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The Bok Choy Project

bok choy

In my own defence, let me begin by saying that I was not reared up eating bok choy.  However, when I first tasted this powerhouse veggie at Shawn’s house a few weeks ago, I was delighted with its mild flavor and superb crispiness.   I immediately added it to my list of what to buy for the vegan challenge.   So off I go to Sobeys, feeling very vegan-esque as I loaded my cart with such green delights as kale, collard greens and of course bok choy.  I was pleasantly surprised at its low price of just $2.49, as I greedily rummaged through the display for the largest bunch I could find.  Then it was off to the check out for yet another surprise……. this one not so pleasant.   Kale: $3.99; collard greens: $2.99; boy choy: $9.71.  NINE DOLLARS AND SEVENTY ONE CENTS!

“There must be some mistake,” I said, “the sign says $2.49.”  So off the cashier goes to check the price while the shoppers lined up behind me angrily tapped their debit cards on the check-out.  About two hours later she returned….well it could have been five minutes but it felt like hours as the card tapping was reaching a lynch-mob like frenzy!  “That’s $2.49 a POUND,” she said, waving the sign for the hostile shoppers to see.   “Oh, that’s okay, I’ll still take it”, I replied, red-faced.

There is something about opening your fridge and seeing a rainbow of colorful veggies that can make you feel healthy just looking at it.  For the first few days, that is.   But eventually, if uneaten, these garden delights will wilt and decay, mocking you and your healthy eating plan every time you open the door of your fridge.  As the veggies took on a more and more sinister look, my bok choy project started to feel more like the Blair Witch project!

But then I had a genius idea…….vegetable broth.  I took all of my wilted and decaying produce, disposed of the bad parts and threw them in a big pot, with just enough water to cover them and added a dash of sea salt.  VOILA, after 2 hours of simmering, I strained the mixture, leaving a nutritious and tasty veggie stock, which would save me a bundle when making my vegan soups and stews.  No more boxes of Knorr for me (at $2.99 per box, I might add!).

I have completed the first third of my vegan challenge, and so far it has been a breeze.  The food is great, I am never hungry, and I feel awesome!  Before I venture into the land of bok choy again however, I must ask my vegan coach:  What are the health benefits of eating bok choy and what is the best way to cook it?

 Savvy Sister

Bok choy (don’t you love saying it?) is very similar to celery. In fact those who don’t like the taste of celery can sub bok choy into their favorite recipes.  Like many of the greens, it’s just as tasty raw as it is cooked.  You can throw bok choy into any stir fry or soup to give your meal a flavor that will have your guests or family saying “This is good…what  is that flavor?  I can’t quite put my finger on it.”

If kale is Mick Jagger, then bok choy is Bruce Springsteen.  Both (singers and veggies) are superstars, it just depends on your taste. But of course they both (singers and veggies) kick ass and they both (veggies only) belong to the cruciferous family, which are the most powerful cancer fighting foods!

Bok choy, like most leafy greens, is packed with folate, which is good for brain, heart, blood and mood, and 1 cup contains 76% of your daily requirement for vitamin C and 3 grams of protein.  We often think of orange veggies as being the only ones high in Vitamin A, but a 1-cup serving of bok choy has 7223 IU of Vitamin A! That’s 144% of your daily requirement!  Vitamins A and C are anti-oxidants vitamins that help keep your body disease-free.

It’s also made up of mostly water and fiber, so it’s great to keep the poop train on track.

Not only that, but one serving of bok choy has 50% more calcium (158 mg) than a 1/2 cup serving of cottage cheese or 1/2 cup of milk.  (Regardless of what the Dairy Council tells you, dairy is not necessary to get your calcium intake requirements.)

I’ve read that the cost of buying bok choy at Asian markets vs “big name” markets is a fraction of the price.  Not sure if that’s true….anyone?

When buying bok choy, look for bright green leaves that are not browned or withered. Cut a thin slice off the bottom off so that the outer leaves fall off and discard them.  The stalk and leaves cook at different rates, so if you want to use the leaves and the stalk, put the stalk in the stir-fry, or whatever you’re cooking, first, then the leaves.  A head of bok choy will only last about 3 days In the fridge.  It makes a great substitute for cabbage, as it’s not as bitter.  There’s even baby bok choy (awwww!) which is a smaller version that’s a little more tender.

Speaking of cabbage, here’s a great recipe for bok choy slaw.  It’s a quick and easy side dish that you can make in a few minutes and it’s loaded with all the nutrition you would expect from something so colorful and delicious!

  • 6 cups of very thinly sliced washed bok choy (about a 1 pound head-trimmed)
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar (red wine vinegar, although not as good, would work here)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar OR 1 tablespoon of agave OR 1 tablespoon of honey (Honey is not really “vegan” because it technically comes from an animal source, but this is one “non-vegan” food I sometimes eat. The call is yours.)
  • 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 medium carrots shredded
  • 2 scallions thinly sliced (greens)
  • 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
  • 2 tablespoons of black sesame seeds (optional but I really like the way this looks and adds more nutrition and flavor)

Toast your almonds in a 300-degree oven for 10-15 minutes on an oven safe plate if not already toasted.

Whisk vinegar, oil, your choice of sugar, mustard and salt in a large bowl until all combined well and sugar dissolves.  Add bok choy carrots, scallions and almonds. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.  This is best when eaten the day it’s made but if you must, store in a tightly sealed container in fridge.

Makes six 1-cup servings. Each serving contains: Calories 110, protein 6 grams, 72% RDA Vitamin C,  225% RDA Vitamin A, 23% RDA calcium, 15% RDA iron, 22% RDA potassium, 3.6 grams of fiber

RDA= Recommended Daily Allowance

Enjoy your bok choy!

 

 

Moved To Tears

I have always fancied myself a bit of a Superhero, with my  super power being the ability to multi-task in a super human way.  It would not be unusual, for example, to walk in to my house on a given evening and find me cooking supper, washing the dishes, up-dating my Facebook status, drinking wine, AND filing my tax returns ALL AT THE SAME TIME!  Beat that, Wonder Woman!  It is one thing to see yourself as a superhero, but another thing entirely when someone else views you in that way, as was the case for me earlier this week.  Meet Susan Inkpen:

sus inkpen

She is smart, beautiful, and super sweet.  Susan is the daughter of my dear friend, Sherry, also known as “The Wise One”.  I call her that because she knows all kinds of stuff about men, and dishes out such sage advice as: “Men will be men.”  But I digress…..Susan was required to write an essay about her Superhero and present it to her English class.  She wrote about none other than MOI:  Super Single Mom and Crime  Cancer Fighter.   Susan’s essay reads in part:  Miss Florence is such a beautiful, caring, loving and strong willed person.  But the best super power to describe her is determined. Even though it was hard and life seemed unfair at times, she could still see the bright side to everything.” Thanks, Susan, your kind words moved me to tears.

Another thing that moved me to tears this week is a beautiful song written by my cousin, Jimmy, for his lovely wife Rowena, shortly after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I have shared the link below, and I am sure you will be as moved by his words as I am.  I ask my fellow cancer bloggers to share this link on your blog or Facebook page as a sign of encouragement to Rowena and countless other women who are trying to come to grips with this frightening diagnosis.  Link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRVht_3EaPY&feature=player_detailpage

 

The final thing that has me in tears is that I have started my 21 Day Vegan Diet Challenge!  Just kidding, I am actually looking forward to the challenge of moving from my mostly vegetarian lifestyle to full blow veganism for a bit.  So I will start by sharing a simple vegan-friendly recipe with you.  It is a rice pudding that I often eat for breakfast and snacks.  Here’s how you make it:  Dump 2 cups of almond milk, 1 cup of long grain brown rice, ½ cup of raisons, and 1 tsp of cinnamon in a sauce pan.  Bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce the heat to simmer for 45 minutes.  Let stand 5 minutes and serve warm.  It’s that simple!  I like to top mine with some extra almond milk, a handful of slivered almonds and a sprinkle of cinnamon.  I would like to be able to tell you about the calorie content, but I don’t have a clue about that stuff.  I am sure if my friend Sherry was here, she could tell you.  Her super power is the ability to calculate at lightening speeds exactly how much calories and fat is contained in every morsel of food.  But from me, let’s just say it tastes GOOD and it is GOOD for you.  So eat it.

As I embark on my Vegan Journey, I ask my Vegan Coach, Susan Gonzalez: Do you have any tips to help keep me motivated this week?

Savvy Sister

So it’s motivation you want? Well, I don’t have a psychology degree like you Flo, but I have owned and trained 5 dogs in my life, and I can tell you with 100% certainty that motivation comes from two sources: fear and reward.

Fear and reward motivates pretty much everything we do in our lives and every choice we make from putting on deodorant (fear of smelling) to going to a job day after day that we hate (the reward of a pay check), and so it is with what we eat.

I could tell you that eating animal products causes changes to your body that promote inflammation (the root of most chronic illnesses including cancer), put stress on your liver and bowels that change their function and put you at risk for disease.  But I won’t do that because that would be motivating with fear, and fear is one of the unhealthiest emotions there is.  It’s even more damaging than anger.  Fear causes a stress response that causes adrenaline production, which in a chronic state, deteriorates your health both physically and mentally.

Instead, I will tell you that giving your body whole, plant-based food is one of the nicest things you can do for yourself.  You will be rewarded with more energy, better mood, better bathroom habits (you’re going to LOVE pooping), no acid reflux, and a reduced risk of many types of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and dozens of other illnesses.  If you want to give the complex but beautiful machine you call your “body” the best fuel, give it plant-based foods.

The problem with the reward part of the plant-based diet is that you have to commit to the diet BEFORE you realize the rewards. With a dog, he knows what that Milkbone tastes like and he’s very happy to “sit” in order to get it.  But with a new way of eating, you haven’t tasted the (vegan) Milkbone yet, so you don’t know how amazing you are going to feel.  You’ll have to trust it in the beginning.

And why would you need motivation anyway? “Needing” motivation suggests that you think this is going to be hard or unpleasant.  Here’s what I had for dinner last night: Delicious Spicy Quinoa and Black Bean Burritos with Corn and Avocado Salsa.  Would you need motivation to eat this?

 vegan food pic

Recipe to follow, so keep following

The great thing is, the longer you choose to eat this way, the better you will feel, so your rewards and positive source of motivation will keep coming just from you continuing to eat plant-based!

And if those words don’t work for motivation, just look at this hunk. man.  His shirt says “Go vegan and no body gets hurt”.  Better do what he says, Flo.

body builderThat’s vegan body builder Kenneth Williams

 

Taking the Vegan Challenge!

kickstart

Flo Says:

Lately, I have been reading a lot about “plant based eating”.  In particular, I am finding Julieanna Hever’s book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition absolutely fascinating!   Well, all I can say is this: it’s a good thing her book was written specifically with idiots in mind, ‘cause when it comes to plant based eating, I was admittedly a complete idiot!  Like many, my first response upon hearing that someone eats a plant based diet was, “But where are you going to get your protein?”  Julieanna has a great response to that question: “The same place gorillas, elephants, water buffalo, and horses get theirs.”  Oh, from plants.  Duh!

My second misunderstanding was that eating plant based meant living on green leafy salads.  In my humble opinion, salads are meant as appetizers or sides.  God did not create them to be eaten as main courses.  I would literally perish if I had to subsist on salads alone!  Well, the good news is, there is much more to plant based eating than fruits and veggies.  In fact, there are two other entire food groups to choose from: whole grains and legumes.  Being a carb lover, this comes as a pleasant surprise to me.

Even though I have certainly been eating healthier since my cancer diagnosis, I will admit, meat continues to play a starring role in many of my meals.  Therefore, I have decided to go one step further in improving my diet by taking the 21 Day Vegan Diet Challenge!  If you are serious about improving your health, maybe you would like to sign up and take the challenge as well: http://support.pcrm.org/site/PageServer?pagename=21day_vegan_kickstart&JServSessionIda003=upegog3qg1.app234c

I am very fortunate to have my very own VEGAN COACH, Susan Gonzalez, co-author of 100 Perks of Having Cancer Plus 100 Health Tips for Surviving It to coach me through my challenge.  Before I really commit to this, however, I have two questions for Susan:

  1. Can you share some information with us about the link between diet and cancer?  And more importantly:
  2. Can I still drink wine on a plant based diet?

savvy sister

Susan says:

1.  You want information about the link between diet and cancer?

We’re gunna need a bigger blog, Flo!

Plant-based, high fiber, balanced diets that contain whole foods, and that limit processed foods containing artificial additives, have been associated with lower cancer risks for most cancers…..not just those involving the digestive system.

Let’s start with the positive, that is, what SHOULD you be eating to keep cancer away.  Everyone knows about the fruits and vegetables.  To reduce your risk of most cancers, of course, eat more of them.  The more color your food has, the more cancer fighting properties it probably has.   Eating five servings a day of fruits and vegetables will keep a multitude of illnesses at bay when it is part of your overall healthy diet.

But the scientists continue to study the cancer-fighting power that comes from a select bunch of foods.  We know that cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts, watercress to name a few) contain phytochemicals such as “carotenoids” and “glucosinolates” and “sulforaphanes”.  When these food substances are digested they turn into indoles and isothiocyanates and others, which have been proven to slow or prevent the growth of cancer cells.  They also have potent anti-inflammatory effects (Inflammation is the root of most chronic illnesses including cancer.)

Studies continue to show that there is a powerful anti-cancer potential for these phytochemicals (plant substances) in their digested form, which means you have to actually eat the vegetable in its whole form to get the benefits.   (Which may be the reason why vitamin supplements have not been shown to be affective in cancer prevention.)

A very promising study looked at concentrated sulforaphanes (a substance very high in broccoli) in treating leukemia and found that when cancerous leukemia cells were exposed to concentrated levels of sulforaphanes, they die. You can check out the American Institute for Cancer Research’s site to see current and past studies on cruciferous foods and cancer.

Then there are antioxidants, which are substances found in food that slow the rate of cell death and damage.  Vitamin A, C, and E are the best known antioxidants and are found in abundance in many colorful foods like citrus fruits and orange vegetables.  Antioxidants prevent “free radicals” that do harm to you general health and can pave the way for cell mutation (cancer).  The best way to get your antioxidants is from your diet, not from vitamin pills.

Now for the flip side.  Every 5 years the American Cancer Society publishes a document called “The American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention”.  This study looks at information and research from around the world and includes the input from the world’s top cancer prevention scientists.

The latest study shows that limiting red meat and avoiding processed meats (like bacon and deli meats) reduces your risk of most cancers…not just digestive ones, and suggests adopting a diet that is “plant-based”.  Plant-based means the majority of your diet and intake should come from plant foods and not animal products like dairy, meat and eggs.  In the book “The China Study” a relationship was made between animal protein intake and increased cancer risk.

There’s a huge battle going on right now among the “foodies”.  There’s the “eat meat” camp and the “don’t eat meat” camp.  No matter which camp you read about on the internet, the fact remains that the non-biased, world-wide scientific agencies looking at diet and cancer risk all agree: Plant-based diets reduce risk of all cancers.

A long-term high sugar diet has also been shown to increase the risk of cancers by affecting the liver, making it “fatty” and unable to rid your body of toxins.  Increased toxins= increased free radicals=increased cell death and destruction= increased cancer risk.

Fear not! Following a plant-based, whole foods diet is easier than you think!  (You will find out just how easy as you follow Flo through her 21 day Vegan challenge.)

2.  Now for the important question! Yes, Flo, you can drink wine on a plant-based diet, but remember, one six ounce serving is considered the limit.  When your intake is controlled, red wine can be beneficial to your heart and circulation and contains cancer fighting resveratrol, an anti-inflammatory with antioxidant properties. Cheers!

Too Good To Be True?

komen

Have you seen those commercials which are now being aired for the Komen 3 day walk?  What surprised me most, is the claim that there has been a 30% drop in breast cancer mortality rates since the early 90’s. Call me skeptical if you will, but to me that sounds too good to be true…….(“Hello, this is your Captain calling, you just won a free cruise!”)  I usually avoid the politics of breast cancer, because trust me, it can get uggggglllyyy!  But this is one time I feel that I can use my powers as a super-blogger to help set the record straight.

I would love to impress you all to pieces with my knowledge of statistics, but hey, I can barely help my kid with grade 2 math…..well it is the NEW math ya know!  So, if you are interested in learning the REAL stats, I have added a link to the latest post by MBCNbuzz:  http://mbcnbuzz.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/is-this-true-komen-claims-30-drop-in-bc-mortality-rates/#respond

 

 

Cancer Prompted Me To Ditch The Worry Habit

I am a worrier by nature.  Even as a child I was often ridden with angst.  My favourite time to worry is the middle of the night.  I call it my “3 a.m. worry-fest”.  Some of my best worry topics are:

-my health

-my kids’ health and safety

-money

-my job

-my relationships

If I don’t have anything legitimate to worry about, I can easily make something up in a pinch (such as: “What if there is a tidal wave in the middle of the night and I have to get the kids to high country? How will we survive when we get there?  I should really go pack a survival kit right now.”)

I just read a book which is making me re-consider my worry habit.  Dying to be Me is the story of Anita Moorjani’s near death experience, and subsequent miraculous recovery from cancer.  This woman was literally on her death bed, her skeletal body had open lesions, her organs had begun to shut down, and she was given less than 36 hours to live.  While in a coma, Anita “crossed over”, and came back with such amazing insight and clarity that it cured her of her cancer.  It is a true medical miracle which continues to baffle the world-wide medical community.

What interested me in this book is not her description of the after-life, the feeling of unconditional love and euphoria, or even meeting departed loved ones on the other side.  That was a given for me before reading this book.  What I wanted to know is this: what gave you cancer in the first place and  how did you get rid of it?

When asked what gave her cancer, Anita says, “I can sum up the answer in one word: fear.”  She believes that all disease starts fist on an energetic level, before manifesting as disease in the body. Ironically, one of the things she was most afraid of was getting cancer.  According to Anita, because she worried so much and tried so hard to please others, she did not express her true self, and it was literally killing her.

When asked about her miraculous healing, Anita talks about the importance of self-love.  “…I can’t stress enough how important it is to cultivate a deep love affair with yourself.”  Her near death experience made her realize the importance of taking care of her own needs and not putting herself last all the time. (Sound familiar?)

So what I have concluded from this riveting book is that the only real thing I have to fear is fear itself. By worrying about my cancer returning, I am actually increasing the likelihood of it happening, since cancer feeds on fear!  In order to remain cancer-free, one of the things I must do is let go of my worries and fears and trust in God’s divine plan for my life.  Like Anita Moorjani, I must try to live my life fearlessly, and love the magnificent being that I am.

A Tale Of Two Birds

Nearly a month ago, I found a bird’s nest in a flower pot which set me in to high gear gardening mode, and ultimately (I believe) landed me in the hospital.   The good news is, the baby birds have hatched and are quickly growing.  They look like they are almost ready to fly the nest.

The bad news is, my infection never fully healed and it landed me right back in the hospital again.  I got out yesterday.   This time I had my private room, so unfortunately I have no tidbits of overheard “ward conversations” to share.

As my friend Nancy just blogged (Pink Underbelly), “Once a cancer patient, always a cancer patient.”  So while I am striving to put the whole cancer scene behind me, it is hard to do so when I have to go around wearing some kind of pump to drain fluid from my surgery which never seemed to fully heal.  Not to mention the obvious reminder of my cancer ordeal, my new “hair” (to use the term loosely).  It actually looks more like a tuft of feathers on the top of my head as opposed to hair.  Every time I look in the mirror, I am reminded of a cockatoo.

Well, I guess I will have to “perk” myself up, so I am off to my garden, cup of coffee in hand, to sit and watch the birds.  Hopefully they won’t mistake me for one of their species and try to mate with me.

A Little Google Is A Dangerous Thing

When I got home from the hospital on Tuesday, after hearing the term, “MRSA” for the first time, I immediately grabbed my computer and started to google.  By the end of the day, after following a number of links, I had myself diagnosed with:

-MRSA

-TB

-Walking Pneumonia

-A mild case of asthma

As Friday neared, I got more and more nervous about what my doctor would tell me when I went back for a follow up appointment.  I even found myself using my old cancer-talk: “If anything happens to me….”  So I could not have been more pleasantly surprised when, on Friday, my doctor told me that I have none of these things.  No T.B.  No pneumonia of any kind.  No asthma.  And no MRSA.  I guess I misunderstood what the doctor said on Tuesday, (“It looks like/it could be/we’re checking for”).  So, thank God, I do not have a “superbug” that would require kryptonite to cure me.  It is just a plain old, boring infection.

Lesson learned: It is good to use the internet to be informed about your diagnosis, but not so good to use the internet to try to diagnose yourself.