Tummy-warming stew is as comforting as comfort food gets. Lamb or Mutton Stew with Dumplings fits the description perfectly — it’s flavorful, filling and well-balanced nutritionally with protein and veggies. DaVita renal dietitian Miriam from Arizona adapted this renal-friendly version from a traditional recipe for mutton stew.
As the perfect ending to any dinner, Miriam shares her kidney-friendly recipe for Key Lime Pie Poke Cake. Because it begins with a store-bought cake mix, it’s easy to bake up this sinful dessert. But you can forego the side order of guilt, knowing that Miriam has adapted it to fit perfectly into your renal eating plan.
Miriam did a little research before deciding on her career choice. “I spent months looking through a Dictionary of Occupational Titles, looking at the education requirements, work environment and opportunity for advancement of different jobs,” she says, adding, “I had worked various food-service jobs and enjoyed the idea of moving my participation to a professional level. Dietetics sounded like an area where I would enjoy building a career.”
Miriam has lived in many areas of the U.S. She was born in Cuba, New Mexico, and grew up in Newberg, Oregon. She left the West and headed to the Midwest for college. Miriam remembers, “I went to college in Kansas, first at the Haskell Indian Junior College, then to a four-year school. I received my bachelor’s degree in Dietetics at Kansas State University. It took me over 10 years to complete my degree, but it was worth the effort.”
Once she became a dietitian, the next step was to decide what type of dietitian to be. Miriam recalls, “I graduated with assistance from an Indian Health Service scholarship. This scholarship has a two-year service repayment portion to the agreement. I was having trouble qualifying for a position with the Indian Health Service, but I was directed to the DaVita Dialysis Company in the Four Corners Area. I had relatives in this part of the United States and that influenced my decision to move to Arizona. I was enthusiastic about working regularly with a familiar group of patients as one would see with a dialysis center. And I was able to shadow a renal dietitian during my internship, so I felt like I understood what work environment I was joining.”
Miriam says one of the challenges of her job is earning the trust of patients, so they are comfortable with telling her the truth about their diets. She has done this by understanding their culture and their foods. Miriam explains, “I come to the Navajo and the Hopi reservations with some prior knowledge of traditional Native American foods. I enjoy learning more from my patients about how traditional foods are prepared and when certain foods are appropriate for particular ceremonies. This allows the patients to talk freely about the foods they crave.”
Miriam gets great joy in learning about her patients. “Working on the Navajo and Hopi reservations allows me to learn more about each of these cultures. Being able to visit with the patients and learn about the value they place on traditional beliefs, crafts and practices is very enriching,” she says.
For Miriam, one of most rewarding aspects of being a renal dietitian is “seeing understanding dawn in the eyes of patients, their families and teammates as education is presented to them.”
Miriam believes the most important things patients can do to improve their health are “learn about their disease process and become active in learning about their care.” With this thought in mind, Miriam says the approach that works best when guiding her patients is to, “Simplify, simplify, simplify. I try to adapt their nutrition education to their level of understanding and, when needed, adapt to the language with which they are most comfortable.”
With DaVita for just over two years, Miriam says she enjoys her teammates. “I work part-time at two different units. One unit is almost 150 miles from my home. I always have to chuckle when some of the teammates will ask as I leave for the day, ‘Are you going to go all the way home tonight?’ I can never figure out what good it would do for me to go only part of the way home!” smiles Miriam.
Miriam has found much enjoyment living and working in Arizona. “I love the mesas, the canyons and the variety of terrain. I love to see the flowers change throughout the spring, summer and fall. I enjoy seeing wild mustangs come into our yard in the morning to ‘mow’ our grass,” she explains. “I enjoy the sound of people laughing as they tease each other in their native language. Some of the people still center their seasons and celebrations on traditional Native American ceremonies, dances and practices. It is fairly common for people to still live in these areas without running water or electricity.”
Lamb or Mutton Stew with Dumplings is Miriam’s version of traditional mutton stew modified for the dialysis diet. This hearty stew has a mild, succulent flavor and can get you out of a beef/chicken rut. Leftovers keep beautifully in a covered container in the refrigerator or freezer and can be reheated in the microwave for a handy meal in minutes. For dessert, consider Miriam’s captivating Key Lime Pie Poke Cake. Your family will think you spent hours in the kitchen, and only you will know that starting with a boxed cake mix cuts down on preparation time.