Thankful for Health

As I enter yet another decade of Thanksgiving, I’m most thankful for my health. Once a person enters “senior status,” good health means “managed diseases.” My young friends often whine about the difficulty of taking a single prescription per day. I just laugh, for they don’t know what truck will hit them after age 50! Most people my age have pill minders or get theirs in daily prepared packaging ready made.

One health condition that can’t be standardized is the blood glucose reading, unless you qualify for a new 24 hour wearable monitor. Otherwise you do the stick and read at different times of the day. If you’re like me, keeping track of the blood sugar readings gives you a window into your body’s response to your food choices and your commitment to an exercise plan.

I have prediabetes, so I measure my glucose in the morning and before I go exercise. My doctor says the morning should be under 100 and the preexercise reading needs to be over 100 if I’m going for anything more vigorous than a gentle walk. I don’t yet have the high readings because for 14 years I’ve eaten a Mediterranean diet and exercised daily. I still eat around 2000 calories per day, so I’m not starving myself, since my BMR is 2060.

Would they like me to lose weight? Yes, and so would I, but my blood pressure is finally normal without medication, my arteries are clear, and my depression is in remission due to medication and lifestyle commitments. We have to pick the battles we want to fight. If our weight is fat, our bodies will metabolize food differently than if our weight is muscle. Weight bearing exercises such as walking, lifting weights, or climbing stairs, will build muscle over the long haul.

When I first started walking, I couldn’t make the whole way around a city block without stopping for breath, I was so out of shape. I set a smaller goal, mastered it, and made a bigger one. I can walk a 5K now, and even if I’m the last to finish, I still am faster than everyone who didn’t enter the race. Keep a positive attitude!

Health isn’t a number on the scale or a size of clothes into which you fit. Health is more about reclaiming your positive attitude towards food as nourishment for your body, rather than as a sedative for your emotional distress. I’ve been in this place myself. I never met a chocolate donut that wouldn’t soothe my inner angst, only to give me eater’s remorse afterwards. It was a downward, addictive spiral, for I’d eat again to feel better, only to feel icky once more.

Health is also about leaving behind the bad habits that bought on high blood pressure, high blood sugar of type 2 diabetes, and prediabetes: stress, excessive caffeine, and processed foods. These foods are the heart killer trifecta of the Standard American Diet—fat, salt, and sugars. These show up in our processed meats, dairy products, and bakery goods, not to mention our condiments and desserts.

Thanksgiving Feast and Desserts

Just as we learned negative habits, we can learn positive behaviors. We don’t have to change everything all at once, but we do need to begin somewhere, sometime. Perhaps the holidays seem to be the worst time, with all the extra cooking and treating surrounding us. If we pick one behavior each week, such as measuring our food portions this week and not eating second helpings the week of Thanksgiving, we’ll be on the way to a healthier lifestyle!

Cooking a Thanksgiving Feast

Remember the words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18–

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing,

give thanks in all circumstances;

for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

SEE SLIDES ON WHAT AFFECTS YOUR BLOOD SUGAR READINGS

https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/daily-control-17/slideshow-blood-sugar-swings

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OF ORDINARY MIRACLES

Greek yogurt with cocoa, fruit and nuts

“Fabulous Fermented Foods” have been part of my family’s history for generations back. In the rural antebellum South, folks made cornbread with buttermilk and bacon grease. They didn’t waste soured milk in those unrefrigerated days, just as they used every bit of the pig but its squeal. “Waste not, want not,” was an adage my forebears took to heart, even to my embarrassment of their saving balls of string or aluminum foil for reuse. The latter I thought unsanitary, in my modern worldview, but I’d never experienced great want of any kind as they had.

I enjoyed helping my nanny can food by pickling peaches and cucumbers, but that was a different process than fermentation. My mother did ferment a fruit compote with alcohol, which we all devoured with gusto over ice cream during the holidays. “Is it ready yet?” was as frequent a question as “When can we open a present?”

Of course we ate pimento cheese sandwiches, especially during those long lazy days of summer, but none of us ever connected the cheese making process to fermentation by good bacteria or yeasts. We ate, enjoyed, and never gave it a second thought as we sought the shade or a cool dip in refreshing water. Like many people of our day, we were incurious of the many ordinary miracles which surrounded all of us.

Now I’m well into my seventh decade and understand these trendy (but ancient) foods have potential health benefits. Fermenting foods changes their taste and texture, along with their chemical and biological properties.

Fermented foods may be the oldest “new” food trend around. The process is as old as civilization itself, and fermented foods are consumed in nearly every culture in the world. While researchers attempt to tease out how the changes caused by fermentation actually impact health, many not-fully-substantiated health claims are being made. Let’s take a look at what we know, and don’t know, about these promising (and tasty) foods.

FERMENTATION PROCESS

What is Fermentation? Fermentation occurs when microorganisms (certain species of bacteria, yeast, or mold) feed on starch, sugar, and other food components. This ancient process was originally used for preserving foods, but it fell out of favor in the age of refrigeration and pasteurization.

Many foods and beverages that are commonplace in the U.S. are a result of fermentation. Grains are fermented to make beer and bread; wine is made by fermenting grape juice; and yogurt and cheese are popular forms of fermented milk. Any foods can be fermented, and there are many examples of fermented foods around the world, such as Korean kimchi and the Swedish fermented fish Surströmming.

HEALTH BENEFIT CLAIMS

Behind the Health Benefit Claims. “It is becoming increasingly clear that the fermentation process changes the health-promoting characteristics of foods,” says Jeffrey B. Blumberg, PhD, professor emeritus at Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

For example, large studies have suggested an association between consumption of fermented dairy foods and weight maintenance that is not seen with unfermented dairy products, and frequent yogurt consumption is associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and overall mortality.

Some data show kimchi, a fermented cabbage dish ubiquitous in Korean cooking, is associated with anti-diabetic and anti-obesity benefits not seen with unfermented cabbage. Some of these suspected health benefits may result from the presence of the microorganisms themselves, but emerging research indicates that changes those organisms make to the food constituents, and new constituents they create, might have health benefits in their own.

HEALTH BENEFITS INCLUDE

Some of the potentially health-promoting effects of fermentation include:

1. Adding to our gut microbiota. Probiotics are live bacteria that some evidence indicates can confer health benefits when consumed in adequate numbers.

Some bacteria used in fermentation are known probiotics (or are similar to probiotic species). If fermented foods and beverages contain live microorganisms when consumed, a relatively large number of these organisms apparently make it through the human digestive system alive. “During the last decade, the number of studies has exploded regarding gut microbiota and their impact on the health of not only the gut but also the brain, heart, and immune system,” says Blumberg.

2. Changing existing compounds. In fermentation, the microorganisms break down food constituents. This process may have health benefits. For example, in fermented vegetables certain bacteria help convert health-promoting flavonoids into a more readily-absorbed form.

In dairy products, the bacteria break down lactose, making yogurt and cheese easier for lactose-intolerant people to digest.

3. Creating new compounds. Fermentation may create new compounds that have health-promoting actions in the body.

For example, one common result of bacterial fermentation is lactic acid (lactate), which recent research indicates is involved in anti-inflammatory and possibly antioxidant processes.

Other strains of microorganisms actually synthesize B vitamins or vitamin K; discourage “bad” bacteria from taking hold in the gut; or produce molecules not found in the original form of the food that play a variety of potentially health-promoting roles in the body.

4. Deactivating undesirable compounds. In addition to creating (mostly) desirable compounds in foods, fermentation can also remove undesirable compounds. In some plant foods, so-called anti-nutrients like phytic acid bind to nutrients like iron and calcium, decreasing the amount of these nutrients available to be absorbed by the body.

Fermentation can reduce phytic acid levels, which frees up more nutrients for absorption. Additionally, some food components are typically fermented in the gut by gut bacteria. This can create gas and trigger digestive problems. Fermenting foods before consumption leaves less work for gut microbes, and may help ease digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome.

5. So far, there is not a lot of clinical data backing up the potential health benefits discussed above, or the health claims often attributed to fermented foods.

But tasty foods like yogurt, hard cheese, the fermented yogurt drink kefir, cabbage-based sauerkraut and kimchi, or the increasingly popular fermented tea kombucha are delicious ways to add nutritional variety to your overall dietary pattern.

Of course when we say “yogurt,” we mean the plain, unsweetened product, to which you control the additional fruits and sugar content. The presugared/fruit purée style is not a healthy choice. Look for a yogurt with more grams of protein than in carbohydrates (Greek usually fits the healthier choice).

The same goes for other milk products, or any prepared food or drink. If it has added sugars, leaving it on the shelf is the best way to keep it from showing up on your own body. If you have a body like mine, these sugar bombs explode in one perturbing place, every single time, as if there were a hidden sugar magnet inside my body! Every. Single. Time.

Yet we can do this! I keep weighing my food, keep a food diary, and exercise. I realize 30 minutes a day doesn’t seem to be enough to lose weight, but it is enough to keep my blood sugar and blood pressure in check. I either have to work less and workout more, or accept 2/3 of my efforts are good enough for someone in the later years of her life.

I’ll probably be working on the last 1/3, just because I can’t rest until I get it ALL. This means I need to cut back on some of my “working.” I’m going to post more monthly on this blog than every two weeks from now on. My Facebook Cornie’s Kitchen page will get more frequent posts.

Joy and peace, Cornie.

Tufts Nutrition Letter, Articles, November 2018 Issue

https://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/issues/14_11/current-articles/Fabulous-Fermented-Foods_2487-1.html

Artisan Beet Crust Pizza

ARTISAN BEET CRUST PIZZA

Everyone wants to eat more veggies! In fact, I hear the latest food fad is coffee with mushrooms or broccoli added to it. Some toney java joints serve coffee inside carrots, avocados, or tomatoes. I like my coffee in a plain mug, and my veggies in soups or casseroles. Lately I’ve thrown a produce aisle on my pizza, so rather than the meat lover’s pizza, I create a veggie lover’s pizza.

Using fresh ingredients and a made from scratch dough, the pie can be ready in about the same time as a delivery pizza, but at less cost, and much healthier, especially if you’re watching your salt intake. I used some almond flour to cut the carbs of the crust, plus the veggies add some extra fiber.

Dissolve in 0.25 cup (4 fl oz) Water, tap warm,
1 tbsp Active Dry Yeast
1 tbsp Agave Nectar (Wholesome Organic Blue Agave)
1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Set aside and mix together the spices:
1 tsp Garlic powder
1 tsp Oregano, ground
1 tbsp Parsley, dried
1 tbsp Basil

In separate bowl sift together
0.25 tsp Salt
0.75 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 serving Bob’s Red Mill Almond Flour, per 1/4 Cup
Then add the yeast mix and stir.

Add in 1 beet (2″ dia) Beets, fresh, cooked tender, and chopped fine.

Combine well and kneed until stretchy.
Might need 0.25 cup Whole Wheat Flour to keep dough from sticking to surface.

Use rolling pin or hands to push dough into about a 12” circle.
Drizzle 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil over surface to seal it.

Layers of veggies on pizza, without the tomatoes

Layer these toppings on pizza—
4 oz Spinach – Dole Baby Spinach
226 gram Kroger all natural cheese pizza blend or 8 ounces
1 cup, pieces or slices Mushrooms, fresh
4 oz Beef, 90% Lean Ground Beef from Sirloin
6 oz Tomato, grape (3oz = appro 12 tomatoes) sliced

Sprinkle dry spices over the top, or some on the inside or some inside too.

Crimp up edges to keep the food inside the outer walls of your pizza.

Bake in preheated 425 F oven on middle rack on pizza stone for best texture. It takes 15 to 20 minutes, depending on oven & cooking surface. Cheese should be melted and crust tender but not crispy.

Tips

If you roll out on parchment paper on top of a cutting board, you can slide the pizza still on the paper onto your hot stone in the oven. This way you don’t ruin the dough by picking it up. This takes the place of a “Baker’s paddle” at a pizzeria.
You could make the crust with spinach for a green crust on St. Patrick’s Day.

Directions
425 F preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the oven.

Serving Size: 8 slices of the pizza—I usually eat 2 normally, or 3 if I’m ravenous.

Reheating pizza—put slices on parchment paper in cold oven. Turn to 350F, and remove when you smell it, about 10 minutes. Don’t reheat in microwave.

The nutrition facts are from SparkRecipes. It’s a handy app for creating your own recipes and knowing the nutritional information of the food you eat. I hope you enjoy this pizza! You can modify it any number of ways.

CORNIE’S KITCHEN PIZZA RECIPES at this link—free registration

https://recipes.sparkpeople.com/cookbooks.asp?cookbook=1113303

Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe: 8
Serving Size: 1 serving
Amount Per Serving
Calories 235.3
Total Fat 13.0 g
Saturated Fat 4.7 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5 g
Monounsaturated Fat 2.5 g
Cholesterol 28.9 mg
Sodium 294.1 mg
Potassium 153.8 mg
Total Carbohydrate 19.1 g
Dietary Fiber 3.5 g
Sugars 3.8 g
Protein 15.2 g
Vitamin A 33.7 %
Vitamin B-12 0.1 %
Vitamin B-6 1.6 %
Vitamin C 18.5 %
Vitamin D 1.7 %
Vitamin E 4.6 %
Calcium 23.1 %
Copper 2.0 %
Folate 10.1 %
Iron 7.8 %
Magnesium 6.2 %
Manganese 10.2 %
Niacin 2.0 %
Pantothenic Acid 1.5 %
Phosphorus 1.4 %
Riboflavin 4.2 %
Selenium 1.5 %
Thiamin 0.9 %
Zinc 0.7 %

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

HALLOWEEN SPECTERS

HALLOWEEN COSTUMES
Have you readied your costume for the annual Trick or Treat event? I saw folks shopping for costumes as early as mid September, for both adults and children. Most of these garbs aren’t scary at all, unlike the one worn by the ghosts and ghouls of ancient lore, by which I mean my neighborhood companions and I.

19th Century Spookiness

We protect children today from such horrors, but back in the 1950’s, ritual exposure under adult protection was considered part of growing up. A very small child dressed as a ghost with a pillowcase over her entire body. Only the eyes and mouth holes were cut out, plus a slit in the front for holding the basket of treats. The shifting nature of the pillowcase was part of the plan—the child couldn’t race to the next house in the dark or the eyeholes would slip and then they’d slip too. I never realized how cunning my parents were.

1950’s Neighborhood Ghost Costume

LET THE HARVEST FESTIVALS BEGIN
Halloween is the official beginning of the harvest festival season in America.
First is the Chocolate Candy season, also known as Trunk or Treat in the church. Then 22 days later is Thanksgiving, a day given over to cooking and eating, with leftovers for a week afterwards. For the next month until Christmas, cookies and homemade treats roll out of our kitchens as if we were our grandparents. Once the New Year arrives, even if we make a resolution to stop this madness, we get an invite to a Super Bowl party on February 3rd, 2019. This is all happening in less than one hundred days (95).

We do this in addition to our regular lives, of course, for we don’t let anything go. No, we merely pile stuff higher and the wonder why it collapses. It’s called the Western Life Style.

TEEN COSTUMES

LIFESTYLE POSTER CHILD
The main negative features of this lifestyle include stress (long-term and continuous, psychological), positive energy balance (excessive energy intake and low physical activity), low-quality food (both high fat and energy dense, and at the same time poor in micronutrients), and disruption of chronobiology(insufficient sleep). What toe have I not stepped on yet? As my old congregations used to say, “At first you were preaching, but now you’ve done gone to meddling!”

WESTERN LIFESTYLE DEADLY
As countries around the world adopt the Western Lifestyle, rates of metabolic syndrome and diabetes are also increasing. For 2017, the International Diabetes Foundation estimated there were 451 million (age 18-99 years) people with diabetes worldwide. These figures were expected to increase to 693 million by 2045. Almost half of all people (49.7%) living with diabetes are undiagnosed. Moreover, an estimated 374 million people are likely living with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and almost 21.3 million live births to women were affected by some form of hyperglycaemia in pregnancy.

In 2017, approximately 5 million deaths worldwide were attributable to diabetes in the 20-99 years age range. The global healthcare expenditure on people with diabetes was estimated to be USD $850 billion in 2017.

DISTURBANCE IN THE FORCE
“An acute disturbance in any of the physiological regulatory systems evokes reactions that tend to reestablish equilibrium. When the stimuli, even of moderate magnitude, tend to be repetitive or chronic, change and allostasis in one system impact on the other, and vicious cycles are created and reinforced.” The plain language translation is our bodies tend to seek equilibrium. If we lose weight, our bodies try to regain it. The vicious cycle many of us are most familiar with is losing the same amount weight over and over again.

Homemade Pizza Costume

THE FOOD WE EAT
Does what we eat make a difference? Every day a new diet fad comes down the pike, or at least a new packaging of an old one trots out for us to ride it for a while. Then we fall off that horse and look for another, with more appeal (cookie diet, anyone?).

Our food choices interact with our genetic, metabolic, and environmental factors. In obesity and metabolic syndrome, often dietary patterns are considered of central importance. In these, attention has been focused over calories, amounts, and proportions of macronutrients, and their effects on the energetic balance by themselves, and through metabolic regulators. You recognize this in the shorthand “calories in/calories out” slogan.

However, obesity, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and diabetes are way more complex operations than mere subtraction. A calorie isn’t just a calorie. That is, not all calories are created equal, although all whole foods have nutrients. Only recently have the acute effects of food ingestion, taking into consideration the type of food, and the specific effects of some nutrients, namely, fatty acids, began to be studied in relation with obesity and inflammation.

INFLAMMATORY ROLE OF FATS
Total dietary fat and saturated fat are associated with insulin resistance and high blood pressure as well as obesity-related inflammation. An immediate postprandial increase in plasma inflammatory markers after a high-fat meal had been shown in abdominally obese men. Consumption of a saturated fatty acid-rich diet resulted in a proinflammatory “obesity-linked” gene expression profile, whereas consumption of a monounsaturated fatty acid-rich diet caused a more anti-inflammatory profile. This means carnivores eating well marbled steaks every day aren’t doing their bodies long term good, but of course they’re too busy being important to have a real doctor test their blood. And they “feel fine.”

MUFA’s are foods and oils with higher amounts of monounsaturated fats, such as Nuts, Avocado, Canola oil, Olive oil, Safflower oil (high oleic), Sunflower oil, Peanut oil and butter, and Sesame oil. Everyone needs some fat in their diet, for it keeps our skin smooth, our hair lustrous, and our appetite satisfied. We don’t need fried foods or animal fats on a daily basis.

LIVER AND FAT STORAGE
The liver has two functions that directly impact the formation of excess fat: metabolism of carbohydrates (sugars) and digestion of lipids (fats). When we consume carbohydrates, our blood sugar rises, triggering a rise in insulin. That rise in insulin signals our liver to begin storing the excess glucose within its own cells. When the liver is full, it begins storing the excess carbohydrates as fat in our body fat. Sometimes that fat begins to accumulate in the liver cells, and the liver becomes fat.

Similarly, when we consume more lipids that the body can use for energy, the liver stores the excess lipids in body fat, and this excess of lipids can begin to accumulate within the liver as well. Whether the excess of food is made up of carbohydrates (sugars) or fat (lipids) —the liver stores the excess energy for future use. Often this results in excess fat accumulating in the liver itself. This is known as Fatty Liver, the first stage of NAFLD and should be viewed as a warning to change unhealthy lifestyle habits and adopt a low carbohydrate and low fat diet that is high in fresh vegetables and lean proteins.

TAKE OUT BOX
We need to eat enough quality nutrients to lose weight. Starving ourselves won’t do it, since this messes up our metabolism. Eating the good food, complex carbohydrates with fiber, for instance, and lots of vegetables full of water (spinach, zucchini, mushrooms) will help us meet our nutritional goals. Foregoing fried foods, highly processed foods, and fast foods will also improve our health. Exercise every day, if just to walk around the block. I sometimes fail on this. But I find a way to move more around the house or do big muscle chores.

Cornie’s Batgirl Costume

Time—we all have the same amount of it. What we do with it is the important thing. If I add an event to my schedule, something else has to go away. I’m not Wonder Woman. I’m not God. I might be Batgirl. I can’t do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me, but I can do all the IMPORTANT things Christ calls me to do in his power.

MORE SCIENCE
Below I’ve made some notes on the role of obesity, free fatty acids, and insulin resistance if you want more information. The link below has an excellent paper if you want to dig deeper. Low grade inflammation and free fatty acids are both implicated in NAFLD, non alcoholic fatty liver disease, which occurs when fat is deposited in the liver.

OBESITY AND INSULIN RESISTANCE
The reason why obesity is associated with insulin resistance is not well understood. Obesity is a condition characterized by an increase of body weight beyond the limitation of skeletal and physical requirements, as the result of excessive accumulation of body fat.

NOT A ROCK BAND
Free fatty acids (FFA) cause both insulin resistance and inflammation in the major insulin target tissues (skeletal muscle, liver and endothelial cells) and thus are an important link between obesity, insulin resistance, inflammation and the development of T2DM, hypertension, dyslipidemia, disorders of coagulation and ASVD.

FAT TISSUE: FACTORY AND WAREHOUSE
Adipose tissue not only stores and releases fatty acids but also synthesizes and releases a large number of other active compounds. According to this concept, an expanding fat mass releases increasing amounts of compounds such as FFA, angiotensin 2, resistin, TNF-α, interleukin 6, interleukin 1-β and others. Some of these compounds, when infused in large amounts, can produce insulin resistance.

However, any substance, in order to qualify as a physiological link between obesity and insulin resistance, should meet at least the following 3 criteria:
0. the substance should be elevated in the blood of obese people;
0. raising its blood level (within physiologic limits) should increase insulin resistance and
0. lowering its blood level should decrease insulin resistance.

So far, only FFA can meet these 3 criteria in human subjects.

Plasma FFA levels are usually elevated in obesity because
0. the enlarged adipose tissue mass releases more FFA and
0. FFA clearance may be reduced

Moreover, once plasma FFA levels are elevated, they’ll inhibit insulin’s anti-lipolytic action, which will further increase the rate of FFA release into the circulation.

The liver is more insulin sensitive than skeletal muscle.

FAT PILLS ARE REAL
Nevertheless, there is convincing evidence that physiological elevations of FFA, such as seen after a fat rich meal, inhibit insulin suppression of hepatic glucose production (HGP) resulting in an increase in HGP (1).

Acutely this rise in HGP is due to FFA mediated inhibition of insulin suppression of glycogenolysis or releasing glucose from carbohydrates.
Longer lasting elevations of FFA, however, are likely to also increase gluconeogenesis, or making glucose from non carbohydrate substances.

Chronically elevated plasma FFA levels, as commonly seen in obese diabetic and non-diabetic individuals, also cause insulin resistance.

GENES AREN’T OUR DESTINY
We know there’s a genetic component linked to the UCP3_HUMAN or mitochondrial uncoupling protein 3 and 2. Healthy pancreatic β-cells are poised to respond rapidly and efficiently to acute changes in circulating nutrient availability to maintain metabolic homeostasis.

CHRONIC EXPOSURE TO OVERNUTRITION
However, it is well recognized that chronic exposure to overnutrition, such as what occurs in obesity, results in a blunting of the insulin response to an acute stimulus.

INFLAMMATION
Whatever its origin, be it or not obesity the main initiator, the chronic low-grade inflammatory condition that accompanies the metabolic syndrome has been implicated as a major player in both the installation of the syndrome and its associated pathophysiological consequences.

WEIGHT LOSS HELPS INFLAMMATION
In good agreement with this interpretation of things, weight loss of obese patients is repeatedly verified to be associated with a decrease of inflammation biomarkers accompanied by improvement of metabolic parameters, namely, insulin sensitivity.

Monteiro, Rosário, and Isabel Azevedo. “Chronic Inflammation in Obesity and the Metabolic Syndrome.” Mediators of Inflammation 2010 (2010): 289645. PMC. Web. 11 Oct. 2018
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2913796/

Diabetes Impact on World
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29496507

Beet Crust Pizza

For some reason, when I go into my kitchen, I like to walk on the wild side. Do I go there in real life? Never–you won’t find me climbing up a rock face or hanging off the side of a cliff. When I went to Masada, the ancient fortress where the Jews held out against the overwhelming Roman army which surrounded their mountain fortress, I was terrified as I rode the air tram up to the top. Then I discovered I had to walk on an exterior cantilevered sidewalk hanging out over the valley below to get inside the historic site.

Beet Crust Pizza with Spinach and Chicken

Once I was on solid ground, I could enjoy myself. Going back down I could do, since I’d survived it already one time. Cooking adventures in my kitchen aren’t exactly survival shows like Chopped or Naked and Afraid. Too much drama in those for me! I tend to get an idea in mind, lay out all the ingredients, and start the process. Sometimes I make it up as I go, and other times I’ve read an interesting recipe in the newspaper or on the internet. Most of the time I make a variation on the recipe for my own health’s sake to limit the salt, sugar, and fat in the mix. I use whole grain flour and extra virgin olive oil when I bake, and fresh foods whenever possible. Using foods in season keeps the grocery bill reasonable and assures a variety of nutrients in my menu too.

I had a craving for beets last week, so ate them in salads because of the hot weather. I had a lonely beet left in the veggie compartment, so rather than let it go to waste, I washed, peeled , diced , and microwaved it for 5 minutes until very soft. Then I mushed with a fork. While this was cooking, I combined in a cup 1 tbsp Active Dry Yeast, 1 tbsp Agave Nectar (Wholesome Organic Blue Agave), and .25 cup (8 fl oz) hot Water from the tap.

As the yeast was bubbling, I was sifting the dry ingredients together in a large bowl:

0.75 cup Whole Wheat Flour

1 serving Bob’s Red Mill Almond Flour – per 1/4 Cup

.25 tsp Salt

Then I added the mushed beets, the yeast mix, and ADD 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Stir together well. If the mix won’t combine into a ball, add just enough water to make it so.

Turn the crust out onto parchment paper. Use .25 Cup Whole Wheat Flour to kneed the dough for a few minutes. Then roll out the crust to an even thinness. It should be about 12 inches in diameter.

Rub 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil into the surface of the crust to seal it. Add the toppings onto the crust:

4 oz Spinach – Dole Baby Spinach

226 gram Kroger all natural cheese pizza blend (8 oz)

8 ounces Chicken Breast (cooked), no skin, roasted, chopped

Sprinkle the spices over the top evenly:

1 tsp Garlic powder, 1 tbsp Basil, 1 tbsp Parsley, dried; and 1 tsp Oregano, ground

Cut into thin slices about 6 ounces or 168 grams Tomatoes, (red, ripe, raw, year round average) and arrange around the outer edge.

To finish off the presentation, turn up the edges of the crust and press down so the fillings don’t ooze out. The cooked crust is a surprising pink and the topping is a rich filling delight.

Minutes to Prepare: 15

Minutes to Cook: 20 at 425 F preheated oven

(15 to 20 minutes, depending on the oven)

Number of Servings: 8 single pieces–kids or 4 servings (2 slices) for adults

Tips: You could make the crust with chopped spinach for a green crust on St. Patrick’s Day.

NUTRITION INFORMATION

Calories in Beet Crust Pizza with Chicken and Spinach

Serving Size: 8 slices of the pizza—I usually eat 2 normally, or 3 if I’m ravenous.

Number of Servings: 8

• Calories: 242.1

• Total Fat: 12.6 g

• Cholesterol: 37.7 mg

• Sodium: 302.0 mg

• Total Carbs: 18.3 g

• Dietary Fiber: 3.6 g

• Protein: 18.7 g

Calories per serving of Beet Crust Pizza with Chicken and Spinach

81 calories of Kroger all natural cheese pizza blend, (28.25 gram)

37 calories of Whole Wheat Flour, (0.09 cup)

34 calories of Chicken Breast (cooked), no skin, roasted, (1 ounces)

21 calories of Bob’s Red Mill Almond Flour – per 1/4 Cup, (0.13 serving)

16 calories of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, (0.13 tbsp)

16 calories of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, (0.13 tbsp)

12 calories of Whole Wheat Flour, (0.03 cup)

8 calories of Agave Nectar (Wholesome Organic Blue Agave), (0.13 tbsp)

5 calories of Beets, fresh, (0.13 beet (2″ dia))

5 calories of Active Dry Yeast, (0.13 tbsp)

4 calories of Tomatoes, red, ripe, raw, year round average, (21 grams)

3 calories of Spinach – Dole Baby Spinach, (0.50 oz)

1 calories of Garlic powder, (0.13 tsp)

1 calories of Oregano, ground, (0.13 tsp)

0 calories of Parsley, dried, (0.13 tbsp)

0 calories of Basil, (0.13 tbsp)

Wacky Wednesday Duo

Breakfast and Lunch in the Kitchen: Spinach and Avocado Duo

This Wacky Wednesday duo is due to my need to clean out the icebox before my next grocery run. My parents grew up during the Great Depression, so wasting food wasn’t on their list of things to do. At least one meal a week was “druthers,” as in “Would you druther have this or that leftover?”

Since I cook for one and measure out my food portions beforehand, I don’t have leftovers. I do have eyes bigger than my stomach when I shop, however. I try to eat my purchases while they’re fresh. Hence a double dose of avocado and spinach on my menu today.

Overstuffed Omlette

When my overstuffed sausage, mushroom, cheese, and spinach omelette fell apart this morning, I stuck the getaway mushrooms onto the avocado toast triangles. After I snapped the photo, I noticed the silly face. To see patterns in common objects is called pareidolia. As a child, my brothers and I entertained ourselves by naming the shapes in the white clouds which floated overhead. At night the shapes in the dark shadows of the vine draped trees were far more sinister than the brightly lit clouds of the day.

It’s a wacky Wednesday all right. Today I read about America’s changing workforce and how the eight hour work day became the norm. At lunch I tossed the chopped spinach with a quarter avocado and some hummus, plus a can of tuna, and a half ounce of walnuts. I tossed in 1/8 C raisins and Italian spices, plus a generous hit of cayenne pepper. I ate this with an ounce of veggie pretzels.

I realize many people have divided food into good and bad categories, or foods for the light and the dark sides of life. Some never eat grain products, meat, beans, or any carbohydrates, ever. Their diets are marked by exclusion, rather than inclusion. Unless a person has an allergy or medical reason to eliminate a food, choosing moderate and/or occasional portions shouldn’t be a problem. Having a variety of foods keeps life interesting and enjoyable.

Tuna Dip in a Bunny Bowl

Another way to enliven meal time is to use the “special dishes.” If you’re still saving the “good” plates for an occasion, why not make today a special day? Why wait for a holiday, birthday, or anniversary? Sometimes I like to eat from my favorite bunny bowls, especially near the end of the month when I’m writing my “Rabbit! Rabbit!” post for the first of the next month. Plus I’m eating backwards today, so I’ll be having yogurt and fruit for dinner tonight, just to keep life interesting.

Tomorrow is another day, and I can go back to being normal, whatever that looks like. Shake up your meal plan every once in a while. Have breakfast for dinner, or dinner for breakfast! Enjoy life!

Love from the Kitchen,

Cornie

Bananas are the Best!

Some people avoid bananas like the plague. “Too many carbohydrates and my blood sugar gets out of whack!” I even quit them for a while, due to this reason, with bad results. I ended up with headaches and low blood pressure. Bananas help these conditions with the potassium and magnesium they contain. They also have good amounts of fiber.

A study published in 2012 found that competitive cyclists performed better on long rides if they consumed either a banana (plus water) or a sports drink, compared to water alone.

Now a follow-up study, recently published in the journal PLOS One, concluded that bananas are even better than sports drinks at helping these athletes recover from extreme exertion.

Natural chemicals found in bananas help aid recovery from intense, prolonged exercise better than electroyle drinks. For replenishing energy and electrolytes, bananas can be more effective than sports drinks.

In this newest small trial, twenty cyclists rode in 75-kilometer time trials while ingesting a set amount of carbohydrates from either bananas or a six percent sugar beverage every 15 minutes.

However, bananas appeared to have added metabolic benefits above the impact of the sports drink alone, in that the banana’s serotonin and dopamine improved the athletes’ antioxidant capacity and helped with oxidative stress, improving their performance overall.

Ingesting carbohydrates from either source reduced inflammation compared to water alone, and improved the rate of metabolic recovery from this intense and prolonged exercise.

While this study did not test whether other fruits would work as well, it does lend support to the idea that components of whole foods interact to provide the best health benefits in the body.

One way to modify a banana’s impact on our blood sugar is eat only 1/2 serving at a time. Just because it comes in a neat package doesn’t mean we have to eat it all. We don’t inhale an entire pineapple (or at least I don’t!) in one sitting. Then what do we do with the other half? We can slice it up and freeze it. Oh, my! These frozen circles are wonderful for yogurt in the morning, for banana “ice cream” and for baking.

When my bananas go all ripe all at once, I cut them up and freeze them in circles. I weigh 60 +/- grams out into the bowl in the morning and add another 1/2 cup of fruit to the Greek yogurt and protein powder. I add a bit of peanut butter to have some fat to have this stick to my ribs and slow down the glycemic effect.

Another way to reduce the glycemic index of the bananas is to eat them when they are less ripe. A bright yellow banana with brown spots has more sugar content than a pale yellow one with light green streaks. A solid green banana is not ready to eat!

https://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/issues/14_9/todays-newsbites/Bananas-Beat-Sports-Drinks_2450-1.html