I love it when Dana hosts our women’s Bible study. Her home is warm and welcoming. She has a cool dog and she makes the best, by far, pumpkin bread in the world.
Dana serves her signature sweet bread warm right from the oven in a cute, Bundt-style baking pan in the shape of a pumpkin. Martha Stewart would be proud.
Recently, as I let a second warm slice of pumpkin perfection melt in my mouth, I decided to ask Dana for the recipe. I figured it would be beyond my culinary skills…probably an old, family recipe involving double boilers, exotic spices and separated eggs.
Dana just smiled as she shared her “secret” recipe – three ingredients – one step. So simple, even I could dazzle my friends and family with pumpkin bread worthy of the Cooking Channel.
If you need to bring something sweet to a holiday gathering, consider whipping up Dana’s perfect pumpkin bread. It’s so simple; you won’t even have to write it down. But here it is just in case!
Dana’s Pumpkin Bread
1 Box Trader Joe’s pumpkin bread mix
Prepare according to the box recipe, but add ½ can of organic, canned pumpkin (also at Trader Joe’s) and a small tub of vanilla Greek yogurt.
Bake and eat. Consider it my gift to you!
Good eating and God’s blessings!
I ran into Don and Sheila the other day on the curb in front of our house. It was Monday…garbage day…as together we rolled our trash cans back into our respective garages. Actually, it was good to see our next-door neighbors. Tom and I hadn’t seen or heard from them for several days.
I quickly learned why as Sheila dressed in heavy sweats with a wool scarf around her neck warned me not to come any closer. Looking like the walking dead, she told me that she and Don had the flu and were so sick they hadn’t even left their house. Taking the trash to the curb was their first outing in days.
It broke my heart to see our friends in such misery. They admitted they hadn’t gotten the flu shot and vowed never to pass on it again.
Secretly, I applauded my own decision to get vaccinated. But it’s my pharmacist who deserves the credit for making that smart choice. As I quizzed him at my local pharmacy, he convinced me the flu shot is still the best way to avoid the miserable symptoms of the flu virus.
I remember using the line, “They never get the formula right anyway,” to justify skipping this year’s vaccination. If that’s your argument, then it may be time to roll up your sleeve. Turns out, a flu shot is effective even if its strains don’t match those going around!
That may sound crazy, but a Canadian review found in years the vaccine hadn’t targeted the viruses circulating, people still got protection that was more than 50 percent effective (when there was a match, protection rose to 65 percent or more).
Bottom line…from my pharmacist and primary care doctor to the Mayo Clinic and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), the best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated.
Like all medications, vaccines can have side effects, but they’re extremely rare. For people with certain health conditions, getting the shot may not be advised. Obviously, if you have any concerns, check with your doctor before getting vaccinated.
Then, before you decide to skip this year’s flu shot…consider this. The vaccine can protect you from the ravages of the flu that wiped out our neighbors – a viral respiratory illness that spreads easily and can make your life miserable for weeks. Worst case? The flu can lead to serious health complications and possibly death. Why chance it?
It’s too late for Don and Sheila. Thankfully, they’re recovering nicely.
But there is still time for you to prevent the fever, chills and body aches that could have you down for the count this holiday season.
For a list of Palomar Health community flu shot clinics, go to www.PalomarHealth.org/flu.
When it comes to food, these days, it’s all about going organic. And that’s great. Count me in! But I must admit, navigating the maze of organic food labels, benefits and claims can be more confusing than an exercise in quantum physics!
Is it just me? I have a college degree but nowhere in my curriculum was there a course on “label language,” and much of it is simply indecipherable. Thank goodness, after decades of talk, the USDA’s National Organic Program has finally standardized the widely varying practices of an unregulated, grassroots movement. The program ensures all producers play by the same rules. What does that mean for you and me? Official, clear-cut definitions of “organic” and its many wannabes.
Here they are! (And if you lose this, not to worry. I’ve got the list posted on my fridge!)
100% Organic: All ingredients must be certified organic, and processing aids must be organic as well. The name of the certifying agent must be on the label, which may carry the USDA Organic seal.
Organic: Products must contain at least 95% certified organic ingredients. The remaining 5% (except salt and water), along with any nonorganic processing aids (such as chlorine to wash packaging equipment), must be from a national list of substance the USDA has approved for use in organics. The product may carry the USDA Organic seal.
Made with Organic: Packaging can’t include the USDA seal, but at least 70% of the product must be certified organic; nonagricultural ingredients must come from the national list. The quality of organic foods is high even at 70%, experts say.
Organic Ingredients: Below 70% organic, the product can’t claim on its packaging that it’s organic, except to list specific certified organic ingredients on the information panel.
Natural: The USDA says that meat, poultry and eggs labeled with this word must have no artificial ingredients and be minimally processed. But the term isn’t defined beyond those items. Assume “natural” means “conventional.”
Fair Trade: Nongovernment organizations certify that growers received minimum prices and community support from buyers and followed specific environmental practices. Standards are not as strict as for organic.
Free-range: Birds such as chickens are sheltered and have continuous access to the outdoors, along with unlimited access to food and water. However, these claims are not certified.
Cage-free: Birds can freely roam inside a building or room with unlimited access to food and fresh water. They’re without cages, but can still be packed very tightly, even when organic.
Grass-fed: Animals receive most of their nutrition from grass throughout their lives, but may also eat hay or grain indoors during winter. Animals may still receive antibiotics and hormones, according to the USDA.
No Added Hormones: Already true of organic, so its conventional producers that tend to use this term, but there’s no certification for these claims.
Whew! It’s still a lot of info…but at least these definitions are clear and should make buying organic a lot easier.
I have a confession to make. I’m addicted to my lip balm! I’m not thrilled about this. But at least I’m not the only one constantly reaching for that next lip fix.
‘Tis the season, after all – the sunny, hot and extremely dry season, that is. With temperatures rising and high pressure building, they just don’t make enough Chapstick to keep my miserably dry, cracked lips moist!
The spectacular autumn sun may be shining brightly, but with dry Santa Ana winds and humidity dropping below 10 percent, many of us look for relief from constantly re-applying our favorite lip balm. (Bee’s for me!)
Annoying and uncomfortable at best, chapped lips can become dry, cracked and sore interfering with daily activities such as smiling, eating, talking, singing and kissing. Even worse, cracked tissue can be painful and lead to infection.
So Cal’s “devil winds” aren’t the only reason our kissers become cracked and chapped. Yes, over exposure to wind, sun, cold and dry air are the main culprits, but people who breathe through their mouths (for a variety of reasons) can develop chapped lips. Certain medications or allergies to cosmetics or skin care products may also be the cause.
When lips are exposed to moisture, they absorb water and plump up. No surprise there, but conversely, when dehydrated they can dry out. As we age, it’s hard for skin to retain moisture and dryness tends to increase in the winter.
So, what’s a person to do?
Check out these timely tips to help you keep those luscious lips soft and moist…
*Avoid lip smacking or licking your lips.
When you do, you provide a drop of moisture which evaporates quickly, leaving the lips drier than before. Saliva contains digestive enzymes that can break down the protective barrier on the lips.
Drink plenty of fluids to moisturize from the inside out. Set up a humidifier in your home or office.
*Be sure your lip balm contains sunscreen.
According to researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, “sun damage to the lips can cause dryness and scaliness…the same way it damages the rest of the skin.”
*Ladies, wear lipstick!
A creamy lipstick (non-matte) can soothe chapped lips and opaque lipstick filters out harmful light. This may be why women seldom get lip cancer.
*Apply lip balm.
Look for hydrating ingredients such as beeswax and petroleum. Beware of camphor and menthol…camphor-based medicated lip balm may be irritating.
*It’s OK to reapply often.
Apply it before you go out…several times while you are out and after you eat or drink.
Apply a thick layer of balm at bedtime to lessen chapping. Many of us sleep with our mouths open, which leads to dry lips. (Since I began slathering on a generous layer of Aquaphor at night, no more painful cracks in the corners of my lips!)
Oh, and don’t be concerned about actually becoming “addicted” to your lip balm. There are no physically addictive ingredients in balms. A psychological habit? Maybe. But it’s safe…so grab another tube!
It was our first trip to Paris. So much to see and do…the Eiffel Tower…Notre Dam…the Louvre. Amazing!
But as Tom and I recently experienced our first trip to the “City of Light,” we quickly learned the main Parisian attraction isn’t a cathedral or museum. It’s the food! And for nine days, we made it our goal to taste it all.
We indulged in crepes, both savory and sweet, swimming in rich cheese and cream sauces – fresh, buttered baguettes stuffed with ham and Gruyere, buttery croissants slathered in orange marmalade and steaming cups of cappuccino with creamy, whole milk. (Don’t even think about insulting your French server by asking for non-fat!)
We literally ate our way through the streets of Paris. From curbside vendors and colorful sidewalk cafes to charming bistros with white tablecloths, we dined on steaming bowls of cheese-covered French onion soup, spaghetti bolognaise and melt-in-your moth beef bourguignon.
I won’t even begin to describe the delightfully decadent French desserts in this space. Words are completely insufficient. But I will say this much. Last night I dreamt about one of those divine desserts…the rich ice cream, whipped cream and dark chocolate sauce confection known as the “blanche dame.”
For the record, I didn’t work out one day. Oh well, when in France…
But the day of reckoning finally came back home as I stepped on the scale to assess
the damage. Unbelievably, the digital display indicated I had lost nearly a pound!
And then it hit me.
I’d just experienced a touch of what’s known as the French Paradox…the country’s low rate of coronary heart disease despite a diet rich in saturated fat. It’s the basic premise of the popular diet book, “French Women Don’t Get Fat.” Author Mireille Guiliano advises eating only good food of very high quality, eat it in small portions and savor every bite.
And it fits our French dining experience to a tee. Rather than wolfing down a hastily prepared PB and J running out the door, our meals were not rushed. In fact, they were an event unto themselves…consumed slowly while visiting and sipping the local Bordeaux.
As Guiliano explains, “From chocolate to champagne, eat slowly, with all your senses, and make every dining experience pleasurable so you will be satisfied with smaller portions of delicious food. No food is off limits, only large portions. No counting calories, no skipping meals – just control what you eat.”
It truly is a paradox. Lean and fit, the French aren’t into low-fat, low-carb, low-taste and low-calorie. Their diet is full of flavor and high in satisfaction. (And the majority of Parisians don’t have cars. They walk as did we – often miles a day!)
When it comes to food, we could all learn a thing or two from our French brothers and sisters. With their low rate of obesity and cardiovascular disease, the French way may just be the way to go!
Our “trip of a lifetime” was supposed to happen nearly two years ago. Plans for our first-ever trip to Paris and Normandy were set. Counting down the days, Tom and I were excited and ready to go. Then came my cancer diagnosis and everything came to a screeching halt.
Four surgeries and a clean bill of health later, we decided to give it another try. As we landed at Charles de Gaulle airport, I thanked God for a second chance to see the historic sites of Normandy, Paris and the Chateaux of France.
We’ve been home a few weeks now, but my head is still spinning as I continue to process all we saw and experienced in that beautiful country.
With the aide of our gifted tour guide, we travelled to France’s Loire Valley, known for its architectural heritage and world-famous castles. The largest castle, Chateau Chambord, also served as a hunting lodge for King Louis XIV and he clearly spared no expense. It was a show-stopper.
We travelled by bus to see one of the most impressive sights in all of France, Mont-Saint Michel. Absolutely stunning, the 14th century abbey sits on an island, perched atop a rocky pinnacle overlooking the sea. A surreal sight from a distance, it is truly one of the architectural wonders of the world.
As we made our way toward Paris, we visited the exquisite Versailles Palace with its impressive (and over-the top glitzy!) Hall of Mirrors. Magnifique!
Next stop…the enchanting sights of romantic Paris, the “City of Light.” Mouth agape for days I could barely take it all in –Champs Elysees Boulevard, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe. Breathtaking! Our trip to the Louvre, the world’s largest museum, put us literally face-to-face with DaVinci’s Mona Lisa. (I swear she was looking right at me!)
Enjoying crepes and cappuccinos, we people-watched for hours at colorful sidewalk cafes and took a romantic cruise down the river Seine.
But the highlight of our French adventure actually took place outside the hustle and bustle of Paris in Normandy...home of the historic D-Day sites. It’s also the site of our trip’s biggest disappointment, as the American Cemetery was closed to tourists due to the U.S. government shutdown.
Putting that aside, we were moved to tears as our guide took us through the British Commonwealth cemetery where so many of our friends and allies…also D-Day casualties have been laid to rest.
But for this military family, tears became sobs as we stood and reflected…in a cold, blustery driving rainstorm along Omaha and Utah Beaches…the same conditions under which thousands of young American men braved both the angry sea and the determined enemy to take the German fortifications…ultimately liberating France from Hitler’s occupation.
Never have I been prouder of our military men and women or more grateful for the freedoms I enjoy as an American. It was a thrilling experience.
Truly, the trip of a lifetime!
I love San Diego’s coastal North County – the beautiful beaches, shopping along Cedros, the horse races…Legoland. There’s so much to see and do.
But there’s one coastal attraction that brings me back time and again. It’s the magnificent Mango Tart at “Urban Pi” in Del Mar. If you’ve never had this amazing taste experience, you probably think I’ve “lost the bubble.” But for the rest of you – those who have experienced this heavenly confection… your mouths are already watering.
Urban Pi, the new fast-casual restaurant in the Albertson’s shopping center on Via de la Valle (just east of I-5) serves up custom-made thin-crust pizzas, salads and sandwiches. Everything is fresh and delicious. But the dessert menu is to die for especially their signature Mango Tart.
The dazzling display of mango slices atop a yummy, light cream filling and crisp, pastry crust (a super-secret recipe!) is arranged in a pie made to look like a flower in bloom. It’s not only a work of art to the eye. It’s delicious beyond description.
But decadent it’s not. Light on the sugar, the tasty tart gets most of its sweetness straight from plenty of perfectly ripened wedges of fresh mango. Order an entire tart and bring it home with you. I love the “ooo’s” and “ahhs” I get when I serve it for a special event.
And don’t forget the health benefits.
Whether you get your mango from Urban Pi’s “pie…” or from your local market, we all should be eating more mangoes! The world-famous fruit may taste like candy, but it’s also one of the richest sources of vitamins A and C and minerals including potassium, calcium and phosphorus. Mango is also full of fiber and a one-cup serving has only 100 calories.
An added bonus…mango may also help improve glucose levels. In a recent study, obese participants who ate the equivalent of 2/3 cup of the tropical treat (roughly 65 calories) daily for 12 weeks significantly lowered their blood sugar possibly due to the fruit’s fiber, which can slow sugar absorption.
So, go ahead and munch on a mango. Eat it fresh, dried, in nectar or juice (give “Good Belly” brand a try) or make a date and take the 5 to Del Mar and taste the amazing mango tart at Urban Pi. www.urbanpi.com
Let me know how you like it.
*Note: Many of you “locals” recall the Mango Tart was originally found at “Pasta Pronto,” which recently closed its doors. “Urban Pi” moved into the same space, changed the menu, updated the décor, but thankfully, retained some of Pasta Pronto’s favorites including the famous tart.
The caricature of a sexy woman adorned with a feather boa and six-inch eyelashes smiled at me from the front of the birthday card. “You’re still hot!” read the caption below the shapely cartoon lady’s stiletto heels. Smiling, I opened the card from my dear friend…only to read the bitter truth, “These days it just comes in flashes!”
Funny card. But for women who deal with the “flashes” of heat that strike with no warning, it’s no laughing matter.
Truth is, most women experience hot flashes at some point before or after menopause when their estrogen levels are declining. While some women are blessed with few to no flashes, others suffer the surges of internal heat numerous times a day causing miserable disruptions in sleep and daily living.
The late-summer heat just makes matters worse.
Summer can be a truly “hellish” time for women coping with hot flashes and night sweats. While comforted knowing my personal heat waves are not a sign of some medical problem, they’re still a royal pain – frustrating and often embarrassing as the tiny rivulets of sweat trickle from my hairline down the side of my face during a business meeting.
If you’re a woman tired of waking up in a pool of sweat every night or carrying around a portable fan all day, don’t despair. There are effective treatments that may either reduce or stop moderate to severe hot flashes including short-term, low-dose estrogen (hormone therapy), certain antidepressant and blood pressure medicines and the herb, black cohosh.
But for some of us, drugs and herbal therapy may not be an option. If you’ve had breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or are at risk for either, you may have been told you’ve just got to put up with the unwanted waves of heat. Like many of women, I take the anti-estrogen medication, Tamoixfen because of a bout with breast cancer. (Some women take a similar medication, Arimidex) so we’ve got to find another way to beat the heat of hot flashes.)
Avoiding tobacco and alcohol, and making sure to exercise and maintain a healthy diet are a great start…but if the heat’s still on, and hormone therapy isn’t right for you; check out these natural remedies that may just give you the big chill you crave!
A 2013 Mayo Clinic study showed that doing slow, deep, abdominal breathing reduces the number and severity of hot flashes. (This really helps me.) Take three or four slow breaths whenever you feel the heat coming on. The hot flash often will just fade away. Practicing calming meditation also helps. Scientists are finding that stress hormones aggravate menopausal symptoms.
Clary sage and Roman chamomile essential oils help balance mood swings, while peppermint can chill hot flashes. To make your own cooling mist (especially great for night sweats!), mix the following ingredients in a 4-oz. dark-glass spray bottle:
* 3 ounces distilled water
* 1 ounce witch hazel extract
* 8 drops each of peppermint, clary sage and Roman chamomile essential oils
Sip Some Sage
This is a fave for reducing flashes and night sweats. Because sage may have estrogen-like effects, avoid therapeutic amounts if you’ve had breast cancer or could be pregnant. To brew a cup of the delicious tea: Pour 1 cup boiling water over 1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves or 1 teaspoon dried. Steep, cover for 5 minutes and then strain. Add a little honey or lemon, if you’d like. Have a cup two or three times a day.
Here’s to a cool you!
Like most of you health-conscious folks out there, I’ve done my best to make sure my diet includes a wide variety of leafy greens because they’re chock full of vitamins, minerals and cancer-fighting anti-oxidants.
I admit going green hasn’t always bee easy. But over time I’ve finally acquired a taste for arugula. I make my soups “super” by adding some Swiss chard. And despite a bitter battle, I’ve finally conquered my aversion to kale and frequently mix the dark, leafy green into my favorite salads. Pretty good effort, I’d say.
But just when I thought I’d gone green enough, a new leafy veggie has become the darling of the farmer’s market. Have you heard the buzz about the nutritional power of “mini greens?” According to the research, these seedlings are proving that good things can come in extremely small packages.
I first ran across the news about mini greens in “O” magazine…then checked it out for myself. Turns out, according to the USDA, when harvested at just seven to 14 days old, these pint-size leaves can be far more nutrient-dense than their full-grown counterparts.
Studies show plants use stored nutrients to grow, so plucking the tiny seedlings early means they still have high levels of vitamins and minerals. Just keep in mind, says one study, that these “mini-me’s” lack the fiber found in mature plants, so they should supplement the greens you already eat…not replace them.
For all you fashionable foodies out there, here’s more good news about teensy greens. Thanks to the concentrated flavor of these diminutive standouts, they can elevate meals in taste as well as nutrition.
Give these a try:
This fragrant green contains 11 times more lutein and zeaxanthin (nutrients that can reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related vision loss) than the same amount of mature cilantro.
Micro Red Cabbage
These slightly bitter, heart-shaped leaves outshine full-grown cabbage with roughly 260 times the beta carotene (a precursor to vitamin A that can help protect eyesight) and more than 40 times the vitamin E.
Micro Purple Mustard Greens
Just four ounces of these greens meet your recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin C (75 milligrams). Another perk: these greens may be among the tastiest, due to their spicy zing.
Micro Green Daikon Radish
These sharp, spicy leaves are vitamin E superstars, boasting 165 percent of your RDA per ounce – helping to shore up your immune system and protect tissues and organs from damage caused by free radicals. By contrast, mature leaves contain only trace amounts of the antioxidant.
Micro Garnet Amaranth (this one’s new to me!)
Light red with an earthy, floral flavor… micro garnet amaranth ranks highest in vitamin K among micro greens (with more than 3 ½ times the amount in mature amaranth). Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting and may reduce the risk of bone fractures.
I’m not exactly the queen of the kitchen, but I’m thinking if I adorn my next salad with nutrient-dense mini cilantro, would it be OK to can the kale?!
I didn’t believe she could do it.
And I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t think Diana Nyad should have even attempted the grueling ocean swim that recently catapulted the 64-year-old into the record books.
After all, Nyad had already tried to swim from Cuba to Florida four times since her first attempt in 1978…all unsuccessfully. And for good reason. Sharks, jellyfish, chronic nausea and exhaustion who could blame her? I remember talking to my TV as I watched Nyad’s fourth attempt come to a disastrous and disappointing end. “Enough already, Diana. Let it go.”
Besides, you’re too old, Diana. Face it. At 64, it’s too late to attempt something so physically taxing. You’ve already accomplished so much as a swimmer, author, motivational speaker and reporter. Rest on your laurels. Leave crossing the Florida straits to the youngsters.
Clearly, I had no idea what a woman with a dream and the iron will of Diana Nyad was capable of. As Nyad emerged victorious from the Atlantic Ocean after completing her historic swim, I was eating crow.
You’d think I’d have been her biggest cheerleader. After all, almost 60 myself, I’m also an open water swimmer. In fact, I had the great experience of being a “buddy swimmer” for my friend, Becky Jackman, as she successfully crossed the English Channel some years ago.
Honestly, it was sometimes difficult to watch as Becky pushed beyond her limits…spending12 hours in the choppy, bone-chilling waters of the Channel fighting exhaustion and the powerful current…literally crawling onto the beach at Calais…completely spent, swollen and delirious. But as Becky moved from delirium to euphoria, there wasn’t a dry eye on the boat. Our friend was glowing with the joy of achieving her lifelong goal.
Emerging from the Atlantic Ocean in Florida, that’s exactly what Nyad experienced – overwhelmed with emotion as she fell into the arms of her coach. All I can say is shame on me and everyone else who didn’t believe in Diana Nyad. Fortunately, she didn’t listen to us. She listened to her heart.
“I think it was her belief in herself that she could do this,” says Kathryn Olson, CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation. “That’s what makes her different. She worked through the pain. She had such a strong belief in herself and her ability to do this.”
The fifth time was the charm for the determined Nyad. Her open-water swim encompassed roughly 110 miles and 53 hours. Her superhuman feat makes Nyad the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage fulfilling a dream that began 35 years ago.
Diana Nyad’s incredible feat has inspired millions to dream big and go for it. And the remarkable endurance swimmer has some pretty sage advice for anyone with doubts (or doubters!) about on pursuing their dream.
As she walked triumphantly from the water in Key West…deliriously jubilant…Diana Nyad smiled and told a mob of spectators, “We should never give up. You’re never too old to chase your dream.”