YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Adzuki Sprouts Salad

Why is it that the likelihood of requests for a recipe is usually in direct proportion to the rapidity with which you threw it together!? Last week we had a potluck at work, and I threw together a little “early morning salad.” Don’t judge me!! for having this spectacular constellation of ingredients at hand, just in case, you know, I had to throw together an impressive, last-minute salad! Sometimes the stars just line up. Sometimes, on the other hand, Mercury is in retrograde. Okay, let’s give it a shot.

Here’s the list of ingredients:

3/4 cup sprouted adzuki* beans [started 4 days earlier, in an ordinary Ball jar, on the kitchen counter]
1 ½ cups tomato, seeded [mostly] and chopped
½ English cucumber, sliced thinly
3 scallions, sliced thinly
1 small avocado, cubed
all the kernels sliced from 1 cob of corn
1 tsp. huckleberry balsamic vinegar [sublime, from The Olive & The Grape]
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. sea salt

*A few notes on these ingredients
The beans: I get my adzukis [Japanese for “small red bean”] in the bulk section at the local Whole Foods. They happen to be my favorite bean. I also sprout chick peas, lentils, sunflower seeds, and all kinds of other goodies. They make salads fantastic, not to mention that they also get an A+ for being nutritious little beaners. You may be interested to know that even people who normally avoid cooked beans can often digest the sprouted form more or less without difficulty. It is worth a try.

The vinegar: I’m almost hesitant to tell you about this vinegar. You can find it online, and at some of the local Northeast Ohio farmers markets. They are often out, so the demand already obviously exceeds the supply. And with good reason — this stuff is so good it’s unbelievable. Try dipping strawberries in it.

The tomatoes: My friend and talented cook Connie taught me how to slide out the seeds with my forefinger to leave the more meaty part of the tomato and avoid the slippery, and occasionally bitter, seeds. You don’t have to do this, but it’s one more little thing that makes you feel like you’re in the know. It makes your salad seem like it was tossed together by a professional instead of a blogger.

The olive oil: It has to be olive oil, and it has to be extra-virgin. We got our current batch from California Olive Ranch, and I have to say that it is really good. Wasn’t I surprised to learn that my husband was putting some on the dog’s kibble every night? Yes, indeed, I was.

Prepare the bean sprouts, tomatoes, scallions, cucumbers and corn, and mix in a medium bowl. Add the olive oil and sea salt, mix well. Cut up the avocado and stir in gently, just before serving. Drizzle the vinegar on top and serve. Serves 4-6. 

United We Continue to Stand

When I cared for adults in an internal medicine practice in suburban Cleveland, I frequently observed a wonderful phenomenon. It was not at all unusual for patients to bring along their children and grandchildren, fresh from a prior appointment across the hall with their pediatrician. Beautiful, bright-faced, fresh-scrubbed, engaging, chubby, usually well-behaved, American children. The pediatricians’ well-intended recommendations on reducing the rate of weight gain continued to be unsuccessful, and my patients’ faces told me that the ongoing exhortations had become tiresome. If they knew how to fix this problem, they told me, they already would have.

Conversation shifted quickly to these new adult patients, who could also usually stand to make a few changes. Blood pressures and sugars rising, waist lines growing. Uh-oh, do you wanna dance at these kids’ weddings or what?

Enter “Your Health is on Your Plate.” Stop dieting, I said, and stop thinking about your weight. Shift your focus and eat more vegetables and fruit. Stop avoiding nutritious fat: eat avocados, scrambled eggs, olives, almonds, peanuts, anchovies. Deep-six the OJ and eat oranges. And berries. And apples, which are especially good dipped into peanut butter.

Stop buying breakfast “cereals.” Why do I put that in quotes? Because cereal is a synonym for grains, like millet or oatmeal or bulgur wheat. Lucky Frosto’s, Cap’n Sugar, Raisin’ Weight and Sweetest Bran are not nourishing whole grains. They are substitutes for dessert. If you wouldn’t feed your kid a brownie or a piece of apple pie for breakfast, then you would never feed your kids breakfast “cereal.” 

Well, you know the next part of this story. Patients returned to subsequent appointments with improvements all around, which was not the most surprising part. The crazy thing was that the children had, unexpectedly, experienced the same benefits. Pediatricians saw weight curves bending toward the normal range. Families felt more empowered and less hassled. And I saw those little bellies shrinking away with my own eyes.

A recent research study showed that attempts to teach self-care strategies to patients with early dementia (or “minimal cognitive impairment”) were largely unsuccessful, but that including a primary caregiver in the conversation made all the difference. The researchers called this teaching unit a “dyad,” referring to the two people (one the designated patient) who received the intervention. So if you struggle to remember important details about your shower, soap, toothpaste or nail clippers, it will not help for someone to sit down and go over it all again. But include the loved one who has actually assumed responsibility for providing assistance every day, and it may actually do some good. These results should not surprise you.

Successful lifestyle changes engage not just the designated patient, but also the individual who makes the majority of the lifestyle-related decisions for the family system to which they both belong. This is true of everyone in the family, but most especially those [like children and cognitively impaired elders] who have limited say in creating the environment of their home.

Who purchases and prepares most of the food in the family; schedules trips to the pool and soccer field; makes time for hikes or baseball games; takes the kids to the dentist; makes the annual school-physical appointments; chooses where to put the rugs and lights; decides who sleeps where, and what time is bedtime? Who issues instructions for baths, showers and toothbrushing? This person is key to the health of that family.

We human beings are social creatures, meant to operate in groups. A medical system that operates, intervenes and reimburses at the level of the individual will continue to struggle to achieve success.

The Message

Today I’d like to speak about something that has been on my mind all week, and that something is “the message.”

As we all know, over the past 100 years the processed food industry has developed ever more sophisticated strategies for influencing the public to purchase an ever-growing proportion of processed edibles to replace real food.  And the industry has been so successful in this endeavor, if you want to call it that, that ⅔ of Americans are now overweight, and 50 percent are expected to carry a diagnosis of diabetes by age 65. Continue reading

YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Jason’s Kale Chips

This recipe for kale chips is a little treat from a friend down the street. He says that he doesn’t actually measure, but just eyeballs everything. Other than the first two ingredients, therefore, you should consider the amounts listed below as suggestions only, and feel free to make it your own. Kale chips are a really great option with a sandwich, or instead of a bowl of popcorn, or for an afternoon snack.

Continue reading

Lucky Enough

An old friend of mine is lucky enough to live at the confluence of two small lakes. I hope I’m using that word right — what I mean to say is that if you look out the windows of his home toward the east you see one lake; and if you look toward the north you see a different one. Can you picture it? On the little spit of land that juts into the space between the two lakes, right next to where families of ducks and swans cross all the day long in a patient parade of parenting, sits a small cabin. And in the front window of that cabin rests a sign:

             “If you’re lucky enough to live on the water, you’re lucky enough.” Continue reading

YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Cucumber Salad with Dill and Red Onion

My aunt used to make a recipe just like this. She was famous for mixing the brine with a little sour cream and drinking it after the cucumbers were gone. No kidding, her idea was once written up in a national magazine, and my family has been excited about it ever since! Continue reading

Breakfasts for Kids and Their Loving Parents

I was talking with a dear friend who teaches in the younger grades at a small school north of Detroit. “The kids are bouncing off the walls by 9:30,” my friend says, and I think to myself that maybe their blood sugars are starting to fall. Nine-thirty in the morning is pretty early. He says that a snack often helps. Yup — it very well may be their blood sugars. Continue reading

YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Brussels Sprouts Slaw

When you hear about a recipe for cole slaw, you usually think about cabbage. The “cole” in cole slaw” actually refers to cabbage, and it’s related to the “kohl” in kohlrabi, as well as the “col” in colcannon, that delicious Irish dish of cabbage and potatoes. Like Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi and cabbage are members of the Brassica family of vegetables, also known as crucifers. Continue reading

YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Rustic Zucchini Layered with Tomatoes

A long time ago, I spent an exciting albeit exhausting day climbing inside the Pyramids at Giza. Later that night, I ate a dish just like this in a restaurant in Cairo. Having worked up quite an appetite, my memories of that meal are layered through with the sounds of noisy waiters and clanging pots, the smart smack of pottery plates being gathered to and from tables, and the sight of dozens of cats walking silently above us on the roof beams of that busy restaurant. Continue reading

YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Tabouleh Like You’ve Never Seen It!

I’m still collecting recipes for July 4th! This particular tabouleh is a Mediterranean masterpiece! If you’ve never tried sumac and za’atar, you are in for a treat — packed with phytonutrients and flavor, they make for a major mouth rush! If you don’t have any and you’re not inclined to go find some, then just substitute a teaspoon of thyme and don’t give it another second’s thought. Continue reading