Using Formulas

Do you use formulas to help you get things done when life is overflowing with things to do? I do! I have a similar breakfast each day. I often wear the formula of straight leg jeans, a top, and a jacket or cardigan. I clean something in my house every day so that I never have to spend one whole day just cleaning the house.

For the past few months, I have been working on a formula for a healthy lunch. A go-to method, rather than a strict recipe, means that I can use what I have on hand to make something healthy and delicious. After the tremendous success of my breakfast porridge here, I have been trying to come up with a lunchtime option that serves me as well.

Grains, greens, and beans are the healthiest options for me. Using this combination as my meal plan, I have been working on a formula that would serve a single person so that there isn’t so much waste. When I buy fresh vegetables, they often get thrown away or make vegetable stock or soup from them after they start to wither. I can never eat them fast enough, even when I buy the smallest bundle.

This past Saturday, I served the lunchtime formula to my guinea pig (Mr. Mickey) for the first time. He raved about it for the rest of the day and asked to join me for lunch on Tuesday. Since he has declared it a success, I am ready to share my latest cooking project with you.

To make this lunch (or dinner), You will need some grains. One of my all-time favorites is black rice. It has such a rich, savory aroma and taste. Any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or any other cereal grain is a grain product. To make this lunch for one: I use about one-fourth of a cup of rice and twice as much vegetable stock to prepare the rice. I cover the pot, bring the stock to a boil, then turn it down to simmer until all the fluid is absorbed and the rice is done. This takes about thirty minutes. In the meantime, I saute chopped onion, mushrooms, and garlic to taste (powdered or fresh is fine) just to the point of getting soft. You can use broth or stock to toss and saute instead of oil. When these items are nearly done, I turn off the heat and stir in cut-up fresh kale. Cover and let the kale steam slightly as the pot cools. The kale turns to a brighter green when it is steamed. Set that pot aside and let the items rest.

Using frozen organic vegetables, along with any fresh ones I might have on hand, allows me to have various options while cutting way back on the waste. I also cut up a fire-roasted red pepper to add to the frozen vegetables. Add a tablespoon of vegetable stock, stir and put the lid back on to let them steam on low heat for a few minutes until they are warm. The goal here is to have warm vegetables with very little liquid. When the vegetables are warm, and most of the liquid is gone from the rice, I add the sauteed onions, mushrooms, garlic, and rice to the warm vegetables. Stir to blend the items and then serve in a pretty bowl.

After days and days of rain and wind, Sunday’s weather was sunny with clear blue skies, so we took a long drive on the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway to Blowing Rock, North Carolina. We enjoyed a splendid meal at Rowland’s, located in the historic Mansion at Westglow.

I used my go-to formula for getting dressed for dinner. The pants are by Lior Paris, via The blue blouse is a Portofino shirt from Express. The satin lapel jacket is from Ralph Lauren a couple of years ago. The shoes are also a few years old from SaksOff5th. The bag is old.

  1. Looks delicious!
    I just noticed the black rice at the grocery store this weekend and wondered if it was worth trying.
    You have helped with a new healthy meal.
    Thanks for the post!

  2. I, too, like formulas. I admire people who can enjoy living spontaneously, but that does not serve me well. I have the same two breakfasts (one is your porridge) alternately, a fresh made juice and small sandwich for lunch, and a light meal-prepped dinner. I will certainly try your veggie/rice combo! I also have a formula for those days when I have a tendency to sit and watch TV. These are my HOKY-POKY days. House/Outdoor/Kitchen/Yoga–Personal/Office/Kreative/Yard. (That’s what it’s all about!)

  3. You look radiant, beautiful, classy & elegant, as usual. Questions: 1) How does your relatively small bowl of breakfast porridge and this example of a typical lunch (looks delish) satisfy your appetite for a day? I am afraid I would be starving if I only ate this! 2) What does one do in the cold weather where a heavy outer coat is needed? They won’t fit over a blazer, though I guess a sweater over a long sleeve top would work OK.

    1. The portions of both my breakfast and late lunch are about the size my outstretched hand. Because there is a lot of nutrition in the combination of types of foods, I do not feel hungry even four hours after eating.
      I often wear layers including a sweater when I know I will be wearing a heavy winter coat.

  4. Susan, I just love that you have shared this new recipe with us. I am trying to eat more rice, grains and veggies as they are recommended for the acid reflux problem I have. This is so very helpful to me. I also have some black rice I had bought at Costco but have yet to try. THANKS!

    Also a big thanks for your help with sizing for the Portofino shirts. I was at my local Express store and bought two!

  5. Thank you, Susan, I appreciate your well rounded blogs. And I try our recipes. You are a bright star in my day.

  6. Susan, can you provide any sizing guidance for the Lior slacks? How much stretch do they have? Do you usually wear the 28″ inseam or longer? I’m 5’5. Thanks!

    1. I am wearing the Jana style in a size 6, my usual size in dress pants. They do have a little stretch, and I am wearing the 31″ inseam. The style I am wearing is from last year. They sometimes change the fit a little from season to season.

  7. Lundberg Rice Company is up the road from us. Great products and a great family. They are launching rice bowls soon. A similar formula. Thanks for sharing, Susan.

  8. HI SUSAN,

    I use to cook for me and my husband, a pot of chicken soup or chili, etc and a large amount of this food would be thrown away after we ate it twice.

    So it finally occurred to me to use quart freezer bags, label and put in the freezer. I also came of with this idea because I wanted to give my grandchildren some individual easy meals. I find that the quart size is a little big for the individual servings so I found pint freezer bags on Amazon and am now using those.
    It is nice to go in the freezer and bring out chili, tomato soup, etc. Great idea. I also do some desserts with almond flour, eat a piece and slice and freeze the other servings. There is a great recipe for Almond flour waffles that freezes well, or you can save any leftovers and put in the toaster the next day. Eating (particularly healthy) for one or two can be difficult. The almond flour waffles are at I enjoy your column. Very hellpful.

  9. Great recipe — and your ideas about using forumlas is inspired! And I noticed the Lundberg rice. I am not affiliated with them in any way, but they do have great products as another poster noted. They are the only company I found who tracks and reports arsenic levels which is an increasing problem with rice. For further info: This is not to alarm anyone, but just to add to considerations with healthful food sources — such as organic, non-GMO and limiting inorganic chemicals like arsenic.

  10. Today’s post really hit home for me. I, too, have a working formula for doing housework, making meals and even getting dressed. I clean specific areas each day because there’s always some illness, event or emergency that could set me back where I can’t easily catch up. As far as meals go, every morning I steam a batch of different vegetables like broccoli, green beans, onions and mushrooms that I keep in the refrigerator to use throughout the day with meals. Sometimes, I just eat them along with some sliced kalamata olives in a bowl with balsamic vinegar, which is a tip I learned from you. With regard to putting together outfits, I have multiples of casual wear items such as black leggings, tunics and flats and boots that can be taken up a notch with accessories, if needed. By the way, love your outfit, especially the blue portifino blouse.

  11. For years I thought my inclinations to formulas meant I was dull. Thank you for validating that this is such a help to life! I appreciate you from afar!

  12. Hi Susan!
    Love the color of your shirt, do you prefer the slim fit or the original fit in the Portofino shirts and do they run true-to-size?
    Any input you can give would be appreciated.
    Thank you and Have A Wonderful Day!
    Darlene B.

  13. Could you share your daily housecleaning plan, Susan? I’ve tried many times to do that – because it is, as you say a great way to stay on top – but never seem to get fully into a committed routine. Next thing I know – the whole house needs to be cleaned! Not good. Maybe if I could read how others do it, it would re-motivate me!
    The lunch recipe looks delicious with all of the bright colours! Your outfit looks fabulous!

    1. On Mondays and Thursdays, I do the laundry. On Wednesdays, I water the plants and clean the floors. On Tuesdays, I clean the bathrooms, and on Fridays I dust. I clean the kitchen, wipe down all counters and sinks and mop the floor at least once a day. I change all the return air filters on the first of the month and put fresh batteries in the alarms on September 1st (my birthday month). I walk around the outside of my house with a very critical eye at least three times a year looking for roof damage, or other issues with trim around windows or doors. I sweep out the garage at least once a month and sweep the front stoop and clean windows as needed.

      1. What’s a “change all the return air filters”? The filter to the furnace?

        Here in Southern California we don’t wear total black anymore. Just one piece of black with other colors. We used to

        wear more black about 10-15 years ago.

        Your travel post was interesting. I was wondering how much your linen dresses would shrink?


        1. Inside my house, there are four large filters for the return air to the central air and heat. The filters need to be changed about once a month.
          I enjoy wearing black at night and when the weather is dreadful. I see a lot of black in cities here in the east and in Europe but not so much when I go to California and Florida.
          If you wash the dress in cold water and don’t leave it in the dryer until it is completely dry, it should be fine. Use a cool iron to press when needed.

  14. I read all of your blogs and often mean to comment but I get sidetracked–unlike you, who is so organized! You look stunning in this outfit, and your “cooking project” looks delicious and healthy.

    Thank you for ALL of the wonderful tips you share here. One of the most informative and enjoyable blogs ever!

    Best to Mr. Mickey.

  15. Susan, you look absolutely stunning in this. Royal blue is definitely your color! Your lunch recipe looks delicious. Bet it will soon become your go-to lunch! I have to avoid grains but could substitute spaghetti squash or “zoodles”. I think I will try it soon. Thanks for posting!

  16. “Try black rice” has been on my To Do list for ages but I think your post has shot it to the top! Thanks for the reminder & gentle push. I make a vaguely similar lunch using quinoa or farro (or any other ancient grain I have on hand), mixed with all manner of steamed & diced raw fresh veggies & often a bit of fish or chicken. I detest beans & won’t touch the things, but sometimes I’ll use steamed rice noodles instead of grains & add a spicy peanut thai sauce. My partner’s a tall, fit man who works out daily & is physically active, so the 2 meal-a-day thing won’t work because he’s always as ravenous as a wolf by dinner time. I never eat much of whatever I cook for him in the evening except for veggies, tho’ — I’m crazy about fresh veggies, raw or lightly steamed, especially with a drizzle of good olive oil & chopped herbs. And I just love the word “formula” as you apply it! I’ve always thought I was just in a rut because I so often eat/wear the same things over & over & have a routine for my housework, gardening & even my exercise, yoga & meditation. LOL! Now I feel quite clever instead!

  17. Susan, I have read and been on the “Eat to Live ” plan now for 38 days- what a difference! It was difficult at first, and many days I am challenged, however I am dedicated to this program.

    Is the black rice acceptable on the Aggressive Weight Loss Program?

    At age 72 I take no medications (so grateful for that), however I do need to lose another 25 pounds….I have already lost 17!!!

    You lunch idea is quite appealing, so if not black rice perhaps something else? I ask since you have been so successful for quite a few years.

    As always thank you for taking the time to write your blog, which I enjoy immensely. You are an inspiration to so many women!

    1. Black and brown rice are whole grains which means it contains all parts of the grain including the fibrous bran, the nutritious germ, and the carb-rich endosperm. White rice has had the bran and germ removed, which are the most nutritious parts of the grain which leaves white rice with very few essential nutrients, which is why brown or black rice is considered much healthier than white.

    2. Susan (both Susans), I apologize for butting in here but I’m on a crusade to get more people eating the so-called “ancient grains” because they’re SO healthy. Farro, freekeh, teff & others are easy to find, easy to cook, more flavoursome (I find) than rice & jam-packed with nutrition & fibre. Some are gluten-free if that’s an issue, others (like freekeh) are not. They can all be used where one would usually use rice, but they’re much more nutritious, low glycemic & very filling — all good for anyone looking to lose weight. Google will take you to more facts & recipes. Just search “ancient grains” or the specific name of the grain & a whole new world of healthy, good eating will open up!

        1. Oh, I know you avoid white rice, Susan, & that you’re already a fan of alternative grains, sorry if it sounded otherwise. I invoked your name in my comment simply to apologize for the way I butted in . . . 🙂

  18. LOVELY post (and picture–you do look wonderful here!).
    I am a personal chef and would like to share a secret for keeping a large clamshell of greens fresh:
    After purchasing, open the clamshell plastic bin and put a folded-over paper towel inside–just lay it gently over the greens. It will help to keep excess moisture from spoiling the leaves.
    Every time you use some greens, fluff up (aerate) what is left in the clamshell and replace the paper towel with a fresh one, as before. You will save MANY more greens this way.
    Also, make sure the fridge isn’t too cold, which could be “freezing” the greens on the bottom.

    Hope this helps! You’ve helped us all a lot!
    Chef Diane, Gainesville, VA

  19. Susan, Can you reformat the recipe for lunch into a style that one can print? Also the porridge? Thanks so much, you are truly an inspiration.

    1. Lunch: Cook rice. Saute mushrooms, onions, and garlic (add cut up kale while this is cooling and cover.) Lightly steam vegetables of your choice just to warm them. Combine all ingredients before serving.

      Breakfast: Susan’s Power Porridge Breakfast
      About 3 cups of unsweetened Almond Milk or Coconut Milk (add more if the mixture becomes too thick cook longer if it is too thin.)
      2 Tablespoons of steel cut oats
      1 Tablespoon lentils (I add a teaspoon each of three colors)
      2 Tablespoons flax seeds (I grind them in a coffee grinder)
      1 Tablespoon of amaranth
      1 Tablespoon of millet
      1 Tablespoon Chia Seeds
      2 Tablespoons of old-fashioned rolled oats (Added near the end of cooking time. Needs about five minutes of cooking.)
      Optional items to add near the end of cooking time:
      1 Tablespoon sunflower seeds and/or sesame seeds
      1 Tablespoon of raw organic pepitas (no shell pumpkin seeds)
      1 Tablespoon natural raw walnuts
      1 Tablespoon natural raw pecans
      1 Tablespoon Hemp Hearts (Sprinkle on top or add at the end of cooking.)
      1/4 cup of cooked Teff and or Quiona
      1 teaspoon of Red Star Nutritional Yeast (This is not brewers yeast.) It supplies B vitamins.
      3 Large dates (pits removed) cut in half
      1 Banana or any fresh fruits you like.
      Spices you might like to add, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg or ground cloves.

      (You may find these items on or if they are not available in your area.)

      Heat almond milk to a gentle boil as you add lentils and chia seeds, grains, seeds, and then the oats. Stir well and turn down the heat to medium, continue to stir occasionally. Cook for about fifteen minutes until the lentils are tender. You may need to add more or less almond milk to keep the consistency creamy, not watery.

      Add the Nutritional Yeast, nuts and dried fruit, stir and cover to simmer only until the dried fruits have warmed. Cut fresh fruit to add on top.

      This recipe serves two or saves well to refrigerate for reheating. I reheat with more almond milk in a saucepan and add the cold porridge to simmer for a few minutes until it is warm.

  20. this recipe sounds delicious, I will be sure to give it a try! I also love to add smoked paprika to any rice dishes for extra zing.

    I love your outfit in this post, especially love the way the hose and shoes elongate your legs. In my opinion a classy pump or court shoe is more dressy than the finicky trendy shoes with straps & buckles as they tend to cut off the leg at the ankle. I wish I could still wear court shoes, but scar tissue on my right foot does not allow me.

  21. Hi Susan, love your outfits, thank you for thinking of the older women as I always say we are the “forgotten ” but love your blog and all that you put into it…is your hair natural? I color mine and I am so tired of doing that but it is getting so thin. I am 71 and have always wanted to do something for older women to help them so I was thrilled when I found your blog. Also one more question where could I find a blazer like the black one you are wearing. I am having a hard time fineing one that I can wear. Have a wonderful day…your friend Nola Frisbee

    1. Hi Nola,

      My hair is indeed naturally wavy/curly and silver/gray. Mine is getting very thin on top too. I am getting it cut some on Thursday. Wish me luck! I bought that blazer at Dillard’s a couple of years ago. This is a good time to find blazers on sale at all the department stores. I hope you can find one that you like. Thank you for your kind words.

      1. Interesting, thanks! I have to be super careful…if my kids find me in “pull on” pants, I will never hear the end of it! (I do secretly wear them, but the kids are none the wiser??!?)

  22. I read each and every one of your blogs and learn something new every time. I admire you for being so disciplined with your eating habits and also being true to yourself in fashion and not following the trends. I think it’s very important as we get more mature. I love your porridge recipe and your salad. May I ask what you use as a salad dressing that’s healthy and yet tasty. I feel so much better eating like this and feeling in control of what I’m eating. It affects every aspect of my life and I enjoy knowing I’m doing this for my own good. I want to enjoy myself and have a really good quality of life. Thank you for being an inspiration to us all. You are a beautiful lady.

  23. I am planning to upgrade my summer wardrobe with an emphasis on light weight pants. I have sturdy legs that I prefer not to accentuate.
    Will you please make a few recommendations in upcoming posts? I love your style and value your opinion. Thank you!

  24. Hi Susan! Enjoy you blog, fashion AND recipes! Your blue blouse is right on trend, big color this year along with shades of purple! You look great!

  25. Just made the lunch formula, substituted baby spinach for the kale, because our grocers kale was a little limp. Verdict: YUM! Just excellent! This will be great for talking to work for lunch…office mates will be jealous, but I promise to share the recipe!!

  26. Susan, enjoy your blog and adventures! I’ve been having the lunch ‘formula’ this week and it’s going to be my go to from now on…yum and healthy. Thanks for sharing!!

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I share tips and inspiration for using what you already have in contemporary ways. Defining words include effortless, classic, refined, discreet, and elegant. My style is chic, minimal, and timeless with a bit of edge.