Fourth Anniversary

This week marks my 4th anniversary with a new kidney. Well, it's not new, my friend, T'ger, gave it to me and he would still be using it had he not been so kind. It's a humbling experience to have someone give you something that can so profoundly change your life. I am grateful every day for his wonderful gift. Thank you T'ger.

To keep my body from rejecting T'ger's kidney, I take anti-rejection drugs, and will always do so. Those, too, are lifesaving, yet, there is a downside. One of the drugs has pushed me into Type-2 diabetes, not uncommon for transplant patients. What that means is, the winter holidays are a food challenge. People like to feed me, they bring me wonderful sweets and tempting foods, all of which I normally would enjoy, but have to limit or eliminate completely.

My doctor and I decided that since I am a "borderline" diabetic, to attempt to control my sugar levels with diet, exercise and supplements including cinnamon. Getting enough exercise in the winter months isn't easy, not eating the tastier foods isn't either. I've learned that anything white is to be pretty well avoided. Potatoes, bread, rice are all 3 on the "no" list. So are fruit juices, dried fruits, and desserts. Because foods like dry beans, mushrooms of any kind, oatmeal and red wine can easily cause gout - another connection to the kidney thing, I also avoid those. (Sometimes I think the only "safe" food for me is a head of lettuce). I don't care anything about candy or soft drinks, but pie or cake is a weakness.

Diabetes is a serious disease, one in which you can lose limbs, lose eyesight, and worse. I know first hand what that is like because we were privileged to take care of our friend, Anne, who was 46 at the time, (and who owned this farm) for the last 2 years of her life. I say privileged, because she was a remarkable woman, a good friend and 3 times ran for President on the Birthday Party, (a story I'll save for another time). During Anne's last 2 years of life, she had a leg amputated, had to go on dialysis 3 times weekly and lost her eyesight. So you can understand why I take diabetes seriously.

It's tough for anyone dealing with such things, I know, and the fact I'm a serious foodie and gardener, just makes me whine from time to time. I garden to eat, I cook because I enjoy doing so, therefore, I look for ways to cope with these changes. To that end, I bought a bag of what I thought was the granulated Truvia (processed stevia herb) at Sam's Wholesale Club a few weeks ago. It turned out to be a generic label artificial sweetener in stead of the stevia herb, but I've been experimenting with desserts I can eat in moderation and learning this new ingredient.

Sams' also had fresh blackberries and blueberries on sale and I decided to make a pie. Did I say I love pie? My favorites? Cold pie and hot pie. Truthfully I like just about any kind of pie. I made the fresh berry pie, and it wasn't bad, using cup for cup of the sweet artificial stuff instead of sugar. But there's a pesky after taste that bothers me. Josh and Barbara couldn't detect it at all (or were possibly being kind), but I could.

This week we had a bag of past-their-prime bananas in the kitchen and  I felt a craving for banana bread. I typed in, "best ever banana bread recipe" on Google and got a hit. It sounded decent and the blogger promised with exclamation points that it was guaranteed to be the best ever. The blogger said it was from America's Test Kitchen t.v. website, which gave me confidence it would be good. I should have questioned the recipe because, instead of calling for, "cream the butter and sugar until fluffy" it simply said to mix those in with the other ingredients. There was a clue I missed that this wasn't the best ever!!!

I baked the banana bread and it's ok, but certainly nothing to put exclamation!!! points after. And certainly not an attractive bread, either. The texture would have been improved had I second-guessed the author and creamed the butter and (fake) sugar first. As I was eating a piece of the bread, I realized what I was actually craving was my mother's banana cake, and that I didn't especially even like banana bread.

My parents ran a small town grocery store and when bananas went bad, we had to eat them or throw them away. (That's why, to this day, I like green bananas, but can't stomach one when it's turning black around the edges). Mom made banana cake often and it was my favorite way to help get rid of the "rotten" bananas.

I went hunting for her old recipe without luck, so I tracked this one down on the web and it sounds somewhat close. Her's was always baked as a sheet cake, was very moist and had lots of bananas and walnuts, and the best part - her great brown sugar icing. Here's the recipe I found. I don't think there is such thing as artificial brown sugar, so I'll have to omit the icing.

Banana Cake
3/4 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
3 mashed, very ripe bananas
1/4 cup toasted black walnuts

Heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9 x 16 cake pan.
Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy then add the eggs and beat until fluffy. Sift the flour with the baking soda and salt. Combine the milk and mashed bananas in a separate bowl and add to the eggs and butter, alternating with the flour. Beat just until smooth. Pour batter into the cake pan and bake for about 55-60 minutes, or until done.

This month the great blue herons are building their nests in the tops of the old sycamore trees along the White River and will be laying eggs in a few weeks. The hellebores in my shade garden are just beginning to bloom and the seed catalog collection is growing larger by the day. Each day that passes is one more day closer to spring.

Oh, and here's my favorite just-seen, roadside sign this week. Have a great day.


Anonymous said...

My friend has diabetes, she bakes allot with fake sweetners, I find beside the after taste the texture of cakes and things are different too....any sugestions for that, or have you noticed that problem?

The cake recipe will be baked very soon, sounds delicious;)


mas said...


Glad you are doing fine with the kidney. I didn't know anything about the diabetes. I know now not to give you sweets when you come by the store. Hope your new recipe works out for you.

Gary said...

Jim, This is truly an anniversary worthy of celebration... Congratulations and even more congratulations on having such a dear and close friend. - G

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear your (Tger's) new kidney is liking its new home Jim. I can only empathize, it must be a constant struggle paying close attention to what you can and cannot eat.

The last time I checked, my hellebores were still asleep. I need to find other plants with winter interest. Witch Hazel is something I'm seriously considering adding to the landscape. I know there's others, do you have any suggestions?