SUNDAY SUPPER – PORTOBELLO STEW

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb. portobello or cremini mushrooms, stemmed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 lb. red potatoes, chopped into 1-2 inch chunks
  • 3 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp. liquid smoke
  • 1-2 tsp. Marmite (optional, but highly recommended for savory flavor)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Coat the bottom of a large pot with oil and place over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook until softened, 5 minutes. Add onion, celery, carrots and garlic. Cook until veggies begin to tenderize, about 5 minutes more, flipping occasionally with a spatula. Add red wine and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer until wine is reduced by about half, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour, a bit at a time, until fully incorporated.
  2. Add broth, tomato paste, potatoes, thyme and rosemary. Stir to fully incorporate ingredients. Raise heat and bring to a simmer. Lower heat and allow to simmer, uncovered, until potatoes and veggies are soft, about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a bit more water to the pot if mixture becomes too thick and starts to sputter.
  3. Season with liquid smoke, Marmite if using, salt and pepper. Serve.

http://www.connoisseurusveg.com/portobello-vegan-beef-stew

MONTHLY MUSE – NOT MY CIRCUS, NOT MY MONKEYS

April is Stress Awareness Month.  Everyone experiences stress in life.  Stress is the feeling one gets when one is put under pressure.  This can be from a positive lifesaving event such as saving a person from a burning house or a negative event such as getting mad at a family member.  There are external stressors such as work, traffic, relationships which cannot be controlled.  Then there are internal stressors, those that can be controlled, such as fear, anticipation, or lack of sleep.  I have discovered that the key to handling stress is not trying to eliminate it but learning how to respond to it.

For a person with chronic illness it is especially important to control stress because it can make one’s condition worse.  Stress can cause physical symptoms such as increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, muscle tension and inflammation.  In my case, stress makes it more difficult for me to manage my Diabetes due to a rise in blood sugar.  It also creates pain because I suffer from Psoriatic Arthritis and Fibromyalgia which are aggravated by inflammation in the body.  Therefore, it is important for me to limit the about of stress I experience.

I have learned a few ways to handle stress.  One thing I have learned is to only focus on a situation that affects me directly.  As the saying goes, “not my circus, not my monkeys”.  This idiom really helped realize how much anxiety I feel because I am feeding off of someone else’s issue.  For instance, if my co-worker has a problem I of course want to help but I shouldn’t use all my time to solve my co-worker’s problem.   Instead, I can offer my suggestions and then allow my co-worker to decide the outcome.  This allows me to still help but not take on the burden of another person’s issue.  In addition, this reduces my stress by allowing me to focus on my own work rather than burden myself with an additional task.

The second aspect I have learned is about attitude.  If I go into a situation with a negative outlook the outcome will seem negative.  On the other hand having a positive view will often produce a positive result.  For example, I wake up in the morning thinking “I don’t want to face the day today”.  What usually happens is I end up having a bad day with low productivity.  But, if I wake up feeling ready to accomplish my task list I will more than likely complete my goals for the day.  So, if there is a situation that causes tension and I take on that matter with a good attitude, I will feel less anxious about the circumstances.

The final factor I have learned to deal with is worrying.  Worrying is a synonym of stress.  I used to worry about how I handled situations.  Did I handle it appropriately?  What do others think of me?  I also contemplated about my future.  Am I making the wrong decisions that will affect my future?  What will happen to me as a result of all my illnesses?  A technique I learned from my therapist is Mindfulness Mediation.  This helps me to focus on the present moment by allowing my thoughts to come into my mind then float by like the clouds in the sky.  While thoughts come in and out I concentrate on my current breathing pattern rather than the thoughts.  This trains my mind to focus only on what was happening at the moment.  Things that happened in the past are over and cannot be changed, so what is the purpose of ruminating on it?  Things in the future haven’t happened yet so why ponder it?  This does not mean we cannot plan for the future, it just means not to hoard one’s thoughts with it.

To sum it up. here are my thoughts about stress.  I cannot eliminate stress but by having a positive mindset and focusing on myself in the current moment, I can limit how stress affects me negatively.  I hope these techniques can help others in dealing with stress and thinking about stress as a positive rather than a negative.

MY TESTIMONY OF FAITH

Since Easter is next week I thought it would be appropriate to share my testimony of faith:

I was born with a rare medical condition.  The doctors did not know if I was going to survive.  Having great faith my parents allowed the doctors to give me an experimental drug and it saved my life.  My parents told me I was one of God’s miracles.

We went to church every Sunday and Wednesday.  My parents served on several church committees and we were members of a Methodist Church.  When I was in the Youth Group I would attend occasional weekend retreats at the Methodist Church campground.  My parents would also attend Women and Men’s retreats there.  When my father returned from one weekend retreat he bought me a New Testament Study Bible which helped one witness to others.  I began reading this book each night.  I began praying each night as well.  This brought me closer to God.  I realized that I truly believed the words in the book.  I was surprised because I always thought I was a believer but I had never developed a relationship with God.  Now I had one and could proclaim without a doubt that I was a Christian.

God continued to bless my family with miracles.  When I was ten my father was diagnosed with Stage 4 Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.  He went through 2 years of chemotherapy and survived!  Nine years later the cancer recurred.  This time the doctors did a Stem Cell transplant.  They gave him chemotherapy and radiation until he had no white or red blood cells.  They then re-infused his body with stem cells to create a new set of blood cells in his body.  During the process, he spiked a fever of 104 degrees.  The fever continued for several days.  Sunday came and the nurse told my mother that if the fever did not go down soon his body would start to shut down, he would die.  It was almost 11am when the nurse left the room.  Just then, a friend from church called my mother.  Our friend updated the church on my father’s condition and at the end of the service, around 12:00, everyone stood in circle around the sanctuary and prayed together for my father.   The nurse came back and took my father’s temperature at about 12:20 and it had gone down to almost normal!  It was a true miracle!  James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”  The bible, written thousands of years ago is still relevant!  Our church congregation prayed for my father and he was healed!

God is still blessing my life even today.  As I have gotten older my medical issues have persisted.  Since my youth I have been diagnosed with Diabetes, Thyroid disease, Psoriatic Arthritis, Fibromyalgia and Depression.  I recall one instance during my second encounter with Depression.  I was in the hospital and my head was spinning out of control.  I was having a psychotic episode due to the Depression.  I didn’t want to be in the hospital.  I was fighting because I did not want to take the medicine.  My brain was tricking me into thinking I was fine.  When I finally figured out I wasn’t going home I asked my husband to bring me reading material because I had nothing to keep me occupied.  He brought me an inspirational book.  It reminded me of Psalm 55:22, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”  I thought, “How did I forget about God?  I have been trying to fight this on my own.  I must trust that I am where I am supposed to be, in the hospital to get better.”  From there, I started taking medication and following the therapy.  I was soon released from the hospital.  Psalm 34: 17-20 states, “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of their troubles.  The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.  Many are the afflictions of the righteous but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”   I was crushed but God gave me courage to face my troubles and move forward.

I have had a few more episodes of Depression in the past few years and each time I learned from the experience.  I am now stable with most of my medical issues and I continue to learn how to cope with the multiple disorders.  My afflictions are many but with God by my side I can endure them and look forward to the future.

“...those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

SUNDAY SUPPER – EGG ROLL BOWLS

Ingredients

  • 7 ounces ground pork (Feel free to sub ground chicken like I did or 93% lean ground turkey.)
  • 3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • ½ small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½-1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (depending on your ginger love)
  • 2½ cups finely sliced napa or green cabbage
  • 2 cups finely sliced baby bok choy
  • ½ cup shredded carrots
  • 2½ ounces sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
  • ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1-2 medium scallions, sliced, for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons chopped peanuts (optional)

Instructions

  1. Set a large nonstick skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the pork and 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce and cook, using a wooden spoon to break the meat into small pieces as it browns, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and cook stirring, until the vegetables are soft, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add the cabbage, bok choy, carrots, and mushrooms. Pour in the remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce, the rice wine, and sesame oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage and bok choy are wilted but still crunchy, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve hot, garnished with scallions and peanuts (if using).

http://domesticate-me.com/egg-roll-bowls/

1st QUARTERLY UPDATE

Wow, we are already at the end of the 1st quarter of the year!  I started this year with taking the Love Me Challenge.  This helped me gain insight into loving myself more.  It was my first action towards my goal of improving balance in my life.  If I first love myself, everything else should fall in place behind it.

Because I started the year with the challenge, I did not have a opportunity to share my word for 2017.  Instead of a list of New Year resolutions I choose a motivational word for the year.  Can you guess what it is?  Yes, it is ACTION!  I am at a better place now with my medical issues stabilizing.  The next step to progress is to act on making changes.  My ultimate goal is to maintain awesome dynamism using my 6M method.  I introduced this concept last year. (My 6M’s are:  Medicate, Movement, Manage, Meditate, Motivate, and Maturate).  Life got in the way and I was not able to accomplish my goals therefore; I am tired of just talking about making changes.  It is now time to just do it!

So, my second action this year was to get a new insulin pump that has a continuous glucose monitor.  This device displays my blood sugar level so I can monitor it all day long allowing me to react faster to highs and lows.  I think this will help keep my blood sugar more stable during times when I am having a flare-up from the Fibromyalgia and Psoriatic Arthritis.  The stress of these two illnesses increases my blood sugar making Diabetes management difficult.

My third action for the year was purchasing a Simply Fit board.  This is a balance board one stands on, then twisting the body, moves the board side to side.  It is a great workout for the whole body.  I leave my board at work and use it during my morning and afternoon 15 minute breaks.  This gives me 30 minutes of exercise a day.  Currently I do not do it for a full 15 minutes at a time but that is my goal.  Movement, exercise, is one of the more challenging of the 6M’s to accomplish because I always feel like I don’t have the time.  Doing it on my breaks at work is double benefit.  Not only can I squeeze exercise in my day, it also gives me a break from sitting at the computer.

Writing this blog post has motivated me more since it is evident that I am actually starting to take action!  I am excited to see what will happen in the next quarter of this year!

NATIONAL NUTRITION MONTH – CHRONICALLY COOKING

Living with multiple chronic illnesses can made daily tasks difficult to accomplish.  One thing that is challenging is having to cook after a long day at work.  Due to my illnesses it is best to cook from scratch because whole foods are better than processed foods since they can help decrease inflammation in the body.  Preparing whole foods can be time consuming and tiresome.  I have discovered some kitchen hacks that make cooking more manageable.

There are three factors in creating a nutritious meal:  time, effort and cost.  Cooking from scratch normally takes more time and effort since everything needs to be chopped and prepped.  On the other hand, buying pre-cut items save time and effort but cost more.  So it is a matter of what do you want to save more of, energy or money.  Usually for me it depends on how I am feeling on that particular day.  When I have more energy I enjoy taking time to prepare the meal.  On other days, I just want to get something half way healthy on the table.  Here are some strategies I use to handle the cooking task:

  1. Make a bulk meal:  I will cook a soup, stew or chili that will last a couple of days.  Add a bagged salad and some bread to complete the meal.  This is more time consuming but I don’t have to cook the next day.
  2. Make a skillet meal:  Add vegetables, meat and quinoa or rice to a skillet and cook.
  3. Wrap it in a tortilla:  Brown the meat and add your favorite veggies for tacos; spread with hummus, add cucumbers, tomato, olives and feta cheese for a wrap; or fill with tuna fish, celery, onion, and lettuce.
  4. Use the broiler:  Fish cooks quickly under a broiler.  Steam veggies in the microwave and add a packet of microwavable precooked rice (I like Seeds Of Change Quinoa with Brown Rice) to finish the meal.  Another idea is broiling portabella mushrooms and put it in a bun topped with tomato, basil and mozzarella cheese.
  5. Use the freezer:  I try to always keep some healthy freezer options on hand like salmon burgers and chopped microwavable vegetables.  Use frozen fruit to make quick smoothies.
  6. Buy part of the meal precooked:  Stop at the grocery store deli to pick up a rotisserie chicken.  Add some steamed vegetables, salad and a roll.
  7. Have breakfast: A quick meal is an English muffin with peanut butter and a banana.  Or, make an omelet filled with your favorite veggies such as spinach and mushrooms.  Have a side of roasted potatoes and a yogurt parfait for dessert.
  8. Eat salad:  Make a chef salad with hard-boiled eggs, deli turkey, cheese and tomatoes.  Another option, add shrimp or salmon instead of turkey.  Make your own dressing with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Pair it with a bowl of low-sodium prepared soup.

There are many ways to make healthy quick dinners.  Happy cooking to you!