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Posts tagged ‘Well Community Chicago’

Afraid of Preserving Fruits & Veggies? Can it! (Article)


Attendees of the final Wise Woman Week event learned canning is nothing to fear


by Heidi Lading
Well Community Contributor

Nearly two-dozen people packed into the back room of the Peterson Garden Project Learning Center Monday night for a class on canning. The event marked the first official class to take part in the facility, which opened in April. It was also the final event of Swedish Covenant Hospital’s Wise Woman Week.

Laura Scott of Ukrainian Village said she attended the class because, “I grew up on a farm until I was ten and I wanted to get back to my roots.”

The majority of participants—whose experiences spanned the gamut of canning—admitted to being afraid of the time-honored, end-of-summer ritual either because they felt it was too complicated, or that they would do it wrong and waste the food.

LaManda Joy, the founder and president of the Peterson Garden Project, author of the gardening blog and host for the evening, reassured the women that canning is safe, fun, cost-effective and healthy.

“People are so afraid of not being perfect in today’s world and it makes me sad,” said Joy. “Canning is easy. Don’t be scared, just try it.”

After giving a brief history of canning and an overview of veggie preserving traditions, Joy passed out sample of her canned piccalilli and spicy pickles. She walked through the basics needed for canning and then had attendees participate in a demonstration on proper technique. The women took turns boiling jars, doling out the preserved foods and checking to ensure lids had sealed.

They left the event with pint- and half-pint-sized canning jars and the confidence to try canning at home.

Here are some basic how-tos on pickling from Joy, who draws most of her knowledge from her well-worn cookbook: The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich.

Basic Ingredients:

  • Whatever you’re pickling.
  • Salt. Canning & pickling salt is the best for this process. If you can’t find that, try kosher salt, but be aware that you’ll need to adjust your measurements from the recipe.
  • Vinegar. You can use various kinds, from rice vinegar, to apple cider vinegar, to Heinz Pickle Perfect, to Gruken Meister (which works great for “quickles”). As long as the vinegar has an acidity of 5% you’ll be fine.
  • Water.
  • Spices.

Basic Tools:

  • Glass jars. Can be half pint or pint in various shapes. These can be reused each season as long as the lids fit securely and there are no chips or cracks.
  • Lids. You buy these in bulk and get them new every season.
  • Rings. This is what screws onto the lid. These can also be reused each season.
  • Large mits. To protect your arms from the scalding water and hot glass.
  • Long tongs. Best when they have rubber on the tips.
  • Jar funnel. You need one that fits the size of the jar.
  • Jar lifter. To remove jars from the boiling water
  • Magnetic lid lifter. To keep lids sanitized while canning.
  • Canning rack. To sit the jars on in the boiling water.
  • Canner. Can be water, steam or pressure based. You can also use a large stockpot if you’re just starting out and want to try canning a few jars.
  • Non-reactive pot. To cook the ingredients being canned. Glass, stainless steel, ceramic, or a hard anodized aluminum, like All-Clad, will all work.
  • Jar wrench or key. To open your sealed goodies once you’re ready to eat them. It’s the bottle opener for cans.

Joy’s tips on the canning process:

First, follow whatever recipe you’ve chosen for the ingredients you are canning. You can also get creative, adding woody herbs like thyme, rosemary or sage to vegetables being canned, or star anise into jarred fruits.

Sterilize the jars by placing them in a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes. Be sure the jars are not touching each other. Remove the jars with tongs, drain the water from them, and place them on a towel or tray. Never place them on a cold countertop, or the glass could break.

Fill the jars with your delicious ingredients using your funnel. Allow for ½ inch headroom at the top of each jar. Wipe the outer rim of each jar with a hot towel to ensure all food particles are removed and the jar is clean. Lightly bang each jar down on the towel to remove any excess air bubbles. Put the lid and the ring on the jar.

Then place the filled jars back into the boiling water—you can do this one at a time—and make sure there’s enough water in the pot to cover the top of the jars. Water will evaporate as you boil, so to replace the lost water, add in water from your tea kettle. You’ll see bubbles coming out of the jar as the heat interacts with the headroom and the rubber seal. Leave the jars in the water for the length of time specified by your recipe. Make sure the jars are not touching each other while in the water.

Next, use the jar lifter to safely remove each jar and place it back on the towel or tray used before. Once you have them out of the water, listen for the metallic popping sound of the lid being secured. This may take a minute or two.

To test out if the jar is properly sealed, push down on the center of the lid. If you don’t hear a sound, you have a successfully sealed can, which can sit in your pantry from one-to-three years. If you still hear a popping sound, give in another minute to see if it sets itself. If not, place that can in the fridge and eat it within the next few weeks.

Finally—the best part—whenever you’re ready for a little bit of goodness, dive into your favorite jar of canned goods and enjoy!

The Peterson Garden Project is a volunteer organization committed to teaching people to grow their own food.

Heidi Lading is a freelance writer in Chicago.

Photo credit to Heidi Lading

Turning Taboo Topics into an Open Dialogue for Women (Article)


Three medical experts address topics most women are too embarrassed to discuss


by Heidi Lading
Well Community Contributor

You probably know people who’ve thrown out their back or pulled a hamstring, but did you know it’s possible to throw out your pelvic floor muscle?

That little nugget was one of the many fascinating facts gleamed by attendees at a Girl Talk: Shhhh! Ten Taboo Topics event on Thursday night, where participants had the opportunity to bring up health concerns they may otherwise keep to themselves. The women wrote down anonymous questions that were answered by a panel of medical experts. The event was part of Swedish Covenant Hospital’s Wise Woman Week and took place at Flourish Studios.

The discussions about pelvic health didn’t stop at muscle pulls; the women—most of whom were meeting for the first time—delved into details about incontinence, bowel control, sexual function and beyond. The evening’s panelists, women’s health physicians and specialists, fielded the questions with ease and not so much as a blush.

“It’s just like any other muscle,” said Dr. Shameem Abbasy a urogynecologist at Swedish Covenant Hospital who specializes in pelvic floor disorders. “If you injure it or have problems, like leaking urine, there are pelvic floor physical therapists who can help.”

She explained to the group that three sets of 12 Kegel exercises daily may help to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. But she warned that it is very important to work the right muscles during the exercises.

“I often see patients who are pushing and straining when doing a Kegel, and that’s not what you want to do,” Dr. Abbasy said.

For more advanced pelvic floor muscle training or help activating the right muscles, she recommended the Total Control class at Galter LifeCenter or making an appointment with a urogynecologist or pelvic floor physical therapist.

From there, the group’s conversation transitioned to digestion concerns and periods.

Dr. Kavita Singh, a gastroenterologist at Swedish Covenant Hospital, fielded questions about Celiac Disease, colonics, colonoscopies, constipation, hemorrhoids, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and functional bowel disorders. She explained that all of these conditions are very common among women and nothing to be embarrassed about.

For people worried about discomfort during a colonoscopy, she emphasized that this life-saving procedure is worth a few hours (or days) of possible cramping afterward. The procedure is an examination of the colon and the opportunity for polyps growing in the colon to be removed.

“One-third of the population makes polyps, but there are no symptoms,” she said. “You can have a large polyp in early or advanced stage cancer and never feel it.”

She recommends a first colonoscopy at age 50 unless there is a immediate family history (parent, grand-parent, or sibling) of colon cancer, in which case you should begin at age 40 or 10 years earlier than when your relative was diagnosed—whichever comes first.

Regarding the increasingly trendy colonic procedure, Dr. Singh recommended staying away from them. “I don’t recommend colonics because the body already has a natural method for cleaning itself in one specific direction.”

When asked about methods to lessen or control heavy bleeding during a period, Dr. Abbasy discussed endometrial ablation, a procedure where the uterus lining is thinned.

“It’s a good option for people who don’t want to undergo a full hysterectomy,” said Dr. Abbasy.

Treating the Mind and Changing Behaviors
With many bodily functions and concerns covered, the conversation switched to a topic that women too often ignore: mental health.

Dr. Julia Rahn, a psychologist and owner of Flourish Studios, addressed questioned about Bipolar disorder, “crazy thoughts,” depression and the therapy process.

She encourages people feeling anxious or experiencing insomnia to start with a few minutes of writing and deep breathing.

“Take a journal, don’t edit yourself, get it all out,” she said. “Most people immediately feel better once they’ve done that.”

If a person wants to explore counseling or therapy, Dr. Julia recommended looking for a therapist who will “listen and recommend changes,” and not one that insists on “telling you what to do.”

Missed the Event? No problem.
Dr. Abbasy and Dr. Singh host talks like this two-to-three times a year to grateful crowds, so watch for updates about future Taboo Topic events.

Participant Danielle Washington of Lakeview appreciated the “free forum to ask anything and not feel judged.”

Her friend Jasmine Sayeh of Lakeview said she was leaving the event with “lots of good information.”

Flourish Studios is a multi-faceted learning gallery in Lincoln Park, which motivates and prepares adults, teenagers, and children to bring about significant, self-selected life changes.

Heidi Lading is a freelance writer in Chicago. 

Photo credit to Heidi Lading

Dining & Dishing on Health in Your 50s & 60s (Article)


Well Community was an online news magazine and discussion forum specifically focused on health and wellness in several North side of Chicago neighborhoods. It ceased publication in 2014.

Dining & Dishing about Health

A Chicago family medicine physician serves up advice on women’s health issues that may arise in your 50s and 60s
Heidi Lading
Well Community Contributor
The heavy downpour on Monday night didn’t dampen anyone’s spirit at the Wise Woman Week event “My Generation Dinner: 50s & 60s” at Bread & Wine on Irving Park Road in Chicago. The event —part of Swedish Covenant Hospital’s week-long celebration of wise women— welcomed more than a dozen women in their 50s and 60s who came to socialize and listen to health advice from Dr. Nanajan Yakoub, a family medicine physician at Swedish Covenant Hospital, while dining on a three-course meal.
“Women in their early 30s to 40s are busy raising their kids and taking care of their family and their career and they forget about their health,” Dr. Yakoub said. “But their 50s is the time to really take it seriously, especially if they haven’t before.”
The Heart of the Matter
Situated at two intimate tables nestled among shelves of wine, chocolates and artisanal goodies, attendees at the event listened as Dr. Yakoub discussed the number one, two and three killers of U.S. Women: heart disease, lung cancer and breast cancer, respectively. She explained that most women tend to worry about breast cancer when they think about their health, and neglect their hearts, which are at even higher risk.
Dr. Yakoub pointed out that talk show host Rosie O’Donnell put a spotlight on heart disease —the number one killer of women— this summer when she delayed seeking medical attention for what turned out to be a heart attack. Fortunately, being vigilant about overall health is the first and the easiest step that women can take to protect their hearts.
While certain indicators of heart disease such as family history and age cannot be helped, other factors such as weight, cholesterol and Body Mass Index (BMI) are within a woman’s ability to control. A healthy woman’s BMIs should range between 18 to 24.5 kg/m2. Dr. Yakoub said a BMI of 26 may still be healthy for some women, but no higher. She also stressed that a woman’s waist measurement is more important than weight. Taller women, and women of European descent, should have a waist size of 35 inches or lower to be in the healthy range. Shorter women, and those of Latin descent, should have a waist size of 32 inches or less.
Controlling Cholesterol
To keep cholesterol in check, Dr. Yakoub recommended that women in their 50s and 60s incorporate weight-bearing exercises, like walking with small dumbbells, into their workouts. She also recommends that women keep their portions of meats, grains and nuts no larger than the size of their palm. “A handful of almonds keeps the cardiologist away,” is Dr. Yakoub’s take on the old adage about an apple a day.
Chris Ryan, 51, couldn’t agree more. During the event, she shared with the group that earlier this year she joined Galter LifeCenter and participated in the 3-month Nutrifitness program. She lost 13 pounds and 13 inches (5 from her waist) in just 90 days. Ryan said she attended the dinner event with Dr. Yakoub because despite her gains, she is still unsure about what will happen to her body as she ages and she wanted to hear from an expert. She left feeling “more hopeful and positive” and now believes, “if I keep making changes, I can feel better.”
Prevention for life
Dr. Yakoub’s last take-home point stressed the importance of preventive screenings for women age 40 and older. She informed the attendees that starting this October, Swedish Covenant Hospital will be the second hospital in Chicago, and only the third in Illinois, to offer women 3-D digital mammograms. The innovative technology provides physicians with higher quality, more detailed images to identify abnormalities or suspicious lumps, which may have been overlooked in the past. She recommended that women get a mammogram every year, as things can change quickly and the faster you can identify a possible lump, the better.
Dr. Yakoub also encouraged women to get a colonoscopy every 10 years starting at age 50, and women between age 50 and 60 should get a pap smear every three years. She said if you haven’t had any issues by age 65, you don’t need any more paps. The evening, topped off with a raffle for a gift certificate to Bread & Wine, saw women leaving with satiated appetites, increased health knowledge and the phone numbers of new found friends in their cell phones.
To make an appointment with Dr. Yakoub, call (773) 907-0978 or visit
Bread & Wine is a neighborhood American Bistro, wine bar, and wine market focused on farm to table fare. 

Heidi Lading is a freelance writer in Chicago.  Photo credit to Heidi Lading