Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, 
it would be a merrier world. 
~~ J.J.R. Tolkien 

I would add dancing, the sun and rain on my face, my hands in the soil, hearing the 'cheery, cheery' chortling of bluebirds during the winter, having a chickadee land on my outstretched hand (or head!) and pick up a sunflower seed, seeing a sparkle of happiness in someone's eyes or feeling the warmth of invisible peace in a heart, and, oh, so much more brings both a lift to my heart and a tear of gratefulness to my eye. These are just a few of the many reasons I greet each morning with hope.

So I send hopeful New Year greetings to all my readers that 2012 will be 'merrier' for you, filled to overflowing with whatever brings you cheer. I have not met most of you and likely never will, but I want you to know that through the Universe you have all touched me in many ways. I know a bit of your story which reminds me of this beautiful proverb:

The story is told eye to eye
mind to mind and heart to heart.
~~Scottish Traveller Proverb

Wherever you travelled last year and will go this coming year, I hope some small part of my story or my writing (some might call my blog one of ramblings, some short, some of 'epic' length this past year) have and/or will in some way touch you in some way with happiness, with healing, and with hope, 'eye to eye, mind to mind, or heart to heart'. 

Thank you for touching me. :-)

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Recipe: Vegan Lasagna without Tofu!

I love finding new ways of doing the tried and true. Here is a recipe for a vegan lasagna made for my daughter-in-law who is allergic to soy and dairy foods. It is easy, delicious, beautiful, still very healthy and will become a staple for us even when we don't make it just for her!

When I say easy, of course it is more time-consuming than just opening jars and doing a lasagna version of 'dump cake', but it is well worth the time and effort involved, with the time and effort mostly spent just chopping vegetables, something I do nearly everyday anyhow! :-)

Here it is. It was inspired by a recipe I found just typing 'vegetarian lasagna no tofu' into a search engine. Remember that all recipes such as this are very flexible and forgiving. For instance, I added a cup of cubed and cooked winter squash because I had some to use up in my refrigerator. You could leave it out, use another type of squash, or even add something else in its place that you have hanging out to use such as eggplant, zucchini, cubed potatoes, etc, etc.

Vegan Lasagna (soy-free, dairy-free)

(1) Vegetables for adding to the tomato sauce:
1/2 cup chopped onions
2 peeled and grated carrots
1 # sliced mushrooms
5-6 cloves garlic - chopped fine
12 ounces frozen spinach, chopped
1 cup cubed, cooked butternut squash
16 oz. can adzuki beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

(2) 2 cups dried garbanzo beans, cooked until very soft and then pureed with a little water or broth if needed (or puree 2-3 cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed well)

(3) Tomato Sauce
1 quart canned tomatoes
1 pint pasta sauce
Mix together. Season sauce as needed to your taste with basil, oregano, cayenne, rosemary, salt, pepper.  (Note: more salt may be needed than you think because there are no salt-added products used such as commercially canned tomatoes, canned beans, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese etc)

(4) No boil lasagna noodles (I use a whole wheat brand)

(5) 1/4 cup braising liquid for vegetables - I simply used some of the liquid from the quart of the canned tomatoes.


1) Braise onions and carrots in liquid for ~5 minutes or until slightly softened but not mushy.
2) Add mushrooms and chopped garlic. Braise and stir until mushrooms start to soften and give up some of their own liquid.
3) Add remaining vegetables, adzuki beans, nutritional yeast, tomatoes, seasonings as desired and stir together.
4) To assemble, put a ladle or two of sauce on the bottom of a 9x12 baking dish. Cover bottom of baking dish with noodles (don't skimp, I used four full noodles for each layer, overlapping slightly). Layer half of the pureed garbanzo beans over the noodles. Add another 2 ladles of tomato sauce over garbanzo puree. Start layers over with noodles, garbanzos, tomatoes, noodles and then enough tomato sauce to cover well.
5) Cover with foil, bake in pre-heated over at 350 degrees for ~50 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting to serve. I did put baking dish on a cookie sheet to catch any spill-overs.  (Special note - based on my own goof - if you make this dish ahead of time and put it in the refrigerator until baking, it will need a far longer baking time!! D'oh! Give it at least 75 minutes in that case.)

Yum, yum - all whole foods and locally-grown or produced foods used every place possible.

(Photo: Final assembly with 3 layers of noodles, 2 layers of the garbanzo puree, some sauce on the bottom and between each layer with the remainder of the sauce on top. It was suggested at dinner that a layer of cheese could go on top of half of the pan. Next time!)

Below is one picture of the deer in our yard. No photo I took does the wide view justice (and most were terrible where the screens completely blurred the photo). I am thinking that Santa sent his 9 best deer to our farm (spa?) to finish eating our field of pumpkins and other healthy abundant local foods for rest and strength before their big world tour on Saturday night. Check to see if Rudolph has an orange nose this year!
(Photo: 4 of the 9 deer grazing outside our window last week at sunset)
Finally, I am including the blessing we read last night before supper. It is an ancient food blessing from the Quiche branch of the Mayan culture in Guatemala.

Mother Earth, you who give us food,
whose children we are and on whom we depend,
please make this produce you give us flourish
and make our children and animal grow....

Children, the earth is the mother of man,
because she gives him food. 

~ Rigoberta Menchu, Nobel Peace Prize winner 1992
(provided in the book Bless this Food by Adrian Butash)

In addition, at each meal, we honor and thank all whose hands and hearts helped to bring us our food.

During this holiday season and these dark days that also bring this season the deep sense of hope, I send my hope to each of my readers that you find hope in your own heart and spirit as together we celebrate the beautiful parts of this season and look forward to 2012, a new year that will be filled with health for your body and joy for your spirit.

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Friday, December 16, 2011

Action Alert: Please sign this petition for RDs

In a recent decision memorandum by The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) regarding Intensive Behavioral Therapy for Obesity (CAG-00423N), CMS determined that potentially lifesaving and risk reducing preventive services for Obesity could only be furnished by primary care providers in the primary care setting (i.e. MDs, Clinical Nurse Specialists, Nurse Practitioners, and Physicians' Assistants).

These providers are certainly necessary health care professionals in the primary care setting but have (next to) no training in food and nutrition counseling, have no robust 'outcome data' showing their own professions have established benefit for long-term weight reduction, have no additional time in their already over-scheduled days in the clinics, plus all of these providers bill for their professional time at substantially higher rates than do Registered Dietitians (RDs).

As a result, CMS has eliminated the most qualified providers, notably Registered Dietitians (RDs), along with clinical psychologists and other specialists who have been able to produce the best results for weight reduction for obese patients and made a ruling that uses professionals at a higher cost than RDs. The decision prevents RDs from directly billing for obesity treatment services and from providing services outside of primary care setting, and thus limits access for older patients to qualified professionals that would help reduce a very high risk for many types of cancer such as esophagus, pancreas, kidney, colorectal, endometrial, and post-menopausal breast cancer. 

Please consider signing ADA's petition to President Obama to urge CMS to include RDs in obesity treatment. We need 25,000 signatures by January 7, 2012 for the White House to review this petition. (Note: I have heard that this website is often 'slow' and frustrating due to the high traffic it receives. It went quickly for me, but if it is slow for you, please hang in there and slog through the steps to sign in in order to add your name.)

(Note: here is the full link to this petition:!/petition/urge-cms-reconsider-its-decision-cag-00423n-excluding-registered-dietitians-direct-billing-obesity/tql0XYc2?

I have also sent urgently worded letters to all of my elected officials in Washington, DC (I had already sent a letter to President and Mrs. Obama before this petition was created) and a letter to the newly appointed Director of CMS who is Marilyn Tavenner. Her address is:
Marilyn Tavenner, Director
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
7500 Security Boulevard,
Baltimore, MD 21244 

In addition, if you are so inclined, please share this announcement on your Facebook and other social networking accounts plus with clients, friends, and colleagues. I have done this, and several of my friends who are MDs have told me they are going to sign it and urge their colleagues to do the same.

We all know and acknowledge there is no single or simple answer to treating obesity (or preventing it), but by not including RDs as providers for an obesity diagnosis and treatment, CMS has shifted the care to health care professionals who are already over-worked, have no training in nutrition and weight loss counseling, cost more to the health care system, plus what is most worrisome to me, are likely to give up too soon and recommend drugs or bariatric surgery for these patients, both of which are more invasive, more expensive, increase risk of more complications (increasing cost and decreasing quality of life), and are not the highest quality medical care available.

I hope you will agree and sign this petition. Note: Anyone can sign - you do not need to be an RD or a health care professional.

I don't know if these petitions have any chance of being seriously reviewed with an action that requires a change at the highest level of CMS, but living here in SE Michigan where Detroit is known as "Hockey Town", a quote that is frequently used is "You have to shoot on goal to score". 

This petition is that shot on goal. I hope you will consider signing it. I did so on the first night it was posted. 

Thank you.

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, December 12, 2011

December Farm Days

Just a few photos of our day today. It was surprisingly warm (in the 30's, sunny, and no wind = warm in Michigan during December!), which made heading outside to finally finish up our garlic for its winter nap both inviting and pleasant.

(Photo: Our rows and rows of green garlic, finally all mulched. This year we planted them in our family garden space to make more room for garlic heads in our fields. Green garlic is harvested at the end of April or early May so will leave space for putting in our own tomatoes, basil, corn, peppers, etc, after we sell it. We have misplaced our machete, essential for whacking down the corn stalks, so that will get done later this winter after the eventual organization of the barn and garage sometime after the holiday season.)

(Photo: Our lower garlic fields - the right half was planted for 2011, the left half that is mulched is planted for 2012. This part of our 2012 crop was planted in October before all the rains and floods so these early planted cloves had time to put down a good root structure while also growing many green leaves that are taller than the mulch. We'll finally get the swing put away when our two strong boys come home over the holidays, although I have to admit that I have sat in it more during the Fall months - maybe 2-3 times - than I ever did during the summer, which was close to never! I love the view of the curved gravel road coming to our farm.)

(Photo: 'Welcome Friends' - the greeting at the entrance to our farm - we mean it!)
(Photo: Our upper garlic field, finally all planted and mulched. We didn't finish until sometime in December, I know it was finally after Thanksgiving. Rain, rain, mud, mud, snow, rain, rain, mud, ice, floods, I think we are close to a record rainfall in our area. We have no idea how our crop will be affected by this difficult Fall for planting. Only the earliest planted in this entire field had enough time to develop roots and green shoots. We are hoping all of them are not water-logged at this point and will survive the winter nap.)
(Photo: I know it is hard to see, but the paths are still flooded in many spots, now frozen. Finishing the planting and mulching was difficult, cold work, and even treacherous. The paths were so muddy that hauling wet straw from one end of the rows to the other was heavy, slippery, and 'mucky' work. Next year we'll have all the straw put into the barn and bring it out only on the day(s) when we are actually mulching, which sounds like more work than just putting the bales at the end of the rows when delivered, but I am here to tell you that moving wet, even frozen straw, is even more work and also potentially risky in terms of falling, straining muscles, etc. We are ALL about injury prevention on our farm as we need to show up for work every single day, and there is no time for inaction!)
(Photo: Pine cone suet feeder that I made yesterday. I finally took a day to make our own suet feeders for the winter, which involved finding the grinder attachment for my food processor, figuring out how to use it again without the lost owner's manual, sweeping up - again and again - all the bird seed that is still all over the kitchen, melting and straining the suet, dipping, spooning, dipping, smearing - a cake decorator I am not! I now have several of these hanging all over the place so I can glance out of nearly every window and see one or more of them.)
(Photo: Bows, bows, bows, lights, lights, lights - harder to see - we still need some of each on the barn.)
(Photo: Finally, after years of being mostly packed away, our full Christmas village is found, brought out, and has a new home under our church pew in the dining room instead of on our window seats or under the Christmas tree where it was set up in our old home. It is fun to find new places for decorations, decide which ones are worth hauling out, which ones may head off to the thrift shops, etc, etc. Hmm, this now reminds me that we have not yet found a few other things, like our few pieces of that cute Cat's Meow Christmas Village.)
(Photo: It's hard to choose a favorite part of our village, but here is the barn and farm house in a special place of honor. No we don't have an old barn or an old house, or all the animals - yet, but we feel like we do, and we do have the deer. In fact just an hour ago, we had a group of 8 or 9 deer strolling within feet of the house. I took photos but had already downloaded these, and those deer photos were taken through windows with screens at dusk into the light so they won't be great. Yesterday morning I saw the two yearlings with the younger fawn born on the farm this year right outside of our bedroom. I didn't see momma. I am hoping that she was just hanging out with all her girlfriends, knowing these younger ones are taking care of each other. I'll bet the huge group we saw tonight was the entire baby-sitting co-op, all the neighborhood moms and their kids, on a field trip to the Dyer's bird feeders!)
(Photo: Red Lentil Soup, this very flexible 'stand-by' recipe today is far simpler than the linked recipe, with red lentils cooked in homemade vegetable stock in the crockpot first, then adding 1 quart of our canned tomatoes, chopped kale, curry, and even a tiny tiny bit of chopped fresh cilantro from our CSA Green Things Farm. Dick is making Glazed Rutabagas tonight, testing to see how they'll turn out after being well-frozen in the garden - oops, darn! Where are those 13 children - or interns would do, too! - when we need them - "Your job today ________ (fill in the blank with any name you want to choose!) is to go harvest and bring in the rutabagas from the garden. Thank you! We love you!)

Oh a last piece of fun news. We offered an activity in a local silent auction to support Growing Hope for making garlic brittle with us on the farm, in our kitchen. We haven't heard who the lucky winner is yet, but it was a BIG donation - thank you, thank you!!! We love Growing Hope, love supporting them, and appreciate the donation to them. We have made garlic brittle before (it was inspired by the garlic tasting we did at The Ugly Mug in Ypsilanti sometime this past fall), and as unusual as it sounds, it tastes quite good, even great! It will be fun to meet the people who were the high bidders for our donation and it will also be fun to make quite a mess in our kitchen. The large (and still very green) kitchen in this house is one of the reasons we took the plunge to buy this "unending project". We want to share our farm, our house, our kitchen, so bring on the mess and the fun!

Now, there is still time for a little more holiday decorating before we get supper ready. :-)

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Love the article, not sure about 'the look' :-)

Here's a great article about a small town of ~15,000 people in the UK with a goal of feeding itself by 2018.

I always tell the students who come to work with us that there is no need for fashion of any kind on our farm, which includes fingernails, toenails, suntans, designer sunglasses, cute tops, cute shoes, etc, etc, etc. :-)

There is no one here to impress! However, maybe I am wrong about all this.  First things first. Maybe I should be trying to look a little better myself!

As I finally finished mulching our green garlic this afternoon, I realized I would be a complete mess if someone came to take a photo of me. Seriously, I would be a 'real' mess, complete with blue jeans that just keep getting more stained, thinner, and maybe even looser, boots with cracks in them, two left gloves (I have probably worn out the right-handed ones), straw all over me, in my hair, stuck to my vest, in my gloves and down my boots, 'hoodie hair', some stray sunglasses left on the farm (not cute or designer), with an assortment of layers on top, some of which were out-grown by my boys.

Thankfully, no one did! So you have to imagine what I looked like as we finally finally finished putting the garlic to bed for the year. I'm not sure 'the look' of the woman featured in this article is for me (is that scarf functional in any way or just very very very long?), but maybe I do need help with fashion on the farm, at least being less messy! Advisers are welcome. :-)

In any case, getting back to the the article, I hope you read it. I loved several things about it:
1) "Aim high, otherwise, why bother getting out of bed in the morning?"
2) "This is a revolution, but we are gentle revolutionaries."
3) "There's a feeling we're doing something significant rather than just moaning."

My husband was saddened however by the black-and-white comment that "men meet at bars and plan wars while women meet for coffee and plan good things", like this effort called Incredible Edible, in which the goal is for the town to feed itself while also helping to  boost the local economy. "That doesn't leave much room in the middle for men", says Dick. I know plenty of men playing major roles in this local food evolution (i.e. revolution) and of course he is one of them (as are many good men I know, including my two sons), but the important point of this story is the awareness that so much of what we can do to help ourselves is in our heart, at the end of our two hands, and right under our feet, both "taking back" our food and sharing the local bounty within our local community.

From seed to satisfaction, from sowing to sharing, I hope you join the gentle growing revolution in 2012, but you can look for your own local growers now throughout the winter and support them with your purchases. There used to be an old ad (I forget what it was for) that said '________ It does a body good'. I hope you'll fill in that blank with "Growing your own food does a body good!" where 'body' = you plus your community.

And you do not need to make a 'fashion statement' to be part of this revolution. Just put a smile on your face, and I doubt that anyone will notice the straw in your hair.  :-)

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, December 4, 2011

One of those great days :-)

Nothing special until late afternoon when a friend came over and the two of us drove a short distance from our farm to find a group of short-eared owls that migrate south to our part of SE Michigan each winter. We knew we had found the owls when we found a group of ~20 cars lined up along the road and 20+ people lining the road's edge all holding their binoculars up. This was a first or 'lifer' for me. What a thrill to see several of these beautiful big birds (I saw 4 different ones) hunting at dusk over the open fields. They were not close, but we still got decent views. I'm tempted to go back again and again to soak in the joy of seeing them weaving back and forth approx 3-4 feet over the fields. However, even with all my straw bale moving to get the garlic mulched, my upper arms were sore this morning when waking up. I guess different muscles are used to continuously hold up those binoculars. So the logical conclusion -to me- is that I must need more birding to strengthen those muscles, too!

Here is a link to see the short-eared owl.

Next up was supper, again nothing special until we tasted the sauce/dip I made to spice up our cooked brussels sprouts, which I made by mixing an equal amount of the 'garlic exilir' recipe from my previous post with some blue cheese crumbles (about 1 heaping Tbsp. each) with some olive oil to blend it all together just using a fork to smash and stir. My husband's eyes got wide and I saw him licking his fork (maybe even his finger?) saying something like 'This is AMAZING!' Yes, I had to agree. We ate all the sauce I made last night, but there are still more ingredients to make it again for something else - easy as pie, actually much easier than making pie!

Last, I found and pulled out all of our University of Wisconsin flags, blankets, t-shirts, and other UW 'gear' collected over the years to make it clear who we were cheering for in last night's first Big Ten Championship Football Game against Michigan State University. I am a life-long Badger fan, finally getting to UW-Madison for my graduate degree and dietetic internship, most of that time (decades in fact!) being happy enough to be on the short-end of the 62-0 type of scores. Garrison Keillor likes to say that type of team 'builds character' for the team, the students, and even the State, and maybe it does, but winning is nice, too. :-) I had to struggle to stay awake for the entire game, so it was a good thing UW finally woke me up at the end of the 4th quarter by decisively coming alive to win the game.  On to the Rose Bowl! U-rah-rah Wiscooonsin!

A good day, a very good day, even a very special day. :-)

Now on to Christmas tree shopping. We do things like this when we can't be out in our own wet fields to finish putting the farm to bed for the winter because, guess what!, it's raining again, raining, raining, and raining some more. However, even with the rain (our pond is now officially overflowing), we'll have a very good day.

I hope you enjoy your day, too!

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD