In recent months, I’ve shared with you about the wonderful birthday group of gals I’m blessed to be part of. We’ve been meeting to celebrate our respective birthdays for more than 30 years. I’m grateful for all seven of these fabulous women. We’ve been through a lot together…most of it fun!
Due to my complete ineptness in the kitchen, the “girls” surprised me on my last birthday with copies of their favorite, easy, crowd-pleasing and idiot-proof recipes.
My last entry, in August, was Marlena Brown’s all-in-one-bowl chicken pesto pasta. If you haven’t given it a try, it’s a winner.
Today, I want to highlight one of Kendra Dawson’s signature recipes. We call her the soup queen…for good reason. Beef barley to chicken vegetable, Kendra’s homemade soups can’t be beat. And that goes for her famous Latin American specialty, pozole.
Pozole is especially popular in Mexico and the American Southwest, but my Gringo friend Kendra morphs into “Kendrita” when pozole’s on the menu.
Kendra’s made this recipe simple for all us Gringos. Add a salad and thick slices of bread and you’re sure to get a big !Que Bueno! from your family and friends.
3 cups cooked chicken (chopped)
32 oz. chicken broth
1 15-oz. can hominy (drain and wash)
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
1-2 cups of your favorite salsa
2-3 celery stalks, chopped (leafy tops ok)
1 small-medium white or yellow onion
1 lg. or 2 or 3 small red, green or yellow bell peppers, chopped
(optional) parsley or cilantro sprigs to garnish
1. Chop chicken and place in bowl
2.Chop celery, onions and peppers and place in bowl
3. In a large soup pot, place chicken broth, sliced tomatoes, salsa. Use the tomato can and fill twice with water and add to pot.
4. Bring to a boil. Add chopped onion, celery and peppers. Lower heat to medium. Stir frequently. Cook 10 minutes.
5. Add hominy and chicken. Cook about 10 minutes
Serve in soup bowls.
Garnish with parsley or cilantro, if desired.
While swimming laps one morning, I noticed a young lady in the lane next to me was struggling a bit. She would swim a few strokes, then stop and tread water awhile before trying again. She looked very fit, but clearly was not comfortable in the water.
At one point, we struck up a conversation across the lane line and I learned Abby was a marathon runner recovering from surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon. Swimming was not her sport, but she told me she had to do something…first because she wanted to maintain her fitness level. But even more importantly, she did not want to gain weight.
I can relate with the young distance runner. 30 years ago, following a running injury, I recall severely cutting my calorie intake for fear of “blowing up like a balloon!”
I now know that’s crazy thinking.
Injury is an unfortunate, but inevitable fate for most athletes or active people. However, if you’re not able to exercise due to a broken bone, torn tendon or unexpected surgery, the right foods can actually help you heal quickly and avoid gaining weight!
A nutrient-rich diet is key in helping your body heal and get strong again. Eating too few calories during the recovery process can affect complete and adequate healing. Not only that, but an extreme reduction in physical activity during recovery can lead to a natural reduction in appetite and food intake.
So, while you’re healing, choose a variety of quality foods…foods that give you the most nutritional “bang for your buck.” Don’t eliminate food groups, because they all work together.
Eat every two to four hours to keep your blood sugar constant and don’t overeat at the end of the day. Small snacks and meals keep your metabolism active. And be sure to include these nutrients:
Don’t cut out the carbs! When you have bread, fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your body for fuel, the protein you eat can be used to heal and repair muscles. Too few carbs and your body may burn protein for healing, which hinders healing. Combine a smaller portion of carbs with other nutrient-dense foods.
Choose foods such as lean meats, legumes (beans, lentils, soybeans) nuts and low-fat dairy. You need extra protein post-injury to fuel recovery. Make sure each snack or meal contains proteins. Try adding nut butter, egg whites, spinach or lean meats/soy wherever you can.
Plant and fish oils
Fats in these oils (olive, canola, nuts and avocado) have anti-inflammatory properties. Immediately following an injury, the first response is inflammation. These foods can assist in inflammatory control.
Herbs, spices and botanicals
Again, these nutrients can help manage inflammation. Curry powder, turmeric, garlic, cocoa, tea…along with fruits and veggies…are great sources. Consuming these on a daily basis in various recipes provides a strong foundation for recovery.
Vitamins and minerals
An adequate intake of fruits and veggies such as oranges, broccoli, strawberries, baked potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes and cantaloupe provides the powerful antioxidants that decrease inflammation. Vitamin C helps your body form collagen…a protein need for strength and flexibility. It also repairs tendons and ligaments and strengthens bones. Vitamin A helps your body heal by promoting cell growth and development and immune function.
So Abby…you’ll be back in the swim of things (hopefully out of the pool and back on the road!) before you know it! Fuel yourself well while you’re waiting and you’re sure to have a personal best at your next marathon!
Until then, see you at the pool!
When faced with the reality of having a life-threatening disease, most of us run the emotional gamut from shock and denial to despair and gut-wrenching fear. When Patricia Ogundare’ received her diabetes diagnosis two years ago, the otherwise measured, soft-spoken woman was overcome with only one emotion … anger.
“I was very, very angry,” recalls Patricia. “I thought my body had betrayed me.”
Proud of her health and vitality and far from overweight, the petite Patricia found she was also embarrassed. “If I had diabetes, it must be my fault,” explains Patricia.
Well, the Patricia I met recently was all smiles as she came bounding through the park on her morning power walk toward our meeting spot at Lake Hodges.
Through diet, exercise and a positive attitude, Patricia is successfully controlling
her diabetes without medications.
“I go to the gym first thing in the morning, use the elliptical, do strength training and sit-ups,” says Patricia. From there, she heads out for a five-mile trek through Rancho Bernardo. “Instead of waking up and taking a pill, I wake up, eat well and take a walk – that’s my medication!”
Before her diagnosis, Patricia was blissfully unaware of the ticking time bomb inside her. She’d come to the doctor for treatment of a bloody nose. A routine work-up revealed her blood glucose was a dangerously high 300. Today, that number has dropped to a healthy 119. “I still have diabetes,” she acknowledges. “But it’s under control.”
A strong family history and her African-American heritage put Patricia at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. According to Vivek Nazareth, M.D., a family practice physician with Arch Health Partners, African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asians are at double the risk of developing diabetes.
“Patricia was smart to get control before serious, irreversible complications could take hold,” says Dr. Nazareth.
“From the very beginning, Patricia was receptive, motivated and took advantage
of our team-based care at Arch Health,” says Certified Diabetes Educator Fritz Steen who helped Patricia get on the right track to reclaim her good health.
From anger to advocacy, the 55-year-old dynamo now shares her story so others
might be inspired to make lifestyle changes that can help prevent and control the potentially deadly disease. “Many say they don’t have time to exercise … it’s just easier to take medication,” says Patricia. “For me, it’s easier to exercise.”
Patricia’s experience is also having a domino effect. She’s completely changed her family’s eating habits. She’s working less to minimize stress. And all that walking has become a great social outlet. “I was so busy, I didn’t even know my neighbors,”
Patricia explains. “Now I know them all by name!”
As we wrapped up our visit, I asked Patricia whether she was still angry about having diabetes. With a huge smile she exclaimed, “I love my life! I’m not letting diabetes control me. I’m controlling my diabetes!”
Just had my annual physical and the news is good! My blood pressure, pulse, temperature and blood work are all within normal levels. No change in weight or medications. I’m sleeping well and my energy is good.
But just when I thought it was safe to button my blouse and head for the car, my doctor sat down for a final chat. “Now that you’re sixty,” she pointed out, (what a buzz kill!) I’d like you to make a few more appointments. As she got out her prescription pad, she explained, “You’ll need to get the shingles shot, an updated bone density scan and a colonoscopy!”
What!? I could swear I just had one of the miserable colon scans! But medical records don’t lie. There, in black and white, on my doctor’s computer screen, was the date of my last colonoscopy. 2004! Ten years ago! I was fifty. It was clean. And I didn’t want to have another one.
My whining clearly falling on deaf ears, the doctor handed me the script and advised me to set up an appointment… soon. Well, don’t tell my doctor, but I may just “buy” a little time because there are some new technologies on the horizon that may be easier and even better than the conventional colonoscopy.
Look, I know colonoscopy is important. In fact, the procedure has long been considered one of the most effective cancer-prevention tools. Some studies credit colonoscopies with reducing colon-cancer deaths twenty-five percent over the last decade.
It’s just that, like root canal, colonoscopies just aren’t much fun.
Doctors use long, rubber tubes with small video cameras to probe the colon. On high-definition monitors, they look for abnormal growths called polyps, which over ten to fifteen years can become cancerous.
While many of us avoid the procedure for fear it will be painful or expensive, it’s actually the preparation that ranks highest on the misery scale. Swallowing quarts of nasty drink preparations keep you on the edge of your toilet seat for hours. Uncomfortable at best, the whole process can be exhausting and disgusting.
So forgive me if I’d like to hold off making that appointment. There’s been a recent and exciting surge in new methods and devices already on the market or in the pipeline that just may eliminate (sorry!) the need for invasive colonoscopies!
Imagine swallowing a tiny camera embedded in a pill capsule. How ‘bout a DNA test or an endoscope that provides almost panoramic views of the colon? Sure beats gagging down gobs of chalky goo and a procedure that takes up most of the day!
But alas, while these new technologies could play an important role in reducing colon cancer deaths (nearly 51,000 last year in the US) there are still FDA hurdles to clear preventing their approval… at least in the very near future.
Until then, I guess I’ll bite the bullet and make my colonoscopy appointment. It’s the smart thing to do. Besides, the drug they give you makes you forget all about the gag-a-licious drink from the night before!
But next time, you better believe I’m going for the camera in a pill!
Is it me or is this season’s watermelon the best ever? Seriously, I can’t get enough of the tasty treat. Juicy and super-sweet…it’s like candy! Tom and I can devour an entire mini seedless melon in one sitting!
But when it comes to watermelon, apparently, I’m not very creative. At my house, watermelon is served one of two ways…in wedges or trimmed from the rind and cut into cubes. Period.
My friend, Sara, has completely changed that notion. On a hot, muggy day recently, Sara served a salad I’ll never forget…featuring—you got it—watermelon! In a large bowl, she whisked two tablespoons each olive oil and red wine vinegar and ¼ teaspoon salt. To that she added three cups each cubed, seedless watermelon, sliced peaches and baby arugula; one-half cup packed basil leaves and ¼ cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped.
Meant to serve four, I think I gobbled down three servings myself! It was like a cool breeze for the palette! Sara’s salad is now in the recipe rotation at our house and now I’m on the lookout for other fun ways to enjoy watermelon.
Here are a few of the “wacky watermelon” recipes I’ve found. From now on, when it comes to watermelon, I’m thinking outside the rind!!
Grilled Chicken-Watermelon Tacos
Toss 2 c. chopped seedless watermelon; 1 jalapeno, minced; ½ sm. Red onion, minced; ¼ c. each lime juice and chopped cilantro; and ¼ tsp. salt. Serve on 8 (6-in.) warmed corn tortillas with 1lb. sliced grilled chicken and ½ c. crumbled Cotija cheese.
Feta-Watermelon Stacks (great for appetizers!)
Cut 1 sm. Seedless watermelon into 1-in. cubes (about 40) Top with 1 (1 –lb) block of feta cheese, cut into 1-in. squares (1/4 in. thick), and 1 c. basil leaves; secure with toothpicks. Transfer to platter; sprinkle with 3 Tbsp. olive oil and ¼ tsp. each salt and pepper.
Frozen Watermelon Coolers
In lg. blender, puree (stopping often to tamp down solid ingredients with wooden spoon) 4 c. cubed seedless watermelon, frozen; 5 c. ice; 1 c. each raspberry sorbet and lime juice; and ½ c. confectioners’ sugar until thick and smooth. SO yummy!
No-Cook Watermelon “Cake” (a truly “wacky” watermelon recipe…but looks so cool!)
Slice 2 short ends off 1 lg. seedless watermelon so it sits flat; cut away rink to make cylinder (tricky part!) Transfer to cake stand. Frost with 2 (8-oz.) containers whipped topping. Top with berries and mint.
One more thing. Despite the popular notion that watermelon is made up of only water and sugar…watermelon is actually considered a nutrient-dense food, a food that provides a host of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for very few, guilt-free calories.
It was the experience of a lifetime as I went “home” to Iowa this summer and joined more than 15,000 cyclists for the 42nd annual RAGBRAI…my first RAGBRAI.
RAGRAI is the somewhat awkward acronym for the Register’s (Des Moines) Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa…the oldest, largest and longest recreational touring bicycle ride in the world.
Speaking of awkward, as a lifelong competitive swimmer, I quickly learned swimming and cycling aren’t even loosely related. But my lack of skill in the saddle didn’t really matter, because I wasn’t riding for me. I was riding to remember--my amazing Dad and legendary Iowa bicyclist--who went home to be with the Lord last year.
My step Mom, brother, three nephews and two grandchildren comprised “Team LeBeau,” a small but mighty family contingent hell-bent on pedaling across the Hawkeye State to honor an amazing husband, father, grandfather and 41-consecutive-year participant of the iconic biking event.
For those not familiar, RAGBRAI is an annual, seven-day, bike-riding party that begins in a selected community along Iowa’s western border and ends in a town along the state’s eastern border. This year’s route took us from the northwest city of Rock Valley—through 418 miles of lush northern Iowa farmland—to Guttenberg, a charming river town on the Mississippi.
It all began in 1973 when two Des Moines Register newspaper feature reporters decided to take a bicycle ride across Iowa, writing about their experiences. Of 300 riders starting the ride, 114 (including my Dad) completed the trek.
Dad was officially honored on Day 6 of this year’s ride…a 67-mile leg that started in Waverly (home of Wartburg College!) and ended in American flag-draped Independence, Iowa. The course was a blur of color that day…with more than 1,500 pairs of mismatched striped socks warn by riders honoring Dad. His signature attire, the vintage stockings were on sale through the RAGBRAI website…and completely sold out.
As my brother, Carter, and I rode together, we reminisced about the guy who made us clean our rooms and encouraged us in all our endeavors. I believe his impact on the cycling community rivals that of Lance Armstrong (who, by the way, rode RAGBRAI with his entourage. I was just too far behind to actually see him!) A great cyclist, Dad never cared about the race. He just wanted to encourage all levels of cyclists to get involved by socializing and having fun.
So from Rock Valley to Okoboji and Emmetsburg…through Forest City and Mason City…we made our way through northern Iowa’s beautiful countryside…celebrating Dad’s life and legacy with hills, heat, headwinds and a sense of purpose… all the way to the northeastern Iowa border town of Guttenberg. As the magnificent view of the Mississippi River appeared in the distance, my stepmom, Kaye, summed it up. “I feel like he’s still with me and encouraging me along the way.”
Me too, Kaye. Me too.
A native Chicagoan, my grandmother lived her entire life on the city’s south side. As Iowa kids, my sister, brother and I thought it was “cool” to visit the big city and stay with Gram in her cute apartment on the top floor of an old, three-story “walk-up.”
But during a summer heat wave, Gram’s third story dwelling was anything but “cool.” With no air conditioning and barely a whisper of cross ventilation, the sauna-like conditions in her home were not only miserable, they were downright dangerous.
Gram actually lost one of her elderly neighbors during a brutal summer heat wave nearly 50 years ago. She died inside her stifling apartment…the victim of heatstroke. Fortunately, my Gram survived the brutal Chicago summers. She lived a full life and died peacefully at the age of 75.
Sad to say, that same scenario continues to play out in cities across the country today. As the temperatures continue to rise is San Diego, the risk of developing heat stroke increases…especially for seniors…like my Gram’s friend.
A recent study at the University of Chicago Medical Center found that forty percent of heat-related fatalities in the United States are among people over the age of 65. As we age, our bodies become less resilient to changes in temperature. In addition, many seniors take prescription medications that can inhibit their ability to regulate temperature or perspiration. Seasoned citizens are also more likely to have chronic medical conditions that change normal body responses to heat.
Heat stroke is the most dangerous heat-related illness, but recognizing the early warning signs can ward off a dangerous outcome.
The first signal is bright red, hot-to-touch, dry skin. By not sweating, your body’s natural cooling mechanism is not working. Body temperature can then rise to 106 degrees or higher within 15 minutes. Dizziness, nausea, headache, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, fainting, increased fatigue and breathing problems are additional indications of heat exhaustion.
Fortunately, heat stroke is preventable. To stay safe as the temperature rises this summer and early fall, follow these simple guidelines:
1. Stay indoors during the heat of the day. If possible, leave the house before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m.
2. Drink plenty of water. Even if you’re not thirsty, continue to drink liquids -avoiding caffeine or alcohol, which contribute to dehydration. If you’re taking water pills, check with your doctor about how much you should drink when the weather is hot. Also, avoid cold liquids. They can cause cramps.
3. Dress in light-colored, loose-fitting clothes…in cotton, if possible…it breathes better. Wear a wide-brimmed hat when outside.
4. If you don’t have air conditioning, find cooler places to spend the day. Visit the library, mall, movie theater or senior center to escape the heat.
5. Stay in contact with friends and family. During times of extreme heat, it’s a good idea to have a friend, neighbor or family member check in twice a day to look for signs of heat-related illnesses.
6. Take it easy. Avoid exercise during extreme heat. Rest and take a cool shower or bath.
7. If you notice signs of heat-related illness, be sure to call 911 immediately.
Although air conditioning is readily available, many in southern California choose not to have it. After all, most of the year, our weather is quite temperate. But when that occasional heat wave hits, be on the alert for signs of heat-related illness…in yourself…those you love and the sweet lady in the apartment down the hall.
It could mean the difference between life and death.
When I first heard about Shellac two years ago, it sounded too good to be true!
The sign at Tammy’s Nail Salon in Hillcrest touted the benefits of the new “30-minute, in-salon manicure that dries almost instantly, promising perfect polish for two weeks.”
Like many women, I’d tried it all. Maintaining acrylic nails took too much time and left my nails paper-thin. None of the gels last and are a mess when they start to peel. Going natural wasn’t the answer either. My nails constantly chip and crack and most polishes last about a day (especially after working out in a chlorinated swimming pool!)
So, amid the growing “buzz” over the new manicure technique, I gave Shellac a try. Amazingly, the iridescent, candy-red on my fingers stayed fresh, shiny and entirely chip-free for 18 days!! I’ve been a fan ever since.
But a few months ago, a scaly patch appeared on the top of my right hand. So I’ve been taking a time out from my nail routine to check things out. Could that tiny patch possibly be skin cancer? If so, could the nail salon dryer be the cause?
A quick check with my dermatologist ruled out skin cancer, but a Google check confirmed my suspicions. According the Web MD, the dryers emit primarily UVA light-the same kind of ultraviolet light used in tanning beds-and are used to dry nail polish or to harden gel manicures. One study suggests the damage can occur in as few as eight visits to the manicurist.
But don’t cancel your next nail gel appointment just yet. While previous studies have linked the UV lamps with increased risk of skin cancer, newer research indicates the risk may be minimal.
After testing 17 different lamps in nail salons, researchers calculated that it would take between eight and 208 visits, depending on the machine, to damage skin cells in a way that raises cancer risk.
Published in the journal, JAMA Dermatology, lead study author Dr. Lyndsay Shipp explains, “I wouldn’t tell a patient to stop going unless they were going multiple times a month.”
Dr. Shipp’s team believes earlier studies on the UV lamps may have been flawed. “There is a theoretical risk,” says Dr. Shipp, “but it’s very low.”
The study explains lamps with higher wattage bulbs emit the highest levels of UV radiation, but it’s not easy for a salon client to check the wattage before using a machine.
What to do? If, like me, you’re concerned about the possible risk, but want to continue getting gel manicures using UV light, here are a couple of options:
1. Coat your hands with sunscreen before having gel nails applied
2. Wear UV-protective gloves with the fingertips cut off so only the nails are exposed to the light.
As far as I’m concerned, problem solved! And if I run into you at Tammy’s Salon, I’m happy to share my sunscreen!
The dog days of summer are here. That means millions of Americans are on vacation… taking time away from their daily routines and hectic schedules to relax and enjoy life.
At least that’s the idea.
I don’t know about you, but vacations wear me out! Planning and preparing for a trip can be overwhelming. Travelling is fun, but can also be exhausting. When I get home, it can take days to “catch up.”
Hardly seems worth it!
Well, let me tell you about the summer getaway that has completely changed my “bah humbug” attitude about vacations.
I just spent three magical days in a vacation paradise. No, it wasn’t the south of France, Fiji or any other exotic travel destination halfway around the world. My three days of perfect rest and relaxation happened close to home on beautiful Santa Catalina Island.
Nine “gal-pals” from San Diego and Los Angeles converged Friday morning on the Long Beach ferry terminal and boarded the Catalina Express for the start of a girl’s weekend like no other… a getaway fit for a king! And I mean that literally!
We stayed at the historic Inn on Mt. Ada… a magnificent mansion (owned by the Wrigley family) that has played host to royalty, dignitaries and celebrities since the 1920’s. Fortunately, now anyone can reserve a room at the iconic Inn.
And oh! What a treat!
Once inside, I didn’t know where to look first! The Inn is perched high atop a hill overlooking the town and harbor of Avalon, Catalina Island’s only city. From it’s many windows, the Inn commands eye-popping views of the canyon, hills, town, ocean and harbor.
We’d booked five of the six spectacular rooms at the Inn. The peace was palpable as we settled in to our beautiful, restful bedrooms. We later gathered downstairs to experience the charm of the historic Inn and the comfortable elegance of a bygone era.
For the next three days, we practiced relaxing. In the den, on the sun porch, buried in over-stuffed chairs in the living room, swaying in wicker rockers on the picturesque terrace wrapped around the home… our home, for the next three fabulous days.
From a homey pantry, we could indulge in fresh fruit, mixed nuts, soft drinks, beers, wines, ice cream sundaes (!!!) popcorn, coffee, teas and cocoa. A hearty breakfast, lovely lunch and appetizers served by a hostess in the evening are all included in the price of your room.
We were pampered with comfy robes, hair dryers, movies, games and music. We even had our own golf carts to cruise around Avalon. Free to come and go, we shopped, hiked, zip-lined and even took in a movie in the beautifully restored old Casino Theater.
Ocean breezes lulled us to sleep. We awoke to the aroma of fresh coffee and hot homemade muffins just outside our bedroom doors. That’s right. Breakfast in bed in the “Windsor Room.” Turns out, the cozy corner room with wraparound views has hosted many famous guests, including Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Warren Harding and yes, the Prince of Wales. In this case, it was only yours, truly and my dear friend, Janine!
But the Inn on Mt. Ada is more than fun, food and a place of peace. It is the perfect setting for lotsa laughs and fellowship with friends, old and new. No one wanted to break the spell by leaving our “island home,” but all good things must come to an end.
So, Sunday afternoon, we boarded the ferry, headed back to the mainland and back to reality - refreshed, rested, and ready-to-go!
Back from a vacation… in every sense of the word!
For more than thirty years, I’ve been blessed to be part of a great group of women… eight faithful, caring, fun-loving friends who also happen to take birthdays very seriously.
In fact, our “birthday group” boldly celebrates aging up with a lively luncheon for each lady - complete with fabulous food, crazy greeting cards, special gifts, lotsa laughs and gobs of gab!
I love those luncheons- until it’s my turn to host one.
You see, my friends are all highly skilled, domestic divas! Me? I would rather address a joint session of Congress than prepare lunch for eight. But with a sense of humor, a few short cuts, and encouraging friends, I somehow get through it.
This year, when my birthday rolled around, the “girls” surprised me with a gift that keeps on giving… a packet of recipes even I can’t screw up!
They gave me their easiest, tastiest, no-fail, favorite dishes and boy, has dinner taken a turn for the better around our house!
In the coming months, I’m going to share a few of these delicious dishes with you… starting with this incredible pasta recipe from Marlena Brown. Just toss all the ingredients in a big bowl. Then sit back and enjoy the oo’s and ah’s!!
Marlena’s Pesto Pasta
1 jar Classico Pesto (or any brand you choose. I like Buitoni. You’ll find it in the refrigerator section at Vons)
1 6-oz. jar of sundried tomatoes (no need to drain)
1 4-oz. jar of capers, drained
1 4-oz can sliced olives
1 ½ pounds chicken, cooked
1 bunch scallions, sliced
1 lb. pasta, cooked (I love whole grain)
Toss ingredients together.
Take a bow!
Don’t I just have the best friends?! Stay tuned for Kendra Dawson’s awesome posole!!