Sunday, November 25, 2012

Turkey Pzazz

Jan, 2012, Lake Superior 
My recovery from having a bile duct stent placed on Nov 16 has been remarkably slower than usual.  Not entirely convinced that all of my symptoms when I went to the ER were attributable to bile duct issues, my doctor advised me to be especially cautious with what I eat, strictly adhering to his guideline of "if the food can squeeze through a tube of toothpaste, it is safe for me to eat."  While I eat a lot of soft fish and tofu most days to fit that criteria, those are simply not acceptable for my Thanksgiving dinner.  Even though my appetite was minimal, I wanted at least a taste of turkey.  So I put some of the turkey that Tom made for Thanksgiving dinner into my Magic Bullet with a bit of chicken broth and pureed it.  Frankly, it was disgusting!  

So today, I tried a different approach.  I used the chopper attachment for my Cuisinart SmartStick Immersion Hand Blender to chop the turkey into very, very,very tiny pieces.  Yep, they would squeeze through a tube of toothpaste.  Then I stirred it into some dressing I made in the microwave.  Yes, finally a true taste of Thanksgiving!   And I am wholeheartedly thankful for my variety of kitchen tools!

Sorry, but there is no photo of the turkey/dressing.  I just don't have the energy to do more than absolutely necessary right now.   Use your Pzazzed Imagination!  The photo above is one I took of the Lake Superior shoreline in January of this year.  Stunning beauty that calms my soul.  

1/2 cup Arrowhead Mills Savory Stuffing Mix        
1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup diced cooked turkey breast (after it is minced in the chopper attachment, it will yield about 1/4 cup)

Mix the stuffing mix with the chicken broth and cook in the microwave until it is soft and moist.  I microwaved it on high power for about 30 seconds, then stirred it, then put it in again for another minute or so.
Finely mince the diced, cooked turkey breast in the chopper attachment for the Cuisinart SmartStick, or other similar appliance.  It will yield about 1/4 cup finely minced turkey)
Stir the turkey into the dressing and heat again for about 30 - 45 seconds.

Servings per recipe: 1
Serving Size: Approximately 3/4
Calories: 196
Total Fat: 5 g
Cholesterol: 33 mg
Sodium: 586 mg
Total Carbs: 20 g
Dietary Fiber: 1 g
Protein: 17 g

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Giving Thanks

“When it's over, I want to say: all my life

I was a bride married to amazement.

I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms. 

When it is over, I don't want to wonder

if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,

or full of argument. 

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.” 

Thanksgiving isn't really about food.  It's my favorite holiday, because it asks that each of us remind ourselves of the amazing goodness in our life.  When Tom drove me home from the hospital on Sunday after 4 days there, I was awed by the sunshine, the beauty of sumac on the hillside, the stark graceful branches on the bare trees, the towering pines whistling their calming invitation to embrace life. Mary Oliver's poem says it so eloquently. And as I spent 4 days in the hospital, once again, I did indeed, contemplate my time on this earth.

I'm glad Thanksgiving is more about gratefulness than it is about food, because food is still not appealing to me. But if that changes in the next day, my husband said he will gladly make these soups for me.  They are the ones I made last year for Thanksgiving. Below that are some other possible soup ideas for you.  More importantly, enjoying the presence of  Caleb and Kiara, and Dan, and Sam and my husband is all that really matters to me.

Sweet and Savory Vegetable Soup
Pumpkin-Sweet Potato Soup

Curried Pumpkin Ginger Soup

Here are some other pureed possibilities from this blog: 

Carrot Parsnip Puree

Squash Soup with Fennel

Squash Bisque

Spicy Parsnip Soup

Friday, November 9, 2012

NET Cancer Awareness Day- November 10

Worldwide NET Cancer Day is 
Saturday, November 10.


Animal Camouflage Image Gallery

  • NETS are the "zebras" of the cancer world.   When doctors are in medical school, they learn when diagnosing illnesses that they should be looking for horses, or common disease causes, rather than zebras, or rare causes. NETS are rare, occurring in approximately 35 in 100,000 cancer diagnosis annually. That is why NETS are zebras, their unique stripes being a symbol of the disease.

  • Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) arise in cells that can produce hormone-like substances, and arise primarily in the gastrointestinal tract, but can also be found in the pancreas, lungs, and other organs. 

  • Neuroendocrine cancer, is listed with the National Organization of Rare Disorders. 

  • Because NETs are rare, over 90% of all NETS are incorrectly diagnosed and treated for the wrong disease.  Many patients go untreated for years and have been told they have another disease. Patients with mid-gut NETs for example, have often been told they have Crohn's disease or IBS –irritable bowel syndrome.  From initial onset of symptoms the average time to proper diagnosis exceeds five years. 

  • Because neuroendocrine cancer is rare, the public, and sometimes even the medical profession, lacks full awareness. 

  • When the tumors are found early and treated, many NET patients can experience excellent longevity. On the other hand, failure to diagnose the disease, or a ‘wait and see,’ approach, has dire consequences, as in the case of Steve Jobs, founder of Apple,who had a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor similar to the one that I have. 

  • Because of the disease’s rarity and complexity, it is important to obtain care at a center specializing in the care of neuroendocrine cancer. There are a handful of such centers throughout the U.S. and in Europe. Notable among these, is the NET clinic within the Ochsner Health Care System in Kenner, LA, just outside New Orleans (504-464-8500).  Having now treated in excess of several thousand NET patients over many years, the team of doctors and care providers in Kenner have a 80% 5 year survival for patients with metastasized small-bowel NETs. 

  • Because of the rarity of NETS, it has had very low priority for funding in the medical research arena. With new diagnoses of neuroendocrine cancer increasing by more than 5% annually, the need for funding for medical research for these rare tumors is urgent. 

  • Donations are invited to: 

The Carcinoid Cancer Foundation and the Caring for Carcinoid Foundation also provide incredibly useful information for people with NET cancer.  

Thanks to Jeff Drifmeyer, the NET Cancer Awareness Day website, and the Northwoods Nets group for ideas for writing this blog post.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Winter Squash and Cannellini Bean Soup

Winter Squash and Cannelini Bean Soup

Have you read Mark Bittman's recent book, Food Matters: A Guide to Conscience Eating?  I checked it out from the library last week and have been mesmerized by it.  Mark Bittman, who also wrote the bestselling How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and writes a culinary column in the New York Times, offers an easy-to-read rundown on how government policy, big business marketing, and global economics influence what we choose to eat.  In this book, he provides a compelling argument for increasing the amount of plant based foods and reducing the amount of processed foods and meat in your diet as a way to improve your health as well as reducing your carbon footprint. His flexible, simple and non-dictatorial style makes his advise "easy to swallow".   You can purchase his books at his site,  Mark Bittman or at most any local bookseller or on-line.

In his approach to reduce the amount of processed foods a person eats, he encourages people to increase their intake of whole grains such as quinoa, bulgar, and oats, as well as increasing intake of beans and legumes.  He provides great tips for how to cut down preparation time as well as costs. Most people think that eating healthful food is more expensive, but forget that processed foods are actually much more expensive. I tend to wax and wane in my efforts to cook large quantities of dried beans to have on hand in the refrigerator for a variety of uses. I know that it is much cheaper to cook my own beans and that buying canned beans also includes buying BPA (Bisphenol A), since that is what is used in most cans.  The taste of home cooked beans is also superior to the ones in cans, and the sodium content is much lower.  But sometimes I have not planned enough in advance to soak the beans adequately to make digesting them easier and reduce cooking time. 

Cooked cannellini beans and uncooked winter squash 
But reading his book revived my motivation. In response, on Saturday I cooked the dried cannellini beans I had in the cupboard. Cannellini beans are large white beans, about 1/2" long, with a firm texture and skin and a nut-like flavor.  Very popular in Italy, cannellini beans are mild in flavor and hold their shape well.  The many health benefits of beans are that they are low in fat, high in protein, high in fiber, minerals and B vitamins. One cup of dry beans makes about 3 cups of cooked beans.

Cannellini beans, like other kidney beans, require special preparation to make them more digestible. Soaking and boiling are the keys.  Put your cannellini beans in a bowl with enough tap water to cover, and set them aside for up to 12 hours.  Then drain the beans, and put them in a large pot with a tightly fitting lid and cover with cold water by a couple of inches.  Bring the pot to a boil and let it boil, uncovered for at least 10 minutes.  Then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook until the beans are nearly tender, which will take from 45 - 60 minutes. Adding salt to the cooking water can toughen some beans.  Mark Bittman's advise is to add the small amount of salt needed toward the end of the cooking process. I concur that this works well. 

Cooked Winter Squash

So as I looked at the cooked cannellini beans I decided to puree them with the cooked winter squash that was waiting to be finished in the refrigerator.  Surprise Pzazz!  I didn't realize how the white beans would add a thick creamy texture to pureed soup without adding a bit of fat!  I added garlic powder and ground sage to the puree and then put a sprinkle of cardamon on the soup when I put it in the bowl.  Of course, fresh sage and garlic would undoubtedly have enhanced it, but the route I used was conveniently easy.  Now that I know the wonderful combination of winter squash and white beans, I can think of many perfectly Pzazzed  seasonings to experiment with. Maybe I'll try cannellini beans with rosemary and winter squash, or cannellini beans with garlic and kale.  Or....create your own Pzazzed Possibilities! The chilly damp air today invites a warm, hearty soup.

1/2 cup cooked white beans (preferably cannellini beans)            
1/2 cup mashed cooked winter squash
3/4 cup vegetable broth
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon ground sage powder              
Dash of salt and pepper
Sprinkle of ground cardamom

Puree all ingredients to desired consistency in an appliance of your choice.   I put all ingredients into my 4-cup glass Pyrex container and then used my Cuisinart Smart Stick Immersion Blender to puree it and then warmed it in the microwave.

Nutrition per serving:
Servings per recipe: 1
Serving Size: 11/4 cup
Calories: 166
Total Fat: 0 g                                              
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 109 mg
Total Carbs: 34 g
Dietary Fiber: 7 g
Protein: 9 g

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Broccoli Crepes

Think of this broccoli crepe recipe as a template for any savory pureed green vegetable crepe.  I just happened to have leftover broccoli puree from supper last night so that dictated what I tried tonight.   When I rolled them up, I put a dollop of low-fat ricotta cheese in it sprinkled with a bit of nutmeg.  Nutmeg and broccoli are exquisite partners.  The next time I make these with broccoli, I might add other seasonings to the batter, such as Nature's Seasoning, or garlic and onion powder, or Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb blend, then sprinkle a bit of Parmesan cheese on the crepe before I roll them up. 

I know that most crepe recipes use more flour than I have used here, but I wanted to keep the carbohydrate count low, while emphasizing the vegetables.  It worked well enough that I am dreaming of many more savory vegetable possibilities.  Maybe they are more like pancakes than crepes.  Hmmmm......How about a pancrepe????  A crepcake????  

I used the liquid egg substitute of Egg Beaters for this recipe.  While I don't like the idea of artificial ingredients, Egg Beaters are incredibly handy for this application and I'm not sure yet if egg whites would work.  I'll try it and let you know.  

Anyway, this template can be used in a variety of ways, I think.  Another time I might try pureed asparagus enlivened with mint or dill.  Or go Indian with pureed spinach and curry.  Or head for the Mediterranean with pureed broccoli seasoned with oregano, thyme, and basil.  Pureed kale with onion and rosemary.  You get the idea.

Of course, it's probably not limited to green vegetables, either.  What about winter squash pancrepes?  Pzazz in so many places!

1/3 cup Egg Beaters
2 teaspoons whole wheat flour
1/4 cup broccoli puree  ( This was leftover from last night.  One cup of chopped broccoli , then steamed and pureed with enough liquid to make a thick consistency will yield about 1/4 cup of puree. )
1/8 teaspoon salt
Dash of freshly ground pepper
Other seasonings to taste (not included in nutritional analysis)

Use a fork to mix the egg substitute with the flour.  Add the broccoli puree with seasonings as desired and mix well again.
Coat a saute pan with non-stick spray and heat the pan to medium-high heat.  Pour one-third of the batter into the pan and cook until bubbly, which only takes about 1 - 2 minutes.  Then carefully flip and cook until just lightly browned, about 1 minute.   Repeat twice more to make a total of 3 small pancrepes.  Fill each with a dollop of low-fat ricotta cheese sprinkled with nutmeg, if desired.  Or sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. (These optional fillings are not included in the nutritional analysis.)

Nutrition per serving:
Servings per recipe: 1
Serving Size: 3 small crepes
Calories: 82
Total Fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 1 mg                                                                  
Sodium: 317 mg
Total Carbs: 8 g
Dietary Fiber: 3 g
Protein: 11 g

Friday, November 2, 2012

Powerful Purple Pzazz Smoothie

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month!

And November 10 is World NET Cancer Day! 
(NET is the acronym for NeuroEndocrine Tumors)

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network has chosen purple as the designated color to increase awareness of this deadly cancer.  Please see their website at to learn more about pancreatic cancer and how you can become involved in raising awareness and participate in raising funds for research.  It is the only type of cancer that has not seen an improvement in the 5 year survival rate in 40 years.  

My type of cancer is a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor, which is the same type that Steve Jobs died from, and comprises only 5% of all pancreatic cancers. 

Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) is the umbrella term for a group of unusual, often slow growing cancers, which develop from cells in the diffuse endocrine systems.  They are found most commonly in the lung or gastrointestinal system, but they can arise in other parts of the body, such as the pancreas. 

November 10 is World NET Cancer Day!
For more information about this exciting event, see

The World NET Community was established in March 2010, in Berlin, and works to provide worldwide awareness of NET cancer. 

The zebra is the logo for NET cancer. I will explain more about this another time.  
On November 10 I will be wearing my zebra scarf with a purple blouse!  
Pzazz for sure! 

NET cancers are frequently misdiagnosed and patients are treated on average for 3 - 7 years  for the wrong disease.  There are a number of different types of NETS and they all have a different way of expressing themselves in terms of symptoms as well as how they look under a microscope. 

The Carcinoid Cancer Foundation provides comprehensive and remarkably useful information about NET cancer for the newly diagnosed. 

The Caring for Carcinoid Foundation is another remarkable foundation that focuses on raising funds for research for NETs, as well as providing support for individuals with NETS.   

So, to kick off this important month, I made a Powerful Purple Pzazz Smoothie for my breakfast. A recent addition to my smoothies has been black raspberry seed nutri-powder. Black raspberry (which is different than red raspberry) has been shown in numerous scientific studies to be a potent anti-tumor agent. See below for citations..And while I firmly believe that no extract from any food will ever be as powerful as the synergistic effect derived from eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods, I am eager to add to my cancer "survivorship" in whatever ways possible.  Thus, this smoothie is a Pzazzed and Powerful way to continue to blaze my trail to longevity in November!

1 Tablespoon Black Raspberry Seed Nutri-Powder (Botanic Innovations is the source I use to purchase my black raspberry seed powder. Other on-line resources are BerriHealth, and there are probably others, too) 
1/2 cup frozen triple berry mix (raspberries, strawberries, blueberries)
1/4 cup frozen blueberries  (I still have some in the freezer from summer 2011!)
1/2 frozen banana, sliced 
1/2 cup Westsoy Organic unsweetened soy milk
2011 Garden Blueberries

Blend in a MagicBullet or blender to desired consistency. 

Nutrition per serving:
Servings per recipe: 1
Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 151                                                      
Total Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 26 mg
Total Carbs: 30 g
Dietary Fiber: 9 g
Protein: 6 g

Citations of some studies supporting anti-angiogeneis and anti-oxident properties of black raspberry extract:
1.  Liu Z, Schwimer J, Liu D, Greenway FL, Anthony CT, Woltering EA. Black Raspberry Extract and Fractions Contain Angiogenesis Inhibitors. J Agric Food Chem 53; 2909-3915,


3. Fatty Acid Content and Antioxidant Properties of Cold Pressed Black Raspberry Seed Oil and Meal, J. Parry, Liangli Yu, PhD.
4.  Inhibitory Effect of Chardonnay and Black Raspberry Seed Extracts on Lipid Oxidation in Fish Oil and their Radical Scavenging,  J. Parry, Liangli Yu, PhD.