Own Your Health

Note: This appeared in the Sauk Valley Newspapers under the title “A Cure for What Ails You: Healthier Living”.

I work with some very dedicated and caring medical professionals and our organization as a whole has been recognized for quality care in many areas. We do our very best to fix whatever illness you might have but we should all realize that modern medicine has its limitations.

If you come to your doctor’s office or the hospital with symptoms of disease your physician will treat the symptoms according to established standards of care.  They will use medications and/or procedures to lower your blood pressure, control your blood sugar, improve your lung function, reduce your cholesterol numbers, unclog your arteries, etc., etc. Most of the medications prescribed will have unwelcome side effects and all surgical procedures come with some degree of risk. And unfortunately, these treatments do not address the underlying cause of the illness.

The top 10 causes of death in the United States are: heart disease*, cancer*, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder)*, stroke*, accidents, Alzheimer’s, diabetes*, pneumonia*, kidney disease*, and suicide. At least 7 of these (the ones with asterisks) are related to our own unhealthy behaviors.  Smoking, poor diet, and lack of physical activity are the primary contributors.

We may not like to accept the responsibility for our poor health. We’d like to blame our parents or our genetics but science is showing that what we do with our fingers (smoking), forks (eating), and feet (exercise) can turn “on” or “off” the genes that might predispose us to cancer, heart disease, and other illnesses.

As an example I refer you to the work of Dr. Dean Ornish, one of the pioneers of preventive medicine.  He has done clinical trials with heart patients and with prostate cancer patients.  In both groups he was able to show a reversal of symptoms with a lifestyle related prescription.  Patients consumed a plant based diet, participated in regular physical activity, and were taught how to manage stress.  Another very famous physician who has had great success in reversing existing heart disease is Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn of the Cleveland Clinic. I encourage you to look into their research.

While drugs and procedures can address symptoms of lifestyle related diseases, we can’t expect our illness to go away if we continue to practice unhealthy behaviors. Most importantly we should realize that we can prevent, and in some cases even reverse, most of the diseases that kill us before our time.

 

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The Last of the Tomatoes

Tomato season is definitely winding down but if you are like me you may still have a collection on your counter in various stages of ripeness.  A friend last week asked me what to do with all of her end of season tomatoes so thought I would share the same ideas with you.

  • “Fried” Green Tomatoes
  • Oven Roasted Tomatoes w/ Garlic
  • Bruschetta

“Fried” Green Tomatoes

This is the same recipe that I featured a few weeks ago as a way to cook eggplant slices.  Simply cut green tomatoes into thick slices crosswise, brush both sides with mayonnaise, and dip both sides in seasoned bread crumbs.  Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes; turning once halfway through.  Serve with a topping of marinara or you could top with the following oven roasted tomatoes.  Tomatoes on top of tomatoes.  That’s a good way to use them up!

Oven Roasted Tomatoes w/ Garlic

This is a great way to use up those overripe, bruised, and dented grape, cherry, and plum tomatoes.  I don’t grow cherry tomatoes but I rescued a bag full from the informal “Farmer’s Market” at our employee entrance a couple of weeks ago. (And by the way, thank you to whoever it is that leaves those offerings!)  You could use larger tomatoes also but I would squeeze some of the excess juice and seeds out of those before cooking.

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Wash tomatoes and cut larger ones in half.  Try to get them all about the same size.  Take a few cloves of garlic (again this is to taste – use as few or as many as you would like.)  Remove the husk from the garlic clove and slice thinly.  Spread tomatoes on oiled or foiled baking sheet and sprinkle with the garlic slices.  If you would like to add additional oil at this point you can drizzle it on and toss everything together then spread the mixture evenly over the baking sheet again.

This is not so much a recipe as a method because the quantity depends on how many tomatoes you have on hand.  Try not to crowd them too much on the baking sheet because you want them to roast and dry out a bit.

Bake in a slow oven, about 300 degrees for 60-90 minutes.  Again, this will depend on the size of your pieces but you want everything to be very soft and much of the moisture to have evaporated.  At this point you can add some salt and pepper if you want to.

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The finished product can be served immediately over things like pasta or the fried green tomato recipe above.  This week I ate the last of mine over some fresh green beans.  You can store in the refrigerator for up to one week or freeze for use in any recipes that call for sun dried tomatoes.

Bruschetta

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Bruschetta (brew-sketta) is an Italian dish that is basically toasted bread with toppings. One classic topping includes tomatoes with olive oil, vinegar, garlic and basil. It’s something I could eat every day during tomato season.  It’s also the signature dish of one of my book club friends and we force her to make it every year when it is her turn to host.

  • 1 Loaf French or Italian bread cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
  • 2-3 cloves garlic; husks removed
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes (I like plum tomatoes but you can use any variety.  Larger tomatoes should be squeezed to remove extra juice and seeds…see pic below)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup vinegar (I like balsamic or red wine)
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Chop tomatoes into bite sized pieces and combine with olive oil, vinegar, and basil.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Toast both sides of bread on grill or under broiler.  Rub one side of each slice of toasted bread with garlic cloves.  (The cloves will “melt” into the bread). Serve bread beside the tomato mixture so people can spoon it on for themselves.

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And last, but not least, you can use up those fresh tomatoes by substituting them for the canned variety in your favorite recipes.  I made this skillet baked bean recipe from The Vegan 8 last weekend that called for pureed tomatoes. The tomato you see me squeezing in the above picture got cut into pieces and zipped in my personal blender.  Voila; pureed tomatoes!

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