Sunday, January 6, 2013

Kale Chips (Curry Spice) Recipe

Four simple ingredients (3 of which you probably already have on hand) are the basis for this quick and healthful snack.

Ingredients:
kale bunch
curry powder, to taste (I used about 1 tsp. of McCormick brand)
cayenne pepper powder, to taste (I used about 0.5 tsp. of Penzeys Spices brand -- love this brand!)
~ 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

You'll Also Need:
kitchen scissors, a roasting pan with a rack

1. Preheat the oven to 275°F. Rinse and dry the kale. Use kitchen scissors (or your fingers) to separate the kale from the thick stem and cut it into chip-size pieces.

2. Drizzle with the olive oil, and sprinkle with the curry powder and cayenne.

3. Toss to coat. Spread on the rack of a roasting pan in a single layer, so the heat goes all around (bake in multiple batches if necessary). Bake for 20 minutes. (If you don't have a roasting pan with a rack, then flip the chips after 10 minutes.)

Servings: Depends on how much kale you use. I ate this entire batch myself, soo....1?

The AHH Factor: Growing up, I was a sickly child. I don't know that there was a single day that I wasn't trying to distract myself from an aching, sore throat, an upset stomach, or some other commonplace yet incredibly inconvenient ailment. My pediatrician even once joked that his prescription for me was that I move to Arizona, so I would no longer be surrounded by any plants that might be causing a sinus-inflaming reaction.

As an adult, I didn't move quite to Arizona, but I did move to California, which was far enough away from whatever plants in Georgia may have been bothering me, plus I greatly lessened my consumption of cow's milk, which I suspect may have been a contributing factor to many of my stomach problems.

So all through my 20s, I was the picture of perfect health. Whenever I had the odd ailment, I generally strived to fix it on my own, sometimes with the encouragement of my doctor, who, thankfully, is not too quick with the prescription pad. When I noticed my bad cholesterol creeping up, I started eating oatmeal every morning, and my bad cholesterol has been stable (and not in the red-flag zone) ever since. Still frustrated that my good cholesterol wasn't as high as it should be, I started exercising (generally on the treadmill or the elliptical) every morning for 20 minutes, and just a few months ago, I finally got to the minimum recommended level. And when I had a bizarre inflammation problem that a series of several doctors weren't able to pinpoint, I added turmeric to my morning oatmeal, and, like magic, the problem went away. (My primary care physician was so blown away by this that she said she was going to start recommending turmeric to her other patients.)

But just about a month ago, I was blindsided by a disease that had been lurking in my genes all of these years and that there isn't any known cure for: glaucoma.

Glaucoma is a disease in which the eye's optic nerve deteriorates slowly over time, causing sufferers to lose peripheral vision and eventually, if left untreated, all vision, leading to irreparable blindness. It's usually in conjunction with high eye pressure (that thing they check for at the optometrist's office by giving your eye a pop of air), though in my case I have normal-tension glaucoma -- which is apparently a thing, as a quick Google search told me -- which means science has no idea why my optic nerve is deteriorating even with normal eye-pressure, but research suggests that the same eye-pressure-lowering-drops used to treat standard (high-pressure) glaucoma also protect the optic nerve of people with normal-tension glaucoma.

Glaucoma usually affects older people (I always feel like the oddball at the ophthalmologist's office; it's always me waiting with a bunch of patients in their 70s and 80s) , but unfortunately it can affect people of all ages. Actually, when I first found out, I jokingly said maybe I could at least claim for myself the dubious distinction of being the youngest person ever diagnosed with glaucoma, but a few of my friends set me straight, telling me tales of people in their 20s who were diagnosed.

The worst part for me is that, at least until there is better treatment or a cure, I have to put eye drops into my eyes. Every.Single.Night....For.The.Rest.Of.My.Life. I realize that in the grand scheme of medical problems perhaps something that can be managed with eye drops isn't that big of a deal. Except that it is a big deal to me. I've been on the drops for about a month now, and I always seem to preface them with the word "stupid." 

As in, "I have to store my (stupid) eye drops in the fridge. Please don't eat them." "Did you see the cooler my (stupid) eye drops came in? It looks like someone had a kidney delivered." "I think my (stupid) eye drops spilled in my purse. Oh wait, no, that's just my SmartWater. But the water spilled all over the packaging for my (stupid) eye drops."

But then I remembered reading many years ago about a study published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology that suggested that women who ate at least one serving per month of green collards and kale decreased their chances of a glaucoma diagnosis by 69% versus women who ate less than one monthly serving. (The study, published in the June 2008 issue, also found that two servings a week of carrots lowered the risk by 64% and one weekly serving of canned or dried peaches lowered it by 47%.) And it said, while not a definitive cause-and-effect, that it's enough for doctors to encourage glaucoma patients to eat generous helpings of green collards and kale to help stave off the disease's effects.

That's all I really needed to hear. Eating kale, which is considered by many to be a "superfood" anyway, couldn't hurt, right? And it makes me feel that I am not totally helpless in the face of my poor draw in the genetic lottery. That I can do something naturally at home to help maintain my eyesight gives me some much-needed optimism.

Of course, I'm not so totally overboard with the idea of natural healing that I'm going to only eat kale and quit the eye drops. For now -- as I'm still hoping there will be a cure in my lifetime -- I'll continue taking my (stupid) drops, sitting in the waiting room with people three times my age, and donating to glaucoma research. But the only thing that is actually going to make me feel better is eating more kale.
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