Savoury Corn Bread-Onion Muffins

After spending the day taking care of everything & everyone else, I decided I could use some kitchen therapy that doubled as a treat I could easily take to work tomorrow. I procrastinated on buying groceries leaving my kitchen very sparse-this was what I came up with.

The best part about these muffins, is their versatility. In place or in addition to the onions, you could add just about anything like peppers, ground beef or chopped ham…be creative!

I used Harissa spice in mine, its a Moroccan blend that really zesty. Its also a bright red colour and looks pretty against the yellow cornmeal batter. I sprinkled each muffin with a bit of it before putting it in the oven, just so it looked pretty.

In a small pan w/ a bit of butter & olive oil, add a small finely chopped onion. Fry is at high heat until it starts to sizzle, then turn the heat to a low-medium & allow then to caramelize to a deep golden brown stirring often. Set aside.

In a big bowl blend 1 cup of cornmeal with 1 cup of flour.

Add 1/3 cup sugar, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp of salt

I went a bit buck with the spice. I added about 3/4 tsp on crushed fennel seed, 1/4 tsp cracked mixed peppercorn, a big sprinkle of garlic powder, italian spice & a pinch of harissa & montreal steak spice. (told you i went buck)

Beat 1 egg with 1/4 cup of olive oil. Blend into dry ingredients along with 1 cup of milk. Blend well.

Grease a muffin tin & 1/2 fill with batter. Spoon ome onions onto each then cover with remaining batter.

Sprinkle with a colourful spice & bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes until done.

I’m bringing a few to work with a serving of fried rapini-yum.

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Chronic Pain Coping Strategies

photo by maria gagliardi

Pain won’t kill you, but can lead you to wish you were dead. I have become a bit of a self taught expert on living with chronic pain, and this is what I have learned & how I get by:

Get To Know It As Friend Not Enemy: Stop trying to fight it, you’ll never win. The angst you carry with the ‘fight it’ attitude will only add to stress & negativity, which releases peptides in your brain, which makes it hurt worse. Pain is a protection signal from your body to alert you that you should stop doing whatever you are doing. Don’t hate a function that is there to protect you. Instead, respect your pain and obey it.

Anger: Having said that, chronic pain takes a toll on even the most upbeat person, and besides the physical implications, it can often lead to bitterness and depression if it goes unchecked. It can also discourage you from doing things that will actually be good for you (eating well & exercise for example) also adding to the feeling of ‘unwell.’ If your pain is linked to victimization (in my case screwed over by WSIB) your pain can be an awful trigger of looping negative emotions/thoughts that again, release those damned peptides.

My loop: It usually starts with my neck hurting…and I know that means a doozy headache is coming on….so then I get scared anticipating the headache, then I’m up all night in pain stressing out about having to get up at 4am for work in pain & without sleep….so then I never fall asleep & stay up instead thinking about WSIB and all the awful ways God might smite them. 4am comes, I feel like shit physically & emotionally I’m completely bitter & hostile…more peptides….more pain.

Reclaim the positive: I have tried to ‘just not think of’ whatever the looping negative thought might be…it just keeps coming back. When you are pissed, you are pissed. So instead, I sit with the feeling but not as “me angry” but as “me observing my anger” -I look at my anger as a ‘thing’ not a part of me. I analyze my anger as if I’m self therapizing myself. I imagine my WSIB adjuster & I tell her whatever I need to say. I take all that negativity and imagine like a big black ball in my hands. I don’t deserve this, I am innocent & just. This negativity does not belong to me. I imagine myself giving her the ball, and they both disappear. As soon as they do, I realize I need to replace the negative thoughts with positive ones ASAP to interrupt the loop. GRATITUDE is the first step. I am alive, if it gets any worse, at least I can pop a pain pill, so sweet how my cat comes to comfort me, thank god I can go to bed right after work, at least its pretty outside…any & every little thing you can cling to will help stop the negative mind loops.

Present Moment Awareness: Stress is a nasty pain escalation device. If you think of the past you will get depressed, if you think of the future you will get anxiety. Be present. Be aware of the sounds of the kids playing outside, or the gentle sound of the cars driving on the wet pavement after a rain, the smell of your neighbour’s bbq, the sound of your cat eating, the feel of your cozy blanket on your skin …

Distraction Therapy: Some days I’d be lying down with a headache & think I’d never survive cooking a meal. Knowing nutrition has a massive impact on the frequency & severity of my pain, I force myself to get up & just do it. Sometimes it would feel like death for the first 5-10 minutes but then all of a sudden the pain lifts…not that it vanishes, but the edge is taken off. Its still there but I’m functioning, distracted, and the moving around–blood-flow, helps me feel a bit better. I have gone to work many a morning sore & miserable and get distracted by coworkers maybe being extra funny or chipper and suddenly the day is over and even though I still feel terrible, at least I’m chipper instead of angry. That’s actually one of the things that has made me procrastinate on my WSIB appeal. I’m truly enjoying my job-my coworkers are a joy and i’m so ecstatic to mentally ‘be able’ to do it, I want to do it as a celebration more than a duty. The fact that my body is betraying me is a kick to the shins. Cognitively & emotionally work has been very very therapeutic-something I did not expect. If only my neck, eyes, balance & headaches would agree!

Oxygen: I have periodic access to a space that is climate & ozone controlled. Its a highly oxygenated-ozoned sterile space. Whenever I can, I do ‘Pranayama’ breathing exercises in this space. In just a few minutes I can feel my brain almost tingle, I feel more awake & often pain will decrease. These experiences have proved to me how much effect oxygenation has on our well-being. Do what you can to increase oxygen flow-exercise is vital for coping with chronic pain.

Arsenal Of Remedies: Prevention is a powerful remedy, as is eating & sleeping well. I have to be very disciplined of how much info or excitement I take on. Although my prescriptions take the edge off when its unbearable, they come with a HUGE risk of stroke, so I have to be at the end of my rope before I pop one. I have yet to find a natural remedy that totally does the trick, but I find with a combination of strategies/remedies I can at least cope, even if I’m bedridden and not functioning. Those are:

Pranayama breathing exercises- google it

Acupuncture worked miracles on me- I wish I could afford it!

Yoga-stretch stretch stretch stretch stretch, I stretch like it’ll conjure Jesus. It really helps a lot

Bach Flower & Calms Forte (natural remedies avail at health food stores/sections) keep me calm so I can at least rest even when suffering.

Water-when I was able to keep hydrated I felt WAY better…I have been dehydrating myself at work to my detriment. Everything hurts worse when you are dehydrated.

No thought: I try to keep my mind blank/meditating.

Walking: it often hurts, but psychologically/emotionally very healing.

Ice Packs – I now have a fancy collection.

PAMPER: When I feel like shit, I diva myself. Long bath, aromatherapy, coziest pj’s, french toast in bed, scented candles…every little thing I can do to nurture myself, I do it.

Easy But Fancy Fish Casserole

Grease a casserole dish. Set aside.

Boil enough potatoes to 1/4 fill your casserole. Slice them up place in casserole as bottom layer. Sprinkle with Salt/pepper/garlic/montreal steak spice.

Cover with a decent layer of thawed frozen spinach that has been sauteed in some fresh garlic & olive oil. Set aside.

Make a few slices of toast & place them in a food processor w/ a clove of garlic & some italian spice, montreal steak spice + 2 dashes of nutmeg & a tbsp butter. Make thick crumbs. Set aside.

Cover spinach with a layer of sole, haddock or other white fish. Salt & pepper.

In a small pot melt 2tbsp butter, add some chopped garlic & green onion. Then add 2 tbsp flour, blend well. Add 2 cups of milk & whisk until it simmers & thickens.

Pour overfish & sprinkle with breadrumbs pressing down a bit.

Bake at 375 for 45 min

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Oven-Hug Bread Pudding

Got some bread that needs using up…maybe even a bit stale? Need a hug? You need something to bliss out on that tastes like something you’d eat by a fancy fire is Aspen but you are too lazy to do some Olympic bake-a-thon to get it….and too lazy to wash a mixer & a bunch of shit. No problem.

This is SO easy.

Grease your casserole dish

Break your bread (i used approx 5-6 slices)into small-ish-mediumish rustic chunks. Place at the bottom of your casserole dish.

You can add whatever you like, chocolate chips, raisins, nuts, etc. I used raisins & a generous sprinkle of ground flax seed to ease the guilt of gluttony.

Drizzle about 2 tbsp of melted butter over it & sprinkle with Cinnamon & pumpkin spice.

In a bowl crack 4 eggs, a cap or two of vanilla, more cinnamon & pumpkin spice (cause I can’t get enough of it) & 1/2 cup brown sugar. Whisk it very well. Pour over bread and press down a bit so it all gets soaked up.

Drizzle with a generous amount of real maple syrup.

Bake in a preheated oven at approx 375 for 45 min

You Are Welcome 🙂

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Living On The Outside-City Walks With Balance Loss

For me, besides the intermittent agony, the worst part of my post concussive syndrome is my balance loss. Its usually the less active elderly that suffer vestibular disability, so coping skills are easier to master as they don’t have work or active lives to get through….at least most don’t.

When you are in your 30’s & get hit with this kind of disability, its a whole other ballgame…its also very rare, so there isn’t a lot of support or information out there for people like us. You can read a billion articles about the inner ear & the science of balance loss….but info on living with said balance loss-not much out there.

I’m tougher than most and this thing almost got the best of me. I became a hermit recluse. My balance wasn’t getting any better, after WSIB cut off my treatments it got worse. The WSIB neurologist forbade me from using a cane…I now know its because at my job if I need walking aids I can’t work which means they have to pay me, so they convince me a cane would be bad. No treatments, no canes. So, I end up bedridden after falling at home & messing up my knee. Then when I recover, I have several close calls outside of home & then I just stopped leaving the house completely except to work (I get a ride every day) I stopped going anywhere.

When I finally snapped out of it and said ‘fuck that WSIB fluffer’ & realized his advice was self serving and not in my best interest, I got the cane & it has given me my life back!! I am now walking my beloved city again, used to be my favourite thing to do.

Walking outside is like bootcamp & makes physiotherapy feel like a spa day. At physio they educate you (a MUST-its VERY empowering) and they work you, but the floors are even, you have a spotter & repetition really does work with vestibular, so after you ‘master’ their floor, its kinda coasting after that.

Walking outside is hell in comparison-the floors are SO uneven everywhere you go, people are assholes, moving things like cars & bikes throw you off your center…none of this stuff happens in physio. When you add the cloudy confusion of a concussion, its like walking through a carnival mirror-fun house. As shitty as it feels, it is good therapy. I can often feel my inner ear get numb & fuzzy on or after a walk-something that used to happen in physio-so I know its working.

I figure I’ll share what I’m learning so that the next poor wobbly bastard can spare himself/herself the sad & humiliating learning curve journey I had to suffer.

No two steps are the same: People will ask you, ‘how was your walk?’ The honest answer is ‘felt like shit but did me good’ It used to be that you would either have a good walk or a bad walk. Not anymore. Now they will always be both. You will have easy steps, and shitty steps, you will have peaceful moments & stressful ones. A lot of the stressful moments only suck because of your miserable perspective. So cheer the fuck up and know that this step might suck ass, but next step might be better.

People are assholes: But mostly I’d have to say, its not that they are so much assholes as oblivious. It used to really get me down….very dangerous because ‘down’ lingers. Its almost a bit healthier just to get a bit pissed off, then just shrug it off. I try to tell myself that people don’t mean to be inconsiderate, they just don’t know better. For all I know, I was/am just as oblivious and am oblivious about it. Today on my walk I literally got run off the sidewalk by a bunch of rushing pedestrians. I stumbled onto the grass (grass is HELL with balance loss because its lumpy) I could have got pissed…almost got pissed. Instead I took a breath, stood very still, admired the grass & waited for the rush to pass.

People Will Not Give You Enough Room: I take up half of the sidewalk. I need my cane on my right side. I can’t walk too close to the edge because I need the quad to land on an even surface or I could tumble as I’m still really wobbly even with the cane. People don’t understand this and try to push me over to the edge by refusing to go single file for one fucking second. When they pass too close to me, especially coming up from behind, I lose my center of gravity. Same happens when a bus drives past me. The pressure change sends me all wonky. Best thing to do in those situations is to stop dead in your tracks & let the fuckers pass you. If you have a cane, they’ll just assume your foot hurts or something, not that it matters.

Path of least resistance: that used to mean the quickest way there. I have learned that ‘shortcuts’ are obstacle courses in most cases. You would think cutting 10 minutes off your walk would help your energy, but if the obstacle you have to cross is THAT problematic to you, it could drain you for the rest of your outing. We are only given one so many ‘big wobbles’ before we burn out, so the less you can stress yourself, the better. However, those obstacles can be tackled as a special boot-camp outing. Having said that, there’s being positive & ambitious and then there’s just being stupid. Some shit, you just can’t or shouldn’t do anymore. Get the fuck over it.

Yesterday on my walk I encountered a crowded bus stop. There was NO WAY I could weave through that crowd. I saw a few buses coming in the distance. So I sat my ass down on a concrete slab & rested until the majority of them left. Inconvenient, yes. Stressful, no.

ughStaircases: My balance loss is on my right side. I put all my body weight on the railing on my right side + I lean back a little & go down one step at a time very slowly. There are 2 staircases in my neighbourhood that slope down. Today I tried one and holy shit, it was bad. I might never try that again bad. I made it down 4 steps then realized I was about to die and had to SLOWLY back up & I had to sit my ass down ASAP to recover. I couldn’t even wait o find a place to sit. Attempting that staircase was an epic moment of arrogant stubbornness. RESPECT your limits.

Crosswalks: What a pain in the ass! The post concussive stuff makes crosswalks & intersections very overwhelming for me in the first place. So much going on. Too much. I can’t cross fast enough for the lights it seems, so that pressure sucks. Today some asshole drove right in front of me cutting me off & i had to walk around his car. Cars moving in front of me (making a left as I’m crossing for example) really make me wobble. I will often walk the extra block to a crosswalk to avoid an intersection if I can.

Most curbs slope downwards towards the street….hell. Be extra careful here. I find bending my knees slightly helps.

The white lines on a crosswalk: Like being on hallucinogens. W-O-W. Don’t stare at them directly. Keep it peripheral…although even that is trippy in its own way.

Safe Spot: I find there is a spot that is a comfortable spot to focus my gaze to regain/keep my center of gravity. I assume its different for everyone. For me, its about 3/4 down about 2 feet in front of me.

Wandering Eyes: Used to be, the best part of walking in the city was people watching & window shopping. So much too see in the big city! Problem is, when you move your head or shift your gaze, that’s when you lose your center of gravity. Do it too often & you trigger the vertigo symptoms. I mostly look straight ahead, and when I approach an area I’m going to want to check out, I slow down or stop. If I approach a row of store windows, I slow down, secure my center of gravity, feel rooted with the cane & THEN I turn my head. I keep my head in that position until I’ve seen all of the windows, then I secure myself, root with the cane & then return my head to center.

Conscious head turns/gaze shifts seem to go much smoother than not thinking about it. I mostly wobble the worst when I’m not paying attention. Good news is, if I’m having moments of not paying attention, that means I’m becoming more confident.

BootCamp It: On even ground, speed up or move your head slowly, shift your gaze. Just get through a rough slope? Turn around and do it again. My new thing: I had an unconscious tendency to lift my left arm up (like a tightrope walker would.)  So now I keep my left hand in my pocket to train myself not to.

Why bother? Because its good for you. You’ll feel it too. After spending the better part of a year lying down it feels friggin FANTABULOUS to feel oxygenated. Do it! Do it! Do it! The fresh air, the sun, the birds, the trees, the sky…do it!!! Its worth every shred of effort. I now walk an hour a day-its hard as fuck & I come home in literal agony….I still feel like shit, my ears ring like mad, my symptoms are still wretched…but I still feel….happier & tougher since I started walking.

 

Eye Of Round Manwiches

Unless you plan on slow cooking eye of round to kingdom come, you must marinade it in acidic liquid for a minimum of 12 hours. Its a tough meat-which means cheap! If you cook it right, you won’t feel as though you are eating a budget cut. I don’t eat meat but I made this for the boys tonight & I got a litany of compliments.

The spice blend: I used President’s Choice Harissa. It doesn’t matter what I cook with this stuff, the boys will always say its restaurant good. Its very pungent with just enough heat-subtle but there. Once I mixed it with some orange juice & slathered it on a chicken before throwing it in the oven being totally lazy & the boys acted like I was an Iron Chef.

Its great on fish …basically any kind of carcass.

I used this stuff for this dish but if your man likes a specific blend, feel free to substitute.

Night before: Put your eye of round steaks in a Tupperware container in a single layer. Add a few cloves of crushed garlic, a bay leaf & a 1/4rd onion. Sprinkle well with spice mix. Open a can of whole tomatoes & just pour overtop making sure meat is covered. Seal with a lid & pop it in the fridge until its time to cook it.

Prepare:

Cut a kaiser/bun in half and lightly butter. Sprinkle with garlic powder/salt & a white stinky cheese. Get them ready in the toaster oven, but don’t turn it on until the meat is cooked.

In a pan place some olive oil, chopped fresh garlic, a good dash of Harissa (or substitute) spice mix, a good handful of brown sugar, several shakes of soy sauce. Get i t simmering.

Open the Tupperware and grab 2-3 whole tomatoes that have been marinading the steak. Crush them in your hands one at a time into the pan to mush them up. Add a few tbsp of the tomato juice marinade as well. After its been bubbling a few minutes, add your steaks and cover.

After a while, take a fork & a pair of good scissors. Cut the steaks in half lengthwise & then cut into small chunks/strips. Simmer on medium mixing often until the meat is cooked and the sauce has thickened and reduced to a thick gooey coating.

Toast the bread until crunchy & cheese is melted. Spoon meat onto sandwich & enjoy.

As you can see below, my man likes a gluttonous amount f mayo on his 🙂

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Salmon Muffins-yup, I said it.

Sounds strange eh? This is my chronic fatigue inspiring me to be creatively lazy. There is no friggin way I’m standing around forming salmon patties and frying them individually. F*ck that shit. Plus, its too fattening to fry, and we are all too fat. Healthy it is!

Spray muffin tray, set aside.

Make some instant mashed potatoes. Use about 1/2-3/4 of the yield. Add some italian spice, 2 cloves minced fresh garlic, 2-3 minced green onions. Blend well. Set aside.

Make 2 slices of toast & wiz in food processor. Set aside.

In food processor wiz up 2 eggs, salmon, a squeeze of non fat mayo, squeeze of mustard, italian spice. Add a tbsp of baking powder, wiz again.

Mix with mashed potatoes & add breadcrumbs until its a nice smooth consistency that holds together well but is still moist. Add a few tbsp of milk if it needs some moisture.

Spoon into muffin tins and press down gently to fill well.

Bake at 425 degrees for about 30-40 min until its golden and cooked well right through the center.

While these are baking, blend some fat free mayo with some fresh dill & a squeeze of mustard for a quick dipping sauce. I at mine in a fresh bum with the mayo as a dressing-twas delish!

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