Tuesday, April 15, 2008

LiveSTRONG Day 2008

I am lucky. I may be on pseudo-house arrest. I may not be able to get into my pantry. I may have the world's squeakiest brace and sound like a demented version of the tin man. I may wake up sometimes in the middle of the night with a weird pain in my knee. And I may have resolved that it's possible that this isn't my last knee surgery. But I am lucky. This is all temporary. Eventually, and it's a certainty, I will be able to ride my bicycle again. I will be able to play and jump and maybe run (I've never been very good at running). I will heal one hundred percent. I don't have cancer. My body isn't mutinying against me. I am lucky.

My mom's friend Pam wasn't so lucky. She had lung cancer and finally succumbed to it two years ago. Pam had her flaws like everyone else, but she was a pretty cool lady. She taught school, but I really have no idea what grade and what she taught. I know she loved to swim. But mostly I remember driving her to the hospital when she wasn't allowed to drive anymore and listening to her talk about how when she got better she was going to have adventures. She had this attitude up until the very end. It was pretty inspiring really. And Pam's gift to me was showing me what would happen if I didn't quit smoking. That sounds so Machiavellian of me, but it's true.

The fear of lung cancer sometimes keeps me up at night. I used to smoke. I used to smoke a LOT. Some people will tell you that I survived in college on Diet Coke and cigarettes. And pretty much I did. Cigarettes became a way for me to stop myself from saying things I would regret. Cigarettes allowed me to pause and think before I spoke. Cigarettes allowed me to step outside and take a deep breathe when I got completely stressed out. And yes, I'm not from a generation where I can claim that I didn't know they were bad for me. I didn't care that I smelled bad. I didn't care that I couldn't smell anything. I was only mildly perturbed that my teeth were starting to yellow and that I'd probably get those scary lines around my lips. I had smoked for 15 years. Half of my life. And I loved it.

Those horrible photos of blackened lungs didn't do anything to break the grip that cigarettes had on me. I was addicted. What finally did it was watching Pam. Was knowing how Pam had all these adventures left in her that she wouldn't get to take. I didn't know Pam too well. But when Pam needed rides to the hospital, I didn't feel I could say no. After all, I have had far more than my share of people driving me around because I couldn't do it myself. And in the end, I was on the receiving end of these trips. Because I had a new appreciation for Pam and her unconquerable spirit. And I will never be a smoker again. How lucky I am that I had Pam in my life!

Winosandfoodies is having a Taste of Yellow blogging event where bloggers make yellow food to show their support for LiveSTRONG Day 2008. I spent a long long time thinking of a good food to make for this event. I wanted to make something that not only was yellow, but was also appropriate. For example, Saveur magazine had a recipe on how to make butter. Butter is yellow, but it doesn't seem right for a we can beat cancer type event. It's more of a oh hell let's all get fat kind of an event food. (If there is such an event please let me know!)

So I did loads of thinking and found this recipe for delicious corn muffins studded with cranberries and walnuts. Both of which have HUGE cancer fighting properties. According to work done by Catherine Neto at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth and her colleagues, cranberries have chemicals called proanthocyanidins, which originally were thought to help prevent urinary tract infections. They have found that they inhibited the growth of human lung, colon and leukemia cells in culture without affecting healthy cells. I think that's pretty promising and you can read the whole article here. Walnuts contain an antioxidant compound called ellagic acid that supports the immune system and appears to have several anticancer properties and you can read all about walnuts here. So I think these little cancer fighting yellow muffins are perfect for this event. That and they're damn tasty too!
There will be a complete roundup of entries on May 13th here. Make sure you check it out. Last year there were 149 entries and it's been accepted by the Lance Armstrong Foundation as an official LiveSTRONG Day event. And if you'd like to see the rules for the photo contest or how to submit an entry check them out here.

Dried Cranberry Black Walnut Corn Muffins

Vegetable oil cooking spray
1 cup stone ground yellow cornmeal
1 cup unbleached white flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp white sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup black walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 egg
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup grape seed oil (or other mild vegetable oil)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray 18 muffin cups with oil. Set aside

Combine the cornmeal, flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Toss them together well, breaking up any lumps of brown sugar with your fingers. Set aside.

Combine the dried cranberries and walnuts in a small bowl. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the dry cornmeal mixture over them and toss well. Set aside.

Whisk together the egg, buttermilk and oil in a small bowl.

Pour the egg mixture into the cornmeal mixture and, working with as few strokes as possible, combine the two. When they are moistened but not quite incorporated and the batter is still far from smooth, stir in the meal dusted cranberries and nuts.

Scoop the batter into the prepared cups and bake until the muffins are golden brown, slightly crusty around the edges and test clean with a toothpick, about 15 minutes.


Barbara said...

Gorgeous muffins Mary and I love the heart shaped cases. Thanks for supporting LiveSTRONG With A Taste Of Yellow...and thank you for sharing Pam's story. Hope your knee is better soon.

Fran Z said...

mm-mmm Damn! Sign me up for the weight loss class please. These look great!

glamah16 said...

What convinced me to quit smoking( I admit I have fallen off the wagon at times for social smoking) was a image of my bathing my mother and seeing what radiation did to her skin. Her cancer was Ovarian, but the smoking accelerated things.Hey I'm heavie now, but healthier. Great entry and continue to get on the mend.

Deborah said...

Pam sounds like she was a wonderful woman!

The muffins sound delicious!

Anonymous said...

I am so glad you quit smoking. My mama died of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, which is a fancy way of saying, if lung cancer won't get you the cigarettes will win, anyway.

Cakelaw said...

Beautiful muffins Mary - I am a fan of cranberries, and teh heart shape is perfect.

Bellini Valli said...

This is the perfect recipe for the event Mary with its carciogen fighting ingredients as well:D