Smoothies for Chewy Health, Take 2

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Cooking, Fibromyalgia

At this point, I’m disgusted with Western medicine. Not because of the limitations of what they can do, they have miraculous abilities, and is a marvel, in my mind.  My beef is that they will only consider the Next Pill. Which I have to take other pills to counter-act the side effects of.

Shenanigans.

After all this time, I know that, at least in my situation, everything hinges on my whole body health. Getting those to work together are key.

In fact, I have never in my life been more aware, as the emotional aspects of my recent experiences have caused a massive increase in physical pain and complications. And while studies look promising for future Fibromyalgia treatment, improvements for patients are years away, at best. Big Pharma’s gotta keep the revenue coming in, after all, and a cure impacts that.

After nearly 5 years, we’ve exhausted what we know is out there now, but wait to see what the Rheumatologist says. I’m just grateful my Health Blahs are pain and neuro stuff and not cancer. I’ll live and be grateful for whatever condition I’m in, until I’m not. Pain sucks, yes, but I must diminish it to myself. I will not focus on it and expound on it more than necessary as a journal, when I’m already so useless most of the time. I’m using all the strength I have to ignore and overcome the pain. Believe me or don’t, I choose not to wallow in what’s so broken in me right now.

Part of my expanding practices for relief, I’ve been considering “juicing” for a couple years now, and thanks to my sister, I have a smoothie book, from the Nutribullet company. I’m only using a basic blender for now, until I decide if I want something small and convenient (possibly the bullet) or one with multiple purposes (Ninja-type blender), a la Alton Brown’s belief in never owning any kitchen tool that only does ONE thing.

I’ve already decided against using an actual juicer, which beautifully strips out all the peels and cores and seeds, but it also pulls out good fiber, which annoys me to no end. They work great, the fruit juice tastes amazing, with no texture, just juice. But since I need meal replacement instead of simply vitamin boosting, I need fiber in there, too.

I’ve been studying healthy diets for a long time. I know that I need fiber to scrub toxins out of my system, but I’m way to thrifty to tolerate dumping out fiber and then buying more to consume. Plus, I need something VERY easy to clean and those big ol’ Breville’s just look to tricksy for me to use and clean with my painful hands and poor dexterity.

On a whim a several months ago, I went through my cupboards and fridge and put together a healthy shake that was tolerable. I drank it, but I haven’t made another until this week, other than “natural” plant-based protein shakes, which I’ve had to do for years to maintain nutritional intake. I knew I would try again, but went back to Amazon reviews and blog articles and occasional conversations with experienced folks.

I know so many incorporating them, I can’t even remember who all I talked to, besides our spectacular friend (and hair stylist) and friends Jett and Chad, who have been doing it for awhile now, too. Plus, I’d sampled half a dozen different smoothies by then and enjoyed them. These are definitely not the nasty smoothies a relative once made when visiting about 15 years ago.

For that one, I took my two polite drinks, and followed the lead of another, by nourishing the shrubs with them since we couldn’t tolerate (as adults and parents) the flavor or texture or the taste of evil on our tongues OR find anyone else willing to drink them. (We did all of that out of sight, no worries. Mama raised me right!) In hindsight, since it tasted like we were drinking liquefied branches and dirt, it was the perfect spot. Circle of life and what-not.

My physical needs require them now. Many days, I am unable to climb the stairs to the kitchen. We have a mini-fridge/freezer (Food-only for years, no room for beer!), a microwave and kettle in our basement apartment, which allows me to stockpile necessaries so I don’t run on zero calories before Chooch gets home from work with sustenance. But many days, the ability of cooking an affordable dinner for us, let alone breakfast and lunch for myself, is simply not possible and is sometimes dangerous (burns, cuts, spills, broken things).

And these fruit/veggie smoothies are even helping another Fibro issue I have when eating, which is a type of throat constriction. It rarely occurs when drinking or breathing, only when eating solid food. It’s extremely painful, and in my entire life has only happened a handful of times with liquids or shakes, as opposed a a handful of times a day, with solid foods.) The pre-made nutrition shakes helped as well, but are expensive and full of chemicals and Glob-knows-what. Since another health goal is to eat more natural and as few processed foods as possible and I can’t “go natural” with Ensure’s mystery chemicals, so I’m making my own liquid nutrition now.

So, now on Day 3 (in a row!) of incorporating at least one crazily healthy, Glob knows how it will taste, fruit and veggie smoothie. I’m hopeful that I can make this a daily habit in the near future. If I actually stick with it, in a few weeks, I’m going to increase it to 2 meal replacement smoothies a day, since that’s usually the minimum meals/snacks I skip. Each one I make is 2 servings, so for every time I make one, I have a spare for the next meal. I’ve had the second serving of the one I made yesterday already.

As for taste, because I’m being cautious in my selections for tastiness and longer commitment and it may be more limiting than I predict option-wise, all I can say  is yummmm… They do indeed taste better than they look.

The spinach makes it look like baby poo, but tastes like nothing and the color is the only detectable thing about it. The sweetness from the carrot and fruit easily mask it. Since I’m also adding protein powder, that helps, too, I’m sure. I have trouble tasting it over the fruit, I’m sure it’s doing some masking with the vanilla flavor, but it’s yummy so I’m not messing with it.

Ingredients:
2 handfuls of baby spinach, a fatty bo-batty carrot, a large banana, peeled and seedless mandarin orange and water (as much as needed to get the thickness I like). Also some vanilla protein powder and some almonds.

All fresh and gross-looking and weird textured and surprisingly tasty, even on Day 2, in truth.

Results on third day:
Nausea is more tolerable now, but the lack of appetite is still there. I still think that is most likely masked by the pain meds. But I’ll continue forcing myself back on to an eating schedule to avoid the pitfalls of things that taste good, rather than things that taste like ass (also a medication side effect), and the nausea aspect has me going this route.

Getting in so many fresh and raw fruits and vegetables every day, even though pulverized, has me at least thinking I feel better. There is certainly better nutrition since I’ve started, and it’s carried into other choices. I’m definitely keeping the fiber aspect and am just waiting until mid-November to buy a new machine, if I can’t ever find my blender. I’d love recommends on them if anyone has an opinion. I’m leaning towards the Ninja blender, as a friend just said she loves hers.

Two changes:

  • I gotta start with nuts in the blender first, cause it’s damned weird chewing bits from a smoothie.
  • I want to find a natural protein source that is unflavored.

Booze Bears Instructions

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Cooking, ExperiMENTAL

I don’t remember where I first tried these, but I started making them myself a few years ago. We’ve been taking them to parties, since we rarely get to host anymore, and other events where friends are indulging.

Thanks to a reminder from two different peeps, I’m sharing you the info we’ve gathered after years of testing and experimenting and have it pretty streamlined.

You need a fridge and at least 24 hours start time. (And be careful of hotel room fridges, they tend to run extra cold which slows the process. Yes, I’ve made them that way many times.)
Experiments also proved that gummies work, but not the sour gummies. It was disgusting, even more so when dumped untested in the toilet because I didn’t want that sludge in the hotel sink or trash. Unholy!
  • Start 24+ hours before you want to serve them. A few hours earlier is fine, but I never go less than 24 hours. I’ve read that you can start as early as 48, but I’ve never tried it since the results are great with at least 24 hours. No fail!
  • You want a glass or plastic container and plastic or wooden stirrers. Use no metal or tin foil, because SCIENCE! (I’ve never researched, I’ve just trusted the advice from the web sites.)
  • Place a layer of bears on the bottom of the container, I suggest only two deep for better absorption, so decide on the size of the dish accordingly. I serve them in 9×9 pyrex square casserole dish, 9×13 for bigger parties, scaling based on crowd size and number of batches and their spectacle booze interest.
  • Pour in the booze of choice. You want them covered, but not too much. Just above the bears is what I do, and add more as needed when stirring. Usually another splash around hours 12 to 15 maybe?
  • Hard alcohol works, liqueurs have not (yet).
  • Stir to coat. Cover and refrigerate on a level shelf. 
  • You’ll keep them in the fridge, covered, and stir every six hours or so. 
  • Overnight is fine, it’s not fragile enough to set an alarm just to stir. You are just going to break them up and re-coat them with booze after they start to adhere to each other.
  • Uncover and serve with a slotted spoon or something, and make sure you have wipes or napkins because hands get messy. 
  • If you use gummy worms, bear in mind those suckers are worth several bears and may absorb more than they appear. (I recommend with Tequila, for obvious reasons.)
If anyone has pix from Balticon, contact me because I don’t think I have any from the mega batches we made with Nobilis’ infused vodkas and other flavors.
The pix we have will be posted later. Enjoy!

Vegetarian Leanings

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Breast Health, Chooch, Cooking, Cooking, ExperiMENTAL

As a bonus of all the amazing people we’ve met in the last four years, my palate has grown immensely. What with food allergies, diabetes, vegetarians, vegans and all manner of eating preferences you must either be willing to try new foods or choose to eat crap from a McDonald’s drive thru on the way to the event.

We’ve tasted a long list of new foods, most delicious but some not. One particular day in February, I had my first cucumber sandwich, my first artichoke dish and my first ever Ethiopian restaurant. My favorite? The Ethiopian cuisine, and along-side it, the Ethiopian honey wine (mead). Thanks to Mia, John, Thomas and Andrea for the experience!

When hosting or attending pot-lucks, I typically feel the need to bring dishes that most, if not all, can enjoy. Because of this I’ve done a lot of experimentation with vegan/vegetarian cooking. Some dishes have been utter failures and some have been successes. Luckily, I’m not alone in this quest since those friends are eager to share what they’ve learned over the years. Whether tips, tricks, products, or explanation of concepts, I eagerly try to absorb all they say.

One of the biggest surprises? Marshmallows aren’t vegetarian because they contain gelatin. Oops! You can make or buy vegan/vegetarian marshmallows, but you have to work hard to find them or make them. I’ve decided it’s just not worth it for the only things I use marshmallows for: Rice Krispie treats and dipping in the chocolate fountain.

Another surprise was that granulated and brown sugar are not always vegetarian. Sugar cane is frequently processed with bone char to remove color. Artificial sweetners (Splenda and the like) are also off limits because of the animal testing that was done to get them to market. That leaves some raw sugars and agave nectar. I’m finding that converting existing dessert dishes is problematic, especially since my cheesecakes are a big part of my repertoire. I’m mainly trying new recipes that already call for these ingredients, and have found great success there.

And while I know there is controversy, I use meat substitutes when I cook vegetarian. I have to. My husband doesn’t eat beans of any kind, and I have to get more protein in the dish somehow. I only use the ones I think are tasty, and only in ways that I think are flavorful. Thanks again to friends guiding me to the better products and how to best use them.

There are breast cancer risk concerns about having too much soy, but we don’t eat soy meat substitutes more than maybe twice a week.

If I’m cooking vegan or vegetarian and my husband isn’t going to be there, I happily use beans. He dislikes them intensely and will not eat them because of an allergic type reaction. Growing up, I had beans a few times a week, so this has been a big sacrifice. I miss beans in some family favorite recipes, but I still get them a few times a week.

Favorite Products:

  • Earth’s Balance as a butter substitute. For years I used Smart Balance, but thanks to Andrea Gideon I now use EB instead as a spread and in cooking/baking. It has a truer butter flavor, even in pralines! You heard me, pralines!
  • Paulette Jaxton introduced me to Field Roast brand sausage substitutes. The Italian variety tastes better than any other Italian sausage I’ve ever had, possibly because there are no weird hard chunks that make me wonder what part of what animal it came from. They also offer an apple sage and chipotle variety that I have yet to try.
  • Fake meat crumbles, again thanks to Paulette – Morningstar crumbles are great in spaghetti/nacho cheese/soups. They break down more than ground meats, so you won’t keep that chunky texture. But you will add low fat protein, and it absorbs flavors wonderfully.
  • Gardenburger’s black bean/chipotle patties are seriously tasty. When I need to eat something quickly, this is what I reach for. A patty on a whole wheat sandwich round is filling and delicious, especially topped with romaine or spinach and salsa. It also packs a nice protein/fiber and nutrient-rich punch.
  • Beans – Black and Pinto are my favorites. Both are loaded with antioxidants on top of protein and fiber. I use them when eating alone at home. I typically toss them into a salad or season them chili powder and cumin as a meat replacement in Mexican food.
  • Egg replacer – Ener-G is the one that I keep seeing referenced. Of the two baked dishes I’ve made, one turned out great and the other was disgusting (family brownie recipe) and tossed out. I’ll continue experimenting, but only at home.
  • Thanks to Keith and Jenn of Ditched by Kate, I’m now a huge fan of Maple Agave Nectar. It’s a delicious and much healthier replacement for traditional maple syrup. I’m also converting us from Splenda to Agave, once and for all. I think it’s worth the modest calorie increase to alleviate concerns about dangerous risks when using sugar substitutes.

For ourselves, I’m finding that we have about 3 “meatless” nights a week now, and we’re eating far more chicken and turkey than beef these days. The overall result is that we’re eating healthier and I’m feeling better. While I still enjoy meat, I’m finding that I’m tipping ever closer to vegetarian living. I’ve never liked fish, no longer eat pork, and won’t eat anything on the bone or resembling what it came from. I buy boneless/skinless chicken breast ONLY and never look directly at the Thanksgiving turkey that I don’t cook. And how I love those little packages in the meat section, I can almost pretend that it’s not from an animal that way! I even have to be careful of seeing others as they chow down on things like shrimp, drumsticks, mussels (thanks Chooch) and the like, or I’ll lose my appetite. I’m just one bad experience away from being a full-on vegetarian, I think.

It will be interesting to see how my sons react to our increasingly different menu items, as only a few of the regulars they are used to remain and have typically been altered somehow. Naughty Bear experienced a wide variety of choices this weekend, but I don’t know how much he actually tried of the vegan/vegetarian variety.

Although, if I were to go vegan, I’m pretty sure Chooch would sacrifice me to his love of cheese, and I just can’t risk that. I’m pretty sure our unconditional love would suddenly have a condition attached. But I love my mouse!