Special Dish for the Week: Beet Apple Charoset Salad

With the downtown farmers market in full bloom this summer, and beets of various varieties and colours—red, orange / yellow, and white even—I embark on a search for additional  beet recipes to the cooked beet ones that I well know and love from my childhood, and I am rewarded with this delicious gem, with RAW beets no less:

Beet Apple Charoset Salad

Tri-coloured Beets for Charoset

Tri-coloured Beets for Charoset

This beet and apple charoset salad turns out to be most delicious, particularly for one with a sweet tooth! It really does not need the honey for more sweetness, although the additional nutrition from the honey is always welcome.

Later in the summer, I discover another, similar version of this salad—one that uses raw red cabbage instead of the apple. Most surprisingly, it is nearly as sweet with the red cabbage as with the apple, and likely even more nutritious.

Ingredients of the Charoset

Ingredients of the Charoset

The first time that I make this salad, I spend the time and get a pretty good arm workout grating the beets by hand. Also surprisingly, the beets are not as difficult to grate raw as it would seem. On following iterations, I use a small electric chopper, and it goes a bit quicker. I chop the first 4 ingredients in the chopper, and add the other ingredients upon transferring the chopped ones into a large bowl. Then I hand-mix all the ingredients.

This salad freezes very well, so I make it in large batches and freeze small portions in glass jars for snacks, at home or on the go.

Beet and Apple Charoset Salad

Beet and Apple Charoset Salad

The ingredients for this salad comprise:

  • 3 medium beets: red, yellow and white, peeled and finely chopped or grated
  • 1 medium Fuji apple*, peeled (*1 small or 1/2 medium red cabbage, finely chopped)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped green* onion (*sweet, red or white onion)
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts* (*pecans, cashews)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup squeezed grapefruit* juice (*orange, lime or lemon)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil* (*coconut oil, heated in the jar by warm water to liquefy it)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg or cumin
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper

I serve the salad over arugula and garnish with cilantro, or sometimes have even a little more fun with and get my food to make some funny faces at me from my plate.

Beet and Apple Charoset Funny Face

Beet and Apple Charoset Funny Face

Meal ideas & recipes from Whole Foods Market and from “The Wahls Protocol” book.

Special Dish for the Week: Fermented Beet Juice

This week’s Special Dish for the Week combines the benefits of two of nature’s culinary marvels: fermentation and beets—in a drink that I remember running away from as a child, but now, I find myself enjoying even:

Fermented Beet Juice

Fermented Beet Juice

Fermented Beet Juice

Fermented beet juice—also known as sour beet juice, or beet kvass—is made by a process called lactic acid fermentation—as opposed to ethanol (alcohol) fermentation and yeast or mold fermentation. The process is anaerobic (not using oxygen), and requires a certain type of bacteria to get going and to generate desired results.

Although perhaps sounding highly technical, the preparation process and ingredients are very simple!

And despite the rather strong but not unpleasant aroma, the juice is tasty—if a bit on the salty side!

The ingredients—and the reasons for selecting them just so—include:

  • 3 medium beets*, washed but not scrubbed or peeled—to maintain the needed starter bacteria
    * beets can be red, yellow, white, or a mélange of colours, a.k.a. rainbow beets
  • 1/2-1 tbsp sea salt—to keep the fermentation to the lactic acid type, to help pull out the juice out of the beets, and to add additional minerals
  • 1 cup of freshly boiled water—to quickly dissolve the salt
  • 5 cups of room temperature boiled water—to ensure that beets don’t cook and that enzymes and bacteria don’t get wiped out or don’t get contaminated with other organisms potentially in tap water (depending on the tap water source and treatment)
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic (optional)—for added flavour and nutrients
  • spices (optional)—for added flavour and nutrients—a cardamom pod, a knob of ginger, a star anise, or a clove, to be tried in future batches
Beets for Fermenting

Beets for Fermenting

Various recipes exist for how to cut, store, and start the fermentation process of the beets. Here is my way:

  1. Cut each beet into 8 “cubes”.
  2. Mix sea salt and 1 cup of freshly boiled water in a clean 2 L wide-mouth glass container.
  3. Add a few icecubes to cool down the brine (now salty water).
  4. Add 4 cups of room temperature boiled water to further cool down the brine.
  5. Place the beet cubes in the brine.
  6. Add the optional garlic and/or other spices.
  7. Add final cup of water to top up the contents up to 1/2 inch below the top of the glass container.
  8. Cover the glass container with a small plate.
  9. Place the glass container on the counter in a spot out of direct sunlight.
  10. And let it do its thing for 3-7 days*—it seems to do just fine to take a few peeks under the plate to ensure no moldy film is developing and that the smell is right! Sour!
    * If fermenting the beets for more than 3 days, place the fermenting juice in the fridge after 3 days to slow down fermentation and other bacterial growth.
  11. Strain and funnel the fermented juice into preferably screw cap dark bottles from wine, vinegar or olive oil, to make it easier—and more fancy—to pour each serving.
  12. Place the fermented juice in the fridge.
  13. Enjoy 1/2 cup (125 mL) twice to 3 times per day over about an hour each time to slowly absorb the live and healthful goodness.
  14. Compost the fermented beets, or some suggest that they too can be enjoyed on their own or in a salad (see Bonus Project in Source #4).

So, what’s so good about fermented foods, and beets in particular?

Fermented foods:

Fermented Foods

Fermented Foods

Fermented beet juice:

  • Fermented beet juice alkalises the blood, which is beneficial for many health issues.
  • It cleanses the liver.
  • And it detoxifies and protects healthy cells from radiation.

Beets:

  • Beets are high in betacyanin, which can dramatically increase the oxygen-carrying ability of the blood, starve cancerous tumors and hinder cell division.
  • They are a great source of healthy nitrates that convert during digestion to nitrites and nitric oxides, which, in turn, widen the arteries, increase the oxygen content of the blood, and reduce blood pressure.
  • Beets also help increase one’s energy by helping the energy-producing mitochondria in the cells operate more efficiently and by supplying the body with a healthy energy-dense carbohydrate source.
Rainbow Beets

Rainbow Beets

I thoroughly look forward to incorporating in my meals more fermented foods, such as fermented beet juice, sauerkraut, brined pickles, miso, kefir, yogurt—and wine, naturally!

And thus getting back to my roots, I also plan to enjoy all types of beet dishes, such as beet salads, barszcz (beet broth), beet greens soups, cooked beets, beet dips, and beet juices: fermented and pressed.

Fortunately for my ethnic background, I already love most of these foods!

 

And if one must, then cheers to “beeting cancer”, one sip and mouthful at a time!

Sources & Resources:

  1. The Writer’s Parents and their curative Polish cuisine knowledge
  2. http://www.integrativecanceranswers.com/side-effects-of-radiation-natural-protection-from-fermented-foods/
  3. http://hiddenpondllc.com/beet-kvass
  4. http://sofakingnextlevel.com/2014/01/28/beet-kvass-nbd/ – recipe ideas
  5. http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/benefits-beet-juice
  6. http://www.curejoy.com/content/want-to-build-up-endurance-boost-your-energy-and-increase-your-speed-24-more-reasons-to-eat-beetroot/
  7. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=49

Rose Thorns in Waiting and Celebrating

Thursday Night Sushi on the Beach Ritual

Thursday Night Sushi on the Beach Ritual

June’s “Maggie’s Week in Pursuit of Boredom” is a success, particularly when I think of it as a “week of pursuing what brings me peace”. Not surprisingly, I never do achieve boredom, but I do stick to the #1 item on my daily “just being list” and give myself a lot of permission to do what I feel like doing that day. Other than the few appointments related to my tooth crowning and breast cancer management, for me “just being” during this week primarily revolves around reading (a most fascinating and empowering book, called “The Biology of Belief”, and to offset the technical parlance but nonetheless still be enlightened, “The Princess and the Goblin”), writing emails (almost as frequently as reading), and meditating (a whole of five times in one week) on par with visiting with friends and family (in person and virtually), followed by general writing and buying food. Out of interest, I keep track of the number and variety of activities that I spend my time on—a most insightful exercise—and find myself engaging in about 20 different types of activities, a total of 75 times. The one more rare for me activity that I manage to enjoy—and on the first day of the week, no less—is to see the “Maleficent” movie at the theatre. I also begin a new Thursday night relaxation ritual of Inspire Health online-lead meditation followed by take-out sushi (in my own container and with my own chopsticks) enjoyed at the beach. At the end of the week, I find it refreshing to be ok with not getting everything—even from the enjoyable list—done, and to be ok with what is. I realise that a lifetime of developing and practicing stressful habits will not be undone in one week!

The Writer Donning Protective Yet Stylish Radiation Treatment Garments: RT Scarf, RT Dress, RT Desigual Dress

The Writer Donning Protective Yet Stylish Radiation Treatment Garments: RT Scarf, RT Dress, RT Desigual Dress

Generally, since the surgery, with my reduced expectations for my energy levels and with the assistance of the few post-operative osteopathic sessions, I am feeling well. My nausea is mostly gone, helped by my healthy appetite and light Pilates and cycling exercises. The waiting around for the elusive scheduling of the radiation treatments makes me a bit antsy, although in time I learn to appreciate the time I have without these daily trips over the bridge and up the hill to the BC Cancer Agency. For the time-being, they are weekly, to various measuring, fitting, planning and tweaking appointments. I am grateful that I am afforded such care, with 3-D CAD (computer aided design) models of my body and the radiation beams, and that I am given—and naturally, take—the opportunities to give my input to these designs. I very much feel like an engineering project! I take the extra time to conduct various preparations for nutrition (including fermented foods), skin care products (containing just few pronounceable ingredients), and protective yet stylish garments. I also develop a new sleep-more-and-earlier strategy, which involves a spreadsheet log (until my new habits set in), and I find a new and familiar from my childhood spot for daytime napping: under a tree, in my own apartment no less!

The Writer Napping Under Her Ficus Tree, and Her View from Below

The Writer Napping Under Her Ficus Tree, and Her View from Below

Shortly after my surgical time of need, a number of my caring assistants and moral supporters experience their own accidental physical calamities. I desperately want to be there for them, to return the help that they offered me, and which, by wanting to maintain my independence, I struggled to accept in the first place. Some don’t need me because they have others in their lives to meet their needs, and others would not let me, thinking me too fragile so shortly after my surgery. My frustration at not being able to help gives me an opportunity to realise that it is easier for me to receive assistance from others when I know that, even if I cannot pay it back, I can always pay it forward to someone else who needs or wants my assistance.

The Writer with Visiting Friend at VanDusen Garden

The Writer with Visiting Friend at VanDusen Garden

And this realisation further helps me to be grateful, if not always entirely gracious, in receiving continued well-wishes and gifts (including some knick-knacks, which I have no affinity for and am, thus, least gracious about). I happily connect with friends and family over email, phone, Skype, and in-person during visits with out of town friends, spending some afternoons at the VanDusen Garden and on the sunny outdoor patio at the Vancouver Art Gallery Café.

The Writer with Friends at the Vancouver Art Gallery Cafe Patio

The Writer with Friends at the Vancouver Art Gallery Cafe Patio

I also spend a lovely weekend perched up at a cabin on Pender Island with my relatives, being treated to some delicious meals and spectacular views of nature.

The Writer Perched Up on Pender Island

The Writer Perched Up on Pender Island

Basil Plant, Glass Art, and Personally Made Recipe Book Gifts

Basil Plant, Glass Art, and Personally Made Recipe Book Gifts

In the mail, I receive more loving cards; a delicious-sounding personally made recipe book (to be tried, with the results documented in the Special Dish for the Week thread); a dozen home-baked dark chocolate, walnut, banana bread muffins; another Desigual dress, most fitting as a summer radiation dress (as it covers the sun-sensitive areas); a nearly complete collection of Julia Cameron books to augment my “Artist’s Way” book; a cheque with financial support offering; and a birthday card extending the celebrations to six months of birthday! I am also personally hand-delivered some tasty and nutritious treats, including saskatoon berry pies (saskatoon berries being even higher in antioxidants than blueberries); a jar of homemade raspberry jam; and a live basil plant, carefully planted in a bamboo pot.

A friend paints me a picture to complement an affirmation:

“Every moment of light and dark is a miracle.” (Walt Whitman)

Another friend risks my still sensitive reaction by dedicating her affirmation “To Maggie, My always in motion friend”:

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” (Albert Einstein)

Gifts of Painted and Quoted Affirmations, Books, Home-Baking and Homemade Jam, Cards, and Stylish Dress

Gifts of Painted and Quoted Affirmations, Books, Home-Baking and Homemade Jam, Cards, and Stylish Dress

I am very moved that a friend is inspired by the “bird trusting in her own wings” affirmation that I shared, and makes it into a ceramic tile for hanging on the wall. Knowing that I am not one for knick-knacks, she shows it to me during a visit, declaring that it is destined to another loved one. With tear on the verge of spilling from my eye, I ask her if I may have it instead, so that I may hang it on my wall and be reminded daily of its message to “believe in myself”, and to be reminded of the inspiration that I brought to my friend—a friend whom I encouraged in her decision to take up pottery once again, which she enjoys creating so much.

Ceramic Version of Trust Your Own Wings – Believe in Yourself, and Its Display Location in the Writer's Kitchen

Ceramic Version of Trust Your Own Wings – Believe in Yourself, and Its Display Location in the Writer’s Kitchen

The Writer and Her Breast Cancer Mentor Celebrating 5 Year Post-Surgery Anniversary

The Writer and Her Breast Cancer Mentor Celebrating 5 Year Post-Surgery Anniversary

Last week, July 14th marked my 5 year anniversary of my (first) breast cancer surgery. In the cancer world, this means something. According to the breast cancer medical establishment, and held onto by some with the breast cancer diagnosis, 5 years of “survival” typically indicates that the risks of dying from this condition are lower from that point onward; that you are no longer of much statistical interest to be followed, and you can say goodbye to your Cancer Agency doctors and regular check-up visits for good. Other statistics are slightly less optimistic, indicating that individuals diagnosed with breast cancers labelled as hormone receptor positive can have recurrences sometime after the 5 year mark. For me, with a second diagnosis in the six months before the 5 year mark, the occasion is a bit anti-climactic, though nonetheless thoroughly enjoyable and worth celebrating—because I am still alive, and life these days is better for me. To celebrate, my breast cancer mentor and long-time friend invites me to join her “cancer survivors” team’s “Boat to Nowhere” Saturday morning dragonboat paddle, and on the actual anniversary date, she joins me for an organically, locally and seasonally sourced dinner at the Exile Bistro in my West End neighbourhood.

This weekend, I consider my answer to the question that I am asked at a social event not particularly conducive for the potentially heavy news of my breast cancer: do I have any plans for the summer? I reflect on whether to focus in my reply on “treatments and recovery from illness”, or on “taking it easy and celebrating life”. I think the next time I am asked this question, I shall focus on the latter, and in the meantime, I have decided to make each day of the next 6 weeks a celebration of something that makes that day special.

Today, I celebrate the Eve of Radiotherapy Start Day, with tomorrow (Monday) marking the beginning of the six-week-long daily slow bike rides to my radiation sessions. Later in the week, I plan to celebrate a Call with a Waterloo Friend Day, and a Visit with an Injured Friend Day, followed by a Farmers Market Day and a Pilates Class Day. In August, I celebrate my 30 years in Canada on the 10th and my 17 years in Vancouver on the 26th. I welcome ideas and participants for “Maggie’s 40 Days of Celebrating Life”.