Thursday, January 31, 2013

January Ornament SAL Finish

Oh if only I knew French so I could tell you the name of this piece - I don't, but it is from this page, and was fun to stitch up.  And so nice to have a finish done a whole hour and a half before the end of the month!

I will get it fully finished up into an ornie for Valentine's Day sometime soon, but now I will bask in the pleasure of being able to stitch again, and having gotten a piece (no matter how small) to its finish.  This is a major milestone for me.

January's Theme-a-licious SAL suggests stitching on anything with flowers or a garden, and the ornament mini-theme is a tree or a wreath.  I think this works!

Chart: Des arbres de vie - 2 (freebie)
Cloth: White Aida 18ct
Floss: DMC 75

Shared with: No-Rules Weekend, Stitching Lotus Ornament SAL January Check-In, Theme-a-licious January Wrap Up, Valentine Craft Show-off Party.

Balsamic-Mustard Pork Tenderloin and Some Stitching!

 I took the leap yesterday - I settled in for an afternoon of cross-stitching for the first time since an unsuccessful attempt around Halloween.  I chose a small pattern - this lovely freebie trinket - and set to work.  I think I should have finished a bit earlier than I did, because my hand ached for awhile last night, but I was so happy to be able to stitch! There is a huge difference between over-doing and being unable to close your fingers enough to hold the needle in the first place.

I will have this piece finished by today, and turned into a finished ornie sometime soon.

Our dinner was an easy and delicious meal of Balsamic-Mustard Pork Tenderloin, with Apples and Sauerkraut, but Michael had a very unfortunate accident.  This recipe calls for a pan that can go from stove-top to oven, and even though he had just removed it from the oven, he forgot and gripped the pan handle.  Ow!! I've done that before, and it's amazing how quickly our brains go to auto-pilot.   So if you try this, be very careful! He wound up spending the entire evening gripping a bag of ice.

Balsamic-Mustard Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Sauerkraut 

1 pork tenderloin, approx 1 lb.
1 tsp. crushed or ground cardamom
cracked black pepper and sea salt to taste
4 Tblsp. coconut oil
1/4 cup beef broth or red wine 
1 Tblsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tblsp. Dijon mustard

Pat spices onto the pork tenderloin.  Heat coconut oil in an oven-safe saute pan, and sear pork tenderloin on all sides. (I cut the tenderloin into two pieces to fit the pan).

Preheat oven to 350F.  Core apples and slice them, adding them to the pan with the  pork, making sure they're coated with coconut oil.  Move pan to oven and let cook for about 25 minutes (or until meat thermometer inserted into center of the tenderloin reads 160F, and juices run clear).

Remove pan from oven (and DON'T FORGET THE HANDLE'S HOT!) to burner.  Remove tendeloin to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes - this keeps the juices from running out when it's sliced, so it will remain tender.

Remove apples from pan and turn into a serving dish.  If you're having sauerkraut, heat it separately in a pot if desired.

In the empty saute pan, use a spatula to loosen up any cooked on bits and add the broth or wine, balsamic vinegar and mustard, stirring constantly until it cooks down somewhat into a sauce. 

Slice the tenderloin into medallions, and return them to the pan with the sauce, turning to coat.

Serve with sauerkraut and apples.    

Shared with: 
The Gathering Spot, Anti-Procrastination Tuesday, Tasty TuesdaysFat Tuesday, Family Table Tuesday, Trick or Treat Link Party, Tutorial Tuesday, Tuesday Greens, Traditional TuesdayWicked Awesome Wednesday, Wellness Wednesday, Waste Not, Want Not Wednesday, Wheat-Free Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday,Whole-Foods Wednesday, Healthy 2Day Wednesday, Party Wave Wednesday, Transformation Thursday, Thursdays Treasure, Thrifty Thursday, Thank Your Body Thursday, The Homeacre Hop, The Delightfully Inspiring Thursday Party, Creative Juice, Simple Lives Thursday, Full Plate Thursday, Tasty Traditions, Keep It Real Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Fight Back Friday, Fresh Bites Friday, Gluten-Free Fridays, Get Real Frugal Friday, Foodie Friday, What I Am Eating, LHITS DIY Linky, Simple Meals Friday.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Oh no, a cold!

The meds I am reintroducing into my system include, as a deliberate purpose, a suppression of the immune system.  This is because Rheumatoid Arthritis (which some are pushing for a name-change to Rheumatoid Auto-Immune Disorder, to more accurately reflect what it is) is a runaway immune system that is blind to what is friend and what is foe.

The resulting immune suppression makes me very susceptible to contagions flying around.  I've felt better after being on them - so I've been out in public more often - so.... I guess catching a cold was inevitable, wasn't it?

I started feeling it Monday night, but went straight into denial (I don't WANNA cold!).  I didn't sleep at all well that night, and woke up with a sore throat, body ache, and sleep deprivation - and still in denial that I was under attack by a virus.  By yesterday mid-morning, when my throat was raw and I could barely speak, I couldn't deny it anymore.  And then I sat down for a second and fell asleep for nearly 5 hours (thank you, body, for forcing me to sleep).

Nothing I planned to do happened.  Dinner didn't happen - Michael fended for himself and made me up several cups of soothing tea, and helped me get the brisket for this weekend brined.

His tea was my lifesaver, and I'm sipping it today as I type.  No picture, because I'm sick (I mean, "I'm siiiiickkkk....whine....), but this is the only thing not making me want to claw my throat out of my neck:

Honey Mint Tea with Lemon

Brew a cup of mint tea.  Add some lemon juice and honey.  I don't know how much -ask Michael.  Better yet, just ask him to make it for you. If you need  this you're sick and should be getting babied.  Read a book. One with easy words.

Ok, that didn't turn into a recipe at all, now did it?

The cold has moved from dribbling down my throat to pouring out my nose - which is progress, even if it is gross.  I'm hopeful it won't stick around for too long.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Cheeseburger Soup

Last night's dinner plans involved Cheeseburger Soup, some grain-free buns to sop up  the soup, and a nice salad full of veggies to start things off.

My day's plan - and I am still slowly getting energy and strength back, so I keep my ambitions small - was to declutter the corner of the living room where my recliner is.  This is my nest, and after months of terrible RA flaring, it was really starting to resemble Big Bird's giant nest.  It took about 1 1/2 hours, of bending over to scoop clutter from the floors, from under my chair or behind it, sorting through it all to figure out what was trash and what wasn't, and then carrying things to where they belong.

In the process I wore myself out, and managed to hurt my knees and wrist enough that I couldn't start dinner prep until Michael got home to help.  And he'd had a long day capped off with a long commute, so...

There was no salad.  There were no buns.

Fortunately, the Cheeseburger Soup was delicious and filling to make up for what there wasn't, and since it contains cauliflower, we weren't totally vegetable-less.

This recipe comes from the Wheat Belly Cookbook - we've tried 3 recipes from it now, and all three are winners, so I'm very happy with this cookbook!

That said, we both agreed a couple modifications would have made it better, so this recipe is with our mods (more cauliflower, more cheese, some seasoning differences):

Cheeseburger Soup
serves 4 (or 2 with 'seconds')

4 cups homemade bone broth (chicken or beef)
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 Tblsp butter, coconut oil, lard or tallow
1 onion, minced
1 lb ground beef (ours was grass-fed beef from Bowen Farm)
1 Tblsp turmeric
1/2 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
2 tsp Hungarian paprika (or to taste)
cracked black pepper, to taste
1 tsp. coconut flour
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

In a large sauce pot, heat broth to simmer and add the cauliflower.  Cook until cauliflower is tender.

Meanwhile, heat fat in a large pan, and brown onions and ground beef, stirring often to keep it broken up.  Add seasonings, and set aside. 

Using a stick blender, puree the cauliflower in the broth - this provides a creamy base without adding milk.  If you don't have a stick blender, you can turn the soup into a blender, puree, and return to the pot.

Remove about 1/4 cup of broth and combine with coconut flour in a small dish, then stir the resulting slurry into the pot, whisking constantly for 3 minutes or until thickened slightly.

Whisk in the cheese until just melted, then add the ground beef and onions and remove from heat to serve.

We didn't have any toppers, but this would be amazing with any or all of the following: a dab of sour cream or thickened yogurt, some chopped bacon, chopped avocado, or chopped tomato.  Tossing in some spinach or other greens would also be good.

I'm seeing this soup as a 'base' for all sorts of variations - we will definitely be doing it again!

My intentions for today:
- declutter living room end table and coffee table
- being brining brisket for this weekend
- see if my hands can manage a little cross stitch (it's been several months)
- Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Sauerkraut for Dinner tonight

Shared with: 
Sweet Saturday Link Party,Simply Natural Saturdays, One Creative Weekend, Souper Sunday, Sunday School Blog Carnival, Craft-O-Maniac MondayMelt in Your Mouth Monday, On the Menu Monday,That DIY Party, Mix It Up Monday, Marvelous Mondays, Clever Chicks Blog Hop, Make Your Own MondayNomday Monday, Thank Goodness It's Monday, Homestead Barn Hop, Made By You Monday, Natural Living Monday,The Gathering Spot, Anti-Procrastination Tuesday, Tasty Tuesdays, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Family Table Tuesday, Hearth & Soul Hop, Trick or Treat Link Party, Green Living Tuesday, Tutorial Tuesday, Tuesday Greens, Traditional Tuesday, Works for Me Wednesday, Wicked Awesome Wednesday, Wellness Wednesday, Waste Not, Want Not Wednesday, Wheat-Free Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Gluten-Free Wednesdays, Allergy-Free Wednesday,Whole-Foods Wednesday, Healthy 2Day Wednesday, Party Wave Wednesday, Transformation Thursday, Thursdays Treasure, Thrifty Thursday, Thank Your Body Thursday, The Homeacre Hop, The Delightfully Inspiring Thursday Party, Creative Juice, Simple Lives Thursday, Full Plate Thursday, Tasty Traditions, Keep It Real Thursday.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Slow Cooker Lamb with Spinach and Artichoke Hearts

There was a time when I thought of lamb as a highly exotic and rare meat, highly unlikely to be available even if I wanted to buy it.  But as we locally source most of our meat - and as blessed as we are to live near D.C., where many, many food cultures come together, lamb is becoming a relatively common occurrence on our menu.  That is is not thoroughly mainstream seems to be an advantage - it hasn't gone the way of cows and pigs and chickens, in that it isn't factory farmed under scary and sad conditions, so it's easier to find hormone-free, ethically raised lamb.

Shoulder Loin Chops are a relativel inexpensive cut - lots of meat on each chop, although there are also a lot of little bones to look out for - and they do well in the slow cooker.  This is a simple treatment.  I sauteed spinach and artichokes on the side, but we ended up dishing this up in bowls to capture all the wonderful broth, so I probably could have just done it all in the crockpot in the first place.  Good, tummy-warming soupy meal here, just perfect for a night full of freezing rain.

Slow Cooker Shoulder Loin Lamb
(serves 2)

2 shoulder loin lamb chops
2 onions, cut in chunks
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups homemade chicken or beef bone broth
Sea salt to taste
Cracked black pepper, to taste
Rosemary, to taste
Thyme, to taste
Red Pepper Flakes, to taste

Layer one of the onions in the bottom of the crock pot.  Place the chops on top of the onion, then top with the remaining onion.  Add seasonings, then pour broth over all and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Sauteed Spinach and Artichoke Hearts
(serves 2)

2 cups frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
1 bag fresh spinach
2 T. butter, lard, or coconut oil

Heat fat in large pan until melted and sizzling slightly.  Add artichokes and sauteed until tender and lightly browned.  Add bag of spinach, and cook, stirring constantly until spinach has wilted.  Serve as a side dish or, as we did, in a bowl with the lamb and onions and broth.

To cap off the meal, we made up some whipped cream and finished off our leftover Almond Flour Pancakes with some apple butter made by a friend of ours.  Yum!

Shared with:  
Sweet Saturday Link Party,Simply Natural Saturdays, One Creative Weekend, Sunday School Blog Carnival, Craft-O-Maniac MondayMotivate Me Monday, Melt in Your Mouth Monday, On the Menu Monday,That DIY Party, Mix It Up Monday, Marvelous Mondays, Clever Chicks Blog Hop, Make Your Own MondayNomday Monday, Thank Goodness It's Monday, Homestead Barn Hop, Made By You Monday, Natural Living Monday,The Gathering Spot, Anti-Procrastination Tuesday, Tasty Tuesdays, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Family Table Tuesday, Hearth & Soul Hop, Trick or Treat Link Party, The Gathering Spot, Living Green Tuesday, Tutorial Tuesday, Tuesday Greens, Traditional Tuesday, Works for Me Wednesday, Wicked Awesome Wednesday, Wellness Wednesday, Waste Not, Want Not Wednesday, Wheat-Free Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Gluten-Free Wednesdays, Allergy-Free Wednesday, Whole-Foods Wednesday, Healthy 2Day Wednesday, Party Wave Wednesday.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Oh Happy Day! Almond Flour Pancakes!

Yesterday, we took advantage of the sunny, above-freezing day to head out to do a few errands.  Most exciting was our first trip down to the P.A. Bowen Farmstead a few miles away from us.  It's owned by Geoffrey Morell and Sally Fallon Morell, co-founders of the Weston A. Price Foundation and authors of Nourishing Traditions. The farm has a small store open most days of the week, full of high quality meats from their farm, raw milk cheeses, alpaca knit products, local crafts, etc.

We only bought a few things, but I was very impressed by what's available and we will be making at least monthly excursions for more.

For now, we bought a package of ground beef, a pork tenderloin, and a beef brisket - the last two specifically should provide us with two or three separate meals, which brings the cost way down into the reasonable level.

While out on our rounds, we also managed to find a low side table/bookshelf we've been looking for for awhile - two shelves, glass front doors covering them, and it's painted red, which just makes me happen.  Michael needs  to put it together, and it's just nice to have that project solved!

By dinner, we were tired and wanted something simple and 'comfort food' oriented, and it seemed like a great time to try Wellness Mama's Easy Almond Flour Pancakes, with some breakfast sausage on the side.  We do dairy, so we used cream-topped whole milk rather than almond milk.

The recipe is easy, and also really good.  And it makes plenty so don't double it.  I did, and I was making pancakes for a looong time, and am now contemplating how to use the leftovers.

Mine also came out thinner so I think a bit less milk next time is in order, along with maybe whipping the egg whites separately, and folding them into the batter after.

We added some Vanilla Chai Spice from The Spice House to the batter, and that was a good addition.  Topped with a bit of maple syrup and we both spent the evening spontaneously grinning and exclaiming "We can have PANCAKES!"  Oh, happy day!

I've got our meals planned out for the next week, and I'll post links to the posts, with recipes on this entry as I go:

Meal Plan, Jan 27 - Feb 2

Slow Cooker Lamb Shoulder Loin Chops with
Sauteed Spinach and Artichoke Hearts

Dessert:  Leftover Almond Flour Pancakes, with Apple Butter and Whipped Cream

Cheeseburger Soup
Herbed Grain-Free Biscuits


also: begin brining brisket for Saturday

Balsamic Glazed Pork Tenderloin
Sauteed Apples


Pork and Veggie Stir-Fry (using leftover pork)
Cauliflower "Rice"

No leftover pork!  We wound up nibbling on cheese and liverwurst on rice crackers, and pickles. Hah!

Roast Cornish Hen
Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Moving this to next week.
Instead, Sausage Quiche with Spinach

also: Make grain-free cookies
pour candles

Saturday - Imbolc
Paleo Corned Beef Brisket
Roasted Veggies
Custard and cookies for dessert

Shared with:
Craft-O-Maniac MondayMotivate Me Monday, Melt in Your Mouth Monday, On the Menu Monday,That DIY Party, Mix It Up Monday, Marvelous Mondays, Clever Chicks Blog Hop, Make Your Own Monday, {Gluten Free} Weekly Meal Meal Plan, Nomday Monday, Menu Plan Monday.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Grain-Free Pizza

For the most part, as we have gotten used to eating a (mostly) grain-free diet, we have avoided breadlike items - there was one gluten-free bun at a restaurant, a few bits of stuffing at Thanksgiving, and a brand of rice-sesame crackers we keep on hand for when you just have to have a crispy picker-upper for dip.

But by and large, we've avoided the breadstuffs, because when you're getting used to not eating things, eating something intended to be similar that totally isn't is a sure way to feel disappointed.  But... after a few months without tasting the 'real thing' we are ready to experiment - so last night we decided to make pizza using Against the Grain's Paleo Pizza Crust recipe, made with almond flour and flaxseed meal. 

It whips up easily, although our large crust was too large to flip when recommended - I think I'll make individual sized pizza the next time we do this.  I made up a simple pizza sauce from a small can of tomato paste, a canful of water, and some basil, oregano and red pepper flakes.

Our toppings of choice were Italian sausage, sauteed mushrooms, and black olives along with mozzarella cheese.

The result was good - more suited for a fork than picking up, and the texture was closer to biscuits than yeasty bread (of course!), but it tasted like pizza to our tastebuds which haven't had any pizza in months.  This will be going on the rotation as an occasional meal for us and it's really nice to know we don't need to give up comfort food treats like pizza!

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Grain Free Yule Log, and Having the Courage of Your Convictions

Yes, I know - Yule was last month, but trust me when I say that this recipe was so awesome that it will be a chocolate roll up with cherry sauce come Valentine's Day, probably re-appear in some form for Easter and is a strong contender for my birthday cake come June.  It only has to be a log if you make it one.

So... let me back up.  Remember  that aborted posting series last fall about our following the Wheat Belly style of eating? (It's very similar to Paleo/Primal - but I don't know what we're calling it, exactly. Labels are hard.)  Well...  I bailed on posting about it, but we stuck it out for that month, saw noticeable improvements (weight loss, and a drastic reduction in acid-reflux for me), and while there are still times I gaze longingly at pastries and the like, the foods we can eat on this are so much tastier than what we were eating before, that I'm starting to wonder if grains kill your tastebuds somehow.

When it's just the two of us at home, we're happy as clams to eat this way - what's not in the house doesn't tempt us, and we have minor areas of less-than-optimal eating that's perfectly fine since the majority of what we eat is fantastic.

We do eat dairy.  It doesn't bother us, it comes from a local source (not raw - in MD that is illegal, but it isn't homogenized or from factory cows), and it's tasty!

We don't eat grains - no wheat, oats, rice, etc, etc, etc, although I'd be willing to eat the rice at least, very occasionally.  We eat lots of delicious veggies, moderate amounts of fruit, good quality meat, good fats, nuts and seeds.

And we're still learning how to cook this way.  This is no longer an experiment... it's just what we do.

Eating in social settings is a lot harder - we've figured out a couple go-to restaurants that can accomodate us.  We've learned to just pretty much avoid  the coffee hour goodies at church (though I am working on figuring out what I can bring that we can eat - lots of veggie platters, so far!).  And we find recipes that we can eat for potlucks.

A Yule celebration at Cedarlight Grove was our most recent potluck even, and I really, really wanted to bring something festive that we could enjoy eating along with others.  As a matter of perfect timing, I saw Nourished Kitchen's Buche de Noel recipe, and we decided to try it.  Go follow here recipe - it's easy and it came out perfectly.  I totally was afraid it wouldn't really roll up, but it did, and it's my new favorite dessert.

That said... don't do what WE did.  Because like I say, we are still learning and still not sure how the things we think are good will be heralded by those we share them with.  Plus, we had to take it on a 2 hour drive, and I was still freshly marveling that it rolled up, but not at all convinced it might not fall apart on the way.

So... we frosted it.  With a quickly purchased CAN of frosting (because we were all out of time to fiddle with creating a homemade ganache).

Yep... took a lovely healthy dessert and smeared HFCS mess all over it.  FAIL!!!!

It tasted good - I may even frost future versions of this, but not with that stuff. Or I might not, because that unfrosted version looks absolutely beautiful.

There was a lesson here for me in not chickening out.  It's all a learning experience.  This one, failed convictions and all, was that this is one delicious dessert!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

RA - These are my hands

They show up in photos of me, but I've never actually had them photographed on purpose before. 

These are my hands, the result of 30 years of living with rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic auto-immune disorder. Sometimes they hurt beyond belief. Sometimes not so much - there is always a lot of pressure where the fingers are turning into the side of my palm. And doing things - too much typing, needlework, normal stuff like taking a dish out of the oven without touching the oven rack - these things are hard to impossible. 

 I joke I'm growing hooves, but I do miss my hands. They used to be a vanity point of pride, because I had pretty hands.  The loss of functionality matters more, but I miss they way they used to look, too.

And on a totally different note - I kinda love that the nails in this picture have a light touch of glitter on them, left over from my daughter's holiday visit (note to self: buy nail polish remover!), and one has a blob of yellow paint from being able to paint some posters at my church this past Sunday. Fine motor skills are mostly shot, but painting is apparently more gross-motor.  So I can still do that!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hello, World

The last year has been been. As in very, very bad -I've had a rheumatoid arthitis flare that has lasted since February 2012, reducing my ability to do anything at all down to near zero... not able to dress myself, shower without help... not able to stitch or do any household chores.  It's impossible not to be depressed when your day is spent in enormous pain, and you can't do anything productive at all except wait for bedtime (where you won't get any real sleep).  So it's been hard.

Well, getting my meds in order over last few weeks has made a huge difference. While predisone is not be all-time best friend, right now it is my best friend, and I re-start Enbel this weekend, and that's going to give back almost all my functionality.

Michael and I have set a date for getting married - Aug. 17, 2012 - so we have planning  to do, and getting me back into the mix of things.  And that daily living stuff is what this will be about.   I am glad to be back, and hope you'll be  glad for along for  the ride.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Jan 2013 TUSAL

Shh.... don't tell anyone, but I'm backdating this entry so I can fully participate in this year's TUSAL: the Totally Useless Stitch-A-Long, where stitchers show of, not their works of creativity, but their ORT jar - the collection of snipped threads that would otherwise attach themselves to our clothing and passing pets if we didn't stick them somewhere.

Well... I've not be able to stitch for months (RA flare got my hands really hard) - so as of Jan. 11... no ORTs. No stitching. Sad empty jar.

I'm making it a goal to take up cross stitch again, no matter how little I can do. I have about a half a gajillion unfinished projects.  The will is here - I'm just looking for the way.