Your Weekly Diversion, Week 28

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Week 28 brought us to new lows in American politics. We saw a brand new White House staff appointee let loose a crude rant against several others in gutter terms we’ve never heard or read in public media before, leading one of them to resign and with more dignity than one might expect. We heard the so-called leader of the free world deliver a grossly inappropriate political screed at a Boy Scout Jamboree, to an organization explicitly apolitical and determined to remain so. Their president later disavowed the screed and regretted allowing him to speak. Enough said.

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Smudging with sage and other herbs is a wonderful way to clear the air, literally. I’ve used it in my office on occasion and in my home when a cleansing vibe was called for. At work I’ve always used a leaf of sage clasped in the jaws of a binder clip, moving about the room rapidly so that my colleagues and staff don’t fear the building is on fire. There’s a no-candles policy, so I suspect smudging would be taboo if I asked. This article expanded my awareness, and perhaps will yours. I’m also looking for an abalone shell.

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This morning I got my first look into the interior of the new Tesla 3 and figured you’d enjoy seeing it, too. It’s $35K, which I agree is a lot, but we just bought a loaded Hybrid Toyota RAV4 for a bit more than that. I have two more years to pay on my Prius and when I’m ready for another new car, I’ll consider a Tesla.

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This recipe for a vegan reuben sandwich yielded the most delicious flavor I’ve ever had in a vegan sandwich, bar none. And I’ve enjoyed yummy vegan sandwiches in some of the best New York vegan restaurants. I loved non-vegetarian reubens years ago, and I’ve missed them. I’ve seen recipes for homemade seitan flavored with pickle juice to get that tangy corned beef taste, but it takes too long to make compared to this one. The recipe calls for marinated tempeh, sauerkraut, rye bread, homemade Russian dressing, and vegan Swiss cheese. It makes two wonderful, filling sandwiches that even an omnivore would scarf down.

Now that I’ve tweaked your taste buds and distracted you nicely from the headaches of the day, here’s some toe tapping thanks to the amazing Steve Martin and Edie Brickell.

Namasté

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Getting to Cloud Nine

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I’m not sure where to start with this. So I’ll start where I think it begins. We moved from New York City to rural Pennsylvania last summer. We eventually got a new MD locally. Then in May I was hospitalized with diverticulitis, a very painful intestinal infection. I was given excellent treatment in our local hospital and I was out the next day.   My primary doctor had been concerned about a serious abdominal condition other than diverticulitis, so in the ER they did a CT scan with contrast and found a couple of possible problems while confirming the diverticulitis diagnosis. I was discharged with referrals to cardiologist, colorectal surgeon, and pulmonologist. The pulmonologist referred me to a neurologist due to migraines. I saw them all.

I was off asthma meds for the first time in many years while in the hospital. I imagine they were waiting for me to complain of breathing problems to give them to me, but I didn’t have any, even with the gorgeous, big floral arrangement my colleagues at work sent me. Time was when I would have been sneezing and wheezing with flowers in the room.

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When I went to the pulmonologist and told him I hadn’t used any steroids or rescue inhaler, or even any allergy meds, in a week, he was impressed, but he also ordered pulmonary function tests and a CT scan of the lungs. I went to see him yesterday for the results. He brought out copies of the tests and said to me, “You do not have asthma!” and he explained the numbers. He said I no longer need any asthma meds, not even a rescue inhaler.

I’ve taken a lot of medications, many very expensive, for asthma and respiratory allergies over the past 35 years, which is over half my life: albuterol and its newer spinoff ProAir HFA, Advair (at the highest strength), Breo, and Symbicort (also at the highest strength), Singulair, Zyrtec, and Flonase, and others both over the counter and prescribed. I’ve been to the ER with asthma attacks, although thankfully not for decades. I’ve been on inhaled steroids and courses of prednisone for about 15 years and other asthma meds since my son was in grade school. I have the skin of an 80-year-old, in that it tears and gets purple bruises incredibly easily, and about five years ago I sustained a spontaneous fracture of the femur at the knee, all probable side effects from long term corticosteroid use for asthma.

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So I’m on Cloud Nine that I’m so much healthier than I used to be, and I credit this to several factors:

  • Being vegetarian for the past 8 years and almost totally vegan for 5 ( two of my new doctors are vegetarians, so I have solid support to continue a plant-based lifestyle).
  • Meditating almost every day for the past 6 years, a practice known to boost immunity and improve health.
  • Following the spiritual practice of Buddhism that helps me cope with stress and keep life’s challenges and changes in perspective.
  • Having wonderful and supportive friends, many of whom like myself are healthcare providers who have stressed to me the importance of self care and getting answers.
  • Working out regularly in the gym and taking more walks over the past year.
  • Meeting a holistic New York medical doctor before we moved, who urged a healthier diet, exercise and supplements over prescriptions whenever possible.
  • Moving out of the city and into a less stressful, more rural life.
  • Closing my solitary New York psychology office and opening one in East Stroudsburg, PA where amidst wonderful colleagues and staff I thrive.
  • Getting a whole new look into my health with all new medical providers, including the very thorough medical work up I was given at our local hospital.
  • Having access to good healthcare, thanks to Medicare and before that employer-provided health insurance. At this time of uncertainty over affordable health coverage for millions of Americans, I am most grateful for this and hope that goodness and compassion for those in need will prevail.

So I do like to end some of my posts with a good tune. This one feels just right, and I choose it in part in memory of a good and soulful man I treated for nearly 20 years, a man who grooved to the Motown Sound and whose passing I sadly learned of today. Danny, this one’s for you.

 

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Capers, Good and Good for You

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I love capers! I bought some for a delish pasta recipe a few weeks ago and now that I have them in the house, I’ve put them in other things. Last night I dolled up a bottle of organic Muir Glen tomato basil pasta sauce with a generous dose of capers, plus some chopped olives, and sautéed onion, garlic and whole package of mixed mushrooms with all sorts of interesting types along with the sliced buttons and portobellos. What a yummy mix!

In the 2006 article, “Importance of functional foods in the Mediterranean diet” (Public Health Nutrition: 9(8A), 1136–1140 DOI: 10.1017/S1368980007668530) available here, we learn that capers are good for you, too (emphasis mine):

Garlic, onions, herbs and spices are used as condiments in the [Mediterranean Diet], and may increase the nutritional value of food. Some also contain large quantities of flavonoids (fennel, chives, etc.) or allicin (raw garlic and onion); the latter may have cardiovascular benefits and help improve cognitive function3. The caper, Capparis spinosa L., which is found all over the Mediterranean basin and is consumed in salads or on pizzas, etc. has been used in traditional medicine for its diuretic and anti- hypertensive effects, and to treat certain conditions related to uncontrolled lipid peroxidation15. Caper extract contains flavonoids (kaempferol and quercetin derivatives) and hydrocinnamic acids with known anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Panico et al.15 concluded capers to have a chondroprotective effect; they might therefore be of use in the management of cartilage damage during the inflammatory phase (p. 1137).

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If you want some great recipes exploring the flavor and versatility of capers, check out this HuffPost article. That yummy-looking photo is from Recipe Number 18! The article credits this one to Cafe Johnsonia.

And I predict that capers might just feature in a tasty meal on your table very soon!

Buon Appetito!

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For the Daily Post

Potato and Beet Salad with Navy Beans

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Photo courtesy of and recipe adapted from Naturally Ella

Hungry?

This isn’t a recipe blog, but sometimes I just have to share something great! Since I’m a vegetarian eating mostly vegan, plus my recent hospital stay and admonition to eat more high fiber foods, and my husband enjoying loaded summer salads for dinner, this recipe was promising. The recipe I used is here.

I made a lot of changes due to what was available. I couldn’t find white or yellow beets. Red ones were discouraged for how they’d look in this recipe. So I swapped in a can of artichoke bottoms in water, cut up and roasted with the potatoes. My dill, bought two weeks ago, went bad so I used dried dill. I didn’t feel like spending the money for shallots when I still had half a bag of small boiling onions, so I used some of those instead. They were great! I didn’t have champagne vinegar and probably wouldn’t buy it, so I swapped in some light red wine vinegar. I would have used my Bragg’s apple cider vinegar but it’s getting low and the mother is pretty thick. Time to buy a new bottle!

This was so good it was all we had for dinner, served with a crusty, seeded whole grain bread and some organic extra virgin olive oil for dipping. The only thing I’d do differently next time would be to add roasted pine nuts.

Bon Appetít!

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Why Buddhists Should be Vegetarian

As a Buddhist and imperfect vegan who more accurately fits the definition of vegetarian, this post offers much food for thought, if you’ll pardon the unfortunate cliché, and the comments that follow are every bit as thought provoking and helpful in their way as the author’s most excellent writing on the subject. Let us all reason together, explore, discuss, evolve and change for the better. May we try each day to live Metta, or loving kindness, to the very best of our imperfect ability. Namasté, Sonnische/Shielagh

Sujato’s Blog

The Buddha ate meat. This is a fairly well attested fact. The issue of vegetarianism is addressed a few times in the Suttas, notably the Jivaka Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya. The Buddha consistently affirmed that monastics were permitted to eat meat, as long as it was not killed intentionally for them. There are numerous passages in the Vinaya that refer to the Buddha or the monastics eating meat, and meat is regularly mentioned as one of the standard foods.

For these reasons, the standard position in Theravada Buddhism is that there is no ethical problem with eating meat. If you want to be vegetarian, that is a purely optional choice. Most Theravadins, whether lay or monastic, eat meat, and claim to be acting within the ethical guidelines of the Buddha’s teachings.

This position sits squarely within a straightforward application of the law of kamma, understood as intention. Eating meat…

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Savoring the Bounty of Summer

This has been an interesting summer here on the Pocono Plateau of northeastern Pennsylvania. The first few weekends were washouts, dashing hopes for long awaited tennis events and swimming plans. The woods became more dense with lush leafy growth of shrubs and trees. I have read this is due to higher levels of carbon dioxide produced by warmer climate. In previous summers one could see through the trees in the back yard to streetlights beyond but not so this year.

Our garden Buddha sits atop the remains of an old stone foundation wall, and it has been necessary to cut back the berry canes and other shrubs around it several times this year.

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We also have seen no fireflies here or in New York this summer. I haven’t seen any news stories to address this in 2015, but apparently light pollution is a major factor. When the night is bright, fireflies fail to see one another in their usual mating courtship and therefore produce no offspring the following year.

In addition to the lush vegetation we see all around us, our small plot in the community garden is a tangle of tomato abundance and exuberant Italian parsley and fragrant basil. The parsley is an essential for summer green smoothies, offset nicely by ginger root, fruit and other healthy additions, depending on one’s tastes and what is available. We’ve made piña colada mojito smoothies, minus the spirits but tangy and delicious all the same.

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These Cherokee Purple heirloom tomatoes are ready to pick when the bottom is purply-red and the top still green, and frequently cracked as well.

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Sliced, these Cherokee Purple heirloom tomatoes are dark red with a purple tinge. They are delicious!

Savoring summer’s bounty has been a very happy experience this year, as has casting our meditative eyes on our lovely Buddha, surrounded by the lush woodsy growth, ferns, clover and the potted begonia that has flourished without any care as it celebrates its honored place.

A lotus for you,

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Thanksgiving Thoughts

 

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Thanksgiving is one of those conduits through this life I’ve been living since 1951. No, I don’t remember each and every one of them, but I do remember many. Here are some of those:

  • The turkey dinners ordered from Zucky’s kosher deli with all the trimmings
  • Mom learning from Gracie how to stuff and truss a turkey, with needle and button thread
  • The lentil loaf we had one year instead of turkey when Mom was a vegetarian
  • Thanksgiving dinner with Granny at the Santa Ynez Inn
  • The year when Lucille put her turkey on the counter and our cat and hers dragged it onto the floor and gnawed on it
  • Making my first pumpkin pie in high school from canned pie filling and a store-bought crust
  • Learning to make pumpkin pie from canned pumpkin and scratch crust
  • Jumping up on down on a scratch crust that refused to turn out, and starting all over again
  • Finally making pumpkin pie from a fresh pumpkin and a frozen crust
  • Getting the Betty Crocker Cookbook and making the turkey and everything for the family
  • Discovering the ubiquitous green bean casserole with French fried onions on top
  • Spending Thanksgivings during boarding school with my aunt and uncle in New Jersey
  • Discovering the ease of the disposable foil roasting pan, learning to put a cookie sheet under it
  • Adding a roasting bag and making the whole thing so much easier
  • Wanting to go to Dysart’s (inspired by Tim Sample) but new friends insisted we join them
  • Spending more than one Thanksgiving serving turkey at a church covered dish supper
  • Realizing there are many different Jell-o salads and Ambrosias, all with lots of whipped topping
  • Becoming a vegetarian briefly and actually making a lentil loaf for our Thanksgiving one year
  • Going on Atkins and eating way more turkey than anyone else at the table, and not much else
  • Watching a Mercy for Animals video on factory farm cruelty to turkeys, cows and other beings
  • Becoming a vegetarian again and eventually going vegan and remaining so
  • Making my first vegan Tofurky Feast, lots of work but good, especially the stuffing and gravy
  • Enjoying the Gardein Holiday Roast, a tasty turkey substitute

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And that brings me to this Thanksgiving. It was supposed to snow all over the northeast but in New York it only rained yesterday, and Wednesday is a very bad day to try to drive from New York to Pennsylvania, a Gridlock Alert Day, because everyone wants to get out of town at once. So this morning we drove to PA and once we hit New Jersey it snowed the rest of the way. There was about a foot of snow on the back deck, and although our driveway had been plowed this morning, there was another inch or two of fresh snow on our walk and driveway. The house warmed up fast with the fireplace and heat pump working beautifully. I put on my apron and started cooking. I roasted a turkey leg for my husband according to a recipe with rave reviews (it was disappointing), and I made stuffing in the crockpot, mashed potatoes, gravy, and green beans, and a wonderful Field Roast Celebration Roast as my vegan main dish. We had a lovely loaf of cranberry bread, cranberry sauce and olives. I turned to Mary McDougall and the Happy Herbivore for my recipes. Last week I had made butternut squash soup in advance for today. Dessert was a three-berry crumb pie from Fairway, with decaf. Delish!

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The food was fine, but I am so thankful for my family, our health, my recovery from back pain, our cat, our friends, my Buddhist practice, our material blessings, my work, and so very much more. And this year, as my teacher Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh lies in a hospital in France recovering from a severe brain hemorrhage, I am so thankful to have learned so many valuable lessons for my life from him. I hope and pray for his full recovery. I also understand that at 88 he may transition from this life before long.

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Namaste

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