Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Heart health and food

My current house fragrance is fresh bread—one of my favorite natural scents. It’s not only that the aroma is so enticing, but it also signifies such a satisfying experience. Beginning with only yeast and water, I feel privileged to participate in this miraculous process of putting together simple ingredients that result in something to good.

I’ve been thinking anew about good, healthy food and how it feeds us during the past week. My nearly 77-year-old father had a minor heart attack that led to quadruple bypass surgery. As the surgeon mended him to extend his life, Mom and I sat in an education session for family members of heart patients.

Not surprisingly, the part of the class that most interested me came from the dietician. Her directives were simple:
1) Avoid trans fats.
2) Use sources of fat that are made of no more than one-third saturated fat.
3) Limit salt intake to no more than 2400 mg daily.
4) Increase fiber in the diet.

It’s all basic, good advice that’s good to review from time-to-time to see how your diet compares. But I wanted to say, “There’s so much more! What about eating fresh food from local sources so you get a high-dose of nutrients and good taste? Can we talk about tasty, natural sources of fiber instead of an over-the-counter meal supplement? Where do we find recipes with all of these items detailed? Yes, I understand how to read the label on a package but isn’t it better to prepare the item from scratch when possible?”

I understand that it’s not possible or even advisable to provide people with all the nutrition information we need in one, 45-minute class. I appreciate the advice she did give. And I think that a 77-year-old man shouldn’t deprive himself of foods he especially likes, even if they don’t fit these guidelines. But anyone who wants more information about how food can help in the fight against coronary artery and heart disease, or any other malady, cannot depend only on one class. Seek out more from reliable sources. Make an appointment to speak further with a dietician or nutritionist. Don’t stop with one, short class because food offers so many possibilities for living vibrantly. You can find some recipes specifically related to heart health from the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Warm, whole wheat bread fresh from the oven might be just the right snack to re-energize you after your daily walk. What are you waiting for?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Don't forget it's still spring

We've had a beautiful, early spring in Kentucky where the temperature has soared into the 70s and the sunshine has lured me repeatedly to the garden. But as I watered the tomatoes, peppers and parsley that I've been nurturing inside under a grow light and in the window, I wasn't tempted to put them into the garden. Outside, the broccoli and cauliflower are quite happy, along with the greens and peas, but the danger of a freeze hasn't yet passed us.

We were reminded of that this week when the weather forecasters warned us to cover tender plants that a freeze could harm. Jim and I went out in the dark to cover the strawberries, which already have little, green berries on a few of them. The next morning, the ground glistened with frost. The sheet we used seemed to do the job although a few of the strawberry leaves need to regain full health. The shallots that came up next to them (I must not have dug them all last year!) didn't mind the cold.

In the meantime, I made use of our former greenhouse by turning it into a pea trellis. The babies at its base give me hope that we'll have bowls full of sweet peas in June, or maybe even in May.

I keep reminding myself that this is Kentucky and the weather can be quite fickle. The tomatoes might like some days outside in the sun, but that doesn't mean it's time to put them in the ground. So for now, I'll weed the flower gardens, which have begun to bloom with delicate Columbines, fragrant Lillies of the Valley and frilly Irises. Enjoy this spring.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Need a treat for Easter? Make Pawpaw Ice Cream

As I searched through the freezer for the treats I preserved months ago, I decided it was time for another pawpaw recipe—this time, ice cream. As soon as the weather gets even a little warm, my tongue craves that wonderful, good-bump inducing flavor.

We use a Krups ice cream maker that was a wedding gift and it makes the process simple. Remember to freeze the cylinder for at least 24 hours in advance. The recipe was easy and turned out especially well. We used fresh JD’s Country Milk and Cream purchased from Marksbury Farm Market; I’m sure it heightened the rich flavor.

PawPaw Ice Cream

Stir together:
1 cup whole milk
1 cup cream
¾ cup sugar (scant, even 2/3 cup would work)

Pour into ice cream maker and begin.

Stir together:
1 cup pawpaw puree
smidge of vanilla (maybe 1 tsp., I just poured a little in)
smidge of lemon juice (again, maybe 1 tsp.)

When mixture in maker begins to thicken but isn’t a soft ice cream yet, pour in the pawpaw mixture.
When it has made a “soft” ice cream, you can taste. You’ll want to eat it all right then but please, prolong the pleasure by putting the rest of it into a plastic container and freezing it. It’s wonderful as a harder ice cream as well.
Top with your favorite nuts and homemade sauce. We tried pistachios with chocolate sauce. It makes me want a bowl right now!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Checking in with the wellness diary

I made it. Every day for the first three months of the year, I recorded information about my “wellness” as I had outlined back in January. I still have to fully examine my findings but even before that is complete I can say for certain that I have learned something useful about myself.

First, I always heard if you can do something for 30 days, it will become a habit. That is definitely true. At the end of every day, I’ve been recording what I’ve eaten, my time with God, the steps on my pedometer, etc. It’s become such a habit, and definitely a useful one, that I just purchased a new steno notebook for the next three months.

The habit is useful because recording these items every day has made me more mindful about my wellness. For example, when I get to mid-day, I find myself pulling the pedometer out of my pocket to see how I’m doing. I might take a longer walk at lunchtime or get up from my desk more often if I’m far from reaching my desired daily steps. When I want to eat seconds because it tastes good, not because I’m still hungry, I reconsider. After all, I’ll have to write it down. And when I find that my energy is low or my mood isn’t the best, I try to record what I think led to that. Too much work? Unpleasant colleagues? It’s good to contemplate what it was that made the day turn in the wrong direction.

It’s also been interesting to begin considering differences in my personal patterns as the seasons change. Since learning more about the Eastern philosophy of living with the seasons, I do pay more attention to now my body and spirit react to differences in weather and amount of daylight. Upon entering spring, the energy surged in my body and I’m prone to being active until sunset, which of course is later. It feels good to be outside in my garden even after I eat supper.

How about you? If you’ve been keeping a wellness diary, please do share some of your observations.