Saturday, 30 June 2012

How especially important your diet is when fighting disease

Your diet always important and couldn't be more important when the body is compromised.  Don't give it another fight by feeding it nutrient poor crap -

"let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food" 

Being in this line of work opens me up to meeting some of the most amazing similar thinkers (and really what's better than surrounding oneself with people who think what you think is fantastic?!?).  I love that my community isn't just the city block I live on but stretches world wide.

May I introduce you to someone I admire...Jillian McKee
Jillian has worked as the Complementary Medicine Advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance since June of 2009. Jillian spends most her time on outreach efforts and spreading information about the integration of complementary and alternative medicine when used in conjunction with traditional cancer treatment.

Jillian is doing me the great honour of contributing here at Life: a Study.

Tasty Vegetarian Meals Can Benefit Cancer Patients

Vegetarian meals play a big role in providing cancer patients with healthy nutrients that can increase the way a person feels.  When a person has cancer, it is vital that proper nutrition be consumed in order for the individual to boost their immune system, gain energy, and feel physically refreshed.  When heavy foods such as fatty meats and foods loaded with starches are consumed, this can lead to a person having decreased energy levels.  Decreased energy levels make it difficult to maintain strength that is needed in order to cope with the disease and endless sessions of cancer treatment.

People with mesothelioma cancer and other forms of cancer can potentially benefit a great deal by incorporating healthy vegetarian meals into their daily consumption of food.  There are numerous wraps that can be created for tasty and appetizing lunches and dinners that are loaded with valuable nutritious content.  Whole wheat wraps and spinach wraps are ideal as they add even more nutrients.

To make a basic wrap, simply use a spinach or whole wheat wrap, lay it out on a plate, add a dressing of choice, and then begin layering vegetables in thin slices into the wrap.  Once the vegetable slices have been added, another light drizzle of dressing will help to complete the wrap and make it moist.  Moist, tender wraps are easy to swallow and this is often an important aspect as many cancer patients have difficulty swallowing food.

Common vegetables that are delicious and nutritious to put into wraps to be used for lunch or dinner meals include kale, Boston lettuce, spring leaf lettuce, banana peppers, bell peppers, cucumbers, black olives, tomatoes, broccoli, red cabbage, onions, garlic, and mushrooms.  For a crispy and sweet wrap, consider making a spinach wrap with crunchy lettuce, sliced strawberries, radishes, baked sweet potato chips, and a sweet vinaigrette dressing.  

Wraps can be creative and wholesome and filled with protein and nutrients that can help to keep a person energized for a long day of treatments.  Wraps for supper can be filled with steamed vegetables such as asparagus, sautéed avocados, sweet onions, lettuce, basil, and warm mushrooms for a more hearty meal.  For extra protein, chopped nuts and hardboiled eggs can be added.  Extra protein will help to increase energy levels and also will make the person feel more rejuvenated after a long day.

Adding cheese to wraps is a great way to get calcium.  Cream cheeses can even be used for spreads instead of dressings.  Mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, and pepper jack cheese can spruce up any wrap for a delicious and filling meal.  In addition to cheese included in wraps, adding a serving of cottage cheese or baked tomatoes with melted cheese as a side dish for lunch or dinner can provide additional nutrition and calcium.  

The American Institute for Cancer Research has provided a list of vegetables that are recommended for people with cancer.  Any of these vegetables can be included in a wrap for a healthy and tasty meal.

**A little post script, to ensure any of these great recommendations are gluten free use a gluten free wrap (like a rice wrap). I would also recommend for everyone to make your own salad dressings.  You can use any of the dressing on the recipe page, this not only ensures the dressing is gluten free (many pre-made bottled dressing aren't!) but steers you away from food additives, weird preservatives and bad fats - ingredients that aren't good for anyone no matter their state of health.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

56 Momths

Dear Beebs and Chooch,

This was one of those crazy months when there was something planned for every second of every day.  Every weekend was a birthday party, event or some other form of crazy.  One of our busiest weekends Daddy was away for one of his annual Boyz Weekend.

It started with Daddy's annual weekend away with the boys which unfortunately coincided with the neightbourhood yard sale which I wanted to participate in.Thank goodness for all the wonderful neighbourhood moms.  We set up our front yard with Elizabeth's mom Christine and Noah, Amelia, and Ezra's mom Leigh.  You guys played inside with Elizabeth's dad supervising while us mama sold some stuff.  We actually didn't do very well but the effort was fun and I love what can be accomplished when Mamas set their minds to it.

Bea got a hold of my phone that day and took a ton of pictures.  A couple of them turned out.


This month some great things were said

While crossing a busy street in front of a stopped city bus Gabe - "Bah I smell bus breath"

While adjusting the waist banned of Gabe's pants he informed me that I wasn't allowed to 'get silly with his bum like always'

I made the horrible, terrible parenting mistake of sending Gabe to school in a shirt that you said you 'hates and is disgusting" (a new word for you that you clearly don't know the meaning of) You decided you hated the shirt half way to school even though you dressed yourself and had amble opportunity to comment while we were still at home. THANK GOD for the wonderful office staff that had some 'spirit wear' on hand for a quick change. We returned to your class to tell Miss Dover "My mom got it all wong, dis is da sherwit dat I havt to wayer today, maybe she will member next time" Geez Gabes....

One weekend was Jordon's birthday at Playground Paradise and another weekend was Charlotte's birthday at their house.  We had Father's day weekend celebrated with a huge picnic with the whole Gramma and Grampa crew. Another weekend we were invited to a friends housewarming where you guys were on your best behavour and charmed all the other grown ups. And one day Oliver came over to play after school, then report card and schools out for summer.

Caught stealing cake at the housewarming

It was a crazy month and mostly a fun one.  The weather was warm but not hot and we had holidays to look forward to and hours of outdoor play.

As always, I love you more everyday

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Toasted Sesame Carrot and Goat Cheese Salad

Tonight's dinner was decidedly orange.  It wasn't planned that way but more ended up that way out of necessity.  We are tee minus 10 days from leaving for holiday so I am trying to buy as little groceries as possible and use up as many perishables as I can invent into a meal.

Last weekends trip to the farmers market scored up 4 big bundles of organic carrots for next to nothing (I think it was $1 a bunch)  I have been slowly using them, (a couple in a salad here, a couple of chicken stock there) but when I pulled out what was left of them today, approx 3 bunches, they were starting to look a little sad. Unless I used them up tonight their only option was going to be soup - not a bad option but I don't like being limited to what I have to make out of something instead of what I feel like making. Being thrown in the compost isn't an option around here.

I went through a few of my favourite cookbooks, looking up 'carrot'.....there were a few ideas but the only one that caught my eye was a carrot salad....I had forgotten that I like carrot salads and I haven't had one in a long time.  The usual suspect is a mayonnaisey goop with raisins which I don't recommend, not only because it's gross but it's added lack of non-nutritious ingredients treats the carrot like something we're suppose to be tolerat'n instead of celebrate'n .....without even looking at the recipe in the book, for I feared I was probably missing a major ingredient, I knew what I was going to do

My Carrot Salad

6 medium size carrots, peeled and grated
1/3 cup sliced or slivered almonds, toasted
1/8 cup sesame seeds, toasted
a knob of goat cheese (amount depends on your preference)
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1-2 tbsp fresh cilantro, minced
squeeze of lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Toss all the ingredients together in a bowl. The kids liked it.  To cover all our orange food groups we ate this with grilled salmon and sweet potato fries.....strange combo I know but we really are trying to clean out the fridge and pantry in the best way we know how.....eating it.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Watermelon Salad part deux

I know I know......ANOTHER watermelon salad!?!?  Most people don't even have one in their recipe repertoire but here I am posting another one....I'm crazy like that.

I love salads that have some fruit in them or in this case, that are almost all fruit.  It all plays into the Sweet/Salty/Savory combo that I adore......having interesting different salads gets the kids into eating salad instead of them turning their noses up at every bowl of greens.  I want them to be interested and keen if salad is on the table.  I can't expect them to want to eat a spinach salad with blue cheese, many adults would struggle through that, including me,  but I am trying to create positive feelings about the word and I try to have a salad on the table for EVERY meal.  Whether it is a deep green veggie salad (which the kids also love) or one like this one with not a single lettuce leaf - like the Chickpea Greek salad.  I also get them involved in the preparation -- at least that is my excuse for the mangled balls of this one (Mangled Balls? I now know the name of my punk rock band)

This one is simple
1 medium size watermelon, balled or cut into bite size peices
10-12 basil leaves, thinly sliced (a chiffonade some may say)
1 cup of feta, crumbled
Squeeze of lime (optional)

Combine in bowl.  For this one the kids help make the balls and we made it fun and ate the whole thing with our fingers as an appetizer while hanging in the back yard.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Riping off the Kofta

I love it when I am so inspired by another recipe that I have to make it my own....this happened to me recently.  Two things pushed me over the edge to have to make version of it.

The first is this amazing Afghany restaurant up the street from us.  Their menu is amazingly spiced meats on sticks, rice that I would sell my children for and a heat calming salad with a creamy dressing that is more of a garnish than an actual side but still delicious. All served with a chili sauce I would drink...... I have big plans to learn how to make the rice and chili sauce!

The second was a dear friend of mine (Robert) who is a damn fine cook (and he writes about it.)  His post a few days ago got me athink'n.  I wanted to make something like what he had made but his recipe called for soda crackers, something not gluten free nor is there a decent gluten free alternative. And I didn't have any ground I came up with my own.

Beef Kofta

First I made something like a Harissa spice blend.

I eye-balled this so the proportions are a little random.  In my little coffee grinder that I use as a spice mill I added

1 tbsp chili flakes
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds

I pulsed this a few times until it was mostly chopped up but not yet a powder.  To that I added a tsp each of garlic powder, salt and minced mint leaves from my backyard.  I added this mixture to about 1 1/2 lbs of ground beef along with 2 whole eggs and a 1/4 cup of left over rice in hopes it would help as a binder (it did) . On Roberts advice I put the meat back in the fridge for 10 minutes. Then comes the hard part...getting it on the stick. Robert has his own technique and in truth, the proper sticks - not perfectly round BBQ skewers (now that I love this I need to get some too). I couldn't find our metal skewers (I suspect they are still in with the camping equipment) but I had some bamboo skewers available. These are not the ideal skewer for this and I don't recommend them.  I had to make pretty skinny 'logs' for them to stay on the skewer, this is only acerbated by the fact that they don't have any bread crumbs to hold them can be done but it takes a little more patience and some compromise on size (like most marriages).  Put these back in the fridge to firm up before throwing them on the grill.

While they are 'resting' in the fridge I made some minty yogurt too.  Mine was yogurt, lots of fresh finely minced mint from the yard, a finely grated garlic clove and a pinch of salt.

Get your BBQ good and hot.  These are small and really only take a couple of minutes on each side.  I served them with fragrant rice, a green salad and the yogurt dip which was perfect for the kids to calm the heat from the spice in the meat.  Like Roberts girls, the kids loved it.  This will become a staple this summer with me experimenting with different spice combinations. We ate it outside with the sun a'shinin and a breeze a'blowin'

I am including the Fragrant Rice recipe here because my original post for it is now buried deep in the recesses of my recipe columns page

Fragrant Rice
Serves 6-8
3 cups Basmati Rice
2 tsps Cumin seeds
5 black Cardamon pods or 8 green Cardamon pods
2 Bay leaves
6 tbsps Butter
4 cups Water
2 tsps salt
Thoroughly wash the rice in a large mixing bowl.  Gently swirl the rice in water letting it sink to the bottom and pouring off the cloudy water.  Repeat 4-5 times until water is reasonably clear. Fill bowl again and let rice soak for half an hour.
Drain rice and rinse one last time.  Let it drain well.  Collect all your spices and bay leaves together in a small bowl. Put a large sauce pan on low heat and add the butter.  When butter has melted and is just starting to sizzle, add the spices and stir them around. When you can really smell them gently add the drained rice.  Stir-fry for a minute so that all the grains are lightly coated in the spicy butter.
Pour the water onto the rice and scrap down the rice caught on the sides of the pot.  Add the salt, stir and turn the heat up to bring it all to a boil.  As soon as it starts to bubble turn the heat down as low as it will go and cover with a sheet of tin foil AND the lid making a tight seal.  This will help stop any steam from escaping.  Cook like this for 25 minutes then turn the heat off and let stand for 5 minutes.  Carefully remove lid and foil and ‘fluff’ with a fork. You don’t eat the cardamom pods or cloves.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

New York City Bans the Big Stuff - Sugar

You have probably heard on the news cycles that Mayor Bloomberg of the city of New York is trying to ban the sale of sugary drinks in all sizes larger than 16 oz. The measure would not apply to diet sodas, fruit juices, dairy-based drinks like milkshakes, or alcoholic beverages; it would not extend to beverages sold in grocery stores or convenience stores. And although I applaud his enthusiasm I think he is missing the point.

There is some research to support his platform (sort of). Some researchers believe that the effects of obesity push people towards a form of addiction, one that itself pushes against free choice. According to research by Paul M Johnson and Paul J Kenny of America's Scripps Research Institute, consistent overeating reduces people's sensitivity to the brain's dopamine reward responses that eating normally prompts, making people eat more to compensate for their absence. According to their influential 2010 paper:
"A defining characteristic of overweight and obese individuals is the fact that they will continue to overeat despite the well-known negative health and social consequences. Indeed, many overweight individuals express a desire to limit their food consumption, yet struggle to control their intake and repeatedly consume past energy requirements. Development of feeding behaviour that is insensitive to negative outcome is analogous to the compulsive drug-taking behaviour seen in human drug addicts that is similarly impervious to negative consequences."
But although this may all be true - I can't see how banning larger size sugary drinks will help.  If it needs to be viewed as an 'addiction' than we can't say "here is crack but you are only allowed to smoke up to 16 oz at a time unless you bought multiple servings, or purchased it at the grocery store or where there are free refills...and in that case knock yourself out"  If it is an addiction than lets take that seriously.

I will admit that even with all my hootin' and hollerin' about healthy eating I do enjoy the occasional Cola.  Carbonated beverages are my vice.  Even just soda water with tons of lemons and limes.  We do have 'healthy' or at least 'healthier' choices around the house for when my bubbly drink craving hits - soda water to add to juice (try with orange, cranberry, pomegranate or grape juice), and if it is on sale we occasionally get bottled or canned Frizzante (Italian fizzy juice).  I use to have the occasional Coke. There use to be a difference with buying a Coke in Canada vs. the US in that Canada coke didn't have high fructose corn syrup, that is no longer the case but is still a common mistake with high-fructose corn syrup labeled in Canada as 'glucose/fructose'.  There should just be a skull and cross-bones.  If you are a die hard Coke drinker (and yes I do partake occasionally) there are Coke versions you can get without HFCS - Mexican Coke is still made with plain ol'sugar and the Kosher labeled version sold in the spring around passover.  No, not even remotely 'good' for you but if you want an occasional treat of a Coke, best to make it the least deadly eh?

That being said - it would seem to me that Bloomberg's time and energy could be better spent banning HFCS from New York City!! He already managed to ban restaurants from using trans-fats so it only makes sense to me that banning another known toxin would make sense.  But banning larger size sugary drinks is like making drug illegal unless bought in bulk and never sending the addicts to rehab. No new healthy behaviour is being taught just the where and how to buy the drug.

Hopefully the bans may at least encourage people to look with a critical eye at the huge portions they consume or encourage people to learn more about the implications of consuming large quantities of sugar.  It has inspired me to write a post about sugar.  I will have that up in the next week.

Interestingly, last week Walt Disney announced that it will no longer permit junk food advertising to accompany its children's television programmes, following a similar ban already in place in several European countries, while last year the UAE banned all junk food from its school canteens.

lt's a start eh? What do you think about what Bloomberg is doing?

Friday, 8 June 2012

Sweet and Salty Coconut Popcorn

If you are going to temp me with sweets it is the food group known as 'pastry' that makes me almost deny my gluten issues.  If eating gluten didn't cause me to spend a few hours bent over in pain and running a fever the first thing I would eat is a cheese danish from the Harbord Bakery....favourite. thing. ever.

It actually makes me feel sad, a bit teary and even mad in a victimy kinda way when I think that I can never eat one ever again...if I had known when I ate the last one I ever had that it was going to be my last.....I would have done some 'conscious eating'.  It's like 'conscious living' or 'conscious loving' but just eating.  I would have eaten it with my soul.  I would have found a quiet corner and said my goodbyes.  I would've made sure it knew it was loved......(does anyone have a tissue?)

One of the other tempters for me is caramel corn.  I don't mean crappy sugary pink corn sold in a box but the good stuff.  I would make it occasionally (rarely) lightly coating hot fresh popcorn with a homemade caramel sauce and peanuts....but now that I am more aware of the impact sugar has on your (my) body and health I just can't bring myself to eat it.

But no matter how healthy we eat we are allowed a treat from time to time and how nice it is when you can make your treat have the least amount of impact as possible?  This is my current craving sweet saver.  No it isn't 'good' for you but if you are going to be ain't that bad.

A lg tall pot with a tight fitting lid(a stock pot or pasta pot is good)
1/3 cup good coconut oil (unrefined with all the coconut flavour) enough to cover the bottom of your pot
2/3 to 3/4 cup of fresh (the old stuff in the back of your cupboard won't pop up) organic non-GMO'd popping corn (just enough to coat the bottom of the pot)
4 tbsp (1/2 a stick) unsalted butter, melted
3 tbsp coconut sugar
salt to taste

Heat pot on medium high heat and melt the coconut oil.  Once it starts to show that it is hot, add the popping corn.  Fit the lid on tightly and listen for the popping. If it is a good size pot there is no reason to 'shake' the pot like I remember my mom doing to the Jiffy. While the corn is a'poppin', stir the coconut sugar into the melted butter.  It will not melt and completely incorporate like regular refined sugars but it will become a bit easier to pour evenly over the popcorn. When the sound of the popping starts to slow down remove the pot from the heat so you don't burn any of the kernels. Once stopped, pour into a large bowl.  Spoon sauce over the popcorn and then toss the kernels around in the bowl to evenly coat with the coconut sugar 'caramel' sauce.  Salt to taste.  Try not to swim in it

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Experimenting with Shrimp Curry

I am thankful every day that my kids will eat spicy food....not too spicy but they will eat a good curry...and life just isn't worth living without curry.

We have had some record breaking heat.  With the humidity it has been more like late July.  When it is hot like this no one wants to heat up the house more with a bunch of cooking but after the initial flush of excitement was past, I wasn't craving more BBQ either.  Beside all the meat we had was frozen. So what better to eat in hot weather than the spicy hot food from a spicy hot country?

About 2 years ago I got an opportunity to go to a cooking demo hosted by famous Canadian chef Vij and his wife Meeru.  They were charming and the food was good.  Included in the cost of the demo was a copy of their most recent cook book.  Over the last couple of years I have tried a few of the recipes from this book but not many.....I have been surprisingly disappointed with the ones I have tried (with the exception of the lamp popsicles rub).  I find that all the curries are thin on flavour and a bit unctuous. At first I kept assuming it was me (typical woman move)...that I had messed something up when reading the recipe but now that I have made a few of them a few times.....well I am starting to feel like it might not be like all things not right, I alter them.

So even though I didn't want to heat up the house....I got inspired by a random curry craving and it had to be done.

So first I made my favourite fragrant rice.....(not from Vij and Meeru's book)...I seriously love this stuff.  I make it even when we aren't eating a Indian/curry like meal.  It is equally good with roast chicken, some baked fish or a poached egg!.  In flipping through the book I found a fish curry  that I wanted to try.  I have made a lot of curry in my life but I haven't experimented with seafood and stuck with classics like chicken, beef and lamb. But I had some shrimp and a cravin' in my heart....

Yogurt and Ginger Curry

2 1/2 cups plain yogurt (minimum 2%...don't buy low fat ANYTHING) Let's over budget at $1.50
1/3 cup unflavoured coconut oil $0.75
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
3 tbsp finely chopped ginger (or grated)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
3 cups water
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro from the garden
2-3 tbsp ground almonds (left overs from making almond milk)
2 cups fresh or thawed peeled 31-40 shrimp (1 lbs on sale for $5.99)
TOTAL: $8.24 but let's say $9.00 if you include all the tiny costs of the spices and ginger.  Made 4 serving @$0.56 a serving.  If you include the cost of the rice it might be a dollar a serving

Place yogurt in a large bowl and set aside

In a medium pot, heat oil over medium heat and sizzle the cumin seeds for 30-45 seconds, or until they darken.  Add the ginger, stir and saute for 1 minute.  Add salt, turmeric, coriander, paprika, and cayenne, stir for 2-3 minutes.  The spices will become slightly pasty.  Turn off the heat and add the water, sir until combined.

To prevent the yogurt from curdling, slowly whisk in the marsala water 1/2 cup at a time to the yogurt.  This slowly warms it evenly and prevents it from 'cooking' to quickly.  Once about 1/2 the marsala water has been added you can just pour the now spice filled yogurt right into the pot.  Turn the heat to high and bring the curry to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce heat to medium, add the ground almonds and let simmer for 10 minutes.  Once the sauce has reduced a little bit turn it right down to the lowest setting on your stove.  You want the liquid to be too hot to keep your finger in it "ouch hot water" but cool enough that it is not bubbling or boiling.  This is the perfect temp to perfectly poach your shrimp and not over cook them

Chef Michael Pardus shows you how to poach shrimp the right way in the video below

Add your fresh cilantro and serve over hot rice.  Although it might seem like this might be too spicy for the kids the natural sugars in the yogurt (even plain yogurt is full of natural sugars) tempers the heat making it mild and creamy with a little kick.  For their plates I just went easy on the sauce.  If you find it is too spicy for your little ones, mix it with a little more yogurt and then pour over rice.  This is a great way to introduce curry flavours to kids