Thursday, September 29, 2011

The green goo is good!

I commented about a week ago about leaving work early one day to get some rest as I was coming down with a cold only to receive multiple calls from work which left me restless. Well, while I was laying there awake I watched a little foodtv in the bedroom. Giada De Laurentiis was on and she featured a recipe that was a favorite of her mother. It is called Grilled Herbed Tofu with Avocado Cream. I was kind of skeptical about it as I'm a little afraid of tofu (my inexperience with it), but thought the avocado cream would be luscious enough to make it all work out.
The avocado cream was rich and savory - man it was good! We were also digging the texture of the seared tofu. Crispy on the outside and creamy in the inside. Chris was very surprised that he loved it. I suppose when he saw me preparing it he was thinking the worst.

I prepared some field peas along side and it all combined very nicely. If nothing else, you must make that avocado cream! Stuff rocks!

School pics and grumpy little man

It's that lovely time of year again! Time for all of the school fundraisers, donations, activities (which require more donations) and school pictures. This time I ordered more pictures so there would be plenty for the family members. Bella's school pictures came out better this year. Last year she had a cold and forgot to brush her hair. You know, I can't remember any of my early grade school pictures being fantastic. I either had bad hair, cold soars or pimples. Shoot...I think my senior year was the only decent shot.

She has decided to grow her hair this year. No more inverted bob for now. Bellabean in the third grade...what happened to that laughing baby in that bouncy seat? Growing up too fast.

Oh, check this out. When I saw this picture of Bella it reminded me of someone.
This is not Bella. This is Jodi Foster as a child. I don't know about you, but I found a similarity there. Both are strong willed too!
And here we have the happy skeleton and the grumpy little man. We were way ahead of the game this year and got his Halloween costume early. We thought about buying another one to keep in the closet for Halloween (so it is wearable) because he wants to wear the thing all the time and we know he's going to destroy it before he gets a chance to use it.

He was ticked because we would only let him wear the mask last night. Two parts to not letting him wear the whole ensemble. One, we want him to learn that things don't always go the way you want them to. Two, I don't really have the money to buy duplicates of everything so that he can tear up his costume. He needs to learn to be kind to his things.

He survived. After a few minutes he had is room upside down with books and toys and was just playing away.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Who was that?

I was just cleaning some pictures off of my phone when I came across a picture of me from December of 2009. This is about nine months before my attack in 2010. Thought I would share a before and after the "event" last year. Before


Goes to show that just because things are the way they are today, doesn't mean they can't be changed tomorrow.

Upcoming event

I've joined up with my Jazzercise group for the upcoming Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk in October. Our team is called the Jazzercise Bosom Buddies and we'll be starting off the event by performing the warm up exercises for all participating in the event. Our team has been collecting donations and doing a lot of fundraising. I can't wait to participate in the event. It should be a lot of fun.

This event hits home for me as I have a couple of benign areas that my doc keeps an eye on. I have been getting a yearly to six month ultrasound ever since Kristjan was born and will be getting another one done soon to just keep an eye on them for any changes.

This is another reason I want to get my diet as superior in nutrition as possible. I'm sort of fanatical for several reasons. See? There is a method to my madness. I don't want to ever hear the "m" word and would love for these buggers to just disappear all together.

Holy miso!

On our last shopping venture I picked up a packet of miso paste. I had seen this ingredient being used in many Japanese dishes, on Iron Chef (food network) and also heard about its great flavor. This time instead of talking about it, I bought it. One packet was about eight bucks, but when you only need to use a tablespoon at a time depending on the dish, it can make several meals.

So again: Holy Miso! What an interesting flavor. It has a very earthy and hearty flavor. Like nothing we had tried before. Why in the hell didn't I use this ingredient years ago? Last night I made a quick miso soup. It was awesome.
Miso soup with soba noodles, mushrooms and spinach

2 tablespoon miso paste
1 bag fresh spinach
1 small onion sliced
2 lg portabello mushroom caps cut in cubes (black parts removed)
3 cloves garlic sliced thin
1 package soba noodles
4 cups vegetable broth
4-5 cups water
bunch scallions chopped
salt & pepper

In my stock pot with just a bit of olive oil I cooked my onion and garlic until translucent and then added the mushrooms. Cooked until most water was removed then added the water and broth. Brought that to a boil then added the soba noodles and cooked about 5 minutes until tender. While the soba noodles cooked I put some of the hot soup broth (about a cup worth) in a small bowl with the miso paste to dilute it within the liquid. Once the noodles were tender I added the spinach, cooked about a minute and then added the miso liquid. Turned the heat off and stirred the miso into the soup. Salt and pepper to taste.

Served topped with chopped scallions.

Great comforting and full of flavor soup. Go out and buy yourself some miso paste soon!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Just run with it

I had mentioned previously that Chris and I were embarking on two new adventures in regards to our health. It's easier for me to tell you about one of them than the other. This stems from my feeling that I should really be concerned with how others think. I really shouldn't.

First, I must tell you about one of my neighbors Dave. Dave went from being a little heavy and inactive to running marathons and participating in triathlons! It all started when a friend of his was diagnosed with cancer and lost her hair from treatments. Dave and some of his friends decided to shave their heads so she would not feel so alone. After that, I believe he realized a healthier and vibrant life was very important and made a change.

How he somehow fits the training and events in with two active teens with extra curricular activities themselves (he also coaches his son's football team) and a full time job I don't know. He's determined enough to train in the middle of the day (to adjust his body to the harsh temps he says - I think he's nuts) and also very early in the morning and late at night.

His journey gives hope that determination pays in big rewards. So in comparison to his running numerous marathons and triathlons, my telling you about running my first 5k in January isn't that big of a deal. For a previously inactive individual, it's a big step. I have a several reasons why I want to do it.

1. I remember paying to run this race a couple years ago and even posting about it on here and never did it . Chris will remind me of that until the day I die.

2. I would love to experience the feeling of accomplishment after crossing the finish line (also see #1).

3. I'll be able to finally get a chance to exercise and participate in an event with Chris.

4. I'll get to hang with my pal Janet and her family!

5. Hopefully will create the urge to participate in more events and even make some friends along the way.

Notice on #3 that Chris was included there? He decided that he would like to also run this 5K too and has been training daily while at the gym. I was so surprised and delighted! I mean, we may finally be able to do some sport activities together. I think it's so cool. I was telling him how awesome it would be for us to be an active family. The kind of family that all goes out with their bikes and rides on the weekends or all goes for jogs, rowing or other activities.

I think kids learn from observation. If your parents aren't active, then that shows them it's not necessary to be active. This is a great start!

It's been a year now

It has been a year since my very scary acute pancreatitis episode. Where during those days of ultra sounds and blood tests, I thought I may be in real trouble. I hated that feeling of not knowing what was wrong and allowing my pessimistic imagination to take over any sanity I had. Was it cancer? Was the organ failing? I have to have that organ. What about my family? My precious children...I wasn't ready to leave them yet.

I swore if it were something I could repair or reverse I would do everything I could from within myself to make it happen. I wanted to be around to watch my children grow and have the chance to have more experiences in this life. I wasn't taking good care of myself, and I wanted another chance to make things right.

It ended up not being a short countdown to the end as my imagination created, but important enough for my doctors to give me the "You need to omit and change this or else..." speech. "Or else" being the end of my life story that I wasn't ready to stop telling yet.

Though I'm not sure if it was the Welchol cholesterol meds or the drinking or both, but something went wrong and my body acted naturally by giving me a warning. And I was told I was pretty lucky. So I would have been an idiot to ignore those warnings.

It's been a year that I stopped drinking almost daily. It's been a year since I consumed mass quantities of dairy and meat. I don't even notice fast food chains anymore. They don't exist. In that time I went from a size 16 to a size 4 (depending on the brand). Today I am in a pair of 4 jeans that my friend gave me. Lucky find as I believe I'm really a size 6 now. That's five dress sizes!

It's been the most transforming and soul searching year of my life so far. Well, other than the birth of my children of course. I can't even identify with the individual that I was back then. I thought drinking would calm my nerves but only masked my problems and who has time for exercise?

This year has changed everything about my life. I eat better and better every day, I found that I can control myself and say no to unhealthy temptations. I wasn't going to perish without that second helping or piece of pie. I learned that if you want it bad enough, you can make your body do it and you can get your ass up and move . Only I can control and take responsibility for my own health.

An awesome quote to share from Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr that fits at this time:

"Genes load the gun but it's lifestyle that pulls the trigger."

I took that warning seriously. I am stronger, fitter and hopefully healthier on the inside. I have made new connections through Jazzercise and also facebook. I am not perfect by any means. No way. I would rather consider myself a work in progress. Just as I tell Bella. Just keep trying, even after you fail.

Here are just a few individuals that have helped guide and inspire me along the way for better health: My better half Chris, Michael Pollan, Kelly Brownell, T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., Janet Knight, Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., M.D., Marion Nestle, Kimberly Blake, Eric Schlosser, Dean Ornish, M.D., Junshi Chen, Matthew Lederman, M.D., John A. McDougall, M.D., Jessica Fife-Johnston, Rip Esselstyn, Joel Furhman, M.D., the Jazzercise girls, Megan Newton Naile, Dave Burris, and my family to name a few. I thank you.

I will continue to stay on track and strive to get even better. This coming year will bring even more learning, changes, some struggles I'm sure and hopefully many more improvements and I love that I can be a youthful healthy mommy that hopefully has many more years to experience life with my kiddos, my husband, my family and friends.

Chris and I are currently embarking on two new adventures for better health. That I'll have to save for my next posts! Stay tuned.

More from Eri Kamijo

My dear friend Janet visited Epcot the other day and picked me up a few more of Eri's postcards to add to my little collection. They are so cool.

Thank you Janet! xoxo

Monday, September 26, 2011

Flavor flavor!

This weekend was all about running errands, doing chores, catching up and stocking up. Oh and some auto repair and maintenance. That's always an ouch! We also had a wonderful dinner with Nanna and Nannu Saturday evening.

On a typical Saturday or Sunday before venturing out, we make sure to eat a hearty breakfast or brunch and bring lots of snacks and beverages to avoid eating out and spending even more money. I am guessing we all needed more nutrients this Saturday because mid way through our ventures we all were famished and snacks weren't cutting it.

We decided to swing by this place where they serve up quick style Tex-Mex. Lots of super sized burritos, salsa & chips, tacos, etc. The kids loved their lunch but Chris and I had a problem with ours. We both ordered burritos stuffed with rice, black beans, vegetables and guacamole but both burritos were tasteless.

We went to the salsa booth and grabbed tubs of assorted salsas to see if perhaps topping each bite with those would help. Nothing. Even the salsas where flat. All of them tasted like water and cilantro. The burritos just contained the textures of the ingredients with no flavor at all.

Usually sodium is the main attraction at most restaurants, but not here. And who knows what was up with the flavorless ingredients. How can a black bean or an onion be void of flavor?

I wanted to feature on this post a dish packed with flavor with a little heat for good measure. While on our shopping venture I picked up a jar of Thai red curry paste. You only need about a teaspoon or two for a whole dish depending on the heat level you are looking for. With one jar I can make several meals. We just love the stuff!

This dish is packed with good veg and full of protein and fiber. Oh, and it does have flavor too!

In my skillet I tossed up with a little oil one onion, one pepper and one stalk celery cut in large chunks along with some chopped kale. I had let the onion, pepper and celery mixture get a little soft before adding in the kale.
I then added some cubed tempeh and tossed about another few minutes on medium heat.
At this point I added a couple of teaspoons of Thai red curry paste mixed well with the veg before adding one can of coconut milk, some salt & black pepper. I was able to find some low fat coconut milk from Whole Foods verses the full fat version. I let that simmer about five to eight minutes.
Served that loveliness over some brown rice. Good stuff!

I have some great recipes in plan the rest of this week. I hope to get them all in as I get back to my exercise routine (my cold is finally outta here!) and will be cooking late and in a rush. I'll do my best! Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are not post worthy! ;o)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Easy filler

I finally put my imagination back to work to pull together something different for dinner. I had some fresh corn on the cob, a large butternut squash and eggplant amongst my usual veg staples. I thought to myself that I could always make that butternut squash and lentil soup that we like, or roasted eggplant puree with pasta or corn bisque; but then again, I make those all the time.

This time I wanted something comforting and hearty. So I thought to make stuffed eggplant and why not stuff them with the squash and corn. Being my first time stuffing this vegetable I may have made the walls too thin as they were a bit flimsy after baking. It still was very delicious and the easy filling that I pulled together would easily work being stuffed in red bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini or even large tomatoes.
Stuffed eggplant with butternut squash and corn

2 eggplant cut in half lengthwise with filling scooped out saved and chopped.
1 small butternut squash cut in 1/2 cubes
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn
1 red bell pepper chopped
1 onion chopped
pinch of salt and black pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of cayenne pepper
2 tsp cumin
1/4 cup water or vegetable broth

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. In a large pan heat about 1 tablespoon olive oil then add your onion and pepper and cook until soft. Add the cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, salt, pepper, corn and squash. Combine well and simmer for about 10 minutes or until squash becomes tender. Add a little water or broth as needed to prevent sticking and to make items stay together.

Place your hollowed eggplant in a baking dish and fill them with your squash stuffing mixture. Bake covered for about 20 minutes or until eggplant looks done. I uncovered mine an additional 5 minutes while I quickly cooked my spinach.
I love spinach so much I always tend to eat it first on my plate, no matter what it is accompanied with. This time instead of using olive oil to cook it I put three cloves of chopped garlic in my pan and covered them with about 1/4 cup of vegetable broth. Let the broth get to a boil so it could braise the garlic and then threw in my spinach.

This time, the spinach had more of that garlic flavor than cooking with oil and I also felt I could eat pounds of it without too much guilt. Too bad it shrinks so much when you cook it. I could go Popeye crazy and fill up on it!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Here I go again

I know, I know...where's the food right? I'll get there, I promise!

Right now I am healing from a nasty cold. During this nasal and chest phloem festival I left the laundry to pile up, haven't cleaned the house, still have to work, have been missing a few workouts (really pissed about that) and struggling even with Chris's help to fit in all of the other daily chores.

And while I'm complaining! I left early from work on Monday for some rest. Only for some individuals to call me several times after that. Seemed they could sense every time I almost did fall asleep for that much needed "rest" to call me. Nice.

So all I prepared in the food department was a massive pot of noodle soup....not very interesting to post.

I did have time to watch a monumental documentary! Now this one you MUST see. I am not sure if anyone has ever watched any of the documentaries or movies I have recommended. This time, please make an exception and take a look. Get educated. It's important for your health.

This documentary Forks Over Knives mainly revolves around the work of two doctors; T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. and Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., M.D. Both of which were working on different paths before joining together in learning the connection between diet and health. Dr. Campbell was studying the connection between cancer and diet and participated in a large study (The China Study) where he was able to gather large data on a human population with similar genetic make up. He found hot spots where certain cancers would be found only in certain areas. All of the areas with the high rate of cancer mortality ate mainly or a lot of animal products. Those with a low cancer mortality rate ate mainly a plant based diet.

For Dr. Esselstyn, he worked as a heart physician in the Cleveland Clinic and studied the correlation between diet and heart disease. He found that heart disease could be halted or even reversed with the elimination of animal products in the diet. He also found out that heart disease can be a non issue completely if you eat a whole foods plant based diet. He did a study with some gravely ill heart patients and by changing their diet, their heart disease did not progress or even went away.

This movie also showed individuals that who at one time were taking multiple prescription drugs for high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes, through changing their diet to whole foods and plant based no longer had to take any more of the medications.

There is now a book I would like to purchase called Engine 2 diet which has recipes from Dr. Esselstyn's son Rip Esselstyn. He used to compete in triathalons and is now a fireman in Austin TX. The firemen at this facility all changed their diet to a whole foods, plant based diet when they found through a bet that one of their firemen had dangerously high cholesterol. After being on the new diet for a few weeks, his cholesterol when down and even lost some needed pounds. They also featured a mixed martial artist that is vegan for health reasons and is as muscular and fit as ever.

We were brainwashed in the 40's and 50's to believe that calcium comes from cow's milk, protein comes from animal flesh and don't forget to load yourself up with plenty of white bread and other carbs. The food pyramid was wrong. Hell, the beef and dairy industry are still at it. How many magazines still sport the "Got milk?" campaign?

There is more calcium in 100 calories of bok choy than 100 calories from milk. There is more protein in 100 calories of broccoli than in 100 calories of steak. Where did the cow get the protein or calcium in the first place? From the grass. Well, actually since most people eat factory farmed animals it would be fortified with calcium as the cows no longer get to eat the grass.

Here I go again...on another tangent. I want you to see this film to awaken your mind. Watch it and try not to believe it, watch it and have an epiphany, watch it and call me for a nice heated debate. Whatever works, just watch it!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Surprise for Bella

We surprised Bella with a visit to Disney for a couple of days. She didn't realize we were staying at the hotel until we got to the room and said. "So, you like this room?" "Wanna stay here a couple of days?" She was floored! It was precious and she thanked us countless times. They both really loved the Animal Kingdom Lodge and its huge pool with a water slide. I believe if we never left the pool area with slide and games, it would have been ok with them.

Bella's favorite room was the lobby. It is pretty impressive.

The large room is filled with comfy couches, displayed art and roaming room. In one little section there was a couch with little seats and a television playing old Disney cartoons. You know, the cartoons we saw as a kid. This area was pretty popular.

We visited Animal Kingdom in the morning and then scooted over to Epcot for the afternoon. While in Animal Kingdom we had to visit Dino Land of course!

My two little dinosaurs.

We even fit in a little scuba diving.

I wonder who looks more terrifying? The shark or the two little monsters inside. I thought about taking the red eye out, but it seems fitting with their facial expressions while inside the mouth of a great white (Bruce from Finding Nemo) to just leave it alone.

Look a Samurai Warrior!

Bella with her Pokemon, Poke Ball or something. I just don't get it, but she's all into it. I suppose I am officially an old fart now. I no longer understand the toys the kids are playing with. Then again...has any parent understood the institution of Pokemon anyway?

It was a great weekend. We ate too well, played hard and wished we could stay. Bella didn't want to leave our "apartment". I promised we would return again someday.

I also promise to get some food back on here again for you. They will be as healthy as I can get. I have to cleanse out all of that "eating out" food and over indulgence. ;o)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Something new to love

I have always loved the ancient Japanese art depicting fighting Samurai warriors, kings and also the beautifully artful geisha. The figures seemed to be animated and fascinating to me. Japanese Anime cartoons have always been dramatic and usually very cute. Some of my favorite cartoons are Japanese Anime. Most recently, we are all enjoying Ponyo. Even Chris and I love this cute little movie.

We went to do some shopping in the gift shop in Japan (while in Epcot - where many countries are featured around the "World Showcase") to find some Pokemon items for Bella and also to pick up some Soba noodles. I also love to see their assortment of teas and beautifully painted Japanese plates and bowls.

While walking through the store I stumbled upon a couple of postcards from an artist by the name of Eri Kamijo. I fell in love with her work and wanted to buy all of them. I only purchased two, but would love to collect and frame some more. Her art gives me a sense of feminine independence and personal strength with some youth and innocence. Looking at them makes me smile. If they make me happy, that is a good thing.

Here are the two postcards I picked up. I just love them.

Here is another work that I like by Eri.

Showing more of Eri's detail.

I have a cousin named Amanda who lives in Japan. She actually wanted to become a Japanese Anime artist and moved to Japan to pursue her dream. She is currently teaching English there and Japan is her home now. I told her about how I adored Eri's work and she shared with me her favorite artist.

Her name is Audrey Kawasaki. She paints mostly on wood panels. I found them to be very beautiful and wanted to share three of my favorites so far.

You can see more of her beautiful work on her site linked above.
Some pretty book marks I picked up. Will I use them? Not sure. I don't want to ruin them.
Chris's favorite Japanese art theme is their sea life and especially waves. He wants to someday get a half sleeve of Japanese waves on his arm (to cover a tattoo he no longer likes).

Something new for me to love and bring into my life to make me smile and provide encouragement. I am not sure what art means to everyone, but to me I like the way Eri's work gives me hope that I can do it, I just have to believe in myself and believe that I do have the strength to battle my obstacles to reach my dreams.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bella's Birthday

It's hard to believe, but our Isabella just turned nine this year. Nine years old. It's hard to believe time has passed so quickly. She had a wonderful birthday this year.

The day before her birthday we visited a children's museum downtown. Bella was excited about visiting it for the first time. Both of them ended up enjoying the day. Bella was on the go so fast, I never got a photo in of her. Can you say spazz? Even without the red dye, she's fast and furious. I have video! I may have to post some.
Two goofy firemen. Hey! You better turn around there. Looks like that house is burning down!

Sea captain!

Currently Kris is fascinated by snails. He hunts snails, looks at pictures of snails, wants to be read stories about snails and loves to watch Spongebob Squarepants because of his pet snail Gary. While soaking in the pleasant weather at the park downtown just outside of the museum, Kris came across a bounty of snails and was collecting them. We ended up leaving them behind so they could thrive.
We ordered Bella's cake from one of our favorite family owned restaurants near home. They also made these delicious apple baskets. Inside is a baked whole apple with cinnamon and nuts.
Bella's monstrous birthday cake! It was impressive in size. We are still working on it. Do you like my lovely "Bella 9" addition?
Our beautiful birthday girl!

You can do it! Just one more left to blow! Kind of difficult when you are giggling instead of blowing.
Time to dive into the presents! I was keeping a list. Hope it got it all right.
Bella received so many lovely gifts. From clothes to new bedding, some pretty jewelry, crafting, books, puzzles, and gift certificates. We are so thankful.
Even Weeman got a few gifts. Look a small monkey for a monkey!
He loves his monkey and has been sleeping with him. Hmm... Looks like there are still remnants of dinner on his face. Snack for later...
Bella also loved her purple hat and her Bella bear.

Bella loved and was thankful for all of her presents. She also received a Kindle from Nanna and Nannu. She has been reading with it nightly since. I of course had to test it out right? So far it's working out just fine. Fits great in my hands and everything...

Just something on the side here. Bella reminds me to call her by some of the other names I used to call her by at times. When she was just born I used to call her Tweety Bird. Not sure why, but I did (like when I started calling Kris "Bubbers". Where the hell did that come from?). As she got older; maybe around two or three, I then would call her Dee Dee. From there it went to Bellabean, Bells, Bell and most commonly Bella unless she's in big trouble and then the full Isabella or Isabella Cesira is used.

She is in for a huge surprise this coming weekend! We have time off and will be taking her to an undisclosed location for a few days. Shh! It's a surprise! We won't be telling her until she notices I am not driving towards daycare that morning. I can't wait to surprise her and to also get away for a few days.