Monday, May 30, 2011

Now The Banquets Begin

My son's first year of Varsity baseball ended today with a disappointing 10 to 1 loss against undefeated South County High School.  No more games.  No more practices.  No more face buried in a scorebook keeping track of hits, runs, and outs.  My oldest son sang in his final high school concert last week.  For him, 4 years of performances have come to an end.   But we can not completely close the book on these activities - not yet.  Now, for both baseball and chorus, we have the "banquets."  Banquets where slide shows will attempt to summarize a year's worth of memories, where those who have performed especially well will be recognized, and where dinners will be served to satisfy today's varying palates.  I don't know what the menu will be for the baseball banquet yet, but for chorus it will be a choice between meat lasagna, vegetarian lasagna, and a chicken dish.  Something for everyone.  I like that...

At least for the next few weeks, when travel baseball will begin, most of our meals will be home-cooked once again.  I look forward to that.  I like the quality control and the maintaining of balance in our diet.  Also, this Thursday we will be receiving our first installment from our farm.  I CAN NOT WAIT!!  Tonight I am tired - it was close to 100 degrees on the ball field where our boys fought their last proverbial battle of the season.  I bid you all good night and, until next time, happy and healthy eating!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Insecticide - Use With Caution!

I just read an article that was published in the Health section of the Washington Post this past Monday, the 23rd of May, about a woman who became seriously ill after being exposed to a flea spray.  Apparently her cat was suffering from a severe infestation and she decided to hire a company to spray the house for fleas.  She was told to stay away from the place for a few hours until the product "dried", but came home to find small puddles of the stuff on her floor.  She was not told to open windows, cover fruit on her counter, or put away dishes or cups she might use.  By the next day, she was so dizzy she could not walk a straight line and soon developed such horrible symptoms that her doctor thought she might have MS.  Research led her to discover that the flea spray was the culprit.  Months later, she is now finally fine.  But her story, coupled with the fact that my current pet peeve is pesticides on produce, inspired me to elaborate on the topic.

The above can of Raid Ant and Roach Spray is something I absolutely hated to bring into my home.  But one day last week, I awoke to find a stream of ants coming from my front door, down the short hall past our guest bathroom and into my kitchen - ending, of all places, under my washing machine.  I tried in vain to mop them up with wet paper towels, but they kept coming back.  So I grabbed the Raid that was in our garage.  First I opened every window in our house, then put all exposed food away, and made absolutely sure that I sprayed only a very thin stream that did not pool up anywhere.  The result?  No more ants and no one became ill from the spraying.  I have to mention, that for me, that is extremely unusual.  Like the poor woman in the story, every other time I have been around any insecticide, I have gotten headaches, nausea, tremors, and then some.  I am not advocating the use of Raid or any other such product.  In fact, on the contrary, if you know of any natural ways to get rid of ant invasions, please let me know.  I have tried bay leaves and they work great when it comes to keeping stray ants out of cupboards, etc.  But they do nothing to stave off a stream of them that have invaded our home.  I also did not like the suggestion that one reader of the Washington Post article gave that involved putting teaspoons of sugar around the outside base of the house.    If you have to use insecticides such as Raid, please use them safely.  In the meantime, I am wide open to suggestions.  Insecticides, after all,  are just pesticides times 10.  By the way, I love it when you all send me links to articles like the one that inspired this post.  Thank you!

For my faithful readers (i.e, anyone who is reading this entire post), I am including a photo of my poor son after his final High School Chorus Concert last night.  I went to hug him to congratulate him on a lovely performance and my shoulder bag accidentally swung into him, hitting him in a most unfortunate place.  For those of you who know him, you will know why this was especially sad at this time and why he hit the floor in pain.  I tried to take another photo of him a bit later and he refused to look at the camera.  I guess that even shoulder bags need to be "used with caution!".   Be careful this weekend and God bless!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Soy - To Eat or Not To Eat? That is the Question...

The above soy products are staples in my diet.  I start my morning with either oatmeal or a high-fiber cold cereal and use soy milk in both of them.  Tofu replaces meats in several of my curries and stir-fries on fasting days or during Lent.  And edemame is a favorite countertop snack.  Still, I may have one cup of soy milk per day, tofu about once a week, and edemame once a week at the most.  Recently, however, soy has been receiving some bad press.  Apparently, consuming large quantities of it can adversely affect people with a tendency for thyroid disorders.  And there is some controversy about it possibly affecting a young woman's future fertility.  These are frightening claims.  But I have to ask - how much soy do you have to consume to have it affect your thyroid or to adversely impact fertility?  I believe that just about anything, taken in excess, will eventually "turn" on you.   

As a breast cancer survivor, I have had to make an educated decision regarding keeping soy in my diet.  First I was told to eat copious amounts of it to stave off cancer since soy blocks (or confuses) estrogen receptors.  Then I read that, because soy is a weak form of estrogen, women with a tendency for breast cancer should avoid it.  So I did some research. 

I found that there are good and bad estrogens.  When too many strong, bad, or chemical, estrogens reach estrogen receptors in our bodies, the potential for cancerous growth arises.  Chemical estrogens actually take the exact shape needed to be the key that fills an estrogen receptor and are found in things like PCB's and other pesticides that are sprayed on fruits and vegetables, among other things.  (Can you understand my obsession with organic produce?)  Weak estrogens, such as those found in soy products, do not fit into the receptor and, thus, block it, keeping other estrogens out. 

Recently a study was released that once again confirmed the benefits of soy consumption for breast cancer survivors.  It said, "Women consuming the most soy products have a lower risk of breast cancer recurrence, according to a recent study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Researchers tracked soy isoflavones consumed by 524 women with breast cancer. Postmenopausal women who ate more than 42.3 milligrams of soy isoflavones daily had a 33 percent decreased risk of recurrence, compared with women who ate less than 15.2 milligrams per day. Sources of soy isoflavones included soymilk, tofu, and edamame. Eight ounces of soymilk contains roughly 20 milligrams of soy isoflavones.  The study resonates with findings from a 2009 Journal of the American Medical Association study, showing that women previously treated for breast cancer have less risk of recurrence or death if they include soy products in their routine."   (from - Winter 2011)

I guess the question you need to ask yourself is, what category do I fit into?  Are you a breast cancer survivor or someone with a history of the disease running through your family?  And, how much soy is enough for breast cancer benefits and too much if thyroid issues are in your cards?    The 42.3 milligrams of soy isoflavones referred to in the above study can be satisfied with just a little over 2 eight-ounce glasses of soy milk per day.  A serving of tofu has about 23 milligrams per serving, and the actual soybeans (or edemame) are loaded with them (over 100 milligrams).   Because a lot of our soy is now genetically-engineered, I prefer to buy organic soy products and recommend others do the same.

I hope this has helped to demystify soy for you.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.  That's what I'm here for.  Until next time, happy and healthy eating!

P.S.  Check out the photo and recipe for Egg-Free Apple Cake (in column at right)...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Greek Festivals Are Notorious for Their Delicious Food

If you have a Greek Church in your community, then there is an excellent chance that a Greek Festival is in your forecast.  We are fortunate to have 4 Greek Orthodox churches within 25 miles of our home and one of them had their festival today.  It is technically a mission church - The Greek Orthodox Church of Loudoun County - but the menu was extensive and the food delectable.

Two of my carnivores ordered Gyros and the third had a chicken souvlaki (or chicken shish-ka-bob marinated only as a good Greek knows how to marinate meat).  In both cases, the meat was wrapped within a fresh pita and smothered in an outstanding tzaziki sauce (a mixture of yogurt, garlic, and cucumber). 

I had what was called the Mezze (or appetizer) platter.  It consisted of my absolute favorite Greek food - taramosalata (or Greek caviar).  Taramosalata is red caviar whipped with potatoes, garlic, and other flavorings to make a light spreadable snack that is a true taste treat on fresh pita slices.  My platter also had a small piece of Spanakopita (or spinach and feta wrapped in filo dough) and a Tiropita (Greek cheeses wrapped in filo).   To top it off, my "meal" had 3 kalamata olives, a small dolma (stuffed grape leaf) and a wedge of feta.  On the side, as a sort of salad, were a few cucumber slices and some of their outstanding tzaziki sauce. 

Of course, no Greek festival experience is complete without dessert.  The baklava was baked just right - not too much syrup and just enough walnuts - plus the slices were quite generous.  But their best dessert, in my humble opinion, was their galoktobouriko (a creamy custard baked in flaky layers of filo).  I have had good galoktobouriko and "eh?" galoktobouriko.  This one was probably the best I have ever had.  If you are reading my blog post and know who made it, please let me know! 

Greek festivals are run by friendly people who really know how to cook.  Servings are notoriously generous and prices are reasonable.  Unfortunately, the Loudoun County one ended today, but for a very special meal made by dedicated cooks, be on the lookout for a Greek Festival near you.  Tis the season.....

Until next time, happy and healthy eating!!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Once Again, Putting Things in Perspective

A friend of mine sent me an article about a 108 year old Oregon woman who attibutes her long and very healthy life to two things:  1.) her faith in God, and 2.)  Her vegan diet.   Regarding her faith, she says she lives her life as God told her to and then added, "It is all in the Bible."  I like that. No matter what your religion, there is a lot of common sense advice in there, like "do not worry about your life...Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"  (Matthew 6: 25-27).  And "do not judge or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged." (Matthew 7: 1-2).   In the Old Testament, The Proverbs are full of life's wisdom.  Right off the bat in Proverbs 1, Solomon tells us to listen to our father's instruction and to not forsake our mother's teaching.  I like that one a lot...Along with "Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you" (9:8), but that's another story for another day. 

As for her diet, this amazingly sprite 108 year old claims she has been a Vegan since 1922, eating 2 meals a day and walking 15 minutes every two hours.  It's funny, but as of late, I have found that I, too, function better on 2 meals a day (with a healthy snack when I need the energy), and walking has been "my thing" for the past several years.  So many of you have told me that you do not find time to "exercise".  But walking is easy and, in 15-minute intervals throughout the day, it is difficult to find excuses not to do it.   I felt encouraged when I read this woman's story - what she said rang true to me and made a lot of sense.  I don't like to separate the Spiritual part of my life from the physical.  I have found that, for me, the two are, and should always be, intertwined.  I truly believe that we are made in the image of God, and are filled with His Spirit, consequently, we should respect our bodies and feed them with wholesome, healthy food that will not weigh us down, hype us up, or clog up our arteries.  And stay active - however you are able to.  My years have taught me that eating well, staying active, and heeding the advice contained in the "Good Book", like trying not to worry, seeing the best in people, and honoring the wisdom of our elders, does a person a world of good. 

I hope you are having a great week.  Until next time, happy and healthy eating!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


You are what you eat.  Or so the saying goes.  And since what we eat is literally incorporated into our bodies so they can run properly, the age-old saying is pretty accurate in its simplicity.   We want to make sure we get the vitamins and nutrients we need for optimum health, so we try to eat a varied diet.   We know that we should eat up to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day because they contain anti-oxidants, they are rich in vitamins, and contain fiber.  The problem is that, often, our healthiest foods have been tainted by, among other things, pesticides.
Pesticides used on food include:
insecticides to control insects, rodenticides to control rodents, herbicides to control weeds, fungicides to control mold and fungus, and antimicrobials to control bacteria. 
Several dozen pesticides have been banned in America, or their use restricted by the EPA.  But these pesticides are still being exported to assist developing countries, where it is estimated that three million acute cases of pesticide poisoning occur per year.  And now, because many of these same countries export produce back to the United States, the possibility of American contamination from once-banned chemicals is, once again, high.  (From

According to information obtained from, "by eating some of the most-contaminated fruits and vegetables, you and your children can be exposed to about 15 different pesticides a day, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a not-for-profit environmental research organization. No one knows for sure what impacts these chemicals that are, by their very nature, designed to kill, will have on your health.
Fortunately, by avoiding the most-contaminated produce out there, and concentrating on the least contaminated instead, you can reduce your exposure to pesticides by almost 90 percent, EWG says".

The 20 Fruits and Vegetables With the MOST Pesticides that you should try to buy organic, if possible, are:
  1. Peaches
  2. Apples
  3. Sweet Bell Peppers
  4. Celery
  5. Nectarines
  6. Strawberries
  7. Cherries
  8. Pears
  9. Grapes (Imported)
  10. Spinach
  11. Lettuce
  12. Potatoes
  13. Carrots
  14. Green Beans
  15. Hot Peppers
  16. Cucumbers
  17. Raspberries
  18. Plums
  19. Grapes (Domestic)
  20. Oranges

(Note:  If you can not buy the organic varieties of the above items, peel them when you can, remove the outer leaves of greens, and wash them well, preferably in a mixture of water with lemon juice or vinegar, or use a reputable vegetable spray or "wash".)

  • The 20 Fruits and Vegetables With the LEAST Amount of Pesticides are:

    1. Onion
    2. Avocado
    3. Sweet corn (Frozen)
    4. Pineapples
    5. Mango
    6. Asparagus
    7. Sweet peas (Frozen)
    8. Kiwi
    9. Bananas
    10. Cabbage
    11. Broccoli
    12. Papaya
    13. Blueberries
    14. Cauliflower
    15. Winter Squash
    16. Watermelon
    17. Sweet potatoes
    18. Tomatoes
    19. Honeydew melon
    20. Cantaloupe

  • (Above lists of produce are from website)

    "In a joint study conducted by scientists from the CDC (Center for Disease Control), the University of Washington and Emory University, researchers found that pesticide levels in test subjects dropped to undetectable levels upon switching to an organic diet. When the subjects switched back to a non-organic diet, pesticide residues almost immediately became detectable". (From Sustainable Table website)

    In the near future, at a minimum, I hope to see the same standards applied to fruits and vegetables that we import from other countries that we have established here.   Ideally, it would be nice if all pesticide use could be banned here (in America) as well.  I have included this post because, personally, I have become extremely sensitive to pesticides on my produce.   Especially when it comes to non-organic strawberries and grapes, I have suffered a range of symptoms from stomach distress, to headaches, to a bad case of  the jitters.  Whether or not you, too, have experienced any of these symptoms, my hope is that this information will help you to be able to enjoy your "up to 9" servings of fruits and vegetables a day as healthfully as possible.  Until next time, happy and healthy eating!


    Sunday, May 15, 2011

    Start Them When They're Young!

    I had lunch with some friends today and somehow our conversation turned to the subject of vegetables.  O.K., so I just happened to mention the CSA we joined this year.  But, hey!  Admit it - vegetables can make for some interesting conversation.  We discussed those vegetables that tend to be unpopular, such as kale, Brussels sprouts, and spinach and I found that one of my friends and I honestly like them.  Why?  Because we were both served them when we were young - served them and ate them.  Yeah, we probably were not crazy about them the first time or two or three that we had them.  But our parents were persistent and insistent.  Not eating our vegetables was not an option.  Now,  -- years later, we both really like these (and just about all other) vegetables.  My point here?  Start them when they're young and your children will develop a taste for the healthiest foods.  Yes, you have to eat them, too.  But as you begin to develop a taste for what you think you do not like, keep telling yourself, "this is good for me, this is real good for me, and it is great for my kids".  Plus, there are delicious ways to prepare all seemingly distasteful vegetables.  Spinach is amazing in Spanakopita; stewed with rice, vegetable broth and tomato sauce; or baked into ready-made pizza crust with cheese and sauteed scallions.  Kale is good with white beans, and Brussels sprouts are nice with Parmesan and butter or margarine.  My lunch-time friend said that all 3 taste great with vinegar and seasonings. 

    I think of my friend who is a Vegan and whose 2 year old son loves all greens and just about every other vegetable out there.  When I had lunch with the two of them, I was blown away by what this adorable little boy ate.  Why, you may be wondering, do I have a picture of my son as a 3 year old on this post?  Well, it's because he was allergic to most "popular" foods at that age and ate with gusto what he could - including most vegetables.  To this day, even though he can now eat almost anything, I am hard-pressed to find any food that he won't eat or that he does not like.   (Healthy) food for thought.....

    Can't wait until we start getting those vegetable boxes later this month!   I plan to dazzle my family with the recipes I will make with whatever should happen to be found in them each week.  Until next time, happy and healthy eating!

    Friday, May 13, 2011

    Celebrate Life

    My last post was somehow deleted when Blogger went down.  Basically, I revisited the subject of which vegetables and fruits should be bought organic and which don't have to be.  My concern was pesticides that really can't be washed off and that have been making some of us sick.  Blogger says it will recover it....In the meantime, as I ponder the next month or so, I hope that all of us will take time out to celebrate life.  My younger son will be 16 this month, my husband's birthday is just over a week after that, then there is senior prom and graduation for my older son.   A lot to be happy about around here.  I hope this season brings joy into your lives and gives you a reason to celebrate, too!   In the meantime, happy and healthy eating!

    Monday, May 9, 2011

    Does Some Produce Leave You Feeling Queasy?

    I have been keeping detailed food diaries for almost 10 years now.  Why?  Well, besides the fact that they help me to maintain my weight, I often react to foods I eat and the diaries help me figure out what the culprits are. 

    My husband and I are what I call "Frick and Frack".  He can eat anything - year-old meat, unwashed fruit, raw eggs, it doesn't matter what it is, he does not get sick.  As for me,  for a long time, if meat was not absolutely fresh, I would spend the night worshipping the proverbial porcelain god.  But even now, as someone who is attempting to be vegetarian, I am frustrated with the reactions I am getting from some of the plant-based foods out there.  If there are any pesticide or other residues on my fruits and vegetables that have not been entirely removed, I get anything from a mild tummy ache, to the jitters or a headache, to extreme stomach upset.  What I have become is a good barometer for whether or not foods are fresh and clean.  If they bother me a lot, in other words, they may be bothering you a little.  I know that my older son seems to suffer at least a little when I react.  So, what foods are the culprits?

    Well, as healthy as a nice fresh salad should be, I find that most restaurants either do not use organic produce or simply do not wash their greens very well.  Most restaurant salads leave me wishing I had not eaten them.  When I eat out, I have to eat my vegetables well-cooked or not at all.  I love eating fresh fruit, but grapes that are not washed well, non-organic apples that are unpeeled, and non-organic strawberries in particular can leave me feeling like I have stomach flu.  What concerns me is that it wasn't until American grocery stores started getting most of their fruit and vegetables from other countries that I developed these problems.  Even a year or so after completing chemotherapy, when I was the most vulnerable, I could eat most restaurant salads and fruit cups with no trouble. 

    This year, I have joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and can not wait to see what happens when my family and I eat pretty much what we pick up from our farm each week.  I will make sure that any fruits or vegetables I need to supplement what the farm provides are organic, preferably purchased at our closest Farmer's Market.  The first box arrives late this month.  I can't wait to share with you what treasures we find each week and how I will prepare them.

    Do let me know if you have experienced any of the sensitivities I mentioned above.  I am quite curious and am, frankly, concerned about long-term effects that some of what we "allow" on our produce will have on us and our loved ones.  Anyway, until next time, happy and healthy eating!

    Sunday, May 8, 2011

    Happy Mother's Day!

    I was one of those frustrating people who did not know until a few years ago what I really wanted to do with my life.  When I first started college it was with the intention of becoming a trial lawyer someday.  I went as far as taking the LSAT and getting letters from several law schools.  But naive notions drove me away from the field and I focused my studies instead on English and French.  I loved studying foreign languages and got a job as an interpreter and tour guide with hopes of working for the State Department.  But then an interest in accounting resulted in my going back to school and getting a Masters in Accountancy and a CPA.  After that, I worked 15 years as an Accountant.  9 years ago, my "hard" bout with cancer caused me to re-evaluate my life.  Subsequently, I developed a passion for nutrition, went back to school again, and am now a Nutritionist.   I love the field, find it exciting and enjoy that it is ever-changing.  But the best and most rewarding job I've ever had is being the mother to my two beautiful boys.  I know that sounds cliche, but it is true.  Motherhood isn't always easy.  In fact, in some ways it is the most difficult, and certainly the most demanding, job I've had.  The job is 24/7 and begins with caring for an entirely helpless and dependent baby who slowly evolves into a unique, and increasingly independent individual.   But I wouldn't trade it for anything and I thank God for the priviledge of having a hand in shaping the lives of two bright, thoughtful, talented, and loving young men. 

    My wish for all of you is that you have a happy Mother's Day - whether you are a mother, are honoring your mother, or remembering someone who has been like a mother to you.

    And until next time, happy and healthy eating!

    Friday, May 6, 2011

    Back in The Saddle Again

    Tonight was Senior Night on my son's Varsity baseball team and, except for a few minutes of light rain and high winds, it was a perfect evening.  We honored our 7 graduating seniors by having them come out on the field before the game with their families, letting us know their college plans, etc.  It was a pretty emotional moment.  These are terrific guys and have been incredible role-models for my son and the other underclassmen.  The boys then proceeded to play some good baseball, winning their game 12 to 2 after 5 innings (by the so-called "slaughter rule").  It was a lovely evening and, yes, our boys are back in the proverbial saddle again.  Go Bulldogs!

    On the nutrition front, I read a fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal today about cellulose - a product that is added to shredded cheese so it won't stick together and to ice cream to make it creamier, among other things.  It is often made of finely shredded or powdered wood pulp and, as scary as that sounds, it is actually a decent source of fiber (since it is not digested and helps form "bulk" in your intestines).  It even appears in some organic products.  It helps add texture to low-fat and fat-free foods, so I guess I have ingested my share of it though the years and I think I'm o.k. with that, which surprises me somehow.  Food for thought...

    Until next time, happy and healthy eating!

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011

    5-Hour Energy - Is It Safe?

    It's AP and final exam time at our local high schools!  Lots of studying for some pretty tough exams - some of which can give you college credit if you do well enough on them.  With kids having to get up at around 6:00 to make it to school on time, it gets pretty tough to stay awake when it comes time to study.  What to do?  What to do?  Unfortunately, a lot of kids are turning to 5-Hour Energy and 5-Hour Energy Extra Strength.  A 2-ounce shot contains 2,000% of vitamin B6, 150% 0f B3 and 8,333% of B12.  Remember the days when doctors used to give movie stars Vitamin B shots to give them a boost?  I assume that is the reason for all the B vitamins these tiny "drinks" contain.  The good news is that B vitamins are water soluble, so they are not toxic in large doses and they will only "boost" your energy if you are vitamin-B deficient.   One of the things that concerns me, however, is that high doses of B6 can cause nerve damage, as well as tingling and numbness in the arms and legs.  My bigger concern about 5-Hour Energy, though,  is the other ingredients it contains.

    If you read the bottle, you will notice that it has 1,870 milligrams of an "energy blend", consisting of ingredients such as Taurine, Glucuranolactone, N-Acetyl, L-Tyrosine, L-Phenylalanine, Citicoline, and Caffeine.  The makers of the product claim that the caffeine is equal to the amount found in a premium cup of coffee, which is 180 milligrams at a place like Starbucks.  That leaves about 300 milligrams each of the other mysterious ingredients.  I do not know what the long-term effects of these chemicals are, but because they are marketed as "dietary supplements", these energy drinks do not require FDA approval before hitting the market.  (Keep in mind that the ingredients listed above are for the regular strength product.  Obviously, the levels mentioned herein will be higher for the Extra-Strength variety). 

    I do know that too much of this product can cause nervousness, sleeplessness, nausea, rapid heartbeat, and higher blood pressure.  And some consumers have experienced extreme fatigue and drowsiness once the product wears off, making it, I would guess, potentially habit-forming. 

    I understand the pressure kids are under at exam time, but if you want to boost energy levels naturally, here are some suggestions:
    • When you hit those slumps in your day (often at 10:00 and 3:00), have some carrot sticks or an ounce and a half of cheese with some whole grain crackers as a pick-me-up.
    • Avoid large amounts of sugar and fat.  Sugar will give you a burst of energy followed by a crash, and fat will weigh you down, making you feel sluggish.
    • Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast.
    • Take a quick exercise break, even if it's just going up and down the stairs a few times or taking a short walk.
    • Make sure you get enough sleep each night.
    • Take time to relax and meditate. - don't let stress control you.
    To the teens out there, good luck on your exams!  To the parents, talk to your kids about how they are managing to stay awake through this tough time and help them find some natural ways to get the energy they so desperately need to make it through this crunch. 

    (Information obtained from WebMD, "Energy Shots Review: Do They Work?  Are They Safe?", by Elizabeth Lee;  and Wikipedia)

    Tuesday, May 3, 2011

    Lent Is Over - Now What?

    Orthodox Christians mark the 7 Sundays after Pascha (or Easter) as "The First Sunday after Pascha", "The Second Sunday after Pascha", etc. until Pentecost, when the Sundays are marked as the 1st through 32nd Sundays after Pentecost.  After that, we have the 10 Sundays before Pascha, during which the Lenten period starts again.  In other words, just because Lent is over does not mean that we are no longer mindful of  the resurrection, and the gift of the Holy Spirit that we receive following it. does this translate to how we live our day-to-day lives?
    Well, we can eat meat again after our 54-day fast (except, of course, on Wednesdays and Fridays, and the Apostles Fast, the Dormition Fast, and the Nativity Fast).  Come to think of it, we Orthodox Christians fast off of meat about 180 days out of the year - which is good for us.  We spend almost half our year abstaining from meat and, usually, dairy as well.  That pretty much amounts to all "heavy" and rich foods.  It's nice that the Church helps us to keep our diets healthy half the time.  But what do we do during those 180+ nonfasting days? 

    I think we do ourselves a terrible disservice if we scarf up all the meat, cream, cheese, and butter we can just because we can.  I recall the monks and their 2 meal-a-day,  primarily fruit, vegetable, and fish diet, keeping in mind that they do not suffer from many of the diet-related diseases we are plagued with, and think that at least establishing a happy medium would be a great improvement over eating the "standard American diet" half the year.   As I've said before, I know that 2 meals a day are not enough for most of us - especially students and 9-to-5'ers.  But we can try to keep what we eat lighter - with more fruits and vegetables and less meat, and whole-fat dairy.  Besides being better for us physically, when we are not weighed down with heavy food, it is easier to pray and be mindful of the things of God. 

    The big Lenten fast may be over, but our "Pascha-Pentecost" days are not.   The Orthodox Church marks time based on the events that mark God's promises to us - namely, the resurrection, and the receiving of His Holy Spirit.  By making sure we do not weigh ourselves down, we make it easier to find God's Spirit within us, and subsequently, to pray with an understanding of what really matters in this world, as well as having a grip on the promise that awaits us beyond this life.   Just some food for thought...

    Until next time, happy and healthy eating!


    Sunday, May 1, 2011

    A Lovely Wedding Introduces Us to Philippine Cuisine

    This has been some weekend!  Friday night my younger son's Varsity baseball team won a tough game.  And Saturday was spent enjoying two performances of the fabulous play that my older son was in.  Today my youngest and I attended the wedding of a long-time friend.  He married a lovely woman from the Philippines.  And I was introduced to Philippine cuisine.  In the photo on the left you can see the many covered dishes, the aroma of which enticed us as we entered the reception hall. 
    I realize that Philippine cuisine combines the best of many of my other favorite cuisines.  There were both beef and chicken kabobs that were reminiscent of Thai Satay but with a smooth gravy for dipping instead of peanut sauce.  Then there was something that reminded me of Indian Samosas that were filled with either vegetables and chicken, or vegetables and beef.  There was a dish of sliced seasoned beef in what appeared to be a rich gravy.  There were steamed vegetables, two kinds of rice (plain white and a fried rice with peas and carrots), and meatballs in sauce.  There was something that looked like beef-filled fried egg rolls, which my son said were outstanding.  And my favorite - crunchy cabbage, soft potatoes, and other vegetables wrapped in a combination of a tortilla/injera (Ethiopian-type spongy bread).  The wedding cake was delicious with a luscious marzipan-textured frosting.  See photo below.

    The evening was lovely - a wonderful reunion of old friends gathered to wish two lovely people a beautiful life together.  Congratulations Joe and Rosanna!
    Until next time, happy and healthy eating!  (Note:  I would LOVE the recipes for some of those delicious dishes.  Hint, hint, hint,..)