Turnip Day

Our adventures in produce continued with Week 3 of our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture): bunching broccoli, cucumber, kohlrabi, purplette onions, radishes, zucchini and salad turnips.

The zucchini, onions, and bunching broccoli went into a stir fry. For those unfamiliar (as I was) with the term “bunching broccoli”, it means the plant will produce again after you harvest it for the first time. This broccoli was slimmer/longer than what we usually see, and I thought it was much more tender to chop and eat.

The radishes were cut to add to a salad, but I lightly salted them and ended up eating all of them myself as a snack! It reminded me of my childhood days of picking them right out of the garden, wiping them off, and eating them just like that! The cucumbers were sliced and served with a dollop of sour cream. While not vegan, I always loved cucumbers in sour cream. Fermented foods are so good for our gut, so I give myself a pass on some occasional sour cream. 🙂

Kohlrabi is another veggie with childhood memories, but not good ones! I remember my dad planting this by mistake one year. By mistake? Not sure if it was a mix up of seeds somewhere or what, but one summer, this veggie showed up on the dinner table. They looked like potatoes, but, of course, tasted nothing like them! I’m not sure my mom, an otherwise superb cook, knew what to do with them. My recollection is that they were steamed or boiled, and not much else was done with them. And, of course, they were awful! But we were required to eat everything on our plates, not being able to afford any food waste, and we got them down.

Needless to say, I was nervous about trying this vegetable again! But our CSA shares recipes with us each week and I opted for the kohlrabi slaw. I always look for a YouTube video when I encounter a new veggie. How do I clean it? How do I prepare it? What parts do I use or throw out? It makes any new food less intimidating. Kohlrabi is a cruciferous vegetable, and we know this family of veggies to be very good for cancer prevention, so yea for bonus points!

After cleaning and peeling, the kohlrabi was grated on a box grater, along with a few carrots, and the remaining ingredients were added. Note, for this recipe, I added one tablespoon of olive oil, rather than the 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil it calls for. Honestly, I don’t think any oil was needed at all. We all enjoyed this salad, and I would definitely make it again. I look forward to more kohlrabi in my weekly rations so I can try some other recipes. Stay tuned!

That leaves us with the salad turnips, aka hakurei turnips.

These were brand new for me. I have never, ever eaten a turnip of any variety. I’m sure this is surprising, since I know how many plant-based friends love roasted veggies, including turnips, beets, etc. But I have never been brave enough to try them. So I watched my YouTube video and made this very simple braised salad turnips recipe. Turnips are apparently a currency of sorts in the Nintendo game, Animal Crossing, so my son was eager to give them a try! Who knew turnips were such an “in” thing!? This recipe was actually a hit (yes, there’s butter…) and my son went back for seconds. So a successful first outing with turnips. I’m looking forward to becoming more adventurous with them in the future!

 

IMDb: Turnip Day (2016)

Community

I have always wanted to join a CSA, and this year, I was finally able to connect with one that had a fairly local pick up for us. For those unfamiliar, CSA means Community Supported Agriculture. It’s a win-win arrangement between farmers and people in the community, whereby you pay upfront for a share of their crops, which are delivered weekly. The farmers benefit by having cash flow and they get to do all their marketing before their harvesting season begins.

I wanted to do this because a) I like supporting local businesses, b) buying local reduces the carbon footprint of the produce, c) I thought I’d get to try some new and different foods, and d) yea, for fresh produce!!

Through my new contacts at the Nay Aug Greenhouse Project in Scranton, I learned about Fullers Overlook Farm. Being my first time, I just purchased a half-share of produce. I was afraid that a full share might result in excess that might go to waste. Starting out with a half-share would give us the opportunity to try it all out without any waste. It would be more of a supplement to my meal planning, rather than the center point. We’re on week 3, and I thought I’d share some of the new produce and recipes we’ve tried out since starting.

Week 1 consisted of  red beets, chard, head lettuce, spinach, purpelette onions, scallions, and radishes.

The first new recipe was for a roasted beet salad. I have roasted beets before, but never cooked the beet greens, so that was new for me. This salad was delicious, although I used much less olive oil, and no cheese. My husband is not a fan of beets, but he did eat this and “I think” he enjoyed it.

The chard was also something I never ate before. This I sautéed with garlic and splashed some red wine vinegar on. Go greens!!

The purplette onions and scallions were used in a few recipes, specifically for taco toppings and in an omelette for David. The radishes were also sliced for the tacos. The spinach and lettuce were used for yummy salads. I added shredded carrots, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, scallions and whatever else I had on hand.

 

Week 2 included Badger Flame Beets (yes, that’s the name), zucchini, fennel, garlic scapes, curly kale, and salad mix.

These funky beets went into another roasted beet salad with fennel and citrus and was fabulous! More beets eaten by hubby! I was hesitant about the fennel because I’m not a fan of that black licorice flavor, but because of the salad dressing, I didn’t notice the flavor that much at all.

The zucchini, garlic scapes, and kale all went into my new favorite Spicy Kale and Coconut Fried Rice. And for those unfamiliar with garlic scapes, they look like this and didn’t taste like much in the stir fry. I thought they would be garlic-y-er (if that’s a word) than garlic bulbs, but not so much. I suspect the flavor just got hidden with everything else.

Stay tuned for Week 3 and more!

 

IMDb: Community (2018)

Motivation

Back in April, I posted about my progress with finally making exercise a priority. When I think about all the things that I have worked on to improve my health, the one area that I always fell short on was exercise. Over my lifetime, I had never been able to stick with an exercise routine consistently or for any real duration. I don’t like to be hot, I find most exercise to be boring and unproductive, and there are a hundred other things I’d rather be doing.

Like most of us, I knew that exercise benefits overall health. It helps with weight loss, improves mood (or so they say…not historically MY experience!), reduces your risk of heart disease, strengthens your bones and muscles, and actually helps you live longer. These alone seem like pretty good motivating factors, but did not motivate me.

Exercise also helps lower cancer risk. In fact, it is associated with lower risk of 13 different cancers!

Diet and exercise are the top two things you can change to lower your cancer risk (well, right after you quit smoking, if you still do that…). When you lower your weight, you are getting rid of excess fat that make all that extra estrogen which contributes to risk of some breast cancers. Extra fat cells also contribute to chronic inflammation, another risk factor. Physical activity regulates the hormones and insulin levels that can fuel breast cancer growth, including lowering stress hormones. It also strengthens your immune system, allowing your body to more effectively fight off illness and disease.

And still, despite knowing this, motivation was lacking for me.

As I stated in April, the coronavirus really helped motivate me. I wanted to strengthen my lungs and my immune system. And quarantine allowed for the time to build a routine. I am so excited to report that today is the *100th* day in a row of exercising for me! Yep, for the past 100 days, I have walked on my treadmill (3-4 miles a day), hiked, and/or done major household projects that allowed me to hit my step & move goals. Do you even know how huge a milestone that is for me? And now that I’m doing it, I can’t imagine NOT doing it.

I’m down about 8-10 pounds since quarantine started (depends on the day), and I feel stronger, with greater endurance. I have an appointment this afternoon for a dexascan to check my bone density and I’m interested to see if there’s any improvement, given the exercise. Of course, my meds are lowering my density, so I’ll be happy with status quo as well. Stay tuned for those results!

As for those household projects? I have mowed, weeded, mulched, planted, and weeded again (like every day!). I have power washed the entire house and fencing. I have washed windows (still some to be done), and scrubbed the entire second floor front of the house from the porch roof. I have painted doors and trim around the house. All great exercise and often done after my 3-4 miles, and the house looks great, may I add!

Sorry if I sound like I’m bragging. Ok, I am a little! I just never thought I’d ever figure out how to make the exercise thing stick. And I did. It took me a long, long time, but it’s never too late for any of us. Check out April’s blog for more tips, and just start, wherever you are in your health journey. And then start again when you lose motivation. And again. You can do it!

IMDb: Motivation (2016)

Safety Procedures

Today I had my first in-person doctor’s visit since my endometrial biopsy on March 6th. In the mid-pandemic world we live in, there were certainly a lot more safety precautions taken. At entry, there was a hand sanitizer and a desk where I was required to fill out a questionnaire on my health: fever, cough, travel, etc. in the past 14 days? And then they took my temperature before I was allowed to move through the next set of doors. No one was allowed in except that patients.

I was surprised that check-in still required entering your name on the touch pad. I used the stylus, but saw others using their hands. There was hand sanitizer nearby (which I used before and after entering my name), but no signage nudging patients to use it. I moved to the waiting area where there was ample distance between chairs. When my name was called, I was instructed to stay behind the green line on the floor. However, I still had to step forward to sign my credit card receipt, and we still exchanged my credit card, so I thought that was odd. I expected maybe the option to enter my own card into the machine and/or not having to sign the receipt…Hmm.

I moved to the next waiting room and sat down instinctively, but then wondered who had been in that chair before me. Overthinking? Perhaps! But it was freaky! I had my blood work done and then moved to the third waiting area, where I opted to stand until called. I’m sure all the appropriate sanitizing is occurring; it is, after all, an oncology center where a majority of people are immunocompromised. But it was hard not to be a bit paranoid. I mean, if we could actually SEE germs, would we be totally freaked out?

All staff was wearing protective gear, which was good. My struggle, as a hearing impaired individual, was not being able to read lips while listening. I managed ok, though.

My appointment went well. Vitals all good. Blood work good. All my questions answered. Good physical exam. Good discussion on next steps. I have a number of things that I have been putting off, since I deemed them “non-urgent”. But my oncologist did say that I shouldn’t put them off forever, so she helped me prioritize. First up? Annual exam / pap. Then my repeat thyroid ultrasound (my Penn doctors reviewed the last one but found it insufficient, so I have to re-do). Then my dermatology follow up in July, and then a dexascan. I’m thinking I’ll just do one a month! By then it will be time to return for my quarterly visit.

In all, I feel pretty good about things. My blood pressure was a lovely 106/62, so I think all my exercise is improving my overall health! I even got up at 6am to exercise before my appointment this morning. Not doing that again! LOL! (…much to my husband’s dismay… he’s up at the crack of dawn every single day and was happy to have a work out buddy)!

I hope everyone is healthy and safe!

woman-applying-hand-sanitizer-3987150

IMDb: Safety Procedures (2004)

 

The Missing Ingredient

I don’t know about you, but life in quarantine has really upended my usually-organized and well-planned meal preparation. I always planned my menu for the week ahead over the weekend, and shopped at Wegmans on Monday mornings. All of that is out the window now.

Considering myself at higher risk than some of the population, we are opting for curbside pick up of groceries, just to be on the safe side. The challenge with that is finding a time slot, and then actually getting what you needed. (Note: this is not at all a criticism of the grocery stores or their personnel. I give them all the credit in the world and am grateful for all the work they do!) Obviously, many of us are trying to do this, and the stores are doing their best to fulfill the high demand as best they can. (I have tried Wegmans, Riccardo’s, Gerritys, Shop Rite and Walmart. While not a fan of the latter, I have found a better ability to get a time slot. And while they don’t always have items that cater to a vegan menu, we are able to make do.)

But as a planner, I’ve had to learn to be very flexible!

The first thing I did was to make an inventory of everything in my pantry, fridge, and freezer. With that list, I put together a list of meals that I know I can make. With the remaining items, I put together a list of the possible meals and what ingredient(s) might be missing. As those missing ingredients are procured, those recipes move to the “ready to make” list. Since I didn’t always know when (or if) I would get those items, I just tracked as they came in. For example, if I can ever get chipotles in adobo sauce, I can make cauliflower tacos!

And in some cases, I just had to be flexible. When I didn’t get my frozen spinach, I realized that I had enough fresh spinach to just cook down what I had, so I could make stuffed shells!

When I didn’t initially get the riced cauliflower (or regular cauliflower) for aforementioned tacos, I searched for a new recipe using black beans and corn. What I found was a great recipe for corn salsa which I modified here based on the ingredients I had (and to make it oil free)! For the taco meat, I just use some sautéed red onion, a can of black beans and a tablespoon of cumin. Delicious!

I find myself googling a lot these days… “substitute for….”  It’s led to some new and interesting tastes, even on some old recipes.

So what are you cooking up these days? What’s your most creative substitution? How are you planning? Share your tips!!

 

By the way, I am now on Instagram @metamorphosis.mind.body.spirit. Follow me there!

IMDb: The Missing Ingredient (2015)

Genetic Me

Back in early March (which seems a lifetime ago), I met with a genetics counselor at Penn Medicine. I had blood drawn for testing and have been waiting for the results.  Last week I received a call from the counselor with the results of my testing.

The good news is that there was nothing of significance found, only 2 variants of uncertain significance, or VUSs. (I can’t help but think of ROUSs… from Princess Bride… Rodents of Unusual Size!) It is great news for my family to know that there are no genetic mutations being passed on.

If there is to be any down side to this news it was my hope to maybe have an answer as to why cancer would take root in my body on three separate occasions. I knew it was unlikely that anything would be found. There were really no patterns in my family history and I know that only 5-10% of all cancers are due to genetic mutations. That leaves 90-95% due to unhealthy diets and lifestyles and environmental influences.

Without a magic answer, so to speak, I’m left to continue to examine and re-examine all those other influences. Diet, exercise, alcohol intake, stress levels, toxins, and more. As if I haven’t examined that enough in the past 12 years, but I will continue trying to live the healthiest life I can.

For those who might be interested in the VUSs, they are as follows:

APC – associated with colon cancer, which has existed within my family on a limited basis. Also associated with significant numbers of colon polyps, starting at an early age.

BARD1 – has been reviewed for possible links to ovarian and breast cancer. According to recent studies of this gene, along with a few others, it does not appear that this particular gene is a risk factor for ovarian cancer. There is a possible association with increased risk of breast cancer, but any studies have been quite small and without control patients. Additional research is needed on this particular genetic link.

A VUS designation means that there is limited and/or conflicting evidence to suggest the mutation may cause a disease. My counselor said I can check back with them on an annual basis to see if the classification of those two mutations might have changed at all. She indicated that, most of the time, they are usually downgraded over time and additional studies.

Based on these results, no clinical changes are in order.

For those of you who might consider genetic testing, please note that it was super easy, very interesting, and not terribly expensive (in case you end of paying out of pocket).

 

IMDb: Genetic Me (2014)

Control

Life as we know it has been irretrievably altered these past few months, with no specific end in sight. There is no one unaffected by what is happening in the world today. I pray that we do the right things, stay safe, and come out the other side changed for the better.

As a three-time cancer survivor who recently started new medication, I consider myself a higher risk than most, although not as much as many others. So for me, social distancing is a no-brainer. Other than for two hikes outside, I have not gone anywhere since, well, I’m not really sure. I’ve sort of lost track of time. But it’s safe to say, I’m not going anywhere. My fear of getting this virus is palpable, as is my fear of being denied treatment in a rationing situation.

As someone who is, at times, a bit of a control freak, it’s tough when something this big is out of my control. I’m sure we’re all feeling that anxiety when the big picture is so overwhelming. For me, the best way I can get through this is to focus on those things I can control, with my focus on things that will keep me and my family as healthy as we can be.

I CAN control what and how much I eat. Being home all day every day, in such close proximity to the fridge and the pantry, it would be easy to just say “what the heck?” and eat to my heart’s content. But that’s not the healthiest thing I can do. I still try to make nutritious, plant-based meals every day. It requires some creativity these days (I’ll save that for another post), but we’re doing pretty well. That’s not to say that we don’t have some treats, as well, but the focus is health.

I CAN control my movements. I have been getting on the treadmill every day since our social distancing started. I try to increase duration, speed, and/or incline each day, and I’m at the point where I’m doing a little over 3 miles a day. It’s been good cardio for me, which can only help keep my heart and lungs strong. I’m also getting some exercise through gardening on sunny days and cleaning my house. I’m not really a big fan of the latter, but I find it gives me peace of mind to know I’m doing something to keep germs at bay.

I CAN control what and how things enter my house. We are using online grocery shopping (and grateful for the ability to do so), and David is doing the pick up. What we can leave in the garage stays there for a day or so, and what has to come in the house gets the appropriate cleaning and repacking. Likewise with any other online ordering of supplies and our once a week take out (trying to support our local businesses!).

I CAN control what I focus my mind on. I was all-news-all-the-time in the beginning, but that wasn’t healthy. So now, I try to limit who I listen to, and how much. I’m trying to focus my time and energy on more fruitful activities like reading, crafting, and taking an online class. (Yale’s The Science of Well-Being, if anyone is interested… it’s free!) When I do think about the virus, I try to focus on praying for those who are sick, and for all of those people on the front lines helping us to stay healthy and keep our country moving – the medical community, first responders, grocery store workers, truck drivers, delivery people, restaurants, and so many more. (Yes, David, bankers, too!)

I CAN control ensuring I have social interaction. Technology has made this super easy for us; there’s no reason not to be connected. I try to reach out to 2 or 3 people every day. Phone, text, Facebook Messenger, Zoom, Google Hangout, email, and more. We’ve been able to visit with our grandson (and his parents!), go to church, meet with our church small group,  play games, have a few drinks, and watch Netflix with friends. Staying connected is super important in this time of isolation.

I’d like to say I can control sleep. But that’s pretty hit and miss with me. I do try to go to bed at a reasonable time and I try to allow my body to sleep as needed. However, Aromasin is not always cooperative in that regard. So I CAN control bedtime and when I get out of bed, but what happens in the middle is not always controllable!

I CAN control trying to bring some enjoyment into our lives. We’ve done game nights, even teaching Ethan how to play poker! We’ve watched our share of Disney movies and recently started watching “Tiger King”. I’m bingeing “The Handmaid’s Tale” while walking, although I’m sure those last two items can be debatable as to their entertainment value…! 🙂

So how is everyone else holding up? How are you managing your isolation? What tips are working for you to stay safe and healthy – and sane – during this crazy time?

Be well!

 

IMDb: Control (1987)