Grew Tomatoes. Now What?

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Did you grow tomatoes this summer and now wonder what to do with them? If you can find a neighbor who grew zucchini, you’re in luck! Swap vegetables, and swap some recipes, too. Here are some facts about the tomato you can digest in good health:

When processed or cooked, tomatoes actually contain more lycopene than raw tomatoes. The structure of the antioxidant lycopene changes, making it more easily absorbed by our bodies. So, pour on the pasta sauce, and feel good about buying canned tomatoes in the winter. Just half-cup of tomato sauce is plenty for an adequate lycopene boost to your system. Food sources of lycopene have been found to be more beneficial than supplements. Here’s a link for more information about lycopene.


Tons of tomatoes—now what?

Tomatoes are consumed more than any other non-starchy vegetable in America. Here are some ideas to make sure they don’t go to waste.

  • Share them! If a friend or neighbor has plenty of something else, barter 😉
  • No sandwich is complete without a tomato slice.
  • Is spaghetti for dinner? Cook up some tomatoes, and crush them for the sauce.
  • To add some character to your breakfast eggs, dice some tomatoes.
  • Cold or warm tomato or gazpacho soup. You’re on your own here. I’ve never made either.
  • Stuff tomatoes like you would a stuffed pepper and cook, or stuff it with tuna, or cottage cheese.
  • Make stew or soup with all sorts of tomatoes: fresh, canned, dried – they each add their own flavor.

For snacks or h’orderves:

  • Make some salsa for a quick appetizer: (dice tomatoes, chop cilantro, onion, jalapeno pepper, garlic, and squeeze some lemon.) If you have a molcajete – a traditional Mexican version of a mortar and pestle, crush the ingredients – it’ll bring the flavor out even more by crushing them a bit. If you like smooth rather than chunky salsa, put things in the blender after you chop them up.
  • Another side dish or snack with tomato: thick slices of tomatoes and alternatively overlap with slices of mozzarella cheese as you make your way around a plate (If you’re near a Costco, they sell packages already sliced.) Add some fresh basil. Drizzle olive oil on top, and add salt and pepper, and balsamic vinegar if you want a stronger flavor.




Healthy Kids: ages 2-12

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This is taken from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) Healthy Kids Today Toolkit. Eat powerful plant foods.

Take the cancer prevention pledge with your children and grandchildren:

I pledge to:

Help my child prepare this month’s recipe for Bean and Veggie Enchiladas. *See link for recipe.

Try one new vegetable each week.

Make a meal that contains only plant foods – vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans – and no meat.

Incorporate different colored vegetables into our daily meals and snacks.

Tell each other what our favorite vegetable is – and give two reasons why.

It’s never too early to eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of cancer-fighting plant foods like vegetables for lower cancer risk. In fact, research suggests that new foods are even better accepted at ages 2 to 4 than they are at ages 4 to 8.

Related Links:

Bean and Veggie Enchilada recipe

*Benefits and tips for cooking with your child ages 2-12


Healthy Choices: Fruits and Vegetables

5 servings

image credit: Good Search

Some people think fresh produce is the only way to get healthy produce. Not true. Sometimes, frozen or canned vegetables hold just as much—or more nutrients than fresh. They can also be lower is cost and easier to prepare. When I was going through chemo, my idea of preparing a meal was opening a can of white or black beans, a can of tomatoes, a can of corn, and adding pre-chopped celery and onion (thank you friends and family), and maybe spices like cumin or basil. When I was real low on energy, I’d ask someone else to open the cans. They loved this simple request! “Is that all you want me to do?” And depending on my energy level, my response was either, “Yes.” or “I’ll starve if you don’t.”

Vegetables retain their nutrients by how they’re processed or prepared. With flash freezing, vegetables hold their nutrients because soon after picking them, they’re boiled, then moved to ice water and drained before being frozen. Fruits are washed, slices and frozen. Canning uses heat treatment to destroy microorganisms that cause spoilage.

Both flash freezing and canning are done within 24 hours of produce being picked. This is known as “minimal processing.” Foods that are highly processed, including fruits and vegetables prepared with a lot of salt, sugar, or fat are known as “highly processed” foods. Examples are vegetables with cheese sauce, or canned fruit pie filling. If you can, add your own cheese to vegetables, and make your own pie filling. Look for frozen fruit without syrup and canned fruit packed in water or its own juice. Buy no-salt added versions of canned vegetables, or drain out the liquid from the regular kind, and rise a few times. Store brand canned or frozen items are often lower in price and same quality as name-brand.

However you get ‘em – Get ‘em! Five servings a day of fruits and vegetables will help keep you healthy and lower the risk of cancer.

“But I Hate Vegetables!”

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When’s the last time you ate a mango? What about jicama, leeks, or kale? Having a range of vegetables in your diet is one way to ensure you’re getting a variety of nutrients. Try new vegetables, or ones you haven’t tried in a while. Often, when we think we hate a certain type of food, then we find out it’s our lack of knowing how to prepare it. Have fun! Try some new foods. If you’re at a loss use Google for ideas of how to prepare them, or just try it on your own!

Jicama: Slice and peel it. Squeeze lemon or lime juice over it, and sprinkle chili powder on top. Or, use the slice of jicama as you would a tortilla chip and dip it into salsa or guacamole. When jicama is cold, it’s a refreshing summer treat. Keep the slices in a bag on ice at a picnic.

Kale: With a tiny bit of olive oil drizzled over it and a tiny bit of kosher salt sprinkled on top, you might find you can eat a big piece of kale each day.

Brussels sprouts: Steam, microwave, roast or cut them in half and put them in a frying pan. When I roast them, I cut them lengthwise and drizzle a bit of olive oil on the pan and then some over the vegetables. Sometimes I add balsamic vinegar—sometimes not. Other vegetables on my cookie sheet might include carrots, cauliflower, sweet potato, onion, mushrooms—whatever I have on hand. If I only have a few to cook, I cut brussels sprouts length wise and put a bit of olive oil, pepper, cayenne, or ginger, basil, on the skillet. I place the brussels sprouts flat-side down in a cast iron skillet and when they begin to brown on the flat side I turn them over and keep checking until they soften a bit  (not too much!) At this point, I sprinkle a bit of kosher salt on top.

Use meat as a condiment, instead of the major part of your meals.

Add beans to soup or casseroles such as a rice, bean and tomato foundation.

If you eat cereal, add some sliced fruit. Peaches, strawberries, apples, raisins, bananas are perfect additions!

Keep in mind plate size and proportions. (And, if you eat a pound of chocolate, you may gain a pound of chocolate.) —Just sayin’.

Walk. Hike. Run. Bicycle. Dance. Garden. Surf. Drop to the floor and do some crunches. Move. It doesn’t have to be vigorous or take all day. You don’t have to be the best one out there. This is for you.

Related Link: Nutrition and You


Carbs and Protein Together Help the Healing Process

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Whether you’ve had an injury or surgery, your body needs to heal. You may need to stop exercising, or at least modify what you do for a while. The choices you make for food are important in the healing process. During your recovery or rehabilitation, while you’re unable to exercise, you can still avoid gaining weight and heal quickly.

It comes down to conscious decisions for healthy eating. It’s not just a matter of watching fat and caloric intake. Along with self-control, nutrients help your body heal. Obviously, the habit of healthy eating is better to have in place before the injury or surgery. When I was first diagnosed with stage three breast cancer, I laughed when I was told, “You’re extremely healthy—with cancer.” I felt it was the ultimate booby prize. I soon understood the blessing of having a high health baseline. I never missed a chemo treatment, and when I was midway through treatment I had a few people (including a doctor in the oncology clinic) question when I’d begin chemo. I wore a scarf, not a wig, so I found this question bizarre. A friend pointed out to me that I looked healthier than others they’d seen with cancer. Whatever the reasoning, I’m sold on having a high baseline of health.

Physical activity will decrease during the recovery period leading to decreased appetite. If some adjustment to eating doesn’t happen while in recovery you may gain weight. But by negating the right nutrients and caloric intake, your body can’t heal as quickly. Some people take the “opportunity” of having an injury or surgery to eat too few calories.   That’s a huge mistake. A healthy balance is necessary.

Eat from all the food groups. They work together. Consciously graze throughout the day rather than eating only three times, but larger amounts. This is important to keep your blood sugar levels consistent and metabolism active. Also, so that when you do eat, you’re not starving—thus gulping down any and everything, especially right before you head off to bed.

When you eat carbohydrates for energy, your body will use the protein you eat to repair your muscles. If you don’t eat enough carbs, your body will burn the protein you eat for energy, and not for healing muscles. This makes it harder on your body to heal. This isn’t to say load up on carbs, especially if you’re not active. Eat smaller portions of carbs and other foods high in nutrients.

After an injury or surgery, you need extra protein to help recovery. Prior to cancer, I was a near vegetarian, eating only fish and sometimes chicken. During chemo I craved roast beef and beef hot dogs. At the end of cancer treatment my oncologist told me it was very important for me to eat more protein than before cancer, and to keep eating meat.

Fats and antioxidants contain anti-inflammation properties. After an injury or surgery, the first visible response is inflammation. While it’s not a nutrient, I’ve used arnica montana 30x strength two weeks before, and one-two weeks after each surgery (seven). Swelling and bruising was almost nil in every surgery.

Vitamin C helps reduce inflammation and encourages the body to form collagen. Collagen is a needed protein for strength, flexibility and repair of tendons, ligaments and strengthens bones. Vitamin A helps with cell development, cell growth and the immune system.


Carbohydrates: whole grains, pasta, breads, fruits, veggies

Protein: lean meat, fish, beans, lentils, nuts, low-fat dairy

Fats: olive oil, canola oil, nuts, avocados

Antioxidants/Fruits high in vitamin C: kiwi fruit, oranges, strawberries, broccoli, tomatoes

I dust. I shred papers. I wash laundry.

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Let me preface all this with, if you’ve got someone helping you out get ready for surgery, AMEN! For me, cleaning on my own is a way to keep my mind off surgery, and I count it as exercise, knowing I won’t be doing much for a while. (Like lifting over ten pounds for six months.)

Stock up on food you can store—canned tuna or salmon, vegetable broth, pasta, canned or frozen vegetables (you won’t want to chop much.) Make things in personal serving sizes if you live alone, or if you’re bringing food over to someone who lives alone. Keep one in the refrigerator, and freeze the rest. A large container is too heavy after surgery and takes up too much freezer space, and too much time to thaw. Make fiber muffins and freeze them or get a box of Belvita breakfast bars (blueberry’s their best.)

Stock up on water if you buy in bottles, juice and something like prune juice, 7-Up, or some other taste. For me, nothing taste good for several days after surgery. I’m more comfortable having broth and Saltine crackers (I love the fresh stack pack, packaged in smaller portions.) Drink lots of liquid, and keep food low salt, low-fat/grease. (I forgot and this time had chicken broth instead of vegetable—and it didn’t stay down. it was too greasy for me.) Things like pudding or Jell-O will feel good going down your throat after surgery.

Paced over two weeks, and dog-tired at the end, the count-down for surgery and an incredibly clean house (all 600 square feet of it) begin. This last time I even re-arranged my bedroom. A deep clean never goes as quickly as planed, does it? Usually, I prepare for surgery by sticking to the normal house cleaning, keeping in mind that after surgery I may not be able to much of it for a month or more, and I enjoy clean surroundings as much as my guests do.

I dust. I shred papers. I do laundry and hand wash sweaters that have hung on a chair far too long because I couldn’t be bothered to hand wash anything before. Windows and mirrors get clean. Plants get watered. Toilet paper. I stock up, and move some to a lower shelf, and in the front. As the chores check off and the calendar approaches surgery, I notice things like the floor isn’t as clean as it should be, and decide to get creative. I discover things like baking soda work better than Method, or other floor cleaners that haven’t done their job, even though I’ve been using them for years. One-third across the floor, I’m exhausted, but proud of how great that floor looks! Hint: If you do this, go easy on the amount of baking soda, or you will re-do the floor with a sponge and water to pick up the grit you left behind. A clean bathroom floor only shows the outer tub/shower needing attention, and while you’re on your knees, you may as well dust behind the toilet.

It’s not like I plow through these chores one after the next. I pace things out. Work top to bottom. Nap. Each chore triggers a thought of something else to clean. The vanity, the oven and oh, better remember to vacuum—which gets done three times in two days. I love those vacuum lines on the carpet! It’s at this point I realize nerves, not necessity have stepped in-charge.

Stop. Breathe. Meditate. Pray. The eve of surgery: Allow calm. I enjoy listening to soothing instrumental music and fading in and out of meditative thoughts. Let’s be real. . . . This is also the time to eat as much as you want until midnight! Before I get ready for bed, I post my NPO signs (Nothing Per Oral, reminders not to eat or drink anything) on my water bottles, the counter and refrigerator. My very last eve of surgery ritual is to clean my kitchen sink. Wipe, wipe, wipe. Man, it sparkles!


Tips for Cancer-Prevention Dining

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I make fish tacos at home and love them. I tend to use bass, halibut or cod with lots of shredded cabbage, some hot sauce and a blop of plain yogurt wrapped in flat bread. Recently, I was taken to a Mexican restaurant for brunch. I ordered the fish taco combo. What a surprise when a huge deep-fried pice of fish took up most of my plate. “Deep fried” hadn’t even crossed my mind, and it wasn’t written up in the menu as such. I scraped away the breaded shell until discovering a tiny piece of fish.

I’m conscious of what, and how much I eat. Here are some healthy tips you may want to consider before eating out, where it can be more difficult to keep things in moderation.

  • Drink a glass of low-sodium vegetable juice before starting your meal (or before you leave for the restaurant.) It’s healthy, and will fill you up a bi
  • When you have something like ice cream, an alcoholic beverage or a deep-fried item, “trade off” by passing the bread, chips, or mashed potatoes.  (Or, if you’re like me, you’ll skip the ice cream and alcohol so I can have my carbs in peace.)
  • Eat the good-for-you-stuff. I must admit, I do not like restaurant veggies, but I do still eat them, as small as the portion of them is. They’re over cooked, sitting in butter, and they just don’t taste right. I’ve heard some restaurants add sugar to them. I’ll usually eat an apple before going to a restaurant. (That’s one of those “trade-offs” mentioned above.) Other ways to eat the good stuff is to look for dishes with fruit, whole grains, lean proteins. Some include fish, chicken, tofu, cottage cheese and beans. Beware, many restaurants, especially Mexican use lard in their refried beans, and some other beans are high in calories. No need to be paranoid, just be conscious of your choices.
  • Share your meal, or take half of it home. NO BODY needs an 18 oz piece of steak, or fish for that matter. Three ounces of protein a meal is what you need.
  • Skip the appetizer, or share it. Or, make it your meal with a salad or soup.
  • If the menu lists the calorie and fat count, read it. Fat from calories shouldn’t be more than one-third of the total calorie count. If calories per serving are 300, fat from calories should be less than 100. Here are some numbers from the American Institute for Cancer research (AICR). Aim for your meal to be 400-500 calories.  (If you Supersize your meal at one of those take-out places, you’re almost at your entire daily calorie count of 2,000!) In general, avoid trans fat. Keep saturated fat to 20 grams or less a day, or at least aim for low numbers. Sodium should be kept to 600 milligrams or less per meal. (I find this per meal number high.) Fiber: do you get 25 grams per day? Most people don’t.
  • Eat slowly. Chew your food. Chew, then talk; not both at the same time. If the music is loud or fast, you’ll have to be more aware of your eating pace.

These are just a few of many tips you can incorporate into a healthy, cancer-preventative, social lifestyle.