Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Book Review--Anti Cancer A New Way of Life

I don't know why, but when I announced to friends and family that I had cancer, I got bombarded with books.

Many of these gifts dealt with how to cope with cancer once you had it.

Other books, however, focused on how to NOT get cancer.  

Well, since I was already diagnosed with cancer, I would say that the horse had already left the barn, so it was a bit late for that.

But, a gift is a gift, and I've been dutifully reading through all the material given to me, and I thought that maybe I should start reviewing some of it.

One of the books I found most interesting is Anti Cancer A New Way of Life by David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD

Bottom line, a French doctor living in the US finds out in his early 30's that he has brain cancer.    He survives, relapses and survives again (although he finally died last July).   Along the way he does quite a bit of research about what causes cancer, and what to do to prevent it.

Dr. Servan-Schreiber incorporates much of his own story into the book, and I have to say that it has a tendency to ramble all over the place (what ever happened to good editors?).    

But the research and findings he discusses is fascinating.     He discusses the statistical rise in certain forms of cancer (including breast) and shows how it is linked to the chemicals and pesticides in our food chain.

He also then proposes a diet to help our immune systems fight cancer.

As usual, the diet advice was pretty disappointing for me since I pretty much already eat that way.    I hardly eat any meat, and I tend to stick with organic produce, meat and products as well as whole-grains.   

According to his theory I really shouldn't have gotten cancer to begin with, and now that I've had it, what am I supposed to do?  

Overall, I say Anti-Cancer is a worthwhile read.   Just for the research alone.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

That Ain't Honey, Honey

Do you believe that most of the honey sold in US grocery stores isn't actually honey???

This is news to me.  Even more sickening, much the the so-called "honey" being sold is from China and India and contains unsafe chemicals and drugs.   A lot of this pseudo-honey sold in the US is actually banned from sale in Europe as unsafe.

It's just another example of the emasculation of the FDA in recent years.

Now, I have to admit that this doesn't affect me all that much.   I'm not really a big fan of honey, and prefer Maple Syrup as my natural sweetener.  

Plus, when I do use honey it's usually something I bought at the Farmer's Market from a local bee-keeper, and as the article indicated, that means I'm pretty safe.   

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

Home-made Thanksgiving

I'm hosting Thanksgiving this year, and I'm proud to say that nothing is being made out of a can, box or bag.

That's not unusual for my family.   We've always pretty much done the from scratch Thanksgiving feast.   Chalk one up for the Italian Heritage.

It's not that I'm laboring in the kitchen from 4 am to get the meal done.   My family has pretty much always done Thanksgiving Pot-luck style.  Everyone brings something.   One sister is bringing both the apple and pumpkin pies, another a vegetable dish and sweet potatoes (no marshmallows please), and my Mom is bringing the antipasto platter and mashed potatoes (with olive oil and garlic in them of course).

Plus, I've been schooled in do it ahead since I was a kid.   Two weekends ago, I made the turkey stock and gravy base which have been sitting in the freezer since then.   The cranberry sauce was made over the weekend, and is hanging out in the downstairs fridge along with a pate I made as an appetizer, and I cut up two loaves of sourdough bread to make croutons for the stuffing.   I even set the table for the big day.

Tomorrow I'll pick up my fresh turkey and put it in a brining solution.

On Wednesday, I'll make the stuffing base, and peel, cut and chop a melange of root vegetables for roasted root vegetables with ginger and maple syrup.   I'll even begin roasting the root vegetables, to get a head start.  

Wednesday afternoon I'll get the turkey ready to pop in the oven first thing Thursday morning.  I'll take the turkey out of the brining solution, pat dry, and stuff the cavity with shallots, apples, celery and sage.   Then I'll truss the bird, sprinkle salt and pepper on the outside, place in it's roasting pan, cover and set back in the fridge overnight.

On Thursday morning, my 22 pound bird will be put in the oven first thing.   I'll then finish up making the stuffing (we cook it outside the bird), gravy and roasted veggies and dinner will be served.

Bruce Bradley's blog is fast becoming one of my favorites, so I love his newest post detailing just how bad processed "Thanksgiving Food" is.   It's worth a read.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Vegetarian Option

Last night my husband and I were invited to a fund-raising dinner at the Pierre Hotel in NYC. 

Now, I'm not really one for going to fancy fund-raisers, but since the benefit was to raise money for a Breast cancer cause, I thought, given that I have breast cancer, it was time to pull my Armani sheath out the closet, slip my feet into my Jimmy Choos and head off into the big city.

I've always found fund-raising dinners problematic when you're trying to lose and/or maintain weight, 

They may be asking you to bid a minimum of $2,000 on a dinner for 4 at Raos, but the food they put in front of you is usually questionable.    Last night dinner started with a generously-sized salad (good), but the main course was some questionable-looking red meat, coated in a god-knows-whats-in-it sauce.

Looking at what was being served, I politely asked if it was possible to get a vegetarian option.

The good news was that a vegetarian option was available.   The mystery meat was swept away, and in its place was delivered a neat little pastry-package filled with quiona and mixed vegetables.   I tasted the pastry, but left most behind, focusing on eating the quiona/veggie mixture and the side of green-beans wrapped into a little bundle with a leek.  

My initial worry with "going vegetarian" was that I might get something smothered in cheese---making it almost as bad as the meat.    But, as I was tasting the meal, cheese and even butter, seemed to be absent.

The rise of the vegans???? Maybe the vegetarian option also served as the vegan option?  

If so, in the future, I'll be more than happy to leave the rubber chicken dinners behind me, an go vegetarian at future fund-raisers.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What I Made For Dinner Last Night

I haven't done one of these "What I Made for Dinner Last Night" postings in a while, but I thought it would be a good idea to show that I can still find time to make dinner most nights even though I am in radiation every day.

The radiation now takes an additional 1 hour and 15 minutes out of my busy day.   The actual radiation treatment isn't that long--on 10-15 minutes, but getting to the hospital and back every day is time consuming.

To make up for the lost time, I've been doing a lot of "double cooking" and cooking on the weekends.    When I "double cook" I make enough food for 2 meals and freeze the remainder, and when I cook on the weekends, I just prepare food in advance and either refrigerate or freeze.

For example, last week I made a big pot of minestrone and froze half for a later meal.    Two weekends ago I made two pans of my mushroom/spinach lasagna (I'll write out the recipe one day), and froze both.  

Even with that advance planning, I still need to whip up some quick dinners during the week.   If I have a chance to get to the grocery store, grilling fresh salmon is quick and easy, and a crowd pleaser with my family.   I can either make a salad or steam some green beans or broccoli to go along side it, and top with one of my home-made vinaigrette's.

Last night, however, I went back to an old family, quick and easy favorite.  My grandmother made this dish quite often, and I always liked it because you cook the cauliflower and pasta together in the same pot which saves clean up time.    The whole dish takes less than half and hour to make from start to finish, and you can substitute broccoli if you don't care for cauliflower.   It's also great because all the ingredients are easy to keep for at least a couple of weeks, so you don't have to run out last minute to shop.

Here's the recipe.

1 head of cauliflower cut into 1 inch pieces
1 12 oz box of whole grain pasta
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 medium-sized yellow onion peeled and chopped
1 2 oz. can of anchovies, drained and rinsed.
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add cauliflower and pasta.  Stir and cook until pasta is al dente.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pan over high heat and add the chopped onions.   Cook until they begin to turn translucent and then add anchovies.  Stir until anchovies break apart (about 3 minutes).   Add 1 cup of the pasta/cauliflower cooking water and let the liquid reduce by half (2-3 minutes).

Drain pasta and cauliflower and add to the pan with the onion/anchovy mixture.  Add salt and pepper to taste and parsley if using.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

First Ketchup, Now Pizza

Congressional Republicans are pushing a proposal to make pizza a vegetable in school lunches.   I kid you not. 

On Monday, Republican-controlled House of Representatives introduced a spending bill — a measure far more significant than their initial whining and foot-stomping — that would obviate a proposal made earlier this year by the Agriculture Department to limit the amount of potatoes and sodium, as well as increase the number of whole grains, served in school cafeterias. Unsurprisingly, changes to the Agriculture's proposal had been requested by frozen pizza companies and the salt and potato industries, which worry that, deprived of essential french fry nutrients, American children will begin to absorb too much water and explode like Senator Kelly from the first X-Men movie. Some conservative congressional members have also expressed concerns that the government shouldn't be telling children what to eat, especially if they're eating frozen pizza and French fries, and so have crafted a bill that, according to CBS, would "prevent overly burdensome and costly regulations and...provide greater flexibility for local school districts to improve the nutritional quality of meals." The bill includes language qualifying that the gross tomato paste used in school pizzas be considered a vegetable; once classified as a vegetable, the paste would count towards fulfilling the vegetable portion of nutritional guidelines.
Overly burdensome regulations?  It's amazing how regulations suddenly become "burdensome" every time some big business conglomerate wants to make more money by harming the American public.  

If pizza could be counted as a vegetable the problem is that the regulations aren't burdensome enough.  It's time to get money out of politics for our children's sakes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Battle for Breakfast?

Think that Tony the Tiger is just a harmless breakfast icon?    Think again.

Despite what big food tries to convince you, here's the reality:

Defenders of kid marketing claim animated characters are simple, harmless fun. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth. These characters are not some random creation. Rather, they are a well-calculated assault on children. For any given character, millions of dollars has been spent on the following:
  1. Researching the psyche of kids at each stage of childhood development
  2. Learning effective emotional triggers to create kid engagement, trust and purchase interest
  3. Understanding story frameworks to make sure they are interesting to kids
  4. Testing and re-testing advertising concepts and final commercials to ensure they will drive increased consumption among kids
With the help of advertising agencies, research firms, and brand character specialists like Character LLC, Big Food companies launch advertising smart bombs, disguised as fun-loving characters, straight at kids.
It is truly amazing that when you do a side by side comparison of Frosted Flakes to an ice cream sandwich, you'd actually be better off giving your kids an ice-cream sandwich for breakfast.   

And, as the blogger notes, the size of the Frosted Flakes portion is vastly undersized, so you're feeding your kid even more calories, sodium and fat. 

As the author points out, Kellogg's spends nearly $20 million annually marketing just Frosted Flakes.   Tony the Tiger represents big money, and it's not money spent in your kids' best interest.

The author says it well, "Kid's Marketing . .  .  It's Just Not a Fair Fight."

Monday, November 14, 2011

Well Duh!!!

Eating a McDonald's McRibs sandwich isn't all that good for your health.    I kind of already gathered that eating processed pressed meat shaped into rib form probably wasn't a good idea.

However, I didn't realize that if I did venture to eat one, I'd essentially be eating the same ingredients that are in my yoga mat.   To wit:

These components are in small enough quantities to be innocuous. But it's still a little disconcerting to know that, for example, azodicarbonamide, a flour-bleaching agent that is most commonly used in the manufacture of foamed plastics like in gym mats and the soles of shoes, is found in the McRib bun. The compound is banned in Europe and Australia as a food additive. (England's Health and Safety Executive classified it as a "respiratory sensitizer" that potentially contributes to asthma through occupational exposure.) The U.S. limits azodicarbonamide to 45 parts per million in commercial flour products, based on analysis of lab testing.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Confessions of a Former Big Food Executive

A good read.  Most telling:

I think one of the main ways the processed food industry is trying to grow and defend their business is by funding self-serving research. The goal of these studies isn't to uncover "the truth" or to improve public health. Instead, the research is carefully constructed to create sound bites and statistics to help market their products or combat potential regulation. This is one of the primary ways we end up with conflicting studies that confuse consumers on what they should eat or drink.

Is this purposeful misdirection? Intent is always tough to prove, especially if you don't have firsthand knowledge. Research tends to be the work of a select few within processed food companies, and I was never part of one of those groups. That said, if you dig into these studies and their methodology, you can usually find the telltale signs of how they have "stacked the deck" in their favor.

Radiation Dos and Don'ts

Yesterday was my first radiation treatment.   I have to go in everyday, five days a week, for 32 treatments.  

It was pretty uneventful yesterday, aside from the fact that I woke up with a fairly nasty cold, and could not breath through my nose for most of the day.

On my way out, the technician handed me a list of "do's and don'ts" which I thought I'd share with you, along with my thoughts on each one.

1.  Do not expose the treated breast to sunlight.   I'm a 50 year old woman, living in Connecticut, and it's NOVEMBER, what the hell makes you think I'll be sunbathing topless?

2.  Wear Cotton only bras with no underwires.  Well I guess my husband won't be getting any sexy lingerie strip-teases for a while.

3.  Do not shave treated armpit.   If I'm not shaving one, then what's the point of shaving the other?

4.   Apply pure cornstarch to treated breast prior to treatment.  Just what I want to do everyday, rub gravy thickener into my boobie.

5.  Do not use any cream, lotion, cosmetics or deodorant on the treated breast.   Do women actually use cosmetics on their breasts?   Am I missing out on something here?

6.  Do not apply heat or cold to treated breast.  Again, am I missing something here?   Do women typically go around with heating pads and cold packs on their boobs?

7.  Do not scratch or rub skin on treated breast.  Well, that wouldn't be very attractive now would it?  Why don't you just tell me not to rub my crotch while you're at it?  

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Kids are Not All Right

They don't understand what it takes to lose weight.

What I found most distressing was that obese teen-agers turn to smoking as a weight loss aide.     The second most distressing thing is that they don't understand that they can't have their sugary sodas and lose weight too.   It's sad to think that young men and women may be turned off to exercise, thinking it does nothing for them, because they don't understand that they have to both cut calories and exercise.  

The most effective way to cut calories, of course, is to cut out those sugary drinks.

It all comes down to education.   Our young people are woefully under-educated in what it takes to maintain a healthy weight.   They simply do not understand that if they spend three hours a day sitting playing video games and drinking sugary drinks, they are going to be obese.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mental Health Break

Because we all need a good laugh now and again:

If you're having problems viewing this Daily Show Clip, check it out here

Friday, November 4, 2011

Getting Back to Tai Chi

Last night I made it back to Tai Chi for the first time since the Great Northeastern Halloween Snow Black-out.   It felt so great to just breath.

Our power finally came back on Wednesday night after going out Saturday afternoon.  

Needless to say, not having power for five days majorly disrupted my normal work-out and eating regime.  

It was kind of like being on a vacation without the actual fun of being on vacation.

Did I mention that our town canceled school for THE ENTIRE WEEK???   So I've had a bored ten year old to contend with and a 16 year old autistic young man bouncing off the walls because his normal routine was disrupted.

Then, there was the whole cancer thing.   I was dragging the kids, or trying to schedule sitters, so that I could make the rounds with my surgeon, oncologist and radiologist.

The shala were I normally practice was closed because there was no power, and I couldn't practice in my normal home yoga space because there was over a foot of water in it.

Plus, after three days of living in a cold, dark house were we couldn't flush the toilets, we finally abandoned ship and went to live with my girl-friend.  

Now, with the kids out of school it was impossible for me to walk outside.  I also couldn't utilize my treadmill because there was no power.   Taking the kids anywhere to hike on Sunday and  Monday was out of the question because there was snow on the ground.

With both my yoga shala and martial arts dojo closed due to lack of power, my usual exercise schedule was completely trashed.

I did manage to take a few walks with my girl-friend once I moved in with her and the snow melted, but she doesn't walk as far as I normally do.   I also took the kids for a couple of walks in a park near her house as well.

So last night after getting back in my house, being able to go to the dojo and practice Tai Chi felt so-o-o-o good.   I've been able to get back on the treadmill, take the kids for a hike and this morning I dragged the kids to the shala to wait while I practiced yoga.

What can I say about what I've been eating?   Well, with no power it was hard to cook.   I have a gas cook-top--THANK THE LORD--but for the most part we took the kids out to eat to get out of the cold, dark house (and use the toilets).   I only ordered salads and grilled fish, but it was still probably a higher caloric load than I usually eat.

Did I mention the water in my basement?   It came in handy to flush the toilets.  Every day, several times a day, I'd don my rubber Hunter boots and walk down the stairs to the basement, fill the buckets with water, and go up to the bathrooms on the first and second level.  I'd fill the tanks with the water from the buckets and flush.

We live in an early 19th New England Farmhouse.  The plaque on the house says it was built in 1825.   Whenever we lose power all I can think is that while I'm inconvenienced for a few hours, this was how people lived full time.

Well folks, I have to say.  After having two extended power outages in the last 3 months, and living without electricity, heat and even running water, I know that I am SO-O-O-O happy to be living in the 21st century and not the 19th.

Now if I can only keep the power on.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Exercise DOES Help with Weight Loss

I have to admit that I was highly skeptical when a bunch of studies were touted a few months ago concluding that exercise does not help with weight loss.   It just seemed to run counter to everything I've ever seen with my own weight loss efforts and those of friends and family.  

Well, it turns out I had good cause to be skeptical.   A new batch of studies indicates that weight loss DOES help.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

About those Pink Ribbons

Turns out that those pink ribbons plastered all over everything last month may have been a bit hypocritical.   Here's the deal:
Avon and Estee Lauder make various products containing PEG compounds and other chemicals that undergo a nasty chemical process called “ethoxylation,” which uses ethylene oxide (a known breast carcinogen) during processing and often leaves products contaminated with 1,4 dioxane (a carcinogen and serious groundwater contaminant).
All three companies make products containing parabens and other chemicals that act like estrogen in the body, which is problematic because higher estrogen exposures are associated with higher breast cancer risk. A recent study found that methylparaben can interfere with the effectiveness of tamoxifin, a drug used to treat breast cancer.Revlon, Avon and Estee Lauder owe it to us to do better. As leaders in the pink-ribbon parade, they have a responsibility to stop buying carcinogens from the chemical companies, and they have the opportunity to be real champions for women’s health by using their leverage with the chemical companies to demand safer, non-toxic alternatives.
Instead, we get cute pink-ribbon products with an undisclosed portion of proceeds going to breast cancer research, almost none of which is focused on environmental causes of the disease such as cancer-causing chemicals and pollution. They want us to “hope for the cure” rather than having a serious discussion about how to prevent breast cancer – because prevention requires changing the status quo.   

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

No Power, No Water, No Heat and No Internet

Just wanted to let you all know that due to the freak Eastern October Snowstorm I haven't had power, Internet etc since Saturday.    We haven't gotten any estimates yet as to when we may see our power restored, so until then, I'm not sure what my ability to blog will be.