Healthy Chai

Submitted by Melissa on Sunday, February 5, 2012 - 01:28

Still in the Storm

Since we’ve been eliminating sugar and dairy from our diets, I was wondering how my husband would make it through the winter without his Chai (our favorite brand has been Oregon Chai).

This week, my sister-in-law Anna told me how much she’s been enjoying Bengal Spice Herbal Tea by Celestial Seasonings, so I picked some up.

After brewing it today, I mixed it with some almond milk and a touch of honey. Then without giving away my secret, I presented the mug to Dan. To my delight, he drank every drop! He was shocked that it was an herbal tea and naturally caffeine free. His taste buds wanted it a bit stronger, so next time I’ll either add an extra tea bag or steep a few minutes longer.

Looks like we don’t have to go without our Chai this winter!

Bright Skies

Submitted by Melissa on Wednesday, February 1, 2012 - 23:22

Still in the Storm

Above: Fun visit to Brookfield Zoo Jan. 31, 2012

It was a strange feeling today, walking down the halls of the fourth floor at the Prentiss Women’s Hospital on the Northwestern University Hospital campus. Just a routine check-up for me, but the smells, the surroundings, the sounds, the sights brought back a flood of memories.

Upon arriving, there were the familiar, friendly faces of nursing staff, doctors, workers, volunteers. And there were the patients. Some were passing the time by looking at magazines and giving the appearance of waiting calmly; but, no doubt, many minds were filled with questions, anxious to hear what news might be awaiting them.  This is the oncology department, isn’t it? Who are we kidding?

On the other side of the waiting room sit the ones patiently waiting for their chemotherapy infusions. Many faces filled with exhaustion, weariness, fear. Ah, one bright face amidst them. Her eyes sparkled. She was full of hope. Not afraid to go without a wig or hat despite no hair in sight, her confidence shone through; and the look in her eyes told me she was determined to fight this battle.

Dark faces, bright faces, sad eyes, questioning eyes. All these--reminders that cancer is an ugly disease.

I’m so thankful to know the One who holds me in the palm of His hand. He controls my circumstances. He knows my future. And amidst dismal surroundings, the powerful words of this song become very personal.

In heavenly love abiding, no change my heart shall fear;
And safe is such confiding, for nothing changes here:
The storm may roar without me, my heart may low be laid;
But God is round about me, and can I be dismayed?

Wherever He may guide me, no want shall turn me back;
My Shepherd is beside me, and nothing can I lack.
His wisdom ever waketh, His sight is never dim:
He knows the way He taketh, and I will walk with Him.

Green pastures are before me, which yet I have not seen;
Bright skies will soon be o’er me, where darkest clouds have been.
My hope I cannot measure: my path to life is free;
My Saviour has my treasure, and He will walk with me.

("In Heavenly Love Abiding" text by Anna Waring, 1850)

Our Second Week of {almost} Vegetarian Eating

Submitted by Melissa on Monday, January 30, 2012 - 23:17

Still in the Storm

Week #2 in this adventure of almost-vegetarian eating has been a continued learning experience. We started off the week watching another inspiring documentary on healthy eating, “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” (also available on Netflix). It was inspiring, to say the least.

Since we are bombarded with the Standard American Diet (SAD) nearly everywhere we turn, then watching these documentaries can be rather motivating.

green juiceI was challenged to incorporate green juicing back into my routine. I juiced quite a lot before and during chemo, but have been doing mainly green smoothies the last number of months. I love my green smoothies and gave the recipe for my favorite one here; but, let me tell you, when that glass of green goodness in the form of juice touched my lips Monday morning, my taste buds were delighted.

That may be hard for you to believe, but when these veggies are juiced, the taste really is amazing!

Green juice

We juiced the carrots and apple first, and Matthew was thrilled to get his own glass of carrot juice. Seriously, I did not have to force it down him!

child drinking carrot juice

I’m eating food too, and here are a few of the recipes I tried:

  • Quinoa Salad with Apples, Cranberries and Feta
    • I really enjoyed this mixture of tastes. However, I was the only one who enjoyed it. Don’t let that discourage you from trying it though. My kids and husband aren’t really fond of quinoa (yet!) or feta.
    • The only alteration I made was that I used yellow onion since I didn’t have any green on hand.

Quinoa Salad

  • Spinach, Tomato and Lentil Soup
    • I was so afraid Dan wasn’t going to enjoy this, so I held my breath and said, “Please don’t tell me if you don’t like it!” But to my relief, he said, “It’s pretty good” and downed a bowl. The kids enjoyed it too--even though when Joanna saw it she asked for the Black Bean soup. Once she tried it, she was sold and completely cleaned out the bowl with no prompting at all.
    • The only alteration I made was accidental. I forgot to throw in the spinach at the end of the cooking time. OOPS.
    • All in all, this is a keeper, and I’ll be making it again.
  • Indian flavored rice and yummy mashed Black Beans. Two separate recipes from this great book.
  • Peanut Butter Cup Smoothie. Matthew favored this more than Joanna, but I’m pretty sure I loved it most of all. What a treat!
    • I used my Blendtec and thought this recipe called for too much banana. Here’s my adjusted recipe
      • 1 frozen banana
      • 1 Tbsp natural peanut butter or nut butter (no added fats or sugar)
      • 1 Tbsp raw cacoa powder (or cocoa if you have it)
      • ¼ cup non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)
    • Blend it until it’s smooth, and enjoy pure chocolate/peanut butter goodness without the refined sugar!

If you’re looking for my report on the Falafel burgers, it’s not here yet for two reasons 1)I want to try a different recipe without dairy ingredients (though the sauce has yogurt) and 2)I didn’t have some of the needed ingredients on hand. Since I’ve heard great things about falafel, I can’t wait to tell you about this.

Thank you for all the great emails and notes I received in response to my posts about healthy eating. We made it through the second week without meat, and I'm enjoying the challenge of preparing vegetarian meals.

It's not that we don't plan to eat meat ever again, but for now, this seems to be the best route for our family, mainly for health reasons. 

If you haven't yet watched "Forks over Knives" or examined The China Study, I encourage you to at least check them out. And do your best to incorporate one positive change in your family's diet this week.

Two Green Smoothie Recipes

Submitted by Melissa on Monday, January 30, 2012 - 21:36

Green smoothies have been a quick and easy way for me to get in lots of spinach and other greens in my diet. As promised, here are two simple smoothie recipes. The first includes ingredients that you probably have on hand; the second has ingredients that may not be in your pantry right now but are definitely worth keeping stocked.

Blueberry-Green Smoothie

Green Smoothie

Add to Blendtec, Vitamix, or powerful blender in this order:

  • 8 oz. filtered water
  • 2-4 oz. organic juice (if your sweet tooth begs for it; I skip the juice)
  • 2 Tbsp. ground Flax
  • 1/2-3/4 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/3 pound spinach
  • small squirt of vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp. agave (if you're not adding juice)
  • 1 cup ice
Blend until smoothie consistency, and ENJOY!

Green Vanilla Smoothie (with a hint of Chocolate)

Green Smoothie

Add to Blendtec, Vitamix, or powerful blender in this order:

Add to mixer and blend until smooth.

Green Smoothie

These are really delicious smoothies, and I like both. Since I've been avoiding dairy lately, the first one is my smoothie of choice, but my husband has his own "Blue Smoothie" recipe. He adds approximately 1.5 cups of blueberries (no spinach yet), 8 oz. almond milk, 4 oz. water, 2 Tbsp. ground flax, 2 scoops protein powder and ice. He's been drinking this every day for the last couple weeks!

TIPS:
  • If you are just starting out, decrease the amount of spinach you're using until you get used to the taste.
  • You could add more fruit to your smoothies if you want more sweetness. I try to keep the fruits to a minimum since they are higher in sugars (even though the sugars are natural) because Anti-Cancer diets typically call for minimal fruit consumption. 
  • When you're traveling and using #2 with a few different dry ingredients, then make up little baggies of pre-measured dry ingredients to simplify the packing. 
Once you start making these, you'll be amazed at how simple and delicious it is to get so many greens in your diet! 

Celery

Submitted by Melissa on Monday, January 23, 2012 - 19:26

This is what happened today. Little man was excited about veggies. He raided the fridge and brought out a bunch of organic celery, sharing it with Mom and Sis. 

I'm so proud of him. He even drank all his freshly-made carrot juice this morning, asked for more, and tried some of my green juice. Brave little guy. Smile

Lots of Veggies

Submitted by Melissa on Sunday, January 22, 2012 - 01:23

Lots of Veggies

This entry is the beginning of a series of posts shedding light on my journey in healthful eating. If you are not interested, please pardon the dust! I'm working on a plan to have an easy button on top for those of you interested in the basic health info or the typical updates you've seen on Still in the Storm.

green salad

{Disclaimer: Although you may or may not agree with my conclusions or eating habits, please understand that I'm simply trying to do what's best for me and my family at this time. I'm not judging others for their food choices or implying that everyone should eat this way. Many have asked me for some simple suggestions to follow when facing a cancer diagnosis, and I'm simply being honest with what's happening in my life. Please do not construe this blog as medical advice; see your doctor for that. And please use common sense!}

Dan and I started off my birthday eve watching “Forks over Knives” (available on Netflix), an amazing documentary focused on the benefits of a vegetarian diet. This was followed by a thorough cleaning-out (think “purging”) of our pantry and cupboards.

We threw out sugary snacks, candy, junk food, anything with High Fructose Corn Syrup. If it was processed and bad for us, we got rid of it. We kept some dairy products because I plan to use them in moderation over the next few months while we tackle this challenge of eating right. And for the next little while, the plan is to go meatless.

We weren’t living on the junk, but it was around. And that’s the dangerous part.

In addition to my regular routine of green smoothies (more details coming soon), we’ve added more salads, whole grains, veggies, and fruits (in moderation) to our plates. We’re also taking meat out of our eating for a while, which has necessitated a whole new way of looking at cooking (read: new recipes).

Here are some of the new recipes we tried this week:

  • Lentil and Brown Rice Casserole. Simple and delicious.
  • Black Bean Soup (excellent!!!)
    • Skipped the bacon and started with some olive oil in the pot to saute the onions and garlic
    • Made my own chicken broth. (I’d like to find some healthier options for this...not too crazy about even some of the MSG-free kinds)
    • Because I didn’t have worcestershire sauce, I used 1 tsp. Bragg’s Aminos, 1 tsp. white vinegar, and a pinch of cloves)
    • Didn’t have scallions or sour cream on hand so did without.
    • This was really an amazing soup. We all loved it. Joanna wouldn’t even let me take a bite from her bowl, and Dan raved about the recipe.
  • Chocolate Granola Bars (modified to include flax seeds and raw cacoa powder)
    • Instead of wheat germ, I used ground flax
    • I think coconut oil would be a substitute for butter if you don’t want to use butter.
    • Instead of ½ cup of chocolate chips, I used a couple tablespoons of chopped-up chips and ¼ cup of raw cacoa powder (I got this months ago during an amazing sale on Amazon). Next time I plan to skip the chocolate chips all together.
  • Quinoa. Made a big batch to use throughout this next week.

Some other food items included:

  • Brown Rice pudding
  • Lots of fresh salad
  • Mexican tortillas (Whole grain tortillas filled with brown rice, black beans, organic corn, onion, greens, peas, and light on the cheese, bbq sauce and ranch dressing)
  • Celery with old fashioned peanut butter
  • Dried fruit and nuts for snacking
  • Smoothies
  • Protein drink with milk and frozen blueberries (Dan)

This coming week, some recipes I’d like to try (with thanks to my facebook friends for their input!):

It is ever so satisfying to eat the right thing. One of the simplest ways to start is by adding more vegetables to your plate. Soon, I will share with you my recipe for a healthy green smoothie. It's a simple way to get your greens in, and the taste won't disappoint!

Wonder or Worry?

Submitted by Melissa on Thursday, January 19, 2012 - 01:13

thumbs upA few weeks ago I received an email from a friend who had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. He mentioned that for a number of years, before getting out of bed, he would recite the twenty-third Psalm. After the diagnosis, that Psalm took on new meaning.

You can imagine what I found myself doing a few days later while still lying in bed. Yes, reciting the twenty-third Psalm. What powerful words!

That last verse struck me in a new way. "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

Surely. No doubt there! It's certain.

Goodness. What God defines as "good" is, by all means, exactly that. Good. No hint of "bad" in it. Sure, everything might not be looking so good today, but we can be still, knowing that God will make good of it. (Remember Joseph: what his brothers meant for evil, God intended for good!)

Mercy. Ah, isn't that refreshing? God not giving me what I deserve. And He promises mercy? Absolutely amazing!

Shall follow me. Now this is getting personal. No doubt, His goodness and mercy will follow me. Have you ever been followed by someone you wished would go away? Well, here we have quite the opposite: being followed by goodness and mercy.

All the days of my life. All means all. Do we believe that? This is absolutely comforting because our days are numbered, and only God knows what that number is. Maybe you are dealing with a life-threatening illness, a traumatic relationship, grief from the death of someone you love...you fill in the blank. Has there been an experience that's helped you face the reality of death?

For me, it's been this cancer diagnosis. I'm not saying I feel like a victim because quite honestly I don't. I'm fighting this battle, and I'm pretty determined! Smile But I am saying that the diagnosis has changed my perspective on life and death.

A few months after this whole journey began, I saw a funeral procession driving down Weber Road in Bolingbrook. The sight hit me like a ton of bricks. Mind you, I've attended scores of funerals in my life, many of which I played the organ for and many at which I simply grieved. So, funeral processions weren't an unusual thing for me to see or even be a part of.

But that day was different. I looked at that hearse from a different perspective, hoping my body wouldn't be in one too soon, thinking of the ones I loved and didn't want to leave behind. That was the day I realized my perspective on death had changed.

Now when I hear of a dear one who has passed from this earth due to those cancer cells overtaking the body, I grieve for their loved ones and pray those cancer cells will not find a home in me.

All the days of my life. I don't know the number of them. At times, I may wonder, but I don't need to worry. Instead, I can be confident that goodness and mercy will fill every single one of the days I have left. And if the Lord is your Shepherd, rest assured that mercy and goodness will be following close behind you too! Don't worry about tomorrow. Instead, wonder what great things God is going to do next.