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Nick Nack Patty Wack

January 30, 2012

I have cooked up many a low-fat, plant-based dish that looked pretty enough and filled us up but lacked flavor. These dishes might also have an unusual texture or taste a tiny bit too herby. If I relied on this type of meal too many days in a row, we would surely venture from our plan and back into cheese, fat, meat land.

One such meal I cooked the other day. I made it in a hurry, so Lee could eat before going to work. I sautéed a little onion and celery in the saved liquid form the turnip greens. My aunts use to call this liquid “pot liquor.” I spiced it up with salt, pepper, garlic, parsley and a little cumin. Then I added the remaining two cups of turnip green stock and a cup of dry quinoa. When almost done, I added about a cup of chopped broccoli and a cup of chopped cauliflower. Like I said, it was pretty, somewhat tasty and filling. It was also very, very boring.

There was plenty left for dinner, but I had no desire to eat it again. I did have two poblano peppers, though. I sliced them in half and scraped out the seeds. Then I took the leftover lunch and added a bit of red pepper flakes, a small chopped tomato and about two tablespoons of parmesan cheese I found in the back of the frig. I stuffed it all in the pepper halves and baked for about half an hour. Maybe it was the peppers. Maybe it was the forbidden cheese, but it was no longer boring. It was delicious!







This is the before baking picture. You can see the tiny bits of shredded parmesan in the mixture.

My other recent experiment was gingersnaps. Lee and I love to eat them in the morning. We dunk them in our coffee and before I became ill, we were on a quest to find the perfect gingersnap. The one we finally had settled on was crisp, held up well in the coffee and had a nice spicy bite to it. The only problem now, of course, if the fat content. Well, that and all the other added stuff in them. So I’ve set out to bake the perfect spicy, crispy whole wheat, super spicy gingersnap.

My first attempt wasn’t bad, but not perfect. It was super easy though and only took about 30 minutes from start to finish. I didn’t even pull out the mixer.

Whole wheat flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, chili powder, pepper, baking soda and salt added to 1/4 dark brown sugar, 1/8 cup molasses, 1 jar baby prunes, 1 tsp vanilla and a little bit of soy milk, just enough to make the dough moist. I rolled the first cookie sheet full into little balls. The second, I sliced into very thin wafers. Despite all the spices, I’ll add even more next time. In my efforts to keep the calorie count down, they really aren’t quite sweet enough, so next time I think I’ll add more molasses or maybe a little honey. To have no added fat though, they aren’t bad at all. About 1 1/2 inch round, 6 snaps have 132 calories and no measurable fat.










Except for the green peas in the dog treats, and their obvious dog bone shape, they look alarmingly alike.


Simple Fare for Man and Beast

January 28, 2012

Lee and I have both found that variety is crucial.

Color matters.

Texture is vital.

I can only do new and strange part of the time. I crave what my brain and belly define as “southern cooking.” I have found I can sometimes trick both.

I love to watch Paula Dean. I don’t dare cook like that, but I love that kind of food! I use to say that there was no food that couldn’t be made to taste better by being topped with butter, cheese, bacon or chocolate. I still watch Paula and she still inspires me to cook and to eat. The other night, I wanted such a southern meal.

I cooked a big bag of turnip greens, the kind you find in the produce department already washed, cut and bagged.

I also cooked a bag of frozen speckled butter beans.

While they simmered, I sliced a sweet potato and a medium-sized turnip.

I placed them on a cookie sheet with salt and pepper and a slight misting of canola oil (if you don’t have an oil mister- they are wonderful!)

I let them roast in a 400 oven for about 30 minutes.

I sliced the saved stems of broccoli, the part I use to throw away and added this to the cookie sheet during the last 5 minutes of roasting, again with the salt, pepper and hint of oil.

These tulips sat on the counter.

This is the trimmings from the vegetables.

Notice how nicely the colors match? No planning, just bonus beauty.

This is our fancy fare, served on our finest paper plates.

The turnip greens lacked the bacon or ham I might have cooked them with before. So did the butter beans. The sweet potato wasn’t drowned in butter. The turnip, well it wouldn’t have been there before unless I had cut it up and cooked it with the greens. This version of a southern feast had no measurable added fat and only 219 calories.

A whole cup of cooked turnip greens only has 20 calories! I can eat turnip greens all day!

A half cup of butter beans has 100 calories and a half sweet potato only 52. The whole turnip has only 36 and the brocoli a mere 10.

Of course this isn’t about counting calories, though losing weight is a nice bonus. This one meal has 14g of fiber and more vitamins than one can count. I use an Ap called “MyFinessPal” on my phone. It lets me keep track of what we eat and counts the calories, fat, protein and fiber, and gives us the percentages of “daily requirements” of a few vitamins. By eating this one simple meal, I had far exceeded the “daily requirements” of both vitamin A and vitamin C. In fact, half a sweet potato alone provides 437% of the USDA requirements of vitamin A! That seemed crazy to me at first. It seemed every meal of real food meant we had far exceeded those guidelines. Perhaps those “daily requirements” aren’t based on real food or real nutrition.

I tried cooking for our animal children as well. Our daughter came over and we baked dog treats. It was our third attempt. This time was easier than ever.

Pumpkin, Pea and Sweet Potato Dog Biscuits

1 large baked sweet potato

1 bag frozen peas

2 cans pumpkin

2 eggs

about 6 cups whole wheat flour, just enough to make the mush of the vegetables dough.

We rolled them out, baked them for about 15 minutes and presto! Pumpkin/Pea and Sweet Potato Dog Cookies! A lot of dog cookies!

Of course with no preservatives, they don’t keep long, so I freeze them in a freezer bag and pull out a handful every few days. They agree with Sam’s sensitive tummy, too. 

Now, if I figure out how to make Paula’s Lemon Cake…





Second Helping

January 26, 2012

To anyone who thought I might have died, I apologize. It’s been a year since my last post. I suppose I could say I spent a year living rather than writing about living, but it’s not true. I worked on writing a novel. It was my first attempt at fiction and is far from finished.

Now, I want to write about food. It has become my hobby and only by allowing it to be a hobby have I been able to adhere to any measure to a plant based diet.

Our first efforts were lame and we limped along, learning as we went. You see, I only thought I knew anything about food or nutrition, much less cooking. We’ve started and slipped, cheated and started again. With each beginning, our efforts were more informed by trial and error.

I watch cooking shows for inspiration. I look online for recipes and pour over books on vegetarian and vegan cooking. Alas, there is not much. Even the most committed vegan is often liberal with the olive oil. So many of the low fat and “healthy” recipes I find are laden with butter, cheese, oil or all three.

Many of the recipes that meet the rigid guidelines I try to follow, are bland at best, mostly just too weird and often awful tasting. I have had some success however. Some meals have come together and as works of art on our plates, dancing a happy dance in our mouths.

I started keeping a food journal, just so I could remember what I’d cooked we liked and what I’d cooked we didn’t. The short term memory challenges apply to the kitchen, of course. I certainly haven’t kept the journal because anyone I knew wanted the recipes. While friends and family might be proud of our efforts, they have no desire to join us.

Maybe, though, there is someone like me who would love to know of someone elses efforts to cook without meat or dairy or any added fat. I love to see pictures of what a dish is supposed to look like.

I’ll do that here.

Of course, the chance that this blog will become strictly a plant based eating recipe site is slim. I am long winded, at least at the keyboard.

So, that is my new plan. At least for now. Lee and I will try once more to stick to it.

We usually slide first by way of cheese. I had no idea that was my real weakness. I always thought it was chocolate. There is no cheese in the house. The frig is packed with produce. Jars are full of bean and grains. I have a fabulous set of cookware that doesn’t require any oil.

I hope this time is the last time we have to start over eating this way. I hope I can stay away from the cheese!

Even in our spits and starts, our efforts have not been in vain. A stress test a month ago was “normal.” I was able to walk all over Atlanta’s beautiful Piedmont Park a few months ago at the Pride Festival. The wheelchair gathers dust in the basement. I haven’t been in the hospital in almost a year. I am certainly much better. I give all the credit to this way of eating. Even our failings are better than what we use to eat.

If no one reads this, that’s okay. But I hope you do.

Here’s a feel good video,

James Morrison- super sweet

I’ll meet you in the kitchen soon.


January 26, 2012


Not A Pumphead Ping-Pong Party

February 2, 2011
Hee Haw

Image via Wikipedia

So, two weeks ago I made a promise to myself to be more kind when speaking of or talking about my body. I’m happy to say that for the most part, I’ve stuck to that. Accepting what is is a powerful thing. After years of preaching of the virtues of denial, “loving what is,” as Byron Katie would say has far more benefit that I’d thought.

Around that same time, I had another revelation, or validation I could say. I need to vent about it, so bear with me.  Hit the delete key. Do which ever works best for you. If you stick around and read it, thanks as always for being my witness.

Right after the bypass surgery, I noticed things were different. Of course my body was different. Subtle symptoms were now replaced by glaring deficiencies and disability. Emergency surgery to save my life gave me none of that relief and improvement some seem to experience. It wasn’t just my body that was changed though. My mind was changed as well.  My short-term memory was toast. Things seemed foggy. Speaking sometimes was like wading through soup. I remember telling the surgeon about it at that first post op visit. He brushed it off saying it was anesthesia. His nurse said it would pass.

I told my then cardiologist. He said the same thing at first, then just ignored it when I brought it up each time I saw him. He ignored about everything I said, that’s why I went almost three months with two of those grafts having failed almost immediately. That would explain the lack of improvement. That’s a another story though…

So, I went online myself and researched. My sense of smell was almost gone. The memory thing got worse, instead of better. The speaking got worse. I would be unable to find words. I didn’t sleep. Crowds were overwhelming. I didn’t read anymore. I was different in a million ways. Much I attributed to the trauma of it all. I wasn’t quite right though and knew it. I read about “pump-head,” the cognitive decline that often happens to people after being on the heart lung, or bypass machine during open heart surgery. The only problem with that theory, my surgery was one of the first at Emory Crawford Long done, “off pump,” meaning they hadn’t stopped my heart when they did it. Then I read how they had thought the “-” was caused by stopping the heart and cooling the blood and it went away after a year or so, yet those done “off-pump” seemed to have the same percentage, perhaps even more, of cognitive decline.

After about a year, I stopped keeping up with the research. I just sort of accepted it as something Lisa and I knew, but no one else. If my girls noticed, they didn’t let on. It was frustrating though. I would be talking to the girls and realize I couldn’t remember the conversation of two days before they were referring to. Or, I wouldn’t recall whole events, days even. It seemed memories entered my brain like ping-pong balls, bouncing around but often never landing anywhere. Usually, with clues, I could recall at least part of past events. Others seemed whole and intact. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to it, some simply landed and others didn’t, except that overwhelm (and it didn’t take much) and fatigue made it worse.

I avoided crowds and groups of people, people in general I didn’t feel super safe and comfortable with (that left about half a dozen or so) because I found I really wouldn’t be able to talk. I could listen and follow fine, but when I went to speak, I would seem to lose my way, things in my mind would slow down like slow motion, like that thick soup. Or, I’d realize they were speaking of something I should, but could not remember causing a wave of panic to cover me. After being a public speaker the past few years, that was quite a major change.

I also didn’t have much interest in much of what folks said…they were so serious and acted as if they had a thousand years to live, to do and fret and seek and search. I found most of life funny and wanted to laugh and finally not take life so damn seriously. They didn’t seem to have any interest in what I tried to say either. I was trying to heal from a broken heart and had experienced some sort of deeply traumatic but profoundly clarifying event. I needed to talk about it.  I also had the desire to milk this remaining physical experience for all it was worth. They were still trying to figure out spiritual things and have out-of-body experiences. They were still waiting for “then” when they’d be happy or whole or enlightened or complete. They still sought out their inner child and hoped to follow their big plan, their life’s great purpose. They still dreamed of changing the world. I was no longer dreaming. I felt I’d been rudely and roughly awakened. We just weren’t on the same page anymore. And I couldn’t seem to say any of it.

I’m really dragging this out, I know, making it into a book. Forgive me, or hit “delete.” When I went to the doctor a couple of weeks ago (the second time) for the joint pain and inability to sleep, my GP, she started asking Lisa to describe my sleeping. Lisa was telling her how I am never still, that even when I go to sleep, I don’t stop moving. That led to my telling her of the loss of my sense of smell, the memory loss and other cognitive challenges. She listened and asked questions. Finally she started telling us how being on that heart lung machine can cause brain damage. I told her again my surgery was done off-pump.

Then she said,

“There is no way they can graft those arteries without introducing air into the blood stream. Bubbles of air, acting just like blood clots go to the brain. They know this will happen. They just hope the brain damage is small enough it isn’t noticed.”

Lack of smell- a part of the brain where an air embolism went.
Memory loss- a part of the brain where an air bubble went and wreaked havoc
Speaking trouble- ditto
As for the sleeping, she said part of the brain tells the body to be still when we sleep, or else we’d move with our dreams. Air bubble there, too.
And certainly big enough to notice.

Maybe I should be devastated, but instead, I am so relieved. For two years, I’ve known something was wrong. I’ve known damage was done. It was so infuriating that they all just brushed it off like I was imagining it. I suppose they didn’t expect me to live long enough for it to matter. Maybe they were afraid I’d sue them. Instead, I know I’m on bonus time. I don’t want to spend a precious second pretending things aren’t what they are, that I am not what I am and how I am. It’s dangerous, too to pretend that way. I absolutely would not remember if I’d taken my meds at least every other day. They weren’t doing me any favors ignoring it.

Oh, here’s a funny piece of the heart surgery story. I was “stuck” on the ventilator for a while after surgery. I was in ICU and they let Lisa and the girls in every two hours for a little while. I don’t remember them being there. I do remember waking up and wondering how I could be alive and feel so badly, how I could hurt so completely. Anyway, Lisa sings beautifully and I love for her to sing to me. They said she would try to sing sweet church songs or love songs to me during those visits and I would shake my head and wrinkle my brow. The only songs I wouldn’t protest to were the songs from the old TV show “Hee Haw,” like “Gloom, Despair and Agony On me” and, “Where Oh Where Are You Tonight?”

For whatever reason or cause, I have met another me. While the old me isn’t gone, I have been whittled down and fine tuned to someone far more simple than I was before. It feels as if the world doesn’t know how to respond to someone who for whatever reason has stepped off the moving sidewalk; who isn’t planning and dreaming and plotting and seeking. I didn’t and the world doesn’t place any value on just being. I haven’t known quite how to respond to myself either. I’m not seeking profound answers or trying to make a big difference. I know I can’t juggle so I don’t try anymore. I don’t strive for riches or that dream house or trip. I don’t need recognition or approval from more than my immediate beloved family, the ones who are still around.

The song Lisa tried most to sing was ,”The Greatest Thing,” and it begins, “The greatest thing in all my life is loving you.”

I guess I do still need a witness, or else I would not write. While I cannot speak as before, I must still have much to say. I appreciate it when someone listens. I’m quite okay if they don’t. I am acutely aware of how fortunate I am. For lack of a better work, I will call it blessed. The greatest dream of my life, the original dream, the main dream, was a loving spouse and children. I have that and then some. Lisa and my girls, my grandchildren are my dream come true. I love what is. The greatest thing in all my life is loving them. The greatest thing in life.

Right here. Right now. Ah

Mustn’t end on too serious a note, so watch this…

The Woman in the Mirror

January 17, 2011

To the left is a picture of me about three years ago. It’s right before I had a terrible Samson hair experience. It’s also less than a year before I got sick.

To the right, is a picture of me taken within the past couple of months. My hair grew back. My body grew, too.

I have always been very vain. My mother was as well. She was always very beautiful, well dressed and elegant. As a child, she dressed me prefectly. Mom made a lot of my dresses and made matching dresses for my baby dolls and Barbies. As an adult, I resisted the fashion interest, preferring jeans and tee shirts. My first career in nursing allowed me to first wear a uniform and was a place where little choice or individual expression was allowed and, non was expected. When the nursing field moved to wearing scrubs, my fashion sense, or lack thereof found even greater comfort.

Only when I went into ministry did I finally find my fashion niche, discovering styles that worked. Just because I had no fashion interest before that though, certainly didn’t mean I wasn’t vain. I was always thin, in fact I never felt quite thin enough. I was always obsessed with my hair and though I might not have looked it, I was well aware of how the tee shirts and jeans looked on me. I was also incredibly critical of how I looked and never satisfied. Though this feeling is probably universal with women, I’m sure that my mother’s criticism added greatly to that feeling in me. It wasn’t just the criticism of me that had an impact. She was really quite kind considering how much fashion mattered to her and how little it mattered to me. Critiquing others though, was somewhat of a hobby for her. As the years went by, this became almost an obsession, though I don’t recall ever a time when she refrained from this hobby. She commented on everyone who walked by. Every body part was reported on from jiggling upper arms, to large bottoms, broad backs, heavy legs, belly fat, long necks, short necks, tan and pale. Nothing was off-limits and her critique never took time off.

I think I assumed everyone judged as she judged. I assumed those people judged me as she judged them. My solution to this was to judge me first. And I did, relentlessly. Mom also judged herself, too and I don’t remember her ever not criticizing her body size even though she was never overweight. As she aged, she developed a thickness around the middle but I doubt she ever wore larger than a size ten, probably an eight. She was beautiful every moment of her life and always looked far younger than she was. I look at pictures of her in her teens and twenties and she was very, very thin, as thin I use to be.



Now, two years after becoming ill, I weigh twenty pounds more than I did when I got sick and thirty pounds more than I weighed most of my adult life. I haven’t found my fashion niche either, the style that looks good on my larger frame. I cringe when I look in the mirror and see the double chin and round face. Instead of feeling gratitude for the bonus time of living, I spend a great deal of time wallowing in my muddy vanity. I long to wear the fitted cloths, to be able to walk in heels and slip on the size 2 jeans. I recoil at my wrinkled neck and miss the bones of my shoulders and knees. Not even my hands and feet are the same.

This illness has been brutal on my body. I am very lucky to still be alive. I’m lucky to still have my legs. I’m lucky to walk at all. I’m so blessed to be able to do more than I could a year ago. Yet, I don’t blame the surgery or disease or even the handful of medicines I take twice a day for the change in my appearance. As ridiculous as it sounds to say it and even more ridiculous it looks to write it, I blame myself and see my body as the proof of my failure.

This needs to stop. I watched my mother verbally berate strangers but also herself over every imaginary imperfection. At the end of her life, as cancer ravaged her body, she was thin again. She was as thin as she had been in her twenties. We didn’t talk of it, but I know she’d have gladly traded her skinniness for one more day of health. I am only five pounds overweight according to those charts, yet I feel as if I am two hundred pounds overweight. The truth is though, I am allowing a vicious cycle to continue. Both my daughters are very thin. One is at the low-end of a normal weight and the other is underweight. They are both profoundly beautiful. I know they judge their bodies harshly. My mother taught me well, as I have taught them. To think my beautiful and precious daughters spend even a moment looking in the mirror with a critical eye is heart breaking.

I can’t undo it all, but I can begin, starting today, to focus more on health and less on weight. I can’t re-raise my daughters, but they can watch me be okay with my new body. They can watch my eating be motivated by a desire to live instead of a desire to look a certain way. They can watch me be kind to myself and hopefully never again hear me criticize my shape or form.


The have my genes. They need to be eating wisely. They need to be eating though, and finding that natural weight they would be if health was their goal and taking care of themselves their motivation.

I look at these before and after pictures. In the after pictures, I look larger. I look much older. I look less sure of myself, too. Yet, those before pictures were illusion. I looked younger, more vibrant, thinner and healthier when in truth, I was a ticking time bomb. The confidence was pretense. I lived through a physical and figurative breaking of my heart. The new me is far more real. It’s time I accepted the real me.

Girls, if you happen to read this, I love you. Eat.

Heart Math

January 4, 2011
cooked red quinoa

Image via Wikipedia

I have a beloved aunt who is more than a little concerned about our “fat-free” eating. While it is a relief to try to convince her we cheat more often than she believes we do, she is in fact under the same misconception most are and we were concerning going the fat-free route.

The more correct term is “No added fat.” For breakfast this morning, we had quinoa with a tsp of brown sugar. 1/4 cup of cooked quinoa has 3 gm of fat. I’m making lentil soup for dinner. Cooked lentils have over 13 grams of fat per cup. Our goal is to limit our added fat to 10 grams per day. Added means not on the list of bare vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes, excluding avocados, coconut and nuts. Any oil is added fat. Any dairy or egg is added. Any fish or meat of any kind is added fat.

Last night we had scallops and asparagus for dinner. Scallops, the way we prepared them with no fat added, have 1/2 gram of fat each. I had three. The asparagus was roasted with no fat added. It’s fat content alone is .16 gram per stalk. We also had a little chocolate and a few baked Doritos. They were, by the way, a huge disappointment. We kept expecting each one to be a “real” Doritos, when in fact, each one was more disappointing than the one before. The chocolate and Doritos would contain lots of “added fat,” as most processed foods do.

We are both curious about how much fat we are consuming if we stick to the plan, so my plan is to keep at least a one week diary of all we eat and calculate the no added fat, fat content along with any fat we do add. Lee is curious about our percentage of calories from fat. A woman I admire very much from the Inspire world posted some videos about the negative effects of statins. She often posts such warnings and I can’t say I disagree. I’m simply too terrified to heed them. I  admit being confused by the conflicting reports concerning cholesterol and heart disease. I have felt better though and to me, that is the best indicator and the most convincing study.

So, I suppose this keeping track of the fat I eat that is “not added,” allows me to make some sense of it all in my own mind. Whether that makes sense to anyone else, we’ll see. It may turn out to be like solving a math problem but being unable to “show my work” or explain how I came up with the answer.

Stay tuned, then for a numbers game,

Oh, I had to look up how to calculate fat calories and percentage of calories from fat.

Multiply each fat gram by 9

Divide that number by the total calories of the serving of food

Multiply that by 100.


Quinoa has 170 calories, 3 grams of fat, so


divide 27 by 170= 0.15882352941

multiply that by 100, so

0.15882352941  x 100 = 15.882352941, or 16% rounded off

Today so far,

1/4 cup cooked quinoa= 170 calories, 3 gm fat, 16% of calories from fat

1 tsp brown sugar= 11 calories, o fat, 0% calories from fat

Total thus far today= 181 calories, 3 gm fat, 15% calories from fat

cool, huh?

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