Thursday, March 31, 2011

Overcoming Food Addiction

Once upon a time, the photo on the left would have been the way I would have handled a stressful day.  Ice cream eaten right out of the carton (because I was going to finish it anyway!), a couple of cookies, and/or a bag of candy. 

I had lunch with a friend yesterday who lamented that she had tried every diet and could not lose weight.  But she then confessed to me that she could not resist ordering french fries when she took her children to fast food places.  She just loves french fries!  And my heart went out to her.  I used to be in the exact same boat - dipping my super-sized McDonald's fries into a large vanilla shake whenever I ordered my boys' Happy Meals.
I think that what it took for me to realize that these types of foods had absolutely no place in my diet was the trickle-down affect associated with consuming them.   Exercising no control over what I ate led me to lack control in other areas in my life, as well.   Suffice it to say that, if you went down the list of the 10 commandments, there were about 4 of them that I struggled with badly, including "you should have no other gods before me."  When it came down to it, I worshipped food.    And the more unhealthy it was, the more I wanted it! 

We talk about addiction to cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs.  And there are rehab centers and programs to help people conquer them.  But for the biggest addiction we face in our society, we offer processed meals in little boxes, pills that promise to burn off fat, and lopsided diets that eliminate entire food groups.  What ultimately worked for me was a self-imposed, divinely-inspired version of the highly successful 12-Step Program originated by Alcoholics Anonymous.   And I didn't even know it at the time!  If you know anything about the Program, and you've been reading my Blog posts, you can probably see why I would say that. 

The first step is to admit that you have an addiction and you can not control it.  Step 2 is recognizing that there is a higher power that can give you strength to conquer your addiction.  Maybe there are 12 step programs out there for food addicts.  But if there are, I have not heard of them.  Tomorrow, I will share with you how God pretty much led me through an inspired version of the "12 Steps"  as a way to kick my addiction to sugar, salt, and fatty foods. 

Until then, happy and healthy eating!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Game Cancelled - Good Intentions Ruined...

A little bit of rain usually does not result in cancellation of a High School baseball game, even when the thermostat reads 36 degrees Fahrenheit.  The fans shiver under layers of coats and blankets, and the boys field and hit with any layering done under their uniforms.  But tonight the boys were sent home and the game moved to Saturday afternoon.   Ooops!  

Why "Ooops"?  Well, even though I love night baseball, what I don't love anymore are the meals at Fast Food Central that follow the game.  I have had one too many Fresco Bean Burritos and am even tired of Popeye's Red Beans 'n Rice.  So I  developed a plan.  It's called "Huge Healthy Game-Day Lunches".  Today, I had some Baba Ganouj (love that stuff!)  with 3 small whole-grain pita's and a wrap filled with Hummus and Tabouleh.  And I washed it all down with a glass of lemonade.  It was wonderful (o.k. - so I didn't quite finish the wrap), and probably contained about 950 calories in total.  I ate it all late in the day (finished eating close to 2:00), so I was substantially done eating for the day.  I had planned to have a non-fat chai and a fiber bar after the game.  But since it was cancelled, my family expected a homemade Lenten dinner, and I did not disappoint them.  Problem is that I ate it, too.  So, add this to the oatmeal I had for breakfast, and total calories for the day were close to 2,000.  And it was a low-exercise day (too cold to walk the trails - just popped in a CD and did some impromptu dancing).  You know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men...

The recipe for tonight's dinner was sent to me by a good friend and it was delicious!  It was Better-N-Beef Bourguignon.  It is good enough to pass along, so here goes:
4-6 seitan medallions OR 4-6 Portobello mushrooms
6 sliced carrots
1 lg. onion, sliced
1 bottle dry red wine
1 cup vegetable broth
1 garlic clove, minced
1-2 Bay leaves
1 T. cornstarch (to thicken broth)
salt & pepper (to taste)
fresh parsley (for garnish(
Directions:  Saute seitan or mushrooms in a small amount of oil for 2-3 minutes on each side, then remove from pan; add garlic and saute 2 minutes.  Add wine and broth, carrots, onion, and Bay leaves and bring to a boil.  Simmer for 30 minutes with lid half on so wine mixture reduces a bit.  Add seitan (or mushrooms) to vegetables and simmer with lid on for another 30 minutes.  Remove seitan and shrooms and place on a serving plate.  Mix cornstarch with 1 T. water, add to veggie mixture, stirring well to thicken.  Pour sauce over seitan (or mushrooms).  Sprinkle with parsley and serve over noodles.

I hope you will try this recipe.  I made it with Portobello mushrooms tonight, which I cut into thirds because they were huge.  I plan to try it with seitan next time.  Until we meet again, happy and healthy eating!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Starvation Diet

No, this is not something I am promoting, but after reading the March 28, 2011 article in the Wall Street Journal, "The Starvation Vacation", I had a revelation.  People fork over $5,600 to spend a week at a Malibu, California ranch to exercise 6+ hours and eat less than 1,500 calories per day.  The diet is Vegan except for an occasional egg for breakfast (kind of like the diet I hope to maintain after Lent.  Well, except for the desserts and red wine that I allow myself now and then...).   The meals are actually prepared by a renowned chef, but are described as "small", "teensy" and  "toy-sized", and include a lentil cake on a disc of spinach, and an artichoke with fava bean puree.  As a pick-me-up during a strenuous hike, campers are allowed 3 almonds and 2 cashews to keep them going,   The author of the article who was obviously a participant, did a tremendous job of walking the reader through the initial frustration, anger, and obvious hunger she experienced.  But it was the way she ended it that provided the impetus for this Blog post. 
After a week of strenuous exercise and fasting, she had lost over 6 pounds and a few inches off her waist and lower quads.  Moreover, she found that the food cravings she had experienced the first few days had vanished and that, instead,  she craved exercise.  Even though she was an avowed carnivore, her first meal after returning home was not the hamburger she had been dreaming of, but sushi.  She did not want to ruin what she had accomplished.  

I have often mentioned that eating healthy requires ridding oneself of old habits and re-accustoming one's palate to new foods.  And exercise is something you just have to get out there and do.  At first you are forcing yourself, but after a while, like the author of the Wall Street Journal article, you begin to crave it.  The people who go to this Malibu ranch pay $5,600 to have someone help them to change their eating habits and to get them moving.  For me, it took a serious illness.  What will it take for you to make the changes necessary to give your body what it needs to function at its best?

I am not advocating 6 hours of exercise a day with only 1,100 to 1,500 calories to supplement it.  6 and 1/2 pounds is, frankly, too much to lose in one week.  Without strict supervision, such a "diet" could have deleterious side-affects.  Duirng the first hike, several of the campers were vomiting because their blood sugar was too low.  But I like the idea of kick-starting healthy eating and exercise with a friend or a group of friends.  See my earlier posts on how many calories you should consume for your age and activity level, and establish a goal for yourself.  If you want to maintain your weight but need to exercise more, adjust your diet accordingly.  If your goal is to lose weight, remember that a 500-calorie a day reduction should equal a loss of a pound a week.  If you increase your activity level as well, the calories do not have to be reduced as much. 

I have attached the link to the article at the bottom of this Blog.  If it does not inspire you to at least try to make some healthy changes to your lifestyle, it will make for some very entertaining reading.   

Until next time, happy and healthy eating!

Monday, March 28, 2011

What's The Skinny On Breakfast?

Breakfast.  Some people feel it is the most important meal of the day and really make the most of it with eggs, meat, toast, and potatoes.  Some start their day with cereal.  Others grab a cup of coffee or two.   And still others - many others - skip it altogether.

Skipping breakfast is not a good idea.  After a 12 hour or so fast, the body needs nutrients to function optimally as it faces the demands of the new day. But should breakfast be high in protein (i.e., eggs)?  Or high in soluble fiber (oatmeal)?  Is a shake made with some type of milk, a banana, and yogurt a good way to start the day?  In Japan, breakfast often consists of miso soup and rice.  Is this healthy?  For American children, it is a sweetened, but highly fortified cereal.  What's up with that?

The truth is, all of the above examples have some merit.  If you are an athlete (or are as active as one), eggs can make sense.  For the child who would otherwise skip this meal, a fortified cereal with some type of milk is just fine.  The American palate may cringe at the thought of miso soup, but it contains soy protein and is easy on one's stomach.  Oatmeal with some kind of fruit (banana, blueberries, or dates) is my personal favorite because of its cholesterol-lowering qualities.  But all the other examples have had their place in my life at one time or another.  As long as it is balanced, like the protein shake with skim, rice, or soy milk, your favorite yogurt, and 1/2 of a frozen banana, even a "liquid" breakfast can be good for you.

The truth is, we know our bodies and what it is that they are craving after the night's fast.  As I said before, on most mornings I eat some form of oatmeal, generally with fruit.  But there are certain mornings when I crave protein and, on those days, I'll make an egg-white omellette with low-fat cheese and some vegetables in it.  On the side I'll have a slice of whole grain toast. 

If you have high or borderline cholesterol, oatmeal really is your best choice for breakfast.   And it doesn't have to be monotonous.  You can have old-fashioned oats with brown sugar and raisins; steel cut oats; oats with wheat germ and sliced banana on top; and even baked oatmeal.   If you are in a hurry, or are someone who prefers cold cereals, a high protein, high-fiber one like the Go Lean cereals by Kashi are outstanding.  But whatever your situation, the important thing is to start your day with breakfast.  Studies have shown that people who skip this all-important meal tend to actually eat more throughout the day, and later in the day when the calories are harder to burn off. 

So...that's the skinny on breakfast!  Until next time, happy and healthy eating!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Just A Dusting (with A Date Coconut Cake To Celebrate)

The forecast went from 1-3 inches, to 1 inch of snow for last night and this morning.  And this is what we got (see photo on left).  It's what we call a "dusting".  And you can see why.  Just looking at it makes me hungry for a nice chocolate cake with that sprinkling of powdered sugar on top.  It's kind of pretty and the daffodils weren't even phased by it.  By noon it was completely gone.  And, as much as I love snow, I am so glad.  We have a big game tomorrow night against what will more than likely be our toughest opponent.  Of course I am referring to my son's baseball team.  I love March Madness and was thrilled to see VCU make it to the Final Four, but my spring sport is and (hopefully) always will be baseball.  Preparing to satisfy the other side of my brain, my other son is at an all-day play rehearsal for Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat, which opens next month.  What, you may ask, does this have to do with Nutrition?   Not much.  But on a beautiful day like today, do you really want to hear about GMO's?  They're in the news again and are very much on my mind. 

I did make an absolutely delicious cake today.  In the December 2008 issue of Cooking Light magazine (see photo and link on the right) is a recipe for Sticky Date and Coconut Cake and it is goo-ood!  Substitute the butter with a vegan margarine, the egg for Egg Replacer Powder, and the 2 teaspoons milk for plain soy milk and you keep it Lenten/Vegan and you lose nothing in overall flavor.  

Dinner tonight was Indian food.  We had Potato Pea Curry and Masoor Dal (one of the recipes I include in my "Bean" Blog post) served over basmati rice with a bit of saffron. 

I do hope you have enjoyed your weekend.  Until next time, happy and healthy eating!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Spiritual Food

I've had a rough time focusing on the spiritual aspects of Lent this year.  I'm ashamed to say that I got side-tracked, distracted, and bogged down with various issues, worries, and concerns.  It's not the first time that has happened either.  But it's the first time that one night - one wonderful evening of fellowship - could help get me back on track, especially after having sunk as low as I had.  I mean, I have been worried sick (no pun intended) about my health, the problems in Japan (we have relatives in Fukushima Prefecture), and my youngest son's baseball fundraiser (I completely lack the "selling" gene).   

We had a guest speaker at our church tonight - a wonderful man of God named Peter Gilquist, who spent several years seeking for the  church that he could call home.  His journey from his days in Campus Crusade to the Orthodox Christian faith was enlightening, sometimes humorous, and always quite riveting.  With over half the fast left, it was the incentive I needed to refocus, and re-evaluate my priorities.

Between our Vespers service and Fr. Gilquist's testimony, we all enjoyed a Lenten meal provided by the members of our parish.  Of course everything was Vegan (except the shrimp) and it was perfectly delicious in it simplicity.  We had shrimp with cocktail sauce, homemade hummus with pitas, stuffed grape leaves in a lemon sauce, tempenade with TLC crackers, guacamole with tortilla chips, bowls of fruit, and a chickpea and pepper salad.  I didn't have any dessert, but it looked so good - more than likely provided by "My Vegan Baker", whose link is in the right column of this Blog.  Anyway, tonight's spread gave me ideas for those nights when we've either had a big lunch or just want to munch on some finger food while watching the final 4 duke it out during March Madness.  Hope you all stay warm during this rather cold weekend (snow is still in our forecast for tomorrow!).

Until next time, happy and healthy eating!

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Bears In Our Lives

We all have what I have come to call "bears" in our lives.   Just like we all have our ball field - the place we go where we are able to forget all our worries and pain.  This past summer while my husband and I were hiking in the Shenandoah, a bear suddenly appeared on the narrow, rocky path in front of us.  I foolishly made eye contact with it and then, even more foolishly, ran.  No, the bear did not come after me, but I ended up in the Emergency Room of the local hospital anyway.  I sprained my ankle, tore a tendon, and bruised some bones because, in trying to run on a steep, rocky trail,  I tripped and fell.  As for my husband, he did what you are "supposed" to do - kept his eye on the bear and slowly backed away.   I love to hike, but the thought of hitting one of my favorite Shenandoah trails again turns my insides to ice.  
Why, you may wonder, am I talking about this now?  On this Blog?

Well, I feel like we all have that "bear" in our lives that keeps us from stepping outside of our comfort zone when it comes to food, too.  It is completely irrational for me to be afraid of bears.   Realistically, the chance of running across another one on one of our hikes is probably close to nil.  But I know I will have a hard time the first few times my husband and I hit those trails.  And, frankly,  a lot of what we choose to eat or not eat is just about as rational as my fear of running across another bear.  

I spoke to a friend today who said she was making dinner for a friend of hers who could not stop picking at the cheese she had grated for the recipe.  He thought it was the best thing he had had in a long time.  But as soon as she told him that the secret ingredient in it was horseradish, he would no longer touch it.  He hated horseradish!  The Vegetarian Moussaka I made the other night was a huge hit with all my guys until I told them that the ingredient that looked and almost tasted like meat was bulghur wheat.  My youngest son could barely finish it after that.  And I can't get him near my favorite Vegan restaurant.  He knows that everything on their menu that looks like meat is either seitan, tofu, or tempeh and he just can't stomach that.  And I know he is not alone.  People have irrational fears of eating things that are "new" or, God forbid, healthy!  

Especially (but definitely not exclusively) for my Orthodox friends who still have almost 30 days left of the Lenten fast, I challenge you to face that bear on your trail and try those recipes that are just outside of your comfort zone.  You may find, like I did some 10 or so years ago, that fish and scallops can be incredible, tofu surprisingly good, and things like seitan and bulghur wheat, delicious, if prepared properly.  Some of you have been sharing recipes with me that fall into these categories and I thank you.   I do have a request - a few years back someone made a tofu and broccoli quiche that was outstanding.  For the life of me, I can not find the recipe.  Nor can I remember who gave it to me.  If you have this recipe, please pass it on to me!  I can't wait to make it, not tell my guys what is in it, watch them "ooh and aah",  then pass it on to the rest of you!

Until next time, happy and healthy eating to you all!



Thursday, March 24, 2011

Beans: Protein, Fiber, And Then Some...

Beans.  They may not lead you to the goose that lays the golden eggs, but they are actually quite magical in their own way.  They are the only food that belongs to two food groups on the New Food Pyramid - the "meat and bean" group and "vegetables".  With their low glycemic index and soluble fiber content, they help regulate blood sugar, so they are good for diabetics.  They also help prevent high cholesterol in much the same way that oatmeal does.  And they are excellent sources of both protein and fiber, containing, on average, about 15 grams of each per cup. 

I talk a lot about what I cook for dinner in my Blog posts, but rarely mention what I eat for lunch.  If any of you have had lunch at my house (like my scrapping buddy who now lives in Italy), you will know that beans are often on the menu.  One of my favorites is from a cookbook called "CalciYum" and is called "Liverless Liver Pate".  I make a batch on Monday, buy some whole wheat pitas from Wegmans, and enjoy them for lunch throughout the week.  The recipe calls for 1 large, diced carrot, 1 can drained and rinsed black beans, 2 T. water, 1 T. canola oil, 1 c. finely chopped onion, and 1/4 t. salt.  You boil the carrots until soft.  Then in a food processor, puree the beans and water until it forms a paste.  Add carrots and process until blended.  In a nonstick skillet, heat oil and cook onion until soft and browned.  Stir in salt and bean mixture and cook 3 minutes or until heated through.  Cool,  then refrigerate until ready to serve.  I actually warm the mixture just a bit in the microwave before serving.  I eat a few Tablespoons as a dip with a pita and have some fruit on the side for a healthy and satisfying lunch.

Another easy way to enjoy beans for lunch is to heat up a can of Fat Free refried beans, spread about a third of it on a warmed whole grain tortilla, and add some Daiya Vegan cheddar (or regular cheddar, if you prefer), and roll it up into a burrito.  I also like boiling some Edemame in the pods, sprinkling them with kosher salt and munching on them.  A cup of Edemame, by the way, has 20 grams of protein! 

If I have the time, I will also make a nice Dal and have it through the week with some Naan.  (Dals are made with lentils and are easy to make, but need to cook for an hour or two.  My favorite uses the type of lentils pictured above, 4-5 cups of water, 1 t. salt, and 1/2 t. turmeric.  You cook all the ingredients for about an hour and a half.  Then heat 1 t. oil in a small pan, add 1/2 t. cumin seeds, fry for a few seconds and add to Dal.  Add 1 t. lemon juice, stir, and it's done!). 

Well, now there is "possible snow" in the forecast for Sunday.  We shall see....
Until next time, enjoy the sunshine and happy and healthy eating!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Nice Way To Usher In Spring

I just looked at our forecast for the next week and noticed that they are calling for a chance of snow showers next Tuesday and Wednesday.  Considering that today was over 60 degrees, I find that somewhat shocking.  Didn't the groundhog predict that we would have an early spring?  I thought his powers of prognostication were infallible. Oh well...

Tonight was a really nice evening.  My son's High School choirs performed their Spring Concert.  And it was beautiful.  Especially two songs I had never heard of before called "Earth Song" by Frank Ticheli and "Tell The Earth To Shake" by Gwyneth Walker that the Chambers singers sang. It may have had something to do with the fact that my oldest son is in Chambers.  But the entire concert was incredible.  I felt very peaceful by the end of it.    Both sides of my brain have been wonderfully satisfied this week.  

As for supper, tonight I made a delicious old stand by - Asparagus Pasta.  It is very easy and everyone I've cooked it for has truly enjoyed it.  Here's how to make it:
Wash, snap tough ends off, and cut fresh asparagus spears into 2-inch pieces.  Set aside.  Mince 2 teaspoons of garlic (or use the jarred variety - it works just as well).  Set aside some salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, a little green Tobasco sauce, margarine (or butter), olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. 
Boil a large pot of water and add a pound of penne pasta (I use Barilla enriched in the yellow box), cooking it until it is al dente.  Meanwhile, melt 2 T. margarine or butter, and 1 T. olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic, 2 drops of green Tobasco, and 1/4 t. crushed red pepper; cook until garlic begins to turn golden.  Add asparagus, saute until almost tender (about 8 minutes) and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Add 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and allow it to just melt over the top. 
After pasta is done, drain and put it back into the pot.  Add asparagus mixture, mix well, and serve.  Add more Parmesan to each serving to taste.  Very easy!

Well, here's hoping you are having a happy spring - so far!   Until next time, happy and healthy eating!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Something To Celebrate

Another night on the ball field with beautiful weather and a win for the Home team (us).  I do love this time of year. 

Things are starting to bloom out there and, before we know it, we will be enjoying fresh produce and cooking Pasta Primavera, Pappardelle with fresh spinach, and a Greek favorite - Tourlou Tourlou (seasonal roasted vegetables with tomatoe sauce and olive oil). 

I'm really psyched because we have joined a CSA this year - Community Supported Agriculture (or ownership in a local farm, with receipt of a box of "whatever is growing" each week) .  It looks like CSA's are gaining popularity.  In my latest issue of Healthy Cooking magazine, there is a nice article on them, complete with recipes for the early crop produce most of us should be receiving in just over a month or so.  According to the article, there are around 2,500 of them (that they know of) nation-wide.  Once we start receiving our produce, I will cook from the box each week and share with you the meals we come up with.  It'll be a challenge, but a pretty fun one that I have been eagerly awaiting.  We were actually on the waiting list for our CSA, but found out we got in at the end of January. 

Besides my son's baseball win, I am also celebrating some good news today health-wise.  All the body parts that have been scanned so far show no signs of cancer. We still have the dreaded liver left, but that won't be for another month or so and, even though it does hurt quite a bit, it's no different than it's been in the past.  I truly believe it is merely my "solar system" expanding its territory.  It kind of provides a visual for the Big Bang theory...  What we did discover is that my most annoying symptoms are due to a spasming aorta.  Now, is that bizzare or what?  So, we are celebrating.  Anything that is not cancer is worthy of a celebration over here.  Thank you so much for your prayers.  I can't tell you how much I appreciate them.  It always made my day to see a Facebook comment to one of my posts that ended with a prayer for my health. 

Food-wise, tonight was another Taco Bell Fresco Bean Burrito night.  I actually like them - they have no cheese, but are loaded with beans and mini chopped veggies.  I put a little of the green chile and roasted pepper sauce on them and create a fast-food treat. 

Last night our dinner was much healthier than tonight's drive-through meal.  I made a vegetarian Moussaka, with Greek green beans cooked in a tomato-based sauce.  We all thought it was delicious, but it was a lot of work.  From start to finish, it took me over 2 hours to make and, sadly, I rarely have that kind of time for meal preparation these days.  But, if you do have the time, it is worth trying.  The link for the recipe is in the right column.  It was from the March 2011 issue of Cooking Light magazine.  It is not a non-dairy recipe, but we do eat dairy sporadically through the Lenten period since there are too many foods that are commonly eaten during the fast that my son and I are allergic to. 

Hope you are enjoying the beginning of what I pray will be a beautiful spring.  Until next time, Happy and healthy eating!

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Song For An Unsung Hero

Thank you for being who you are. 
A silent hero, a distant star,
whose light, though not perceived by most,
 is worthy of a mother's boast.
A poet I have never been. 
But to say nothing, well, that would be a sin.

I apologize for the inadequacy of the poem, but I dedicate this post to my oldest son.  For being the type of person whose actions speak louder than words.  For seeing a need and responding to it.  And for going back again today, only to come home with plans to organize more people to try to help him finish what he has started.   Not a little thing for a High School senior taking 5+ AP courses while rehearsing for a play that opens the end of next month!  As it is, he gets maybe 4 hours of sleep a night - on a good night.  But I know the joy and fulfillment he feels in doing what he's doing.   And I recognize the force that is guiding him.  Be it far from me to interfere...

This instance is not by far the first time he has given of himself because he could not just ignore a person in need and walk away.  This has become a pattern for him.  But this instance of kindness has especially touched me because it is not an easy task, as well as because of the complete selflessness behind it.  He is not getting service hours for it or class credit.  He is not even doing it as part of a youth group he belongs to.  As I said, he just saw a need and could not walk away. 

What a very lucky mother I am to be blessed with a son like you!   Both you and your brother are my biggest joys.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude that God has put you in my life.  With sons like you, I can handle whatever obstacles life throws my way.  You are both examples of all that is good in this world.  And you both never cease to amaze me. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Tapeworm Diet - This Is Unreal!

A while back, I did a post on something called "The Vampire Diet".  It was fun and light-hearted and some of us actually tried it for a day.  No, you do not drink blood - it's basically a "red food only" diet.  And many of you thought it was about the wierdest diet out there.  But, tonight I thought I would enlighten you on some of the poorest excuses for a diet ever conceived of.  After yesterday's post, I felt we all deserved something a bit lighter.

The second worst weight-loss diet I have heard of was conceived by England’s William the Conqueror in the year 1087.  He had apparently grown too large for his horse, so he locked himself indoors where he substituted food for alcohol in a desperate attempt to lose weight. The diet actually worked, but mankind never got a chance to see the long-term affects of it since he ironically died of complications due to a fall from his horse later that same year!  Substituting food for alcohol?  Isn't that the definition of severe alcoholism?  And the guy had a country to run!  Sad to say, but no wonder he fell off his horse...

"Eat, eat, eat and always stay thin – or so claims a promotional poster for The Tapeworm Diet"  (See note below) This one gets my vote for the most unhealthy, disgusting, and desparate attempt to lose weight ever conceived by man.  "All" you had to do to kick off this diet was swallow a worm-laced pill and watch as the worm dined off your food. (That's a picture of one in the top left-hand corner).  "Besides the obvious ick factor associated with eating a worm, (not to mention the bloating, nausea, and diarrhea which came with their presence), there was a very real danger that the worms could lay eggs in other tissues, such as the nervous system, which could cause seizures, dementia and meningitis. Thankfully, this terrible diet has died out… or has it? Although the worm in question – the taenia saginata cysticercus – cannot be legally purchased or transported in the United States, there are several internet sites available to teach you how to become infected with the worms."  (IBID)  

History gives us the reason behind King William's weight-loss program.  But what could possibly have been the thought process behind eating tapeworms to lose weight?  Behind actually advertising and marketing the "product"?  I saw an episode of "1,000 Ways To Die" with my son that featured a young woman who died a horrible death after attempting this diet.  It's the story from that very starnge show that stuck with me the most.

I know that it is not easy to change one's eating habits.  Any habit is hard to break.  But there are some wonderful people out there who have put a lot of effort into publications that provide options that make the transition from unhealthy to healthy eating relatively easy.  Without them, I could have never lost the weight I needed to and kept it off.  I have mentioned Cooking Light and Healthy Cooking magazines and have links to them both in the right column of my Blog.  Not everyone has the time to cook a complicated meal every night, but these magazines contain "super fast" or "meals in minutes" segments, too.  They also contain tips for  packing healthy lunches and snacks for work.  And if you find you have to eat out, the book "Eat This, Don't Eat That, Restaurant Guide" is a good one to keep on hand.    The great thing about all these resources is that, in time, you learn the calorie and other counts for most common foods and it becomes easier to just "know" what to eat.  Plus, when you get into the habit of eating healthy, you actually begin to develop a distaste for the unhealthy foods you may have once craved. 

We can recoil in shock at the tapeworm diet or question the judgment of someone who would actually replace all food with alcohol.   But continually overeating, or eating a very unbalanced diet, will have its repercussions as well.  It's never too late to make a positive change - especially one you can live with.

Until next time, happy and healthy eating!

(Note:  Information on the tapeworm diet obtained from Mark', "Top 10 Craziest Diet Fads")

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Do You Believe in Miracles? I Do...

I just read a book called "The Giver" - a short, thought-provoking, post-apocolyptic novel that takes place in a distant future the likes of which I pray will never take place here.  In the society in which the story takes place, people take a drug each day that essentially protects them from feeling things too deeply.  Consequently, there is no guilt, remorse, regret, or emotional pain whatsoever.  Unfortunately, there is no love, desire, or real joy either.  The author did a lovely job of convincing the reader in the beginning of the story that it was all done for the best.  Of course as the book moves along, the protagonist discovers feelings and realizes that even pain is better than feeling nothing at all.  A nice story.  But maybe there is a middle-ground that healthy people should live in to protect themselves from feeling too deeply - a place that I am no longer familiar with.  One of you out there accused me yesterday of not being grateful that I have a life that allows me to have worries about (things like) "healthy eating."   To that, I say "You never, never could be more wrong."

I asked you if it offended you when I spoke of my faith.  And I pray with all my heart that it does not because I am going to share something very difficult with you right now - provided you are still out there.  The reader of this Blog who called herself "confused" was right when she said that I have battled cancer.  I have had it 3 times.  The first time was over 9 years ago and it was a living hell.  I did not do well on the chemo drugs I was given at all - my vomiting could not be controlled so I tore my esophagus, throwing up blood, but still having to go through 2 more treatments in spite of it.  My white blood cells plummeted, making me so susceptible to  infections that I got them simply by drinking tap water, something that still plagues me now, as the cells have never returned to normal.  The 3rd time was 2 and 1/2 years ago and was a breeze compared to the first time.  I "only" needed surgery and 4 weeks of radiation.  But the 2nd time - well, that was the time I should have died. 

Shortly after I finished chemotherapy, I began experiencing acute pain under my right rib.  I thought maybe my surgeon had broken it during my "big" surgery.  But instead of taped-up ribs, I received a biology lesson - I learned that the liver runs under that area.  And that I had a tumor growing where I felt the pain.  After many tests, including a biopsy, it was determined that the growth was benign and that I would just have to learn to put up with the pain, which I did.  But about 4 years ago, I began to feel pain toward the middle of my chest, especially when I lifted my arms over my head.  In fact, it hurt so badly with a strong pulling type of pressure that, even though I vowed I would never do it again,  I went back to see my surgeon.  This time the news was not good.  After scanning the growth, which was about 2 by 3 cms., I was told, "I'm sorry.  The cancer has spread to your liver (the dome of it, as it turned out).  I am ordering a full-body PET scan to see where else it has spread."  We knew that my body would never be able to undergo chemotherapy again.  I was what they called a  "poor performer" on it.  So, essentially, I had just received a death sentence and I knew it. 

My husband and I held each other and cried, and then immediately called our priest for prayer.  Now here's where a series of miracles began to unfold.  I actually do not feel led to share the details with you - they take the glory away from God, who did the actual healing.  But when it was said and done, after the full body PET scan, not only was there no cancer anywhere else in my body, but the cancer on the dome of my liver was gone as well!  When I went for my next liver scan 3 months later, the radiologist told the poor technician to "find that tumor!"  I told her she would not be able to and explained what had happened.  The radiologist became insistent and then angry, finally concluding that it must have been someone else's scans that the doctor had mistakenly thought were mine 3 months earlier - in other words, there never was a cancer in my liver but in some other poor person's whose films had been mixed up with mine.  But here's the real cool part.  I always wondered why I had to suffer the pain of the benign one under my ribs, which by that time looked like a small solar system - a sun with a lot of little stars around it.  The technician scanned the area under my rib and there, of course, it was.  Then the previous scan with the cancer on the dome was pulled out  - and the sun and solar system were there, too!  There was no mistaking we were looking at the same body.  And no mistaking that a miracle had indeed occurred.

Between the time that I had the initial scan and the results of the full body PET scan came in, several weeks had passed and I was preparing for my death.  I went to a very good Christian counselor who was helping me to come to terms with it.  I cried to him that I could leave this world, my dear friends, and even my "wonderful" husband.  I knew they would be fine.  But I could not bear to leave my boys without a mother.  He told me that, unfortunately, mothers do die and that the children manage to turn out just fine.  This was the hardest thing for me to deal with - I could not accept it.  I selfishly wanted to watch them grow - to keep watching them play ball and sing, to graduate high school, and if I was really lucky, to see them both go off to college and get settled into their careers.  He was right of course - mothers do die.  So what right did I have to live?  

I don't know exactly why God chose to heal me.  (I have an idea and will share it with you another time).  But when He did, I awoke, so to speak, with new eyes.  Everything about the world around me seemed different than it had before.  And it became impossible to take anything in this life for granted.  Will I die someday?  Of course.  Could it be soon?  Sure.   What, you may ask,  are some of the things that changed for me since God gave me a second chance? 

In case you have not figured it out, I  am not shy about sharing my faith.  I know without a doubt that there is a God and have been blessed to have been a party to several other "miracles" since the big one nearly 4 years ago.  (I have shared some with you already).  I have learned not to judge anyone and never to assume anyone is "right" or "wrong" with God.  Only God knows a person's heart.  And I started this Blog, where if you read the posts in order (and skip the political or whimsical ones if you choose), you have all the information you need to know to figure out how much you should weigh for your bone structure, how many calories you should consume each day to maintain, lose, or gain weight; what you should eat for optimum health, etc.  It's something I wanted to share with you.  I am a Nutrition Counselor who used to work at an awesome clinic but it did not survive the current recession.   

The hardest part of experiencing a miracle healing, to be honest, is that I sometimes feel survivor's remorse - guilt that I am here while so many others whom I have watched battle cancer, including my loving brother, are not.   What are the ramifications of having been saved from death?  Besides all the other things I have shared with you in here, I sometimes feel people's pain more than I know is normal.  But it's all good - it helps me to know how to pray for them.   It's part of what I have become.  You can't go through something like I did and not change.   

So, when you say that I am not grateful for my life, I am truly sorry that I have given you that impression.  I am grateful for every breath I take and know that every day is a gift.  I will try to keep my politics to myself (they are born out of an almost crushing passion), but, as for my faith, it just might appear in my posts every now and then.  Can't help that...

Friday, March 18, 2011

If You Build It, He Will Come

"Field of Dreams" - I love that movie!  And I get it - I mean, I really "get it".  There is something about the smell of the grass, the loud ping that is heard when bat connects with ball, the growing tension of watching your team's pitcher wind up for a pitch (that's my son on the left) and the warmth of relief when he "hits his spot".   I love the game - always have, always will. 

Today was a stressful day for me - am waiting for a big test result.  Called the office once and it wasn't "ready" yet.  What does that mean exactly?  Either the results are there or they are not.  How do they make themselves ready?  Arrrgh!  So the day ends, a weekend begins, and I'm still in limbo.  And I'd be a total wreck too, if it wasn't for baseball. 

Ever since I started this nightmare over 9 years ago, my son has been playing travel, and now High School, baseball.  And even on my worst days, when I am sitting on a ball field, I forget the pain, I push away thoughts of any tests or procedures, and just bask in the aura of the hits, runs, strikes, and double-plays.  I think that, in this roller-coaster-ride of a world in which we live, we all need our "baseball field" - the place where we can go and forget all of life's worries.  God has been very good to me.  He gave my son a talent and me, a love of the game.  (My other passion, by the way, is music, especially musical theater, and yes, my other son sings like an angel and will be performing in less than 2 months.  But that's another story for another post).  As I said, in the midst of all the turmoil, God is there - in the big things and the small.

Diet-wise, today was interesting.  I had my steel cut oats for breakfast (am convinced that's why my cholesterol is perfect even though high cholesterol runs in my family), had leftover veggie curry for lunch, and, well, had to grab something quick after a 6:00 game and before picking up the boys from the school.  So, a trip to Fast Food Central and 2 Fresco Burritos later.... Could have been worse!   BTW, the boys won their first season game 12 - 2.  And it was a gorgeous night for baseball.

Until next time, happy and healthy eating!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Chocolate Cake with Beets? Non-Dairy Cheese? It's All Good!

Since I got back on track with the fast, I have not felt as weighed down by things, and I feel in charge of my life again.  It feels great.  But I have to confess - I still feel the need for some comfort food now and then.  Especially as I wait for the verdict from my various doctors. At times like this, I especially crave chocolate.   Well, thanks to a good freind, I discovered a completely Vegan chocolate cake - with a very yummy frosting - that is moist and surprisingly good (yup - that's an actual photo of a slice of it on the left).  What I especially like about it is that it contains almost 2 cups of pureed beets!  A  guilt-free indulgence if I've ever seen one.  The way I see it is, if I eat a huge slab of this cake, I am probably getting a full serving of beets!  At the bottom of my Blog page, you will find the links for both the cake and the frosting.  I made the cake in a 9"x13" pan and it was perfect after baking for 35 minutes.  I hope that those of you who are fasting off of meat and dairy this Lent will give this cake a try.  (Note that the chocolate frosting is a must to get the full benefit of how good Vegan chocolate desserts can be).

I had mentioned a while back that I have some bean burger recipes that my family and I enjoy.  I made one tonight that is a favorite.  It is made with chickpeas (or garbanzo beans).  And I substituted the 1 egg it called for with Energ G Egg Replacer powder, which can be found at Wegman's or Whole Foods.  On the side I served scalloped potatoes - another family favorite.  Only this time I substituted the cheese the recipe calls for with a shredded Vegan cheddar made by a company called Daiya.  It is made with things like tapioca or arrowroot powder, and pea protein.  I did use non-fat milk in the recipe.  If I used both soy milk and non-dairy cheese and it came out funky, I would not be able to tell which ingredient was to blame.  As for the cheese, it was not bad!  It was also pretty good melted on top of the bean burgers (usually I use fat-free American cheese slices in the recipe).  It tasted surprisingly like real cheddar cheese.  Check the link on the right hand column under the description of them  for the recipes.

Until next time, happy and healthy eating!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

It All Comes Full Circle

I just finished reading Of Human Bondage, by Somerset Maugham.  At one point in this rather depressing but well-crafted novel, the protagonist discovers that the main reason people commit suicide is not because of unrequited love, but because of financial ruin.  And it is no secret that the financial impact of the tragedy in Japan  is what has much of the world gritting its proverbial teeth these days.

We all know that big business essentially runs this country and drives its decisions and policies.  I'm sure the same holds true for much of Western civilization.  A healthy economy means a healthy nation.   

Nuclear electrical generation (or nuclear energy) is cheap.  And because of that, it provides 75% of France's power, 30% of Japan's, and 20% of U.S.'s power alone.  155 nuclear power plants are planned for the future, with 320 more proposed worldwide.    And the potential instability of the product does not seem to be a factor in determining where these reactors are built.  I don't know what the thought process is behind where they are placed, but they are extremely economical compared to other energy sources and, thus, are the power source of the future.

So, living in Capitalist societies whose very structures will collapse if their currencies do, we have to accept the fact that decisions will often be made that do not have the individuals' best interests in mind.  We put small farmers out of business so that food, the product that sustains human life, can be controlled by "big business", keeping the profits from these commodities in the able hands of those who will then recirculate said profits, keeping the market stable and the economy alive.

Is it any wonder that the Bible says that you can not serve 2 masters?  That you either serve God or money?  Think about it - if we let our conscience drive us and made decisions that we knew were morally right,  we would not have cut down the rain forests, or have allowed small farms to be destroyed, replacing them by mega-companies, eventually leading to things like Monsanto's genetically modified crops and foods.  And we would not have chosen nuclear power over more expensive but much safer natural gas or standard electrical power.  We would also not take 100's of thousands of jobs from American workers and transfer them to offshore locations where labor is cheap and working-conditions questionable.   But this is the world we live in - even in a country that was once "one nation under God". 

So what do we do?  Individually we can still make the right choices.  We can support local farmers by buying produce from farmer's markets or joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  Or buy organic produce when it is available.  Send the message out to the big guys that we won't let them control what we put into our bodies.  If our county has plans to replace our standard power facility with a nuclear power plant, fight the decision by protesting and writing our congressmen, who do care about being re-elected.  And, last but not least, pray.  Pray that our leaders will use wisdom in deciding our fate and the fate of our children.  Pray that they will learn from others' mistakes and will make decisions that are "right and good".  It's easy to sit around and get angry at your elected officials.  It takes effort - emotionally - to sincerely pray for them.  It also helps if we exercise self-control. 

Recall the words of the early 4th century aesthetic, John Cassian.  He warns that if we have eaten too much, we are unable to guard our thoughts.  We have a hard time keeping our restless impulses at bay, or restraining our minds from shameful fantasies (from 2/28 post "Words to Live By").  Neilos the Ascetic, the 5th century monk, took it one step further: "Gluttony", he said, "destroys everything good.  Once it gains the upper hand, it drives out self-control, moderation, courage, fortitude, and all the other virtues". 

So, we have come full-circle.  We need to take control of our lives by choosing what is good and right for us and our loved ones.  We need to exercise self-control and consume in moderation.  And, remember, prayer is always the best medicine for whatever ails us, our family, or the world at large.  God bless you all until we meet again!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Another Sleeping Giant Has Awakened

After Japan dropped bombs on Pearl Harbor 70 years ago, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, whose idea it had been to issue the suprise attack, exclaimed, "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant."   His words are especially chilling in light of  the way the "giant" ended the war almost 4 years later.  The atomic bombs that were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima did untold damage to the people of Japan.  In fact, in all the wars the world has seen since then, no one has used such a weapon again.   Now, eerily, the Japanese people face another nuclear attack - this one from devices created by their own hands.  I believe that 30% of Japan's power is nuclear.  And, at this moment, several of the reactors are in danger of spewing their unwitting payload over its innocent populace.  This is coming at a time when most of those people who were exposed to the first nuclear onslaught are either dead or very old.  A report issued yesterday by the Associated Press on the subject said:

"Radiation is spewing from damaged reactors at a crippled nuclear power plant in tsunami-ravaged northeastern Japan in a dramatic escalation of the 4-day-old catastrophe. The prime minister has warned residents to stay inside or risk getting radiation sickness.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Tuesday that a fourth reactor at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex was on fire and that more radiation was released
Prime Minister Naoto Kan warned that there are dangers of more leaks and told people living within 19 miles (30 kilometers) of the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex (to) stay indoors."    SOMA, Japan

Today's headline reads "Japan Braces for Potential Radiation Catastrophe" and halfway through the article one sentence stands alone:  "WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON".  Buried in the text of the release is a reference to increased risk of thyroid and bone cancer...

How absolutely terrifying for people whose direct ancestors knew first-hand what radiation sickness is like to wait and wonder if they will be next.  Yes, another sleeping giant is waking.  And I find myself feeling angry.  Angry because, why are nuclear power plants built on lands that are known to be highly susceptible to earthquakes?  California has 2 of them and both are near fault lines - Diablo Canyon and San Onofre.  In a state that has sunshine over 300 days of the year, couldn't anyone think of a less threatening power source to supplement the shortage of electricity? 

We know the terrible effects of radiation poisoning - first from Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and then from Chernobyl.  Yet we keep tempting the fates.  Nuclear devices are very sensitive and do not belong on unsteady ground.   We know that underneath the seemingly calm surface of this planet, there is an interior that is active and can often be quite violent.   Have we forgotten Indonesia - 2004?   Over 230,000 people died in that quake!  And places like Japan and California have had their share of earthquakes through the years.  Nuclear power is relatively cheap, but is it worth the cost of lives when something goes awry?  As will inevitably happen with anything that man creates, "if it can happen, it will".   

In a land that knows how damaging nuclear radiation is, and that has had more than its share of natural disasters related to its precarious geography, I am just so very frustrated and sad at what I see transpiring there now.  Do people never learn?  Or is saving money with cheap energy worth more than human lives?  When the death toll rolls in down the road, will people say, "Oh, nuclear power is safe!  Only ------ people died in Japan when their reactors leaked"?   When it comes to human lives, there should be no "only".  I have to think that the thought process behind building these plants in places like Japan and California is, "sure, something can potentially happen, but the benefits far outweigh the risks.  Maybe a couple hundred people will die if we have a leak - a thousand or so if we actually have a melt-down.  But that's not so bad in the scheme of things - not when you see how many homes and offices are powered by just one plant!".   I hate that kind of thinking.   What if those hundred people are your family and friends?  It's the same kind of thinking that leads people to abort babies because it would be inconvenient to go through with the pregnancies.

Sleeping giants.  I'm afraid they are everywhere.  When we have no respect for the precise and delicate balance of the elements that comprise this planet, and even less respect for the value of human life, when the bottom line matters more than the individual, there will be giants.  We will give aid to Japan and help dispose of its dead, feed its people, give them water, and rebuild their cities.  But we won't learn.  Our governments have lost the ability to care enough to learn....

Monday, March 14, 2011

What If The Sun Didn't Rise?

I used to live in California.  With its long beaches, mountains, extremely fertile farmland, and consistently moderate temperature, some have labeled it as one of the best places to live.  It's a virtual paradise.  But this same state does not have enough water or electricity to satisfy the needs of its people.  Moreover, a large part of it rests on a fault-line.  People have joked about it falling into the ocean should "the big one hit" for years.   Having lived in a place where tremors were so commonplace that one didn't even pause when they occurred, I see the tragedy that has fallen upon Japan and shudder.  My heart aches as I see the tangled mass of cars, homes, and buildings.

Have any of us here in America considered what it would be like if one day the sun did not rise for us?  There are those who fear that, once the reactors have finished doing what they are doing and the dust settles, there will essentially be little left of that once-beautiful country in the Orient that the world knew as The Land of The Rising Sun.   Looking at Japan, I realize that nothing is certain.  One week ago, who would have ever thought?....

The earthquake and resulting tsunami, in and of themselves, were terrible and frightening.  But I think Japan could have risen from those ashes.   However, exploding nuclear reactors?....My husband believes that melting reactors are not as dangerous as the press makes them out to be.  I hope he's right.  I'm sure that the world has installed a lot more safeguards since Chernobyl.  But in my gut, I still don't feel good at all about them.   I just read this in a news story released today by the Associated Press:

"Officials were clearly struggling to keep ahead of the crisis and prevent a worst case scenario: a complete reactor meltdown.
In that case, the uranium core melts through the outer containment shell, releasing a wave of radiation and resulting in major, widespread health problems."

Like I said, I don't feel good at all about problems with nuclear reactors.  And I must ask, do such things belong in lands where the earth beneath them is unstable, shifting, and alive with activity? 

As if flooded and decimated cities and melting reactors are not enough, today we found out that there is a terrible shortage of drinking water in Japan.  People are waiting in line for 2 hours to get some!  There is so much we take for granted - can you imagine not having water to drink?  It makes me thirsty just to think of it!  My husband is half Japanese and still has relatives who live in Japan.  Until this morning, his uncle did not know if his family, who lives in the Fukushima Prefecture where a lot of the damage took place, were even alive.  He was working in Tokyo when the quake hit.   The next few days will be critical for Japan.  We all need to pray for a miracle.  You know that I believe in them - with all my heart.

On a happier note, tonight I made my youngest son's favorite fish recipe - apricot-glazed salmon over herbed rice.  On the side, I served mashed cauliflower and multi-grain bread.  And for dessert,  I made "Can't Be Beet Cake".  It's a chocolate frosted cake that, you guessed it, has pureed beets in it. It is completely Vegan and was surprisingly delicious.  The fish recipe is in the right column of this Blog.  It is so delicious that when I first got the recipe, I used to make it every Sunday night.

I do hope all is well with you and yours.  Until we meet again, happy and healthy eating!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Secret to Long Life

I had a lovely conversation with a woman who will be 100 years old on her next birthday.  She is in good health,  and looks about 30 years younger than she is.  I asked her what her secret was and she said "Peace".  And then she proceeded to elaborate. 

She was married 58 years to a wonderful man who she swears never once raised his voice at her, belittled her, or criticized her.  Put simply, he adored her and she always knew it.  We talked some more and I discovered that this beautiful, vibrant 99-year-old woman has also made just about all of her own clothes - really nice, well-coordinated outfits!  And, sometime in the 1980's, she began to paint - in earnest.  I mean, her art is really good!  I don't know how many paintings she has done, but I saw several of them hanging on the walls of her daughter's home.  Her sense of composition, choice of colors, and design were incredible.  I thought about her creative energies and realized that she had not changed subjects on me when she began to describe her "hobbies".  They, too, are another source of peace in her life.  Sewing and painting are both rather labor-intensive activities, yet there is a joyous calm that comes with completing such tasks. 

And I began to examine my own life.  I, too, am lucky to have a husband who loves me.  But what about those creative energies that God has bestowed upon us.  Am I using mine?  I used to scrap a lot, but now I see the huge pile of photos and documents sitting under my oldest son's album and realize that I am so far behind that the thought of it makes me cringe.  I suppose this Blog is creative in its own way.  I can't display the contents of it on my living room wall or anything, but it's creative nonetheless.  As I said sometime back, stress is a killer.  And my (almost) 100-year old friend made me realize that getting your creative juices flowing is an excellent stress-reliever.

 After talking with my 99-year old friend whose "peacefulness" was found in both the adoration of her spouse, and sewing and painting, I realized that peace, whether it is experienced through the assurance of love or realized through utilizing one's creative energies, is indeed powerful medicine.  Something to think about.....

Today was one of those days where I ate most of my meals out -went to church, to my son's house league championship basketball game (they lost but it was a great game!), and then did some shopping with my husband.  I had a nonfat chai before the game,  and a Mediterranean veggie sandwich and an apple at Panerra afterwards.  Later, I snacked on some tea, crackers, and edemame at home.  Not a great day diet-wise, but not bad either.  Will make one of our favorite salmon recipes tomorrow evening.  Until then, happy and healthy eating!

Saturday, March 12, 2011


My youngest son shared an inspiring story with me the other day.  He said that one night while his brother was driving him home from school, traffic was very bad on the major road that runs through our community.  And over by the wooded section of it, 2 deer appeared in the road right in front of their car.  He said that he instinctively issued up a prayer....and suddenly the deer were gone.  Just like that.  He did not see them go back into the woods and they did not cross the road (where they would have encountered vehicles coming the other way).  They simply were no longer there.  My youngest son has come to expect things like that to happen.  He has been a witness to  "miracles" before - in particular, things that have happened to his mother...  Many or most people would, sadly, chalk up such incidences as nothing more than coincidence or they would try to find a "logical" explanation for it.  They would say that surely the deer ducked back into the woods and that my son just didn't see it happen.  These are some of the same people who believe that either there is no God or, if He does exist, He doesn't care about the day-to-day goings-ons of His "subjects" here on earth.  To these people I pose a simple question:  Do you care about the day-to-day goings-ons of your children?  I know that I do!

If my son has a rough day on the ball field or is struggling with a subject at school, I feel his frustration deep down inside.  When my other son reaches a tough spot in a relationship, I feel his anxiety and it is actually painful.  Someone recently told me that a mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child.  This is so true.  And how many of us, when we see our child suffering or struggling with something - especially something we might be able to help them with, just sit back and say, "Oh well, it will pass..." and offer no comfort, support, or aid?
I have come to see God as my Father in every sense of the word.  He cares about the littlest things in my and my children's lives, and has, more than once, done unexplained things (i.e, miracles) to help us in our struggles here on earth.    I have shared a few with you in previous posts - God waking me up to get my son's form printed and signed for the William & Mary deadline that day; and the night He calmed a severe attack of tachycardia so that I could go back to sleep. 

In your lives, I am sure there were times when the unexplained has occurred and that, when it did, it usually saved you some grief, helped you out of a tight squeeze, or out-and-out healed you (body, mind, or soul).  I bet if you sat down and thought about it, you could come up with a list of such events that you may have chalked up to coincidence, but that, for at least a moment, made you stop and wonder if there wasn't something more to it.   Just a thought....

Anyway, tonight I made a tofu and vegetable curry that I served over Japanese rice (which I made in our rice cooker).  We all enjoyed it, with my older son (who said he wasn't hungry before he sat down to eat) having seconds  This is one of those recipes where the tofu picks up the flavor in the sauce and doesn't taste like tofu.  I pan-fry it first before adding it to the curry.  The curry I used comes in a box that you can find in the Oriental section of most supermarkets.  It is called S&B Golden Curry and I bought the "mild" flavor.  I make it the way it says on the back of the box, but I use vegetable broth instead of water.   And after sauteing the onion, I add peeled and diced potatoes, carrots, and apples.  I add the pan-fried tofu when I add the curry mix.  We top each serving with shredded coconut and raisins.  See photo in right column.  Hope you'll try it!

Until next time, happy and healthy eating and may God bless you all!


Friday, March 11, 2011

It's Time To Examine Ourselves: What Do You Believe In?

Clarity.  I don't think we can achieve it - not perfectly - not in this lifetime.  But those small glimpses we have of it can be life changing.    We live in a fog most of our lives and don't even know it.  For instance, we are aware of the fact that this life is fleeting, yet we live it as if that were not the case.  And we are in denial of anything that proves that there is something beyond, outside of, or surrounding this reality in which we currently exist.

People speak of having felt the presence of a loved one who has passed from this life.  For some it was a hint of perfume, for others an unexplained touch, and every now and then, the presence of a full-body apparition.   We hear these stories and we brush them aside.  I hear them and they give me hope.  Hope that when my time comes, I will still be aware of those I have left behind.  That the realm in which I will exist will not be removed from, but surrounding that in which my children and their children will be "living".  I don't believe that heaven is above us.  But it is a "step up" in terms of our spiritual development.  Thus we look upwards.  And hell is beneath us only in the sense that, to end up in that state, we have taken a fall from where we are now.   I have heard people say that they believe this is hell.  And I've never understood that.  I guess I am lucky.  When I look outside of myself, I see so much beauty.   

At the risk of sounding trite, I am in awe of roses, cardinals, butterflies (in spite of what they eat), sunsets, forests, oceans, and the beautiful children and friends God has given me.  They all blow me away in their beauty and I enjoy being around them.  I love what we have done with the creative energies God has given us.  A beautiful piece of music can bring tears to my eyes, as can an inspiring painting, or work of architecture.  I think it's when we look inward for too long that we begin to miss the beauty that surrounds us and, consequently, get that glimpse of what hell may, in fact, be like.   I have heard it said that hell is "merely" being separated from God.  And I guess that makes sense.  Since we are made in His image, are full of His creative energies, love because He first loved us, then, yes, take that all away, and existence would be terrible, empty, and cold. 

Along those lines, I have never understood how someone who did not believe in God could make it through a crisis.  How lonely and sad to believe that we are as powerful, as creative, and as loving a "being" as can possibly be.  And that this life is as good as it gets. 

I have so many reasons why I believe in God.  To list them would keep me up for a week and bore you all to death.  But, in the next several weeks, during this time of reflection that we call Lent, I will share with you some of them, in hopes that, if you are one of those who thinks that "this is as good as it gets and that this is all there is", then I can introduce you to a different way of seeing things.  And for those of you who already believe, I hope to encourage you and remind you of how awesome our God is and how lucky we are to be His.

Tonight my wonderful husband took me out to dinner.  We went to Nora again - the Lebanese restaurant that I am so fond of.  And we tried some of their non-meat, non-dairy items and really enjoyed the meal.  The appetizers consisted of stuffed grape leaves and baba ganouj.  For my main dish I got a hummus and tabouleh pita.  Yum.....Eating out, keeping the fast, and keeping it healthy is not too difficult. 

Until next time, happy and healthy eating!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Advice From A Vegan Baker Extraordinaire!

Lent is now upon us, whether we are Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant.  It's a wonderful time to take control of your life, beginning with your prayer time and, tied in with that, your diet.  (See previous post "Words to Live By"). 
A good friend of mine is a Vegan baker - translation, "no animal products whatsoever go into her baked goods".  And they are wonderful!  Please check out the link to her website on the right column of this Blog.  She is "My Vegan Baker".  I have tried many of her products, from a chocolate cake that was one of the best I had, to cupcakes that were moist and delicious, to brownies, lemon and apricot bars that my sons devoured in about 10 minutes.  Her name is Kristin and she has provided an egg replacement (and butter)guide for you all, which not only removes the animal products from your baked goods, but adds something healthy and nutritious in their place.

Egg and Dairy Replacement Guide - Baking the Vegan Way:

1.)  Flaxseeds -  a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids.  Either sold whole seed or ground.  You can grind the seeds in a coffee grinder.  Store both in freezer.  For each egg, use 2 T. ground flaxseed with 3 T. water.  Whisk either by hand or in blender until think and creamy.  Use in pancakes, banana breads, bran muffins, whole grain items, etc, as flax has an earthy, nutty taste.  Can be found at some supermarkets, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods.

2.)  Silken Tofu - 1/4 c. blended silken tofu = 1 egg.  Whip it in your blender or food processor until smooth and creamy with no chunks.  You can add the rest of your wet ingredients to this.  Use in brownies, dense and moist cakes.  No taste.  Found at Whole Foods, many supermarkets (often in produce section).  Look for vacuum-packed boxes.  These are shelf-stable, too.  I mostly use the firm silken tofu.

3.)  Egg Replacer Powder - Lasts a long time in your pantry.  Ener-G Egg Replacer:  mix 1 and 1/2 t. powder with 2 T. water.  Beat thoroughly in blender or food processor to make it thick and creamy.  Use in cookies, some cakes.  Found at Whole Foods, Wegmans, and some other markets (often in the ethnic food or baking sections).

4.)  Bananas - Great binding ingredient plus you get potassium and magnesium.  Use in muffins, pancakes, breads, cakes.  Don't use where you don't want banana flavor.  Half a mashed banana = 1-2 eggs.

5.)  Applesauce - Binding agent like bananas.  Good substitute for oil or eggs.  1/4 c. unsweetened applesauce = 1 egg, and 1/4 c. applesauce = 1/4 c. oil.  Provides moisture and binding you need.  Use in cakes, brownies, muffins, quick breads.

6.)  Soy Yogurt - 1/4 c. = 1 egg.  Much like silken tofu.  Makes things moist.  Use in muffins, quick breads, cakes.  Found at Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, some supermarkets.  Examples are Silk brand or WholeSoy and Co. 

7.)  Buttermilk - Add 1 t. apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to milk substitute and let sit for a few minutes to curdle.

8.)  Butter - Earth Balance comes in tub or stick form.  The flavor is amazing!  Use as you would butter in a recipe.  Found at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's.

I encourage you to use some of Kristin's suggestions (above).  I have, and found that they do not interfere with the integrity of the recipe whatsoever.  And, in many cases, the recipe tastes even better than the original. 
Until next time, happy and healthy eating!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Back on Track Again

I have grown into someone I never thought I would be.  I like things to be ordered and predictable.  I don't like surprises and am no longer very spontaneous.  When I make up my mind to do something and then mess it up or can't follow through on it, I get frustrated with myself.  I'm a whole heap of fun, aren't I?

This Lent, partly because I have not felt well, and partly because I am incredibly busy with my boys' activities, I have had a rough time sticking to the fast.  I mean, I had a chicken sandwich at Chik-Fil-A the other night!  I could have had their carrot-raisin slaw - size large - but that just didn't sound good after a 9-hour fast. 

Well, as of today, I have gotten back on track and, with God's help, I am determined to stay there.  Check out the recipe for tonight's dinner - Linguine with White Clam and Broccoli Sauce.  (Right column of my Blog)It was surprisingly delicious!  Lunch was wonderful - ate at Sunflower Vegetarian restaurant with a good friend and had their Curry Supreme.  Breakfast was steel cut oats and a banana. 

Got some good news today - all blood work was normal, except for a low white blood cell count (has been that way since I finished chemotherapy almost 9 years ago, so it's no big deal).   Here's hoping the good ol' doctors can keep the "good news" trend going!

Well, that's all for tonight.  Tomorrow I will introduce you to a wonderful friend who has perfected Vegan cooking and baking!  I really look forward to utilizing her wisdom in this area and know that you will be inspired by her as well.  Until then, happy and healthy eating!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

About Forgiveness...

To err is human.  To forgive is divine.  It sounds cliche, but there is wisdom in those words.  Besides being the last day we eat dairy for a while, this past Sunday was what we call "Forgiveness Sunday."  In some Orthodox churches, every person asks forgiveness of every other person in the church.  It works like this:  one person goes to the front of the church and then each person files by until there is a long line of people from which the very last person asks forgivness.  In our current church, we only approach those whom we feel we may have offended.  From a purely logical point of view, the latter seems to make more sense.  However, we are often so blind to the consequences of our actions that I fear we more than likely offend more people than we think we do.

So, since I did not make it to church this past Sunday, in this post I would like to attempt to purge myself of some of the guilt associated with the wrongdoings I know I have committed this year. 

If I have said anything that has hurt you, it is because I spoke without thinking and I'm sorry.  I never would want to intentionally hurt anyone.  There is enough pain inherent with living in this world without my adding to it by means of an unbridled tongue. 

If I have done anything that has upset, offended, or irritated you, I pray that I will be more sensitive to your feelings so that it will not happen again, and sincerely ask your forgiveness. 

This includes my family, friends, and even my blog-readers whom I have not had the privilege of meeting face-to-face.    

Eating-wise, today was a disaster for me.  I had a good enough breakfast - steel cut oats with a bit of raw sugar and some tea.  But the day plummetted after that.  I ran some errands and grabbed a nonfat chai from Starbucks (still not too bad, but certainly not a proper lunch).  But dinner is where I really blew it.  I went to a parents' baseball meeting at the High School that I thought would end no later than 8:00, after which I planned to eat some Chinese vegetables at my favorite local restaurant.  Instead, because I got out of the meeting closer to 9:15 and was starving, I ate the easiest thing I could get my hands on -  a Chik Fil A sandwich and some lemonade.  This is a classic example of putting a bad day behind you and getting back on track again tomorrow, which I will - I promise.  Ahhh...That other thing they say is true too, you know:  confession is indeed good for the soul.

Happy and healthy eating to you all!