Monday, 8 September 2008

Protecting Your Heart While Preserving the Harvest (HotM 18)

After worrying for years about a family history that involves prevalent heart disease, I finally bit the bullet recently and got a total work up of all of my important "numbers" - HDL, LDL, triglycerides (TC), TC/HDL, blood pressure, etc. - that would help me assess my "actual" cardiac risk. For those of you here in Hawaii on Oahu, The Windward Heart Center is offering a free cardiac risk assessment that I highly recommend taking advantage of. No matter where you live, and even if you don't have a major concern for heart disease right now, it's good to have a baseline for all those numbers so that if they do change over the years, you know by how much.

For instance, the last (and only) time I had my total cholesterol checked was three years ago, and it was considered "borderline." It's dropped a whopping 40 points!! Not only that, but my ratio of triglycerides to HDL (the *good* cholesterol) is below "average." According to the cardiologist there, all this together means that I've got less than a 1% chance of having a heart attack in the next 10 years. Yay! That made my day (and prompted me to go immediately and buy myself a snickers ice cream bar to celebrate - one of my biggest weaknesses from the shop at work - everything in moderation, no?)! Keep in mind that this was a huge surprise - I have lost all but one grandparent to heart attacks when my parents were young; the last one has had a quadruple bypass and my father has a stint; and that's not including uncles and great aunts and uncles, many with major bypass surgeries or heart attacks themselves.

Now, I'm not convinced that doctors have figured out how to accurately diagnose the risk for heart disease (check out this book if you want to be intrigued, as it has a lot of interesting food for thought), but I can't deny that for whatever reason, my cholesterol has certainly dropped significantly. And since I don't exercise on any normal basis (still a constant struggle and goal for me), I can only attribute it to what I've been eating - and a lot of that has to do with all of you and the recipes that you've been creating and submitting on a monthly basis to our little brainchild and pet project, The Heart of the Matter (HotM).

So let's keep it going! The theme for September is Preserving the Harvest. We want your heart healthy recipes that stretch out the foods of the season to last you for the days to come. Do you dry apple slices, rub them with your special spice mix and keep them for afternoon snacks all winter long? Do you make low-sugar jams and jellies? Or do you prefer pickling and brining the goods from your garden? Do you make your mother's spaghetti sauce and keep it in the freezer for those cold winter days or make batches of uniquely flavored vinegars? How about turning extra chilies into chili pepper water?

However you do it, whatever your favorite way to do it is, help the rest of us come up with new and unique ways to make the bounty last by sharing your recipes. Remember the special challenge of HotM recipes - each recipe should follow hearty-healthy eating guidelines - you can find more information here, here and here. If you've never joined us, this is a great time to start! Post your recipe on your blog and send me the permalink at phillipslayden AT gmail DOT com (or if you would like to participate and you do not have a blog, email me your picture and your recipe and I'll post it for you with the round-up). All entries will be due Sunday, September 28, by midnight (Hawaii time), and I'll post the round-up a few days later on this blog, and on the HotM blog. Thanks ahead of time for participating and I hope we'll all continue on our way to a heart healthy future together!

The Windward Heart Center
641 Kailua Road

Kailua, HI
by appointment only - Tues. or Thurs.

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Sunday, 7 September 2008

Picnics: the round-up

Picnics - it seemed like such a good idea earlier in the summer. It's been raining non-stop all over Britain, no real scope for picnics ... most of ours either called off or held uncomfortably in the car. We had one on a beach in Cornwall, involving a fire, sand - and rain. I think it's been the same all over, as entries were unusually thin on the ground ... the harvest-home theme for September seems like a much better idea.

Laurie at Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska was feeling as guilty as me about not blogging enough. She got back into the groove with this Three-Bean and Macaroni Salad with Green Olive Dressing ... and she didn't even like pasta salad or green olives until she tried what she'd made for her husband.

Jugalbandi's minty coleslaw with a vegan "mayo" doesn't need a picnic to be enjoyed ... and, anyway, leafy veg like cabbage have been doing really well in all this rain. Tofu, sesame, lemongrass - this is not your run-of-the-mill coleslaw, as you'd expect from Jugalbandi.

Katie at Thyme for Cooking made ratatouille for the picnic - because that's what you do in France. Good hot or cold, full of veg - the fresher the better. Since I started roasting vegetables, I haven't made a ratatouille, which is something I need to put right, as it's delicious. Katie consulted six recipes for this, every one of them different ... I think I'll follow her version.

Next up, Annarasa makes spinach parathas ... lovely robust picnic food, and warming on a rainy day. Annarasa's mum used to make them for her to take to school in her lunchbox.

Elizabeth at Blog from Our Kitchen made veggie burgers for meat eaters - no big lumps of veg, no tofu, optional bacon. Chickpeas, the recipe is based on falafel. She and her husband prefer them to regular hamburgers ... definitely worth a try, as I love falafel.

Michelle The Accidental Scientist has recently moved to Hawaii, where she's had picnic weather. Her first Hawaiian picnic involved a kayak, a beach - and a three bean salad, with homemade granola bars to finish.

I made a yoghurt cake. I flavoured it with rosewater syrup. Now I'd probably flavour the syrup with citrus, as, although there are still roses in my garden, it feels like a taste you'd want in high summer, when you were pretending to yourself that there would be some sunshine, some meals outside.

Apologies all round for this being so late. Let me know if I've forgotten anyone. Preserving the harvest. Michelle at The Accidental Scientist is in charge. Sunday 28 September's the deadline. xxJoanna

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