Sunday, September 20, 2009

Recipe - Ratatouille

A perfect recipe to combine those abundant end of summer veggies. This quick and easy version makes a large batch, about 10 cups, enough to eat some this week plus freeze the rest to eat later during the winter.


• 1 large onion, chopped
• 6 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 small or 1 large eggplant, diced
• 4-6 large tomatoes (or can substitute 1-15 ounce can stewed tomatoes)
• 1 medium zucchini diced into large chunks
• 1 medium size yellow summer squash, dice into chunks
• 2-3 sweet peppers, assorted colors, seed and then dice into chunks
• 1-2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs
• ~1-2 Tbsp. olive oil (just enough to sauté onion/garlic)
• salt and pepper to taste (not much is needed)


• Sauté the onion and garlic until tender
• Add eggplant and tomatoes, bring to simmer
• Simmer, covered for 15 minutes
• Add zucchini
• Simmer for 10-15 more minutes until vegetables are soft but not mushy
• Remove from heat
• Stir in the herbs, season to taste

Serve over:

• Rice, bulgur, cous-cous, or any cooked whole grain
• Pasta
• Baked or boiled potatoes
• Fish (one of my favorites - just spread on top of salmon filets and put into the oven to bake together)
• Add to some plain hummus

You could also add diced chicken, sauteed firm tofu, tempeh, and more seasonal vegetables (next time I will add some fresh corn cut off the cob). The dish may be topped with grated cheese at the time of serving, or put the grated cheese into a side dish so that vegans can pass if desired.

I saved about 1 cup to cook with salmon tomorrow and froze the rest in 2-1 quart containers.

I'll end with a grace appropriate to the ending of the growing season as we contemplate all the work that has gone into the planting and tending to bring us the 'fruit of the earth' to nourish both our bodies and our spirits:

Bless, O Lord, the plants,
the vegetation,
and the herbs of the field,
that they may grow
and increase to fullness
and bear much fruit.
And may the fruit of the land
remind us of the spiritual fruit
we should bear.

~~ Coptic Orthodox liturgy (the Church of Egypt, established in AD 42)

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Tribute to my Friend Sue

It was a year ago that I wrote a tribute to my friend Mona who died of breast cancer. Yesterday another dear friend died of the same disease, way too young, with much too much of life still ahead.

I only learned how gravely ill Sue was on Sunday night, admitted to the ICU at a medical center where I used to work, where I trained Sue as a student dietitian 30 years ago, and where she worked for her entire career as an exemplary trauma/burn/critical care dietitian, including for as much as possible and as long as possible even after her cancer had returned. When I called the ICU on Monday morning, I learned from her nurse that Sue's out of town family had arrived the day before, death was expected that day, and her family was requesting no visitors. Respecting their wishes for privacy, I asked the nurse to tell Sue I loved her, cried most of the day, and did not make the drive down to the medical center where I had sat alone in the waiting room twice during Sue's surgeries. Later in the afternoon, I made some calls for an update and left my name and phone number to be called with further updates.

I drove to my community garden early this morning
having not yet heard any news. As I picked the last of our tomatoes and some baby kale, I kept thinking about how much Sue loved her home and her gardens, remembering how much time the two of us spent in her yard and looking at gardening magazines for ideas of what else to plant or rearrange.

Sue and I also birded together and shared as many happy birding experiences as we did with gardening. Therefore, when I saw the following two birding sights while driving home after leaving my garden, I knew in my heart that my friend had passed away during the night, that she was safe, and that she was now truly on her way home.

First, while crossing the river that runs through Ann Arbor, I saw a very large group of turkey vultures circling higher and higher right next to the road I use to drive home. Vultures gather into large groups in the fall before migrating south for the winter where finding food will be easier for them during the colder months of the year. As a group, they circle on warm air thermals referred to as "kettles" because, when in this formation, the vultures give the appearance of rising bubbles in a boiling kettle of water. When seeing this kettle, I immediately wondered if Sue had died during the night and was now with a group of friends, relatives, and even former patients who were all supporting her and showing her the way to a land where she would be cancer-free, pain-free, and worry-free.

In addition, as I glanced at the vulture at the top of the kettle, I was thinking of the image of bubbles rising to the top of a boiling pot and breaking free. The turkey vulture’s scientific name is Cathartes aura, which is Latin for "cleansing breeze". I can think of no better image for a person finally breaking free of "the stink of cancer".

Suddenly, while contemplating this image of breaking free of cancer plus being supported on the next part of the journey by others who have gone before, I noticed one lone swan flying over the road just ahead of my car. As I drove closer to the swan, I had time to identify it as a trumpeter swan, watch it do an u-turn right in front of me, tilt its body toward me like an acknowledgment, and then fly back in the direction from where it had come. Back to the journey home..................

Sue knew of my love of swans and my attachment to them for both good luck and healing. The last time we went birding together at Crane Creek and Magee Marsh during the spring 2008 migration, warblers were all around us at these two famous birding "hot spots", but we stopped to soak in the magnificent view of a flock of trumpeter swans, knowing we were seeing a special sight.

So when I arrived home to have my husband tell me that I had received two phone calls with the news of Sue's passing last night, I was not surprised. I was not able to personally tell Sue "good-bye, good luck, you're free", but I know that lone swan came to tell me that my friend was now free and on her way home.

I loved to introduce Sue to both friends and colleagues as the best student I ever had, which embarrassed her no end. It is the truth, and it was an honor to have had a student who helped her teacher (me) grow professionally, and best yet, then became a life-long friend. We shared so many interests, so many thoughts, did so many things together these past 30 years. It is painful to think of not continuing to grow old together as friends.

Yes, cancer stinks, it really stinks, and I could use many more less polite words. God speed my friend. Ride those thermals high and wide with ease, in the support of those whose lives have also been cut short. Fly on to warmth, great food and wine, beauty, and true freedom. We'll meet again when it's my turn to fly home, and I know you'll be there to be one of my guides.

With friendship and much love,

(Photo: After decades of knowing that winter was finally ending by enjoying the search for migrating swans every spring resting in farmers' wet fields, one year a small flock of trumpeter swans came to me at our small neighborhood nature center in Ann Arbor, MI. I was lucky enough to get this photo of 5 out of the 6 swans in the small flock swimming toward me. The idea for the image on the cover of my book was developed from this photograph.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Michael Pollan - Twice in one day

I found out this morning that my alma mater (The University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I did my dietetic internship and received my MS in Nutritional Sciences) has instituted their first campus wide 'common book' with their Go Big Read! program featuring In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. This book was chosen by popular demand and is sure to provide considerable discussion at a land-grant university where the focus of education, research, and outreach have historically been an influential factor in the "get big or get out" direction of agriculture.

Indeed, I hope there are some thoughtful, and even uncomfortable, discussions within the Nutritional Sciences Department with the reading of this book on campus as those faculty are currently participating within a much larger effort called for by the Dean of UW's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) for all departments and faculty members to review and reorganize all of their efforts in order to best address the future sustainability of our country's food and agricultural system.

Secondly, Michael Pollan (also the author of The Omnivore's Dilemma) wrote an op-ed article printed in today's New York Times that finally calls out loud and clear, in black and white for all to read, the urgent changes needed in our country's food and agricultural systems in order to achieve the hoped for benefits of health care reform (which is currently spending 75% of all health care dollars on 'disease care' due in large part to our country's broken food and agricultural system).

Yes, the time is now. If not now, when? Have you heard the quotation by William McDonough who is noted for saying "If you want to go to Mexico, and you're driving toward Canada, even if you slow down, you're still going to Canada." Just changing anything about health care is not enough, it is only the first step, it is just "slowing down" on the road on which we are going the wrong direction with our current 'agri-business' and non-sustainable food systems.

I urge you to read Michael Pollan's article. It is short (for Michael Pollan) and to the point. It finally calls out "the elephant in the living room" that can be ignored only by averting our eyes and ears when someone finally says "but the emperor has no clothes on!" Health care reform will not bring this country back to health or wealth unless it is paired simultaneously with true prevention by changing our food and agricultural policies and providing full funding to those that promote affordable, clean, healthy, and just food for all.

Enough from me - I don't even know how to 'categorize' this post! Please go read Michael Pollan's article if you haven't already done so. :-) Then, if you are so inspired (I was!), please write President Obama, your senators, and your congressional representative to urge them to look at the very very very big picture and do everything possible to promote true health and wellness in this country. Only then will our nation truly thrive.

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, September 7, 2009

Let the farming begin!

(Photo: my husband and his "new baby")

With the purchase of our land and home that are in need of so much nurturing and work to bring them back to life, I have been describing my husband as "the happiest man on the planet", with the caveat that he didn't even have his tractor yet! Well, that day finally arrived yesterday, and once the decision was made about which one to purchase, the anticipation of its delivery was like waiting for a new baby to arrive! Yes, my husband is now so happy that he is truly "over the top". :-) At some point last night, I heard him actually sigh softly in his sleep and say "Oh, it works beautifully." Even with the lights out, I could see him smiling. :-)

Last evening, I was listening to one of my favorite radio programs, The Folk Sampler, a long-running show hosted by Mike Flynn in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. (I listen to it over the web from In Mike's introductory comments for this Labor Day show featuring new and classic folk songs about people and their work, I couldn't help but smile when he said that the only thing consistently found to be associated with long life is enjoying work (I'm likely paraphrasing here).

So many times in my life (and our life together after marriage) I have been unable to do anything that required physical effort, which I believe allows me the perspective that I am incredibly grateful to be able to work right now, and I do mean 'work' in the sense of true physical work. I am not young anymore, nor am I strong, but I look forward each day with enthusiasm to enjoying the physical aspect of working as hard as I am able on our new farm, which is what made me smile at Mike's comment. I cross my fingers and wish for good luck that we really do have a long life ahead to enjoy our work. :-)

Here are a few great quotes about work that I like.

Live neither in the past nor in the future, but let each day's work absorb your entire energies, and satisfy your widest ambition.
~~ Sir William Osler (1849-1919)

Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.
~~ Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC)

Derive happiness in oneself from a good day's work, from illuminating the fog that surrounds us.
~~ Henri Matisse (1869-1954)

On this Labor Day and every day, please remember and give thanks for all who derive pleasure by the work of growing your food and getting it to you!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

September is Ann Arbor's 1st Local Food Month!

Did you know that Michigan has the 2nd most diverse agricultural production of actual food that we eat (not commodity crops)? No? You're not alone. Most people don't know that Michigan is 2nd only to California in terms of the large number of different types of food grown in the state (everything from asparagus to zucchini with lots in between!).

Yes, this is a big deal, big enough to show off what is being done in our area and show off the tireless work of many local citizens who are passionate about building our local community, our region, and our economy with good (make that great!) locally grown foods.

Join the University of Michigan's Matthei Botanical Gardens Local Table at one of their many many programs. I picked up my local foods 'passport' today and got my first stamp from Farmer John of My Family Farm at The Ann Arbor Farmers' Market this morning.

In addition, here is a run-down of what is going on in Ann Arbor during September that is being sponsored by Slow Food Huron Valley!

If you are in the area, please 'come-on down' and join in on one, two, more, or all of the events. I hope to see some of you during the month. :-)

Yum, yum!
Diana Dyer, MS, RD


September is a HUGE month for us. If you haven't heard already, we're
working on three major events that are all just around the corner.
Please come, bring a friend and tell a neighbor.

Did you hear that Mayor Hieftje signed our proclamation declaring
September Local Food Month for Ann Arbor? Text of the proclamation is
below. We've just gotten word that Governor Jennifer Granholm has also
proclaimed September Local Food Month for Michigan! There are all
kinds of great events this month - come out, enjoy, and be a part of
re-making a good, clean and fair food system.

6:00 - 9:00pm, Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty
Tickets $5, available at the Michigan Theater box office

Kicking off this September's Local Food Month, Slow Food Huron Valley
is thrilled to announce our first ever Local Food Action Hero Award.
We'll be unveiling this year's winner on Thursday night. Please come
to celebrate the recipient, eat great food, learn more about what's
happening in our vibrant community, and share in working toward good
food for all.

For this event at the beautiful Michigan Theater, we are excited to
host Chris Bedford's new film called "Coming Home: E.F. Schumacher and
the Reinvention of the Local Economy." After the film, we'll get a
chance to talk with the filmmaker himself and take part in a
discussion about the many wonderful re-localization and capacity
building efforts in our own area.

Please join us afterwards too for a happy hour and after-party at the
new Grange Kitchen and Bar at 118 W. Liberty Street!

This event is made possible with the generous support of Whole Foods
Cranbrook - Slow Food Huron Valley was a recipient of their spring
Community Support Day!

Let's ask our representatives for healthy food in schools! Come to our
"TIME FOR LUNCH" Potluck Picnic
12:00 - 2:00 p.m.
Mitchell Elementary School Grounds, 3550 Pittsview Dr. in Ann Arbor, MI
Please bring a dish to pass, write a letter and enter our raffle

Slow Food Huron Valley is organizing an "Eat-in" in Ann Arbor, and we
invite you to join us for this fun, family potluck and advocacy event.
The goal of the event is to raise awareness about the potential for
change in the Child Nutrition Act’s reauthorization, and show our
policymakers that there is support for more nutritious school lunches
among parents and community members. We will have activities for
kids, music, door prizes and information about the bill and how
parents (and kids, too!) can contact their representatives in
Congress. The more people come out, the stronger our voice!

The Child Nutrition Act, which mandates the National School Lunch
Program, is up for revision and reauthorization this year. As you may
know, food service directors are limited in their options for sourcing
local, fresh, whole foods by the required bidding process and low
budget meal plan – they have about $1 to spend on food for each
lunch. Children are eating nutritionally inadequate meals as a
result. Parents are growing concerned, Farm-to-School programs are
gaining in popularity, and the time has come to make a change.

Our partners include: Mitchell Elementary School, Ann Arbor Public
Schools and AAPS Food Service, Project Grow and GO! Gardening,
Agrarian Adventure, Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, Students
Advocating Nutrition, and more!

Contact: Deirdra Stockmann, Slow Food Huron Valley –

For more information on the national event and the Child Nutrition
Act, visit:

HOMEGROWN FESTIVAL Celebrating Local Food and Community
5:00 - 10:00pm
Ann Arbor Farmers Market, 315 Detroit St.

The HomeGrown Festival celebrates local food and community and seeks
to focus broad mainstream attention on the community-wide benefits
(and pleasure!) of eating from our own foodshed. Entry is free.
Tickets on sale ($1-$6) for food and drink. This year’s Festival offers:

Food! Delicious, creative food: sourced from Michigan farms, made by
some of our area’s best local chefs. Including:
- A Knife's Work
- Arbor Brewing Company
- Dr. Lu's Healing Cuisine
- Grange Kitchen and Bar
- Karen's Homemade Meals and Desserts
- Pilar's Catering
- Silvio's Pizza
- Slows Bar B Q
- Tranche de Vie Catering
- Zingerman's Deli

• Music! From: Billy King, First Flight, Chris Buhalis, Ann Arbor Dub
• Michigan Beer and Wine! The Pioneer Wine Trail and Michigan Beer
Garden Tent — new this year!
• Tomatoes! Project Grow: heirloom tomato tasting (my husband and I will be staffing this table from 5-7)
• Kids' Activities! Learn about bees, pressing cider, planting
vegetables and get your face painted like an ear of corn.
• Plus much more!


Local Food Month
September, 2009

WHEREAS, local food systems comprise our local community-based
farmers, gardeners, restaurants, chefs, farmers markets, grocers,
consumers; and

WHEREAS, local food systems promote healthy food for all, which is
especially important for those who are food insecure including low-
income and minority populations; and

WHEREAS, local food systems promote energy efficiency, land
preservation, decreased transportation costs; and

WHEREAS, local food systems improve food supply which is essential
to local emergency preparedness and local self-reliance; and

WHEREAS, improving our local, regional, and statewide food systems
advances the local economic opportunity, environmental stewardship,
community, and social justice; and

WHEREAS, our local food system represents an important part of Ann
Arbor’s community and regional economies; and

WHEREAS, promoting our local food system is essential to the City
of Ann Arbor and its residents; and

WHEREAS, celebrating our local food system through Local Food
Month promotes all of these goals.

NOW THEREFORE, I, John Hieftje, Mayor of Ann Arbor, Michigan, do
hereby proclaim September, 2009, as: Local Food Month, and encourage
citizens of Ann Arbor to engage in our local foodshed.