Irish Stew

I’m not Irish, I don’t pretend to be Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day, and I don’t play someone Irish on television. No offense meant to anyone who does celebrate it; it’s just not normally a day I acknowledge in any big way. But this year I made an exception. In menu planning for the week, I thought I would try to find a recipe for a vegetarian Irish Stew to make today. True to form, I also made a number of modifications either because I didn’t have an item, or because I prefer a different ingredient.

And so, here is the link to my Vegan Irish Stew. I wish I could say the photo was mine, but it was all gobbled up before I thought to take a picture! It’s got a whole bunch of yummy vegetables, along with soy curls and lentils for health protein and meatiness. The gravy was delicious and we sopped it all up with some crust bread.

I also made some cupcakes (not vegan) with green icing and green sprinkles… for the children! Yes, I enjoyed them, too, but I really made them as a treat for my son and grandson.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

IMDb: Irish Stew (1930)

Empowered

As most of you know, between my surgery early last year and the pandemic, I haven’t really had the opportunity to do much (any) health coaching or any other workshops related to plant-based nutrition. I’m still so passionate about the benefits of a plant-based diet, and I have missed coaching. I figured I would wait out the pandemic and see what new opportunities might be available after that.

In the meantime, however, I was contacted by my friend, Jean, about taking over leading the Empowered Eating Group at The Greenhouse Project at Nay Aug Park in Scranton. Plant-based friends Kathy and Jean have established and led this group for several years, until the pandemic impacted that program also.

The mission of the Greenhouse Project is to educate children and adults on the relationship between the foods we eat and our personal and public health. This includes promoting activities that lead to healthier people and a healthier world. Their programs benefit education, nutrition, and local hunger projects.

The Empowered Eating Group was established to educate the community on the benefits of a plant-based diet, and to provide support to those who are trying to eat healthier, regardless of where they are on their health journey. I love that it is a no-judgement zone; the goal is to meet people where they are and educate and support however possible.

I started working with The Greenhouse Project in March and have my first events planned for April. We will be resuming the monthly educational series on various plant-based topics. For now, those events will be virtual, with the hope that we can do some outdoor activities over the summer and maybe do in-person activities as our country starts to achieve herd immunity.

I will be starting a quarterly plant-based book club in April also. Our first book will be Kris Carr’s “Crazy Sexy Diet”, one of my favorites! We will also be establishing a plant-based library so that educational materials are accessible by anyone. I will also be trying to expand our presence in social media.

If you are so inclined, I invite you to follow our Empowered Eating Group on Facebook (Instagram soon to follow!). https://www.facebook.com/EmpoweredEatingPlantBasedWholeFoods This would be a great way to stay informed on upcoming events, as well as other educational materials, recipes, and (someday) cooking demos. (I just need to get past my video-phobia!)

I’m really excited about this opportunity, working with a well-established and well-respected non-profit organization and building on the success that Kathy and Jean had with the program. Wish me luck!

IMDb: Empowered (2018)

Hot Shots! Part Deux

Despite a slight delay because Pennsylvania either can’t count or couldn’t figure out distribution, I finally received the second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. I am grateful and feel a certain liberation in knowing that I will not die or be on a ventilator if I were to contract this disease. As I see more and more people getting vaccinated in my little corner of the world, I am hopeful that a move closer to normal is in sight. I am glad to live in a community where vaccines are desired and I am not really aware of many people refusing to get them. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Unfortunately, the supply is still not up to demand, but I am hopeful we will get there now, with funding allocated to resources to expedite vaccine distribution. It’s still enormously frustrating to try to get an appointment. I have been trying for four weeks to get an appointment for my husband. I got him on multiple wait lists. I got him registered with a local hospital chain. And I was on multiple sites, every day, multiple times a day, hoping a cancelled appointment would pop up. Perseverance paid off and I was able to secure an appointment for this Friday afternoon, 20 miles away. But it shouldn’t have to be this hard. If you work for a living, or aren’t computer savvy, or don’t even have a computer, you’re probably out of luck in the short term. And you have to be super fast, or you miss it. I feel everyone’s frustration and am hopeful this will get better soon.

In terms of my reaction to the second shot, I am doing pretty well. I have a low grade temperature and feel like I was hit by a truck, with achy muscles, joints, and lymph areas, but it’s tolerable. I know many of who have had severe chills, higher temps, and more pain, so I am not complaining at all. I’ll take this temporary inconvenience.

It was suggested that I hydrate before and after the shot, and I did that. So, at least anecdotally, it seemed to work. (It did not work for my dental hygienist who I saw on Friday afternoon, but it certainly never hurts to hydrate.) When you go for your second shot, my advice is to plan nothing the rest of day, and for the next day as well. I plan on spending most of my day with my butt on the couch. I fully expect to be back to normal, such that it is, tomorrow.

I know I am blessed that my perseverance paid off, along with a bit of timing dumb luck (thank you, Karen F. for sending me the link to Hometown when you did!). Good luck to all of you still struggling to get appointments for yourself or your loved ones. I hope you are successful soon.

IMDb: Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993)

Check and Double Check

The trip to Philadelphia was for my 6-month check up. I had four appointments in all: 2 ultrasounds, 2 doctors. I’m grateful for my hubby, who sat in the lobby watching Star Wars movies on his iPad, since he was not allowed in with me to any appointments. He refuses to let me go alone, and he insists on doing all the driving.

My first appointment was for a repeat thyroid ultrasound. This is the third one I had. The first two were done locally but the PennMed docs reviewing those reports and films did not think they were done well, and there was no recommendation action in the report. Since I will be going to Penn every six months anyway, it made sense to just have them re-do it. It was certainly a much more thorough ultrasound, but my developed test anxiety had me nervous. The amount of time the doctor spent doing the test made me start to panic a bit, since my default assumption is always that something is wrong. I waited the longest (about a week) for these results. Everything was stable, but they did want me to start seeing an endocrinologist. I have an TeleMed appointment with a Penn doctor at the end of March. Part of me just wanted to find a local doctor for ease of visits, but the quality of care at Penn can’t be beat, so… Penn it is. For those of you wondering why thyroid… This was an “incidental finding” from a prior CT scan that they are required to follow up on.

Appointment number two was a chest ultrasound to continue monitoring the “lump” that we all believe to be a “surgical remnant” but want to monitor to be safe. Everything was stable/same, so that’s good.

Before my doctors’ appointments, I had my vitals taken and my meds/history reviewed. Apparently, my heart rate was higher than normal. I didn’t realize this until I got into my third appointment was with my oncologist. She said, “oh, I see you were tachycardic…” Really? Heart rate was 103. I have to believe it was an error or typo or something. I didn’t feel like my heart was racing or anything like that, so I’m not really worried. But hearing the word “tachycardic” was surprising.

Everything went well. She was happy with how I was doing, that I’m continuing to exercise, that I got my first covid shot (at her recommendation), and that my side effects from the meds were all manageable.

My last appointment was with my surgeon, who I haven’t seen in a year, due to the pandemic. She finally got to check out said “lump” and her thoughts are that it’s a suture. It isn’t the size, shape, etc. of a surgical clip, per her assessment, and it’s just something we’ll watch to be on the safe side.

I love all of my Penn doctors. They always spend a good amount of time with me, and they seem interested in me as a person. Am I still exercising every day? Am I still writing? How is that grandson of yours? I think it’s important to feel a connection with your physicians and I feel so comfortable and confident every time I go there. I could conceivably stop seeing them and stay local only, but I just feel so much better going there (in addition to my local doctors). I am getting checked and double checked.

I will return in August for a repeat of all the same appointments.

IMDb: Check and Double Check (1930)

The Sanitizer

Wow. I’m so glad I was diligent about writing in January, because in February, I really dropped the ball! It wasn’t that I didn’t have things to write about; I certainly did. But life got busy(-ier?) somehow and the constant snowing meant lots of shoveling… You know how it goes!

Anyway, back on February 9th, I had scheduled appointments in Philadelphia. Two ultrasounds and two doctors’ appointments. Unfortunately, it was supposed to snow (again!) on February 9th. As David and I debated our departure time the night before, considering getting in an accident or stuck behind an accident on the turnpike, we decided that maybe we should drive down right then and there. Over dinner, we made the decision to leave “soon” and just spend the night.

I don’t know about you, but in this pandemic world, the thought of staying in a hotel freaked me out just a bit. I quickly searched for a hotel room, noting that the search websites had a new option to filter on: “properties taking safety measures”. Cool. I definitely clicked on that and found a list of hotels that were committed to sanitizing, masking, and not assigning rooms back-to-back. Meaning, if I stay in a room tonight, it will not be given to anyone tomorrow. This all made me feel a bit better, but I still packed my Lysol spray and wipes!

We threw together a suitcase for the overnight and a cooler with our lunch for the next day, and off we went.

We arrived at the hotel about 9:30 and we felt pretty comfortable that the hotel was, indeed, taking precautions. The person at the front desk had her mask under her nose (really, people?) but she was behind Plexiglas, so I opted not to say anything. (I did include it in my “how was your stay?” feedback.) Once in the room, before we unpacked a thing or sat down, I wiped down every single surface we might touch and sprayed everything (especially the bedding) with Lysol. It was only then that I felt a bit more relaxed.

Staying in a hotel was something we once took for granted and never really thought about. I look forward to a time when we can be more comfortable traveling, although, admittedly, I might always be packing the Lysol from now on! For those who might think I went overboard or shouldn’t be so freaked out, we’ve been so careful for so long, I just would hate to drop my guard at this point. With one vaccine under my belt, I see the light at the end of the tunnel and want us all to make it there.

Stay tuned for details from the appointments… and stay safe, everyone!

IMDb: The Sanitizer (2020)

Super

It’s that time again! That day when we throw caution to the dietary winds, indulging in pizza, wings, chips, dip, and all sorts of unhealthy, yet delicious, foods. Yes, it’s Super Bowl Sunday.

We don’t typically make a big deal of the big game, although we do always watch. Our football viewing has waned over the years and, honestly, I don’t really care who wins. I will usually root for the underdogs, just because, but I think that’s the Bucs this year, and Tom Brady… So I’m torn! I guess I’ll be “that person” who just hopes it’s a good (i.e., close/interesting) game.

With the intention of making our food choices a bit more interesting, I went searching for a healthier pizza option and found a recipe using polenta as the pizza crust. Move over, cauliflower! The recipe is from the Jazzy Vegetarian Classics cookbook, but true to form, I have modified it quite a bit (no oil, different seasonings, added olives, etc.).

I have to say, it was quite yummy, and totally healthy. No added fat, with a healthy grain, fresh tomatoes, and the wonderful tang of artichokes and kalamata olives. Here’s my version: Polenta Pizza with Artichokes. So good! Enjoy!

For full transparency, we will be eating a not-so-healthy spinach and artichoke dip later… 🙂 Enjoy whatever your indulgence is today. Luckily the Super Bowl is only one day a year.

May your team win!

IMDb: Super (2005)

Remembrance

Today would have been my parents’ 61st wedding anniversary. I think of them both every day, but especially so on their anniversary and birthdays. My parents were kind, generous, hard-working people who never had much in terms of financial or material means but gave of themselves to so many.

My mother always believed that there was always someone who had it worse than they did, and tried to help others in need whenever she could. She always had fresh baked goods in the house, known for her sugar cookies and pies, and she was happiest when surrounded by children. After raising her own three children, she helped care for my son and my nieces, as well as babysitting for other people’s children. She was the mom that everyone came to in the neighbor when something went wrong or they were injured.

My father was the hardest working man I ever met. Even when he wasn’t working, he was working. We used to joke that he wore his work uniforms all the time; that was the role he was most comfortable with. Not big on words or other displays of affection, my father showed his love by (what else?) acts of service. You never knew when he was going to show up at the house to mow or weed whack, wash the car or the windows, or whatever household task was on your list.

I have been working on a photo scanning project for a few years now (I do it in fits and starts), and I love looking at photos of them when they were young. I even found a few from their dating years. The photos below are from 1959, 1960 and 1964 (obviously the one with my older brother and me).

I hope they knew how much they meant to me. I am grateful to have had them for my parents.

IMDb: Remembrance (1982)

Juiced

Anyone else sore from shoveling snow? I was out twice today for a total of 90 minutes. As I sit here in front of my computer, I’m starting to feel certain muscles… ouch! But I do love to shovel, strangely enough. It’s great exercise and very refreshing! To all of you in the Northeast, please be careful!

* * * * * * * *

It’s been quite a while since I have done any juicing. Once upon a time, it was part of our daily routine, particularly when my son was in high school. We regularly shared a juice after school, but somehow juicing fell by the way side. The juicer takes up a lot of room on the counter, and it takes a fair amount of work to prepare and clean up.

But when your 19-year-old son says “I think we need to start juicing again”, you find room on said counter and you make it a priority. Our usual recipe includes 6-8 carrots, 2 celery stalks, 1 english cucumber, 2 oranges, 1-2 apples, and 1″ of ginger root. Unfortunately, apples and ginger were out of stock and were missing from this week’s grocery order. So we made do by adding some frozen strawberries and some minced (jarred) ginger (not quite the same, but it worked). Nothing like a huge glass of nutrients!

I know there are plant-based doctors who don’t agree with juicing (yes, it IS always better to eat whole foods and to chew them) but we have always found it to be beneficial. As someone who is perpetually dehydrated, juicing contributes to my hydration. Plus, the nutrients just always seem to boost our immune systems. I think you need to be careful about the balance of fruits and vegetables so you don’t get too much sugar, but otherwise, it works for us.

Do you juice? What recipes do you like best?

* * * * * * * * *

Today’s recipe is for Chipotle-Mushroom Tacos with a lime slaw. Easy to make and very filling. The Lime Slaw adds a nice tang and some crunch. A bit of avocado and you’re good to go! Enjoy!

IMDb: Juiced (2006)

Whatever

I’m a diligent meal planner. Every weekend I sit with my spiral notebook and calendar and plan the next week’s meals. It’s a labor of love, trying to select meals that everyone will enjoy, but there are many benefits. Planning reduces waste, because I’m only buying what it part of the plan. Planning saves money, and it saves time. I do not run for in-between shopping trips, because, you know, I have a plan and I stick with it.

It’s all good, but I have to say I’m tired of planning. At least this weekend.

I got it done and I got my grocery order today. (Thankfully we watched the weather and scheduled pick up for today instead of tomorrow, beating the big snow storm.) But it was painful.

Because, after almost a year of not going out to eat, of planning pretty much ALL of our meals, I’m tired. Tired of trying to come up with new recipes. Tired of trying to be creative and interesting. Tired of asking for input, only to hear “whatever”. It’s certainly nice that my husband and son will eat anything I put in front of them, but occasionally, it would be nice to have some input. When I really, really push them, I might get one suggestion from each of them. But that is so rare.

I suppose I could go back and just re-use prior meal plans. It’ll get boring after a while, but maybe it’ll lower my aggravation in the meantime! They say that most people only know how to cook 5-10 recipes, and that most only try a new recipe once a year. I definitely know how to cook many more, and I try for at least one new recipe…every week. So maybe I need to lower my own expectations: Stop searching for new recipes every week. Re-use prior menus from time to time. Plan for take-out a bit more (I think we have only done take-out, maybe, 20 times since last March). Stop making it harder than in needs to be.

Because, you know, “whatever” is ok!

What do YOU do for meal planning?

IMDb: Whatever (1998)

Hot Shots!

I am completely grateful and relieved to have received my first COVID vaccine shot today. I’m not normally one to rush to a vaccine; I rarely get the flu shot, I haven’t received the shingles vaccine, etc. But this one is different, and I am blessed to have had the opportunity to get my shot.

As a three time cancer survivor, the latest in 2020, I worried a great deal about “what if” I got COVID-19. My body has had a lot of wear and tear over the years from treatment and surgeries. What would my outcome be? The thought terrified me.

But I wasn’t necessarily positive I qualified, so I reached out to my oncologist at University of Pennsylvania and she absolutely encouraged me to get the vaccine as soon as I could. Breast cancer IS an underlying condition.

I initially signed up with the Geisinger Health System. It took me 4 days to get set up on their system and to get an appointment. I did this by sitting in front of my computer for hours on end, refreshing the system until an appointment popped up. Then the trick was to be fast enough to confirm it before someone else did. It felt like some sort of weird competition, knowing that there were others who were equally qualified vying for the coveted remaining appointments. With persistence, I managed to nab an appointment for February 10th.

In the interim, I had also put my name on a waiting list with a new community health center only 2 miles away from my home. They called me Thursday to set me up with an appointment today. (I have, obviously, canceled my other appointment.)

Our local high school was the setting for the vaccination clinic, and they were planning to do 1000 shots, although there were 4000+ on the waiting list. I was pleased to see that there is so much interest locally in obtaining the vaccine. I see on the news that there are people who are skeptical and some places are struggling to get people to show up. In some ways I get that, but these are extraordinary times, requiring extraordinary actions. I believe we all need to get vaccinated. It’s our only way out of this pandemic and back to “normal” (whatever that may look like).

What surprised me the past few weeks was the anger / shaming that was sent in my direction when I posted that I had a vaccine appointment. Yes, I understand the frustration, and we could argue for days about who is most qualified (have you ever taken a medical ethics class?) to receive the vaccine.

The system is broken at the moment, with many smart and qualified people now trying to remedy the situation. We should be directing our anger at that broken system, not at people who qualify and rightfully receive the vaccine. Shaming others is never the answer. We need to push our representatives (Call or email them; I do.) to fix what is broken. To help the elderly with other options for scheduling and distribution. To get more vaccine sent out. To provide process, structure, personnel, logistics… But we should definitely stop shaming people.

I realize I am fortunate to have received a vaccine. I am grateful. I wish all of you much success in securing appointments and vaccines. They are the light at the end of our pandemic tunnel.

IMDb: Hot Shots! (1991)