Sunday, July 17, 2016

Protein Power Plus | Beans 'n Greens

" . . . and be sure and gets lots of protein!"

That's one of the first admonitions I got from my chemotherapy nurse. That and "Drink a gallon of water the day of and after chemo" and "Wash your hands -- a lot." And "Flush. Twice."

I am obedient.  Never got called to the principal's office. No detention. Got a speeding ticket once. I don't even remember getting "grounded."  Always playing it safe. (Pretty boring, eh?)

So when someone tells me to do something, it's a pretty good bet I'll do what I'm told.

But "Get lots of protein" is a little vague.  So . . . . . I researched!

We all need protein to form and maintain muscles, tissues, red blood cells, enzymes, and hormones, to carry many body compounds and medications, to maintain fluid balance, and to fight infections and strengthen the immune system, especially important for those of us undergoing chemo.

To come up with a quick estimate of your protein requirement:

  • Take your weight (in pounds) and divide by 2
  • The number you get is the approximate number of grams of protein you need daily

So -- hypothetically speaking, of course -- if I weigh 120 pounds, I divide 120 by 2 to get 60. I need 60 grams of protein for maintenance, more while undergoing chemo and radiation. I shoot for 90 grams daily. I can easily get to 60. Ninety is a stretch most days, though.

My favorite quick and easy sources of protein are yogurt and protein drinks. I also keep the fridge stocked with cottage cheese and hard boiled eggs.

So, if I have my favorite yogurt (coffee flavored) and a protein shake, I'm a third of the way there!

But woman (especially one who likes to cook, even when she's running low on energy) cannot live on yogurt and protein shakes alone. I also eat lots of hamburgers, steak (so glad we bought half a cow for the freezer; also glad I'm not a vegetarian!), chicken and tuna.

I've always liked beans and greens; Mr. Rosemary, not so much. So now I had a great excuse to cook some for myself.

Beans and greens ain't real pretty -- at least mine wasn't.  But it sure tasted good! Any kind of greens will do -- kale, spinach, escarole, beet greens, or any combination. I used a combination of baby kale and baby spinach. Some recipes I consulted for advice used Canadian bacon; I used regular 'ol bacon.
Just meant more protein to me!

Beans and Greens with Bacon
adapted from Epicurious
1/2 pound bacon
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic minced
7 ounce bag mixed baby kale and spinach
1- 15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained
1 cup (or more) chicken broth
dried crushed red pepper

In large frying pan saute bacon over medium high heat until crisp. Remove bacon and chop into small pieces. Set aside. Remove all but 2 tablespoons grease from pan.

Over medium heat, in same pan, saute onion until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.  Add greens to pan and toss until wilted. Add about 1 cup chicken broth and cook until it's reduced. Add beans and cook until warm. Sprinkle with red pepper and serve.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Private Benjamin, Friends and Rosemary Asparagus Soup

There's a scene in the 1980 movie "Private Benjamin" where Goldie Hawn's character, Judy, while marching through the mud and rain during basic training, aches for her former spoiled life and whines, "I want to go out to lunch!"

I may not exactly whine about it, but I rank "going out to lunch" as one of life's best simple pleasures.

Mr. Rosemary will go out to lunch with me if it's just part of a day-long shopping outing, but it's just fuel for him. So, going out to lunch has become a "girly" thing for me.

Throughout my cancer treatment, I've been lucky that my girlfriends have been happy to oblige. We developed a nice little habit: The day before my chemo treatment, when I was likely to feel my best, was "go out to lunch" day. Mostly we just sampled local restaurants. We included a movie matinee a couple times or maybe a bit of shopping. (Don't go to a brand new restaurant two days after it opens! Give them some time to work out the kinks!)

But once, we had a lovely lunch at a friend's -- Mary's -- home.  The main course was a rich and creamy asparagus soup. There was a strawberry and spinach salad, warm bread with little pats of butter, fresh flowers on the table, a chocolate cake for dessert, all on the hostess's vintage china. Perfect.

(And who forgot to take pictures?!?)

It was Susie's soup that stole the show for me.  Not only did I have seconds then and there, I got to take the leftovers home. (Did I share, you wonder? Of course not.)

I've had cream of asparagus soup before, but this was special. At first, I thought maybe because it was because Susie used her own asparagus. But when she gave me the recipe, I saw it had rosemary in it. Usually, rosemary is pretty potent -- (not me, silly, the herb) -- even in small doses, but it lent a subtle flavor that didn't overpower at all.  More perfect.

The cast of characters at our ladies' lunches has varied, but thank you Mary, Susie, Connie, Liz, Missy, Lindsay, Rose and Katie.  Thank you for helping me forget, even for a few hours, that I was a "cancer patient." For a few hours, I was just one of the girls.  And that made me feel special.

Rosemary Asparagus Soup
from Susie McLaughlin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves chopped garlic
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 15.5 ounce can white beans, drained
1 pound fresh asparagus, chopped (save tips)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 pound crisp bacon, chopped (for garnish)
Parmesan cheese (for garnish)

Heat olive oil in a large skillet and cook onion, garlic and rosemary until softened. Add butter and flour and cook until flour is dissolved.

Mix broth, white beans, asparagus, cream, salt and pepper into onion mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until asparagus is tender, abut 10 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and let mixture cool. Pour soup in batches into blender or food processor until smooth. Then pour through strainer. Steam the asparagus tips in a little water in microwave and add to soup before serving. Heat on low before serving. Sprinkle with cheese and bacon.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Celebrating Independence from Chemo Day! Deviled Eggs Day

Independence Day is a little special for me this year because I finished my last chemotherapy treatment for my breast cancer this past week.  It’s a huge hurdle to have crossed.

And although I’m still feeling the after effects, although I still have more treatment to go, I’m taking a break from anything serious about it and simply celebrating!

We went to my sister-(and brother)-in-law’s for a party over the weekend and even though I was granted a reprieve from contributing anything, I decided surely I could manage deviled eggs.

But I couldn’t leave well enough alone and gussied them up with candied bacon.  A little over the top, perhaps, but I’m celebrating!

Bourbon Candied Bacon Deviled Eggs
Makes 2 dozen
For the Candied Bacon:
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons bourbon, optional (oh, go ahead!)
4 thick-sliced bacon strips
For the Eggs:
12 hard-cooked large eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Dash of hot sauce

Preheat oven to 350°. In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, the mustard, the syrup and salt. If you want, add the bourbon. We're celebrating! Coat bacon with brown sugar mixture. Place on a rack in a foil-lined 15x10x1-in. baking pan. Bake 25-30 minutes or until crisp. Cool completely.

Cut eggs in half lengthwise. Remove yolks, reserving whites. In a small bowl, mash yolks. Add mayonnaise, sour cream, syrup,  mustard, pepper and hot sauce; stir until smooth. Chop bacon finely; fold half into egg yolk mixture. Spoon  into egg whites. Sprinkle with remaining bacon. Refrigerate, covered, until serving.