Sunday, July 29, 2012


Awhile ago I had heard about the book "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot.  I finally got to read it and it is a fascinating story as it reviews the science of using human cells in research and a woman's life story.  The other stories told in the book are about her children and her family and their life struggles.

This story is non-fiction and is about an African American woman, Henrietta Lacks, who had an aggressive form of cervical cancer in the early 1950's.  She died in Baltimore from complications created by this cancer.  Unbeknown to her and her family, samples of the cancer tumour were taken by her doctor to see if he could grow these cells in a laboratory environment.   In previous attempts by this doctor and others, human cells did not survive in petrie dishes and nourished by a medium, divide and keep on multiplying.  Henrietta's cells were different.

Cells from Henrietta Lacks were the first cells to survive in a petrie dish and actually flourish.  These cells were named HeLa based on her initials.  These cells were the first live cells that were successfully shipped in the mail to other researchers in the United States.  These cells were used to test the newly developed polio vaccine, the Salk vaccine.  The HeLa cells were used to test all sorts of viruses, how cells react when exposed to radiation, the effects of steroids, chemotherapy, drugs, hormones and vitamins.  Henrietta's cells were sent up in the second satellite to go up into orbit and were used to study the effects of radiation levels and when the first humans went into orbit, Henrietta's cells went with them so that researchers could study the effects of space travel.  Researchers did find in space mission after space mission in zero gravity, that the HeLa cells became more powerful and were dividing faster with each trip while noncancerous cells grew normally in orbit.  As cited in this book, when this book went to the printers in 2009, more than 60,000 scientific articles had been published about research done on the HeLa cell lines.

There are many ethical and legal questions raised in the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  Rebecca Skloot does discuss the issue of using Henrietta's cells without her knowledge or consent.  Furthermore, she elaborates on the issue of tissues being kept and stored in laboratories when you get biopsied, have moles removed, appendices or tonsils removed, and so on.  The tissues that get removed don't always get thrown out.  In a report published by the RAND Corporation in 1999, it estimated that more than 307 million tissue samples from over 178 million people were stored in the U.S. alone.  These samples come from routine medical procedures, tests, operations, clinical trials and research donations.  Research Institutes are also gathering tissue samples for mapping cancer genes.  What the issue boils down to is consent to use your tissue for research, finding out potentially damaging information about your genes and medical history and finally a pharmaceutical company making money selling drugs based on research done using your tissue samples.  Most research institutions do get consent from patients for any tissues that might be used in research but there is not always uniformity.  There are also issues about whether donors have the right to determine what kind of research they do not want their tissue samples to be used on -- nuclear weapons, abortion, racial differences, intelligence and so on.  The author reviews a number of litigation cases currently before the courts dealing with the control of tissue samples.  Issues include privacy, how your DNA is being used, gene patents and control over how the tissue samples are being used.  The opportunity for potential financial gain that might transpire from using people's tissues is also discussed at the end of this book.

The author has extensively researched this book and spent a number of years assembling information including recreating the life of Henrietta Lacks.  I enjoyed reading this book and recommend it.  In reading the life story about Henrietta Lack, I wondered if life's circumstances for her family would have turned out differently if Henrietta or her family would have been told about her cervical tissue samples being taken  at the onset and if she was white in colour instead of being black.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


I have seen kelp noodles in the grocery store, in the refrigerator section, but never bought any until today.  I stopped in at a locally owned grocery store to pick up a few things and decided to try a package.  The package was under $6.00.  These kelp noodles do not require cooking.  They are very low in carbs and calories and have zero grams of fat. They are also very low in sodium.   They are not noodles that would be added to hot dishes.  I think they are better suited for salads.

To use them, I opened up the package and placed them in a big bowl of water. I then drained what I wanted to use.  I used about 2/3 of the package and what was left was placed in a container with water and put in the fridge.

The noodles are long and stringy so I cut them using a knife into smaller pieces.  I decided to make a vegetable vietnamese salad.  I made individual salad bowls and using the noodles as the base in the bowl, I added chopped carrot, cucumber, red pepper, mushroom, and cilantro.  The dressing was similar to the dressing used in this soba noodle salad.  Instead of using lime juice in the dressing, I used rice vinegar.

Both the DH and I enjoyed the kelp noodles.  Their texture is crunchy and not soft like cooked pasta.

Packaging from the noodles

Kelp noodles draining.

Friday, July 20, 2012


While visiting with friends I was served this delicious salmon which had an almond and parsley topping.   My girlfriend provided me with the list of ingredients and I figured out the proportions.   I made a light coating for the almond and parsley topping and you could increase the amounts to make a heavier topping.

This is a wonderful recipe and both the DH and I enjoyed it.  I served the salmon with lemon wedges,  new potatoes roasted in the oven and salad.

Almond and parsley mixture. 

Mixture is spread on the salmon before baking.

Cooked and ready to be served.


2 lbs salmon fillet
dijon mustard
10 almonds, chopped
small handful of parsley, chopped
1 green onion, chopped
zest from half a lemon
juice from half a lemon
3 tbsp maple syrup


Place the salmon on a baking tray lined with parchment paper or tin foil.  If using tin foil, I spray the tin foil with Pam before placing the fillets on the pan.  Thinly spread the fillets with dijon mustard.

In a separate small bowl, combine the remainder of the ingredients.  Spread this mixture over the salmon as a topping.  Bake in the oven at 400 degrees F until cooked (25 minutes) or cook on the barbecue.  Serves four.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


The other night I wanted to make a quick and easy supper.  Using ingredients from the fridge and garden I made a simple pasta sauce.  The ingredients can vary depending on what you have in the fridge.  One ingredient that is a treat to have on hand is fresh basil.  I have three basil plants growing in the garden and with the summer heat they are growing well.

The sauce included fresh basil from the garden, onion, peppers and tomatoes.

Vegetables sauteing in the frying pan.

Ready to serve.

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small orange or yellow pepper, chopped
4 small tomatoes, coarsely chopped
handful of fresh basil, thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 pound of pasta such as spaghetti or linguine


In a medium size pot, heat water (half a pot full) to a boil.  Add the pasta to the water  and reduce the heat to medium.  Cook until al dente and then drain the pasta.  Set aside in a serving bowl.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a medium size fry pan to high heat, add the onion and garlic, reduce the heat to medium low and saute for three to four minutes.  Add the pepper and tomatoes, combine the ingredients in the pan and continue to saute for five minutes.  Add the basil and salt and pepper.  Cook for another minute and pour over the pasta in the serving bowl.  Combine and ready to serves.  Makes 4 servings.

Note: to thinly slice the basil, I take the handful of basil leaves and roll them together like a cigar.  While holding the basil leaves in one hand, I thinly slice the leaves using a serrated knife.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


I use both store bought salad dressings and ones that I make myself.  I do like tahini and the jar does last a long time in the fridge.  Tahini can be used in a variety of ways including as part of a marinade and for making hummus.  If you don't have tahini, you can substitute it with almond butter.


2 tbsp oil - olive oil or canola
4 tbsp tahini
3 tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup water
1 to 2 tbsp tamari sauce (use soy sauce if you don't have tamari)
1 tbsp red onion or green onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp maple syrup


Combine all of the ingredients in a jar with a tight lid and shake well OR use a small food processor and mix the ingredients in the food processor.  Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes before using.  You can adjust the recipe by adding more tahini, lemon juice, tamari or water.  Store in the fridge.

Adapted from

Monday, July 2, 2012


When I buy fennel I usually roast it in the oven or on the barbecue.  I decided to make a salad instead and try something different.  I liked this salad as it was fresh tasting.  For the olive oil I used both regular olive oil and lemon infused olive oil.  I really like lemon infused oil and use it in a variety of dishes.  The parsley and mint were from the garden.

Fennel sliced paper thin.

Mint and parsley washed and ready to be chopped.

Salad ready to be served.

1 fennel bulb
small handful of fresh parsley and mint
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste


Wash the fennel bulb and chopped the ends off including any fern stalks.  Slice the bulb into chunks and using a food processor, process the fennel into paper thin slices.  Add the fennel slices to a medium to large size bowl.

Chop the parsley and mint and add to the fennel.  Mix well.  Add the lemon juice, oil and salt and pepper.  Combine well. Store in the fridge until ready to serve.  Serves 4.