’t want anything, doesn’t do anything other than pick flowers and watch the butterflies fly past.

NaNoWriMo has one bad effect, and that is that it focusses on the word count. Yes, you need to put out a decent word count to finish the first draft of your novel. But if you write scene after rambling scene because you obeyed the NaNo rules and didn’t outline much in advance, and if you tell yourself that the rambling wordiness is OK because you are making your word count, you are setting yourself up for failure. Wordy fiction isn’t readable, and rambling around isn’t something that you can keep in the next draft.

If you have a NaNo idea that might suck, if you haven’t read enough novels, if you have never read a good how-to-write book, does that mean you shouldn’t do NaNo? Not at all! A writer learns by writing. If you finish NaNo with the required word count, but you have created a beast that cannot even be edited and rewritten into publishable shape, you have still written a lot of words. The next writing project you tackle will be better. And writing ideas can get better over time, as you work with them. Thing of some writing project you or someone else has finished. Imagine what the writer would have said to explain his writing idea when he first had it. Then imagine what he could have said about it after he finished the final draft. The idea grew and improved over time, most likely.

I’m doing NaNo myself this year. Since I’m experimenting with the Edit-As-You-Go writing method, I’m not sure it’s possible for me to ‘win’ NaNo by writing 50000 words of a completed (first draft of a) novel, but I think it’s worth doing.

My NaNo profile: https://nanowrimo.org/participants/ilsabein

Questions: Do you have a NaNoWriMo idea? Would you give it up if someone criticized it, or would you bull ahead and do the best you could with it? Do you think doing NaNo this year is something worth doing, or a waste of your time?

                                                                                                    

Join one of my writers’ groups!

Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers (Facebook):

https://www.facebook.com/groups/366357776755069/

Writers With Ambition (MeWe):

https://mewe.com/group/5d7ba5779799172f69f55d4c