Holiday Gingerbread

I’ll be honest. I can’t take pictures worth a darn. So, when I can get someone like Janet Scott from Janet Scott Photography to snap pics of some of the recipes in our new Mix cookbook, I jump at the chance. Check out what she did with the gingerbread cake.

Now, I’ll admit to having a bit of bias towards wholesome, healthy, plant based fare. It’s naturally stunning and visually appealing. But wowzers. That woman can really snap pics.


It was a fun session and I used her pics for the cover of my first cookbook, “One Simple Baking Mix, 50 Fast Recipes for Healthier Cakes, Cookies, Treats, and Main Dishes plus 24 Bonus Single Serving Recipes.” Check out the project here.

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Why eat a plant based diet?

Here’s Bizarro’s take:

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Crazy Sexy Cancer part Two

Yesterday we talked about Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Cancer claim claim that a vegan diet can cure cancer. I’ll continue today along that same vein starting with Elaine Schattner, MD, who has this to say about Carr’s form of cancer:

As told by Mireille Silcoff in the mag­azine, EHE comes roughly in two forms: one’s aggressive and one’s not. So what the oncol­ogist at Dana Farber sug­gested – that she go about her life, and “let the cancer make the first move” – was a rea­sonable strategy, one that allowed them (patient and doctor) to find out, over time, what would be the nature of her par­ticular EHE.

Carr lucked out: She has the “good EH” as Larry David might say. So far, at least, she’s enjoyed a  pro­ductive, enter­prising  life with cancer.

Interesting, eh? She closes with this:

The danger is that readers and customers/followers may believe that her current well-being is due to her lifestyle choices. And that some people with the malignant form of EHE, whose emails she may not read, struggle with feelings of inad­e­quacy and defeat.

This whole cancer adventure has been fascinating. However, I promise we’ll get back to cooking and such real soon. After all the Pub Med tells me I can possibly prevent colon cancer from returning by…

Changing your diet and lifestyle is important. Medical research suggests that low-fat and high-fiber diets may reduce your risk of colon cancer.

But note the lack of implied promises. They don’t present any vegan magic, either. Reality is rarely definitive, but this advice mirrors that of my surgeon, RD, and oncologist. It’s good enough for me so I guess we’ll keep moving forward, eh?

I’m looking forward to some great high fiber, low fat, plant based recipes. After all, the science is quite strong for this type of diet aiding heart disease. It may (or may not) prevent cancer relapse, but heck, I’ve got nothing to lose, Plus, I just love the food. 🙂

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Crazy Sexy Cancer?

In light of my recent colon cancer diagnosis, a number of readers have recommended Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Cancer books. She also has a DVD.

So, I checked out her Crazy Sexy Diet book. Endorsed by Dr. Oz (not necessarily good), Oprah Winfrey (ditto), Marianne Williamson (seriously?), Rorey Freedman (Skinny Bitch lady), as well as Glamour, I had to wonder why any of the national cancer organizations remained mum on the incredibly exciting situation.

Carr espouses a vegan diet, meditation, and exercise to keep cancer at bay. Not too controversial, but the vegan element to her claim seems to rub some people the wrong way. More specifically, it’s her implied claim that a vegan diet can cure cancer.

Bold claim, not exactly supported by science… yet. The American Cancer Society touts the benefit of a vegetarian diet in aiding cancer prevention and such, but no such claims for veganism. Which brings me back to Carr’s book.

Sitting on Amazon with 263 five star reviews and only 7 one star, it has to be a winner, right?

Well, Nellie, it’s time to hold our horses because I found a couple things.

Lisa Roney at Daily Kos has this to say:

On Carr’s website she calls her illness merely “a rare and incurable stage 4 cancer.” This sounds dire indeed and is the one and only credential that has given her the right to tell millions how to live. Yet, after the original film, we find in her work very little discussion of the cancer she has: epithelioid hemangio-endothelioma. Her focus is all on nutrition, yoga, support groups, and can-do attitude. However, H.E.A.R.D., a support group for this and other vascular cancers, notes on its webpage that, due to the variable rate of tumor growth in this cancer, “Some cases are totally asymptomatic (no adverse symptoms) for more than 15 or 20 years,” and “some cases … have been known to go into spontaneous remission.”

Hmmmm. The plot thickens.

But for her to claim that she cured her own cancer, and for her to note that, “I created the ultimate blueprint for a healthy and happy life, and I want to share my secrets with fabulous you!” is a grotesque trickery. Her blueprint for life dumbs down illness experience and panders to the desperate masses over any kind of integrity and truth-telling. In the film, her own father tells her that he caused her cancer by putting stress on her during high school. Who can take this seriously? It is magical thinking, no matter that there are even physicians, supposed men and women of science, who participate in it.

Woah. Rather harsh. What about fact checking?

The variable progression of Kris Carr’s disease has little if anything to do with whether or not someone takes up a macrobiotic diet and takes to meditating. It is simply a variation in the disease. If I can find this out with a few Google searches, why don’t the journalists and physicians who promote this woman bother? How can they not know that this woman is a sham? Or do they know and simply decide that her “positive” message is more important than what ails her or doesn’t? Why would that sort of misrepresentation seem worthwhile to them?

I found this paragraph interesting:

When Kris Carr suggests that you interview your doctor as you would someone you were hiring at your corporation, she breezes over the fact that many health care plans don’t allow such options. I’m all for patients being active participants in their own care, but those who don’t have top-of-the-line insurance and a ton of money in the bank can’t turn their cancer into a full-time “self-transformation” project.

Hehehehe… interview my docs. Truth is, I was diagnosed and the tumor was removed within 12 hours. I didn’t have time to breathe, let alone interview. They wanted the tumor out, I wanted it out, I got who I got. Luckily, I really like all my docs. 🙂

Part two with an MD’s perspective coming up tomorrow…,

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Colon Cancer Part Two

Things should be getting back to normal very soon. I’m kinda/sorta back to work, but have noticed my stamina isn’t completely back to normal. I visited my oncologist for the first time and learned a couple things about my cancer.

  1. It was very slow growing; that was a good thing. They got it all; very good. My prognosis is bright; excellent.
  2. He said the tumor was inside me for a “very long time.” This means that while I ate what’s called a “vegan” diet for six years (higher fat plant foods, some junk (i.e. Twizzlers), etc.) immediately after my husband’s heart attack, the last four years of eating a healthy plant based, heart healthy diet likely had a little to no effect on the tumor. If anything it may have slowed it down a bit, but today we don’t know. Research isn’t exactly precise concerning this.
  3. Every doc and RD I’ve spoken with has heartily endorsed this way of eating as a way of both recovering and preventing this from happening again. However, they caution nothing is 100 percent certain.
  4. I will be monitored closely for quite a while, looking for new tumor growth and such. Guess I’m my own science project.

I think this all sounds reasonable. The docs have answered many of my questions and I’m looking forward to a healthy recovery and (hopefully) a long life. I appreciate all your kind messages and am already tapping away, experimenting with some fun recipes. I’m looking forward to posting some new concoctions!

Onward and upward,

Beth 🙂

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Colon Cancer

Does a plant based diet completely protect you from colon cancer? In my experience, not necessarily.

On May 27, I went kicking and screaming to my very first colonoscopy.

I don’t know why, but for some reason I got roped into my first physical in, er, MANY years. And woof, it was a doozie. The doc knew I’m a fairly bad patient and wouldn’t be back for at least a decade so he threw the book at me. I had every test known to human kind and to my delight, all the reports were coming back stellar.

When he said I could do my colonoscopy immediately or wait. I said I’d wait. Then he said, “No problem. We’ll have to redo your physical again, but that won’t be a problem. I’m up for another round.” Then he added, “We always need a physical before we can do the colonoscopy.”

I felt hoodwinked. So, simply to avoid another useless physical, I consented to the procedure.

Having passed every prior medical test, and exceedingly cranky from the colonoscopy “prep,” the last words I said to the doc before the procedure were, “This is a waste of time. Such bullsh*t.”

When I awoke, I knew something was amiss. First, nobody offered me orange juice. They promised me orange juice (I felt famished and dehydrated). Worse yet, everyone looked at me odd. Finally the doc came out and informed me he found a large malignant mass. I was scheduled for immediate emergency surgery.

Surgery didn’t go well and they wound up slicing a huge gash into my abdomen.

The good news is all the pathology is in and tumor was literally within millimeters of breaching the large intestine and entering my abdomen. For the geeks out there, my tumor was a mild variety, stage two, “T3 N0 M0.” I will not need chemo or radiation. They got it all.

So… I spent the last few weeks hopped up on Vicodin and after three weeks am finally feeling somewhat “normal.” A couple days ago, the surgeon removed all my staples and replaced them with some lovely strips.

My belly looks like a war zone.

My point? (I always have one.)

I remember one evening in the hospital. I laid there listening to my husband snoring as he attempted to sleep on the plastic couch. My hands continually shook for no apparent reason. I pondered how the Hospitalist informed me that I’d likely experience premature menopause due to the tumor removal. Earlier that day, an infection blossomed in my wound causing continual drainage. I recently discovered I gained four pounds in 24 hours eating nothing but a couple saltines and one glass of apple juice. The words “ostomy bag” entered conversations far more often than I liked. I felt gross, imagining all the other inconveniences this new life episode would generate. I felt so depressed, I supposed surgeon removed my ability (or desire) to write when he removed the tumor. Knowing I now had two fewer feet of colon, I felt profoundly sorry for myself.

Then the nurse entered my room to take vitals and said, “Do you realize how lucky you are?” She continued, “You knew you had cancer for less than 24 hours and you’re already considered in remission. They got it all. It didn’t spread.” As she changed my bandages, she continued, “Sure, you have a nasty incision. This infection is bad, too. But you were in pretty good shape before the surgery and are making remarkable progress. You’ll get better fast. Also, can you imagine how bad you’d feel trying to recover while dealing with chemotherapy?”

A tear dripped down my cheek.

“And look at that man on the couch,” she continued, “He hasn’t left your side. You’ve got a mountain of flowers over there. You’ve got your health. You’ve got tremendous family support. You’re young. You’re the luckiest person here.”

While I didn’t really appreciate her sentiments at that particular moment, I could hang on to her words long enough to get through the next day as well as the next.

Which brings me to today.

Every doctor I spoke with, every hospital dietitian I met thoroughly supported my plant based diet. I was delighted. They praised the high fiber and said the nutrient dense composition of the food was perfect for someone in my situation. That’s pretty gratifying.

Although nobody can be sure how long this tumor was in my body, docs said my tumor would have been inoperable in two years. I would have been dead in five. I had no idea I had this thing growing in me. No symptoms. No clues. Nothing.

I may sound like a cliché here, but here’s my big point: Your health truly is your greatest wealth. While it feels like I’ve been recovering forever, I’m barely three weeks out and have resumed nearly all my normal activities. Not too bad considering I had a seven day hospital stay, a gazillion staples in my belly, and a raging e coli infection. When I left the hospital I could barely climb two steps without bursting into tears. Today I’m hobbling all over the place. 🙂

And I’m very, very thankful. I’m thankful for every reader who takes the time to stop by. I’m thankful for every person emailing telling me they’re scheduling their colonoscopy. I’m thankful for each new morning.

None of us know how many days we’re privileged to walk this planet because in one instant, your life can change forever.

Me? I’m recovering. My priorities (my Polaris, for you who have my Advice to Freelancers series) are more clear than they’ve ever been.

I suppose that’s one of the gifts I take from this experience. After all, there is a gift in every event. Sometimes you have to dig pretty deep to find it, though.

Wishing you the very best,


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Got 10k? You can go on her diet.

If you’ve got 10k to burn and a few pounds to lose, give Tanya Zuckerbtot a jingle. She’s a nutritionist who will council you to help reach your weight goals. She sees around ten clients per day and has up to 200 clients at any given time. (Do some mental math and be amazed.) From Yahoo Shine:

“So much of what we do is life coaching,” Zuckerbrot, author of “The F-Factor Diet: Discover the Secret to Permanent Weight Loss” and “The Miracle Carb Diet,” told Shine. “My job is to make sure my client feels better about themselves when they walk out than they did when they walked in.”

For your money you get a few private sessions and you’ll receive a regimen based on protein and high fiber carbs. Then you get eight half hour follow up sessions.

“Is that worth $10,000? I don’t know the answer to that,” she said. “But I feel she is someone I can go back to for years to come if I need a little bit of a cheerleading session.”

Sigh. The things people do to lose weight.


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As we age, heart related health costs go up

From Reuters: The American Heart Association estimates that costs linked to heart failure is expected to more than double in the next couple decades.

Sheesh. That’s terrible news. Worse yet, healthcare providers may not be able to keep up with demand. Why’s this happening?

And while U.S. rates of smoking and heart disease have fallen in recent years, the number of people with diabetes and obesity – both contributors to heart problems – have climbed and are cause for concern, AHA said.

The group, the leading U.S. advocacy organization for heart patients, said its analysis underscores the urgent need for doctors and nurses to focus on preventive care.

Focus on preventative care? Er… like a healthy diet? Exercise? Clean lifestyle?

They’re ringing my bell here.

Once someone develops heart failure, treatments can range from changing their diet and taking medications to surgery for an implantable pacemaker or defibrillator.

Well, now they lost me. Why not live a healthy lifestyle before you develop heart failure? Heck, plant based eating is delicious, easy, and costs less than the alternative.

While I’m glad they mention lifestyle in the article, I believe it’s unfortunate that the focus isn’t on prevention, but rather how to cope with the so-called inevitability of their prediction.


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Antibiotics and meat

If you include meat in your diet, you may want to check out this article from the New York Times:

SCIENTISTS at the Food and Drug Administration systematically monitor the meat and poultry sold in supermarkets around the country for the presence of disease-causing bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. These food products are bellwethers that tell us how bad the crisis of antibiotic resistance is getting. And they’re telling us it’s getting worse.

Woah. That’s rather alarming. How much antibiotics go to livestock?

In 2011, drugmakers sold nearly 30 million pounds of antibiotics for livestock — the largest amount yet recorded and about 80 percent of all reported antibiotic sales that year. The rest was for human health care. We don’t know much more except that, rather than healing sick animals, these drugs are often fed to animals at low levels to make them grow faster and to suppress diseases that arise because they live in dangerously close quarters on top of one another’s waste.

Eighty percent? That’s  an incredible number.

I appreciate that not every lawmaker is as convinced as I am that feeding low-dose antibiotics to animals is a recipe for disaster. But most, if not all of them, recognize that we are facing an antibiotic resistance crisis, as evidenced by last year’s bipartisan passage of a measure aimed at fighting superbugs by stimulating the development of new antibiotics that treat serious infections. Why are lawmakers so reluctant to find out how 80 percent of our antibiotics are used?

We cannot avoid tough questions because we’re afraid of the answers. Lawmakers must let the public know how the drugs they need to stay well are being used to produce cheaper meat.

This is an interesting article written by former Food and Drub Administration commissioner, David A. Kessler. Highly recommended reading.


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An ancient diet expert on the paleo diet

Interesting information.

TED Fellow Christina Warinner is an expert on ancient diets. So how much of the diet phad the “Paleo Diet” is based on an actual Paleolithic diet? The answer is not really any of it.

Dr. Christina Warinner has excavated around the world, from the Maya jungles of Belize to the Himalayan mountains of Nepal, and she is pioneering the biomolecular investigation of archaeological dental calculus (tartar) to study long-term trends in human health and diet. She is a 2012 TED Fellow, and her work has been featured in Wired UK, the Observer,, Der Freitag, and Sveriges TV. She obtained her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2010, specializing in ancient DNA analysis and paleodietary reconstruction.

I especially appreciated the last five minutes where she compared eating whole, natural foods (yay!) to processed junk, like soda. The calories ingested in just one soda equaled eating over eight feet of sugar cane. Just that description alone highlighted how a whole foods diet is a powerhouse when it comes to maintaining health.

It’s a great talk. Enjoy!

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