Saturday, February 28, 2009

Fast Slow Food: Whole Grain Waffles - Reprise

Photo: Whole grain waffles, Blueberries, Homemade Vegetable Juice

Or is it slow fast food? I get mixed up about this, but my point is that quickly made meals can also be made from healthy ingredients and be delicious and inexpensive (and even made with many local ingredients) with just a little planning and creativity.

Like everyone else, I often don't have lots of time to put a meal on the table, but I have found some strategies that help me get healthy food on the table fast. Here is one meal as an example.

I made waffles using a mix recipe I posted several months ago, all ready to add the eggs, milk, and oil, with the instructions for what to add written out on a 3x5 card and kept in the ziplock bag with the mix. While the waffles were cooking, I took out a bag of frozen blueberries that I picked last summer, poured out ~2 cups of them into a small saucepan, added a little bit of some wild grape jam that we made last fall from volunteer grapes that grew up on the fence around our community garden, heated this all up on the stove top to have as a fruit-based syrup for the waffles. Hmmm, I usually do have some vegetables with my meal - what do I have available that fits with waffles? Aha! I opened a jar of the vegetable juice we made last fall (not really V-8 but something like that with maybe 6 different vegetables used).

So what did I get with this delicious, fast, economical, and yes, ultra-healthy meal?
• ~3 servings of fruits and vegetables (fiber, vitamin C, lycopene and numerous other phytochemicals that are antioxidants plus promote health in other ways, too)

• whole grains in the waffles that used whole wheat flour in the mix (insoluble fiber, folate and other B vitamins, iron, manganese, magnesium, vitamin E, and numerous other nutrients stripped from whole wheat flour when made into white flour)

• my choice of a healthy oil, and I reduced the amount from a typical recipe

• added flaxseed to the waffle mix for many cancer-fighting and overall health-promoting phytochemical, the plant version of an omega-3 fatty acid (ALA), plus soluble fiber

• whole soy foods, both soy flour added to the dry waffle ingredients and unsweetened soy milk added when making the waffles, for numerous nutrients and molecules that help prevent cancer, osteoporosis, and heart disease.

Ok, maybe you don't have homemade vegetable juice or you did not pick organic blueberries to freeze last summer or make your own grape jelly. Do not despair though because you, too, can make a healthy fast delicious meal like this at home with just a little planning (really!). Yes, you can (gosh, I love that phrase!). :-)

Add these foods to your shopping list right now! I purchase organic foods when available and affordable.
• white whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat flour
• soy flour (not low-fat as regular soy flour will give you more plant omega-3 fatty acids)
• flaxseeds
• unsweetened soy milk
• eggs (when purchasing at the grocery store, I look for a brand that has increased amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, often the store brand)
• canola oil
• wild frozen blueberries (these are smaller that those whoppers you usually see, usually organic, and unbelievably tasty!)
• V-8 juice (I would recommend the low-sodium version) or look for other low-sodium, unsweetened mixed vegetable juices)

After getting home from the grocery store, make your waffle mixes. Here is both my basic recipe and the amounts needed to make 4 pre-made mixes (those amounts listed in red):

Dry ingredients - mix all dry ingredients well in a large bowl. Divide into 4 ziplock bags or other storage containers (approx 1-1/4 cups per mix). Store pre-made mixes in the freezer to minimize the risk of the ground flaxseed turning rancid. My husband reminded me to do this!

• 3/4 cup whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat flour) (3 cups)
• 1/4 cup soy flour (1 cup)
• 1/4 cup ground flaxseed (1 cup)
• 1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder (2 Tbsp)
• pinch salt (1/4 teaspoon)

Wet ingredients - add these to each pre-made waffle mix when ready to make waffles:
• 1 cup milk (can use soymilk)
• 2 eggs
• 2 Tbsp. canola oil
• 1 teaspoon honey

Mix wet ingredients in a medium size bowl until well blended. Stir dry ingredients from one pre-mixed bag in a separate bowl with a fork or whisk until ingredients are well distributed. Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients just until well blended (do not overmix).

Follow directions for the size of your waffle maker. I use ~1/3 cup for mine per waffle. Doing that, this recipe makes 5-6 full round waffles. (Freeze any extras you do not eat at this meal.)

Blueberries - pour out two 2 cups of blueberries from bag into medium size saucepan. Heat gently to thaw and slightly mush. A bit of other jam, jelly, or even just a small amount of water can be added to thin the berries into more of a syrup. Note: if you add too much water (yes, I have done this), you may wish to add a small amount of cornstarch to thicken it back up or just enjoy it as is. :-)

Vegetable juice - open and pour; nothing easier. We enjoy drinking ours at room temperature, but if your family prefers it chilled, refrigerate when you get it home from the store.

Enjoy, enjoy - don't 'waffle' on this idea for fast slow food. :-)

I'll end with a blessing that I enjoy because it reminds me to offer thanks for those who have worked for us, which for me, includes enjoying thinking about and thanking my organic blueberry grower Steve Toth at The Blueberry Patch in Grass Lake, MI along with all my other farmers, including my husband.

The blessing of God
rest upon all those who been kind to us,
have cared for us, have worked for us, have served us,
and have shared our bread with us at this table.
Our merciful God,
reward all of them in your own way.
For yours is the glory and honor forever.
~~ Saint Cyril (AD 850)

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Friday, February 27, 2009

Dairy is not the only source of calcium!

Photo: Grass-fed dairy cows on an Organic Valley farm in Wisconsin

An article published this week in the Feb 23, 2009 issue of The Archives of Internal Medicine showed decreased risk of digestive cancers in both men and women with increased intake of calcium from food and supplements (along with an overall decreased risk of cancer in women but not men). Although thoughtful comments about the observational study acknowledged that it is impossible to tease out whether the benefits came from calcium intake or vitamin D intake, what I would like to highlight is that almost all of the articles in the popular press about this new research pointed to dairy foods as the source of calcium in our diets.

Dairy foods may be the most widely known source of calcium, and they are certainly the most widely advertised source. However, many other foods are a source of natural and supplemental calcium and with a little planning can contribute significantly to an optimal calcium intake. The US Dietary Guidelines recommend consuming 3 servings of dairy foods/day (with a typical 1 cup serving of milk containing 300 mg calcium) to achieve an intake of 1000 mg calcium/day for ages 19-50 and 1200 mg calcium/day for those over age 50.

Here are other widely available food sources to achieve those goals:

300 mg of calcium
Fortified orange juice or V-8, 8 ounces
Fortified soymilk, 8 ounces
Fortified rice milk, 8 ounces
Luna Bar
200 mg of calcium
Apple juice, 8 ounces, calcium-fortified
Blackstrap molasses, 1 tablespoon
Collard greens, 1/2 cup, cooked
Tofu, calcium-set, 1/2 cup
Calcium-fortified breakfast cereal, 1 ounce
100 mg of calcium
Turnip greens, kale or broccoli, 1/2 cup, cooked
Soybeans, 1/2 cup, cooked
Soynuts, 1/2 cup
Instant oatmeal, 1 package
Dried figs, 5
75 mg of calcium
Almond butter or tahini, 2 tablespoons
Textured vegetable protein, 1/2 cup, prepared
Bok choy or mustard greens, 1/2 cup, cooked
Tempeh, 1/2 cup
50 mg of calcium
Navy beans, Great Northern beans or Black beans, 1/2 cup, cooked
Vegetarian baked beans, 1/2 cup
Orange, 1
Almonds, 2 tablespoons
Instant Cream of Wheat, 1 package

Source: RD Resources for Consumers: Meeting Calcium Recommendations on a Vegan Diet by the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group of the American Dietetic Association
See USDA's Nutrient Data Base for Standard Reference for more information on the calcium content of foods.

One article in the press I saw did mention that dairy foods do contain other potential cancer-preventing nutrients like vitamin D and a molecule called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). However, it should also have been pointed out that not all dairy foods contain vitamin D (check the labels on ice cream, yogurt, and cheese - most are not made from milk that has been fortified with vitamin D) and milk contains significant amounts of CLA only if the cows have eaten grass, not corn, soybeans, or other grains. In addition, the amounts of vitamin D and CLA in dairy foods, while better than nothing, may not be enough by itself to really have significant cancer-prevention properties.

Please do not interpret this post as "anti-dairy". I do consume one serving/day of organic dairy foods as one source of my dietary calcium, vitamin D, and CLA (as my milk comes from grass-fed cows), and health-promoting probiotics (most of the dairy I consume is yogurt or kefir). However, I believe that people benefit from more complete information about how to better plan their food and meals around nutrient needs and thus optimize their health rather than only rely on the information provided by the singularly-focused "3-A-Day" promotion for dairy foods.

How about an additional marketing campaign for strong bone plus cancer prevention called "Got Kale (and other greens)?" I like the sound and taste of that!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

It's a good day :-)

Without going into boring details, I had a date yesterday with one of my doctors who was able to do a procedure (without complications - always a good thing!) that ruled out something bad. So, after a nap yesterday afternoon (which I never do), I woke up this morning with this enormous sense of relief that I am still fortunate to be able to hit the ground running each day. Now that does not mean I am in perfect health, I know that I still need my team of doctors to keep an eye on me, and I more than hold up my end of the bargain at doing what I can to optimize my health and well-being, but an additional illness that would be associated with a rather rapid decline (and treatments that have their own darn side effects) has clearly been ruled out (a very good day indeed!).

Long-term childhood cancer survivors like I am are at high risk of having late appearing side effects from the therapies used to treat their childhood cancer. However, all of life is a balancing act, and I agree with my husband who calls my late effects "the problems of success". :-) Better to be here with some complications but also enjoying life than to not have had this opportunity. Rather like Tennyson's words, "Tis' better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." I could not agree more! However, if you are a reading this and are a childhood cancer survivor who is now an adult, I strongly urge that you read the book Childhood Cancer Survivors: A Practical Guide to Your Future and have your primary care physician and/or a visit to a childhood cancer survivors' follow-up clinic help you make a proactive plan of what needs monitoring for late appearing side effects with subsequent follow-up referrals to appropriate specialists if problems do arise. I know I am living as long and as well as I am because I have been a proactive and sometimes a downright friendly pesky patient in addition to putting all I know how to do into practice each and every day for my own healthy diet and lifestyle.

So what did I do today? First I took my dog Kaya for a long walk, bundled up against the cold morning (3 degrees early this morning). Then I made my morning breakfast soy shake and got ready for a phone interview for an upcoming radio show about the healthy benefits of eating kale. After the interview, I made two posts to my 365DaysofKale blog, had lunch, and then I thought I would start cleaning up the continuous pile of stuff on my desk, plus of course read and respond to the ever accumulating Email (I confess that I seem to get farther and farther behind on that front).

Instead I think I'll rummage around my photo files to simply post a couple photos of some of my favorite things, take my dog for another walk to enjoy being outside, then start thinking about what to fix for supper for me and my wonderful husband. Tomorrow, when I hit the ground 'running' (haha, never have been and never will be a real runner!), I'll attack these piles and back-logged Email. :-)

As one of my good friends told me today, there is still lots of work to do and lots of kale to grow. I would add that there is still lots of life and happiness to enjoy, too. :-) Putting all of those thoughts together, I think that is why I like the "tag line" for my blog, "Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row." However, I will end with this great quote:

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
~~Marcel Proust

Enjoy my photos!
Diana Dyer, MS, RD

My younger son Garrison, our dog Kaya, and husband Dick picnicking along the northern edge of Lake Michigan on our way to Wisconsin - note leash on Kaya to keep her from dashing into the lake and having 6 more hours of driving with a very wet dog in the car! When we finally got to the cottage in Wisconsin, she pushed her way over me and out of the car, was down the steps to the lake, and had thrown herself off the dock (even with her lame leg!) before the three of us (who were laughing so hard that our sides hurt) were even out of the car. Kaya was not going to be denied getting into the water any longer!

My older son Eric making calamari while home for Christmas. Yum, yum! Eric was home for an entire week - it was wonderful, and the time went way too fast. :-)

Ann Arbor chicken eggs and a homemade basket from a friend who writes the beautiful blog DandelionHaven

Our homegrown popcorn in the large jar on the right, 3 varieties of our homegrown, dried cherry tomatoes in the 3 smaller jars on the left, and a jar of homegrown quince jam in the small jar in front given to me by another blogger friend at DogHillKitchen - I just love having color in my life, especially in the 'dark days' of an upper Midwest winter. I don't hide these pretty jars in a pantry. They are front and center either on my kitchen counter or in front of the Hoosier cabinet in our dining room.

My husband and I drinking champagne on January 20, 2009, in the middle of the day no less!, celebrating and toasting President Barak Obama. 'Nuf said.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

What do dietitians eat? Book club menu #7

(Photo: Black bean soup, Roasted carrots with onions and garlic, and
Whole-grain corn muffins with chili peppers - recipes below)

Still going strong since July - the SOLE Sisters book club (SOLE = Sustainable, Organic, Local and/or Ethical) that I organize for my dietitian friends is one of my highlights during each month! This month we read and discussed a document prepared by The American Dietetic Association entitled "Healthy Land, Healthy People: Building a Better Understanding of Sustainable Food Systems for Food and Nutrition Professionals".

Traditionally, understanding the larger picture of food systems that begins with growing food, i.e., agricultural practices, through the multiple steps of processing leading up to consumption has not been incorporated into the education and training of dietitians. Not only is that changing with many current nutrition and dietetics students eagerly seeking out and embracing this professional thought process and personal lifestyle, many dietitians currently practicing in a wide variety of settings are also rapidly learning about, promoting, and incorporating many aspects of local and sustainable food systems into their professional responsibilities and personal lives.

One of the fastest growing practice groups within ADA is the Hunger and Environmental Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group (HEN-DPG). If you are reading this and are an RD (or dietetics student), I highly recommend joining the HEN-DPG, learning from and collaborating with other dynamic RDs who are committed to changing our broken food system (see my prior post about some of the many problems in our current food system). We had a GREAT group discussion about many of these concerns; in fact we talked non-stop for two solid hours (in addition to enjoying our meal!).

Here is the menu for tonight:
• Spicy Lentil Mini-Patties served with plain, unflavored yogurt as an appetizer (this recipe is a variation of one previously posted but I boosted the health and taste factors by substituting sweet potatoes for white potatoes and adding kale)
• Black Bean Soup
• Roasted Carrots, Onions, Garlic
• Cornbread Muffins with Whole Corn and Green Chilis

Recipe: Spicy Lentil-Sweet Potato with Kale Patties

(Photo: cooked lentils with garlic and seasonings added, cooked sweet potato waiting to be peeled, frozen kale waiting to chop, whole grain bread crumbs)

• 2 cups (1# bag) dry green lentils (they look brown, not green)
• 2 bay leaves
• 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1 tsp. chili powder
• 1-2 tsp. ground cumin
• 1/2 tsp. coriander
• 1/2 tsp. black pepper
• 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper and mixed Italian herbs (each)
• 1 large sweet potato, baked, peeled, mashed
• 1-2 cups frozen kale, thawed, drained well, chopped small
• 1/2 cup bread crumbs (make yourself from left-over bread)
• 2 tsp. olive oil or parchment paper
• Fresh Salsa or unflavored yogurt

1) Combine lentils and bay leaf in large soup pot. Add water to cover by 3 inches. Boil until lentils are very tender, about 1 hour. Drain water from lentils and discard bay leaf. Transfer lentils to a large bowl and cool.
2) Then add seasonings. Stir with lentils until well blended. Cover lentils and refrigerate overnight.
3) Bake sweet potato(s) in oven or microwave. Cool, peel, and coarsely mash. Add mashed potato to lentil mixture the next day and mix well.
4) Add chopped kale (squeeze to make as dry as possible)
5) Using a spoon or both hands, form mixture into balls. Flatten each ball into a 1/2" pattie. These can be any size (I made two dozen mini-patties plus several "burger-size"). Press breadcrumbs lightly onto patties. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes to 6 hours.
6) Heat in non-stick pan with small amount of olive oil or baked in oven on parchment paper until hot and crispy at 350 for 20-30 minutes (I baked mine). Flip over at the half-way point. Freeze any extras for a fast meal in the future.
7) Serve warm or room temperature with salsa or plain, unflavored yogurt (pictured at top of the blog posting)

(Photo: 24 mini spicy lentil patties ready to bake)

Two different people tasted these mini-patties before asking me what they were and independently declared that these were even better than falafel. Now that is a compliment!

(Photo: Mini spicy lentil patties with unflavored yogurt)

Recipe: Black Bean Soup

Inspired by a recipe from the classic book Bean Cuisine: a culinary guide for the ecogourmet by Beverly White, originally published in 1977. (thanks to my friend Judy for loaning me this book!)

• 3 cups dry black beans
• 12 cups vegetable broth (homemade if possible) or water
• 4-6 garlic cloves
• 2 teaspoons cumin powder
• 2 teaspoons oregano (dry)
• 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 cups chopped onions
• 2 chopped roasted red peppers (fresh, frozen, or from a jar)
• 1 quart canned tomatoes

1) Sort through dry beans for stones or imperfect beans to discard. Then soak beans in water to cover generously overnight, drain.
2) Gently cook onions, garlic and red peppers in olive oil in a large soup pot until starting to soften. Be careful not to burn.
3) Add beans, broth, and seasonings to soup pot.
4) Bring to boil, turn down heat and simmer gently until beans are soft. This may take 1-3 hours depending on how old (and dry) the beans are.
5) Add tomatoes to the soup
6) Put soup through a sieve or carefully puree in a blender (fill only half full - be very careful not to burn yourself)
7) Thin as desired with more broth, water, or tomato juice.
8) Adjust seasonings - add a little salt if desired (I did not add any), pepper, or more cumin to taste (I did add about another teaspoon of cumin).
9) Serve with any garnish desired. I chose a small bowl of grated Tillamook very sharp cheddar cheese for people to add if desired.

As good as this soup was the day I made it, it tasted even better the next day. Wow - I'll make this again!

Recipe: Roasted Carrots, Onions, Garlic

What to make for a winter salad without purchasing organic lettuce grown 2000 miles away in California? I was inspired by the recipe for roasted vegetables in the excellent cookbook Food for Thought: Healing Foods to Savor by Kealey, Newman, and Faerber. I was able to find some locally grown carrots, onions, and use our own home-grown garlic.

• 3# whole fresh carrots - brush clean, trim (save ends for future stock), cut into 1-1/2" pieces
• 4 medium onions - peel, cut into wedges (save peels for future stock)
• 3 heads of garlic - separate into cloves, peel individual cloves (yes, save those peels for future stock, too!) and leave the cloves whole
• 3-4 Tbsp. Vinegar (your choice - try balsamic, red wine, or a flavored vinegar - I used some of our home-made chive blossom vinegar)
• 2-3 Tbsp. Extra-virgin olive oil
• Salt and pepper to taste
• Dried herbs or spices of choice (try rosemary, oregano, cumin seeds or cumin powder)
• Parchment paper

1) Heat oven to 400 degrees.
2) After cleaning, peeling, and cutting, put all vegetable pieces (not garlic yet) into a large bowl.
3) Add olive oil to vegetables and toss to evenly coat.
4) Add vinegar and any seasonings. Toss again to evenly coat.
5) Place veggies (not garlic yet) on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper (use a slotted spoon to transfer them from the bowl to the baking sheet).
6) Place in hot oven. Decrease heat to 375 degrees for first 30 minutes then increase to 425 degrees. Check vegetables every 15 minutes or so to shake and check doneness, baking an additional 30-40 minutes until vegetables are soft and starting to brown on the edges.
7) Toss garlic cloves in the remaining oil and vinegar and seasoning left in the bowl and add to the baking sheets during the last 20-30 minutes, cooking until soft and starting to brown along with the other vegetables.
8) Serve hot or at room temperature.

I served them at room temperature so that I could make them earlier in the day. They were delicious and not many were left, but the next day I added some more olive oil and vinegar and then combined them with a small amount of that expensive California lettuce (stretching my lettuce, an uncommon purchase for us during the winter, like other people stretch meat). Oh my, oh my! Wow - I'll eat that every day of the week, so I guess I'll make some more. :-)

Recipe: Cornbread Muffins with Whole Corn and Green Chilis

This recipe was inspired by one in the wonderful King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking Cookbook. The most unique aspect of this recipe was that my husband used a hand-crank mill (bought for a song on Ebay) to grind the cornmeal I used. Next year we'll try to grow our own corn for this purpose and if we're lucky, we'll be able to grab a few ears for us before the raccoons gobble them up!

• 1 cup cornmeal
• 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
• 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 Tbsp. sugar
• 1 Tbsp. baking powder
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1/2 tsp. chili powder (could use 1 teaspoon if your family likes "spicy!" food)
• 2 medium eggs
• 8 oz. unflavored soy milk
• 1/4 cup canola oil
• 1 cup frozen corn (organic if available) - thaw
• 1 4-1/2 ounce can diced green chilis

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2) Lightly grease a muffin tin (12-14 regular size muffins or ~24-30 mini-muffins)
3) Whisk all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
4) In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs, milk and oil. Stir in the corn and chilis.
5) Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stir just until evenly mixed.
6) Scoop batter into the greased tins.
7) Bake until done (a toothpick will come out clean), ~20-25 minutes for the large muffins and ~10-15 minutes for the mini-muffins.
8) Allow to cool only 5 minutes in the tins and then loosen to remove and fully cool on a cooling rack.
Yum, yum! One of my dietitian friends said these smelled and tasted like freshly made tortillas. That must be what freshly milled corn meal smells like, especially when using whole grain corn that contains the germ, which is removed from the typical store-bought cornmeal - check how low the common brand is in fiber and although vitamin E is not on the nutritional labeling for this product, when cornmeal has been "degerminated", there will be very little of this important and essential nutrient remaining in the cornmeal.

I think we should view the widening and energizing efforts to grow more of our own food, cook more meals at home using whole foods (not just "heat and eat" highly processed food-like items), purchase as many locally grown foods as possible, and develop regional food systems as a means to "Take back our food" from the industrialized agricultural-food system that has played a role in both the development of numerous and expensive chronic health problems and the degradation of our planet's precious natural resources, most notable our soil. "Healthy soil grows healthy food. Healthy food nourishes healthy people. Healthy people form healthy communities." (Angie Tagtow, MS, RD, LD, from Dietitians and Sustainable Food Systems)

Just like the efforts of the "Take back the night" organization to promote a safe society free from sexual abuse and assault, RDs have an opportunity (indeed an urgent professional obligation) to be leaders and role models in their communities to "take back our food" by promoting production and consumption of foods from food systems that are ecologically sound, socially acceptable, economically viable, and benefit human and environmental health (quoting from the ADA Primer "Healthy Land, Healthy Food").

I'd like to end with two food blessings. One is short, one is longer, one new, one old, however both give thanks for our food, those who grow our food, and indeed all those who cultivate their life to share with others.

Food -
God's love made edible.
May we be swept into
Your presence.
~~Brother Thomas, Nada Hermitage, Crestone, Colorado

The seed of God is in us
Given an intelligent
and hardworking farmer
It will thrive and grow
up into God, whose seed
it is; and accordingly its
fruits will be God-nature.
Pear seeds grow into
pear trees, nut seeds
into nut trees, and
God seeds into God.
~~Meister Eckhart (1260-1329)

Grow, cook, share, savor and enjoy good food while cultivating your own good health plus that of your community and our planet. :-)

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Quote: "Beware of what you eat - you are on your own"


(1) the mercury detected in some products that contain high-fructose corn syrup,

(2) the ongoing debate surrounding the safety of the chemical bisphosphenol-A (BPA) in many plastic containers and lining of metal cans that come in contact with our food and/or beverages,

(3) the increased amounts of inorganic phosphate being added to a wide variety of processed and fast foods that is harmful to people with end stage renal disease plus early animal studies have shown increased dietary phosphorus intake can promote lung cancer,

(4) purchasing "healthy" whole grain tortillas only to read the label more closely at home to see they contained over 500 mg of sodium per single tortilla, which is a huge amount !! as we all should be reducing our sodium intake to less than or equal to 2,000 milligrams per day,

(5) seeing convenience pancakes recently advertised on TV really made me "steam". Why? Pancakes can easily and quickly be made at home for pennies with ingredients you likely already have on hand, you can quickly make your own inexpensive convenience pancake mixes for future use (read my waffle mix recipe), your own recipe could easily be much healthier (higher in fiber, lower in sodium and phosphorus, have healthy fats, i.e., no partially hydrogenated or trans fats), you would not be contributing to the depletion of our precious oil resources by purchasing a plastic jug to which you "just add water, shake, and pour" but then put into the landfill or recycle bin, plus making pancakes from scratch with kids is both fun and educational if you save this activity for a morning when you all have more time, and finally,

(6) the massive and on-going peanut product recalls due to salmonella contamination,

maybe the following comment by Senator Tom Harkin at a recent Agricultural Committee meeting is not too far-fetched.

"Beware of what you eat. You are on your own",
Senator Tom Harkin

Following my groan is first a long sigh.............and then the sound (whatever that might be) of determination and commitment. The more I learn about our current food system (from f"arm to fork"), the more I want to organically grow, make, and cook my own food as much as possible to optimize my health, that of my family, my community, and our planet.

How? By eating way down on the food chain with simply prepared meals containing minimally processed foods produced by as many local sources as possible, using ways that promote sustainability of our earth's natural resources (especially our soil - read the book Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations by David Montgomery for a full appreciation of our planet's soil, a very precious natural resource), as much of the time as possible. Full disclosure time - I don't think I can ever give up some foods or ingredients that come from other locations and/or climates (olive oil just for starters), but in general, our entire food system (again from "farm to fork") is going to have to do a major "make-over" before I pull items off the grocery store shelf without thinking about a wide spectrum of concerns such as safety, nutrient content, unnecessary and even potentially harmful additives, cost, energy use, and product packaging as just a few questions.

But are you on your own? No not at all, because I am thinking about these things, making my food decisions based on as much information as I can find (with as much brain power as I can muster to think of and integrate the multiple details to consider), and I both enjoy and care about sharing my thoughts and experiences on my blog.

So please don't feel alone and overwhelmed. Instead, take a deep breath plus one or two or three steps forward to create the time and space in your life to grow to the point where you feel good about and enjoy what you are eating, the true foundation of health.

Change (i.e. growth) leading to health and wellness is a process, not a single event. However, it does start with a desire, caring, and then taking that first step. I'm reminded of the "tag line" on my blog - "Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row", i.e., step, step, step, step. You are not alone at all, but in fact are part of a very large community whose ever-widening base of members (not just cancer survivors) are choosing to take back their food to truly enjoy it while also knowing that they are cultivating health and wellness on many different levels and in many different places.

Inch by inch, row by row, enjoy your growth, your cooking time, your food, and your health!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Is mercury lurking in high-fructose corn syrup?

I would have loved to call this post an "Action Alert" urging you to write the "powers that be" at the Columbia Tribune newspaper in Columbia, MO, asking them to reinstate the long-running and widely read weekly Food Sleuth column written by a friend and colleague Melinda Hemmelgarn, MS, RD. Each Food Sleuth column is always packed with vital information that helps consumers connect the dots between how our food and other products are grown and/or processed, our personal health, and the economic and environmental health of our communities, our nation, indeed our planet. I have highlighted her columns several times as "must reads" since beginning this blog.

I know newspapers all over the country are cutting staff and content, and admittedly I have been unsuccessful at convincing my own local paper The Ann Arbor News to carry her column. However, I expect and look forward to future (and bigger) opportunities to come for Melinda's important voice as she is a shining example of the Quaker saying "Let your life speak".

In the meantime, I urge you to read Melinda's last column "Is mercury lurking in high-fructose corn syrup?" (plus read her hundreds of archived articles - search using hemmelgarn). It is yet one more reason why I am glad I have been vigilant for the past decade and more at label reading and refusing to purchase anything with high-fructose corn syrup in it. As I make my own crackers (see my previous post), I'll smile every time I roll out the dough, thinking about the many benefits of not consuming HFCS plus the many ways I am choosing to use my time nurturing my health.

In many ways, each weekly Food Sleuth column and all the posts on my blogs are "action alerts", giving information and examples of how each of us can take action to promote positive change every time we choose what we are eating. "Farm to fork" is certainly someone's tag-line already, but it represents a way of envisioning how every step of that process impacts our personal, local, and global health.

As I salute and wish the best for my friend, professional colleague, and fellow (sister) traveler, I'll close with one of my favorite quotations.

Every journey has a secret destination of which
the traveler is unaware.

~~Martin Buber

Truly, the future is unknown, but the best "actions", whatever they may be, are still to come. :-)

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Find a "Fitness Friend"

(Photo - Quick, easy, and healthy meal of stir-fried tofu and vegetables over brown rice)

Research is continuing to show that being overweight is both a risk factor for developing post-menopausal breast cancer and, even more worrisome, a risk factor for relapse and death from breast cancer. With 82% of African-American women being overweight or obese, research is urgently needed for this under-studied population to show that weight loss is possible by using a holistic approach to lifestyle changes in order to promote both long-term cancer survivorship and overall improved health outcomes.

A recently reported small pilot study called Moving Forward done in Chicago with urban African-American breast cancer survivors has demonstrated that weight loss is achievable by a multi-focused lifestyle approach using diet, exercise, and social support that is tailored to be culturally appropriate for this group of cancer survivors. It is still to be determined if and/or how much weight loss will increase the odds for long-term survival of breast cancer, but that is no reason to wait for further research before starting to take control of your health. Even small amounts of weight loss (10%) will lead to reduced risk or better control of other medical conditions that also kill breast cancer survivors, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, for starters.

If you have made some healthy goals for 2009 and have already started to find yourself losing motivation or have not yet even started, it is not too late. Find a "fitness friend", someone who is also interested in improving their own health, someone who will make a commitment to exercising with you, someone who will enjoy sharing healthy recipes, even cooking together (try to share cooking for two families on different nights of the week or cook together in large quantities on the weekend or your days off of work so you have food to freeze or eat during the coming week), someone who will plant a small vegetable garden with you, someone who will pump you back up when you get off track. We ALL get off track sometimes, and we All benefit from supportive friends.

Ask at your cancer center or health clinic if there is a group for walking together and classes for healthy diet, nutrition, and cooking, ask if your cancer center or clinic has a Registered Dietitian who will help prioritize all of your health concerns and then coordinate all the appropriate nutrition and diet recommendations so you can be as healthy as you can possibly be. Check at the local YMCA or Wellness Community for nutrition and lifestyle classes for cancer survivors. Many of those classes are FREE for cancer survivors because of generous grants and donations.

2009 may be one month old already, but the rest of the year and your life is waiting for you to pick up the baton and get back on track. Finding a friend to join you in the pursuit of good health and a great life may lead to more than a "fitness friend". Such a friend may truly be your "friend for life"! :-)

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, February 2, 2009

Super Snacks for the Superbowl

Maybe I should have called this post "What does a dietitian bring to a Super Bowl party?" Yummy snacks, of course! Yes, I confess, they were healthy, too, but isn't healthy and delicious considered a "double-dip"? :-)

I had fun putting all these together. Nothing was difficult, plus not too time-consuming either. I brought the following:
• Spicy Edamame
• Hummus (homemade)
• Rosemary Flatbread (my first attempt to make my own crackers!) 

Here are my recipes:

(1) Spicy Edamame
I have always been content to just cook the edamame (young immature green soybeans commonly eaten in Japan) in their pods and then pop out the beans eating them plain. Never again! Just adding a little spice (plus just a teensy bit of salt) after they are cooked gave them a "wow factor" that was the perfect pairing with sipping a cold beer while watching the game. I have read that eating salted edamame is common in Japanese bars, with the pods being thrown on the floor like peanut shells. Adding a spiced seasoning to them gave them a mouthful of flavor that only needed the smallest amount of salt to perfect the taste. 

• Frozen edamame in the pods. I only used half of a 1 # bag from Locavorius.
• Seasoning - I used ~1 teaspoon of Zatar (a common Middle Eastern combination of spices, use anything you have on your pantry shelf like a cajun seasoning, chili seasoning, Italian seasoning)
• Salt - I used about 1/8 of a teaspoon

1) Heat a pot of water to boiling
2) Drop in the frozen edamame pods
3) Heat until fully cooked, which will only be a few minutes if they are already steamed before freezing
4) Drain well in a colander
5) Place in serving bowl and sprinkle with seasonings and salt

(2) Homemade Hummus - for space considerations, I will just link to a previous posting for the recipe I use instead of  reposting it here. I made the plain hummus this time instead of being fancy and making the carrot or beet hummus, both of which would also be an outstanding combination with the following flatbread/cracker recipe.

(3) Rosemary Flatbread/Crackers
I started looking at the ingredients in the crackers and bread I bought years ago and limited myself to only those products that had no trans (partially hydrogenated) fats, no high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), used whole grains as a primary ingredient, were low in fat content or used only a healthy fat (olive oil or canola oil), used (mostly) organic ingredients, were low in sodium, etc, etc, you get the idea. Those products are available but are almost always expensive. My husband is also a pretty good label reader and recently found a great-tasting cracker that fit all those criteria. However, I admit that I gulp each time he brings home a box. Why? You guessed it......$$$$.....the cost of these tasty crackers. We bought them anyway until I was inspired by a recipe for Rosemary Flatbread on a local blog Dandelion Haven.

So what did I get with this easy and tasty recipe? Whole grain flour as the only ingredient, no HFCS, low-salt, low-fat and healthy fat, mostly organic ingredients, fresh herbs, no undecipherable ingredients/additives, and cost?, maybe 50¢ since I used extra-virgin olive oil, likely less. Yes, I used my time and my electricity, which are both worth something, but while I was baking these crackers in the oven, I also made the edamame and hummus, got the dishwasher unloaded and reloaded, kitchen counters cleaned up, kitchen floor swept, rugs shaken outside, stuff generally picked up on the main floor of the house, you get the idea. All together this entire recipe with baking did take me an hour, but next time I won't have to read directions quite so carefully and figure out just what I am doing. I'll fly though it!

This recipe made almost 1# of crackers. Some of the boxes of fancy crackers are $3.99 (or more!) for 8 ounces, so I think I got a lot of high quality food and fun (fun is also important!) for my time.


• 1-3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary plus 2 (6-inch) sprigs to put on top of crackers
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt plus a tiny bit more for sprinkling on top of crackers
• 1/2 cup water
• 1/4 cup olive oil plus more for brushing or spraying top of crackers
• Sea salt

1) Preheat oven to 450°F with a heavy baking sheet or pizza stone on rack in middle.
2) Stir together flour, chopped rosemary, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. 
3) Make a well in center, then add water and oil and gradually stir into flour with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. 
4) Knead dough gently on a work surface 4 or 5 times.
5) Divide dough into 3 pieces and roll each piece out on a sheet of parchment paper into a 10-inch round (shape can be rustic; dough should be thin).

6) Lightly brush top with additional oil and scatter small clusters of rosemary leaves on top, pressing in slightly. 
7) Sprinkle with sea salt.
8) Slide round (still on parchment) onto preheated baking sheet or pizza stone and bake until pale golden, crisp, and browned in spots, 8 to 10 minutes. 

9) Transfer flatbread (discard parchment) to a rack to cool. Break into pieces.
10) Leaving the flatbread to cool overnight will also help to dry it out and make thicker sections become more crispy and cracker-like when broken into pieces. 

Serve this flatbread/crackers with the hummus. My husband likes to eat his sardines on those other fancy crackers for lunch. The test will be to see if this recipe will be tasty enough with the sardines to win him over. :-)

I didn't really have a favorite team until our friends (where we went to watch the game) said that President Obama was rooting for Pittsburgh. Since my friend and I call ourselves "Obama Mamas", we rooted for the "Obama Boys" from Pittsburgh. Even I, someone who knows next to nothing about football, could understand that it was an exciting game. :-)

Enjoy the fun (what is life without fun?) of making your delicious and healthy foods!
Diana Dyer, MS, RD