Sunday, February 26, 2012

Caring for Carcinoid Foundation

When I was diagnosed with my first tumor in 1998, I knew virtually nothing about the pancreas or the various types of pancreatic tumors.  I only knew that somehow a 14 cm tumor had grown on the tail of my pancreas and that it seriously threatened my life.  

Since that time, I have tried to learn all that I can about my particular type of cancer, which is a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor (PNET).  Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PNETs) are diagnosed in only  0.3 - 0.4 out of every 100,000 people each year ( Yao et al, 2008). Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, had a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor and died from it recently.

A resource that I discovered in  October, 2011 that has been enormously helpful in my quest for current information about pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors is the Caring for Carcinoid Foundation.  This organization is the only foundation dedicated to raising research funds for neuroendocrine tumors and providing information to individuals diagnosed with this rare disease.  

You might be wondering what the term "carcinoid" means and how it relates to my type of tumor. A neuroendocrine tumor can develop anywhere in the body that there are neuroendocrine cells. See the Caring for Carcinoid Foundation website for more information about these types of cells if you are interested. But in the simplest terms, neuroendocrine cells are the connectors between the endocrine system and the nervous system. The most common places for neuroendocrine tumors to begin are in the lungs, appendix, small intestine, and pancreas. Neuroendocrine tumors that start in the pancreas are classified as pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PNETs) or islet cell tumors.  When neuroendocrine tumors start in other places in the body, they are usually classified as carcinoid tumors.  PNETs and carcinoid tumors are both typically slow-growing tumors and both have the capability to secrete hormones.  

The only similarity between pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PNETs) and typical pancreatic cancer (which is called pancreatic exocrine cancer) is that they both start in the pancreas.  But the diagnosis, treatments and outcomes are vastly different. 

The Caring for Carcinoid Foundation has been an immensely helpful resource for me to stay current about treatments and research for this extremely rare disorder.  I encourage you to visit their website to find out more about this type of cancer and how you might help in raising funds for research. It is a unique organization because it directs 100% of all individual donations to breakthrough research.  It also provides hope and encouragement for anyone diagnosed with pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer.  The logo for their organization is a sunflower, bursting with hope and beauty.  


Broccoli Filled Omelet

Broccoli Filled Omelet

Yesterday I cooked frozen broccoli florets in the microwave, using a minimal amount of water.  Then I added some broth to a portion of it and pureed it to make a simple broccoli soup and enjoyed it for supper.  I saved the remaining portion to use in my egg-white omelet this morning, because it was thick enough to use as a filling. I simply added about 1/4 teaspoon of  Mrs. Dash Tomato-Basil-Garlic Seasoning Blend to liven it up a bit.  Simple, quick and nutritious.  

1 cup frozen broccoli florets
3 Tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon Mrs. Dash Tomato-Basil-Garlic Seasoning Blend  

4 Egg whites
1 Tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

To prepare the broccoli filling, cook the broccoli in the water until tender, either in the microwave or in a pan on the stove. Cool a bit, then puree to desired consistency. Add Mrs. Dash seasoning.  To prepare the omelet, whisk the egg whites with a small amount of water (about 1 Tablespoon) to fluff it up. (Season the egg whites as desired.)  Coat a pan with non-stick spray and place on medium heat.  Pour in the egg white mixture. Put a lid on the pan and cook until the eggs are nearly cooked. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese onto the eggs.  Spread the broccoli mixture on one half of the eggs.  Cover again and cook until done. Fold the omelet in half. Slide it onto a cutting surface and cut into two portions.  Garnish each with a sprig of rosemary or thyme.

Servings per recipe: 2 
Serving Size:  Half of the omelet                         
Calories: 62
Total Fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 177  mg
Total Carbs: 2  g
Dietary Fiber: 1 g
Protein: 13 g

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Spicy Butternut Squash Coconut Soup

Spicy Butternut Squash Coconut Soup

Just when I thought I had exhausted all of the possible butternut squash soup recipes, I found another one that I tweaked to fit my needs and tastes, and wowza!  It all started so innocently.  A local store was selling peeled, seeded,  and cubed butternut squash.  The thought of not needing to prep the squash was insanely appealing to me.  Preparing my food requires most of my energy some days, and any step that can make it easier is worth it for me. 

The original recipe is from Soup Bible (Penguin Books, 2007) and included coconut cream as an ingredient.  My friend's mother has used coconut cream and coconut oil consistently for decades and when she learned a couple of years ago that coconut oil was recommended to me as a highly digestible fat, she shared a jar of her coconut cream concentrate with me.  (I know, I know...I still haven't made a post about the merits of coconut oil for people with pancreatic insufficiency.  I promise to get to that soon.) I have enjoyed coconut cream just as a spread on toast, but had never tried it in a recipe, so was glad to find this squash soup recipe.  Absolutely delicious!!! Since the product that I had was coconut cream concentrate, I adjusted the recipe accordingly.  Also, the original recipe used sweet chili sauce and I used Thai style chili sauce since that was what I had in the refrigerator.  I'm not sure how sweet chili sauce is different than the Thai style chili sauce that I used, but the pairing with the squash was extraordinary.  What was even more extraordinary was the realization that this soup has a whopping 21 grams of fat per serving, but because it is coconut fat, I digested it without a problem.  What a treat to enjoy something so creamy and decadent.  Of course, if you don't need to use coconut oil as I do, you could certainly substitute something like regular cream or similar for it.  Pzazz means having fun with the challenges each of us encounter!

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 pound peeled, seeded, and cubed butternut squash        
3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
3 teaspoons coconut cream concentrate
(or 1/4 cup coconut cream)
1 Tablespoon Thai style chili sauce (or sweet chili sauce)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon finely shredded unsweetened coconut

Heat oil in a large saucepan over a low heat and add onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric and squash.  Cook for 4 -5 minutes, then add broth and bring to a boil.  Simmer, covered for 20 - 30 minutes until the squash is tender.  Remove from heat and cool a little.

Puree the soup until smooth with an immersion blender or in a regular blender.   Return to the stove and gently reheat.  Stir in the coconut cream concentrate, chili sauce and lemon zest.  Season to taste with the salt and pepper.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with shredded coconut.

Servings per recipe: 4
Serving Size: About 3/4 cup          
Calories: 161
Total Fat: 21 g
Cholesterol:  0 mg
Sodium: 91 mg
Total Carbs: 20 g
Dietary Fiber: 5 g
Protein:4 g

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Beet Soup with Ginger

Beet Soup with Ginger for Valentines Day

Inspired by all things red on Valentines Day, I made Anna Thomas' recipe for Beet Soup with Ginger.  It was a vibrant rosy soup as delicious as it looked!  And it was incredibly easy to make since all of the ingredients just needed to be chopped and put into a large soup pot.  I warmed it up and had it for lunch again today.  The beautiful yellow roses were a gift from my sweetheart husband, Tom.

12 oz.  (350 g) beets
4 oz. (120 g) parsnips
8 oz. (225 g) Nappa cabbage
1 fennel bulb (100 g)
1 1/2 cups sliced leeks  (150 g)
3 Tablespoons (35 g) minced fresh ginger
2 cups vegetable broth'
1 tsp sea salt
1 - 2 Tablespoons  (15 - 30 ml) fresh lemon juice

      Peel and chop the beets and parsnips, and clean and chop the cabbage and fennel.


      Sliced Nappa Cabbage

      Sliced parsnips

      Sliced leeks

      Fennel bulb

      Sliced fennel bulb

      Combine all the vegetables in a soup pot with the ginger, 2 cups water, the vegetable broth, and the salt.  Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the soup, covered, for at least half an hour, possibly 45 minutes until all the vegetables are completely tender.
      Simmering ingredients

      Allow the soup to cool slightly and puree it in the blender or with an immersion blender.   Thin it with a little more vegetable broth, if needed.  Add lemon juice to taste.  Garnish with a bit of Greek-style yogurt that is slightly sweetened and a sprig of the fennel leaf.    (Garnish is not included in nutritional analysis.)

      Servings per recipe: 8
      Serving Size: Approx. 1 cup                            
      Calories: 61
      Total Fat: 0 g
      Cholesterol: 0 mg
      Sodium: 585 mg
      (less if low-sodium broth is used)
      Total Carbs: 4 g
      Dietary Fiber: 3 g
      Protein: 2 g

      Sunday, February 12, 2012

      White Bean-Cilantro Dip

      Last Friday, I was weary of eating hummus and needed a new fiber rich, but smoothly pureed alternative. Hmmmm, what flavors and ingredients could I marry today?   Inspired once again by what I had available, I quickly pronounced nuptials for white beans and cilantro, and they lived happily ever after.  Valentines Day is definitely on my mind.  Hopefully, the garlic in this dip won't squelch that too much.  

      I brought a batch of this dip with me when I stayed with my friend Tahirih this weekend. (She kindly offered to take care of me while my husband was away.)  Tahirih thought the dip was so delicious  that we made another batch of it this morning.  Rather than using canned beans, she soaked  beans yesterday for several hours, then cooked them.  There are many benefits of soaking and cooking beans rather than using canned ones.  First, of course, is the improved taste.  Secondly, the linings of most cans contain Bisphenol A (BPA) that is known to be harmful to one's health and recent studies have confirmed that the BPA in can linings often leaks into the food, thus use of canned foods should be minimized.  Third, the sodium content of most canned beans is quite high. Fourth, soaking and cooking your own beans is vastly cheaper than buying them in a can.  So you might be wondering why I had canned beans in my pantry.  Well, the convenience of canned beans for days when my energy is low is the primary reason.

      The dip was a hit with Tahirih's husband, Ron, and daughter, Malika as they ate it with fresh vegetables. I ate mine with tasty whole wheat crackers.   It was fun to arrange Tahirih's beautiful platter with the dip, vegetables and crackers and to know that "my food" is often delicious to other palates, too.   

      1 16-oz can white beans, rinsed and drained (or 2 cups cooked white beans)
      6 Tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
      1 Tablespoon olive oil (use a light rather than heavy tasting variety)
      2-4 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
      1/2 clove minced garlic (or 1/4  teaspoon garlic powder)
      (If you cook your own beans, add sea salt to desired taste)

      Combine all ingredients and process with a food processor or with an immersion blender.  Kiss your sweetie.  

      Nutrition: (calculated using canned white beans)
      Servings per recipe: 12
      Serving Size: 2 Tablespoons
      Calories: 47
      Total Fat: 1 g
      Cholesterol: 0 mg
      Sodium: 147 mg
      Total Carbs: 7 g
      Dietary Fiber: 2 g
      Protein: 2 g

      Friday, February 10, 2012

      Purchased Soups

      There are times when I don't have any good pureed soups in the freezer and I'm not feeling well enough to make anything. For those times, it's good to have some purchased soups in the pantry.  I don't eat many foods from a can, but there are times when it becomes necessary.So here's a list of my favorite soups to buy.  For those that need to be pureed a bit more, I pour the soup into a deep glass measuring cup and then use my immersion hand-held blender. Then it is quick to warm up in the microwave and cleaning up is quick, too.  The benefit of all of these soups is that the nutritional information is listed on the package, making it easy to fit them into my diabetes eating plan.  

      Amy's Kitchen: (all organic)
      Low-Fat Tomato Soup
      Split Pea Soup (may need to be pureed more)
      Light in Sodium Butternut Squash Soup 
      Thai Coconut Soup (may need to be pureed more)
      Curried Lentil Soup (may need to be pureed more) 

      Pacific Natural Foods: (all organic)
      Thai Sweet Potato Soup (may need to be pureed more)
      Curried Red Lentil Soup (may need to be pureed more)
      Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato (may need to be pureed more) 
      Cashew Carrot Ginger Soup (may need to be pureed more) 
      Butternut Squash Soup 

      Imagine Natural Creations:  (all organic) 
      Garden Broccoli Soup (may need to be pureed more) 
      Acorn Squash and Mango Soup
      Organic Creamy Butternut Squash Soup 

      Broccoli-Tofu Soup

      Broccoli-Tofu Soup

      As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been struggling with my health this past week and have needed to be even more cautious than usual choosing what to eat.  So today as I was feeling a bit better, I made a new combination that turned out great.  It's simply pureed broccoli with silken tofu added to it, spiced with soy sauce and a pinch of Five-Spice Powder.  Silken tofu is a great addition to soups to make it creamy without adding fat or many carbohydrates while also packing a punch of protein. For soups, I generally buy Mori-Nu Silken Tofu in the Extra Firm variety.  Tofu readily absorbs whatever flavor you put with it, making it ideal for adding to soups.   Most of all, I knew as I ate this for lunch that it wouldn't create any digestive tract blockages and the fiber in the pureed broccoli would keep my sluggish bowels on the move.   

      3 cups chopped broccoli florets
      1 cup reduced-sodium vegetable broth
      1 12.3-oz package Silken Tofu, extra firm
      1/2 teaspoon reduced sodium soy sauce
      pinch of Five-Spice Powder

      Place the broccoli florets in a 6 cup glass measuring container with the vegetable broth.  Microwave on high power till the broccoli is tender, about 8 minutes.  Puree the broccoli and broth with a hand-held immersion blender in the glass container. Add the tofu and seasonings and puree it a bit more.

      Servings per recipe: 3
      Serving Size: About 1 1/2 cups
      Calories: 95
      Total Fat: 3 g
      Cholesterol: 0 mg
      Sodium: 201 mg
      Total Carbs: 8 g
      Dietary Fiber: 3 g
      Protein: 11 g

      Thursday, February 9, 2012

      Squash Soup with Fennel

      Squash Soup with Fennel

      I haven't been feeling well for the past week (I'll spare you the details) but had started this post last week and will finally get it published today.  It was great to have this soup available when I didn't have the energy to make anything.

      My friend, Julie, shared her copy of Food and Wine magazine recently.   In it I found a recipe for Red Kuri Squash Soup by the renown chef, Alice Waters. The recipe used red kuri squash, which is a type of winter squash that I'm not familiar with, and also used a fennel bulb, which I have never used before either. But I did have some more sweet dumpling squash that a friend had given us just about 2 weeks ago, so I decided to use it as a substitute for the squash in this recipe.  Since sweet dumpling is a highly ridged squash that can't be peeled easily like a red kuri or butternut squash, I simply baked it whole in the oven, then scooped it out for use in this soup.  The original recipe also used butter  and a garnish of toasted pecans, both of which I omitted from my version.  I also added about half of the roasted fennel wedges to the soup before I pureed it, then used some as a garnish.  Of course, I had to take the garnish off before I actually ate it, but it looked so appealing with the decoration.  

      I liked the simplicity of this recipe, too.   Simmering the onions with the squash and bay leaf in water is the kind of ease I need many days.

      Fennel.  Hmmmm.  I generally associate fennel with French cooking, but wasn't even sure about that. Then I looked in Tom's trust-worthy Joy of Cooking cookbook, where fennel is described as an anise-flavored root with stalks and leaves and is frequently found in Italian markets.  Shows you what I know - or more accurately - what I don't know.  Further reading about fennel at WHFoods told me that, yes,  fennel is a frequent contribution to Mediterranean cooking.  It is described as  crunchy and slightly sweet.  Fennel is composed of a white or pale green bulb from which the stalks emanate.  The stalks are topped with feathery green leaves near which flowers grow and produce fennel seeds.  The bulb, stalk, leaves and seeds are all edible.  Fennel belongs to the same family as parsley, carrots, dill and coriander.

      WHFoods also described  fennel as including its own unique combination of phytonutrients that give it strong antioxident activity.  The most fascinating phytonutrient compound in fennel, however, may be anethole.  In animal studies, the anethole in fennel has been shown to reduce inflammation and to help prevent the occurrence of cancer.  So the anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits of fennel made it an enticing new herb to try.   When I purchased it, I was also immediately fascinated by the beauty of the lacy leaves, and thought they would make an appealing garnish for the soup or other foods I might be making.   


      1 1/2 kuri or butternut or other winter squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (3 cups)
      1/2 medium onion, chopped
      1 bay leaf
      1 medium fennel bulb, cored and cut into thin wedges
      1 Tablespoon coconut oil, melted (or 1 Tablespoon olive oil)
      Salt and freshly ground pepper

      Sweet Dumpling Squash

      Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large saucepan, combine the cubed squash with the chopped onion, bay leaf and 3 cups of water and bring to a boil over high heat.  Cover and simmer over low heat until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes.

      Simmering Squash

      Meanwhile, on a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the fennel wedges with the coconut oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss well.  Roast for about 25 minutes, until the fennel is tender and starting to brown.

      Roasted fennel wedges

      Discard the bay leaf from the soup.  Add about half of the roasted fennel wedges, saving the remainder for garnish.  Puree the soup with an immersion blender, adding liquid to desired consistency.  I added about 2 more cups of water.  Season the soup with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.  Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with fennel wedges and the lacy leaves.

      Fennel wedges added to cooked squash

      Servings per recipe: 8
      Serving Size: 1 cup
      Calories: 53
      Total Fat: 2 g
      Squash Soup with Fennel wedges and leaves
      Cholesterol:0   mg                            
      Sodium:  14 mg
      Total Carbs: 10  g
      Dietary Fiber: 3
      Protein: 1