Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sharing the Journey

When I was in cancer treatment, I lost all my hair, but was so very curious about when it would come back and how long it would take. What would it look like at 4 weeks? How about 3 months? 5 months?

I found a few pictures here and there, but I wanted more. When my hair started to grow back, I decided to document the progress so that I could share it with others. A friend of mine helped me to put together an interactive photo gallery, and it became something more than just a series of pictures. It's really a walk through my whole cancer journey, using my hair as benchmarks. I wrote and recorded a song to accompany it, and I hope that one day, someone just like me will be able to find these pictures when they need them and get the hope and strength they need at that moment in time.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Greens, Greens and More Greens!

When was the last time you ate raw collard greens? How about chard or kale? Two years ago, I would have answered "Um, how about never." I actually did not think I liked greens very much. We would get huge bags of greens every June with our CSA farm share, and some would, inevitably, go bad because we just didn't cook a whole lot with greens. We'd occasionally saute them up and put them in some kind of dish, but I never would have thought to eat them raw. Maybe a little spinach in my salad, but that was the extent of it. I knew they were really good for you, but I just didn't see them being a huge part of my diet.

Then, I discovered green smoothies! Yes, this nuclear waste colored drink is my daily breakfast. It may look like some kind of pond algae, but it is actually quite delicious. This one was made with banana, pear, fresh orange juice, pineapple, and big handfuls of baby spinach, plus a little water to make it blend up smoothly. When I first heard about green smoothies, I was quite skeptical. But I was assured that they were very tasty, so I gave it a whirl. I was delighted to discover that I could not even taste the greens. In fact, my first smoothie was this very combination described above (minus the banana), and it was so good I wanted to lick the glass clean.

My nutritional research has underscored the importance of getting daily greens (preferably raw) into your diet. Greens provide essential vitamins and minerals that are very difficult to get through other foods. I've seen recommendations that we should eat as much as a pound (yes I said a pound!) of raw greens per day. That's far more chewing than I'm interested in, and most greens are too tough to eat as salads, but cooking them makes them lose a lot of their nutritional value. The green smoothie is the perfect way to load up on greens easily.

You can use almost any greens you like. Spinach is the most mild flavor, but I also use kale, chard, collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, dandelion greens, arugula, romaine, parsley, mint, and other interesting greens I might happen to find. I'll even throw some broccoli, sprouts, cucumber, or asparagus in sometimes. I blend about 40% greens to about 60% fruit. If I'm using bitter greens I'll use a little less, and I'll add some lemon juice to counteract the bitterness. With spinach, it's so mild I can go about 50% spinach to 50% fruit.

I now go through more greens in one week than I used to eat in a whole year. We all know that eating more fruits and vegetables helps to prevent disease, and with one green smoothie, I get at least four servings in one easy package, and my energy level stays high all day. I love them, and I highly encourage you to give them a try. So far, everyone I know who was willing to trust me on this has agreed that they are actually very good! Personally, I think the green is really quite an appetizing color, but if it turns you off initially, just throw in a lot of berries!

Pretty much any combination works. I haven't found any that were really awful. All measurements are simply guesses. I just sort of throw stuff in by the handful. If it's too thick, I add more liquid. If it's not sweet enough, I throw in a banana. If it's too sweet, I squeeze in little lemon or orange juice. It's hard to get it wrong. You'll find loads of ideas doing a google search, but here are a few of my recent combinations.

cherry juice & water

kale (strip the kale off the stalk unless you've got a super powerful blender)
I had a few asparagus stalks I threw in too.
orange juice and/or water

juice or water

juice or water.

If you like the really frozen shake type of smoothie you can use ice instead of water. Personally, I hate using ice because it give me those brain-freeze headaches. Plus, it makes me cold! I even run warm water over the frozen fruit (which is a smoothie maker's best friend, by the way) to thaw it out a little bit. But, you can do whatever makes you happy. Any blender works, but it helps if you have a decent blender. Unless you don't mind "chunkies" instead of smoothies!

Think Spring!