What Do You Do When Life Hits You And Doctors Fail You?

It’s been a while since I posted any recipes. The last recipe I posted was the Orecchiette with salmon, edamame and beurre blanc sauce in April. Soo many things have happened since then that I don’t even bother documenting here as I really wanted to keep going with my recipes and be more of an encouragement to others with IBS to think outside the box and try different things to cook.

Since then, due to stress, my IBS got worse and my gastritis which I got as a gift from my previous job (also due to stress) got worse to the point where I couldn’t have any citrus items, like oranges, lime, lemons or anything with acid like tomatoes, regular coffee, Chocolate etc…

As many know, when you have stress your body can start to break down. You get aches and pains and other issues you never had before. When you have a chronic illness, the stress makes those issues even worse. When those health issues get worse, right on cue, anxiety, more stress and maybe depression knock on your door. Then my papa’s Alzheimer’s was advancing, causing a mountain of anxiety because of the uncertainty of what the day would bring. What mood would he be in? He wasn’t usually aggressive, just spurts here and there, but he would sleep a lot more and when we tried to keep him awake he would get irritated understandably. He knew who we were but didn’t remember our names anymore nor what day or time it was among a few of the many thing this damn disease stole from him. While I work from home, that guilty feeling of spending a limited amount of quality time due to work killed me. All the stress left me with was the inability to focus on two things at once. I had to have quiet in order to make sure all the details of what I was doing workwise were accurate. He would come to me and show me what he colored and I’d say GOOD JOB PAPA! but when asked to color with him at times I’d say, I’m sorry Papa, I have to work. I knew in my heart I’d regret the time I didn’t spend with him but I didn’t think he would leave us the way he did.

My beautiful Papa still joked, dance, ate a LOT as he had a great appetite which many didn’t believe when he was at the hospital nor the arrogant nurse from home hospice, but he did. He walked with pain due to his knee but he sprinted down the hallway when he was with his walker. My dear papa died 3 weeks after going into the hospital for Urosepsis due to MD’s who JUST DON”T LISTEN. While I will not go into as it is too painful to write about and gutting to remember. What I will say is he passed away at home with us and smiled one last time before he took his last breath.

After this, my stomach got soo bad, I couldn’t take my vitamins anymore as they upset my stomach, my nausea was at an all time high all the time and I stopped drinking rice milk, oat milk, almond milk couldn’t eat avocados anymore and nothing with Citric Acid which apparently a TON of things have…and well…the list gets longer. I could only eat, bread, water, eggs, bananas and half a cup of espresso (since it has less acid and only in the morning). Maybe some chicken, with only herbs, no spices at all and that’s about it. I was also going to the bathroom all the time. Basically I had to stop grieving for my papa because it made me worse. I tried to juice things like kale, carrots, mangoes, peaches with a horrible result as my stomach was tolerating nothing.

I took a webinar for tapping thanks to a friend and that helped stopped me from crying when i had the urge but i still needed to grieve and needed to check the state of my intestines as the pain and worry of whether or not my intestines and my esophagus were eroded from the acid I kept producing. Fast forward to October 27th when I had to drink colonoscopy liquid prep that made me feel pains in my side but I did it and had both an endoscopy and colonoscopy done on October 28th. After the procedure the doctor told me he saw nothing bad other than the mild gastritis I have as well as inflammation in my intestines and in 2 weeks he’d give me the full results.

The 2 weeks I was waiting were horrible. My intestines felt worse than before the procedure and I waited 1 week to do yoga and afterward I had horrible pains and knife like cramps. The acid reflux was front and center and while I was hungry, I had panic attacks when I ate due to the pain I know I’d get afterward all this pain wiping me out and making me utterly exhausted.

I went to the doctors office and he told me, aside from the gastritis he mentioned before, I had mild esophagitis but said it will not turn to cancer when I asked because I had googled a LOT beforehand and asked questions. I told him what can I do, is there anything else that can be checked or that this can be since I cannot eat what i used to and I’m can’t build muscle if I’m no feeding my body what it needs. The visit was a big “I have no answers other than it’s stress” No treatments for the inflammation or urgency to find out how to get rid of the inflammation or even concern that he was leaving me with inflamed intestines and no answers. I told him the pain when i exercised, my inability to tolerate vitamins and I got crickets. I’ll admit I am a WORRIER and very nervous patient with stuff like this, but I am also someone who wants answers so I can get better. Not pills that will mask the issue. Antispasmodics were prescribed but they have a ton of side effects and are not a cure. He is a patient doctor, friendly and comforting when you are worried before those procedures, but he seemed rushed and I felt like maybe he’s just annoyed to have someone like me peppering him with questions. I felt worse and cried for hours after I left the doctor’s office. No answers is worse as you are starting again from square one. I am saving money for alternative remedies and holistic doctors but it’s gonna take time to save up enough for more than just a consultation.

My acupuncturist who is a saint is the only one willing to help but I am struggling as well to keep going as the bills are mounting. So for now, I am doing what I can and that has been doing Transcendental Meditation again which helped me before when I was able to do it twice a day. I have been able to do DDP Yoga a bit more and yoga for IBS maybe 1 a week. Thanksgiving was brutal with the empty seat at the table this year as it was just me, my brother and mom. Our tears flowed as we prayed beforehand and this Christmas season has started and the tears continue as the pain in our hearts is still very dominant. The 3 of us have stuck together and my cousin has come by to visit us when we have needed her and that makes a world of difference but I still feel alone.

I have also started watching Chris Hemsworth’s series Limitless to see what things he is doing to reduce stress and maybe live a little longer. One thing I saw was the cold water technique which is funny as I saw something similar from actor Neil Jackson who posted technique he found to help his brother and himself with depression. He explains in his Instagram that’s he does this for 5 minutes, but I tried it in 2020 when I found his post for 10 to 20 to 30 seconds and will be trying this again working up to at least 30 seconds which was recommended in the Limitless episode. Maybe this will also help my digestive issues? Doesn’t hurt to try this one. **Make sure you check with your doctor first of course before doing this or anything else if you have a medical condition**

Right now it’s learning to live without my papa while also trying to heal, fight my depression and not leave my mom alone. Make sure I’m with her as she lost her love of 52 + years.

Right now I guess I’m writing all this as a way of releasing some of that pain. A Lot of guilt I felt has faded after speaking with a good friend of mine who got me back into crystals and happens to be a nurse with plenty of experience with dementia patients and that talk we had helped immensely. Talking things out does help and while that’s another thing I cannot afford, I have been lucky to have my friend reach out when I needed it badly. I have also deactivated temporarily my main social media accounts to disconnect from that and not have others message me to
“CHEER UP”,
“It could be worse”
“Be grateful for what you have”,
“Other’s have it worse than you”
or my favorite: “You need to stop being soo negative, you can choose to be happy” advice which when you are depressed is NOT helpful.

Another I have found comfort is at Idontmind.com . I have used their texting service which helped me immensely in some super dark days. Text IDM to 741741 to reach a trained Crisis Counselor at Crisis Text Line or go to their website for other resources.

I truly hope to heal where I can start cooking and baking again. I can still have espresso biscotti so that’s something! But I mean imagine someone who went to pastry school and loves to cook and bake but can’t eat chocolate or taste what she cooks anymore? My 1st love and passion was cooking and I hope I can do that again as well as get certified to teach yoga, tai chi to help others with IBS, help others with mobility issues or aches and pains like I have as well as help older folks with dementia, move and live a better quality of life.

Orecchiette with salmon, edamame and beurre blanc sauce

First off I must say I had been searching for something different to cook as my options on what to eat have significantly changed due to stress induced gastritis in addition to my IBS (lovely). My increased stomach issues along with a total loss of inspiration and motivation that came with everything that’s has been going on in my life has made cooking new dishes a challenge.

I have even gotten subscriptions to some food magazines, in hopes to light that fire again…ignite my passion to be in the kitchen. Now thanks to perusing those magazines, I am inspired to look online as well and in doing so I found a recipe that had me screaming Julia Child did that!!!! In the movie Julie and Julia, Julia told her sister who came to visit that she was going to make her a special dish with Beurre Blanc which is butter in a white wine vinegar reduction. She described it as the acid of the vinegar works on the milk solids in the butter when you whisk them to create, this creamy, frothy, tangy sauce. So I jumped at the chance to attempt this. The original recipe is was found on Delicious.com: It was Orecchiette with hot-smoked salmon, peas and beurre blanc sauce.

Now keeping my diet in mind, I already had to find a substitute for the onion or shallot needed for the sauce. There are plenty if options but many in the onion family, so I decided to choose celery as my substitute. While I do miss the taste of onions, scallions, etc… The celery was not a bad substitute at all.

*CAVEAT* One word of caution for my fellow gastritis sufferers. This dish was perfect due to the salmon and pasta absorbing most of the liquid. However, I tried my hand again with a different dish where the sauce was plentiful and it was NOT a good night for me. If you are sensitive to acidic liquids or food, I would go very light (use 1/4 white wine vinegar or opt for a vinegar with low acidity and use it in a dish you have to mix well as opposed to a dish where you pour the sauce over. OR opt for another sauce altogether. Now back to the recipe. I hope you enjoy my take on the recipe from Delicious.com:

Orecchiette with salmon, edamame and beurre blanc sauce

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
FOR THE SALMON:
1 pound of fresh salmon fillet (make sure the bones have been removed)
1 tablespoon of olive oil or grapeseed oil to cook the salmon
1 tbls of dijon mustard
1 tsp of instant espresso (espresso has a low acid content, but you may omit and add spices you like ex coriander, cumin)
1 tbls chopped fresh mint
1 tbls chopped fresh parsley
1 tbls chopped fresh tarragon
1 tbls chopped fresh thyme
25 basil leaves julienne (to be added last)
1 box of orecchiette dried pasta
1 bag of frozen edamame

FOR THE BEURRE BLANC:
1/3 cup white wine
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
12 tbls of chilled unsalted butter, cubed
⅓ cup heavy cream

Cook the pasta according to the directions, drain and set aside.

Cook the edamame for about 5 minutes in boiling water, drain and put in a big bowl.

Mix the herbs, mustard and espresso in a bowl and then coat the top of the salmon with the mixture. In a hot pan drizzle a little bit of grape seed or olive oil, then place the salmon skin side down and cook until golden brown on 1 side, about 4-5 minutes. Turn the salmon over with a spatula, and cook until it feels firm to the touch and the skin is crisp if desired, about 4 minutes more.  Let the salmon cool for a few minutes and shred the salmon

In a small 1 or 2qt pot, add the white wine vinegar and celery. Cook until the liquid has reduced about 4 minutes on medium low heat. Add the cubed butter 1 by 1 whisking constantly and adding new pieces of butter before previous ones have completely liquefied (the sauce should maintain consistency of hollandaise) Now add the cream and whisk. Take off the heat.

In a bowl add the shredded salmon, edamame, pasta, julienne basil and beurre blanc and mix well.

Bacon, Spinach and Tomato Pasta

I love a good BLT sandwich. The delicious saltiness of the bacon paired with the freshness of a crunchy few pieces of lettuce and juiciness of a tomato stuffed in between two slices of bread. MMM! Sooo, with that in mind, I decided to make a pasta with some of the same ingredients.

For this recipe, you can use whatever pasta you like. I chose farfalle and instead of regular bacon I opted for turkey bacon and spinach. I have to say YUMMMMAROOO!!! Best part is this is just another recipe that is quick and easy to make and can be eaten warm or cold as I found out when I got hungry later in the evening!

BST PASTA – serves 4

INGREDIENTS

1bx farfalle pasta (or any pasta you desire cooked al dente
1 package of turkey bacon cooked and diced

4 cups of spinach
4 sprigs of fresh tarragon (leaves only finely chopped)
2 Tbl of chopped parsley
¼ cup of white wine
1 cup of chicken broth
5 plum tomatoes diced
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp of thyme
1 Tbl of flour
½ tsp of dijon mustard
1 Tbl of lime zest
1 Tbl of balsamic vinegar
2 Tbl of olive oil

DIRECTIONS

Cook the pasta until al dente about 8 minutes. Drain and place in a large bowl.

In a pan cook the turkey bacon according to the package. Usually 4 minutes total turning them over a few times to cook evenly, dice them up and add them to the bowl with the pasta.

Add the olive oil to a pan and then add the spinach, tomato, balsamic vinegar, zest, dijon mustard, coriander, thyme, tarragon, parsley, white wine and 3/4 cup of chicken broth. Cook until the tomato has softened and the spinach has wilted, about 3 minutes. In a small bowl add the remaining chicken broth and flour and stir with a whisk well and add to the pan to thicken the sauce a bit. Cook for another 2 minutes and pour contents of pan into the large bowl, mix well and serve.



Mango Honey Tarragon Shrimp over Rice

In wanting to eat a bit healthier, I am trying to turn to fish. It definitely has made my wallet a LOT lighter, but I needed to try a different protein other than chicken. Also, I want to experiment on what dish and spices to use when cooking fish. In this case, I purchased 2lbs of medium shrimp (about $18.00) and decided to cook them sans the pasta opting to serve it over rice. This recipe is quick, easy and oh soo good!!!

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

2lbs of fresh shelled medium shrimp deveined
1/3 cup of Mango Vinegar
1 Tbl instant espresso
1 Tbl honey
1 Tbl olive oil
1Tbl Tamari sauce (I use kikkoman gluten-free brand)
1 Tbl coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 Tbl fresh chopped tarragon *1
1 Nectarine finely diced*2
Salt to taste
Unsalted pre-cooked white rice (Instant white rice can also be used)

DIRECTIONS

In a small bowl, add the vinegar, honey, olive oil, tamari and all spices and mix with a whisk. Pour the flavoring over the shrimp and let it sit for 10minutes.

In a large pan add the shrimp and the juices and cook until done. About 8 to 9 minutes.

Serve over the pre-cooked rice.

REVISION Corner:

*1- You can use dry tarragon about 1 teaspoon

2*- You can use a sweet fuji or gala apple when the nectarines aren’t in season

SUMMER PASTA

Sometimes in life you get blocked. No inspiration, no motivation, no passion for a lot of things you use to have passion for. Sometimes you may just need a day or two to unwind, time for yourself or an overdue vacation. While a vacation has not been in the cards for years for me and definitely not for many people these days, a little bit of quiet time at home or even at the park early in the morning to take the sun in can really help boost your mood and spark a little bit of inspiration. For me, things have been very chaotic. A roller coaster that won’t stop and a steep plunge into depression city. Cooking has always been a source of escape. A love and passion I have had for years. So what do you do when that passion has all but died? Watch some cooking shows on TV online! I have finally found some inspiration again with the little time I have so I have been watching a few like the Pioneer Woman, Goop cooking videos, Chopped, Chef Ramsay and my favorite Rachel Khoo. CUE Pharrell’s “Happy” song!!!!!!

I got into that kitchen today and I put together this pasta salad inspired by the Pioneer Woman’s Primavera Pasta Salad which I of course change to make my own and let me tell you, it was GOOD! What inspires you?

Give this recipe a try and let me know what you think!

Ingredients

1 box of Rotini pasta 

5 tablespoons cup mayonnaise 

1 teaspoon of dijon mustard

1/3 cup half and half plus more if needed 

2 1/2 tablespoons of sour cream 

2 tablespoon basil chopped finely or in a chiffonade

1 tablespoon of Coriander

1 teaspoon of Cumin

3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan 

1/2 cup of Havarti cheese*1

1 bag of frozen edamame 

1 package of baby portobello mushrooms sliced

1/4 cup of sliced black olives

1/3 cup of green olives

1 red pepper diced

1 cucumber chopped

1 package of cooked bacon *2


 

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the Rotini pasta and cook until al dente about 10 minutes. Drain put in a large bowl.
  2. Season the In a large pan, add a drizzle of olive oil, then add the mushrooms, edamame, red pepper, black and green olives and spices and cook for about 8 minutes. Then add the basil, parmesan and havarti cheese, half and half and mustard and cook another 3 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Now add all this to the bowl with the pasta along with bacon and mayonnaise and stir until well combined.
  3. Can be served warm or cold.

*REVISION CORNER
*1 Instead of bacon you can use one package of turkey bacon or one package of Canadian bacon
*2 Instead of Havarti Cheese, you can use any other cheese that melts well. IE Mozzarella, Edam, Italian Fontina

Brussel Sprouts and Mushrooms Gratin

Writers experience writers block sometimes and they do whatever they can do help unblock their creative blip. They go for a walk, sleep on it, write anything or go to a bookstore for inspiration.

For anyone who loves to cook, however, what can you do for inspiration to create a new dish? There are many options. Scour the internet for recipes, look at whatever food magazines you have or go to a bookstore and purchase a few or flip through the. Or just watch some cooking shows on TV or Youtube. For me personally, cooking shows do it for me. I have been hooked on watching The Greatest British Baking show on Netflix. I was giddy after watching the first few episodes of Season 11 and now I’m taking my time to watch all seasons. I don’t know why they call these people “home bakers” They are anything but that in my book. From their signature dishes to showstopper pieces and technical challenge creations, these contestants were AMAZING! All the pastries both savory and sweet had dreaming of what to make and reminiscing of my days in pastry school and the restaurant.

For the first time since in years I have been coming up with a few new dishes or doing the necessary tweaking of previous recipes for my sensitive stomach for the past month!!!

In this case, I decided to make Brussel Sprouts Gratin as a side dish with my Mac and Cheese. Since regular bacon is a bit heavy lately for my gastritis suffering stomach, I decided to try Turkey Bacon for this dish. HOLY FOWL this was delicious!!! For me or anyone with digestive issues, a few pieces of these go a long way, you can omit them. However, if you don’t have a sensitive belly, then ENJOY the big pieces of bacon along with the fiber rich mini cabbages!!!!

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, cleaned and trimmed
  • 1 package of baby portabello mushrooms cleaned, diced
  • 4 slices turkey bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • ½ cup half and half
  • ¼ cup gluten free bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup grated Edam Cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into tiny pieces
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1 tsp of grapeseed oil to cook the turkey bacon
  • Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  • In a large pan, add 1tsp of grapeseed oil and cook the turkey bacon over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until browned, about 4-5 minutes. Set aside.
  • Clean, remove the stem and dice the baby portabello mushrooms.
  • Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook uncovered until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain in a colander, then immediately immerse in ice water for several minutes until cold to stop the cooking process. Once the Brussels sprouts are cold, drain well, and cut in halves or quarters, depending on size.
  • In a bowl put the Brussel sprouts, mushrooms spices, half and half and mix well.
  • Arrange the turkey bacon, Brussels sprouts and mushrooms on the baking dish, then sprinkle the breadcrumbs and Edam cheese on top. Distribute pieces of butter over the bread crumbs.
  • Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown and heated through about 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Serve immediately and ENJOY!

Salmon w/Capers Cooked in Prosecco Wine

The original recipe which made me go OH…MY…GOD, like Janice from the TV show FRIENDS came from a recipe I saw from the amazing Lidia Bastianich. I tweaked this recipe a little bit of course but still YUM!!!
First of all, I had never used Prosecco or even tasted this liquid heaven, but MAN ALIVE this was melt in your mouth, holy cow am I in heaven, spectacular!
Give the recipe a try, or you can go to Lidia’s website for her Filetti di Salmone al Prosecco Either way, give this recipe a try. It is really worth it to splurge if you can every now and then for yourself, or to celebrate let’s say an Anniversary or Valentine’s Day which is coming up this weekend. It’s a very quick and easy dish to make that will really impress your loved ones and awaken your taste buds! For this recipe, I served it over couscous!

Ingredients

4 salmon fillets
1 tablespoon of dry parsley
1 tablespoon of coriander
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of capers
2 cups of Prosecco wine (I use La Marca Prosecco brand)
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS

Season the salmon with the parsley, coriander, and salt. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium- high heat.

Add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the salmon, and sear it on both sides, about 2 minutes per side.

In a small pot, add the Prosecco and bring to a boil. Boil until reduced by about half, about 5 minutes.

Add the Prosecco to the pan with the salmon and the capers and simmer until the salmon is cooked through, about 3- 4minutes and serve immediately.

***If you want the sauce to be a little thick, I add 1 tablespoon of gluten free bread crumbs to the sauce which thickens it up nicely. Serve immediately and spoon the capers/sauce over the salmon.***


MAC AND CHEESE

Ever since I was a kid I have LOVED mac and cheese. Whether it was the school lunches or the instant macaroni and cheese which I lived on when I was low on funds as an adult, this was a huge treat to have. Now with more sensitivity to foods, especially a lot of the heavily processed package items, I have to make things myself.

While this mac and cheese dish was a far cry from the inexpensive boxed variety, (the cheeses totaled to about $15 because well..NYC is an expensive place to be) it was definitely a tasty treat and the perfect comfort food on a cold snowy day.

If you are low on funds, you can run with the sharp cheddar cheese only.

If you can splurge a little, you can add at least 1 or 2 other cheeses you like really as long as it melts well like, Gruyere, Italian Fontina, Edam, Parmesan and Gouda cheese to name a few.

Give this a try and let me know how you enjoyed it!!!!

Ingredients

  • 1 box of medium shells
  • 1 ½ cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup of Havarti Cheese shredded
  • 1 1/2 cups 2% milk or whole milk
  • 1 cup of Half and Half
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 2 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cumin (optional)
  • In a medium sized pot, cook the shells according to the package directions. Drain and put back into the pot.
  • In a saucepan, melt butter or margarine over medium heat. Stir in enough flour to make a roux. Add milk and half and half to roux slowly, stirring constantly. Stir in cheeses, spices and cook over low heat until cheese is melted and the sauce is a little thick. Pour the sauce of over the shells and stir until well blended. Serve immediately.

Congee with Apricot Jam

Sometimes your stomach needs a little extra love. During the holidays we tend to indulge a bit too much and while we may not end up regretting it, our bodies and bellies tell us maybe we need to be nicer to ourselves.

For me, it’s with Congee with Apricot jam mixed in. Congee is a Chinese rice porridge that my acupuncturist recommended to me over a decade ago. It’s super soothing for the stomach and easy to digest. Plus, I can get a nice plate of carbs before I go off to the track to complete a race without having to eat pasta.

My favorite part of this dish is that is very versatile. You can add any seasoning you like! You can make it sweet or savory. For the sweet, you can use jelly or marmalade or fresh fruits. For the savory you use chicken stock instead of water! It’s all up to you!

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup of white rice

8-9 cups of water

1 tablespoon of apricot jam

DIRECTIONS

  1. In large pot water. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer. Stir occasionally so that the rice doesn’t clump or stick at the bottom.
  2. Simmer the congee for about 40 minutes to an hour or until the congee is thickened and creamy. Add apricot jam to taste. Serve the congee hot.

******
The congee may become thicker as it cools Add more stock or water if needed to make the congee to your desired thickness.

Ditalini Pasta with Veggies and Avocado-Tofu Sauce

In 2010 I was honored to be one of the finalists for a contest for Vegetarian Times. I made a dish I was super proud of and that is quick and easy to make. However, I am always looking for new recipes to try or modify my old dishes either to fit how my stomach is now due to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or just to jazz things up. For this dish, I added a few veggies and used Ditalini pasta instead of Orzo since due to the quarantine, you can’t find some of the items you usually get at the supermarket. Enter the food Macgyver!!! Below is a pasta dish full of flavor and very filling.

Ingredients

Serves 6

1 can of low-sodium vegetable broth or chicken broth

1 16-oz. pkg. Ditalini pasta

1 Tbs. olive oil

16 oz. Shitake mushrooms, sliced

1 12-oz. pkg. soft silken tofu, drained and diced

3 Hass avocados, peeled and cubed

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Juice of 1 lime

2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

1 Tbs. fresh thyme

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. ground coriander

1 tbsp. espresso

1 yellow squash, seeded and diced

1 green squash, seeded and diced

2 brown kumato tomatoes chopped

salt to taste

1. Bring water to a boil in large pot over medium heat. Add Ditalini pasta, and cook 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente. Drain, and transfer to large bowl.

2. Heat the olive oil oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, squash, tomatoes spices, vinegar and 1 cup of vegetable or chicken broth and cook until squash is softened. About 8 minutes. Set aside.

3. Blend diced tofu, lime juice, basil and avocado cubes with remaining broth and blend until smooth and creamy.

Stir avocado sauce and veggies with their juices with the pasta, and season with salt to taste.

Warm Orzo with Avocado-Tofu Sauce- A Salad with a Story

This recipe is a dish I made when I was in pastry school in 2010. One of the chefs came in announcing a contest for Vegetarian Times. I believe I had 2 days to enter and excited I went home that afternoon and started brainstorming. Below is the dish I came up with, edited and organized by the fine folks at Vegetarian Times, that made me one of the finalists!

Ingredients
Serves 8

6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

1 16-oz. pkg. orzo

1/4 cup plus 1 Tbs. olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling, optional

16 oz. button mushrooms, sliced

1 12-oz. pkg. soft silken tofu, drained

2 Hass avocados, peeled and cubed

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

1/3 cup chopped cilantro

2 1/2 Tbs. lime juice

2 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce

1 Tbs. dried oregano

1 Tbs. ground cumin

1 tsp. ground coriander

Instructions

1. Bring broth to a boil in large pot over medium heat. Add orzo, and cook 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente. Drain, and transfer to large bowl.

2. Heat 1 Tbs. oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, and saute 5 minutes, or until browned. Add mushrooms and pan juices to orzo.

3. Blend tofu and avocado cubes with remaining 1/4 cup olive oil in blender until smooth and creamy. Transfer to small saucepan, and add basil, cilantro, lime juice, soy sauce, oregano, cumin, and coriander. Warm over low heat 3 to 4 minutes, or until hot, but not boiling. Stir avocado sauce into orzo mixture, and season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Lasagna Roll Ups

Having my weekends off may be hard on the wallet but I’m able to watch some cooking shows on TV. I came across this delicious and quick recipe from Sunny Anderson from ‘The Kitchen’ -Easy Tomato & Basil Lasagna Roll Ups.

Never had I seen Lasagna prepared this way but yum!!!

The difference for me was I omitted the chili flakes, black pepper and instead of the premade tomato sauce, I used plain canned tomato sauce with oregano, sugar and a pinch of cinnamon. The cinnamon makes you go hmmm what is that? What a dish!!! For the full recipe you can go to the Food Network site.
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/sunny-anderson/sunnys-easy-tomato-and-basil-lasagna-roll-ups-7157044

Below is my version:

24 lasagna noodles (from about two 1-pound packages)
One 15-ounce container ricotta
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups of parmesan cheese
1 cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
Pinch of cinnamon
2 large eggs, whisked
Zest of 1 lemon
2 cans of tomato sauce
2 tablespoons of oregano

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375degrees

  • To cook the noodles: Place noodles in a metal baking pan with sides, making sure to spread out. Pour steaming-hot salted water over the top, moving noodles around a bit to be sure the water gets between them. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and let rest for 20 to 25 minutes. When ready to assemble, remove one at a time as you go and pat dry.
  • In a bowl, add the ricotta, cheese, basil, egg, lemon zest, a pinch of cinnamon. Stir to combine.
  • Add half the tomato sauce to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and spread or tilt to even it out. Take one lasagna noodle and lay flat on the counter, then add a scoop of filling to the center and spread it along the length. Roll up the noodle and place it standing up. Repeat with the rest of noodles until the dish is full.
  • Pour over remaining tomato sauce and spread to even out.
  • Cover dish with aluminum foil.
  • Bake about 20 minutes. Uncover and cook until edges begin to brown, another 5 to 10 minutes.

Spaghetti w/Avocado-Ricotta Sauce

Ingredients:
12 ounces spaghetti or 1 box of orecchiette pasta
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
1 clove garlic finely chopped
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 avocados
1/2 cup of Ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup chopped basil
1 cup of chicken broth

Directions:
In a pot, of boiling water add spaghetti and cook to 8 minutes or until al dente. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Cook
the garlic 1 minute, then add the lemon zest and juice, vegetables and approximately 1/4 cup of chicken broth. Cook for about 7 minutes or until bok choy is softened.

Now add the pasta, parmesan cheese and stir.
In a blender add diced avocado, ricotta cheese, 1/4 chicken broth and puree. Salt to taste

Mix over the pasta and serve immediately.

Apple Cinnamon Pancakes

Saturdays lately since this pandemic hit, i have not been working the weekends, but have been doing lengthy regular yoga sessions which really work up an appetite. My craving for something aside from eggs and since Kelloggs they discontinued the Gluten Free waffles, my only choice was to make pancakes.

My favorite part of all this has been experimenting with different fruits and powders I have onhand. With the Gluten Free flour, the pancakes come out nice and thin and really don’t weigh my stomach down like regular flour does in pancakes. You can add really whatever fruit you like. Ripe bananas, strawberries, blueberries etc… I know that Amazon has plenty of gluten free flours in case your supermarket has run out, but Nuts.com for me has been the go to place for all the flours I need. Including coffee and banana flour and their prices are definitely better than in my supermarket which is important when you are on a budget!!!

INGREDIENTS

1 cup gluten free flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 fuji apples finely diced or 3 gala apples finely diced
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
2 tablespoons of banana flour or 1 tablespoon of coffee flour (optional)

DIRECTIONS
Combine flour, white sugar, baking powder and salt, egg, milk, vegetable oil and whisk till combined. Set aside.

Dice the apples then add the cinnamon and cook for 3 minutes or until soft. Let it cool for at least 4 minutes and stir in with the pancake mixture.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Cook until pancakes are golden brown on both sides; serve hot with syrup, fruit or lightly dust with confectioners sugar.

Chicken Paillard with Cilantro Mint Sauce

Yet another recipe I have had to modify but there is no sacrificing flavor. This recipe was modified from Food And Wine magazine years ago. This dish is freshness and spices that make you go MMMMMMMMM!!!

Ingredients

For the Sauce


For the sauce


  • 1 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves
    1/4 cup lightly packed mint leaves
    1 tablespoon sugar OR 1 teaspoon of honey
    1/4 cup water
    3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
    2 tablespoons olive oil

Spice rub for the chicken

1 tablespoon of coriander
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon dried chervil or tarragon
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon of dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of sweet riesling
Four 6-ounce skinless, boneless chicken breast flattened with a mallet.

DIRECTIONS

Lightly pound the breasts to an even 1/2-inch thickness. Season the chicken with the spice rub. Then in a pan, add the riesling and chicken on medium low heat. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes on each side until no longer pink. (It may take longer depending on the thickness of your chicken breast) Set aside.

In a blender or food processor, combine the cilantro, mint, sugar (or honey if preferred), lime, olive oil, water and process until fairly smooth. Top the chicken with the sauce and serve.

Simple Summer Beef Lettuce Wraps

I got the inspiration for this beef wraps recipe from the Pioneer Woman. She adds a lot of yummy extras in there but I kept it simple and added what I usually have in the fridge.

This recipe is quick, easy and perfect for the summer.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 orange or red bell pepper, diced
3 pounds ground beef
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon coriander
8 medium inner romaine lettuce leaves
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 plum tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh cilantro chopped
1 Fuji apple diced

Directions Serves 4

In a bowl add the coriander, cumin, salt and chervil and mix well. (I use my hands as they are your best tool in the kitchen)

In a skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and ground beef and cook until browned, about 7 minutes. Add the pepper, apple, tomatoes and cilantro.

Cook for another 4minutes or until the peppers are a bit soft.

Pile the mixture into individual romaine lettuce leaves and top each with 2 tablespoons of the meat and 1 tablespoon of the mozzarella cheese.

Serve immediately.

****Substitutions****

You can also just spoon a mixture of the meat over baby spinach.

If you don’t like peppers or tomatoes, add 1/cup of chopped portobello mushrooms and/or 1/2 cup of edamame.

DDP Yoga Positively Unstoppable Challenge 2019

I haven’t shared my journey for a number of reasons. However after reaching one of my goals I figured, let me make the time to share my journey and hopefully inspire others in the process.

I have done DDP Yoga off and on since 2014. I stopped due to injuries from other things I’ve done and from over exerting myself and not listening to my body.

DDP Yoga was started by former wrestler and WCW champion Diamond Dallas Page and like he says “It ain’t your momma’s yoga.” Which is true. It’s a unique and amazing workout!!

I came across this gem of a workout after watching a video of Arthur who is a former military paratrooper whose body took a beating from jumping out of airplanes for soo long. Long story short, he was in serious need of help as doctors had no answers and regular yoga wasn’t helping him either.

I suggest you watch this inspirational video of Arthur to fully appreciate what became a sign of hope for me and many others who have viewed it.

Back to my journey. Subluxation, severe back and neck pain were originally the reasons why I started. I couldn’t stand for long periods of time. I could barely walk up the stairs without pain. Forget about walking or running. I couldn’t even lift my purse over my shoulder, hold on to the pole on the subway or hang on to my purse or grocery bags without intense pain.

As hard as it was in the beginning, I saw a huge difference from the get go. More strength, less pain. Then, stress from work and working 7 days a week impeded my progress and brought on the worsening symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

I started up again and was overzealous in my workouts and injured myself so I stopped. I started up again but then the stress, work and IBS got soo bad, I stopped…again. My mental health just nose dived into that dark hole of depression I had never known before. Staring at the walls, crying to the point I became numb. Recently even wanting to end things. I became very withdrawn. No interest in all the things I held dear. Food, shows, music, cooking..etc. Why freaking bother, I felt.

This year, however Diamond Dallas Page started the Positively Unstoppable Challenge and came out with his book “Positively Unstoppable” as well. For me and many others, a perfect companion to this challenge. Inspiring to see what he went through in life and how hard he worked to become a wrestler at 35 and a WCW champion at 40!! He also shared in his book success stories of every day people who have done DDP Yoga.

The challenge was to do DDP Yoga from February through the end of this month. May 31st 2019. You needed to track your progress and submit a video at the end to possibly win some money. For me though as much as I need the money, it’s not about that. It’s about the change in body and mind. It’s about being more positive and ‘owning your life’, as DDP always says.

So far physically, I have definitely seen progress. I documented every week on YouTube. Highlighting my NSVs (non scale victories) and the excitement I was feeling in this journey. I also shared my journey and struggles on the Positively Unstoppable group page on Facebook. I got encouragement and cheers and I gave it back to all the awesome people who have joined the Team DDPYOGA community.

While my arms still jiggle a bit, I feel a lot stronger than before. How much stronger? Before lifting a gallon of milk caused pain to shoot from my neck to my arm because it was tooo heavy. Now I can lift a 20 pound turkey. I can actually do a modified pushup!!! Now I can lift that gallon of milk with no pain. Now I can hold my purse with no pain. That’s a big deal!

I was also able to do a second run/walk race. My first being last year which was the Turkey Trot. I finished but I needed the entire weekend to recover..in bed, unable to move I was soo wiped out. This time I did the Damon Runyon 5k for Cancer Research at Yankee Stadium. 3miles and this one involved stairs and ramps throughout a part of the course.

I finished in about 1 hour. Me!! The person who could barely walk 5 blocks without getting winded a few years ago or stand for more than 10minutes!! A huge accomplishment!!!! Recovery time? A few hours only!!! I was fine the next day physically!!! wooohoo!!!

Damon Runyon 5k

I have 1 more week to go for the challenge, but I still have a ways to go to keep getting stronger. Sooo, I will continue to follow and do my workouts on the DDPYOGA app. I will continue to document my progress on YouTube and Instagram .

As far as my irritable bowel syndrome…well, I have tried it all with no success yet due to a lot of stress…but that is a separate journey that I will tackle and hopefully will have some good news on that front soon.

For now, I need to and will focus on DDP Yoga. Begin to meditate once again, and hopefully get back into the kitchen once again to create more delicious dishes!!! Below are a few videos of my journey over the past 5 months.