Special Dish for the Week: Fancied Cottage Cheese with Flax Seed

I recently re-discover this delicious combination, which serves equally well as nutritious dessert as it does as a hearty snack, and have been experimenting with varying its flavours and textures, such as in this Special Dish for the Week:

Fancied Cottage Cheese with Flax Seed

Fancied Cottage Cheese with Flax Seed

Fancied Cottage Cheese with Flax Seed

Some time ago, I learn that the nutrients in flax seed oil are better absorbed when the oil is mixed with cottage cheese, which contains a sulfur protein. More recently, I am reminded of this food combination as a recommended nutrient source to help the body deal with various undesirable health conditions. And so, I have reintroduced it into my weekly diet.

To prepare this dish, I begin with chopping my nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, and/or cashews), if I am going to use nuts for flavouring and texture. I transfer the chopped nuts into another bowl, and mix the wet ingredients next, thereby avoiding the need to wash and dry my electric chopper!

I mix the following ingredients in the order listed, adding one ingredient at a time—the order being important to achieve the desired chemical reaction:

  • 2 tbsp dry curd cottage cheese
  • 1 tbsp flax seed oil (mixing it well with the cottage cheese)
  • 1 tbsp milled flax seeds
  • 1 tsp honey (optional)*
  • 2 tbsp frozen blueberries (or other juicy fruit) (optional)*
  • 1-2 tbsp chopped nuts (optional)

* This dish can be made to be sweet or savoury. For savoury alternatives, I may try some sea salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic, green onions, cilantroherbes de Provence, or others as the fancy strikes.

Meal ideas & recipes from the Budwig Diet.

Special Dish for the Week: Peanut Sauce Stir Fry Dinner

Slowly feeling more festive, having heard my first Christmas carols a few days before, I enjoy a Sunday night dinner with good friends—feeding the taste buds and the soul—serving a menu chez Maggie, where we eat like queens and kings, comprised of 4 courses and paired with beverages of choice, featuring as the main course (le plat principal):

Peanut Sauce Stir Fry

Peanut Sauce Stir Fry Dinner Menu

Peanut Sauce Stir Fry Dinner Menu

Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup

Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup

Upon a small toast of Apothic Dark red wine to greet my guests’ arrival, I begin serving the previously featured Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup. This time, I use green Thai curry and one of each: yam and sweet potato, instead of the suggested ingredients. The soup is purposefully a little less spicy than my usual to please the palate of a guest, and a little less sweet and colourful with the introduction of the sweet potato in place of one yam—and it still most delicious!

The hors d’hoeuvres are accompanied by “a little something from the chef” (i.e., not specified on the menu), which turns out to be Fermented Beet Juice.

Beet & Red Cabbage Hors d’Hoeuvres

Beet & Red Cabbage Hors d’Hoeuvres

The hors d’hoeuvres consist of a small serving of Beet and Red Cabbage salad served on a bed of arugula and sprouts, sprinkled with a dash of sesame oil and balsamic vinegar.

The Peanut Sauce Stir Fry main course (le plat principal) is accompanied by red lentils, prepared with a tablespoon of wakame flakes (a type of seaweed), which I add during cooking of the lentils. The lentils are pre-soaked overnight in order to induce the germination process previously explained.

The Peanut Sauce for this dish is a mildly spicy sweet and sour sensation is a “Maggified” version of a dish inspired by a personally made recipe book from some good friends. The ingredients for this sauce, all mixed and lightly heated in a pan, consist of:

  • 1/4 cup chunky peanut butter (Adams 100% Natural)
  • 1/3 cup of water (or more, for desired consistency)
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp Bragg soy sauce
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1/2 red Thai chili pepper (or more, for desired spiciness)

For the stir fry, I shred, dice and slice the following ingredients:

  • onion, coarsely chopped
  • carrot, thinly sliced
  • red and orange peppers, diced
  • green onions, chopped
  • pre-cooked chicken, shredded
  • coconut oil
  • cilantro, on the side for garnish
Peanut Sauce Stir Fry

Peanut Sauce Stir Fry

Just before serving le plat principal, I combine the separately heated stir fry ingredients and the Peanut Sauce. I serve the Peanut Sauce Stir Fry together with the wakame lentils, and trying this dish for the first time, it is a tasty success! Next time, though, I think I might try bigger chicken chunks rather than shredding the chicken, for more some defined texture to the dish—although the chunkiness of the peanut butter assists this goal too.

For dessert, I serve little dollops of Fancied Cottage Cheese with Flax Seed, which I recently re-discovered and have been experimenting with varying its flavours and textures.

Meal ideas & recipes from Maria Elia’s “The Modern Vegetarian” book, the “Food and Love” book, from Whole Foods Market, from “The Wahls Protocol” book, and from the Budwig Diet.

Special Dish for the Week: Zucchini and Onion Pancakes

This Special Dish for the Week uses the anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant rich zucchini and onion ingredients that are also highly alkalizing in the body once digested, to make the kind of savoury pancakes that I really like:

Zucchini and Onion Pancakes

Zucchini and Onion Pancakes

Zucchini and Onion Pancakes

I begin by following the suggested recipe quite closely, as I have not made pancakes with zucchini before—although I have previously made and quite like the potato version of these, with the key ingredient actually being the onion. As usual, I cannot resist modifying the recipe to my liking and for greater nutritional value—such as adding turmeric with black pepper for the added anti-inflammatory effect—and for the vibrancy of seasonal colour.

In a large bowl, I mix together the following ingredients with my handheld smoothie blender:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp milled flax seed mixed with 1/4 cup of water
  • 1/3 cup kefir
  • 1/3 cup spelt flour (or more, as needed for consistency)
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder

In my small electric blender, I finally chop and then add to the above mix the following ingredients:

  • 1 zucchini
  • 1/2 medium onion
Zucchini and Onion Pancakes Dish

Zucchini and Onion Pancakes Dish

I spoon out small portion onto a pre-heated non-stick crêpe making pan, using only tiny amounts of coconut oil for added flavour, nutrition, moisture, and finishing colour to the pancakes. After assessing the first round, I find I need to add about another 1/3 cup of spelt flour to the slightly too wet mixture in order to improve the consistency and to reduce the cooking time required to make the pancakes flipable.

Zucchini and Onion Pancakes with Plum Chutney

Zucchini and Onion Pancakes with Plum Chutney

I serve these vibrant and delicious pancakes with a side of plain yogurt and a plum chutney, gifted to me by a good friend who made it with plums from her garden. The wine that accompanies this mid-day meal is the very richly flavoured limited release Apothic Dark red.

Meal ideas & recipes from Whole Foods Market (their app is fantastic, with the On Hand feature, which gives you recipe ideas when you type in up to 3 ingredients that you have on hand).

The Wilting and Cultivating of My Roses

My summer radiation dresses have now been replaced by woolly layers, gloves, and funky tights, although the radiation scarf continues to protect me from the elements: now, the chilly wind. The seasons seem to be moving at a much faster pace than my health recovery and my return to writing. My website also repeatedly prompts me with notices of software updates, reminding me that it, too, is feeling neglected. Meanwhile, I rebuild my cellular self and reconnect with my soul—achievements, I realise, I knew very little about, but which I find fascinating and critical to carrying on.

Book-n-Chocolate Paradise

Book-n-Chocolate Paradise

Over the summer and autumn months, some of my loved ones fade out of my life, while others appear to embrace me. Into the fall, I feast my sweet tooth on a very generous selection of Purdy’s chocolates and nourish my hunger for distraction from my more daunting tasks with the final books in two favoured trilogies, all of which are delivered mid-summer by my Wish Fairy Cousin.

Satiating Peanut Butter Cookie Craving

Satiating Peanut Butter Cookie Craving

For months, I am unable to satiate my cravings for peanut butter in its raw form and in cookies—possibly yearning their magnesium and salt content, which I may be deficient in as evidenced by my recurrent leg cramping. My sweet neighbour bakes up a batch of his grandmother’s recipe just for me, while I continue to devour spoonfuls of the creamy peanut and salt sensation—with my growing jar collection serving as emergency water supply for my earthquake preparedness “kit”.

Satiating Peanut Butter Craving / Stocking the Earthquake Preparedness "Kit"

Satiating Peanut Butter Craving / Stocking the Earthquake Preparedness “Kit”

In mid-September, the spreadsheet that I use to organise my life gets corrupted, and my previous backup copy only reaches to the beginning of July. This means that I am not only flying without an organisational safety net for my current activities, but also that I lose the details of how I survived and thrived throughout my radiation treatments during the summer, including my list of events from “Maggie’s 40 Days of Celebrating Life”.

Backup Computer Generously Gifted

Backup Computer Generously Gifted

Fortunately, I manage to recover some of the content from the corrupted spreadsheet, but it is all jumbled up, and for months now, I cannot bring myself to untangle it into a coherent form. And for much of this time, I do not even have a reliably functioning computer with which to undertake this daunting task, since even the backup computer—supplied so kindly by a generous friend, as a potential replacement of my faltering regular one—eventually has a meltdown too and needs to be revived.

All this technological aggravation of the past months leads me to realise that, in the vast expanse of life, computer troubles can serve as a metaphor for ill health. As though reflecting the state of my health, my computer troubles continue to plague me since the spring. I realise that each of them is a tool, and when a tool isn’t working, it needs to be looked after, fixed, and maintained, before it can be used to accomplish the things that it was designed to do.

I can try to keep doing things with the computer while it is sort of working, but then it corrupts my files, or it takes longer to do something, or it requires constant vigilance and small frequent fixes—and achieving things doesn’t feel very rewarding; it feels frustrating, or at best, like a relief that something got done, but not at all rewarding.

And it seems to be similar with the state of my health. If I keep trying to push too hard and move forward with my life too much or too quickly, I run into roadblocks: something hurts; I don’t feel well; I can’t think; I get a cold; things don’t work out; I break stuff; I need to heel from small wounds; I am tired. Essentially, without my health tool in better order, I feel like I keep taking two steps forward one step back—and nothing feels good like an achievement; at best, it feels like a relief that a task can be crossed off the to-do list; life feels mechanical.

So, I conclude that I need to stop (or at least slow down), and fix the computer and my health for a while, so that when these tools are more functional, then I can get on with doing other things. “If you ain’t got your health, you ain’t got nothin’.” There are of course ways around broken tools, different ways of doing things—which I am quite familiar with—but then, one also might need to expect different results.

Mozart on Music and Life

Mozart on Music and Life

As though to answer my internal conflict about what level of activity and achievement constitutes the notion of living—and not merely surviving, administering self-care, and feeling like a burden on others—one afternoon, the dreams of other people’s lives contained in one touring band’s van greet me with an affirmation for mine:

“Music is not only in the notes but also in the silence between.” (W.A. Mozart)

Aunt and Uncle Visit from Back East

Aunt and Uncle Visit from Back East

Also in mid-September, I receive two separate family visits from back East. My Aunt and Uncle arrive on a marvellously sunny day and we spend it together strolling along the seawall; basking in the downtown views from the False Creek Ferries; sipping, munching and resting on a Granville Island patio; and treating ourselves to a morsel of truffle chocolate from the Public Market.

 

Mother and Aunt Visit from Back East

Mother and Aunt Visit from Back East

A few days later, my Mother and Aunt arrive by the transcontinental train, making the 4,500km journey from Ontario, to spend a week of taking in the Vancouver sights, rainforest weather, and sportive atmosphere, as well as filling up my freezer with freshly prepared Polish homemade food. In my kitchen, they are like two gears with perfectly fitting cogs. After days creating a grand total of 12 dishes, they are still smiling together whenever I arrive for a taste test. By the end of the week, they have miraculously stocked my freezer—which should nourish me at least till Christmas.

Spelt Flour Pierogi with Sauteed Onions and Shiitake and Red Sauerkraut and Carrot Salad

Spelt Flour Pierogi with Sauteed Onions and Shiitake and Red Sauerkraut and Carrot Salad

The 12 pre-Christmas dishes include:

  1. spelt flour pierogi with sauerkraut and mushrooms
  2. spelt flour pierogi with kale, spinach and Swiss chard
  3. bigos (sauerkraut and sausage hunter’s stew)
  4. golabki (cabbage rolls)
  5. pasztet (baked meat pâté)
  6. salatka jarzynowa (potato salad)
  7. zupa pomidorowa (tomato soup)
  8. barszcz (beet soup)
  9. sos grzybowy (mushroom sauce)
  10. baklazanki (braised aubergine)
  11. nalesniki z serem (crêpes with sweetened cottage cheese)
  12. sernik (cheesecake)

Between the technological red tape and family visits, I reflect back on my experience with the radiation therapy that I took daily over the course of six weeks over the summer. I recall how the entrance to the radiation chamber cautioning possible annihilation, the noisy mechanised high-precision equipment, and the painfully hard bench and headrest—all reminiscent of the movie “Aliens”—causes me to chuckle ironically to myself that I consciously chose to put my body through this recommended “treatment”. Despite these scary and grim surroundings, for me, the most traumatic aspect of this “therapy” turns out to be the careless and dehumanising bedside manner of some radiation therapists. In the weeks that follow, I don’t take the anti-anxiety drugs that one doctor suggests as a way of dealing with what is rather a clinical personnel training and behavioural issue. I do, however, seek a counselling session that another doctor recommends—but I do it more as an awareness-raising exercise for the clinic’s support staff.

I also follow a third doctor’s advice and send a 2-page compliments and complaints letter to the clinic’s administrators, depicting my experiences from my 6-week-long daily encounters in the “torture chambers” of the radiation floor—providing commendations for a couple of attentive, considerate and warm-hearted therapists, and constructive suggestions for improved training of the more careless, disrespectful and hostile ones. I am rewarded in my efforts with speedy feedback about my “well-received, fantastic letter” and with indications of resultant strategising by the clinic’s operational leaders about the learning opportunities for staff to enhance their goal of “putting the needs of our patients first”.

Radiation Therapy Self-Care Kit

Radiation Therapy Self-Care Kit

A few weeks into my increasingly dreaded daily dosing sessions, I also take matters of my personal comfort and humanity into my own hands—and remembering that everything goes better with chocolate, a satin robe, and plush turtle slippers, I strap my panniers stuffed with these self-care supplies to my commuter bicycle, and henceforth, my experience becomes much improved. I am pleasantly amazed at how much the moods of grumpy therapists can be sweetened with a morsel of quality chocolate.

The Writer Visiting with Friends in Vernon

The Writer Visiting with Friends in Vernon

After 27 dosings with two types of radiation to my breast and lymph nodes, skillfully aligned to avoid most of my reconstructed-breast’s implant—thus reducing the chances of “capsular contraction” (a painful hardening and shrinking of the scar tissue that envelopes the implant)—I am treated by some good friends to a mini holiday in Vernon. There, I nurse my patchy, itchy and throbbing skin burns; nourish my body with delicious and lovingly prepared meals; and begin the slow process of re-cultivating my energy reserves. I also alternate my literary entertainment between vicariously following a young Canadian writer to France in her “Paris Letters” and devouring the mitochondrial nutrition research of a female physician who reversed her disablingly advanced symptoms of MS through diet and lifestyle changes documented in “The Wahls Protocol”.

The Writer Sporting Her Radiation Dress on the Beaches of Vernon

The Writer Sporting Her Radiation Dress on the Beaches of Vernon

Since the end of my radiation summer, I continue to ingest the vast knowledge and theories about the chronic condition of cancer contained in books, online resources, diverse health practitioners, and other highly experienced fellow winners of the cancer diagnosis lottery.

For some more dreamy distraction, I revel in the paths that others have taken to relocate their lives and passions to the cultural and culinary delights of France, reading their stories in English, and most recently, discovering the French translation of Peter Mayle’s “Toujours Provence” (having read several years ago the other two books in the trilogy of his life in Provence: “A Year in Provence” and “Encore Provence”).

The Writer's Vicarious Travels to France

The Writer’s Vicarious Travels to France

While my book writing is still on hold—not the least because of computer meltdowns, indicative of my tentative health and mental state—I continue to digest my thoughts, discoveries, and insights in my Daily Morning Pages (that are neither daily, nor morning, but still exceptionally supportive). I continue to also practice the craft of writing by reading other authors’ work with an awareness of what appeals to me, what doesn’t, and why. I think I am listening to the universe asking me to be patient while it conspires with my tools, as every time I express a serious intent to resume my work on my book, my computer seems to tell me that it is not yet time.

Some side-effects of my treatments are also giving me plenty of opportunities to practice being patient, mindfully observant, and compassionately attentive. A recent one is now even interfering with two of my favourite activities: cycling and cooking. In addition to the constant pins-and-needles along the length of my arm and across my hand, whenever I stretch out my arm to signal my intent to turn left on my bike or to reach for something to my left in my kitchen, it feels as though my elbow’s funny bone gets a hit, shooting an electric shock down my arm. After a few weeks of this painful and tiresome excitement, I must admit that it is getting on my nerves. As with a similar side-effect after chemo the first time around, I am hoping with some aerobic exercise, distressing in its own right, that whatever may have gotten plugged up, will clear up again this time—without the need for carpal tunnel surgery or copious doses of painkillers that tend to get offered when I seek professional medical attention. My complementary medicine practitioners advise that the itsy bitsy teenie weenie acupuncture needles might also help resolve this—and at this point, I am starting to seriously consider this milder form of self-torture.

Now that my surgeries and radiation treatments are behind me, I continue to dedicate my time and efforts to the other 80% of my cancer treatment and recovery plan, which includes doing less and loving more, and which I have captured in both verse and prose.

Special Dish for the Week: Creamy Cashew Risotto with Butternut Squash

For this Special Dish for the Week I introduce a seasonal ingredient into my culinary repertoire—something from the squash family—and combine it with the all-around goodness of a nut, in this:

Creamy Cashew Risotto with Butternut Squash

Creamy Cashew Risotto with Butternut Squash

Creamy Cashew Risotto with Butternut Squash

I begin this dish the night before, by soaking the cashews and the rice in water for about 24 hours. By soaking them in advance, the softened cashews purée into a rich and creamy sauce, while the soaked rice transforms some of its nutrients into a form that does not interfere with the absorption of essential trace metals, that does not contribute to inflammation, and that enhances the digestion of the rice protein (Source: “The Wahls Protocol”).

Using a tip from my recently visiting aunt, I bake butternut squash at 350F for about 30 min till fork-tender. I let it cool a little before cutting it in chunks, pitting and peeling the chunks, and then cutting the chunks into small cubes. Why, it seems so simple once it is done, and yet, with the squash so impenetrably hard, it is so daunting at the beginning.

In a blender, I purée the following ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw soaked cashews
  • 1 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp powdered rosemary
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt

Meanwhile, I cook the pre-soaked organic brown rice in my rice cooker.

Creamy Cashew Risotto with Butternut Squash Dish

Creamy Cashew Risotto with Butternut Squash Dish

Next, I sautée the onions in the coconut oil until they become translucent. I then add in the squash for a few minutes before stirring in the cashew mixture, cilantro and raisins.

  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 1/2 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled butternut squash
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • water, as needed

Finally, I stir in the cooked rice, adding water as needed to make desired consistency, allowing the dish to simmer until it thickens to my desired consistency.

I serve the risotto with a side of arugula and cherry tomatoes, sipping fermented beet juice and red wine, in turn.

Meal ideas & recipes from Whole Foods Market (their app is fantastic, with the On Hand feature, which gives you recipe ideas when you type in up to 3 ingredients that you have on hand).