“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” ~ Jonathan Swift

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Here Fishy Fishy

Fish has always been my preferred meat of choice, so I was delighted when I discovered the canned sardine. As a kid, I used to eat them with saltine crackers. However, as I got older, I simply forgot about sardines. No one I knew ate them, so it was easy to forget they even existed.

Then came Hurricane Irene.

After watching a flurry of frenzied news reports predicting imminent doom, I decided to be safe and head out to the grocery store. I decided that canned sardines would be a tasty storm treat and headed home with a couple tins of Wild Planet sardines packed in extra virgin olive oil. I was thrilled to find that were even tastier than I remembered and fit perfectly into my anti-inflammatory diet. Sardines are rich in omega-3s and packed with calcium, especially if you eat the bones. I particularly like the Wild Planet brand because the fish are not overly soaked, and the fish are wild caught.

My sardine love affair continued. I now bring a can to lunch and munch happily away, sopping up the savory oil with two pieces of multigrain bread. It's a filling lunch that doesn't leave me overly full. I also appreciate that I don't need to refrigerate it, so it's a convenient option too.

A girl can only eat so much sardine straight from the can, though. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to find an email today entitled "Your Perfect Sandwich" (from my perfect special someone) with a link to Alton Brown's Sherried Sardine Toast. It marries my love of avocado and sardine into a warm, open-faced sandwich. It's pretty tasty. I definitely recommend it! For a gluten-free alternative, these would work just as well on warm tortillas.

Next time I make these I think I'll play around with flavor combinations. Perhaps one with a drizzle of hot sauce. Or another with some crushed garlic. Tonight, I simply splashed an extra does of the sherry vinegar on top, and it was healthfully delicious. (Oh, by the way, it's definitely worth it to splurge the extra few dollars on sherry vinegar--the flavor is tart but with a wine undertone to cut the abrasiveness.)

Friday, September 30, 2011

A Lukewarm Appointment

Last Monday, I had an eye appointment to track the progress of my eye. After going through the usual pre-appointment anxiety attic (which included getting short with some of my students), I finally trekked on over to the doctor's. Here, I found out that my referral had never been processed, thus risking a cancellation of the appointment or forking over my credit card to absorb the charges. I figured that I wasn't going to waste all my time and anxiety, so I handed my credit card to the receptionist.

The day was off to a grand start.

Eventually, my eyes were dilated, and I was ushered into a technician's office. While I had 20/20 in my left "good" eye, I struggled to read pretty much everything with my right eye. I began to get a sinking feeling in my stomach, but I told myself that perhaps something had changed when I switched out my usual contacts for my occasional glasses. It was a nice consolation until I remembered that I read perfectly with my left eye.

The sinking feeling persisted when I finally saw the doctor. He was taking an awfully long time examining my eyes. Then, he took out a wooden stick and rammed it just below my bottom lashes to keep me from involuntarily flinching. It was becoming an atypical examination. Furthermore, he kept directing me to look down, leading me to believe that he saw something troubling.

While he did not see any evidence of wet macular degeneration (wet = presence of blood), he did notice that my vitreal jelly had begun pulling away. This means that I will most likely face a retinal detachment. However, whether the detachment occurs today or in a few years is unknown. All we could do was monitor it and hope for the best.

So, I'm calling the appointment lukewarm. I left without an Avastin injection, which is always good. But I also left knowing that my retina can detach any moment now. I am also beginning to wonder whether my right eye will always cook up something new for me to fret about. The complications seem endless and as I approach my 8th anniversary since diagnosis, I begin to wonder what else may be in store. 8 years sounds like a long time, but I'll probably still live much more than 8 years. What else can happen?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Simple Soba Soup

Here's a simple soba soup that is chock full of nutrients!

The recipe begins with a homemade vegetable stock, so this is a great way to use up all your veggies and scraps. I also love that it's nutrient-rich from beginning to end, making this a very healthy anti-inflammatory soup. Mushrooms are the winning star in this meal, so add them liberally!

Simple Soba Soup

The Stock:
5 c. cold water
2 onions, halved (opt for flavorful varieties like red and Spanish)
5 garlic cloves, smashed
3 carrots, roughly chopped
a large handful of mushrooms*
1 Tbsp. of soy sauce (optional)

1 egg, lightly beaten
a handful of soba noodles
1/2 cup corn kernels
1 carrot, sliced into thin circles
a large pinch of wakame**

* I like to use dehydrated shitake mushrooms, widely available and affordable in Asian markets. These are a great way to make a rich and flavorful stock without the high price tag that often acccompanies mushrooms. I freely use these in my stocks.
** Wakame is a type of Japanese seaweed and also found in many Asian markets, at a fraction of the price. Once hydrated, wakame swells into thick sheets, adding a nice texture to the soup. It is at once subtly sweet and slightly salty.

Fill a large pot with water, and toss in all vegetables. I like to add a pinch of salt here to help the vegetables release their flavors. Bring the mixture to a boil and then cover and simmer for at least an hour. The longer you simmer, the more flavorful your stock. My clue is to look for a deep brown broth color.

Once the stock becomes sufficiently flavorful, discard the vegetables and bring the broth back to a boil. Add the soba and cook for approximately 6-8 minutes. Soba should have a tough texture, so be careful not to overcook. While the soba is cooking, add the carrots and corn.

Toss in the wakame. Stirring the soup, add the beaten egg. If stirred continually and quickly, the egg will blossom throughout and give the soup some "egg drops".

For extra protein, I sometimes add small squares of silken tofu. However, if you may have to add more broth as the soup can become quite crowded.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Healthy Vegetarian Sandwich

As I began looking for healthier ways to approach my lunchbox, I realized that it was difficult to find a meal that was filling, convenient, and healthy. Eating dinner leftovers can get routine, so I began brainstorming ways I could create a healthier sandwich.

One day, I decided to opt for lunch at a local vegan spot and grabbed a Mock Chicken Club. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was not "mock chicken" but actually a thick slab of tofu, which keeps in line with my low-processed food limit.

Try this tasty sandwich, and let me know what you think!

Tofu Club Sandwich

hearty multigrain bread
light mayonnaise
basil pesto
olive oil
1 container of extra firm tofu
three slices of vegetarian bacon
baby spinach

1. Slice the tofu into 4 large triangles of equal size. I usually slice a rectangular block of tofu in half, to make two thinner rectangles. Then, I bisect each into two triangles. Dry each piece thoroughly

2. Drizzle olive oil on slices. Bake tofu in a 400 degree oven until pieces are chewy and have formed a golden firmness. You can also add slices of veg-bacon in the same pan, but make sure to take it out after 10 minutes. Let cool.

3. Mix mayonnaise and pesto together in a bowl. I like to mix to taste but I find that 2:1 ratio of mayo to pesto adds a nice flavor.

4. Spread the pesto-mayo mixture on bread, add two tofu triangles, veg bacon, and generously heap baby spinach on top. Slicing the bread into triangles (following the tofu slices) makes for a hand-y sandwich!

* If you don't have pesto handy, you can also use hummus or whole-grain mustard as a flavorful spread. I also like to add mustard to the pesto mixture for extra kick.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Hello again.

It has been a really long time since I last blogged.

I thought that 2009 was a bad year. But then, 2010 came along just to prove me wrong. It was not kind, and I spent most of that year trying to cope with the sadness that comes with losing loved ones. Keeping up with my blog became difficult, and I thought less and less about my vision situation. I ate terrible food...sometimes, I did not eat. I didn't exercise. I didn't sleep. I hardly saw friends. Most of the time, I was very stressed.

I still kept up with my doctor's appointments, however. And it was strange because in the midst of my toughest time, my vision did not worsen. This was confusing, as I was certain that my extraordinary stress levels would usher in a wave of inflammation.

At the time, I was mainly relieved that I did not have one more thing to worry about. My energies were being devoted elsewhere, and I really did not have time for Avastin injections, waiting my eyes to adjust after dilation, going to the pharmacy to fill prescriptions, etc.

As time went on, however, I realized that something very significant was happening.

I am trying to figure it out. After all, I began this blog with the intent to track my diet and see how it might positively affect my MFC. Throughout 2010 (and a good chunk of 2011), I ate some really junky junk. I'm talking Fried Chicken and Waffles--for brunch.

Perhaps the diet was just a theory.

A part of me was happy--I could eat processed flour and meat and dessert! So, I did, and it was really all just delicious. But a few months ago, I started feeling suspicious. Lately, I just don't trust the universe. A nagging feeling sometimes comes over me that my MFC will come back with a vengeance, spurred by my terrible eating habits.

So, I am reframing my relationship to MFC and my diet. I've decided that I will not strictly adhere to my anti-inflammation diet. During the week, I make a concerted effort to eat very healthy--mainly vegetarian or pescetarian, whole grain. and low-sugar. On the weekends or when socializing, I eat and drink mainly whatever strikes my fancy. Most of the time, however, I eschew dessert or only have one bite. I drink lots of green tea and take my Lovaza pills daily.

I'm trying to be better about my diet, though. If anything, I'll be healthy on many levels. On that note I will share with you what I ate for dinner tonight:

Roasted beets
Potato and Onion Pierogies (I limited myself to 5 pieces)
Baked Spaghetti Squash w/ carrots, sugar snap peas, and feta