May 23, 2017

Salad Days

Could these be your salad days? I know they’re mine.

Spring always delivers sweet, tender greens perfect for salad – Oak Leaf, Black Seeded Simpson, Deer Tongue, Bibb, Cos, Green Leaf, and Buttercrunch. Bitter Arugula, Kale, Frisée, and spicy micro mixes widen the flavor field. Toppings abound in green onions, radishes, salad turnips, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and fresh herbs. Mix, match, and combine your favorites…yum!
leafy greens
It’s not unusual for me to serve a salad as part of a family meal, but when it’s just me I have to be a little more crafty. I may not want to take the time to clean and chop a salad for one. My way around that reluctance is to create a basic salad mix and store it in the fridge. At meal time, I can grab a handful to throw on my plate or I can add ingredients to create a specific flavor profile or entree salad.
sld base
I currently have a salad made of red and green spring mix, chopped green onions, and carrots stored in a Glad® Ovenware 9 x 12 pan in the refrigerator. These pans work great for this purpose. They’re rectangular, not too tall, and easy to stack. I can fill a second container with a salad of arugula or spinach and store it on top of the existing one.

For dinner yesterday, I topped a large bowl of this salad base with tuna salad and almonds. It was crunchy, satisfying, and ready in 5 minutes. Having something green I can quickly prepare helps keep me on track when I fill my schedule too full. When it’s just as easy to reach for the salad as it is to reach for something less healthy, I’m more likely to reach for the salad.

I’ve also discovered that salad is appreciated when family and friends gather for the birth of a baby, a health crisis, or the loss of a loved one. Last year when DJ was born, I mixed a variety of salads each week and delivered them to Ben & his wife. It was easy for me and a great addition to all the casserole dinners their friends delivered. Every time I offered assistance in those early days of baby fatigue, Ben asked for more salad.

Leafy greens don’t just provide a filling crunch, they’re packed with vitamins like A, C, K, and folate plus minerals like potassium and calcium. Delivering all this nutrition with a maximum of fiber and a minimum of calories makes leafy greens a great food choice. Of course, it’s easy to make them less healthy by overdressing or over adorning a salad.
dressing
I like to make salad dressing just before serving the salad and I usually serve it on the side. Yogurt or olive oil make a good base for homemade dressings, and flavored balsamic vinegar, fresh squeezed juice, or unsweetened fruit juice can add interesting flavors.

Here’s a vinaigrette I often pair with arugula. Just mix it all up and let it sit for a few minutes before dressing the salad.

1/2 cup Just Black Cherry juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp fresh squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp water
3/4 tsp salt to taste
1/8 tsp coarse ground black pepper
1 pinch garlic powder

Some of my favorite salad toppings are blueberries, strawberries, ripe pears, oven roasted pumpkin seeds, spiced pecans, raw sunflower seeds, raw almonds, raw cashews, goat cheese, bleu cheese, green peas, homegrown tomatoes, green onions, fresh basil, and fresh mint. I also appreciate black beans, avocado, red bell pepper, white cheddar, and crispy bacon.

However you mix it, top it, flavor it, and dress it, having a basic salad prepared is sure to increase your consumption of leafy green vegetables. That can’t be a bad thing. And all the fresh, tender greens make spring my favorite time of year for salad days!

http://www.webmd.com/diet/healthy-kitchen-11/leafy-greens-rated

https://www.ars.usda.gov/plains-area/gfnd/gfhnrc/docs/news-2013/dark-green-leafy-vegetables/

http://www.rwknudsenfamily.com/


Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

May 18, 2017

Healthy is Beautiful

Why can’t we see that healthy is beautiful? This week there were radishes in my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box. I immediately thought of my grandmother. As the host of all of our Sunday family dinners, birthday celebrations, Thanksgiving meals, and Christmas lunch, she never molded, garnished, piped or styled anything. She didn’t take the time to weave a lattice top over her apple pie, she just rolled a second crust and put a few slits in the top. Her one nod to beautifying her food was the radish rose. Even those she kept simple, using a few rudimentary cuts. Then she placed them on a china plate – sometimes her pattern and sometimes her mother’s.
radishes
If this leaves you thinking the table was bland or ugly, think again. A simple white on white table cloth held pristine china, real silverware, cloth napkins, and a row of serving bowls down the center brimming with food from the garden — bright yellow corn, red tomato slices, green okra or string beans with new potatoes. Even the stuffed peppers were home grown, and the dark red Bing cherries were picked fresh from a tree in her yard. Gran may not have used the silver service that sat in her china cabinet next to the dining table or made room for flowers and candles on the table, but her table was elegant, inviting and filled with colorful, fragrant, delicious, fresh food.
peppers
What would Gran think of styling or plating food? I don’t know if she’d object. She wasn’t particularly rough around the edges. Her grammar was impeccable, her nails were always perfectly manicured and painted bright red, and she never gave up her high heels. She just had her own sense of priorities and a limited amount of time. That led to practical decisions. Gran was able to discern that fresh ingredients and skilled preparation would trump appearance in the long run so that’s how she allotted her time.

She also shopped and delivered groceries to a disabled man on a regular basis, made regular nursing home rounds to visit old friends, was church clerk and worked 40 hours a week. If you had suggested she style her food rather than perform these tasks, I’m pretty sure she would have stomped her foot and sent you out of the room. That sort of prioritizing just made her mad.

Maybe it’s my grandmother’s influence, or perhaps I’ve just hit that age when lots of things don’t make sense, but our current priorities leave me frequently feeling out of sync. We spend lots of time, energy, and money making things look good on the surface when doing so means sacrificing quality, health, resilience, accomplishment, character, learning, and deep connection. You can see this in play in many areas:
Relationships – Dump this imperfect person for the next imperfect person instead of examining our contribution to the problem
Parenting – Help the child with his homework so he gets a good grade rather than allowing him to learn from failure
Education – Teach to the test instead of teaching how to learn and process knowledge, i.e. think critically
Finances – Spend and borrow so we appear affluent now rather than plan and save for later
Beauty – Starve, cover, augment, inject, fill, and color instead of appreciating the beauty of our natural attributes
Psychological & Emotional Health – Numb with drugs, alcohol, video games, excessive spending, and overworking rather than feeling and healing
Politics – Say what appeals to constituents right now no matter how a policy will affect the country in the future
Nutrition – Substitute packaged, processed, fortified and convenient for fresh, whole, nutrient-rich, minimally processed and variety
Medicine – Treat symptoms with meds in instances when lifestyle changes can be equally effective

The shift in priorities from Gran’s era to now is rarely questioned, but it doesn’t seem to be serving us well. In my city, the homicide total to date is more than double last year’s rate as of this date. The number of nonfatal gunfire injuries has increased 92 percent. Opioid addiction is at an all-time high. Chronic disease is increasing across all age groups. Political divisiveness and hostility now frequently erupt into contentious confrontations. Rudeness abounds. Bad behavior is presented as the norm of the reality TV star. The US barely makes it into the top 20 list of countries with the highest standard of living as measured by the Social Progress Imperative.
flatbread
How many of these problems could we reverse simply by prioritizing basic healthy practices-
Getting enough sleep
Eating fresh, minimally processed food
Finding a way to be active 5-6 days per week
Making time for stillness
Forgiving ourselves
Owning our decisions
Setting boundaries
Showing appreciation
Practicing gratitude
Listening to each other
Showing compassion

Of course, there’s no way to know, but I believe we have the ability to improve anything on which we focus our energy. If we simply viewed healthy as beautiful, it’s clear we’d throw lots of time, money, and energy into achieving a healthy state. Perhaps we can start by pausing a moment to see the beauty in colorful fresh vegetables, fragrant herbs, and listening to each other over a bowl of homemade soup.

With her energy focused on growing and preparing vegetables, making pickles and tomato juice, and keeping the cookie jar full, Gran may not have had time for frilly or fancy, but she certainly provided a beautiful spread. She’s been gone for more than 20 years and we still talk about those meals. We miss them. On Gran’s table, healthy food had lasting beauty.

The lasting beauty of healthy food that contributes to healing – that’s a priority I can get behind!

References:
http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/ADHD-Nation/Alan-Schwarz/9781501105913
http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2017/apr/29/meeting-to-address-lr-crime-20170429/
http://www.arkansasnews.com/news/arkansas/doctor-warns-epidemic-opioid-addiction-arkansas
http://www.fightchronicdisease.org/sites/default/files/docs/GrowingCrisisofChronicDiseaseintheUSfactsheet_81009.pdf
http://www.businessinsider.com/19-countries-with-the-highest-standard-of-life-according-to-the-social-progress-report-2016-6

Resources:
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/69402.The_Essential_55
https://traumahealing.org/
https://www.onsiteworkshops.com/
https://fearlessliving.org/

May 8, 2017

Let Yourself Be Surprised

Sometimes it’s best to let yourself be surprised! I write a lot about planning, being prepared, and managing expectations. When you have to follow a specific dietary plan, those are important concepts. It’s hard to stick to a gluten-free regimen without preparing in advance. While that’s a reality, sometimes it’s nice to drop the preparation and let the universe provide.

When circumstances require us to focus on what may be missing, lacking, detrimental, or dangerous, it’s easy to slip into a perpetually defensive posture. For some of us this will feel like hopelessness, futility, or defeat. For others, it may feel like anger, stress, or frustration. Whatever its manifestation, the more time and energy we devote to seeing what’s wrong, the less we see what’s right. This can eventually erode our sense of safety, well-being, contentment, and happiness.

Perhaps it’s an innate desire to protect ourselves from this eventuality that leads patients newly diagnosed with celiac disease to respond in overwhelming numbers to the diagnosis as if it were worse than cancer. That brief glimpse down the road of constantly being on guard every meal of every day for the rest of your life – that’s overwhelming. To top it off, often while you’re still trying to get your mind around the idea, some medical professional is telling you it’s hard to follow a gluten-free diet.

Holy crapoly! How are you supposed to deal with all this stressful news when you’ve just been told to eliminate your favorite comforting cookie, doughnut, brownie, cinnamon roll or cupcake?

A large number of patients choose to ignore the diagnosis, or partially comply with a gluten-free diet. While this may alleviate some of the immediate stress, it ultimately creates more misery as the autoimmune system continues to assault and damage the body. It is especially important for patients who do not experience or attribute their symptoms to celiac disease to recognize that by the time they understand the importance of being gluten-free, they may have developed irreversible damage and/or have shortened their lifespan.

But what about those of us who feel so much better without gluten that we’re not tempted to cheat, but sometimes get weary from always trying to stay one step ahead?

Having to round up a snack hours in advance to make sure you won’t get too hungry if your after work event doesn’t serve gluten-free food can affect your sense of well-being on an already overbooked and stress filled day. By itself, packing that snack is no big deal. On top of a series of pressing deadlines, that snack can mean the difference between feeling content and feeling overwhelmed.

One way to help balance, and even offset, the weariness of wariness is to occasionally let your guard down and trust the universe to provide. The risk is that you’ll miss a snack or a meal. The advantage is, you may discover a new restaurant, convenience store, or product you’d otherwise miss.

I just finished two back-to-back road trips. Although I had a night in my own bed in between, I was home less than 24 hours. Because the second trip had come up suddenly, I had little time to prepare. I threw a banana, some almonds & some raisins in the car and headed out.
cheesewich
Three hours into the trip, I was hungry. I needed something more substantial than a banana. I stopped at a convenience store resigned to the possibility I might just need to finish off the almonds. I walked over to the refrigerated cases looking for water, and discovered an unfamiliar gluten-free snack – CHEESEWICHTM.

All four CHEESEWICH options contain one piece of salami sandwiched in between two pieces of cheese. A 2.5 oz serving has 0 carbs, 16 grams of protein, and 210 – 260 calories depending on the cheese flavor chosen. The product comes vacuum packed in a peel apart plastic package that’s convenient for travel or packing a lunchbox. Ready to eat as is, the combination can also be put between pieces of bread or placed on top of a cracker.

The salami is paired with your choice of Mild Cheddar, Colby Jack, Provolone, or Pepper Jack. I saw the cheddar first, so that’s what I grabbed. I ate it on the road because it was late in the day and I didn’t want to be too tired before I arrived. The CHEESEWICH was easy to hold with the package and eat without any mess, and the protein gave me plenty of energy.

Not only did I feel reinvigorated, I felt provided for. It was a great reminder that I often find what I need when I quit worrying about not having it. Reflecting on this makes me feel safe, positive, and calm.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. I once flew into Canada spur of the moment. We parked the plane, rented a car, and headed out with no food, no hotel reservation, and no Google. About the time I thought we’d be sleeping in the car, we happened upon Pond’s Resort. There was dinner with a prominent New Brunswick resident, a room, and world class fly-fishing awaiting us. And that’s not the only time travel flexibility has delivered a great experience.
ponds
Even with this recent reminder that I can relax my efforts, I won’t stop planning altogether. That’s not the way I’m wired. I do intend to carry forward the good feeling that comes with letting go of expectations then being pleasantly surprised…at least until I need another reminder. Then I’m sure the universe will provide.


http://cheesewich.net/

May 1, 2017

Hold the Natamycin, Please

I’ll have sharp cheddar, and hold the Natamycin, please. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that my hands sometimes break out after eating cheese dip, my cheeks turn bright red after an eye exam or when I use eye drops, and recently, I felt achy and uncomfortable for several days after eating shredded Parmesan cheese. Those sound like fairly random, unrelated events…are they?
reaction
I don’t like feeling tight, achy, antsy, itchy, or uncomfortable. I also don’t like looking like this photo that was taken after my last eye exam. I began to keep track of what happened just before I noticed these reactions. The emerging picture is, my system doesn’t like Polyene Antimycotics. And it’s not just my system. It seems my sister has been having similar reactions to the same list of products.

What are Polyene Antimycotics?

Polyene Antimycotics, also known as Polyene Antibiotics are a class of antimicrobial compounds that target fungi – think of them as antifungal agents. They are a subgroup of Macrolides which are natural products with a certain chemical makeup that fall in the Polyketide class. Polyene Antimycotics are most commonly derived from Streptomyces bacteria. Because they have antimicrobial or antibiotic properties, they are often used in pharmaceuticals.

What are they in?

Nystatin sold as Nilstat, Mycostatin, and Bio-Statin; and Amphotericin B sold as AmBisome, Amphocin, Amphotec, and Fungizone are examples of polyene class pharmaceuticals. Natamycin sometimes sold as Pimaricin, is another example. Natamycin is active against yeasts and molds.
moldy cheese
Not only is Natamycin used to treat eye infections, it’s increasingly used to inhibit mold in cheese, yogurt, and bread in the US. It’s also used to preserve crops like oranges. I understand the economic benefit of increased shelf life for food corporations. Having once pulled out and bitten a moldy sandwich from my school lunch bag (thanks, Mom), I even understand the aesthetic benefit.

Nonetheless, for obvious reasons, I don’t want this substance in my food. Whole Foods agrees with me. Since 2003, they have not sold products containing Natamycin. Unfortunately, the World Health Organization and the FDA consider it safe. Current research is on their side, but I wonder whether the safety studies, as designed, would have determined there was a connection between my reaction and Natamycin? Maybe not, it took me a few years to figure it out.

Are we the only ones who experience detrimental effects?

Even if my sister and I are the only two people on earth experiencing adverse effects, that’s enough reason for me to make a choice contrary to what the research indicates. I’m not willing to endure the side effects I experience when I consume Natamycin even if it’s deemed “safe”. Based on the evidence, it’s still not healthy for me. Of course, I wonder whether my sister and I are only two among thousands who suffer effects, but haven’t yet made the connection to polyene ingestion. In time, we may find out.

In the meantime, I’ll be searching for new brands of cheese. Last week, two of my regular selections for over 15 years contained a new list of ingredients that included Natamycin. Not only was it listed as an ingredient, it was presented as a “natural” substance. While that’s technically true, it seems a bit misleading. I don’t think most people expect a natural product that’s also used as a pharmaceutical to be included in their food. I feel disappointed by that presentation and the fact that I must find new options, but I’m a dedicated label reader so at least I noticed this ingredient change before I consumed the cheese.

I am increasingly concerned about the possibility that the cheeses used by my favorite restaurants have also undergone this change. Without the advantage of seeing the label, I could easily accidentally ingest Natamycin.

On behalf of my sister, myself, and anyone else who may be detrimentally affected by polyenes, I’d like to say to* Kraft Heinz – owners of Kraft® Brand Cheese Products & Snack Trios, Nestlé – owners of Buitoni® Brand Products, Saputo – owners of Frigo® & Stella® Brand Products, and all other food companies out there: “I don’t want to have to say, hold the cheese. I just want to say, hold the Natamycin, please.” To the WHO and FDA, and researchers everywhere, “I hope you’ll investigate further.” To anyone whose very real reactions have been dismissed by a medical professional, “I’m so sorry. There’s nothing more discouraging and crazy-making.”

Luckily, it is easier than ever to share information that allows us to make better and better food choices. For that, I am grateful.

*This is not a comprehensive list. These companies also own other brands that may contain Natamycin and other companies may include it in their products as well. This list was compiled based on recent personal experience only. Please read the label before consuming any product.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


https://www.drugs.com/drug-class/polyenes.html

http://www.natamycin.com/usage

http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/about-our-products/quality-standards/food-ingredient

http://www.kraftrecipes.com/products/productmain.aspx

http://www.nestleusa.com/brands/culinary

http://www.saputo.com/en/Our-Products