chickenblue

Image:  cooking-with-us.com

Did you know that 1.25 billion pounds of chicken wings are expected to be gobbled up on Super Bowl Sunday by Americans? (Source: The National Chicken Council) WOWZA! That’s a lot of chicken! If you are worried about calories during your Super Bowl Party and are looking for something less fattening, the wings in this recipe are for you. They are baked-not fried-to cut the fat. They are easy to make and sooooo good.

Dip

  • 4 oz. crumbled blue cheese
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp. garlic powder
  • Salt and Pepper

Wings

  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup hot sauce (such as Frank’s Red Hot)
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. spicy brown mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 3 lbs. chicken wings, tips removed, wings separated at joints

Make dip:  In a bowl, combine blue cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, lemon juice and garlic powder, stirring well. Season with salt and pepper.  Cover and chill for 2 hours.

Make wings:  Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil.  Place a large cooling rack on top of sheet, mist with cooking spray. In a small pan, combine ketchup, vinegar, hot sauce, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, sugar and butter.  Cook over low heat, stirring, until well combined and smooth.  Pour into a bowl and let cool.  Pour ¼ cup of sauce into a small bowl; toss wings with ½ cup sauce until coated.  Place wings on rack.  Roast for 10 minutes, then brush with more sauce.  Roast 10 minutes longer; brush with more sauce.  Turn wings over, brush with sauce and roast 10 minutes. Brush with more sauce and roast for a final 10 minutes.  Remove wings to a large bowl and toss with reserved sauce.  Serve with blue cheese dip on the side.

 

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relaxation

Image:  worksmartlivesmart.com>/sup>

I know that it will not come as a surprise when I say that cancer and its treatment can be stressful for people with cancer and their caregivers. Understatement of the decade, I’d say.  When I was sick, for the first time in my life, I started using relaxation techniques and other mind/body practices to help calm my mind and sharpen my ability to focus. I had never used them before but loved them so much that I have carried them into my life after cancer.  The way I see it, ANYTHING that I/we can do to reduce stress (caused by cancer or just life in general!) is a Shining Moment.

Here are some techniques that can help you cope with the challenges of cancer*:

Breathing Exercises

At the core of life is breath. Anxiety and stress can make us take short, shallow breaths. Shallow breathing, which does not allow enough oxygen to enter our bodies, can make us even more anxious. Deep breathing is calming, energizing and restorative. Laughing and sighing are the body’s natural ways of getting us to breathe deeply.

Try this four-step breathing exercise anywhere, anytime:

1. Take in a deep breath from your diaphragm (this is the muscle between your lungs and abdomen).
2. Hold the breath for several seconds—however long is comfortable for you—and then exhale slowly.
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 two more times.
4. Afterward, relax for a moment and let yourself feel the experience of being calm

Meditation

Just this year, I started meditating. It has made a humongous difference in my life. Three types of meditation include:

  1. repetitive prayers are a form of meditation
  2. one-pointed meditation
  3. two-pointed meditation.

One-pointed meditation focuses on a word or sound called a mantra. Many people create their own mantra from an affirming word, such as “peace,” “love” or “hope.” Once you choose a mantra, find a safe, quiet place and repeat it to yourself during 15- to 20-minute sittings. The goal is to relax the mind, which has a natural tendency to jump from one idea to the next—and from one worry to the next. Do not try to force your mind back to your mantra when you notice it has wandered. Simply guide it back gently, accepting that it may stray again. My mind still bounces around – sometimes like a racquetball game – but I patiently guide myself back to my mantra.

Two-pointed meditation is also called mindful or insight meditation. With this technique, you relax your mind by focusing on your breath. As your mind jumps around, practice non-judgmental awareness—simply observe the pattern of your thoughts and gently guide them back to focus on your breath. Non-judgmental awareness allows you to separate yourself from emotions and sensations rather than getting pulled into them. One benefit of this type of meditation is that you can practice it while seated quietly or when doing daily activities. I happen to love this one!

Guided Imagery

When I was in the bottomless pit of chemo despair, an amazing psychologist introduced me to guided imagery. This stress-reducing technique combines deep breathing and meditation. As you practice deep breathing, imagine a peaceful scene or setting, perhaps from a memory. Once you are relaxed, you can create a “wakeful dream” in which, for example, you envision pain being washed away or your body becoming stronger.

Many people practice guided imagery exercises while listening to recordings of ambient sounds. These are usually music or sounds from nature, such as waterfalls or ocean waves. Sometimes just listening to ambient sounds is enough to relax your mind and briefly transport you emotionally to a place in which you feel safer and more secure. One of the biggest Silver Linings of guided imagery is that it often enabled me to go into a deep and wonderful sleep!

Other mind/body practices are yoga, tai chi, and Qigong. These techniques are often taught at cancer centers, health clubs, YMCA’s and senior centers around the country. Be sure to ask your health care team about them!  Oh and another Shining Moment is that they are often FREE!

* Adapted from the great site Cancer Care

 

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bundles of joy

Image: nypost.com

I L.O.V.E. these mini bagel bites filled with different cream cheeses from a little shop in New York City’s West Village. The best combo? A pretzel bagel filled with mustard and sharp Cheddar cream cheese. O.M.G. It reminds me of my Philly roots! You can purchase them in a variety pack, too. I think they make such a great hostess gift for brunch. Check them out at bantambagels.com ($36 for 36 bagels in six flavors).

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before during after

Image: germancancertreatments.com

Boy, oh boy, was my calendar packed with doctor appointments during my treatment phase. As I look back in my calendar, I not only had my chemo sessions penned in, but I also had additional appointments with an array of doctors. I don’t know how I found the time to throw some big arse adventures into the mix! Although each session of my chemotherapy, lasted approximately 2 to 3 hours, I also had to endure scans, blood work, and infusions during, in between or after chemo. Did you know there are many different ways to determine whether the chemotherapy is working, including (from breastcancer.org):

  • Blood cell counts are done before each chemotherapy infusion and typically measure:
    • White blood cells, which function as the immune system cells that defend the body against foreign substances and “invaders.” If a person has a low white blood cell count, then there is a   higher risk of getting an infection. For this reason, I tried staying away from bowling alleys and coughing kid’s for the duration of my chemotherapy.
    • Red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. In addition to measuring the number of red blood cells, a test will be done to measure the level of hemoglobin, an iron-rich protein found in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. (When you have low hemoglobin levels, a condition called anemia can result.) Another test will measure the hematocrit level, which is the fraction of whole blood volume that consists of red blood cells.
    • Platelets, which are cells that help the blood form clots to prevent bleeding

Bone scans

  • A bone scan, also called bone scintigraphy, is an imaging test used to determine whether breast cancer has traveled to the bones. (Mine did not!) Bone scans are typically ordered:
  • at initial diagnosis (I had one), to make sure bones are healthy, as well as to create a set of “baseline images” that could be compared to any future bone scans that are done
  • during and after treatment, if you experience persistent bone and joint pain, or if a blood test suggests the possibility that the breast cancer has traveled to the bones

Chest X-rays, or X-rays of other parts of the body

  • Before beginning treatment for invasive breast cancer, chest x-rays are ordered to see whether the cancer has spread to the lungs. The test also may be used to assess the heart and lungs before receiving general anesthesia or chemotherapy. (I had this before surgery and was all clear-YEAH!)
  • During treatment for breast cancer, chest x-rays may be used in the following situations:
  • If a person has advanced breast cancer that has spread to the lungs, a chest x-ray is used to check on how the disease is responding to treatment.
  • For people who develop a fever during chemotherapy, chest x-rays are used to check for the presence of pneumonia.
  • If a person experiences new shortness of breath in the first few months after radiation therapy, with or without a cough, her doctor may order a chest x-ray to see if the radiation caused any inflammation of the lungs.

MRI or magnetic resonance imaging, is a technology that uses magnets and radio waves to produce detailed cross-sectional images of the inside of the body. MRI is used to monitor for recurrence after treatment

CT (CAT) scans: A CT scan (also called a CAT scan, or computerized tomography scan) is an x-ray technique that gives information about the body’s internal organs in 2-dimensional slices, or cross-sections. During a CT scan, a person lies on a (non-claustrophobic!!!) moving table and pass through a doughnut-shaped machine that takes x-rays of the body from many different angles. A computer puts these x-rays together to created detailed pictures of the inside of the body. Before the test, a person has a contrast solution (dye) injected into the arm through an intravenous line. Because the dye can affect the kidneys, your doctor may perform kidney function tests before giving you the contrast solution.

PET scans can be useful for evaluating people after breast cancer has already been diagnosed, in a number of different ways:

  • to determine whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes (mine did not spread to the sentinal node)
  • to determine whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, and if so, where (metastatic breast cancer).  Let’s hope not!
  • to assess whether metastatic breast cancer is responding to treatment

I can’t believe I endured all of this, but I did. I learned that it’s very important to be fully engaged in the healing process, while simultaneously continuing to GROW, LIVE, and have as much FUN as possible: SM (Shining Moment).

 

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bakedflounder

Image:  allyou.com 

I was over a friend’s house the other night for dinner and was served this delicious dish. It was so FAB, I thought I would share it with you.

  • 4 6oz. flounder fillets
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 Tbsp. drained and rinsed capers

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Lightly mist with cooking spray a baking dish just large enough to hold fish in a single layer.  Place fillets in baking dish; season with salt and pepper.  Whisk olive oil, lemon juice and garlic in a small bowl; drizzle over fish.  Bake until flounder is cooked through and no longer translucent, 7 to 10 minutes.

While fish is cooking, melt butter in a small pan until foamy.  Stir in tarragon and capers.  With a spatula, move cooked fish to plates. Spoon butter sauce on top and serve.

Enjoy!

 

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shiningmoment

Image:Ted.com

Last month – speaking about Autism at a conference – was stressful. I drove my friend’s crazy with my all-consuming stress. One of my friend’s said to me, “We’ve got to do something about this stress.  It’s too much!”

Now the Shining Moment was that I ended up having a great time and met some amazing people. Phew.

But this whole stress-business really got me thinking.  Lo and behold, a good friend sent me this TED talk by Kelly McGonial on “How to Make Stress Your Friend”!  What incredible timing.

She is a health psychologist with a mission to make people happier and healthier. She confesses that something that she has been teaching the last 10 years is doing more harm than good. You see, for years she has told people that stress makes you sick. She turned stress into the enemy. However, she describes new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. HUH. How ’bout that?

So she asked, “Can changing the way you think about stress make you healthier?” YES is the answer.  She goes on to say, “When you change your mind about stress you can change your body’s reaction to stress.” I’m so loving this…

So, her goal has changed from eliminating stress to making people “better at stress.” She now urges people to see stress as a positive. In fact, reveals a surprising mechanism for stress reduction: reaching out to others.

One of my friends told me to “use the stress as energy. Transform it to help you.” And you know what?  It worked! Though I still need to work on corralling the stress, the Shining Moment is that I now know (& believe!) that it can be done!

 

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oscarde

Image: Popcrunch.com

Fashion icon Oscar de la Renta, 82, died on October 20 of complications related to cancer.  Initially diagnosed in 2006, de la Renta continued to work during hos bouts with intermittent cancer. He built his couture empire over several decades, dressing socialites, first ladies and Hollywood celebrities.  In February 2014, he staged a Designed for a Cure fashion event to raise money for the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center in Miami, where he had received treatment for his own disease.  During the runway event, his high-end fashion was modeled by patients, survivors and their physicians. Beautiful.

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zzzs

Image: Pixgood.com

I’m thrilled beyond belief to report that for the first time in six years (yes, it’s been that long), I have slept eight hours in a row three nights…in a ROW.  I can hardly contain how happy I am. I mean beyond belief happy. I feel like a completely new person. It’s as if by going to sleep, I am actually waking up for the first time in a long, long, lonnnnnnng time. I’m going to relish every, single second of glorious, wondrous, beautiful (Shining Moment) sleep!

There are a lot of health benefits, by the way, to sleeping. As it turns out, sleeping is seriously good for us!  Here are my top 5 benefits of sleeping:

  1. Reduce stress- When your body is sleep deficient, it goes into a state of stress. The body’s functions are put on high alert which causes an increase in blood pressure and a production of stress hormones. Higher blood pressure increases your risk for heart attacks and strokes. The stress hormones also, unfortunately, make it harder for you to sleep.
  2. Reduce Inflammation & Repair the Body - The increase in stress hormones raises the level of inflammation in our body, also creating more risk for heart-related conditions, as well as cancer and diabetes. In terms of repair, while sleeping our body produces extra protein molecules while that help strengthen our ability to fight infection and stay healthy.
  3. Improve Memory- While our body may be resting, our brain is busy processing the day, making connections between events, sensory input, feelings and memories. Dreams and deep sleep are an important time for our brain to make memories and links. Getting more quality sleep will help us remember and process things better.
  4. Improve Creativity - In addition to consolidating memories, or making them stronger, our brain appears to reorganize and restructure them, which may result in more creativity as well. Researchers have found that people seem to strengthen the emotional components of a memory during sleep, which may help spur the creative process.
  5. Maintain a healthy weight- Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same sectors of the brain. Researchers have found that people who sleep less than seven hours per night are more likely to be overweight or obese. It is thought that the lack of sleep impacts the balance of hormones in the body that affect appetite. The hormones ghrelin and leptin, important for the regulation of appetite, have been found to be disrupted by lack of sleep.

And because I’m ALL about SLEEP and feeling quite rested (WTF is that, I’ve been wondering for the past six years!), I thought I’d share with you my top 5 tips for getting myself to bed on time:

  1. First things first: give yourself a specific bedtime. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep every night, so take a look at your wake-up time, and work backward.
  2. Don’t wait until you feel sleepy to think “Hey, maybe it’s about time for bed.” It’s all too easy to keep yourself alert and busy way past the time that you should be asleep.
  3. Stay away from the internet for at least an hour before your bedtime. Television, too, but I think the internet is even more apt to make me feel artificially wide awake. I used to try to go through my emails one last time before bed, to get a jump on the morning, but I realized that this stimulating activity made it much harder to go to sleep.
  4. Don’t drink caffeine for several hours before your bedtime or even better, not at ALL!  Even drinking it in the morning can make a big difference in nighttime sleep
  5. Get ready before bed well ahead of time. I have been known to put on my jammies right after dinner. Not the sexiest look (well, sometimes I try), but getting ready for bed early helps guide me in the right direction.
  6. Create a bedtime ritual, and do it at the same time every night. Maybe you fix yourself a cup of herbal tea, maybe you read in bed, maybe you do an evening tidy-up. By doing the same thing every night, you will cue yourself to start heading to bed.

Wishing you some very, very sweet, Shining Moment dreams!

 

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Mircales start to happen when you give as much energy to your dreams as you do your fears. - Richard Wilkins

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split pea hummus

Image:  Southernliving.com

Wanna add some flavor to your hummus? This easy-peasy recipe contains 5 grams of protein per serving. Not only does it have protein, but it is absolutely full of deliciousness. You can definitely embrace the variety of vegetables with this recipe, too. And, it makes 9 ¼ cup servings!

  • 1 cup dried split peas
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ½ teaspoon salt, divided
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin

Sort and wash peas.  Bring garlic and 3 cups water to a boil in medium saucepan.  Add peas; return to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes.  Stir in ¼ tsp. salt; cook 15 minutes or until tender. Drain.

Combine peas, olive oil, next 2 ingredients, and remaining ¼ tsp. salt in a food processor; pulse 5 to 7 times or until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides as needed.  Serve at room temperature.

Deliciousness!

 

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