Sunday, January 31, 2010

Green soup

This weekend was short. And delicious. Fajitas with friends on Friday night, a batch of mojo de ajo was made on Saturday (that's a whole other blog post in itself, and coming soon), and freshly-baked naan and a super quick Indian dal this evening. Oh, and ice cream yesterday night. I rarely eat ice cream - it can sometimes do a number on my stomach - but I indulged last night (oh, and this afternoon - after the gym, no less - and I'm guessing I will be again in about 30 minutes) with minimal side effects. I miss ice cream. Maybe I'll eat more often.

But this post is about something decidedly more nutritious but just as delicious. I've been hearing so much about dark, leafy greens recently, and I am embarrassed to admit, I've rarely cooked with kale or chard...until now.

Remember when I made fun of my Mom's hippie cookbook, The Vegetarian Epicure? Well, I've been falling in love with it and went on an Amazon binge a few weeks ago and bought Love Soup, Anna Thomas' most recent cookbook. It's all soup (well, mostly), all vegetarian, and it all looks delicious. I'm chomping at the bit to make her potato and leek soup this week, but the first soup I tried out was her classic Green Soup (she includes many variations, but this is it in it's most simple form).

At first I was a tad concerned: how was this soup pot full of greens going to become...soupy? But it did (with the help of a blender) and it was really superb. In fact, when I woke up last Sunday all I wanted was this soup and snuck downstairs thirty minutes before Matt and heated the leftovers - all for myself. The recipe suggests topping the soup with big croutons, a drizzle of fruity olive oil, or a white cheese (queso fresco, feta, and so on). We have a deep adoration for feta and chose that. We also ate it with a baguette - what can I say, we are forever eating cheese and bread, so it's a good thing this soup is sublimely healthy.

Green Soup

  • 1 bunch chard or spinach
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 5 scallions, sliced, white and green parts
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro
  • 1 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 medium potato
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. olive oil
  • Marsala or dry sherry (optional)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 - 3 cups veggie broth
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
Serve with: fruity olive oil, crumbled fresh white cheese, or croutons.

Wash the greens, trim stems, and slice leaves. Combine with chard or spinach, kale, scallions, and cilantro in a large pot with 3 cups water and a teaspoon of salt. Peel the potato or just scrub, and cut into small pieces and add to the pot. Bring the water to a boil, turn down the flame to low, and cover. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop the onion and saute with a dash of salt in olive oil until golden brown and soft. Cook slowly and then add the caramelized onion to the soup. You can also deglaze the pan at the end with a bit of Masala or sherry (optional). In the pan where you sauteed the onion, also saute the garlic just for a minute or two and add to the pot and simmer the soup for an additional 10 minutes.

Now add enough broth to the make the soup a soup - it should pour easily from the ladle - and puree it in the blender, in batches, or use an immersion blender. Return the soup to the pot, bring it back to a simmer, and taste. Season with salt and pepper. Add a pinch of cayenne and the lemon juice. Keep tasting and adjusting the spice until it's just right.

Pop quiz, hot shot: which one is the kale and which one is the chard? Oh, you think the first one, do you? The one on the left, you say? WRONG! Trick question: that's a head of romaine. Gotcha!!

The soup, before.

And after! We sprinkled feta on top.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Fertility "fun"!

Venus of Willendorf, who I pray to every night. Just kidding!

Oh, I almost forgot to regale you all with my medical odyssey! I know, I know…you’ve been chomping at the bit, staring wide-eyed at your monitor fretting about my next update. Or you’ve been living your life and I this blog has not come into your consciousness for weeks. You know, either/or.

Again, and I feel like I need to reiterate this because I feel like a bit of a schmuck talking about my tubes, but I’m discussing this due to scar tissue left behind due to my Crohn’s. Oh, and the fact that I love to air all my dirty laundry. (In truth, I actually do not spill every detail and possess a tad bit of decorum – there’s no point in embarrassing me or Matt any further, and the poor lad puts up with enough.)

So here we go: I will be going on Clomid for three months. If that doesn’t work, I am turned over to a fertility specialist and they bring out the big guns (read: artificial insemination, IVF, ugh). Clomid is the first go-to for women dealing with possible infertility. It’s cheap, non-invasive, and has few side effects (deteriorates your uterine lining, can make cervical mucus a hostile environment for sperm, or you can form cysts, but hey, who’s counting?!). Clomid stimulates ovulation and will regulate my longer-than-long cycle. Women I know who were on Clomid said it made them extremely emotional, which I’m intrigued with, considering I already cry 4.5 times a week (I have not told Matt about this possible side effect as I think he’d be scared).

You take Clomid – which is in pill form – days five through nine of your cycle, then have sexy time days 10 through 18 (every other day). And when I say “sexy time” I mean, “Matt, get up here NOW! This is gonna be all wham bam thank you ma’am, and don’t try any funny stuff.” (There is nothing sexy about anxiously trying to procreate, peeing on sticks every day, and monitoring your ovulation. It’s very calculated and I just want to go to bed.)

Look, you gotta say it like it is. I don’t mince words, and “miracle of life” has been replaced with cold, hard science. People say, “Make it romantic. You’re creating a new life.” Well, been there, done that – eight months ago. Now, excuse me, I have to go urinate on a stick.
PS: So no one feels sorry for Matt and thinks I embarrass the lad, please know that before publishing this (okay, right after) I asked Matt to read this to see if it would be okay to post. His response? "Nah, I'm not embarrassed. But you misspelled schmuck: it's "schmuck" and not "smuck"."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Like a rock

I’m very good at mini-freak-outs. These five-minute-panic-attacks usually consist of me Googling something, then crying, then calling Matt over (who tries hard not to roll his eyes), to my declaring I’d only feel better if there were just some cookies in the house. The last one occurred on Monday, where I realized the cost of my medication (now on a high deductible plan, these costs are much more pronounced). I emailed Matt and said Pentasa – the maintenance med I take several times a day – will run us over $500 a month. I told him we’re doomed, what if we lost insurance coverage, and I’m surely going to die a destitute old woman because of the lack of Medicare and Social Security 50 years from now. He replied with this: “Well, there’s an argument for us both to always continue working. And relax, do you know how strong the AARP lobby is? We’ll be fine.” TYPICAL MATT.

Matt is the most rational and un-excitable person I know. He doesn’t emote. I think it’s a nerd/programmer thing. I’ve only known Matt to cry twice: early in our relationship when he was falling in love with me and realizing how awesome I was (I would pause here and tell Matt I’m sorry for embarrassing him, but this is nothing new, so we’ll move on), and during my first hospitalization when I was told I was having surgery (I was sobbing, he only shed a few tears). I semi-recently asked, “Why don’t you cry over me like you did when we met!?” To this, he arched his eyebrow, laughed (devilishly), and chided me with, “Kathryn…that was a long time ago! It’s different now.” He then excused himself to get some almonds to munch on. So much for romance.

Matt and I are very different: namely, he is very nice, and I can be very temperamental. He calls it emotional. If we have a run-in with a rude individual I might go to him afterwards, “God, what an ASSHOLE!”. He will listen to me, and then I always end with, “Well, DON’T YOU AGREE??!” to which he’ll usually respond, “Yes; he could have been nicer.” Sometimes he disagrees but tries to be diplomatic, but it always comes out very condescending like: “I see your point, but maybe you’re looking into it too much. Maybe so-and-so didn’t realize how they came off.” This is when I usually explode and tell him, “No, Matt, you just don’t get it!”

Matt once tried to teach me how to drive stick. Actually, it was more like five times, and they all ended horribly. The first time was in his rickety old truck only a few months into our relationship. I liked him, so I didn’t want to scare him off, so I decided NO MATTER WHAT I was going to keep my emotions in check. I think I only cried once that day.

The next few times were nothing short of disastrous. Matt had gotten a new car – which was of course manual – and decided we would try again. This time things when smoothly until I stalled. And then stalled again. And again and again and again. Then I yanked off his Spongebob air freshener and threw it out the window. And then I cried. We have since decided that his next car will be an automatic.

Before I got more seriously sick with Crohn’s, I decided I was going to get my MBA. I cannot articulate why except for “everyone is doing it” and “it can’t hurt”. Because I have absolutely no business background and my GMAT scores were just okay, I was admitted on a provisional basis: I had to receive a B in my first class – statistics – to be admitted into Penn State’s program. This would be no big deal if the class wasn’t STATISTICS. Because I have no business background, and my last class solid math class was pre-calc in 11th grade, and this class was said to be the equivalent of "two undergrad classes in half the time" I decided I obviously had to find a way to cheat. Unfortunately, I was not clever enough to think of exactly how, so I solicited Matt's help. Matt is good at math and uses it for his job. He says things like "it's the only universal language" and it's "beautiful and absolute" and it "exists outside of its application" (I don't get the last one, either).

It didn't go well. First of all, the class was abstract and I'm not sure how we were to use it in the business world. Or any world. Every Tuesday and Thursday I'd come home from class close to tears because I did not understand all. And every Tuesday and Thursday night Matt would look over the chapter and walk me through it. He found most of it easy, but I was very pleased when he was tripped up a few times, and took the opportunity to shout, "YOU don't even understand it! That's how AWFUL it is!" or, when I was feeling particularly frustrated and mad, I'd snidely and very flippantly say, "Well, well, well, I guess you're just as dumb as I am." Look, I was mad.

I think it's impossible to learn something from someone whom you love. Like a child, I'd cry, throw my books down, and walk about the room when I didn't understand something...which was often. I'm not someone who enjoys a hearty challenge; I enjoy things I'm good at. Like watching t.v. Or choosing what jewelry to wear for the day. Not statistics. I put my MBA on hold when I got sick, and have yet to pick it back up.

But you know what? Thanks to my better half, I got the necessary B in that class.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Let's do the twist!

Chubby Checker and, well, ....not me, doing the twist.

I go to a gym on the Main Line. For those not in the Philadelphia region, the Main Line is (according to Wikipedia) “an unofficial region of suburban Philadelphia comprising a collection of affluent towns built along the old Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad…which in the 19th century became home to many sprawling country estates built by Philadelphia’s wealthiest families.”

I am not one of them.

But I work in the area and the gym is between my home and work. It’s convenient and all the cardio machines have televisions: that’s enough for me! They bill it as a “sophisticated club for sophisticated members”. I bring the status of their clientele down considerably when I roll in sporting some bumper stickers on my Corolla (“Adopt a homeless Lab!” and a couple touting the Democratic Party, which brings me particular delight because I think I’m amidst a lot of Republicans at that club). Occasionally, my car is the only non-luxury car in the parking lot, and we’re not talking mid-luxury like an Audi or an Acura, we’re talking full-on Mercedes Benz and BMWs out the wazoo. And that’s fine by me (I also feel a sort of pride considering Matt recently repaired my cracked front bumper with packaging tape…cheap but obviously very tasteful because, come on, it’s clear…not like that lewd silver duct tape).

Anyway, at my weekly training session where I get yelled at for eating cookies and cake, my trainer pointed out a man in sweatpants and a hoodie, who’ve I’ve seen many times before. “Do you know who that is?” she asked. “That’s Chubby Checker!” Then she started twisting and gyrating and yelled “Hey Chubby! Let’s do the twist! Come over here!” I was on, what my trainer calls, the sex machines (your legs go in and out and work your thighs) and really saw no reason for Chubby Checker to come over witness my general unease.

First of all, Chubby Checker has a very baby-like face. Secondly, this is what he told me when he got over to the sex machine and after my trainer introduced me: “I’ve been watching you and you look good. I have my eye on you and you’re lookin’ real good.” (I think he was remarking on the fact that I no longer make a scene when I'm told it's crunch time on the mat.) He left and my trainer told me to tell Matt that Chubby Checker was hitting on me and she laughed uproariously.

And of course he wasn’t, but I couldn't let an opportunity like this pass me up. (Come on! This is pretty much the highlight of my life.) So with that, here you go: a whole entry just so I could brag that Chubby Checker gave me a compliment today.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Today was a very lazy day. Embarrassingly lazy. I spent the morning catching up on favorite television shows online, and during each commercial break I was bombarding with the Payton/Eli Manning versus Donald Trump Oreo spots. Have you seen these? They are cringe-worthy, but after 2 1/2 hours of television I turned to Matt and said, "Can you get me some Oreos?" (Very good call on their part to market to pathetic women in their pajamas watching equally questionable shows like Grey's Anatomy.)

Of course he said no, and since I was still not dressed I decided to take matters in my own hands and make some cookies. I saw delicious cookies on The Bright Side's blog, but I decided it was chocolate or bust today (I still had Oreos on the brain). I had a little bit of butter, a little bit of oats, a little bit of chocolate, and a little bit of raisins on hand. No worries, because I found the perfect recipe for a little bit of everything: Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip Cookies. They are wonderful: crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside, and Matt and I adore the raisin/chocolate combo. Our favorite candy bar, in fact, is Cadbury's Fruit and Nut (chocolate, raisins, and almonds = divine). Even Matt, who is a cookie snob - oh, and he knows it - devoured them with his nightly coffee.

I'd also like to add they're quite filling, which is really a plus if you're like me and usually eat no less than eight cookies at a time.

Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip Cookies

(recipe courtesy of The Dragon's Kitchen)

Makes 16 large cookies.
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup golden raisins

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. In a mixer bowl cream together the butter, brown sugar and maple syrup until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the egg and vanilla, beating well.

3. In a bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

4. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated.

5. Stir in the oatmeal, chocolate chips and raisins.

6. Drop 2 tablespoons of dough into mounds onto a parchment lined cookie sheets. I made my mounds bigger by using an ice cream scoop. Space mounds about 2 inches apart. Bake until lightly golden around the edges about 10-12 minutes.

My mom got Matt parchment paper (well, amongst other things) for Christmas this year. I'm not sure why. But she just wrote me an email saying she was looking at the blog and disappointed I had not used the parchment paper in any of the recipes so far. So this is for you, mom. Sit back and take it allll in.

What; you don't let your dog lick the bowl, too? (For anyone who eats at our house: all dishes are thoroughly washed and disinfected in the dishwasher. Well....most of them at least.)

Camouflage cookies!

Spicy Roasted Cauliflower and Salmon

Martha Stewart scares me. A domestic diva I am not: I "clean" by sweeping things under the bed and in the closet, and "cook" by dumping ingredients in a pot. I do not care about thread-count, I can't craft a darn thing, and all of my drawers are lazily unorganized. But the woman (well, her team) can concoct a mean dinner.

Last week I left a recipe on the counter and a few ingredients in the fridge and instructed Matt to do the rest. I returned home to this: spicy roasted cauliflower and salmon. It was divine. It really was, and even Matt said we're adding this to our regular rotation (so thank you Martha).

A note: The recipe - in it's original, published form - is below. However, we had a VERY large head of cauliflower (it's priced per head and not per pound, so OF COURSE I'm gonna rummage for the biggest one available!) and doubled the anchovies/garlic and thought it was superb. Also, don't be scared of the anchovies! They added a delicious complexity of flavor to the dish, and were not fishy.

One last thing: Take "spicy" with a grain of salt. I do not eat anything very spicy (as in hot) due to my IC/Crohn's - the red pepper flakes just gave it a bit of a kick.

Spicy Roasted Cauliflower and Salmon

Serves 4; courtesy of Martha Stewart

  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 to 4 anchovy fillets (optional)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons anchovy oil (from can of anchovies) or olive oil
  • 1 head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cored and cut into large florets
  • 4 skinless salmon fillets (6 to 8 ounces each)
  • 4 thin lemon slices, halved, plus 4 wedges, for serving
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Gather garlic, anchovies (if using), and red-pepper flakes into a pile. Using a chefs knife, coarsely chop; season generously with salt. Using flat side of knife blade, mash mixture into a paste.
  2. Place paste into a large bowl; add oils, and mix to combine. Add cauliflower, and toss to coat. Spread mixture in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast until starting to soften, about 15 minutes.
  3. Season salmon with salt and pepper. Remove baking sheet from oven; push cauliflower to sides, and place fillets in the center. Arrange two half-slices of lemon on each fillet. Return to oven; bake until fish is opaque throughout, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.
We were both voraciously eating this, and fighting over the cauliflower. Who fights over cauliflower?!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Smashed chickpea sandwiches

Sometimes you just want a good sandwich. Fresh turkey, crisp romaine, hearty bread, and some mayo, if in the mood, is the closest thing to divinity. This week I wanted to add a vegetarian twist, and a recipe on Smitten Kitchen fit the bill. This food blog has the most gorgeous photos, and if you call if food porn, then call me addict.

These sandwiches are deliciously simple, and just plain delicious. The beans make them filling and they have a slight Medi flair. They call for olives - which I had on hand for half the mixture since Matt's a fan and I'm not - but he ate them when I wasn't looking. Go figure. He said he "didn't know they were for the recipe" but they were on the counter with all the other ingredients, so I think he's lying.

I topped my sandwich with some roasted red pepper, sliced cucumber for more crunch, and cheddar cheese (cheese makes everything better). Matt topped his with some gorgeous watercress (given to us from his parents from a hydroponic farm near their still had the roots!) and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar: equally amazing, light, and just plain fresh.

Smashed Chickpea Sandwiches
  • 2 15 oz. cans chickpeas, drained
  • 4 Tb. sliced black olives (we didn't use)
  • 4 Tb. finely chopped red onion
  • 4 Tb. chopped parsley
  • Zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • few Tb. of olive oil (more or less dependent on your personal preference)
Mix everything but the oil in a bowl and lightly smash the chickpeas. Add the olive oil, and mix and adjust seasonings. Enjoy as a sandwich or atop greens.

See that plastic container in the middle? That housed the olives, which Matt "didn't know belonged to the recipe". Lies, I tell you, lies!!



Check if out open-faced style!

Roasted Veggie Soup

Last week I made a soup with kale. Kale-wah?! I am a kale novice, and a bit frightened of it. First off, kale is one hardcore and tough's almost....leathery. I just can't really imagine sauteing the stuff and it would surely beat chard or spinach in hand-to-hand combat any day. This soup also has butternut squash, which is a major milestone for me because years ago I made the following decree: "The most disgusting foods in the world are winter squashes, olives, and cottage cheese!" Now it looks like only two of those will be become permanent fixtures on the list.

I shamelessly stole this recipe from Simply Recipes - one of my food blog favorites. I've never had a knack at following recipes to their exact specifications, and I threw in some portabellos, which I know think are quite necessary in the dish: they add a certain earthy heartiness to the soup. I'm also a lifelong fan of all things mushroom. (And has anyone else noticed that the fancy shiitakes and creminis in the bulk bins are often just as cheap as the pre-wrapped button mushrooms?!) I also added some peppers to the roasting pan because I had them (a soup is the perfect excuse to clean out your produce bin, am I right?).

We ate this soup for two days straight and each night Matt brought home a fresh loaf of bread to accompany the meal. We're heathens!

Roasted Veggie Soup

  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and quartered lengthwise (I used 5.)
  • 2 large tomatoes, quartered (I used a can of peeled whole tomatoes.)
  • 1 large onion, cut into 8 wedges or 4 or 5 slices
  • 1/2 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch thick wedges (I used a whole squash, small in size.)
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 6 cups or more of vegetable broth
  • 4 cups of finely chopped kale (Used one bunch.)
  • 3 large fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf (Used a few.)
  • 1 15 oz can of Great Northern white beans, drained
  • I added a couple of large portobella mushroom caps, sliced, and a large handful of baby bell peppers.
1 Preheat oven to 400°F. Brush rimmed baking sheet with a thin coat of olive oil. Arrange carrots, squash, tomatoes, onion, and garlic (and any other veggies you're using) on sheet. Drizzle with more olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Roast vegetables until they are brown and tender, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes.

2 Cut squash and carrots into 1/2 inch pieces; set aside. (I simply scooped the insides of the squash out and added to the soup as spoonfuls.) Place garlic cloves in food processor. Add tomatoes and onion; puree until almost smooth. Pour 1/2 cup broth onto the baking sheet; scrape up any browned bits. Transfer broth and vegetable puree to large pot. Add 5 1/2 cups broth, kale, thyme and bay leaf(s) to pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat. Simmer uncovered until kale is tender, about 30 minutes.

3 Add carrots, beans, and squash to soup. Simmer 8 minutes to blend flavors, adding more broth to thin soup if necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaf.

What a bountiful kitchen. What a cornucopia. What a...okay, I'll stop.

Roast those suckers!

I only know how to use one blade on my food processor, and this is it.

Because of my sub-par camera skills, the soup is glistening!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Now how do I get to this wedding?

If you know me, you know I’m not a fan of weddings. No, scratch that: I’m not a fan of what weddings have become (read: the cost of your 20% home down payment). I was raised by really cheap parents: my mom washed Ziplock baggies!!! I had like two Barbies tops, and one of them was headless. I got socks and slippers when other kids got Nintendo for Christmas. I know, I know: it was a tough childhood, cry me a river.

But back to weddings. What in the world is going on here? And why, even with my distaste for the whole industry, do I get sucked into watching episodes of “Say Yes to the Dress” at the gym?! With all my ranting aside, I want to post this superbly cute video. It kind of sickens me on how GOOD it is, but if you’re going to make a “Save the Date” video, then darnit, this is how to do it. And being 5’10” (my coworkers measured me and said I was 5’11” but I WILL NOT ACCEPT THAT), I’m swooning over how this couple embraces their height difference. I mean, Matt and I are the same height but only recently have I been secure enough to wear 1 ½ inch heels. I know – pathetic. Now watch the video and marvel at how much more creative Jeff and Erin are than you and me.

Looking for a deluge of recipes? Why, yes!

When I’m upset I cook. And cry. And fling things across the room. I’ve been upset over, essentially, every facet of my life (read what you will into that, but I’m sure you get my drift since I talk about everything else, cough cough) for the past couple weeks. The only good every day constants are Matt and Penny, and thank goodness for them. Yesterday I was crying so loudly Penny ran over to my side and remained there, shaking. Poor darling. (She was surrendered and brought to the shelter by a divorcing couple, so I can only assume she gets very tense when I embark on an emotional fit.) Last night I told Matt to grab two (yes, two) bottles of wine and we headed to the Italian BYOB a mile from our house. It fit the bill.

Anyway, what I’m trying to get at, is that I have a ton of backlogged recipes that need posting, and post I will! Crohnies who are amidst a flare, avert your eyes! I’ll be posting recipes for crushed chickpea sandwiches, salmon and spicy roasted cauliflower, and roasted vegetable soup with kale for starters. Stay tuned, and savor the weekend. (I know I certainly will.)

With love,
The Gutsy Girl

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

We're gonna need some industrial strength Draino in here!

Note: I am delving into my journey (and I guess that’s what it will now be called) to have a child because my difficulties are, in part, related to my Crohn’s. No more, no less.

I’m going to try to avoid any further Draino references…but it’s hard. Yesterday I had my HSG. You know, the test where you the doc shoots some dye up through your cervix and down your fallopian tubes to ensure they are clear and an egg can travel down to (hopefully) be fertilized. First off, I would like to say the radiologist was beautiful in a “I’m a 2nd year resident and a little awkward but I’m tall and endearing” sort of way. He had me at “Hello, are you Ms. Hopkins?”, and if I were not married (oh, and trying to have a baby), I would have surely made sure to glance at his left hand to see if he was married. Secondly, my fabulous doctor asked if I’d mind if her med student watched the procedure. Maybe some women would balk at the thought of lying naked (from the waist down) on a table with your legs spread and a 24-year-old boy watching, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. But that is not me. “I have Crohn’s: there is no indignity I haven’t faced, so no problem, bring him in!” I said theatrically with a swish of my arm. So it was me spread eagle, a petite little radiology tech, my doctor, the goofy-looking (sorry, Brendan – that was his name) med student, and the gorgeous (in the nerdy way I like) radiologist. The more the merrier, I say. Of course, I immediately got down to business and asked the really important question: “Will this hurt?”

“You will have bad cramping – and you won’t like me for a bit – but it’s over in a minute,” my doctor replied. That would have been fine, but the woman lied. First they insert the speculum and then they wash your cervix. This is cold but no biggie, and women who have had children are probably thinking, “Get over yourself, sissy.” Fine, I deserve that. They then attach a big syringe-thing (I know, you’re like, “Where did this woman learn all this medical jargon?!”) into this long metal thing and insert it so the tip is through your cervix. Still no biggie. Then they say, “Okay, we’re starting” and start releasing dye into ye ol’ tubes. This is when I screeched, “You LIED!!” to my doctor, “This hurts!”. The rad tech was patting my shoulder and saying it was just another minute, and the radiologist had the x-ray machine above my pelvic area and was snapping photos. Everyone was looking at the screen and saying, “Oh, look at that, it filled beautifully” (thank you), but then, “I don’t see anything in her right tube”. Upon not seeing any dye they pumped more in and I am not lying: I have never felt worse abdominal cramping. My abdomen felt like it was expanding and contracting and it was very reminiscent of my severe Crohn’s episodes that sent me to the Percocet. I’ve heard this test is no big deal, it doesn’t really hurt, so I kept my mouth shut this time. After all, there was a cute radiologist in my presence – no need to make a scene. (Later in the day I read it is indeed painful if there is blockage, so I feel somewhat validated for my outburst.) In about a minute it was over – but the horrible cramping persisted for the next two hours or so – and I got my verdict: One of my tubes is clogged. I have a dud tube. (These are my words.)

The fallopian tube that wasn’t functioning is probably scarred and blocked by scar tissue, which may have been present long before my surgery, or not, due to the rampant inflammation in my pelvic area. I got off the table – blood trickling down my leg (“spotting” is normal after an HSG) – and got dressed. And this is the upshot: We are waiting for the results of my Day 3 (as in cycle) blood work – taken last week – and Matt’s, how do I put this?, oh, yes, semen analysis. If both are normal (I am indeed ovulating, and Matt’s sperm can indeed swim), I will be put up to three months of Clomid, which is a fertility drug, and if that doesn’t work, I will leave my ob/gyn’s care and go to a fertility specialist immediately. If any of these tests come back with a “hit”, we are going directly to the fertility specialist. She said if I do get pregnant on Clomid, I am a high-risk pregnancy because of the Crohn’s, but more particularly, because of this dummy of a tube (again, my words). Apparently, my chances of an ectopic pregnancy are much greater, so I will have to be closely monitored for the first few months. She said the fertility doctors may want to remove the clogged tube proactively due to the risk, or look into attempting to repair the tube – and remove the scar tissue – laparoscopically.

I got into my car and called Matt. Because he is Matt, he took this news as good news: “Hey, you have one good tube!” he said. We have dealt with so much disappointment, things like this aren’t wholly bad news, and in reality, it isn’t. One functioning tube is huge, and with fertility meds, can be as good as two. But I see it as the beginning of another round of tests and doctors (and possible surgery) and a whole new set of concerns. Hell, I’m frustrated. I'm sad. And very bitter than men do not have to go through this. I have also caught myself, with black mascara tears running down my face, saying, “I hope women who can easily have children realize how fortunate they are!” with rancor in my voice. This is when Matt tells me to calm down, and it will happen for us…eventually. He then asks if I want some chocolate or candy, because, like a child, I am pacified by sweets.

So now I’m just waiting for our other test results. I want to get a move on – get started on next steps, and get “Operation Baby” underway. Until then I suppose I’ll simply look in envious adoration at young families at the grocery store. With that said: someone please keep me away from Babies ‘R’ Us.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Eat cake!

Um, what is rich chocolate with coffee undertones, and a whipped cream frosting tinged with Bailey’s Irish Cream? Well, it’s obviously the cake I baked this weekend, which I’ve entitled “Irish Mocha Cake”. It’s a chocolate cake dripping in coffee and accented with tablespoon upon tablespoon of Bailey’s Irish Cream.

The original recipe was for a tiramisu cake, but that called for Kahula and times are tough; this girl wasn’t going to pony up for some fancy liqueur! Because I am nothing but a novice lush, we had Bailey’s in the fridge (score!) and I decided to take full advantage. Bailey’s plus chocolate plus heavy whipping cream plus mascarpone cheese? That’s what I call indulgence. And two extra pounds.

Now, I never purported to be a good froster. I am the worst froster, in fact, but the cake still came out relatively presentation worthy, which is a good thing because I was taking this to a dinner and you simply cannot take a mess of a cake to a dinner party. Well, you probably can, but Kathryn doesn’t do that.

The original recipe calls for two cups of heavy whipping cream (high carumba!) but I ended up using about half that and eating the rest of it with my spatula when I was done. (Wait, what’s this you say about counting calories??? Yeah, I don’t do that.) I also doubled the liqueur (goes without saying) and the coffee in the recipe because more is more, right? I also switched out the white cake mix for a chocolate, because coffee and chocolate are magic together. Oh, and the original recipe uses three cake pans; who has three cake pans?! I used two 8” and cut one of the layers in half because I’m fancy like that. And what’s more, the original recipe didn’t ask you to “coffee-fy” all the layers of cake. That is doing this cake wrong and I wouldn’t put up with it.

Anywho, the result is a super-moist cake that hits its peak the next day (not that I came downstairs at midnight to finagle a piece, no, not me). Oh, and it uses a boxed cake mix, which I’m all about (I bought a dark chocolate variety because, apparently, even boxed cake mixes can be sophisticated). If you’re fancy, garnish with dusted cocoa.

Irish Mocha Cake

1 (18.25 ounce) package chocolate cake mix
2 teaspoons instant coffee powder
1/2 cup coffee
2 tablespoons coffee flavored liqueur

1 (8 ounce) container mascarpone cheese (Trader Joe’s has it reasonably priced.)
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons coffee flavored liqueur

1 ½ cups whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
4 tablespoons coffee flavored liqueur

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour 2 8 inch cake pans.
2. Prepare the cake mix according to package directions and add instant coffee. Divide batter between 2 pans.
3. Bake in the preheated oven according to package directions. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. In a measuring cup, combine brewed coffee and 2 tablespoons of Bailey’s; set aside.
4. To make the filling: In a small bowl, using an electric mixer set on low speed, combine mascarpone, 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar and 2 tablespoons Bailey’s; beat just until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
5. To make the frosting: In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer set on medium-high speed, beat the cream, 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar and 4 tablespoons coffee liqueur until stiff. Fold 1/2 cup of cream mixture into filling mixture.
6. To assemble the cake: Cut both (I only did one because I’m lazy) cakes in half, creating four thin layers. Place one plain cake layer on a serving plate. Using a chopstick, poke holes all over like a crazy person. Pour 1/4 of reserved coffee mixture over cake, then spread with 1/3 of the filling mixture atop. Repeat for the remaining layers. Cover cake with frosting. Garnish as you see fit and refrigerate for at least a good hour (or overnight) prior to serving. Keep refrigerated.

This is me stabbing the cake with a chopstick.

This cake should be shameful; it's naked!!

The definition of a friend: they humor you and try so, so hard to act candid, yet fail so, so miserably. (Check out that expression on Brian, far right!)

The aftermath!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Holy guacomole!

This was a bad food weekend...and by bad, I mean DELICIOUS!!!!!!! Duh. We had dinner at friends' (who made a spectacular Thai dish - and I want that recipe, Megan!), and I made a Bailey's Chocolate Irish Cream crazy cake (recipe coming, I assure you), and then today Matt and I went up to his parents to celebrate his brother and sister's birthdays with crepes galore (and all the fixins for both the sweet and savory). My digestive track needs a break.

But, to fill the food void, I have a back-up of recipes that simply demand to be posted. There's that cake, and then a roasted veggie soup I made earlier in the week, and there's what I want to talk about now: simple guacamole. I love guacamole. It's a yummy fat, no? However, I do have a problem with grocery store guacamoles. Mainly, they are sub par and it's all a tragedy because good guacamole takes three minutes to prepare (and a little bit of foresight as you wait for those avocados to ripen).

We live in suburban Philadelphia, so naturally, we cheer on the Eagles. Well, they very pitifully played the last couple of weeks and were knocked out of the Playoffs, but that didn't stop us from making guacamole to go with our game day nachos. If there's one good thing about football Sundays, it's chips and dip. That is it.

This guacamole is as simple as it gets: avocados, a bit of garlic, salt and pepper, cilantro, and a can of Lime and Cilantro RoTel Tomatoes (that is my secret). The can already has the lime you need, it has cilantro (but I add more), and it adds a smidgen of heat. Also, I am strongly against smashing your avocados. I say dice 'em for a chunkier - and somehow, fresher - version.

Simple Guacamole
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • 1 can RoTel Lime and Cilantro Diced Tomatoes, drained
  • 1-2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup (more or less to taste) chopped cilantro
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Add all ingredients, and adjust seasonings to taste.

Guacamole needs lime, but not when you have a can of this RoTel on hand. It's cheating, but in the best possible way.

Here's Matt properly illustrating how to cut an avocado. Cut the fruit in half, around the pit. Remove the pit. Then, with a spoon, scoop out the inside of the avocado. Viola!

To die for (okay, not literally, but it's mighty good).

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Weekend domesticity

I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of domesticity. Last weekend had an “all things house” veneer: grocery shopping (which I love, cross my heart), a run to Target (which I love even more than grocery shopping), Best Buy (which I abhor, so I usually mill around the sexy new washer and dryers, and yes, cleaning clothes can apparently be sexy, particularly if you have a teal blue LG washer/dryer combo), and a whole afternoon at Ikea (which I possibly love in its particle-board glory even more than grocery shopping and perhaps Target, but that’s a tough call). After reading this you can get two impressions: 1) what a quaint weekend, or 2) this girl is lame. I urge you to go with the former.

I generally only like three types of shopping: 1) at (I love putting books upon books in my cart and then closing my browser window), 2) Target (I get my prescriptions filled there because it’s just another excuse to go, and they have spectacular pill containers to boot, and 3) grocery shopping. I love grocery shopping because it’s an excuse to eat before I shop. Our grocery store has an in-house pub (no joke), a sub shop, pizza place, oh golly, a burrito stand, a sushi counter, and so on. Because they say you should never grocery shop hungry, I immediately head over to the eatery to get my chow on before perusing the aisles. Once properly satiated, I will shop.

There is no method to my madness when it comes to discretionary spending: I will, on a whim, decide I need a bookshelf for my cookbooks in the kitchen (see below), but then spend five minutes determining the pro’s and con’s of buying a bunch of fresh thyme for $1.99 when I have a bottle of the dried stuff at home. Matt told me not to get it, but “my soup calls for fresh sprigs of thyme!” I countered. This went on for a few minutes until I put it back, only to return three minutes later to place it in my cart when he was at the olive bar. If I can’t find him at the olive bar, you can usually bet he’s near the chocolate milk.

Then we went to Best Buy to get a television, which was my Christmas present. I think having a t.v. in the kitchen is trashy, so naturally I was pining for one for quite a while. As many people in my life already know, Matt and I do not have cable. Most people think this is unbelievable, saying things like, “I don’t get it” and “But what do you watch?!” in horror (with no sense of irony, mind you). Well, you can get CBS, ABC, NBC, PBS, CW, FOX, and a few other stations – get this – free! They come in crystal clear! No $100/month bills! And you can get some cable station shows online! (This is how I watch my new favorite show, “Jersey Shore”). Now I can cook and watch the evening news to my heart's content.

After Best Buy we naturally had to go to Target; it only made sense. Matt had a huge hole in his slippers (actually, half of his foot was sticking out). Being Matt, he was happy to duck tape them, but 1) they were stinky and 2) I knew I could get a Target visit out of this, so off we headed.

And then there was Sunday, when we entered Ikea in the mid-afternoon and didn’t return home until 7:30 pm. That’s what happens when you go to Ikea. You enter a vortex of young couples, words like Markor and Framsta and Lack, and oh, Swedish meatballs. Even though we knew what we wanted (a slender bookshelf) a visit is not complete without following the arrows and wondering through the showrooms and spying young couples looking at refrigerators. Did you know that Ikea makes refrigerators? I do now.

During our journey I picked-up a lot of really important, necessary stuff, like this:

That's a dog butt hook, by the way. We chose the green.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A note before the silly...

Later today I'll probably post something silly - because that's what sometimes needed, right? - but I wanted to relay this great list of organizations the NYT collated and donation information for the Haiti relief effort. I donated to the American Red Cross, which was super easy for any Amazon customers, as you can just enter your Amazon password and skip entering any credit card information. You can also text HAITI to 90999 and an automatic $10 donation will be added to your cellular bill through the American Red Cross, but there are a number of other organizations that are following suit. Maybe all this technology isn't so bad, afterall?

This Ginger will always be in my heart...

I've never understood Jay Leno's appeal. He's banal, his humor isn't funny, and he makes quite a number of jokes at the expense of the gay community (and I thought "gay" jokes stopped being funny after 5th grade). I remember always watching Letterman and then Conan. Recently, we've been watching a lot of Craig Ferguson, who I really think is the unsung hero of late night. I'm hoping Conan moves to FOX, so he can bring his old, slightly edgier and more intelligent schtick back and no longer has to cater to middle America.
With that said, I'M WITH COCO.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Interstitial Cystitis: And trying to pronounce it is the easiest thing about it...

Today I ran across blogs that dealt with the author having or discussing interstitial cystitis along with Crohn’s and it gave me pause. I have never written about IC, but I was diagnosed during my last semester of college in the spring of 2004. IC is a chronic, painful bladder condition characterized by symptoms that are remarkably similar to a UTI, sans the bacteria. Doctors do not know what triggers IC, but many patients have microscopic tears in their bladder (petechial hemorrhages) that may have been caused by constant irritation. I spent the fall semester of my senior year bouncing between urologists in Manhattan, who said there was just no bacteria in my urine culture, and they didn’t know why I had the constant, chronic need to urinate every single second of every day. I went to my father’s urologist (who has a daughter my age whom I was friendly with in high school…talk about awkward exam room talk) and I had an outpatient procedure where I was put under and they “checked on things” but found nothing. Thinking of nothing else to do, I went to the ER, in incredible pain (and although theatrical about other things, I like to think I’m a pretty tough chick) but there was nothing they could do or prescribe because my urine culture was clean. I also remember crying on the phone to my boyfriend at the time, and asking him to just stay on the phone until I drifted off to sleep to keep my mind off the pain and pressure in my bladder. I turned down any social activities that involved sitting with limited restroom breaks (think the movies), and counted 14 visits to the restroom one day at my internship (and this is with me desperately “holding it”). Very much like a UTI, when I visited the restroom I only urinated a few drops, and left no relief.

Finally a urologist mentioned interstitial cystitis, and at the same time my mom read about a doctor who specialized in it who was moving to a practice in my hometown. She was giving a free lecture on IC and other bladder conditions at our local hospital and I remember coming home for the chat, and my boyfriend and I being the only people in the room under 50. (But they also provided tasty sandwiches so I was pleased about that…some things never change.) I visited her office with my mom and shortly thereafter began bladder installations, which is when—in an office setting—a cocktail of medications are pumped to your bladder via catheter and left there for about 15-30 minutes, and then the medication is either drained her expelled through urination. The medications are meant to fuse to your bladder lining, to soothe those tears, causing inflammation to decrease, and thus alleviating painful symptoms. I had two infusions per week for several weeks to rev up, and then one infusion per week and my symptoms started settling down. I had already known that a sip of coffee threw me into an IC flare-up tailspin, but I also cut out anything remotely acidic at this time (maybe not so remarkably, the very same things I continue to limit due to Crohn’s: citrus, spicy foods, coffee and tea, soda, and so on).

It was at this time that I met Matt (I called him to finalize arrangements for our first date during some lag time at a doctor’s office) so he’s never known me as not suffering from some sort of very non-sexy condition. And, if you can believe it, I was very reticent to tell him about it! When I did dish, saying things like, “Well, this is sort of gross” he replied – and I still remember this – as we were walking into a grocery store to purchase some of those OTC urinary analgesic pills to soothe my symptoms, “Kathryn, if that’s the worst thing wrong with you, then I think I’m pretty lucky.” I still tear up thinking about that, but now I can laugh (a bit) sadistically, as I also saddled him with Crohn’s a year and a half after that.

An IC flare is awful and all-consuming. For women, think of a painful UTI that never goes away. For men, imagine having a full bladder but finding no relief, and general pain and pressure in your pelvic region, and stinging during urination. But, such is life, so I made the best of it. Matt got to calling my bladder “Bladimir” and would carefully monitor my alcohol, tea (I didn’t touch coffee in those days), and caffeine consumption. My flares became few and far between, and today I can eat many of those foods and usually only have symptoms a few days a month.

I didn’t mention my IC previously because, frankly, it’s the least of my worries (and fingers crossed, it continues to be mild), and hell, I complain about enough stuff. I didn’t want to be the sick girl, or the girl who has endless health woes, or the girl who makes Matt’s parents question what the heck he got himself into. But scientists don’t know what causes IC, and there is speculation it is an auto-immune disorder, or accompanies other auto-immune disorders (uh ah!), so I think it deserves discussion. (Or at least a sorry little blog post.)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Those averse to bathroom talk, please beware

Recently, before the holidays, my work employed a quaint little exercise in lieu of gift-giving. Everyone in our department had an envelope on our desks, and we were each given blank index cards which equaled the number of co-workers I have. We were to – anonymously or not – write what we enjoy about that person and any holiday wishes, and slip it into their envelope. Definitely a bit hokey, but well-meaning, and I was the first to write out my cards and slipped them in their assigned envelopes. I did mine anonymously and most of mine were short, sweet, and to the point, even goofy at times with things like “You simply have the greatest head of hair ever!!” or “You’re a wise guy, and that’s definitely appreciated (well, mostly)” and “You’re absolutely terrific, but I don’t know about that dog of yours!” for a co-worker who regales us with tails (typo on purpose) of her very neurotic dog.

A few days later my co-workers began filling my envelope and they wrote the most beautiful, prosaic compliments and filled the card (I instantly felt ashamed as I obviously didn’t comprehend the scope of the exercise and was immediately pleased my cards were anonymous, which was short-lived, though, as everyone else signed their name making the anonymous perp very, very obvious). One of the things that almost every single person wrote (out of about 15 or so) was they enjoyed how I “say it like it is” and was so “genuine and candid” and they enjoyed my sense of humor. It was all very sweet: and a narcissist's dream (which I hope I am not, but I still reread them all at least five times), but I wanted to open this post with this story because I was hedging on whether or not to write about my next topic. Then I remembered I had already written about workplace bathroom etiquette, the very personal longing to have a family, and now, how my colleagues have encouraged my candidness, so I’m going to dig right in and discuss. By “it” I mean FLATULENCE. Oh, and farting. And all of that horrific bloating and distension that accompanies Crohn’s. (Do you see why I was a tad hesitant at first?)

I bring up the bloat because I was terribly gassy the other day. The type of gasiness I had to tell everyone about (because, obviously, everyone likes to share how gassy they are). First I emailed Matt and said I was “going to die in a horrible explosion” due to my gas. He gets this a lot and wrote back “Poor K.” That was it! Because I didn’t get the pity I was in search of, I thought about telling my co-workers but (rightly) hesitated: I have already been accused of TMI (“too much information”) because, well, I tell it like it is and a few months back started a diatribe against women who get Brazilian bikini waxes and the men who like them. (Look, you have hair there for a reason…it’s called chafing!). Now I just embarrassed my own parents, but I will stand strong!

Dealing with gas at the workplace is a nuisance. How do you safely, discreetly, “discharge” of the this gas? Just as importantly, how does one discreetly unzip their skirt so a big, fat stomach can breathe? Don’t kid yourself: these are major issues that demand answers.

About five years ago, relatively early in our relationship while living together like the sinners we are, Matt devised a procedure for eliminating gas that we simply call – to this day – “The Procedure.” When I complain of the bloat, he simply says, “Do you want to do The Procedure?” This is where this post gets tricky and you may never look at me again the same, or revisit the site. (But you’ll be missing out on a lot of top-notch knowledge like The Procedure.) This is important stuff, and The Procedure is nothing to joke about. Also, I swear that I didn’t come up with this…it’s allll Matt.

This is what you do: the person who is having the gas attack lays on their back on the floor, legs up in a V shape. Their partner (and really, no one other than your partner should be told to go through this…like the vows said….”for better or for worse”) grabs both ankles and pushes the gas-o’s legs back, toward their head. This creates the perfect positioning for eliminating excess air. The person standing can also rock the person’s legs back and forth, building up gassy tension. Like I said; this was all Matt’s idea.

Now don’t look at me and say “eww”. I do this in the privacy of my own home – never right before we have visitors…come on, I have some manners!—and everyone has excess gas occasionally. For us with Crohn’s, it can be frequent as our intestines are inflamed and narrowed. Really: since my diagnosis, my frequent farting quotient has sky-rocketed. I know it’s not “womanly” and “becoming”, but neither are any of the other elimination methods the body employs. Sometimes you just have to help your poor torso along.

I have a friend—who lives in a small space with his significant other—who has never smelled his partner’s eliminations. While I respect some mystery in the bathroom, this baffles me. I am also sort of in awe. You see, not only does Matt do the procedure with me, but either one of us will use the bathroom while the other is in the shower. Or, when Matt has to use the bathroom, he’ll very debonairly say, “I have to poop!” and skip off (or shuffle, but it’s usually said with a certain glee and a bounce in his step…he’s an odd one). Afterwards, he’ll often regale me with tales of his “best poops”; the ones that nary required toilet paper (I suppose, this is very much like a dog, but this has never happened to me).

I don’t write this to embarrass myself, or embarrass Matt (maybe a little bit of the latter), but to continue my quest to just “say it like it is”. We all – Crohn’s or not—get gassy once in a while, and while the human body is a beautiful machine, it does have its eyebrow-raising moments.

I want to dedicate this post to Matt – my partner in crime – and, last but certainly not least, Gas X. Thank you for all you do.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hippie Bread

Soup by Trader Joe's, bread by ME! (Okay, US, fine.)

I love bread: when I’m having a flare I come downstairs in my sweats and toast a few slices and return upstairs to a bad sitcom and a belly-friendly snack. When I’m feeling well I dip in all kids of fabulous fats: olive oil with oregano, thyme and rosemary or butter, or spread peanut butter (not the fake, sugary stuff - yuck) for a protein fix. But, I am very fearful of bread baking. It’s too finicky. It takes too long. It requires careful measuring. But between the holidays I had nothing but time and a willing husband to help me conquer this uncharted culinary behemoth: the yeast bread. I dug out an old vegetarian cookbook of my mother’s: a total hippie relic that – no joke – talked about smoking “grass” as a sort of after-dinner aperitif. Oh, and it mentioned some snacks if you get the munchies. I nearly wet my pants because I’m not sure if my mother even held a joint in her life. I’ve since learned The Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas kicked-off the veggie movement and is the vegetarian's first tome of all things delicious. Oh.

Anna (we’re on a first-name basis now) has a recipe for onion and herb bread that my mom notated was very good, so I told Matt to get to work. He made the bread that night and while it was absolutely delicious, it didn’t rise enough and was unusually dense. No worries, he said: he was just going to tweak something and we’d be off and running tomorrow. “Tomorrow” happened to be Sunday and like a good little yuppie (or should I say hippie in this case?) couple we decided to make an afternoon out of bread-baking (in between the Eagles game, of course). And who ever said romance was dead?

This time we used bread flour and instead of simply adding the yeast to warm water and then adding a bit of sugar later, we added the sugar immediately so the yeast could feed. It was like our own mini science experiment, except instead of two scientists we were two doofuses amazed at the bubbling yeasty liquid. The bread calls for onion, rosemary and dill and the results are FABULOUS. Really; it’s some damn fine bread. And it’s super quick, so, yes, you’ll have time to watch your Sunday afternoon football game (unfortunately….).

Hippie Bread with Onions and Herbs
(Not that kind of “herb”)

Makes 2 loaves:
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 Tbs. sugar
  • 2 tsps. salt
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 2 packages yeast (or, 1 Tb.)
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 tsp. dried dill
  • 3 tsps. crushed, dried rosemary
Heat milk to almost a boil and add salt and butter. Then cool. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in warm water and wait until yeast bubbles. Then add the cooled milk, herbs, and onion and stir. Add flour and mix well with a large, wooden spoon (or like us lazy fools, in the KitchenAid!).

When the batter is smooth, cover the bowl with a towel and place in the oven with the oven light on. Let the dough rise until triple in bulk--about 45 minutes. Stir down and beat vigorously for a few minutes (or knead with the dough hook in the mixer), then turn into a greased bread pan. Let stand an additional 15 minutes and then put into a preheated 350 degree oven and bake for an hour.

We luckily had fresh dill on hand. And here Matt is crushing the rosemary.

Yummy in my tummy...and totally Crohn's safe! (Well, except for the onion...oops.)

The quinoa that never quits

I CANNOT STOP THE QUINOA MADNESS! I had made too much quinoa the other day (what can I say, I was intoxicated with all it's loveliness) and decided to, once again, hit my fridge for produce odds and ends. I added a can of chick peas to up the protein quotient, and ate it sprinkled with Parmesan cheese (of course). I think this would be great with a salmon fillet nestled on top (okay, okay, that's what I had the NEXT DAY. Like I said, this quinoa doesn't quit.) Serve hot.

"I just got home and I'm hungry and oh, look, we have more quinoa!" Dish
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups water (plus dash salt)
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. Italian seasoning
  • 1 Tb. dried oregano
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 container sliced baby portobella mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced peppers (baby bell or red/orange bell of the sweater varieties)
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1 15-ounce can chick peas, liquid drained
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, most liquid drained
  • 1 box of frozen spinach, microwaved
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Boil water and add dash salt and quinoa. Turn to low and simmer for about 10-15 minutes until soft. Meanwhile, saute all ingredients in olive oil until soft. Add quinoa and add salt and pepper to taste, and adjust seasonings as necessary. Sprinkle with Parm cheese. Serve as a truly stellar alternative to rice, or even as a main dish.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Freaked about folic?

Out of all the things that could cause alarm, I never thought folic acid would be one of them. Especially when there are ghosts, and aliens, and serial killers running amok. (Have you ever seen the show Sightings??...and almost every night when we climb into bed Matt starts softly – eerily – singing, “Aaaaalllieeens, come into our roooooom.” This is what I have to put up with.)

I've been taking a mighty dose of Pentasa for years and was only semi-recently told it leeches folic acid from your system. I am taking folic acid supplements. Of course, I’m also on prenatal vitamins which have folic acid so I’m sure my oozing the stuff, but the importance of these micronutrients (B9, iodine, and so on) was documented on pregnant women in developing nations in a recent piece for the Times by Nicholas Kristof, who I may or may not have a crush on.

Of course I live a plush life in the U.S., but for those of us who are already dealing with malabsorbtion and vitamin and mineral deficiencies, I didn't realize the severity of having a B9 deficiency. It's especially sobering how easy it is to get these nutrients (and how cheaply), and then realize the many who cannot.

Op-Ed Columnist
World’s Healthiest Food
Published: January 3, 2010
There’s scarcely a form of foreign aid more cost-effective than getting micronutrients like folic acid into the food supply.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Keen for quinoa

Ah, vacation is finally over. Although knowing I have to return to the cubicle tomorrow is harrowing, I'm happy to at least have a semblance of a schedule again. This past week has consisted of mainly food, wearing pajamas for the better part of the day, and then more food. It was the ultimate test for my digestive system: Chinese, burritos and pizza out, smears of Brie and cheesy artichoke spread, sun-dried tomatoes drenched in olive oil, and a mountain of desserts (cookies and more cookies, a melt-in-your-mouth pumpkin bread pudding with caramel sauce, chocolate souffles). It was over-indulgence at its worst (or best, dependent on how you look at it). And I feel good. Imagine that.

The downside? I feel I need to go through food detox. Last night I decided to empty out my produce drawer and just eat cleaner and I devised - I am pleased to say - a devilishly good recipe while at it. I'm crazy for couscous, but just recently bought quinoa, which I swear is having it's heyday right about now (when I was just mastering how to pronounce it, my coworkers were having it for dinner). Listen up, Crohnies: quinoa (keen-wa) is packed with protein (12-18%) and easy on the digestive system. And it makes good dinner conversation: it's ancient and has been an important food component in South America's diet for over 6,000 years. The Incans were gaga over this stuff - they thought it was sacred, even - and called it "the mother of all grains". Fill my plate, why don'tcha?!

So instead of bowing down to the alter of Oreos and pancakes, I thought I'd give it a go. Here is a recipe I devised and I swear up and down it's fresh, delicious, and hits the spot if you're pining for a bit of greenery in ye olde diet. It definitely has summer undertones (Matt called it "cool and refreshing"), and a Greek vibe as the dressing I concocted has feta and red wine vinegar. I guess I'm not so sick of cheese, after all. Serves 4.

Kathryn's Keen for Quinoa Salad

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • dash salt
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 scallions, diced
  • 3 carrots, peelings (then eat the core or feed it to the dog)
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup baby or regular red, yellow, or orange bell peppers, julienned
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup sliced baby portobella or cremini mushrooms
  • 2 oz. feta cheese (reserved)
  • Italian parsley, to garnish
  • 1 small onion, thickly sliced
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup packed Italian parsley
  • 2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 Tb. dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 oz. feta cheese (Purchase a 4 oz. container and use half for the dressing, and half to end to the salad later.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Boil water in a medium pot and add quinoa and dash of salt. Turn temperature to low and let simmer for 15 minutes, or until all water is absorbed and quinoa is softened. Fluff with fork and put quinoa in a bowl and refrigerate.

While quinoa is cooking, combine vegetables and set aside.

For the dressing: using the pot in which you cooked the quinoa, saute red onion in one Tb. olive oil until softened. Add the onion, and all remaining ingredients except for the olive oil to a food processor or blender. Pulse until thoroughly combined. Slowly add the olive oil and blend until combined. Taste and adjust herbs and salt and pepper.

Add veggies, about 3/4 cup of dressing (more or less according to preference), and remaining feta cheese to the cooled quinoa and mix. Garnish with Italian parsley and serve.

*Note: Dressing recipe makes about a cup and a half of Greek dressing. Refrigerate remainder and use for salads.

I will never tire of photos of fresh vegetables. Never.

It's like super-charged couscous.

Why all the Dijon mustard? Because I like a little bite in my dressing!

I'm definitely going to make this for summer BBQs and picnics. Make it a meal with marinated and grilled shrimp (which I'm planning on doing immediately, let me tell you), or serve as a side dish.