Creamy Turkey Mushroom Couscous Recipe

This Pasta and Lean Meat Dish is a Real Crowd-Pleaser

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

Creamy turkey mushroom
Creamy turkey mushroom couscous
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I’ve long wanted to try a couscous recipe just because the word sounds cool. How shallow, right? But, anything pasta is tickety-boo here in the Smith abode. Pasta forms the basis of many recipes that I keep going back to again and again. Who doesn’t like Beef Stroganoff, for example?

But hey, you are here for a more specific recipe, right? I looked at a lot of different recipes that were similar but not. quite. right. So, here we go!



Ingredient List (Organic When Possible)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lb. Turkey sausage
  • 8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced and chopped, cremini or baby bella
  • 3/4 cup onion
  • 3/4 cup bell pepper
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 eggs, whisked
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup), plus more for serving
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pink Himalayan salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound dried pearl couscous pasta (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 cups packed baby spinach (about 4 ounces)


Preparation Steps

Creamy turkey mushroom couscous  preparation
Creamy turkey mushroom couscous preparation
  1. Finely grate the Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup), mince the garlic, and slice the mushrooms 1/4-inch thick.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or similar pot using medium-high heat until shimmering. Add in the sausage meat and brown it. Add in the mushrooms, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the pink salt, the onion, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are slightly browned and tender. This should take 5 to 8 minutes. Next, add in the garlic, the and the dried pearl couscous pasta (about 2 1/2 cups) and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Stir in the 2 cups of broth and the 2 cups of whole milk and bring it all to a boil. Next, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook uncovered, stirring frequently to keep the orzo from sticking, until the orzo is al dente and most of the liquid is absorbed and has formed a creamy sauce, about 10 minutes or according to package instructions.
  4. Remove your pot from the heat. Add the eggs, packed baby spinach, the bell pepper. and the Parmesan. Stir it until the spinach is just barely wilted and the cheese is melted, about 1 minute. Serve topped with more grated Parmesan cheese.


I hope you found this creamy turkey mushroom couscous recipe as delicious as we did! I love experimenting in the kitchen and this was somehow my first time cooking with couscous and now I’m a fan.

More Favorite Recipes and Nutrition Info


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at Considered Opinions Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Crustless Tomato Pie Recipe

Combine the Goodness of Tomatoes, Bell Peppers, and Lots of Cheese

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

Crustless tomato pie right out of the oven
Crustless tomato pie right out of the oven
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I love to come up with new recipes. I’m especially partial to baking bread and comfort food casserole-type dishes. This tomato pie recipe was prompted by the fact that the tomatoes in my garden are coming in fast and furious, like a profitable jackpot from a slot machine. No complaints about that, but it’s use ’em or lose ’em; am I right? This year my vegetable garden is home to red and yellow tomatoes as well as herbs like basil and lemon balm, which not only makes great tea but has medicinal benefits. Using as many ingredients from my own garden means I can be sure they are organic. Anyhow, on to the recipe.



Crustless Tomato Pie Ingredients

  • 4 tomatoes sliced, about 1/4 inch
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup onion (I like red ones)
  • 3/4 cup bell pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons cilantro, chopped (that’s right out of my garden as well)
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, plus extra for sprinkling over top
  • 4 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
Tomato Pie Preparation
Tomato Pie Preparation

Preparation Steps

  1. Slice the tomatoes and lay them out on plates. Sprinkle lightly with pink Himalayan salt and let them rest for 30 minutes. This step is important to leech out excess water.
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the onions, and saute until they are soft.
  3. Transfer mixture into a medium-sized mixing bowl.
  4. Mix in the eggs, cheese, bell pepper, pepper, and cilantro.
  5. This is a good time to preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  6. Spray cooking spray on your casserole dish. I used my 2 1/2 quart Corningware.
  7. Tilt your plates to spill off the excess water. Then, lightly press down with paper towels to remove even more water.
  8. Line the bottom of the dish with tomato slices and spoon a thin layer of the mixture on them. Keep going, in like fashion, building up layers. Spread a final thin layer of cheese across the final, top layer.
  9. Bake for 30-40 minutes. It’s done when lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool a bit before serving.

And there you have it. There are other versions but this is my crustless tomato pie recipe. Are there other possible ingredients? Sure, depending on your taste. Try serving it with something like a raw Tuscan kale salad.

More Recipes to Try (and Some Nutrition Info Thrown In)


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at Considered Opinions Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Blue Light, Eye Health, and Sleep

More Evidence is Showing Up About the Relationship Between Device Screens and Our Health

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

Anti-blue-light glasses protect eye health
Anti-blue-light glasses protect eye health
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This article was updated on 04/16/21.

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You might have recently been hearing more about the effects of blue light on your eyes and sleep patterns. As we live longer, the more chance there is of our health being affected. Blue Light is the visible light located at the blue end of the light spectrum. Although not as energetic as ultraviolet (UV) light, there is some concern that high levels of blue light might cause more damage at the cellular level than longer wavelengths of visible light, which you perceive as the colors of red through green. Exposure to blue light is thought to have an impact on your sleep-wake cycle, compounding the problem with Coronavirus pandemic dreams.

Sources of Blue Light

Blue light occurs naturally. This is not really a concern. Where it gets troubling is adding in the light emitted from LED lights, cell phones, television sets, tablets, and laptop computers. Studies suggest that 60% of people spend more than 6 hours a day in front of a digital device (or near certain lights) so what did not used to be an issue is suddenly the elephant in the room.

Outside, light from the sun travels through the atmosphere. As it does, the shorter, high energy blue wavelengths collide with air molecules causing blue light to scatter everywhere. This is why the sky is blue. Interesting, yes?

Blue Light and Your Sleep

In its natural form, your body takes advantage of blue light from the sun to regulate your natural sleep and wake cycles.  This is called your circadian rhythm.  This light also helps boost alertness, heighten reaction times, elevate moods, and increase the feeling of well being, rather than experiencing mood swings. In the wintertime, when the period of sunshine is reduced, some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons. SAD begins and ends at about the same time every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, symptoms begin in the fall and continue through the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody and glum.

Chronic exposure to blue light at night (binging on Netflix, gaming, social media) can lower the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep, and disrupt your circadian rhythm. You can’t be expected to withdraw from activities altogether, but over-the-counter melatonin supplements are quite inexpensive.

Blue Light and Your Eyesight

Blue light waves are some of the shortest, highest energy wavelengths in the visible light spectrum.  Since they are shorter, these blue, or High Energy Visible (HEV) wavelengths, flicker more than the longer, weaker wavelengths. This kind of flickering creates a glare that can reduce visual contrast and affect sharpness and clarity.

Your eyes’ natural filters don’t provide as much protection against blue light rays from the sun as we would like, of course. The same is true of your devices or from blue light emitted from fluorescent-light tubes. Prolonged exposure to blue light is thought by some researchers to be likely to result in damage to your retinas and contribute to age-related macular degeneration, which can lead to loss of vision. Opinions differ about the likelihood of this, but why take the chance?

How You Can Protect Your Eyes

Do what I do — wear anti blue light glasses. I wear them at the computer. They are inexpensive and give the screen a pleasant tint. My regular glasses have a coating that helps when I walk, run, or drive.

That’s the effect of blue light exposure on eyes and sleep. Welcome to the modern world. Please participate in the poll on the right-hand side of this page. I want to get a better feel about how others feel about blue light.

Further Reading



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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at Considered Opinions Blog where he muses on many different topics.

September is National Preparedness Month

Be Prepared for Natural Disasters Like Hurricanes, Fires, Floods, Tornados, and More

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

Street flooding leads to disaster
Street flooding leads to disaster
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This article was updated on 07/16/21.

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Ready.gov (owned by the Department of Homeland Security) says, “Disasters Don’t Wait. Make Your Plan Today.” Good point. We never thought our neighborhood would flood, but it did. While we had flood insurance, others did not and had to rely on FEMA. The city has been ignoring drainage issues for years, all the while issuing building permits willy-nilly. Concrete surfaces don’t absorb rain water. At some point, we will all experience fire, earthquake, or a hurricane. This is how Ready.gov suggests that we prepare.

Week 1: Make a Plan

Make your plan now. You and your family may not be together if a disaster happens, so it is key to understand which types of disasters could affect your area. You should all know how you’ll contact each other and reconnect if you become separated. Establish a family meeting place that’s familiar and easy to find. For example, a neighborhood park or a local school that might be serving as an emergency shelter.

Week 2: Build a Kit

Following an emergency, you might need to survive on your own for days. Being prepared means having your own stock of food, water and other supplies to last for several days. A disaster supplies kit is a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency. You don’t have to be an all-out prepper but having the essentials on hand is, well, essential.

Walk-in food survival pantry
Walk-in food survival pantry

In my own home, I built a pantry off the kitchen. We keep it stocked with food, water, prescription medicine, and a camp stove. Basically, the room is our kit. And we even keep a stock of toilet paper. We all remember the empty shelves when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out!

Week 3: Prepare for Disaster

Hurricanes are dangerous and can cause major damage because of storm surge, wind damage, and flooding. Don’t wait to do things like removing old dead tree limbs and securing things that have the potential to become projectiles. It’s a good idea to have a firearm or two and a stock of ammo. Just look at what Antifa and BLM are doing in our streets and society hasn’t broken down yet! No one is going to respond to your 911 call after a certain point.

Know what disasters and/or hazards might affect your area, how to get emergency alerts (an emergency crank-operated radio), and where you would go if you and your family need to evacuate.  Make sure your family has a plan and practices it often.

Don’t wait until the day before to try to find plywood, batteries, and other items.

Week 4: Teach Your Kids About Disasters

Talk to your children about being prepared for emergencies. They need to understand what to do in case you are separated. Make them feel at ease by providing information about how they can get involved. Work out scenarios and the proper responses.

National Preparedness Month is easy when it is broken down like this. The process of divide and conquer works well and gives you time to consider things you have not anticipated.

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References and Further Information



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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

5 Benefits of a Wood Shop Dust Collector

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A Shopsmith wood shop dust collector
A Shopsmith wood shop dust collector

When most beginning woodworkers are setting up shop or experienced ones are upgrading, what first comes to mind? Tools, benches, and fixtures. But here’s a woodworking tip for you; it pays to first consider an investment in a wood shop dust collector system. Here are 10 of the most important reasons.

  • Sawdust is a royal pain. Shavings, dust, and chips accumulate very quickly. Fine dust fills the air until it settles somewhere, such as the surface of your current project that you are putting a finish coat on, applying putty to, or gluing up. And it goes without saying that you won’t make any points with your spouse when you inevitably track it into the house.
  • Sawdust is a definite fire hazard. It only takes one spark from your grinder to get things going. And if you are not storing your flammables properly you are compounding the problem. Even fine dust that sifts on top of lighting fixtures and electrical boxes has the potential to light up your day — and not in a good way!
  • Sawdust is a great candidate for recycling. Having the dust collector consolidate it while you work on your table saw, band saw, or other piece of equipment takes half the effort out of the process. It can be used to make sweeping compound (which you can use or barter). Hardwood is a great soil amendment for your garden because as it breaks down it feeds the soil with beneficial nutrients.
  • Fine sawdust is a health hazard without a dust collector. It can hover in the air for hours where it enters your sinuses and lungs. You can end up with allergy issues and congestion. The effects accumulate over time meaning that they can build up over the course of years even if you don’t notice a problem for a while. Exotic woods can be outright toxic. I had an x-ray several years ago and they picked up a spot in one lung. Turns out it was a “calcified nodule” which results when you breath something in and your lung isolates it by coating it, much as an oyster creates a pearl from a grain of sand over time. Was it from woodworking? Quite possible after 20 years as a carpenter.
  • Dust collection extends the life of your power tools. If chips or even dust is removed immediately, friction on moving parts is reduced greatly. When sanding, your paper will take longer to clog, saving time and money. It figures that sawdust from any wood containing moisture or sap will gum up a heated machine fairly quickly.

These are just 5 important benefits of a wood shop dust collection system. Yes, it is an expense but in the long run it will save you time, money, and your health.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Understanding the Basics of Medicare

The Four Levels of Medicare — Choose Your Healthcare Insurance

by Kelly R. Smith

Medicare plan menu
Medicare plan menu
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This article was updated on 08/14/21.

I’m quickly approaching that age where I have to sign up for Medicare. I’m not the only one that is aware of this fact. Our names, addresses, and dates of birth are out there in the public domain and insurance companies have their eyes glued to the clock, waiting until we reach the ripe young age of 64.5. Medicare is big business. For about 4 months now I’ve been getting junk mail from various insurance companies soliciting my business. Worse than that are the phone calls; I get at least 10 per week. I usually tell them, “Don’t you know I’m on both the national and the Texas no-call lists?” They generally say, “Oh…” CLICK. No-call is one of those programs with no cojones or substance and they know it. There will be no consequences for ignoring one’s desire for privacy. No-call is analogous to that button at the crosswalk; it’s not hooked up to anything but it makes us feel better.

And then there are the ubiquitous TV commercials. The one that always gets a chuckle from me is when Joe Namath tells me, “They even provide this-n’-that for no extra charge!” Sure, nice marketing ploy, but after all, this is Capitalism at its best; The charge has already been built into the base rate. If it’s any consolation, it’s not as hosed as the model the Democrat Socialists want to morph the system into. In any event, I decided to do my own homework before I hold my nose and cast my lot with one of these enthusiastic insurance companies. And here’s what I found about the basics of Medicare in a nutshell.

What is Medicare?

Basic Medicare is a national health insurance program in the U.S., unveiled in 1966 under the auspices of the Social Security Administration (SSA). Today It’s administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The prime objective is to provide health insurance for Americans 65 and older, but also is available for some younger people with disability status as determined by the Social Security Administration. People with end stage renal disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis may also sign up. Why were these two conditions designated out of the hundreds of worthy ones? Roll of the congressional dice, I suppose.

Like most government programs, misconceptions abound. When one can obfuscate, do so, ye civil service power-trippers. First, let’s be clear — Medicare isn’t free (for the most part), and the costs involved are often surprising to those who aren’t familiar with the program. Medicare enrollees cough up a variety of financial charges, including co-payments, coinsurance percentages, and monthly premiums. Although many thought Bernie Sanders‘ Medicare-for-all would be “free,” Berniecare was really just Obamacare with lipstick. And a bigger price tag. Beyond the basic Medicare Part A, there are 3 add-on parts, B, C, and D.

Medicare Parts

  • Medicare Part A. Medicare Part A is hospital health insurance offered by the federal government to U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who have permanently lived in the U.S. without a break for at least five years. You usually don’t have pay a monthly premium to get Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) coverage if you or your spouse paid Medicare taxes for a certain amount of time while working. In this case it’s called called “premium-free Part A.” People who don’t qualify for premium-free Part A can purchase Part A. If you do, you’ll pay up to a whopping $458 each month according to Medicare.gov. If you paid Medicare taxes for fewer than 30 quarters, the standard Part A premium will set you back $458. But if you paid into Medicare taxes for 30-39 quarters, then the standard Part A premium is $252. Keep in mind that if purchase Part A, you must also have Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) and pay monthly premiums for both Part A and Part B.
  • Medicare Part B. Medicare Part B is medical insurance and is part of Original Medicare and covers medical services and supplies that are medically necessary to treat your health condition. This can include outpatient care, preventive services, ambulance services, and durable medical equipment. Specifically, doctor’s office visits, lab work, x-rays, and outpatient surgeries, and preventive services to keep you healthy, like cancer screenings and flu shots. In 2020 the standard premium amount is $144.60 per month for individuals who filed individual taxes up to $87,000 or less, and those that filed jointly for $174,000 or less.
  • Medicare Part C. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “A Medicare Advantage Plan (like an HMO or PPO) is another Medicare health plan choice you may have as part of Medicare. Medicare Advantage Plans, sometimes called “Part C” or “MA Plans,” are offered by private companies approved by Medicare. If you join a Medicare Advantage Plan, the plan will provide all of your Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance) coverage. Medicare Advantage Plans may offer extra coverage, such as vision, hearing, dental, and/or health and wellness programs. Most include Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D). Medicare pays a fixed amount for your care every month to the companies offering Medicare Advantage Plans. These companies must follow rules set by Medicare. However, each Medicare Advantage Plan can charge different out-of-pocket costs and have different rules for how you get services (like whether you need a referral to see a specialist or if you have to go to only doctors, facilities, or suppliers that belong to the plan for non‑emergency or non-urgent care). These rules can change each year.” I suspect this is the type of plan Joe Namath hypes in his commercial. Obviously the price will vary depending on services.
  • Medicare Part D. Part D offers prescription drug coverage. Generally, you should only opt for this if you do not have employer or union drug coverage. Medicare.gov says, “If you join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, you, your spouse, or your dependents may lose your employer or union health coverage.” How much does it cost? The short answer is — it depends. Most Medicare Prescription Drug Plans charge a monthly fee that varies by plan. You pay this in addition to the Medicare Part B Premium. If you join a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C) or Medicare Cost Plan that includes Medicare prescription drug coverage, the plan’s monthly premium may include an amount for drug coverage.

How to Sign-Up for Medicare

This is easy to do on-line. I did it this morning and it took about 30 minutes. I could have done it faster but half the time I spent cross-checking my answers. It’s a government input site so there are no do-overs once they give you the chance to review and “Do you really want to continue?” OK, go to the Social Security website and click on my Social Security. When it opens click on Create an Account. When that loads, click on Create New Account. Next, just keep following the meandering path you are led upon.

Did this article clear up some confusion on the basics of Medicare? I hope so. They don’t make it easy, do they?

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References

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Visit Kelly’s profile on Pinterest.

About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at Considered Opinions Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Basil: a Savory Addition to Your Herb Garden and Kitchen

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Fresh-cut basil
Fresh-cut basil from my garden

The basil pictured above is fresh-harvested from my garden in preparation for making pesto (yum). Believe it or not, it is a member of the mint family. It is also known as great basil, sweet basil, or for the scientifically-minded, Ocimum basilicum. Whatever you call it, it’s delicious and an essential part of any foodie’s herb garden.

All other things aside, consider the economics of the situation — you can buy a plant from the nursery, or even Walmart for crying out loud, for the same price or cheaper than a plastic-wrapped one-time-use bundle from the grocery store. Who knows where that came from? Mine is organic and two minutes from plant to recipe. Why is there even a comparison? I understand that even apartment-dwellers can grow it in the kitchen window or better yet, a balcony if you have one.

Health Benefits of Basil

Most of the studies that indicate that tulsi (holy basil) was used to determine benefits. Tulsi is traditionally used for religious and traditional medicine purposes, and for its essential oil. It is widely used as an herbal tea, commonly used in Ayurveda.

  • Supports liver health.
  • Fights cancer. This is due to the phytochemicals present by increasing antioxidant activity, changing gene expression, triggering cell death, and slowing cell division.
  • Supports liver health.
  • Protects against skin aging. This effect is from using basil extracts in topical skin creams to improve skin hydration and reduce roughness and wrinkling. Eating it will not provide the benefit.
  • Supports cardiovascular function. The theory is that it lowers blood pressure due to the plant’s eugenol content. This can block calcium channels in the body, lowering high blood pressure. Calcium channel blockers are a popular class of blood pressure medications.
  • Boosts mental health.
  • Reduces swelling and inflammation.
  • Fights infection. A study in 2013 as reported by the US National Library of Medicine showed that sweet basil oil was effective against E. coli bacteria. The researchers determined that certain preparations of basil oil could help treat or even prevent some varieties of infection.

Recipes for Basil

It goes without saying that basil can be added to almost any recipe but here are a few of my favorites. Try them all. These are recipes that I have either invented or morphed together from several traditional recipes and modified to my taste. When I get into the kitchen to experiment, my wife invariably says, “Oh no!” But never fear, she has approved all the ones below.

Obviously, basil can be added to a variety of dishes whether you are going for taste or the nutritional value. But to ensure freshness, availability, and organic quality, plant it in your herb garden.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

History of U.S. Medical Insurance

Baylor University’s Initial Concept for Care Eventually Led to an Economic Behemoth

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

Medicare health insurance card and benefits
Medicare health insurance card and benefits
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This article was updated on 05/04/21.

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Today we are surrounded by so many high-tech medical apparatuses and procedures that we take them for granted. For example, I recently had laparoscopic inguinal (groin) hernia surgery. No scalpel slashing, just 3 punctures. All the work was done microscopically and I was on my feet within 3 hours. Now, that’s good customer service.

But it wasn’t always that way. More than 90% of commonly accepted medicine did not even exist in the 1950s. One of the consequences is that people, average people, not just the monied upper-crust, are living longer. A greater understanding of things like controlling high blood pressure adds years and quality of life.

The Cost of Modern Medicine

It should come as no surprise that all this progress comes with a cost. In fact, it has been rising faster than any other expenditure when looked at on a national level. Flash back if you will to 1930–we spent $2.8 billion on health care. That equates to 3.5% of the gross domestic product (GDP) or only $23 per person.

In 2015 that rose to $3 trillion. That’s $9,536 per person or 15% of GDP. During the 1980s medical expenditures rose by 117%. Of that, 43% can be attributed to inflation. 10% can be attributed to the rise in population and longer life expectancy. 23% was due to new technology, medicines, and treatment innovations. The remaining 24% is due to another instance of inflation that resides totally within the medical community. This last number tells us that there is a lack of oversight and cost transparency. There is no financial propping up as with the banking, agricultural, and auto-building industries.

The Transformation of Hospitals

It was only in the 1850s that the medical community realized that diseases were caused by microorganisms. This became known as the germ theory of disease and it was indeed revolutionary. It led to research that was to begin to focus on preventative rather than just curative treatment. Rabies was banished from human population in 1885. Diphtheria and whooping cough were brought under control. When milk began to be pasteurized the death rate of children went from 125.1/thousand to 15.8/thousand in 1925.

In 1873 hospitals, of which there were only 149 in the country, were more like hospices; the poor and and deathly-ill went there to die; those institutions were little more than petri dishes, not at all sanitary. But that changed because of the changes brought about by germ theory.

By 100 years later the number of hospitals had increased to over 7,000 and their role had morphed into medical research and clinical medicine. Exciting times. But… they cost a lot to operate and the number of patients could not be reliably estimated. The solution? Late in the 1920s hospital insurance was introduced in Dallas, Texas to stabilize cash flow. For a premium of $6 per year Baylor University Hospital would provide 21 days of care to subscribers.

Soon other hospitals adopted this model and formed confederations so that patients could choose a treatment facility. This was the business model for Blue Cross which launched in California in 1932. These were rudimentary insurance plans; they did not include co-pays or deductions, just fixed premiums meant to stabilize cash flow. One consequence is that patients gravitated toward hospital stays (expensive) rather than outpatient treatments (cheaper).

This insurance was paid directly to the hospital and not to the individual. This eliminated any opportunity to “shop around.” Since the money was not coming itemized out of the patient’s pocket, why should he or she care what the price tag was?

The Government Fails to Regulate Medical Insurance

During the mid to late 30s Blue Cross was spreading rapidly. The states moved to try to regulate them to the same standards as other types of “insurance.” But the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association lobbied to be exempt, claiming an exception due to operating on a non-profit basis. The IRS agreed and ruled that they were also exempt from federal taxation. Blue Cross and other insurance companies emerging in the field operated on a cost-plus basis. Now there was zero incentive to control costs an strive for efficiency.

Hospitals began to compete not on price but by wooing doctor referrals. Doctors were being paid “reasonable and customary” charges. If Dr. C began charging a bit more, Dr. A and Dr. B would follow suit and the standard of “reasonable and customary” inched up. No oversight.

The Modern Medical Insurance Paradigm

When World War II drew us in, two things happened. One, the labor market got tighter since more workers enlisted in the military. Two, price and wage controls were implemented. In order to attract the best employees, companies began offering employer-paid health insurance as a fringe benefit which the IRS recognized as a business expense.

The National Labor Relations Board imposed collective bargaining on health insurance plans so unions began to demand more and more, driving prices up. But a consequence was that the patient became further distanced from the medical system and they lost many choices; one must take what is offered.

In 1965 the government waded into the medical market with Medicaid and Medicare. Initially, hospitals and doctors resisted but when they began to reap the dividends they quickly changed their tune. Now state governments largely controlled the purse strings of most major hospitals and thus could influence policy.

More recently a major factor in driving up medical costs is litigation. Medical malpractice suits have exploded. Cases have increased by a 1:300 ratio in the years from 1969 to 1990 alone. A special class of lawyers have even emerged to take advantage of this low-hanging fruit; these are your ambulance-chasers and your class-action law firms where actual plaintiffs make pennies while the lawyers walk away with the bulk of the settlements.

This short history of American medical insurance should serve to put things into perspective as we have a national debate over how it really should be handled. Should we stay on our present course or model our system on Britain or Canada? Should we believe in a socialist “free for all” system as Bernie Sanders advocates? (Hint: there’s no such thing as free.) Should we adopt an Obamacare model complete with a Jacobin death panel? This will continue to be an evolving national debate.



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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at Considered Opinions Blog where he muses on many different topics.

A Fundamental Guide to Long Runs

A Weekly Slow, Long Anaerobic Run is a Key Building Block to Your Training Program

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

Long run on an asphalt highway
Long run on an asphalt highway
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Many runners, especially newbies, are of the mindset that running long is a workout done solely for preparing for a half marathon, full marathon, or an ultramarathon. In actuality, there’s quite a bit more to the story. They are an important part of a properly balanced training program for runners of all stripes. It is just one aspect of the 10 habits of highly-successful runners. By the way, the same logic applies to walkers as well; just adapt the concepts as needed. Aerobics is aerobics.

Weekly long distance runs also supply key benefits for athletes that are preparing for a 5K, 10K, or any distance. It also keeps the body from plateauing for individuals intent on burning calories for a weight loss program.

In short (pun not intended), longer distance, slower workouts are just one more factor in a comprehensive workout program. Your easy and recovery runs should make up the bulk of your program in order to avoid injury. Although the term has fallen by the wayside, we used to call this LSD (Long, Slow Distance).

Round out your weekly routine by adding in some interval workouts, fartlek, tempo runs, and sporadic pick-ups to activate your fast-twitch muscle fibers for developing speed. Adding in some hill training will boost leg strength and teaches your legs to handle lactic acid build-up.

Whatever type of workout you have planned for the day it’s important to stick to your workout warm-up routine. It might not seem necessary for a slow long run but in fact, it is. And after all, there is something to be said for conforming to habit to keep you honest. The importance of rituals in our everyday lives keeps us balanced.



Long Distance Running Stimulates Physiological Adaptations

Running Times (sadly, a now-defunct magazine) coach and columnist Greg McMillan rightly pointed out that there are 3 distinct physiological adaptations that distance training provides us with.

  • New capillary growth. What are capillaries? These are the smallest of blood vessels; the more you have, the more oxygen-delivery your body is efficiently capable of. The end result is that they enhance your ability to do work. Capillaries are also key during the process of dissipating heat as they direct more blood close to your skin.
  • Musculoskeletal strengthening. As Arnold the Terminator would say, “I’ll pump you up!” Similar to the way lifting weights strengthens particular target muscles, when you add stress to your legs it promotes ligament, tendon, and muscle strengthening. To maintain and build bone density be sure to get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet. As far as supplements go, a CoQ10 dietary supplement is highly encouraged for the many benefits for runners, especially us, ahem, older ones. See the graphic below.
  • Enzyme changes. Running long distances encourages an increase in the number of enzymes in the legs.
  • Improved mental functioning. Studies have shown that aerobic exercise such as running improves memory and brain cell functioning.
The many benefits of CoQ10
The many benefits of CoQ10

Increase Your Running Distance Slowly but Surely

The majority of wise runners do their weekly long runs when they can allocate the time for both the run and the requisite recovery; usually, this means the weekend. I’m comfortable with my long run on Saturday and my recovery run on Sunday. Just this morning I did my long run followed by a mile cool-down walk. I never used to do the cool-down but it really helps to give your heart rate a wee bit of time to come down. It really does take this long when the temperature is in the mid-to-upper 90s. Just look at a marathon training schedule and you will see that two things stick out. First, the run distance increases adhering to the traditional 10 percent rule.

Secondly, the 10 percent build-up happens every other week in most plans; a good distance on the alternate week is generally about 10 miles for a good maintenance-distance run if you are training for a marathon. It goes without saying is that this rule becomes even more important as one gravitates to longer and more intense endurance events. The second caveat of the 10 percent rule is to limit your total weekly mileage increase to 10 percent.

Make the Long Run a Social Event

There are good reasons for making your long run a social event. And, not because “misery loves company.” Rather, because accomplishment loves company. This is one of the best benefits of running clubs. It is certainly much easier to roll out of bed in the sleepy pre-dawn hours when you know your comrades are waiting for you to start laying down the miles. In fact, distance training and comradeship are the foundation of many long-lasting friendships.

As an example, organizations like USA Fit have made a cottage industry of it, and some would say, have taken the concept too far (strongly encouraged to buy merch, etc.) They’re everywhere; in Texas alone there are at least 20 clubs.

These kinds of organizations seem to be largely responsible for the growing phenomenon of marathon walkers (sometimes called turtles). Not that there is anything wrong with that as long as the race organizers let walkers start at least a couple of hours before the gun for the runners goes off.

Hopefully, this guide to long runs has encouraged you to to insert them into your training regimen. Your heart will thank you, your bathroom scale will thank you, and of course it goes a long way towards managing insomnia.


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at Considered Opinions Blog where he muses on many different topics.

where he muses on many different topics.

Top New Year’s Resolutions; Path to Success

by Kelly R. Smith

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This article was updated on 12/28/20.

As the old year fades into the sunset and the new one is ushered in, people all over the world will be indulging, not only in partying but in vowing to self-help. Here is a list of the top New Year’s resolutions for 2021.

Running for fitness and health
Running for fitness and health
  • Getting in better physical shape. This is one we should all be doing and there is always room for improvement. Choose something you enjoy — running, walking, cycling, swimming, yoga; the list is endless. Physical fitness can be as frugal or expensive as you want. My favorites are running and walking (with the dog). I only shell out about $200/year in running and/or walking shoes. The walking shoes I currently have on order the Rockport Men’s Activflex Sport Perf Mudguard Walking Shoe model. That’s quite a mouthful, isn’t it? Can’t wait to try them though. When you put in as many miles as the pooch and I do, you have to baby your feet.
  • Stop procrastinating. The largest obstacle keeping most people from closing in on their goals is the natural desire to relax and indulge in some frivolity rather than working hard. As soon as you get used to procrastinating it’s hard to avoid, so be prepared to put in a lot of work to change this normal tendency.
Low-carb spaghetti carbonera
Low-carb spaghetti carbonera

Eat healthier. We could all do a bit of cleaning up our eating habits. The good news is that access to better food choices is better than ever. Try making something new like my low-carb carbonara pictured above. Eating out is fun but spending time in the kitchen will save you money (so you can pay for that workout gear) and allow you to control the ingredients. Go with whole wheat bread rather than fluffy white. James Hamblin of The Atlantic says, “As many eaters of bread came to understand that white bread is a nutritional equivalent of Pixy Stix—the nutritious, fibrous shell of the wheat having been removed, leaving us with only the inner starch, which our bodies almost instantly turn into sugar—it needed some rebranding.” Eat more fruit. Incorporate nuts into your daily eating regimen. Try a new diet. Experiment with new ways of preparing unprocessed food. For example, I’ve recently been making chicken and beef jerky as well as low, low cost dog treats in my food dehydrator.

Expand your confidence and take some chances. Most people don’t exercise their confidence enough and this limits their potential. This is true in the workplace and out of it. In fact, in most cases workers that display confidence are the ones that get ahead. This is true of taking chances as well. If you don’t try, you’ll never know. The best time to start the new you is the beginning of next year when New Year’s Eve is in the rear view mirror. Try making a list of things you’ve always wanted to do and go for it; kind of like a bucket list.

Bring in more money. It’s never enough, is it? While it is important to strike a work/play balance in life, there’s a lot to be said for having a cash cushion. It is never too soon to plan (and save) for retirement. Take up a new side hustle while keeping your day job. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And while we are on the topic of bringing home more bacon, consider improving your credit score.

Stop smoking. This one is a classic. Unfortunately, it is one of the hardest to achieve. I should know; I quit about 35 years ago. While we are on the topic, the jury is still out on vaping. Whichever habit is in question, it’s too much money for too little return. Besides, it really looks dumb. What, are you a whale coming up to the surface to vent your blow hole?

Indulge in more quality sleep. Most people don’t get enough. The recommended amount is 7-8 hours. Do you get that much? According to livescience.com, “About 65 percent of Americans get a “healthy” amount of sleep, or at least 7 hours a night, while 35 percent get less than 7 hours of sleep per night.” My Garmin 235 watch syncs with the computer and one of the things it does is generate a graph of my sleeping time and pattern. It’s very eye-opening.

A money house
A money house

Read more books. Everything competes for our attention today — the internet, TV, radio, the cell phone. Books may seem old school but they educate, entertain, and improve the function of our brains more than anything electronic. And if you use your local library, it’s a (gasp!) free activity! One of my best reads this past year was Dennis Prager’s Rational Bible: Exodus. That said, electronic still has its place, and it can be portable. I favor the Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet because it comes with the Kindle app built in. Here’s a list of my book reviews.

Get out of debt. We’ve already touched on the topic of making more money. If you are in debt (and who isn’t) it is just as important to change that. Look into consolidating your loans. Move credit card balances to a lower interest card. Ditch your bank and join a credit union; you will get favorable interest rates on savings and loans. All these small changes add up.

Learn a new language. This is good for your brain health and communication skills. For example, I am fluent in Spanish. Living in Texas, that’s a good thing. Learn a language that you can use locally. Use it or lose it, as they say.

Maggie the Border Collie
Maggie the Border Collie

Adopt a pet. We’ve got 4 adopted dogs. Science tells us that pets are good for us so we must really be doing great! Of course having a pet involves responsibility so be ready for that.

Take up a new hobby. As an example, my favorite is woodworking. Some people even parlay this into a side gig.

Hopefully this list of top New Year’s resolutions will get you off to a great start. Share it with your friends and social media! Enjoy a bit of frivolity as the old year drifts away.


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.