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Monday, August 27, 2012

Attack of the Garden Produce

The east side of the garden
I don't have a big garden. I live on a fairly small lot in a small neighborhood full of trees. My garden occupies a good chunk of my front yard, where everyone else has a lawn. Who needs a lawn? I'm no sheep. I can't eat grass. But, I can grow lots of delicious produce. During the summer, I buy few vegetables. I get plenty of beets, carrots, beans (and more beans), eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, basil, zucchini (and this goes without saying, more zucchini), winter squash, lettuce, chard, kale, and collards from the garden. It is kind of amazing how much delicious produce comes out of a garden as small as mine. I have bags of beans, eggplant, and zucchini in the freezer because, at times, there is just too much for my family of two to consume.

The west side. It's only about 14 ft long and 7 ft wide (minus 1 ft for the path)
The beans have been particularly fruitful this year. I have 3 varieties: a yellow bush bean, a green pole bean, and a purple bush bean (which I won't grow again because it cooks up to a particularly dull green and tends toward stringiness). Being creative is helpful when confronted with a fridge full of garden produce. I can't stand to throw good produce on the compost pile.

Here's one of those recipes that just happened because there was stuff in the garden and in the fridge. Succotash usually contains beans (lima beans are traditional but I don't grow them nor do I actually like them), corn (I don't grow that either, but I had some from a local farm), and squash (usually pumpkin). My recipe contains all these things, sort of. As I said, you use up what you got!
My chiles were ripe and red which explains the red bits

Sharon's Succotash
(serves 4)

3-4 Tablespoons bacon fat (or you can use butter but bacon tastes even better)
½ medium onion, chopped
2 mild to medium New Mexican green chiles, roasted, cleaned and chopped
3 cups cleaned string beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
1-2 ears of sweet corn, kernels cut off the cob
1 zucchini, cut into ½-inch dice
salt and pepper
1-3 dashes of hot pepper sauce (optional)
1 Tablespoon chopped parsley (optional)

Saute onion and chiles in bacon fat. Add the string beans, corn, and zucchini. Cook over medium-low heat until beans are tender. I used fairly mature beans so it took about 20 minutes, but if you use young beans, it should be done in under 10 minutes.

Season with salt, pepper, hot sauce, (if you want a little zip), and chopped parsley.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Nutrition and Cancer: A Guest Post

My mother is the inspiration for this blog. My mother was a brilliant cook and an amazing woman. She also battled breast cancer, which ultimately brought about her death at the all too young age of 55. Though my mother lost her battle with cancer after 9 years (yes, she was diagnosed in her mid 40's), she always believed that nutrition played a big role in her surviving that long. Her doctors were amazed that she tolerated her extensive chemo as well as she did, and she attributed this to her diet. My mom was an early adopter of eating well, both nutritionally and for enjoyment. (As an aside, my mom was an early adopter of many things: natural childbirth, the green movement, and the rejection of processed food.)

I recently got a request from Jillian McKee, Complementary Medicine Advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, (you can read her bio here) to post an article on nutrition and cancer. In honor of my mother, here it is. Jillian discusses the importance of protein - you can visit my other blog, School of Eating Good, for a discussion of protein and how to get it in your diet.

Good Nutrition: Important Before, During, and After Cancer

If you have just been diagnosed with cancer, one of the last things you might be thinking about is nutrition. However, good nutrition can be essential in helping you before, during, and after cancer treatment.

According to the National Cancer Institute “Eating Hints,” it is important to be as healthy as possible before starting treatments. Whether you have to have surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or some combination of these treatments, being healthy means that your body will be able to handle the stresses better and recover more quickly. Eating a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables will help you build up vitamins, minerals, and cancer-fighting phytochemicals. Keeping protein sources to a modest amount will help you keep your protein stores full without overdoing calories.

During treatment of cancer, you might find it harder to eat like you used to. This may be particularly true if you have symptoms of mesothelioma, stomach, or colon cancers. The important thing is to keep up calories and protein intake. Since your body will be using a lot of energy during treatment, and your appetite might not be the same, you need to make sure to have enough calories coming in to balance the calories you’re spending. This will help you retain energy levels so you can fight your cancer better.

Good protein intake is also important. Your body uses protein to rebuild the muscles and tissues that you might be losing to the cancer and the treatments. Eating protein-rich foods like egg and soy-based items will give your body what it needs to rebuild tissues and muscle.

Continue to eat as nutritious a diet as you possibly can. You might have to talk to a dietician about special supplements to keep your nutrition at a high level. The stronger and healthier you are during treatment, the easier it will be to fight cancer successfully. Having lots of different nutrients helps your body build the immune cells to prevent infection and lets your body heal faster between treatments.

Eat what you can, when you can. Don’t be afraid if your tastes suddenly change during treatment. It might actually lead you to new healthy foods that you’ve never had an opportunity to try before. If you can’t eat anything at all, talk to your doctor right away. You don’t want to let your energy and protein reserves drop low.

After treatments, you’ll need to rebuild your strength and help your body recover. Eating foods that are rich in proteins and energy will help you recover your energy and strength more quickly. Add in as many colorful fruits and vegetables as possible to regain nutrients you might have lost.

Eating a nutritious diet before, during, and after cancer treatment can help you fight your disease better. It will help you keep your energy high and recover more quickly after treatment.