Having Fun Cooking

Mediterranean diet pyramid

Mediterranean diet food pyramid

One of the things that I always like to do to relax after a long trip is to get into the kitchen and cook. Replenishing supplies like my breakfast granola and eggplant dip (baba Ghannouj) which have become staples for our Mediterranean style diet are always fun. I have posted the granola recipe before, but thought that some of you may would appreciate this very healthy version of Baba Ghannouj too. I took my original recipe and added the pepper which I think gives it a richer flavour and the yoghurt adds a nice tang. If you like it hot at a 1/4 tsp chipotle pepper powder too. It makes a great lunch spread or addition to a Middle Eastern meal.

1 medium sized eggplant

1 red pepper (capsicum)

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/3 cup taheen, (sesame paste)

1/2 cup yoghurt (Greek style preferable)

1 tsp. salt

1 tbsp olive oil (optional)

2 spring onions finely chopped

2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, crushed

Wash and dry eggplant and pepper. Prick eggplant with fork in 3 -4 place. Place eggplant and pepper on a baking sheet and broil (grill) 4 inches away from heat, turning them on all sides until the skin is charred. 20- 30 minutes. Allow to cool. Peel off skin, cut off stem and deseed pepper. Chop eggplant and pepper finely by hand and mash eggplant pulp or blend garlic, pepper and eggplant in a blender until smooth. Combine lemon juice, yoghurt, and salt. Add to eggplant mix. Blend in taheen, mix well. Add spring onions and parsley. Place on a serving plate and drizzle oil over it.



Lets Talk About Health not Weight

Lets talk about health

Lets talk about health

My post yesterday entitled Obesity Rates In US Higher than AIDS Rates in Africa has resulted in a lively discussion with a friend who thinks we as a culture are obsessed with weight.  And I am in complete agreement with her.  As I said yesterday my concerns are more about health then they are about weight.  As a medical doctor my main concern is that so many illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease can be traced back to eating habits especially obesity.  But I do not think that any of us have the right to point the finger at those who struggle with their weight and I hope that was not the impression you received from my post.

On top of that I am deeply concerned that chemicals in our environment and other toxic factors in our society may add to our weight and health problems.  This I talked about in a previous article entitled What Makes Us Fat.  And in many ways I feel that addressing these environmental issues is a more important crusade for us to join.

Of course we can still eat very healthily and be overweight .  When I found out I had high cholesterol last year my cardiologist brother sent me information on the Mediterranean diet . His comment – you may not lose weight but your cholesterol should come down.

My friend sent me the link to this very interesting article which is definitely worth a read:

You can’t escape the tyranny of the scale in this culture: At the grocery store (where calories are now listed prominently on many foods), at the doctor’s office, in the schoolyard, at the gym, among friends, our national obsession with weight is at an all-time high. This emphasis on weight, and losing it, is doing us no good, physically or mentally. There’s never been more shame and stigma around “overweight” and obesity, despite the fact that more of us are heavier than ever before.  Read the entire article

here I should add that I get just as irate at a culture that on one side is constantly tempting people to eat what they shouldn’t and then on the other makes so much money off peoples’ desire to lose weight.  That too is wrong.

Ironically just after I read this last article I received a link to a medical article on Best Practices for Infant Feeding which talked about yet another contributor to weight problems – what infants are fed on in the early months of life – It talked about everything from the benefits of breast feeding to the challenges of giving children white rice cereal as their first food.

The more we learn about breastfeeding, the more we learn about how powerful it is for babies in a variety of different ways. The immune benefits are incomparable, the nutrition benefits are incomparable, the taste benefits are incomparable. Breast milk tastes different every single feeding, which exposes the baby to a variety of flavors, and studies have shown that what a nursing mother eats can help predispose her child to learn to like later.

The breastfeeding and obesity question is one that has been highly controversial. It is biologically plausible that breastfeeding could have a powerful programming effect in preventing overweight or obesity. We know that there are significantly higher plasma insulin concentrations in infants who are bottle-fed compared with those who are breastfed, which would be expected to change fat deposition and development of fat cells.

It goes on to say

The formula-fed, though not the breast-fed, children who were introduced to solids before 4 months of age were 6 times more likely to end up obese at 3 years old. The researchers speculated that these children actually increased their energy intake as a result of the inclusion of solid foods. It appeared to change the amount that they ate and the way their body dealt with calories later on, an example of metabolic and possibly flavor programming.

For those of us who have the choice about what we eat, eating healthy is important and being aware that our weight may contribute to ill health is also important.

Giving Things Up Does Not Imply Loss

Giving things up does not imply loss.  In fact because of what we give up, we stand to gain a great deal

This morning I could not stop thinking about this line from Joan Chittister’s book The Liturgical Year . We often think that giving things up means sacrifice, loss and decreased satisfaction in life but is that really true?

This week has in many ways been a week of loss for me.  First we have committed to the $2 challenge for the week – restricting our budget in order to free up money to give to Haiti.  It has meant the loss of meals eaten out and cutting out some of my favourite but expensive food – like avocados in salads and papaya for breakfast (yes I know they don’t grow in Seattle but they are a couple of my non local indulgences).  Another quote from Joan Chittister is helpful here:

Self-indulgence, the preening of self for the sake of self, blocks out the cries of the rest of the world, making us deaf to anything beyond ourselves.”

Restricting my diet in this way has made me more aware of the cries of the poor and of their daily struggle to survive.  I can choose to live on $2/day they have no other option.

To cap it off, last week I found out that my cholesterol is high, partly genetic but there are other factors that contribute as well.  Most of my friends are stunned because they think that Tom & I eat more healthily than most but I have allowed my weight to creep up in the last couple of years so need to lose 20 lbs in the next few months.  And that means giving up excuses for not getting out to exercise – like” its not fun to walk in the rain.”  It also means giving up the occasional indulgence in fish and chips – unless the fish is grilled or broiled.

Even in the midst of these simple losses I stand to gain a great deal.  Eating more healthily means gaining better health not just now but hopefully in the future too.   We are opting for the Mediterranean diet, recommended by my cardiologist brother. According to the British Medical Journal:

Greater adherence to a Mediterranean diet is associated with a significant improvement in health status, as seen by a significant reduction in overall mortality (9%), mortality from cardiovascular diseases (9%), incidence of or mortality from cancer (6%), and incidence of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease (13%).    Read the entire article

What am I willing to give up for my faith I wonder in order to gain the “heart healthy” rewards it could hold for the future?  It is a question I continue to grapple with.  We live such comfortable lives and though I know that Tom and I are in the place that God wants us to be at this time, I also know that it is easy to make excuses for self indulgence rationalizing it with thoughts of “God wants to bless me”

Now I am not denying that God wants to bless us, all I question is that blessing comes in the form of self-centredness and self-satisfaction.  Self centredness makes self the centre of the universe.  Again in the words of Joan Chittister:

The notion that all things were made for our comfort and our control robs those around us of their own gifts.  It absorbs the gifts of others; it smothers them under our own; it blinds us to both their needs and their gifts.

The greatest satisfaction of my life has come from enabling others to become more of whom God intends them to be – first through providing healthcare to the poor and the marginalized as I worked on the Mercy Ship and in refugee camps in Thailand and Africa, then through writing, advocacy and mentoring.

So what are the ongoing losses God might be asking all of us to partake of so that others can find their freedom and their giftedness?  I would love to know what you think?  I would also love to know what you have been willing to give up so that others can be set free and what you have gained as a result.