*Note: this post is part of a Blog Carnival, coordinated by RA Warrior at http://rawarrior.com/
February 2, 2014 is Rheumatoid Awareness Day and as a blogger in the rheum community, there is an invitation to participate in this awareness activity by featuring a blog post to talk about awareness. http://rawarrior.com/what-would-rheumatoid-awareness-mean-to-you/ I knew this was something I wanted to add my voice to.
Awareness, what would that mean? The reason for having a Rheumatoid Awareness Day according to the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation http://rheum4us.org/ is to overcome the misconception that rheumatoid disease is simply a form of arthritis. This is really important for those of us with RD as it is all too common that people hear you say you have rheumatoid arthritis but they think osteoarthritis. By taking the word ARTHRITIS out of the description it will help with the confusion. Awareness of that alone would make things a lot better.
Rheumatoid disease is more than stiff joints or aches and pains like those experienced with osteoarthritis. RD is a progressive inflammatory auto-immune disease with symptoms of joint pain and stiffness like osteo but it also brings with it severe fatigue, mobility issues, disability, extreme pain along with damage, (often permanent) to joints as well as other organs and tissues. When you are experiencing a flare, or active inflammation, the impact on your daily life is enormous. Heart health is also of particular concern for anyone with RD. Along with the disease itself, many of the medications used to manage RD also take their toll on your organs, specifically liver and heart function. Rheumatoid disease is a serious health condition that impacts people of all ages. It is not JUST arthritis.
When asked what Rheumatoid Awareness Day means to me I would say that it is important to me as it will bring more relevance, understanding, education and facts to the forefront. Then, with heightened awareness, hopefully more study, research and development will be done for finding a cure and improving the lives of those with RD.
My life has been impacted by Rheumatoid disease since the age of eight. It is part of my daily life and plays a significant role in my overall health. Last year I had a diagnosis of aggressive breast cancer resulting in a year of treatments and surgeries. When making choices for the best treatment protocol for my cancer I worked closely with my medical team to ensure that while we were treating the breast cancer we were also taking my Rheumatoid disease into consideration. It made a difference and my treatment was altered as a result. So as all encompassing as a year of being diagnosed and treated for cancer may be it really was a small blip along my overall journey. My ongoing primary health issue is my Rheumatoid disease and I am aware of it every day.
I am feeling empowered by having a Rheumatoid Awareness Day and look forward to new developments being made in research. In the meantime, I will continue to be an advocate and a voice for awareness in my own way, and I encourage others to do so as well. While RD plays a significant role in my life I still like to think that I can kick it to the curb and minimize its control over my life. Attitude plays a big role, and I like to think that I am not just surviving but thriving. Some days I’m just better at it than others.
Today’s Tip is in response to a request from a reader asking for ways for a Mom with limitations in her hands to have an easier and safer way of lifting and draining pasta. Great question. Pasta can be the starting point for an endless variety of easy meals. Lifting, carrying and draining hot liquid can be extremely difficult for some and there can also be a safety concern.
Here are some ways to approach the task of draining pasta to limit the strain and heavy lifting:
• If using short pasta (penne, rotini, maccaroni) use a Spider (see below) or a Large Slotted spoon. Remove pasta directly from the water to the pan with the sauce or bowl or however you wish to use it.
• If using long pasta (spaghetti, linguini) remove pasta strands from water using tongs and put directly into sauce or bowl. I use lightweight spring loaded aluminum tongs as shown below.
- After using one of these removal methods leave the water in the pot on the stove. You can then ask for someone to help at a later time or, wait until water has cooled down so you can more readily handle without an immediate sense of urgency or risk of burns.
• Lighten the load – if not wanting to use one of the removal methods above you can scoop out some of the water from the pot before lifting so it won’t be so heavy. Using a 2 cup plastic measuring cup and wearing oven mitts makes short work of this task. Once you have removed most of the water, take the now much lighter pot to the sink to drain.
• I do not recommend the metal inserts that can be lifted out of a pot to drain pasta. I find these still to be awkward to deal with and dangerous with the hot water and steam.
Spider Kitchen Utensil - a spider is one of my more frequently used kitchen tools. It is a light weight large shallow wire-mesh basket with a long handle, usually made of wood. The wire basket is woven in a loose pattern that resembles a spider’s web, hence the name. Unlike a strainer the design and open weave of a spider allows it to be used with one hand to lift items out of hot liquid or oil instantly and with little effort. It’s low shallow shape allows you to get right to the bottom of a deep pot and remove all of the pasta. I always use this method for scooping out pasta, or perogies etc.
Kitchen Tongs – a must have. I have a few pair so that If one is in the dishwasher I’ve got another pair on the ready. I use this style of lightweight aluminum with the closed tips. Easily picks up anything and holds it in a firm grip. Ideal for lifting strands of pasta out of a pot. I find this style preferable to a pasta fork as you can get a better grip and have more control.
More like this? If you liked this tip, check back often for more RA Kitchen Tips, an ongoing series. Read more about RA Kitchen Tips here – http://arthritiskitchen.wordpress.com/ra-kitchen-tips-an-ongoing-series/
I love a good French Onion Soup. It’s a hearty, satisfying meal on its own. Making it from scratch, starting with a homemade beef broth makes this a two day labor of love. The secret to an excellent onion soup is time. You need to sauté the onions low and slow until they are very well caramelized. This can take up to an hour so be patient. This time I used 3 types of onions, red, yellow and white. When serving for the first night I always do the traditional crouton and Swiss cheese topping. It is a terrific hearty yet light meal.
French Onion Soup
- 6 cups onions sliced very thin
- 2 Tbs butter
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 cup dry wine – red or white
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 – 2 Tbs flour
- 4 – 8 cups beef stock
- 2 – 3 Tbs brandy (optional)
- Salt and Pepper
- Slices of stale baquette or other French bread.
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 cup gruyere or other swiss cheese – grated
Saute onions in butter and oil on med high heat until beginning to soften, about 6-8 min. Add ½ of the wine, reduce heat, cover and cook low and slow stirring occasionally until onions have reduced in volume and are golden, about 20 min or up to 45 minutes depending on amount of onions.
Take off the lid, raise heat and add 1 tsp of sugar. Cook for about 10 min or more until the onions are a deep golden brown. Add the thyme and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle 1 – 2 tablespoons of flour over the onions, cook 2 -3 minutes. Deglaze with remaining wine and add warm beef stock. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer soup for 10-15 min. If using brandy, add just at the end of cooking before assembly.
Meanwhile, prepare the croutons. Slice bread, toast under broiler until lightly toasted on both sides. Rub each slice with the cut side of the raw garlic. Set aside.
Ladle soup into bowls, float a piece or pieces of the toasted bread into the bowl, top generously with the grated cheese. Broil until cheese begins to brown and is bubbly.
I make a lot of my own stocks or broths and use them frequently when preparing meals. A delicious stock or broth, can be the base for a never ending possibility of soups which is what I often use mine for. Stock is also as a prized ingredient when preparing stir-fry’s and pasta and can be turned into a terrific sauce without, or with less dairy or fat than traditionally used. A luxurious stock is also the star ingredient for making a very fine risotto which in my opinion, must be made using a quality stock – no tetra packs on risotto day in my kitchen.
Benefits for your Health & Budget:
Making your own stock is a super easy cooking project that will have you reaping the rewards for future meals. Stocks made from bones, vegetables and aromatics are not only a tastier, healthier, more nutritious option than store bought but also a lot more budget friendly.
Whether you are saving your vegetable scraps or starting with fresh veggies from the grocery store, the resulting broth that is made is packed with both flavor and vitamins. While just about any firm vegetables can be used, I always start with the traditional mix of onion, celery and carrots. Be sure to remember to add aromatics like bay leaf and peppercorns.
Did you know? When you make stock from carcasses or bones the slow cooking process melts the cartilage and is what makes your stock become gelatinous when refrigerated. This liquid is said to be helpful for maintaining ease of movement in our own joints. So eat your soup, it’s good for you.
Preparing to make chicken stock:
It seems like I’m always getting ready to make my next batch of stock. Chicken stock that is. For beef stock I always buy ingredients fresh and make it the same day. I usually only make a beef stock about twice a year. Chicken stock however is always an ongoing project. I store chicken bones from whole roasted chickens and any raw trimmings from other chicken prep (wing tips, backs) in Ziploc bags in the freezer sorted by cooked or raw. When I get enough of them, I make a big batch of chicken stock. On stock making day, any uncooked portions are first roasted on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven until browned, sizzling and having rendered some of their fat. Bones that are already cooked can go directly into your stock pot. Not necessary to thaw first.
In a very large pot put in all chicken pieces or bones
Add rough chopped pieces of 2 onions, 2 carrots, 3 stalks celery. Vegetables should be washed but not peeled. These are used for flavor only.
Add a couple of garlic cloves, about 8 peppercorns, 2-3 bay leaves
Cover with cold water to 3 inches above items in pot
Bring to a boil then turn to a gentle simmer, skim a couple of times if necessary
Simmer at a very low heat, partially covered for 4 – 6 hours
Remove large pieces with spider utensil, let cool slightly, strain
Reap your rewards!!
This is the second time making this recipe from Molly Steven’s book All About Braising. It is one of my favorite cookbooks and I’ve taken it out of the library about 5 times. I’m always on the lookout for a copy in Thrift Stores and Garage Sales but am not surprised to never find one as I’m sure once you have a copy of this book it’s unlikely that you will be getting rid of it anytime soon.
Braising is a relatively easy way to cook and taking the time to follow the steps and use the techniques in this recipe is worth it to develop the flavors. Most all the work is done up front, in fact it is better if it is prepared the day before serving making it an excellent choice for entertaining.
I made this the other night for a dinner party and while it was good, it wasn’t until this morning that I realized I forgot a major ingredient. There is supposed to be horseradish added to the maple-rosemary glaze that is brushed on the ribs before serving. I completely missed that step and really wish I hadn’t because it adds an additional brightness and depth of flavor to the dish. Reminder that it always works better to have all your ingredients prepped, pre-measured and ready to go.
There are two types of short ribs. The standard rectangle block shaped ones referred to as English style and the Flanken style which are taken by cutting across the bones producing a flatter and often leaner rib. I used Flanken this time and was happy with my choice.
Short Ribs Braised in Porter Ale with Maple-Rosemary Glaze
Step 1 – salt ribs at least one day in advance, loosely cover with parchment or wax paper in the fridge. This tightens the meat and prepares it for searing.
Step 2 – brown the ribs. I did this in batches in an enamel cast iron pot (same one used for the braise) however this step can be done in the oven.
Step 3 – prepare the braising liquid. Carrots, onion, homemade stock, dark beer, rosemary, bay leaves.
Step 4 – add ribs to the braising liquid and cook low and slow covered in the oven.
Step 5 – Ribs waiting for finishing glaze.
There are about 8 more important steps along the way and these are covered in detail by Molly Stevens in the attached link.
Complete recipe and instructions here:
There were about 6 frozen bananas in my freezer taking up room so, it appeared to be time to make a banana loaf. To increase the nutritional value and add Omega 3’s, this loaf has walnuts but you could easily omit them or add something else.
I found a terrific Martha Stewart recipe. The only thing I altered was to cut down on the sugar. (use your own judgment) I’m not much of a baker so I need to pay attention to what I’m doing when baking. Martha’s recipes are so clearly written, it helps me a lot. I also found an excellent technique for dealing with frozen bananas in recipes. By using Amy’s advice, there is no mess and no mashing required. It wins a gold star for Arthritis Kitchen easy!
Martha’s recipe was foolproof resulting in a beautiful, moist loaf with excellent texture. The extra step of toasting the walnuts really makes them stand out. I recommend doing this in a dry skillet or in the oven. Just be careful not to burn them.
Technique for using frozen bananas – so easy!
Check out this blog with a foolproof, easy way of using frozen bananas in baking. By letting the bananas thaw in their skins and then squeezing them out and then draining you get recipe ready bananas without the need to mash or chop. They fold beautifully into your recipe.
We have a plum tree in the yard. It produces beautiful prune plums that looks like this. I’m not much of a baker but when the ingredients are in your back yard – how can you resist? There was not a high yield of fruit, just enough for one thing, Old Fashioned Plum and Apple Crumble. A fruit crumble or crisp is about the easiest desserts you can make and it is comforting and delicious served warm with some good vanilla ice cream.
Apple Plum Crumble
- 4 cups sliced pitted plums
- 2 cups sliced peeled apples
- ¼ – 1/3 cup packed brown sugar or other sweetener, adjust depending on sweetness of fruit.
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 cup large-flake rolled oats
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- ¼ – ½ tsp cinnamon (to taste)
- 1 Pinch salt
- 1/3 cup butter, cubed
Preheat oven to 350°F In large bowl, toss together the sliced fruit with sugar, flour, nutmeg and cinnamon; spread in lightly greased 8-inch (2 L) square glass baking dish. Crumble: In bowl, combine rolled oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. With fingers or pastry blender, rub or cut in butter until mixture is in coarse crumbs. Sprinkle evenly over plum mixture. Bake in 350°F (180°C) oven until topping is golden, and it is bubbly about 50 minutes.
Arthritis Kitchen Tip:
This recipe is loaded with cinnamon. Cinnamon is an antioxidant, thins your blood and can reduce inflammation in the body. Adding as little as 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon to your daily diet is all that it takes to obtain health benefits.
I been having a food craving recently that I’m shamelessly giving into. Apple Strudel, the generic store-bought variety. You know the kind…, rectangles of pastry with a tiny smear of apple pie product in the middle. They are often not very good but, as I am confessing here, I have no self-control when they are in the house……they’ve been in the house often these days. Giving into some guilty pleasures I guess.
I’m going try my hand at making them. How hard can it be? Store bought puff pastry (or how about something completely different, more whole grains?), then you add apples cinnamon. I’m convinced I can make something healthier and tastier than the store bought version. There is a tree of excellent cooking apples ripening in the yard and this is one of the things I plan to do with them.
In the meantime, here’s how to take a generic apple strudel and improve it by adding some fresh ingredients and extra flavor and nutrients.
Using a table knife pry open the wide side of the piece of strudel. It should open very easily like a hinge. Add some jam if desired (I used thick cut orange marmalade), a sprinkle of cinnamon, top with very thinly sliced apples and more cinnamon – to your taste. Close it up and you have a vastly improved treat. The crunch of the fresh apples really make it.
Have you heard people talking about Cinnamon? It’s been making headlines as another superfood with some pretty impressive stats. Cinnamon is one of the world’s oldest spices and medicines. It doesn’t take much to reap the benefits of this potent elixir. Just 1/2 teaspoon per day is all that is needed in order to gain the benefits. Add it to your list of organic spices to purchase and buy in small quantities so it is always fresh.
Some health benefits of Cinnamon:
Cinnamon is a very powerful antioxidant, one of the most powerful of all the spices.
Cinnamon has positive effects on the blood, lowering blood sugars, reducing LDL cholesterol and thinning the blood preventing blood clots and reducing inflammation. Adding cinnamon to a high carbohydrate food can actually reduce the negative impact on your blood sugar levels!
Inhaling the aroma of cinnamon is shown to increase brain function resulting in improved mental alertness, recognition memory and working memory. Excellent for boosting cognitive ability.
Adding cinnamon to your daily diet is easy. Add some into your morning coffee, sprinkle on toast, cereal or yogurt, add to your savory dishes too. So spice up your life and improve your health at the same time.
Look at theses beautiful apples growing in my yard. They are part of a very unique variegated tree. Three kinds of apples all on one tree. The beauties shown here are the only real producers this year. They are the Chehalis variety which originates from Washington state and is said to be similar to a Golden Delicious only crisper and with honeyed juicy qualities making them terrific for eating. I can’t wait to see how they taste. We will also have a bounty of cooking apples in the fall from a tree on the property and I’m looking forward to using them in all sorts of ways.
An apple a day? It’s not hard to do if that’s your goal. And why not? We all know that apples are good for us, high in vitamin C, a source of fiber and they provide the body with an excellent source of healthy energy. Apples are also a very versatile fruit and can be added to many styles of cooking both sweet and savory. The entire fruit including skin, and seeds can be eaten which if doing so, greatly increases their nutritional profile.
If possible buy local when available and choose fruit that has not been sprayed or waxed.
You can easily add to your daily fruit and veg intake by adding apples to a variety of your recipes. While of course apples are great in anything baked – from muffins, cakes and pies apples are also a nice addition to cold salads such as grated in a coleslaw or diced or sliced for a green salad. When you pair apples into a dish along with toasted nuts you can really turn it into something special.
Adding apples to a savory dish can add a good balance of sweet and/or acid to the dish depending on the type of apple and how you use it. Below was a spectacular meal featuring pork chops with sautéed apples and onions with just a hint of cinnamon. Served with smashed new potatoes and green beans with lemon zest.
Pork Chops with Apples, Onions and Cinnamon
2 bone pork loin chops
1 medium onion
1 -2 apples
1/4 cup stock, white wine or apple juice
pinches of cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
Thinly slice apples and onions. Using a small amount of butter, brown onions first until translucent. Add apple slices and turn over gently trying to get a bit of a sear on the apple slices. When sautéed, remove to a plate and keep warm.
Season pork on both sides with salt and pepper. Sear well on all sides, including any exposed bone. Use the same pan used for the apples. A cast iron skillet works great for this.
When chops are almost done, remove from pan and keep warm. Deglaze pan with stock, wine or apple juice (I use chicken stock) and using a wooden spoon, scrape up all browned bits. When liquid has reduced to 1 Tbs, return chops to the pan and top with the apples and onions. Gently sprinkle cinnamon on top, cover and simmer for 5 - 8 min until pork is your desired doneness. Remove chops to a plate to rest keeping apple/onion topping in place. Reduce remaining liquid to a sauce and spoon over chops when serving.
It feels so good to do some simple, basic cooking to create a comforting meal. Last night it was oven roasted salmon and asparagus with mashed potatoes. The entire dinner can be prepared in 20 minutes and that includes time to heat the oven.
Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.
For the asparagus, line a baking sheet with foil, wash and trim asparagus, dry with paper towel then toss with olive oil and a generous sprinkle of salt. Place in oven for 10 – 15 minutes depending on the thickness of the stalks.
For the salmon, I like to use a shallow glass pan. Line the bottom with thinly sliced lemon, place fish on top, skin side down. Season well with salt and pepper and fresh lemon zest or finely minced herbs such as dill, parsley, chives. I only had lemon zest this time. Place 1 tablespoon of white wine (or water) in bottom of pan and roast in the oven for 8 – 12 minutes – depending on thickness of fish. You do not want to overcook salmon so watch it carefully. These pieces were quite thin and were baked for 9 minutes – they were perfect. Be sure to serve with a big wedge of lemon!
Pair with a side of your choice and enjoy a healthy, comforting, easy to eat delicious dinner!