Healthy Twist

Ahhhh, summer is finally within reach. The cold days between ones drenched in sun and flower blossoms are becoming few and far between. Everybody wants to be outside, drinking lemonade or Oberon, sprawled across grass that’s never felt softer, exposing skin to the sun it hasn’t seen in quite some time. It’s like greeting an old friend, isn’t it?
But then, spring also brings finals week. Not only do we want to eat something light and refreshing, but we need to eat something that can give us a lot of energy to study all day (inside or outside). Find something else to stress out about because I have found the answer! This pasta salad will fill you up and satisfy your desire for a summer food. So pop a squat underneath that tree outside your window, bring a textbook and enjoy this salad. And your summer!

Serves Eight
Ingredients
For the dressing
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons rice or white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons dill weed
Cracked black pepper, to taste

3 cups uncooked shell pasta, medium-sized
8 asparagus spears, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 cup sliced green peppers
1/2 cup chopped green (spring) onions

Directions
To make the dressing, in a small bowl, add the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, dill weed and black pepper. Whisk to mix evenly. Set aside.
Fill a large pot 3/4 full with water and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente (tender), 10 to 12 minutes, or according to the package directions. Drain the pasta thoroughly and rinse under cold water.
In a small saucepan, cover the asparagus with water. Bring to a boil and cook only until tender-crisp, about 3 to 5 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water.
In a large bowl, add the pasta, asparagus, tomatoes, green peppers, onions and dressing. Toss to mix evenly. Cover and refrigerate. Serve chilled.

Nutritional Analysis (per serving)

Calories 179
Cholesterol 0 mg
Protein 4 g
Sodium 6 mg
Carbohydrate 24 g
Fiber 2 g
Total fat 7 g
Potassium 175 mg
Saturated fat 1 g
Calcium 17 mg
Monounsaturated fat 5 g

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Healthy Twist

Spring is finally here! You have spent months huddled in cold dorms and apartments, only braving the cold for class and the occasional party. You are ready to wear flip-flops and throw a frisbee around – even if it’s only 55 out. Unfortunately, with spring comes finals, and we’re all going to need an extra boost to keep us focused, or, more appropriately, awake. This iced espresso is not only low on calories (so you can excuse a diet consisting solely of Cheetos and Dairy Store ice cream), but it is packed with the lifeblood of finals, caffeine, and is also guaranteed to cool you down. So instead of feeling guilty for your despicable diet during finals, you can just feel guilty about not spending enough time at the library. Enjoy, and happy spring!
Courtesy of Mayo Clinic
Serves Four
Ingredients
2 cups brewed decaffeinated espresso coffee, cooled
2 tablespoons golden brown sugar
1 1/2 cups fat-free milk
2 tablespoons sugar-free almond syrup
Ice cubes
1 cup fat-free whipped topping
1 teaspoon ground espresso beans

Directions
In a pitcher, combine the espresso, brown sugar, milk and syrup. Stir to mix evenly. Refrigerate until cold.
Fill four glasses with ice cubes. Pour coffee over ice. Add 1/4 cup whipped topping to each drink and sprinkle with ground espresso beans.

Nutritional Analysis (per serving)
Calories 91
Cholesterol 2 mg
Protein 3 g
Sodium 61 mg
Carbohydrate 20 g
Fiber 0 g
Total fat 0 g
Potassium 177 mg
Saturated fat 0 g
Calcium 92 mg
Monounsaturated fat 0 g

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Logged in to Eating Disorders

When Lolita Ayvazova, 16, began throwing up her meals three years ago, she didn’t see it as a problem. “It scared me, it still does, but I didn’t consider myself to have an eating disorder because I felt healthy and very normal compared to a lot of people I read about,” she said. “I recognized that it was an eating disorder about a year ago when I started starving myself. That’s when I began to feel like a corpse.”
For both better and worse, Ayvazova is not alone. Men and women across the world are constantly affected by similar disorders. According to The Academy for Eating Disorders, at any give time, 10 percent of adolescent girls and adult women have symptoms of these eating disorders. To outsiders, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa can seem egotistical and shallow, but from the inside, it is quite different. The idea that shedding a few pounds can lead to a happy, problem-free life makes developing these bad habits seem like the thing to do.[dead]
“She starts to lose weight, frequently setting a goal that is not unreasonable,” said Kelly Klump, president of The Academy for Eating Disorders and associate professor at MSU. “When she gets there, it isn’t enough, so she sets a goal to lose more weight and wants to go lower and lower…to the point where when the individual wants to stop, it becomes incredibly difficult to do so.”
This difficulty may come from the eventual root of the eating disorder. The disease ends up being a lot more about control than it is about weight – food intake being the only thing in their lives they feel they have control over. But in reality, it isn’t so. “The disorder takes on a life of its own. In the beginning they are very much in control, but over time, they feel the eating disorder (ED) controls them,” Klump said.
Ronda Bokram, a nutritionist at Olin Health Center and an active participant in health education, is well aware of the control aspect of the disease. “It’s not about looking skinny. It’s about continued having control, or feeling like they have control,” she said. “They want to be able to continue in their behavior, they want people to not pay attention to them. It’s never really about food, or even about the weight at a certain point. It becomes their identities.” However the ED began, it becomes too much to handle. The person dealing with it can only keep pushing to keep losing.
In order to lose the weight, people can strictly ration their calorie intake each day, work out for hours, and a lot of times, try not to eat at all. With bulimia, they practice a binge and purge cycle, eating everything in sight only to vomit it out a few moments later. There are countless fad diets circulating the Web, as well as rumors and miracle products that those with EDs try to use to their advantage. Dr. David Novicki, a professor and counselor at MSU, is very familiar with the tactics. “They’re thinking, no muscle mass, no fat mass. What they don’t realize is that when the body runs out of fat and calories, it starts eating muscle,” he said. “The body will eventually consume itself, leading to death.” When left untreated, the diseases are known to be fatal. A dangerously low body fat content can also lead to a loss of menstruation, which in turn can leave to sterilization. Unfortunately, these are just a few of the side effects of anorexia and bulimia. The physical manifestations of EDs are clear and inevitable, but emotional trauma and transformation can be much more difficult to understand.
[whatisthat]”I’m really depressed and lonely and nothing matters to me in the world except losing weight,” Ayvazova said. “I think if I reach my [goal weight] my insecurities might fade away and I’ll start to do the things I want to do. I think if I was really thin, my friends and family would love and respect me more.” Through her comments and explanations, the mentality of EDs became a little clearer. “I see myself as a BIIIIG mess. I have so many flaws and my body is disgusting and I don’t think I deserve to eat,” she said. “I don’t do the things regular teens do. I can’t play sports because I faint a lot, I don’t go to dances because I’m insecure, I don’t go out to lunch with my friends because I have a food schedule. I can’t do anything.”
This view from the inside can be bleak and scary to face alone. Answering a human desire for companionship, many of these young girls frequent controversial “Pro-Ana” or “Pro-Mia” Web sites. Never heard of them? Not many have. Novicki is familiar with the Web sites and their many harmful effects. “The majority of the Pro-Ana Web sites support anorexic-type behavior by providing what they call ‘thinspiration’ and basically suggesting things that lead to a very unhealthy lifestyle,” he said. In practice, these Web sites are conglomerations of pictures, poems, songs and recipes, all intended to motivate young girls to keep up the “good work.” Visitors have to read and agree to a disclaimer before entering the site.
The most interesting and important aspect of these Web sites is the forum. With a screen-name, the girls post updates on their situations: how many calories they’ve eaten, day-by-day weight fluctuations and reactions from their friends and families. It’s a giant community with girls from all over the world; the thing they have in common is a life-ruining psychological disease. “With blogging and all of that, anyone can just have [a Pro-Ana Web site],” Bokram said. “It’s a pretty scary thing. You don’t want people to connect on that level.” When they do, they don’t just get support, they get a little bit of competition, too. When the users document their calorie intakes for the day, others take it as a challenge. “Can I beat that?” “I’m going to eat less than her.” This mentality can be magnified in a community and the disease can be seen as a sort of race.[doc]
The “thinspiration” on the Web sites can be particularly uncomfortable. Pictures of tall, impossibly thin girls stare back from the computer screen, sometimes smiling, sometimes crying – accurately displaying the exaggerated ups and downs of a lifestyle plagued with an ED. The way these girls use their “thinspiration” can be as different as the pictures themselves. “I think that varies for each person,” Klump said. “Some are going on there to see a super-skinny woman and set a goal to look like that woman, or skinnier than that person. I think what a person will take from those images depends on where they are in their illness, beginning, middle or in recovery.”
The girls who frequent these Web sites have a different outlook than the professionals. “The people I’ve met [there] are incredible,” Ayvazova said. “Personally, for me it’s a place where I can comfortably express myself and ask questions without being judged. I’ve met 12-year-old girls, teens, married women and a few guys as well. Everyone has a different story.”
Kelley Bates, 17, has made a full recovery from her EDs. “I definitely had an eating disorder; anorexia and bulimia for three years,” she said. “I went to a treatment center after graduating high school early.” She also visited the Web sites for support in the midst of her illness. “That community just really appealed to me then; I felt like I was actually sane, when in reality, we were all just equally crazy. I would visit these Web sites whenever I wanted justification for what I was doing; I wanted people to tell me what I wanted to hear. Since my family, friends, and teachers were constantly on my case about how much I was eating, I wanted to find people that would tell me that eating less than 500 calories a day was okay.”
Bates looked at the sites as helpful then, but has since had a serious change of heart. “Looking back on my visits to the Pro-Ana sites, it literally makes me feel sick,” she said. “It’s such a destructive community; the epitome of evil. If motivating people to continue to slowly kill themselves isn’t the work of the devil, then I don’t know what is.” From her first-hand experience, the Web sites promote highly destructive habits.
But not all users believe they encourage disordered eating habits. “These sites are popular because many of us are looking for the same thing and that is someone to talk to and gain support,” Ayvazova said. “Pro-Ana/Mia Web sites don’t encourage you to starve yourself or any of that nonsense. Suppressing your thoughts is frustrating and Pro-Ana communities allow you to pour your heart out to hundreds of strangers who care to listen and help you.” Ayvazova clearly believes in the positive support that can be gained from the communities.
Some professionals may even agree with Ayvazova. “Some of the Web sites can provide support for recovery, so there could be some supportive piece of the Web sites,” Klump said. “But the benefits of the communities do not outweigh the costs.” Although they may be slightly beneficial, or at least have the potential to be, it seems they cause more harm than good.
[bates]Although these sites are obviously aimed at those already dealing with an ED, is it possible that they will have a negative effect on those without an ED? Klump is adamant that just glancing at one of these sites isn’t going to make you put down your fork. “It wouldn’t cause an eating disorder,” she said. “Visiting one of the Web sites could be one of many factors leading to development of an ED. They have a significant genetic basis. The heritability is as high as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder…all of these risk factors in combo will increase your chances of developing one.” It is clear that if people are vulnerable to disordered eating, they should not visit one of these Web sites, and people with normal eating habits may walk away from a browse saddened and with a bit of body dissatisfaction, although they will not develop an ED overnight.
What is the future of girls like Ayvazova, on- or offline? As difficult as it may seem, recovery is possible, and Bates is the portrait of success. She recognizes, however, that it took a complete change in mindset. “I remember lying awake one night at [the recovery center], just praying that I would see myself in the mirror how I truly looked,” she said. “A couple of days later, I wore a purple shirt that I had worn the week before that I thought made me look obese. As I put the shirt on and looked in the mirror, I saw the most beautiful reflection staring back at me. It was really bizarre.” It wasn’t all luck and prayers. Bates said getting over her ED was the hardest thing she has ever had to do.
With recovery behind her, Bates is passionate about spreading the word about EDs and the harmful effects of Pro-Ana Web sites. She is actively sharing her story and encouraging girls she knew to get help, as well as discouraging the Web sites at every opportunity. She created a Web site to do just that. “I’ve only had this Web site available for a couple of weeks and the response has been incredible,” she said. “It’s so rewarding when someone tells me that my Web site motivated them to go to treatment, helped them to recognize that they or a friend have a problem or inspired them to feel better about themselves.”[pinthin]
Bates is not the only one that feels this way about Pro-Ana Web sites – so why do they still exist? Of course, the right to print what you want is constitutionally protected, and the Internet provides a penetrating new vehicle to get whatever you want out there. So what, if anything, can be done about Pro-Ana Web sites? “The Academy for Eating Disorders is the largest organization of ED professionals in the world,” Klump said. “Several years ago, we petitioned several Web sites to take them down, and they did.” But they aren’t just interested in removing them; they really want to change their content. “Ideally, we would partner with the individuals who host them to get them to remove negative material,” Klump said.
The controversy surrounding these Pro-Ana Web sites seems never ending. Some people rely on them, while others find them hugely harmful. Whatever your view, the Web sites are just a small issue when considering the larger problem of eating disorders and their prevalence. As impossible as they are to understand, attention is sorely needed. Just look at the girls they affect. “I cannot even imagine myself at 22 years old,” Ayvazova said. “Hopefully alive, well and thinner.”

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Healthy Twist

March is the month to celebrate the college student’s patron saint – St. Patrick. Most of use wait all year to get to the 17th, and, when it arrives it’s like Christmas (Christmas with booze instead of presents). It’s a known fact that alcohol, in any quantity, is not exactly nutritious, especially when you spend all day drinking with breaks only for pizza. In a nod to the Emerald Isle across the pond (and to your liver), top off your morning with these Caraway Scones. The low calorie count is always important, and the carbohydrates and protein content will serve you well for the rest of your morning and well into the night. Be safe, be healthy and enjoy! Cheers!
Recipe courtesy of Cooking Light magazine.

Caraway Scones
Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons stick margarine, chilled and cut into small pieces
2/3 cup 1% low-fat milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cooking spray

Preparation
Preheat oven to 400°.
Combine the first five ingredients, and cut in margarine with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Combine milk and egg; add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist (dough will be sticky).
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead four or five times. Pat dough into an eight-inch circle on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Cut dough into 12 wedges, cutting into, but not through, dough. Bake scones at 400° for 15 minutes. Serve scones warm.

Yield
12 servings

Nutritional Information
Calories 120(27 percent from fat)
Fat 3.6g (sat 0.8g, mono 1.5g, poly 1.1g)
Protein 3.2g
Cholesterol 19mg
Calcium 69mg
Sodium 144mg
Fiber 0.6g
Iron 1.2mg
Carbohydrate 18.5g

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Healthy Twist

This month brings the controversial holiday of Valentine’s Day. Some people argue it was manifested by the capitalists in charge of greeting card stores and chocolate shops, while others lament it as a reminder that not all of us have found a special someone. Still others take the opportunity to give and receive love-themed gifts from their significant others. Whatever your stance on the holiday, it is coming our way in full force. Make sure to be prepared for the chocolate and candy hearts that will thrown at us from every angle – that we have to decide to catch or not. Candy is everywhere: taking up the middle-aisle displays at the grocery store, on the counter at Sparty’s and overflowing from our friends’ pockets. Can’t quite resist a sweet treat? Try the following recipe! It will satiate your sweet tooth without breaking your calorie count for the day. The crepes recipe is also a nod to the most romantic city in the world: Paris! So, whomever you are celebrating with (yourself, your boyfriend or girlfriend or your best friends) you can make a healthy choice. Bon Appetit!

Crepes with Apple-Sour Cream Filling
Whole wheat crepes are filled with cooked apples, sour cream, cinnamon and nutmeg, then rolled up and sprinkled with powdered sugar to serve.

Crepes with Apple Sour Cream filling:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups low-fat milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon melted butter

Apple Sour Cream Filling:
2 tablespoons butter
3 medium apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup low-fat sour cream
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Powdered sugar

Method:
For crepes: Stir together flours, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Whisk in remaining ingredients until smooth. For each crepe, lightly oil an 8-inch skillet and heat over medium heat. Pour about 1/4 cup batter into skillet and rotate pan until batter covers bottom. Cook until light brown and turn and brown on other side. For Filling: Melt butter, add apples and sautee about 4 minutes. Add sugar and vanilla extract and sautee one more minute. Stir in sour cream and spices; heat through. To serve: Spoon 1/4 of the apple mixture onto each of 4 crepes, roll up and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Notes: Pears will also work well instead of apples.
Number of servings: 4 servings

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Healthy Twist

Amazingly, the holidays are over, and, whether or not you gave into the Yule Log and those cheesy potatoes, it is a new year and a new start. As campus fills again and bookstores squeeze us for cash, people will undoubtedly brave the elements in order to see friends they’ve missed for nearly a month. At these gatherings, there will definitely be food. The most considerate of hosts will scatter chips and salsa across the room, while most will suggest a late-night call to Jimmy John’s.
Take charge of the menu! Throw your own party with your own fuel, or bring a healthy alternative to the potato chips and leftover Christmas cookies. The following recipe is a healthy spin on an old favorite – it’s so good, people won’t even know they’ve cut down their calorie intake for the evening. So get together and get eating!

Crispy Potato Skins
Serves 2
Ingredients
2 medium russet potatoes
Butter-flavored cooking spray
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Wash the potatoes and pierce with a fork. Place in the oven and bake until the skins are crisp, about 1 hour.
Carefully — potatoes will be very hot — cut the potatoes in half and scoop out the pulp, leaving about 1/8 inch of the potato flesh attached to the skin. Save the pulp for another use.
Spray the inside of each potato skin with butter-flavored cooking spray. Press in the rosemary and pepper. Return the skins to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Analysis
(per serving)
Serving size: 2 potato skin halves
Calories 114; Cholesterol 0 mg
Protein 2 g; Sodium 12 mg
Carbohydrate 27 g; Fiber 4 g
Total fat 0 g; Potassium 332 mg
Saturated fat 0 g; Calcium 20 mg
Monounsaturated fat 0 g

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Healthy Twist

Around this time of the year, healthy food is the last thing on our minds. Instead, we are worried about presents, slick roads and finals, so it’s easy to give up and eat that entire tin of sugar cookies from your Aunt Myrtle.
But don’t! Keep in mind there are always ways to eat healthy – no matter the season. This month, I’ve included a recipe for eggnog shakes that will keep you in the Christmas spirit without affecting your New Year’s resolutions. In a couple of months, don’t let the ghost of Christmas Past haunt you with those extra pounds; instead, indulge intelligently! Happy Holidays!

Eggnog Shakes
Ingredients:
1-1/2 cup fat-free, sugar-free vanilla ice cream
1/2 cup fat-free milk
1 tablespoon fat-free whipped topping
Sugar substitute equivalent to 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon rum extract
1/8 teaspoon brandy extract or vanilla extract
Dash ground nutmeg

Directions:
In a blender, combine the first six ingredients; cover and process until smooth.
Pour into chilled glasses; sprinkle with nutmeg.

Yield: Makes 2 servings.
Nutrition information per serving (3/4 cup):
Calories: 163
Total Fat: 2g
Carbohydrates: 21g
Cholesterol: 9mg
Sodium: 109mg
Exchanges: 1 Starch, 1/2 Milk, 1/2 Fat

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Healthy Twist

Ah, November. The month brings the beginning of the holiday season, seamlessly transforming the candy-frenzied October into the heartwarming, family-focused December. At the end of the month, Thanksgiving is a time when families get together and celebrate by eating and drinking way too much. When you’re watching your calories, Thanksgiving is dangerous. Turkey is a lean meat full of protein, yes, but stuffing? That cheesy dish your favorite aunt makes? And pumpkin and pecan pies? These are not healthy foods. These foods will clog your arteries, put you to sleep and tighten your waistband.
Next time you’re in the mood for something in season guaranteed to warm you from the inside out, try the recipe for Pumpkin Soup below. Not only will the pumpkin flavor put you in the mood to throw on a sweater and chat with your cousin, but at only 72 calories a serving, you can afford to have a little turkey, too.

Pumpkin Soup
From the Mayo Clinic
Serves Four
Ingredients
3/4 cup water
1 small onion, chopped
1 can (8 ounces) pumpkin puree
1 cup unsalted vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup fat-free milk
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 green onion, green top only, chopped

Directions
In a large saucepan, heat 1/4 cup of the water over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about three minutes. Don’t let the onion dry out.
Add the remaining water, pumpkin, broth, cinnamon and nutmeg. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for five minutes. Stir in the milk and cook until hot. Don’t boil.
Ladle into warmed individual bowls and garnish with black pepper and green onion tops. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Analysis (per serving)
Serving size: 1 cup
Calories 72
Cholesterol 1 mg
Protein 3 g
Sodium 241 mg
Carbohydrate 12 g
Fiber 2 g
Total fat 1 g
Potassium 199 mg
Saturated fat < 1 g Calcium 78 mg Monounsaturated fat < 1 g

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Healthy Twist

It is easy to get carried away during the fall. Sweaters are cozy, the trees are pretty and those doughnuts smell so good – especially paired with a steaming cup of apple cider. Not all of us can afford to get so carried away with calorie intake, but don’t want to give up indulgence in the tastes of the season. That’s why this pumpkin hazelnut tea cake is so great! It’s totally appropriate to curl up in a fair-isle sweater next to a crackly fire with a slice. You won’t feel deprived but you won’t feel guilty either. And, if you must, go ahead with the apple cider.
Provided by the Mayo Clinic
Makes 12 Slices
Ingredients
3 tablespoons canola oil
3/4 cup homemade or canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup honey
3 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup whole-wheat (whole-meal) flour
1/2 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
2 tablespoons flaxseed
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts (filberts)
Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly coat an 8-by-4-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on low speed, beat together the canola oil, pumpkin puree, honey, brown sugar and eggs until well blended.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, flaxseed, baking powder, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and, using the electric mixer on medium speed, beat until well blended.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the hazelnuts evenly over the top and press down gently to lodge the nuts into the batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 50 to 55 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn the loaf out of the pan onto the rack and let cool completely. Cut into 12 slices to serve.
Nutritional Analysis(per serving)
Serving size: 1 slice
Calories 176
Cholesterol 35 mg
Protein 4g
Sodium 80mg
Carbohydrate 28g
Fiber 3g
Total fat 6g
Potassium 134 mg
Saturated fat 1g
Calcium 27 mg
Monounsaturated fat 3g

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Through the Struggle

During the first week of May last spring, I was busy. I took finals, turned 21 and moved out of my first apartment. With summer vacation finally within reach, you would have guessed I would be excited, relieved and looking forward to the next few months. I was exactly the opposite. My father’s radical robotic prostatectomy was taking place in the second week of May and all of us — my mother, father, brother and sister-in-law, were getting anxious.
We were anxious, yes, but my father was by far the worst. You hear the stories about families freaking out while the patient himself waits patiently and without fear. My father was neither of these things. His temper was short and he regarded the coming days with an air of a man walking to the gallows instead of to the place where his life would actually be saved. The last meal we ate at home together felt like the Last Supper, and my dad counted down the days until he had to carry around his urine in a catheter bag.
My mother and I drove him to Henry Ford Hospital on a Friday morning. Perpetually early, he saw to it that we were there a good two hours before his required check-in time. He took us to the wrong elevator while I tried to keep the atmosphere cheerful. To me, it was simple: Come here, go through your sci-fi surgery and we can all forget that cancer ever happened, and I can forget that I even knew what a prostate was. This was a necessary means to our desired end and I wanted it over with. No stalling, no apprehension — the sooner you get in the hospital and under the video game hands of the Da Vinci machine, the sooner we can all get the hell out. [silly]
Finally, the nurses took my dad back to the pre-op room for preparations. They put Dad into a cute little nightgown, an adorable little shower cap and these charming, elastic slippers. His chagrin was palpable as the hospital workers stripped him of everything — including his pride. My mother and I smiled sweetly at everyone we spoke to, determined to make my dad their favorite patient, thinking they would take extra good care of him. He tried to make jokes, but mostly they came off stale. No one was really listening to anything, anyway.
My dad’s bizarre obsession with hospital technology began here. The Da Vinci machine they were going to use is right out of Star Trek. The doctors work in front of a big-screen television and insert the cameras into the abdomen. Using the extreme close-up, they operate using cameras and video game controls entirely — a doctor’s hand never came near my father during the surgery itself.
As an engineer and a faithful viewer of “Modern Marvels,” my father couldn’t get enough of it. At every opportunity, he asked if they could show him the machine before he went under. “I find it fascinating” were his words of choice. Fascinating is no longer an adjective that I can use seriously.
My brother found us, finally, after I gave him directions to the pre-op. After we had a chance to be together, they began to wheel my father away. We kissed and hugged him, wished him good luck and assured him he would be fine. Myself, I was glad. I’d never been more relieved. They had him in their metal hands and there was nothing else I could do. They were going to remove whatever mean thing was attacking my father and I wouldn’t have to worry anymore.
The three of us went downstairs to eat lunch. We sat outside in the sun trying to talk of anything but prostates and “fascinating” machines. My brother and I plotted to steal one of the blue chairs they were handing out to hospital employees. Some of them had five, I swear. Why could we not have ONE?
We passed the next four hours and then returned to the waiting room to wait for the doctor. I read some book I don’t remember, and my mother blatantly stole a woman’s magazine (a family of thieves, no doubt.) Another hour or so passed and we were starting to get nervous. My mother was called to the front desk and returned a little embarrassed. It seemed the doctor had been to see us 30 minutes before we came back. She talked to him and exhaled. So did we, even before she told us. He was fine. He was sleeping and we could go to a different waiting room closer to him.
[family]Once we finally got into his room, he was awake, but totally drugged up. His spirits were high, just like his wooziness level. I confess — I was uneasy. Here was my father — the builder of sewers and roads, mathematician extraordinaire and pillar of strength in the family — pale, out of his mind with painkillers and tubes sticking out of him while he was flat on his back. This is not an image of my father I’m used to seeing, but his incessant teasing of the nurse relaxed us all. Had he not been floating in another dimension, he would have been as stern and humorless as usual.
In fact, he was so “happy” he felt the need to wheel his IV around the hallway in his hospital gown to pop in to the other prostatectomy post-ops to see where they’d all come from and ask them if they found the machine as “fascinating” as he had. Henry Ford is the leading prostate cancer hospital in the world, so he was expecting to find people from all over the globe. Instead, he found someone from Toledo.
As my mother and I drove the hour back home, we didn’t speak. We had been at the hospital for almost 12 hours and neither of us could express the relief we felt knowing the miserable, malevolent infection had been removed from Dad’s body. I didn’t care how hard it was to recover, it was gone. [infection]
That evening, I dragged my best friend out against her will to the bar for some numbing of the senses. We sat in the booth and, over a plate of the greasiest nachos ever created, I was thrilled to hear about boy troubles — anything that didn’t involve a life-threatening disease was peaches to me. It was over.
The next morning, we drove back to Detroit to collect my father. Today, he was more uncomfortable and complained about a dull abdominal pain. Well, yes, Dad. A robot when into your stomach and yanked out an organ that is necessary for procreation. Your body is probably not very happy with you — cancer-free or not.
Now, he was unhappy and, overnight, became the patient I knew I couldn’t be patient with. My dad never showed real discomfort. Sure, I’ve never seen someone stub his toe as much as my father, but he never experienced anything long-lasting. I couldn’t handle it. This was not — could not be — my father. If my dad wasn’t there to hoist our family on his shoulders, who would? I excused myself to the bathroom down the hall, sat on the toilet seat and cried into my palms. My universe had been totally uprooted, and nothing made sense. At the same time, my father was recovering from a semi-serious surgery, and there I was, hiding like a child and weeping out of self-pity. Nothing was right. My dad sick, and me totally selfish and ungrateful. I never wanted to see Henry Ford Hospital again.
[dad]I drove home that day. Dad was wedged into the back seat of the Pacifica with Mom next to him, asking him if he was comfortable at every mile sign. He swears I hit every pothole and crack in the road, while I maintain I drove 20 mph under and didn’t hit one.
The next few weeks passed with the same lingering confusion. I was unhappy my father was going through any pain, but I was uncomfortable in my house — and then ashamed of that. I fled to my brother and his wife’s house as an escape and thrived on the boring routine they’d constructed. I watched TV with them and played with their dog on the floor, endlessly grateful to have a catheter bag nowhere in sight.
Soon enough, my dad recovered. He insisted on lifting heavy objects (two weeks before he was supposed to) and got bored — painfully bored. He drove my mother and I crazy, but that was better than the helpless man from the weeks prior. Things went back to normal — and not as slowly as you might imagine.
Last week, my dad got the all-important blood test to check for any presence of cancer. Zero percent. ZERO. My parents had martinis in celebration, and I called my brother the next day to share with him a congratulatory hello — a hug from over the line, and an unspoken “thank you for being alive, thank you for being my brother, thank you for going through this with me.” Zero percent. Cancer-free.

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