Kitchen Sink Pasta

Kitchen Sink PastaI met with my rheumatologist on Tuesday for my six month follow-up. I went in with a new symptom, stiff hands and feet in the morning. My feet are feeling like plantar fasciitis returned, especially after four hours on them for the Butch Walker concert Sunday. I have a bit of difficulty with my hands first thing in the morning, mostly with fine motor skills. Normally, I don’t do a lot upon waking so my fingers have time to loosen up. Trying to write with a pen first thing, not happening. We don’t know if it is weather related or not. She did feel the difference in my knuckles when she held my hands. I’m in tune with my body enough to pinpoint possible triggers to symptoms that come up. This one had me stumped. It was like when the Sjogren’s first became active. It was subtle, not in my face. It’s possible this is cold weather related. It’s possible it’s food related (I have been eating grains more than usual with all the pancake experiments and porridge trials). 

Realizing it could be grains made me think that maybe it’s time to try the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol (AIP) again. Or maybe I just need to go grain-free. Whichever I choose to do it means it’s time to put on my thinking-outside-the-box cap again. Wait, no. It’s still on my head. Living with multiple food allergies/sensitivities requires that you keep it on. I have to be able to change my dinner plans on the days I have allergy treatments in case I’m treated for something I planned. No oil tonight? Use bacon fat! No water? Use distilled water for soup! No grains? Use veggies! No yeast? Use citrus instead of vinegar for dressings. No sunflower seeds? Use pumpkin seeds! No citrus? Pineapple! By the way, I find it funny that I thought I was reacting to citrus earlier this year before my IgG and IgA results came back and it was really pineapple.

There is always another way to make something. Always. I’m not that great with coming up with my own baked goods recipes, but I have become great at figuring out main dishes, sides, dressings, and sauces without the star ingredient. This is out of necessity and it isn’t always easy.

If you are new to removing a particular food or food group(s) out of your diet, play. Get in the kitchen and play with your food. Find a blogger or bloggers who are more experienced and ask them questions. Most of us are more than happy to answer them because we were once in your shoes and we remember how it felt to flounder around not knowing which end was up. If you come across a blogger who won’t answer your question, move on to another one.

Dishes I like that might surprise you with what is missing:

Winter Hash – no eggs, no potatoes, no grains

Port Wine Cheese – no dairy

Vegan Spinach Artichoke Dip – no dairy

Creamy Coriander Dressing – no eggs, no dairy, no yeast

Grain-Free Mediterranean “Bulgar” Salad – no grains, no yeast

Lola Kale Salad – no yeast

Sweet Beet Salad – no yeast

Eggless Egg Salad – no eggs, no dairy, no yeast

Steak Salad with Orange Fennel Dressing – no yeast

Flourless Almond Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies – no grains, no eggs, no dairy, no yeast, no soy

Meyer Lemon Lavender Bars – no grains, no eggs, no soy, no dairy, no yeast

Raw Lavender Blueberry Bars – no grains, no dairy, no eggs, no soy, no yeast

Raw Peppermint Mocha Truffle Cake – no grains, no dairy, no eggs, no soy, no yeast

While this recipe isn’t about my crazy diet of multiple foods I can’t have, it is about using up things you have open in your pantry or fridge and produce that you need to use up. I did this before going on the AIP. I wanted to use up some open pasta, olives, and bacon while also using up some tomatoes and kale that needed to be used quickly. Most of the time I have leftovers for lunch. This particular day there were no leftovers in the fridge and I had too much writing going on to leave and have lunch out. I was so in love with this, I made it several more times over a few weeks always using what I had on hand. This original is pretty awesome though. I fix my bacon in the oven at 375° until it is done to my liking. Usually 15 – 20 minutes. Bacon is not required, but certainly adds to the awesomeness of this dish.

Kitchen Sink Pasta – serves 1

3 slices of bacon, cooked, rendered fat reserved

2 handfuls gluten-free pasta (I use Tinkyada)

1 handful grape tomatoes (or cherry, or handful of chopped tomato)

1 handful olives (I used black and kalamata)

4 kale leaves, stems removed, sliced (I used Lacinto kale)

pinch (or more) chili flakes

salt to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions. It will take less time with so little being cooked, so keep an eye on it. Heat a large skillet over medium heat then add 2 teaspoons of the rendered bacon fat and coat the pan. Add olives, tomatoes, chili flakes, and salt. Add kale right before you add the pasta so you don’t over cook it. Spoon in some of the pasta water to the skillet to deglaze. Drain pasta and add to the skillet. Crumble bacon over the mixture and stir well. Remove from the heat and serve hot.

 

Hanging With My Bestie

Early mornings mean spectacular light, coffee, and sometimes conversation.

One of the great things about visiting my best friend, Dawn, (other than the completely obvious) is the view from the house.  She, the Old Man, and Little Obi-Wan live two blocks from Universal Studios/City Walk. We could walk there if we wanted to deal with all the steep inclines.  This includes the Stairs of Death.

Take them slowly and hold on to the rail or you WILL fall. This is why they are the Stairs of Death. Also, you feel kinda dead once you climb all those stairs.

Visits usually mean we’re up early.  She was a teacher for years so when she was still working, she was still up early.  Now Little Obi-Wan usually wakes early meaning she does, too.  Early there means late for me so really I’m sleeping in.  Right?  We have coffee, sit and zone out, talk a little once we feel coherent, and now that we have smartphones – check world of social media.  I’ll usually pull out whatever book I happen to be reading and indulge in some early morning reading time.  Book count this vacation?  Four.  That’s pretty good considering all the stuff we did I already blogged about and all the stuff I haven’t shared with you yet.  Not to mention the countless times we watched Thomas the Train, Sesame Street, and videos with Little Obi-Wan.

The view from the kitchen. How can you not love that view while fixing your meals? Oh, right. It gets hotter than Hades in there. That’s how.

I love cooking with Dawn and in her kitchen.  She did something great that I already shared about which was make sure there were safe pots and pans for me to use.   The last time we visited it was for Thanksgiving in 2009.  The kitchen is a little small so having Dawn, her mom, and I all in there at once can get a little claustrophobic, so we tried to take turns.  It worked for the most part, but there were times we were all in there at once and staying perfectly still at our station so we weren’t bumping into each other.  That was a great Thanksgiving!

I showed you several of our meals out, but I haven’t shared our meals in.

Our first night, Dawn grilled up two different types of brats by Johnsonville.  Original and Spicy.  She also grilled some corn.  We had some fresh tomatoes and cucumbers as well and then watermelon for dessert.  Yummers!

So fresh!

Another night, Dawn made Sloppy Joes with homemade buns and roasted potatoes.  Chaz was in homemade bread heaven while we were

Potatoes and Sloppy Joes!

visiting.  I skipped the buns and ate mine with a fork.  Just as good!

The day we went to the L.A. County Fair was my turn to cook dinner.   Chaz was spectacular and ran over to Ralph’s for all our dinner needs once we got back from the fair.  I should mention that the shopping center that the Ralph’s is in closest to Dawn is the shopping center where everyone loses their sanity.   Everyone forgets how to drive in there and decide that they all have the right of way.  Thank goodness for underground parking.  If you can manage to get to it without being run into.

The requirements that the Old Man set out for anything I fixed is that it have meat (can do), and not contain eggplant or

An old standby

curry.  I decided to go with a variation of something I tend to make

Carnitas! Ole!

when I want something quick and easy.  Pasta with mild Italian sausage and kalamata olives.  I added asparagus in with it and topped it with fresh basil.  Chaz got some fresh heirloom tomatoes that he sliced up and some radishes.  I intended to eat mine without pasta and just set some the of sausage, asparagus, and olives aside, but Chaz bought some Tinkyada pasta, so I felt obligated to fix it.  I had a pot of Tinkyada pasta for me and a pot of gluten-full pasta for everyone else.  There were enough leftovers that I could have some as breakfast a few days.  Which turned out to be a good thing after I discovered eggs were a problem.

Dawn loves using a slow cooker as much as I do.  She fixed carnitas in the slow cooker the day after our trip to Disneyland.  This meant really only veggie prep that evening.  The best kind of

That risotto…best risotto!

The sky was on fire one night

cooking when you’re recovering after back-to-back full days out.

Our last dinner was roasted chicken, carrots, and butternut squash risotto.  Dawn was awesome and instead of using butter that the recipe called for, she used more olive oil.  The best risotto I’ve had.  And it was cooked in a rice cooker!   Yes, a rice cooker.  You know, the thing that us Asians use to cook rice in so we can have great rice without standing at the stove watching it, but a lot of Americans use to cook other things in.

Okay.  I know I started off with talking about what we do when I visit and ended up talking about food.   Well, we eat!   We used to go out to eat a lot (or call for takeout or delivery) when I would visit, but tight budgets and food intolerances/allergies kept us in more often this time around.  That was fine with me.

Just look at that face!

Jump!

The resident fighter against Communism, aka Mantequilla or Manny for short, takes up residence next to me while I’m sitting on the sofa or love seat.  He demands a lot of attention and belly scratches.  He learned from my first visit that I’m the one with the fingernails that knows all the right spots to hit.  Word has it he was a bit sulky and wanted more cuddles than usual after we left.  Poor little guy.  He just can’t get enough lovin’.

We usually play video games during lazy days indoors.  They got a Xbox with Kinect since our last visit.  Let me tell you, that thing is a pain!  It took more time to get everything set up than we spent playing!  As Dawn says, it’s not intuitive.  Not at all.  Give me my Wii any day!  Little Obi-Wan had a blast though.  He plays like I do a lot of times.  I don’t really care, I just do whatever.  Really.  Playing Mortal Kombat and Street

Trying a Sancerre

Fighter in college I had no clue how I was supposed to use the controller.  I just kept rapidly pressing all the buttons and when I was lucky, I’d win.  It’s all about having fun.  Right?

Copious amounts of wine and other adult beverages are also consumed.  That’s just one bottle of wine and the one I bought.  You should see their two bars.  Okay.  One and a half.  The Old Man’s mancave is where he has his poker games and they keep a full bar down there.  The “bar” in the kitchen just has a little of everything you might need.  Rum, vodka, kahlua.  You know, the important stuff.

No words needed

 

 

 

Taco Salad

Taco Salad

Taco salad is one of my favorite things.  Probably because I love tacos and taco salad is like having tacos on a grander scale.  Tacos are my measurement of a good Mexican restaurant.  Something sadly lacking in the Mid-West (and the upper part of the South).  For me, taco meat should be well seasoned.  And by seasoned I mean full of spices.  Bland taco meat is unforgivable.  Much like the unforgivable curses in the world of Harry Potter.

If I’m unhappy with the tacos I get, I usually say to Chaz, “I make it better.”  He’ll usually nod in agreement.  I think that’s just to placate me though.  I can get pretty opinionated about the Mexican restaurants out here.  Can you blame me?  I lived in North County, Southern California for a few years.  Authentic Mexican food is everywhere.  Visits back to see my best friend would always include Mexican food at some point.  I believe there were a few places she took me where I just sat back and rolled my eyes from sheer joy.   Or maybe I exaggerate.

I used to serve these with tortilla chips, normally made by myself.  I went through the evolution of frying them myself to baking them.  Baking is definitely faster and easier on the feet.  I don’t do tortilla chips much anymore and I didn’t make any this last time.

Since this is one of my first original creations from way back, it has been made many different ways with many different proteins.  Ground beef, ground turkey, ground chicken, chopped chicken, tofu, beans.  So, whatever your preference for your protein, it is doable.  Just note that when using chicken, turkey, beans, or tofu, you will also need to add the step of oiling your pan.   You can also do a half and half of meat and beans if you want to cut back on your meat budget for the week.

Taco Salad – serves 4 -6

1 pound ground beef (or protein of your choice)

1 onion, chopped and divided in half.

1 tablespoon, cumin

1 tablespoon, chili powder

1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

salt

1 head lettuce (I used red leaf for the picture), chopped

tomatoes, chopped

avocado, chopped

black olives, sliced (I buy the pre-sliced ones, it saves me time and from eating half the can while slicing them)

Heat a skillet over medium.  Add ground beef and brown.  If you are using other proteins as mentioned above, remember to oil your pan first.   Add salt to taste and then add half the onions.  Stir.  Add in the cumin, chili powder, and cayenne.  Stir occasionally until meat is cooked through.  Remove from heat.  To plate, cover bottom of the plate with lettuce and top with ground beef.  Sprinkle with tomatoes, onions, and black olives.  Add avocado around the edges of your salad.

If you are able to eat cheese or if you are dairy-free and use dairy-free cheeses, you can add it after your ground beef.  In my dairy days, I would used shredded colby jack.  I am not fond of the dairy-free cheese so I don’t bother with it.  I just add more avocado so I get the similar texture from the avocados.