Health & Nutrition

  • Magnesium Mania III

    Magnesium Mania III

    Roasted Mustard-Glazed Pork Tenderloin on a bed of Caramelized Fennel and Red Onion

    (Adapted from Ina Garten’s Roasted Loin of Pork with Fennel)

    Ingredients

    2 cloves garlic, minced
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper 
    1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
    1/4 cup Dijon mustard
    1 (3-pound) boneless pork loin, trimmed and tied
    2-3 small fennel bulbs, tops removed
    2 yellow onions, thickly sliced
    4 tablespoons good olive oil
    4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

    Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

    Grate the garlic, 1 tablespoon salt, and thyme leaves into a small bowl. Add the mustard. Spread the mixture over the loin of pork and allow it to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

    Meanwhile, cut the fennel bulbs in thick wedges, discarding the core. Toss the fennel and onions in a large glass-bottom pan with a generous glug of good extra virgin olive oil, melted butter, salt, and pepper to taste. Place the vegetables in a large roasting pan and cook for 20-30 minutes. Add the pork loin to the pan and continue to cook until just a teeny bit pink on the inside (about 30 minutes). Pull out of pan, let rest under foil, and put the veggies back in the oven under low broil until you get them really caramelized. Remove the strings from the meat and slice it thickly. Arrange the meat and vegetables on a platter. * For cancer patients: I always put the pork back in the oven, sliced, to make sure mine is completely cooked through - no pink!

    Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve warm.


    Now for dessert:

    I buy a flourless chocolate cake. I set it out at least 30 minutes before dinner is served, so it is the perfect, fudgy consistency. During those 30 minutes, I slice up berries and let them macerate in a very good balsamic vinegar (you can sprinkle in some good brown sugar if no enough liquid is coming out). Once a sauce has been created by the juices, I toss in some torn mint and serve alongside the cake. I do not eat this dessert of course – too many germs factors, and too much sugar it turns out (but I get so much pleasure out of the “mmms and ahhs” that I always linger at the kitchen counter.

    As far as magnesium is concerned here, I will admit there is not much. But dark chocolate does pack a punch (45 mg in 1 oz) and you can always throw in some roasted nuts and seeds if you are feeling guilty!

  • Magnesium Mania II

    Magnesium Mania II

    Ezekiel Quesadilla with Almond Butter, Sliced Bananas and Raisins

    This is by far one of the most delicious snacks I have created, and happens to be crazy high in magnesium and healthy fats. I am sure I am not the first girl to assemble this recipe, or some version of it. I make it savory too, with melted cheese, sauteed greens, nuts and seeds, topped with slices of lemony avocado... heaven....

    The crunch of the oiled tortilla, combined with the sweetness of the almond butter and bananas, topped with the chewiness of the rasisins is almost too much to bear. I could eat this for breakfast lunch or dinner.

    In a non stick skillet, toast one side of an Ezekial tortilla until crisped and golden brown. Flip. Slather on 2 tablespoons of almond butter (I prefer crunchy, but creamy is delicious too). Thinly slice enough bananas to cover the toast in a fan pattern. Sprinkle plump raisins all over the top and sink your teeth in to the hot tortilla to enjoy each chewy, crunchy, creamy sweet layer.

  • Magnesium Mania I

    Magnesium Mania I

    Spinach Salad with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, Dried Cranberries and Red Onion

    Magnesium was the one thing holding me back from coming home. After a transplant from an unrelated donor match, you must start taking an anti-rejection drug. This drug makes patients (especially women) spill magnesium. In a young person whose kidneys are working well and doing a good job of flushing, magnesium stays in your sysytem for even shorter amounts of time, sometimes just 2-3 hours for a 3-hour infusion. I believe it is imperative to supplement your daily/weekly IV magnesium infusions and daily magnesium pill intake with foods high in magnesium. Food is much kinder to your stomach than pills, and you can absorb the magnesium more completely by eating it. I truly believe that after I started eating this way, my magnesium went up (I have proof in lab reports!) and it has been stable and easy to maintain ever since these delicious foods have been incorporated into my daily diet.

    This salad is so delicious and helped me to cut back from 11 (500-mg) pills to 9 (500-mg) pills. This allowed my stomach to rest and heal as it was receiving magnesium from the source itself. Because you are still very susceptible to infection, it is important that you take certain precautions. I buy the “triple washed” packaged greens – nothing from the communal bin! – and then triple wash them again with cold water when I get home. The enemy here is not the leaf – it’s the dirt. Dirt and soil carry many bacteria, a few of which could be potentially fatal if a broad-range antibiotic for that particular form of bacteria is not available.  

    Now let’s get to cooking and get you out of that hospital bed!

    Ingredients

    4 cups freshly washed baby spinach, kale, or other dark leafy green, spun and dry

    ¼ cup (or more!) pumpkin or sunflower seeds

    ¼ dried cranberries, chopped (not from a communal bin, but pre-packaged and safe)

    1 small red onion

    Extra Virgin Olive Oil

    Champagne or White Wine Vinegar

    Fig Balsamic Vinegar (or other fruity vinegar if you’re in the mood)

    Salt and Pepper

    In a skillet, toast the seeds in a pan until golden. Take off the heat and pour onto a plate or glass bowl – not in plastic – they are too hot and will melt the container!

    Slice a red onion very thinly.

    Chop up some dried cranberries.

    Combine all of the ingredients below and then whisk together in another bowl:

    1-2 parts champagne vinegar plus a little drizzle of fruity balsamic (this cuts the acidity and mellows the flavor of the vinaigrette)

    3 parts extra virgin olive oil

    Generous amounts of salt

    Black pepper to taste

    *Please ask your doctor before consuming any kind of raw vegetable or fruit. Opinions vary across the board and each doctor will have his/her own opinion. This salad can be made into sautéed greens just as easily. Start with the onions with a little extra virgin olive oil in the pan. Pour in all ingredients and cook until lettuce is wilted and onions are translucent and a little bit caramelized.

    Toss the dressing into the salad and enjoy!

  • Breakfast of Champions

    Breakfast of Champions

    Scrambled Eggs with Avocado Toast (Serves 2)

    What I love about this breakfast is that it is exactly what I crave under normal circumstances, but I can increase the calorie intake to suit my present dietary needs by using lots of butter in the pan and adding cheese to the eggs. It is safe to eat while on the neutropenic diet (just wash the avocado and the knife thoroughly with antibacterial soap before slicing), and it has all sorts of good things for you: healthy (monounsaturated) fats and antioxidants from the avocado, as well as protein, calcium and a bunch of nutrients and vitamins from the eggs. The crunchy toast doesn’t offer much in the way of nutrition, but it is really delicious, and adds to the calorie count, which is good when you are trying to gain a few pounds!

     

    Ingredients:

    4 organic eggs

    2 ripe Hass Avocados

    2 thick slices Country Loaf or Sourdough Bread

    ¼ cup grated cheese (I like Gruyère, but you’ll have to settle for the packaged kind, not the imported kind if you are neutropenic)

    Splash of whole milk (or heavy cream for extra calories)

    1 tablespoon butter

    Squeeze of lemon

    Fleur de Sel or Maldon or other sea salt with big nice crystals

     

    Melt the buter in a non-stick pan over low heat.

    In a large bowl whisk the eggs together with the milk and salt and pepper.

    Pour the eggs into the buttered pan and stir continually with a wooden spoon (never use metal with a non-stick pan!). Stirring is the only way to cook the eggs all the way through without drying them out too much. *If you are not neutropenic, cook the eggs however you like. Add the cheese when the eggs are almost cooked, and stir to combine.

    Meanwhile, toast the bread. When it is golden brown, drizzle a little bit of good olive oil onto it. Scoop out the avocado and smash it directly into the toast with a fork. The warm bread will sort of melt the avocado and make sure it gets into every nook and cranny. Add a squeeze of lemon juice (wash your lemon as you did your avocados), sprinkle with sea salt, and if your mouth isn’t too sensitive, add some red chili flakes for some heat.

    Enjoy! 

  • The Neutropenic Niçoise

    The Neutropenic Niçoise

    Roasted Salmon Niçoise Salad (serves 4)

    Adapted from Ina Garten’s Roasted Salmon Niçoise Platter

    When your absolute neutrophil count drops, and your ability to fight infection is compromised, your doctor may put you on a neutropenic diet to protect you from bacteria found in certain foods. You will need to avoid anything raw or undercooked, and you will be very limited when it comes to fruits and vegetables. After a few days of hot soups and pasta dishes, you will start to fantasize about the crunch of fresh romaine lettuce or a crisp cucumber. This salad is what gets me through those times! Everything is cooked and safe. You can follow the recipe below and serve at room temperature, or you can prepare each component ahead of time and refrigerate until cool. This way you trick yourself into thinking you are eating a fresh salad!

     

    Ingredients:

    4 6-oz filets skin-on fresh salmon

    3 tablespoons olive oil

    1 teaspoons Dijon mustard

    1 garlic clove, crushed

    zest and juice of 1 (washed) lemon

    salt and pepper

    1 lb small Yukon gold potatoes

    3/4 lb cleaned and trimmed haricots verts

    1 pint roasted cherry tomatoes, rinsed well

    4 hard-cooked eggs

    1/2 cup pitted kalamata oilves (from a jar, not the gourmet kind you fish out of a barrel)

     

    For the vinaigrette:

    3 tablespoons champagne or white wine vinegar

    1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

    1 tablespoon lemon juice

    1/4 cup good olive oil

    salt and pepper to taste

     

    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

    Place the salmon filets into a roasting pan lined with aluminum foil. Whisk together the olive oil, mustard, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper and pour over the salmon filets to marinate for 15 minutes.

    Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in boiling water until fork tender. Drain, and set aside.

    Place the cherry tomatoes on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast until the tomatoes collapse and begin to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Remove and set aside. Now turn up the oven to 500 degrees.

    Blanch the haricots verts in a pot of salted water until cooked through, but still crisp. Immerse into an ice bath to stop the cooking and preserve the color. Drain.

    Roast the salmon for 15 minutes, or until cooked all the way through – remember undercooked fish is not safe for you. Remove and set aside to let rest for 10 minutes.

    Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper.

    Arrange the salmon, potatoes, haricots verts, roasted tomatoes, olives and eggs on a platter. Pour the vinaigrette over everything and enjoy!