The Foods I MUST Have, No Matter How Broke I Am

Photo courtesy of




I’ll get right to the point, as there’s no reason not to do so…

Miracle Whip Light is on the top of my list in this category, as I use it on and in most of the foods I eat, light being my choice due to the fewer calories and fat.

I don’t eat canned tuna or chicken, or make any sandwiches that don’t include peanut butter, jelly, jam, or a combination of the three, without this condiment.

It can get costly, the average price being $3.50 to $4.00 at the grocery store I frequent.

But as I’ve said: I don’t care how broke I may be, I must have my Miracle Whip Light salad dressing, or else I feel deprived.

Salsa is another food type/condiment that I absolutely need regardless of lack of money, preferably the hot kind.

It’s been an essential staple of my diet for many years, and I’ve pretty much forsaken ketchup and barbecue sauce in favor of salsa in recent years because with tomatoes being the main ingredient, salsa is healthier for you; it has less sodium, sugar, and fat than ketchup, BBQ sauce, or any other condiment or sauce.


Another food I can’t do without. Photo courtesy of


Which is good news for me considering my hypertension condition.

I usually buy my salsa in jars at the supermarket, but there are two places where the salsa is so delicious, I consider it a true treat when I obtain it…

Campos, a Mexican restaurant chain which has several branches in the Westside region of Los Angeles, CA (where I live) and whose food I grew up on in its original location in Santa Monica, has salsa that I can just eat all day, it’s so good.

So much so that I get at least four cups of the medium-hot salsa every time I go get food there.

The other place where I buy salsa is a place that I don’t get to go to as often as Campos, just a handful of times a year, but whose salsa matches Campos’ in it’s level of deliciousness;

The salsa at Burnt Tortilla, a Mexican chain in the South Bay area of Los Angeles.


The third of my main food staples. Photo courtesy of


I go to the main branch of Burnt Tortilla in Gardena, where a friend of mine lives; every time I visit my friend and her family, I make it a point to go to Burnt Tortilla and get two large Styrofoam cups of their salsa, which lasts a few days.

Those large cups are not exactly cheap, costing $6.00 each, but it’s money well spent as far as I’m concerned.

Of course one can’t have salsa without tortilla chips, which is the third food I must have regardless of how little money I have available.

As tortilla chips generally have less sodium and fat than regular potato chips, it’s been one of my go-to things to eat as a snack, or even as a main meal when I don’t feel like spending any time cooking.

Eating chips and salsa, especially salsa from Campos and Burnt Tortilla, is something I can do all day if given a chance, and if it’s guaranteed I won’t get sick from eating too much.

Another thing I often do for nourishment is to mix light Miracle Whip into a combination of canned tuna and chicken, then get a bag of tortilla chips – Mission Tortilla Chips are my preference as their chips are sturdier – and go to town.

It makes for a simple and satisfying meal.

There isn’t much more to say about this, except for something I was wondering…

What are the foods that YOU absolutely MUST have, no matter how broke you may get?


My number one go-to food for snacks and (sometimes) meals. Photo courtesy of




SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA: The Three Things I Like Best About That City

My favorite image of the town I grew up in and lived for 22 years….


Everybody has a hometown.

Technically, I have two…

Riverside, CA, fifty miles east of Los Angeles, where I was born, spent the first nine years of my life, and have idyllic memories of as I lived with loving grandparents in a rural community outside of that city.

The other place I consider my hometown?

Santa Monica, CA, fifteen miles west of downtown Los Angeles, a town famous for its beach and pier.

It’s in Santa Monica where I lived for 22 and a half years, eighteen in one house.

It’s in Santa Monica where I spent my pubescence, adolescence, and young adulthood.

And it’s in Santa Monica where I did the milestone/rites of passage; play little league,  get my first  (unrequited) crushes on girls,  graduate high school, work at my first jobs, things like that.

Though it’s approaching twenty years since I lived there, moving to Culver City at the end of 1998, there are three things about that seaside town that provide fond memories.

I won’t waste any time with listing those three things:



Being that it borders the Pacific Ocean (or technically, Santa Monica Bay), Santa Monicans have been blessed with what I call God’s air conditioning, as starting at roughly 3:00 p.m. winds from the ocean cool that city – and neighboring ones like Venice, Pacific Palisades, and Marina Del Rey – and make it very desirable while starting at between five to ten miles inland the temperature significantly rises.

On hot days, that means that while people in Santa Monica and other beach cities are reveling in those cool breezes, folks living inland are suffering.

Why else does the beach in Santa Monica, Venice, Malibu, and other places get crowded with wall-to-wall people during heat waves?



A VERY nice view of the Santa Monica Mountains, Malibu, and Point Dume at sunset. Photo courtesy of



On a clear day, particularly after it rains, I always loved looking north and viewing the Santa Monica Mountains and various places like Pacific Palisades, Malibu, and Point Dume.

The views of those area is especially spectacular from the Santa Monica Pier, which I took some time to do on Christmas morning in 1998, just a few days before I moved away as I wanted to set my eyes on that incredible view one last time.

I unfortunately haven’t been able to see that sight due to the pier being crowded with tourists and life’s obligations in general, but rest assured that view is something about Santa Monica that I’ve always appreciated.



My all-time favorite place to eat – sorry that the picture is so small! Photo courtesy of



There has been no other place where I’ve preferred to eat in my lifetime.

Since age eight, I have been enjoying the tacos, nachos, and burritos from what was originally called Las Palmas until it was renamed Campos around the late 1970s.

Having lived two blocks from Campos for 18 years, I have had a long history with that place…

I remember taking field trips with my junior high school Spanish class to that Mexican eatery for lunch, taking dares to drink the hot green salsa.

Though I was a bit too much of a goody-goody to do so, many of my friends have ditched school to enjoy Campos food.

I can recall taking dates there during my early 20’s.

And my latest enjoyable memory of Campos?

Going there on my 50th birthday to buy avocado burritos, which incredibly enough I had never tried as I always preferred ground beef tacos in my youth and chicken tacos and burritos in later years.

I don’t have to tell you the waves of nostalgia that passed through me that day.

In fact, if someone asked me what my number one memory of living in Santa Monica is, Campos would be it.

I thank God that there’s a branch about a block and a half from where I live in Culver City; their tacos was the first meal I had upon moving there.

I’m quite proud and blessed that I’ve been eating and enjoying Campos food for over forty years, and will continue to.


So there they are – my three fondest memories of my twenty-two and a half years in Santa Monica.

Hopefully these descriptions make anyone from that town who may be reading this smile.



The inside of the Original Campos on 20th & Pico in Santa Monica, which is so successful there are several branches all over Los Angeles’ Westside. Photo courtesy of







The Best Way (for me) To Help Panhandlers and the Homeless


A feast for the less fortunate during Thanksgiving. Photo courtesy of



The other day I was at a bus stop when a young man approached me and asked if I could spare him a dollar so he could get something to eat.

Being that I live in Los Angeles, CA, the homeless capital of these United States, such interactions are very commonplace as if you are out and about in L.A. on a regular basis, you can expect for the less fortunate to ask you for money.

I reckon roughly 98% of folks, out of compassion and conscience, give money to the panhandlers when asked.

While I have much compassion thanks to Jesus being my Lord and Savior, my way of helping those unfortunates are a tiny bit different.

Though I have given money to those I see living on the street, sometimes without them asking, there’s another way of helping them that I much prefer – and which I did for this particular young man…

To be brutally honest, I have never really felt comfortable giving cash to people on the street, for this reason:


You never know if they are going to use the cash to buy food, like they always say they are, or if they are going to use that money to buy alcohol, drugs or even cigarettes.


Am I saying that all panhandlers use the money given to them to get drunk, get wasted, or pollute their lungs and ours with tobacco smoke? Absolutely not!

What I’m saying is, you don’t know if they are.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t want to enable those bad behaviors, behaviors that (for booze and drugs) may well have led them to being in that less fortunate situation.

No, I am NOT saying that all homeless are there because of booze or drug problems as I’m well aware that there are many young people on the street who are runaways or (worse) throwaways, but still…

Anyhow, fear of enabling is the reason why I did this for that young man who asked me for a dollar…




I took him to a CVS store across the street and bought him an ice cream bar, which of course he was quite grateful for.

That’s how I prefer to help panhandlers and the homeless as I have promised myself that whenever someone asks me for money, I always ask if they’re hungry, which I’ll expect them to answer in the affirmative.

Then I tell them, “I’ll be happy to buy you something to eat.”

That’s when I go to whatever convenience store or fast food place is nearby – I once bought someone in a wheelchair a bag of potato chips and a banana from a 7-Eleven when he asked me for some change – and buy something for them.

It cuts out the middle man and more importantly…


It guarantees that your money will TRULY help that person, rather than possibly feed his alcohol, narcotic, or nicotine habit.


Of course if you want to give panhandlers your money, by all means do so; it’s not my intention to tell anyone how to do good.

But the bottom line, at least for me, is that it’s better for me to actually buy food and drink for panhandlers and the homeless rather than give them my change and risk enabling them.

Plus it obviously helps them in the long run.

Which is all any decent person wants to do.


Enjoying a meal during what I’m sure was some holiday. Photo courtesy of



THE UPCOMING HOLIDAY SEASON: My Weight and Health Challenges as Thanksgiving and Christmas Approaches


A Thanksgiving cornucopia with a quote that needs to be remembered. Image courtesy of




I suppose for anyone trying and working hard to lose weight, get healthier and stave off conditions like hypertension and diabetes, Thanksgiving and Christmas are by far the biggest challenges to one’s health ambitions.

As for me personally, I’m glad to say that my exercise regimen has not only stayed strong over the past year, it has recently increased as I have added another day of cardio to my weekly routine; I’m now doing some kind of running – either on some kind of machine or running around West Los Angeles College, which is built on a hill – five days a week as opposed to four with a day off.

The challenge I have is this time of year, which actually started on Halloween as I partook in eating a little more candy than I intended and continued doing so for several days.

As well as eat some wonderful egg nog cake.

Which is why although I didn’t get on a scale – and I make it a practice of not doing such as I prefer to go by how loose my clothes feel – I felt that I gained a few pounds over the past couple of weeks.

Here’s my point:

A significant reason I have increased my cardio regimen is so I can better battle the temptations that come with the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays with regards to the enormous amounts of delicious food that will be readily available, especially between November 26th and December 25th.



Unless I want my foot/toes to swell up like a Macy’s balloon with extreme ice pick-stabbing pain coming from it, I can’t eat but maybe a teeny tiny amount of this during these upcoming holidays. Photo courtesy of


While I will be eating a very tiny amount if turkey if at all due to the fact that I have a gout condition and eating turkey causes excruciating pain due to that, plenty of other high-calorie comfort food goodies such as stuffing, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, cookies, cakes, and pie, will be abundant.

And with my history of loving to eat, it will not be easy to avoid indulging myself in the bliss that the holiday yummies will bring to my taste buds.

Even though my meat of choice will overwhelmingly be chicken and tofurkey it it’s available, it will be at least a bit difficult not to overindulge in those delectables, too.

Putting it another way:  There’s a reason why gym memberships seem to increase after January 1st.

Perhaps if the only thing available during these upcoming holidays was fruitcake, a food I cannot stand and which I consider the only thing about Christmas that is bad, I would not have any problem with the possibility of overindulging.

In fact, I’d probably lose at least a few pounds.

Since that won’t be the case, however…

This holiday will be a test of sorts, as up until perhaps last year at this time, when I was just a few weeks into my exercise and diet routine, I ate whatever I wanted to more or less my heart’s content.

If I want to maintain whatever fitness level I’ve achieved over the past year and not have my weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol rise, stuffing myself with yummy goodies can’t be an option.

And with God’s help, to not eat too much will be a doable goal.

If there’s anyone out there who has any suggestions of how to not give in to the temptations of over-indulging myself with all those luscious foods this holiday season about significantly damaging my diet regimen, I’m very much open to hearing them.



Christmas lights in Merrow

Christmas lights in Merrow

Check out this Christmas light display! Photo courtesy of








The One Bad Thing About Christmas



Being that the day that we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior is only a couple of weeks away (as of this writing), I wanted to share the one thing about this enjoyable holiday that I do not like.

The one negative thing about Navidad:


In my humble view, one of the nastiest foods on Earth.

My animosity toward this so-called “delicacy” goes back to when I was a young child and living with my grandparents in what was then a rural area outside of Riverside, CA, approximately sixty miles east of Los Angeles.

My grandmother used to buy those wretched loaves from the supermarket, and while I was quite the foodie at that time, there were a few foods that I simply could not eat, the taste was so bad in my mouth.

Fruitcake was one of them.

As sure as I’m sitting here writing this, you must asking right about now…

“Why such hatred of fruitcake?”

I think it’s the fact that fruit does not belong in cake as every time I tried to eat some of the stuff as a youngster, I always found myself picking out the different green and red, well…I don’t know what it was.

Which brings me to this other point:

The “fruit” in the cake is not even fruit; or doesn’t seem to be to me.

Plus the cake part of the fruitcake wasn’t so much “cake” in classic terms, but more of a hard pudding-like substance that – from what I remember of it – took a long time to chew.

In any terms, it was and remains to this day the one thing about the Christmas season that I truly dislike.

Luckily for a young boy like me this loathing of fruitcake didn’t take anything away from the holiday, as the fact that there were all sorts of fun goodies waiting for me under the tree on the morning of December 25th, along with the egg nog (or “Nog Egg” as I like to call it, in a play of those words) and A Charlie Brown Christmas and all those other children’s animated specials on TV which more than made up for the nastiness of that dreaded so-called “cake” with seemingly fake fruit in it.

I’ve always felt that parents – or Santa Claus for those little kids who are still inclined to believe in that right jolly old elf in this day and age – should not threaten their offspring with no presents or a lump of coal in their stocking on Christmas Day if they misbehave.

This is what they should say:

“If you’re not good, you’ll be getting fruitcake, and the worse you behave the bigger the fruitcake will be, maybe a whole one if you’re bad enough!”

“And instead of the pie (or whatever our Christmas dessert will be), you’ll be eating that cake!”

Believe me when I say that while I was generally a decent kid, I would have straightened up real quick with the threat of finding that so-called food in my stocking.

To put it another way…

There is a reason why that ridiculous dish that doesn’t deserve to be called food seems to always be passed around among various family members this time of year as I am far from the only person in America – or the world for that matter – who has an aversion to fruitcake.

Please don’t misunderstand – I like Christmas a lot, because there’s so many great things about that holiday. It’s just that for me, and I’m sure many others, fruitcake is the one thing that keeps the commemoration of Jesus’ birth from being absolutely 100% perfect, and that’s okay – nothing’s perfect in life.

Just something to ponder and perhaps even find a bit of humor about as the merriment commences.

Happy Holidays!


GOUT AND ME: My Painful Experiences With This Condition



I knew I shouldn’t have eaten all those extra turkey burgers at that birthday party my cousin gave the other day!

Especially since I knew that turkey has purines, which produces uric acid, which settles in between the bones in your feet and toes and sometimes causes pain.

Pain excruciating enough so you can’t walk without a cane.

Which describes me this week as I have a arthritic condition called Gout, which (though I’m definitely not rich) is called a “rich man’s disease” because during the Middle Ages only rich men were able to afford meat, which is a main source of the purines that causes uric acid.

I remember my first gout attack quite well, unfortunately…

It was during a weekend in February, 2010: A typical weekend for me in that I spent Saturday playing pick-up softball, then after coming home eating my dinner, doing my laundry, and watching TV.

Not what you would call exciting stuff by any means.

Except the next morning I woke up with what felt like roughly a dozen razors sawing through the side of my right toe, which only grew to a pronounced level that night as I tried to sleep, which of course I couldn’t as I found myself yelling in pain.

I thought that I had broken a bone from playing softball until my brother found out what I had on the internet.

While I was glad for the knowledge, it didn’t help with the pain until I went to the doctor a few days later – my foot encased in a walking boot due to the swelling that precluded my from wearing regular shoes (not that I didn’t try as I had some Nike trainers that were destroyed by attempting to wear them) – and got some medication.

Which helped pretty much right away as within a few days the swelling went down, the pain went away and I was able to ditch the walking boot.

I had realized that it was eating turkey, a main staple of my diet, that was the root of my painful gout condition; for the next few months I made it a point to severely limit my turkey intake until one day in July, soon after the 4th.

My family and I had grilled turkey burgers, and I made the poor judgement of eating too many.

That’s when the intense, barbed-wire level pain came back, this time on the side of my left toe. The doctor prescribed pills for me again and I fortunately got through that gout pain all right.

In fact, a couple of months later, when a friend of mine told me about how cherry juice alleviates gout pain, I thought I had found the answer; a way to continue to enjoy turkey and not feel left out on Thanksgiving Day without depending on pills for the rest of my life.

I quickly became a cherry juice-oholic as it indeed proved to be effective in preventing my gout from flaring up. I just made sure to not only drink the stuff with meals in which I ate turkey, but also on a regular basis for prevention.

It worked for four years – until this past weekend at my cousin’s party.

I had even brought my own bottle of 100% black cherry juice, knowing that turkey burgers were going to be the featured staple at this shin-dig, and drank up the majority of the bottle after I ate my four burgers.

Which unfortunately didn’t work as the next day the feelings of razors trying to cut into my right toes and upper foot were back; apparently there were too much purines and uric acid for the cherry juice to offset.

Luckily the pain hasn’t been as bad as my other two gout attacks thanks to swigging cherry juice, but my right foot still looks like I had borrowed it from the Michelin Man.


So…I reckon you’re saying right about now: What’s the moral of this story?

It’s not an elaborate one, basically to take care of yourself and to try and not make errors in judgement as far as your health.


As such, I need to stay the heck away from eating that particular bird for the next few weeks, most likely until Thanksgiving.

If I do that, I should be able to avoid the lack of sleep coming from the gout pain and swelling in my foot.




The source of my gout condition…