Category Archives: Health Issues

Chocolate-on-the-Face Mousse…Guaranteed to Please

chocolate-on-the-faceWhen our kids were little, we had a secret password. Whenever someone knocked on our bedroom door, Alan would call out, “What’s the password?” If the child answered, “Chocolate on the face,” Alan would tell them they could come in, on the theory that any kid with chocolate on his (or her) face probably belonged to us.enjoying-chocolate-mousse                     Now we’re on to our next generation of chocolate lovers! baby-eating-chocolate-mousseI know I should be passing along healthy recipes for  things that are super nutritious, but given that last Tuesday was Valentine’s Day and today is Alan and my 44th anniversary, I thought it might not be too off side to share my favorite recipe for chocolate mousse, which is actually fairly healthy as far as desserts go, not to mention so elegant that people think it’s difficult to make (although it’s not, at least not the way I do it), and so delicious that kids will definitely end up with chocolate on their faces!

creamy-chocolate-mousseChocolate-on-the-Face Mousse

Boil 1/4 cup white sugar in 1/2 cup water until sugar has dissolved into syrup

Add 18 oz. chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate, but dark works well too),
1 stick of butter
, and a pinch of salt. Heat and stir until completely melted and smooth. Remove from heat.

Beat 4 eggs (yes, I use the whites and the yolks) with an electric mixer until frothy, then add  1 cup heavy whipping cream and whip until soft peaks form.

Slowly add the hot chocolate syrup in a small stream to the whipped mixture, continuing to whip everything together until it’s of one gloriously frothy, consistent texture. Immediately spoon into individual serving dishes and chill thoroughly. You can garnish with more whipping cream and shaved chocolate or fruit, but it’s pretty yummy just by itself! Also, this can be divided into 6-8 servings, depending on how much room you think people will have for dessert.

Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.
(Psalm 145:16, speaking of God)

Exalta’s Free Dental Day: The Joy of Volunteering

dental-director-explaining-free-dental-day-to-volunteers-exalta-grand-rapids-miIf any of you live in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and can’t afford dental care, exalta-healthI’d like to introduce you to Exalta Health, volunteers-at-exalta-grand-rapids-mia faith-based non-profit (largely funded by donations) x-rays-at-free-dental-day-exaltato help with health care needs for the poor and uninsured in our area. danielarmstrongOur son, Daniel, is the dental director there, briefing-for-free-dental-day-exaltaand a couple of times every year they offer a completely free dental day. full-waiting-room-at-free-dental-day-exaltaI probably should have written this post before—rather than after—free-dental-day-exalta-dental-caretheir last free day, which occurred last Friday. dr-armstrong-explains-procedures-for-free-dental-day-exalta-grand-rapids-miHowever, if you’re interested, I’ll give information at the end of the post daniel-armstrong-dental-director-exalta-grand-rapids-miso that you can call and find out about when the next free dental day will occur. visual-screening-at-free-dental-day-exalta-grand-rapids-miThe Free Dental Day includes not only dental care, free-eye-care-at-free-dental-day-exaltabut free eye exams,  triage-nurse-at-free-dental-day-exaltasome minor medical triage,chaplain-at-free-dental-day-exalta and for those who are interested, free consultation with a chaplain. president-and-advancement-director-at-exalta-grand-rapids-miExalta Health, (these two are our president and advancement director)exalta-health-dentistrywas formerly known as H.I.S. (Health Intervention Services, belonging to HIM). fatherson-team-volunteering-at-exalta-grand-rapids-miThis charity for the poor began 20 years ago, oral-surgeon-operating-exalta-grand-rapids-miand there are now professionals from over 2 dozen areas of healthcare  retired-husbandwife-dental-team-helping-at-free-dental-day-exaltawho volunteer their time and expertise dental-care-exalta-grand-rapids-mi to serve the needs of our under-served population. free-dental-day-extractions-exalta-grand-rapids-miExalta’s motto is, “Reflecting the spirit of Christ, exalta-health-staff-and-volunteersour mission is to provide compassionate, accessible health care.” secretarial-support-and-volunteer-coordinator-at-exaltaAlthough over the past few years keeping-tools-cleaned-and-packaged-exalta-grand-rapids-miI’ve had the privilege in serving in a number of different capacities, two-generations-volunteering-together-at-exalta-health-free-dental-day-2this time I was the photographer, which was super fun. patients-waiting-for-help-at-exalta-healthIt just makes me so happy to see people come in with tooth pain smiling-patients-exalta-health-careand go out with a smile and a look of relief!  consulting-on-patient-care-free-dental-day-exalta-grand-rapids-miSo, I want to encourage you in three ways:

waiting-room-at-exalta-free-dental-day*If you need help personally and live in our area,
feel free to contact Exalta Health:

https://www.exaltahealth.org/

dental-hygenists-students-from-gvsu*If you have some time to invest in caring for people in need, volunteers-waiting-for-patients-at-exalta-grand-rapids-miconsider Exalta Health as very rewarding place to volunteer. teeth-cleaning-zt-free-dental-day-exaltaThey need not only healthcare professionals and clinical support, learning-about-patients-exalta-free-dental-day-grand-rapids-mibut also volunteers who can help with general supportexalta-health-support(secretarial or maintenance skills, etc.).  volunteers-for-free-dental-day-exalta-grand-rapids-miThese were the volunteers last Friday.registration-table-for-free-dental-day-exaltaAnd, they minister to a lot of Hispanics, faithful-interpreter-at-exalta-grand-rapids-miso if you know Spanish, you’d be especially valuable! caring-for-patients-at-free-dental-day-exalta*If you live in another city but are a healthcare professional or have a heart  chaplain-serving-as-interpreter-at-exalta-healthto help the poor, look around and see what you can find in your area. oral-surgeon-helping-free-dental-day-exaltaIf there’s nothing available now, volunteer-at-exalta-healthmaybe you could be the impetus to begin something.  listening-to-orientation-for-free-dental-day-exalta-grand-rapids-miIt is such a blessing to be a part of helping others in need!  🙂exalta-volunteersIn all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said,
‘It is more blessed to give than to receive
.’” (Acts 20:35, ESV) preparing-for-dental-treatment-at-exalta-grand-rapids-miFor the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor,
and to thy needy, in thy land
” (Deuteronomy 15:11, KJV). preparing-patient-for-x-rays-exalta-healthWe who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (Romans 15:1, ESV). dr-armstrong-working-with-a-patient-at-exalta-healthAnd we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14, ESV).

An Avocado Boat of Ideas, Especially Fantastic Guacamole with an Orange Twist

avocadosAvocados (also known as “alligator pears” because of their rough, green skin and elongated shape) have won their way up from southern Mexico to America, where their consumption rate has more than tripled in the last 15 years! salad-pine-nuts-guacamoleAlthough technically a fruit (and they are used in fruit smoothies and as flavored milkshakes in some countries), their most common use in America and Mexico is in guacamole, used as a dip with tortilla chips or as a flavorful topping on various dishes. Because of their high fat content, avocados are sometimes used as a meat replacement in vegetarian dishes, although they are not high in protein. (They are high in fiber, however: Half an avocado is about 130 calories and will provide 20% of your daily fiber need.) tossed-salad-with-avocadoAvocados are also used as a garnish, eaten plain as a healthy snack (way better for you than a doughnut!), and are a common additive in vegetable salads, where they are especially useful in providing necessary oil for proper vitamin absorption. If you’re not familiar with avocados, please try them! fruit-bowlChoose firm, green ones with no dents or dark spots but are the least bit giving if you touch them. Keep them on the counter until they are slightly soft (not dark), and then use them immediately or store them in the refrigerator (Ideally, no more than a week). avocado-pit-being-removedTo use, cut lengthwise, and then take the pit out by stabbing with a knife and twisting gently. The California Avocado Commission recommends the “nick and peel” method of slicing the avocado into length-wise, quarter-inch slices and peeling like a banana. avoocado-sliced-in-halfI prefer to use a spoon and scrape off the entire inside lining, which is richest in carotenoid antioxidants. (However, this doesn’t produce the best looking bites, so if you want fresh slices, use the CAC’s method). discoloration-of-avocado-exposed-to-airAvocado does discolor quickly when exposed to air, so either serve it immediately after cutting or protect it with a little citrus juice and plastic wrap. (The first time this happened to me, I thought I must have cut my finger…)avocado-boat-with-ahi-tunaOne clever, simple entrée is to fill half an avocado with shredded meat (chicken breast, tuna, etc.). ahi-tuna-and-avocado-boatI also enjoy them as a simple side dish, known as an avocado boat (best by far with salt and lime juice). Just for the record (studies funded by avocado growers, of course), it’s been found that people who eat avocados tend to be healthier and have less heart disease. (I sometimes wonder if such studies are confounded by the economic status/social class of those studied, as avocados aren’t exactly cheap. [I always wait and buy them on sale.])

At any rate, I want to pass along my all-time favorite recipe for guacamole. Alan and I first fell in love with guacamole when it was made table-side at a little Mexican restaurant along San Antonio’s River Walk, and then we fell in love again in San Diego’s Gaslamp District last year. However, once when we were out of limes, my son Joel altered my recipe (gathered from watching these “bests” being made), and I think his is actually better than the best!

Fantastic Guacamole with an Orange Twist

guacamole-01-17-171 entire orange, peeled and cubed (this is the difference; everybody else uses fresh, squeezed lime juice, which ends up with a thicker guacamole but doesn’t taste as amazing) garlic-cloves1 cup cherry tomatoes cubed
2 garlic cloves peeled and pressed (worth the bother, so don’t substitute garlic powder unless you can’t afford fresh, although you can substitute both garlic and onion powder as needed)
guacamole-with-orange-garlilc-onion-and-tomato1 onion finely chopped
2 avocados peeled and well mashed
Salt (preferably coarse-ground seasalt) and pepper to taste (start light and add)avocado-into-guacamoleThe result is so flavorful that I could eat a bowl for lunch (and have been known to do so). However you serve them, though, I hope you enjoy avocados!

 “Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food. So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.” (Daniel 1:11-16) (I’m not a vegetarian, but I do believe in the high value of a largely vegetable and fruit diet with less meat, diary, and grain products.)

P.S.—Although I sometimes add avocado to omelets (just enough to heat through at the end), I’ve read that cooking avocados not only destroys the vitamins but can actually be toxic for some people. Also, guacamole can be frozen, but slices don’t freeze well, so enjoy them fresh!

P.S.S.—Got a favorite way of using avocados? Please share with us!

A Few of My Favorite Birds (36): The Vulture Culture Experience…Really?!

zimbabwe-african-christmas-tree-vulturesEver hear of an African Christmas tree? This is what it looks like.vultures-in-african-christmas-treeDozens of vultures roosting in a dead tree,
just waiting for some dead meat for lunch. vultures-fighting-over-food-zimbabwe-africaDoesn’t sound very pretty, does it? And…who likes vultures, anyway? vulture-high-on-a-snag-chobe-national-parkAren’t they sort of the offscourings of the world? the-vulture-culture-experience-at-victoria-falls-safari-lodgeWell, all that changed for me when we went to Africa
and discovered that vultures have gotten a bad rap. vulture-in-flight-african-birdsThey are so universally considered disreputable that they have been mistreated until they’re the world’s #1 endangered species.the-vulture-culture-experience-at-victoria-falls-safari-lodge-information I had no clue. vultures-in-zimbabwe-11-8-16Furthermore, they are an important part of our ecosystem,
serving as the world’s morticians and garbage collectors.vultures-and-bonesPolishing off carcasses ASAP helps prevent diseases from spreading.vultures-drinking-water-chobe-national-park-11-10-16 So fierce has been their persecution and demise that I’ve had a change of heart toward them, and they’re now on my “favorite birds” list. vultures-gather-in-dead-tree-zimbabwe-afrcian-safari-lodgeLet me tell you about our vulture culture experience.vultures-eating-lunch-at-the-victoria-falls-safari-lodge-zimbabweEver hear of a restaurant that caters to vultures by serving free carcasses?  victoria-falls-safari-lodgeWell, neither had I until we stayed at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge
in Zimbabwe, victoria-falls-wildlife-trust-vulture-restaurant-11-7-16where they have started working with Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust
to help save vultures from extinction. watching-the-vulture-culture-experience-at-the-african-safari-lodgeEvery day at 1:00 pm they serve up yummy carcasses
at their “Vulture Restaurant.”debris-blowing-in-wind-zimbabwe It was very windy the day we watched, but pretty soon the debris and leaves vultures-gathering-overhead-in-zimbabwegave way to the air being filled with circling vultures, vultures-coming-for-lunchwho knew it was almost time for some claw-licking’ good fine dinin’.vulture-culture-experience-zimbabweA few minutes before 1:00, the waiter arrived with a load of gourmet delights.vultures-wait-for-food-at-victoria-falls-safari-lodgeI was surprised at how politely the vultures awaited their luncheon party. vultures-getting-ready-for-lunch-zimbabweAs the crowd grew, there was definitely an electric feeling…great expectations!vulture-restaurant-victoria-falls-safari-lodgeGet on your mark, get set…vulture-feeding-frenzy-victoria-falls-lodge-zimbabweGooooooo!!!vultures-eating-meatA feeding frenzy followed for about fifteen minutes,vultures-with-marabou-storks-and-wart-hogs-eatingreplete with party crashers, in particular some gangly marabou storkswart-hogs-join-the-vulture-culture-partyand a couple of Pumba’s cousins…totally muddied warthogs.vulture-culture-experience-africaIf you’ll forgive the comparison…we humans can be a little like vultures. vultures-circling-in-skySometimes it’s easier to live off others
than it is to work hard providing for ourselves.vulturesSome people become very unpopular and develop bad reputations.serving-meat-at-the-vulture-culture-experienceI am thankful that God is a kind Father who provides for all who will come. warthogs-feasting-with-vultures-africaHe doesn’t turn anyone away…no matter how awkward, dirty or ugly we are!vultures-eating-at-victoria-falls-safari-lodgeFurthermore, He encourages us to do the same for those who need our help.

victoria-falls-safari-lodge-vulture-restaurantBut I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45).

Reflections On The Devil’s Pool: Did The Devil Make Me Do It?

victoria-falls-from-zimbabwe-national-parkAs one who taught life saving and served as a water safety instructor for ten years,  and as one who swims around our little lake most days during the summers, I thought we’d do okay at the Devil’s Pool. team-on-livingstone-island-preparing-for-devils-poolAlan wasn’t going to go at all, but he did sign up at the last minute—mostly in hopes of keeping me from drowning, I think. We did survive, but after thinking it over, I personally feel that the adrenaline rush and excitement wasn’t worth the risk to life, limb, and health. Here are my reasons:

view-of-hippos-on-zambezi-river-from-royal-livingstone-hotel-zambia1. We had to swim in the Zambezi River,
where I’d seen hippos and crocodiles upstream.warning-about-the-danger-of-the-devils-pool-zambia2. Even though there had been a twenty-year drought and we visited just before the rainy season began, there were all kinds of safety issues. zambezi-river-on-way-to-devils-pool-victoria-falls3. There was a definite current to negotiate. rocky-path-to-the-devils-pool-victoria-falls4. We had to walk on somewhat slippery rocks to reach the river. starting-across-the-zambezi-river-to-livingstone-island5. We had to feel our way over slippery rocks under the water
for part of the time. swimming-to-the-devils-pool-victoria-falls6. We also had to swim upstream (up river) for a short distance.sitting-atop-victoria-falls-zambia 7. Logs or other debris could have hit us at any time. basking-in-the-devils-pool8. Fish nibbled at our feet and made us all jumpy. current-in-the-devils-pool-zambia9. One false move could have sent one of us over the edge. top-of-victoria-falls-at-the-devils-pool10. The rock ledge, though sturdy, will doubtless one day give way. devils-poo-victoria-fallsMay it not happen when anybody’s nearby!
(That was the #1 reason our tour guide didn’t want to try it.)

basking-in-the-devils-pool-victoria-falls11. Last, but perhaps most importantly (and I didn’t know this until we were having dinner  a week ago with some friends who do medical mission work in Africa), the Zambezi River is known to have a strain of parasitic Schistosomiasis which is a common in Sub-saharan Africa and can be lethal if not treated. There are some 200 million people affected world wide, half of whom live in Africa. Since learning this, I’ve made an appointment with my doctor for testing.  So, to answer my question: Did the Devil Make Me Do It? No. I chose to do it. Was it a wise choice? I don’t think so. Would I do it again? No. Did I pray about it? Yes. Why didn’t God tell me not to go? I’m not sure. I think sometimes God allows us to do things that aren’t wise, just like a parent allows his child to do things that the parent knows are risky. I do believe in God’s divine will (which cannot be altered) and His permissive will (which allows us freedom of choice). I prayed and didn’t get a clear “No,” so I went. And, as with all unwise decisions, there may be consequences I didn’t consider when I made my choice. In future, I think I want a clear “Yes” before making decisions, not just a “You may!”

Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him” (Proverbs 26:12)

Forks over Knives

forks-over-knivesOne of my health-conscious friends
introduced me to Forks over Knives last time she visited.

thomas-edison-quoteIt’s a documentary from 2011 that explores the potential for people to improve their health through choosing a vegetable-based rather than meat-based diet. In fact, Lee Fulkerson (the director) is so passionate about his research that you can now watch the entire ninety-six-minute movie online, apparently for free. (We used Netflix.)prostate-cancer-in-japanAlan and I watched Forks over Knives with interest, and I think they make some very compelling arguments for eating more vegetables and less meat. prostate-cancer-in-u-s                                When worded that way, I doubt anyone would disagree. cancer-cells-growingTo become a vegetarian is more extreme than most of us are likely to go, but the movie makes a powerful case for lethal links between processed and meat-based foods with various cancers, heart conditions, and other diseases.cancer-cells You might think it cruel to discuss such a movie during the holidays (or that I have no right to talk having shared a couple of recipes for candies lately), and I don’t mean to be a curmudgeon, but as the year draws to a close and we reflect on what we might change in 2017, I think improving our diet is always one worthy goal. Lizzie said that she and her husband haven’t become vegetarians, although they’re trying to be “flexitarians”…using meat now and then rather than as a staple of their diet. Her husband mentioned that he’s been trying to eat whole grains and veggies for breakfast and lunch and then allowing himself some (smaller) portions of meat with dinner.

consumption-of-sugar-chartHowever we slice it, the typical American diet laced with sweeteners,
fatty and fast foods is not healthy! growth-in-use-of-refined-products-in-u-s

I don’t know if you make New Year’s resolutions, but on the eve of 2016, this might be a good time for all of us to take stock and reinvigorate our menus with more veggie-based dishes for 2017. I’m definitely attempting this, and if you have any vegetable recipes you especially enjoy, I’ll try them if you’ll share them with us. Thanks! (P.S.—Forks over Knives also publishes a cook book and has other resources available online.)

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.  One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.” (Romans 14:1-3, ESV)

Sunday Dinner in a Roaster

pork-roast-in-a-potOnce Thanksgiving is past and winter sets in, do you struggle with what to prepare for Sunday dinner? While I was in Africa, our guide (Dutch/German heritage) said his favorite Sunday dinner was a beef pot roast. What do you know? That’s my oldest son’s favorite too, so maybe westerners the world around love their Sunday pot roast. However, to switch things up a little, in our family, another treat is a German-style, seasoned pork roast with potatoes, onions, and apples sprinkled with cinnamon. roaster-full-of-veggies-and-meatTo pump up the veggies, you could add a layer of red cabbage and acorn squash on top. Pour in a cup of water, pop in the oven, and let it bake while you’re at church for a couple of hours at 350°F. sunday-dinner-from-the-roasterWe love sauerkraut, so I heat some up after we get home, add a little salt and pepper, butter, sour cream, and brown sugar (for the acorn squash), and presto! A great meal with lots of flavor and very little prep!

If you’ve found other roast/veggie/fruit combos that you enjoy, I’d appreciate your sharing ideas in the comment box. My kids have noticed that many of their friends don’t know how to cook, so that’s inspired me to share a few basic ideas for the young adults of the world who are now fending for themselves. Thanks!

The eyes of all wait upon thee;
and thou givest them their meat in due season
” (Psalm 145:15).