Category Archives: Uncategorized

Hello, nice to meet you.

beach shadow woman

Welcome – let me introduce myself. It’s something that I’ve been saying a lot lately when presenting my essential oil classes. I’m finding that its a re-introduction of sorts, even for me! I’ve been through some very big changes in my world over the past few years and I truly feel like I now know the ‘new me’. This of course, will change as the years go by as I think, like many of us, just when you think you have adjusted to the ‘new normal’ (whatever that may be), something else comes along that changes the landscape yet again. I like to think of it as an opportunity for us to re-invent ourselves, evolve, develop into new and better versions. If we can always be striving for that, it makes for a fascinating journey of growth and discovery if you are willing to take the path.

Having now come out of the fog that had resulted from my cancer experience and treatments, I find myself dusting off a lot of my old attitudes and outlooks. During this process, I noticed that my blog and the ‘About Me’ section no longer fit. I’ve done some updating and decided to make it a blog post so that I could get current with you as well.

About Me – and what I write about here:

My name is Sandra and I’ve been an auto-immune warrior since childhood, breast cancer and treatment survivor of four years, (and counting) as well as a spouse, step-parent, cat mamma and a caregiver for elderly parents. I have a lot of passion for cooking and enjoy doing that for my household and people I love.

But that’s just the beginning; I am also an active advocate of my own health and wellness; body, mind and spirit. I believe and respect the need for both modern medicine and alternative, more holistic approaches. I don’t know if I’d even be here without both!

I write about and share things that I love such as recipes, cooking tips, kitchen hacks, essential oils and living and thriving and striving for my best life possible.

You don’t have to have a chronic illness to groove on the things here in my kitchen. In fact, in spite of having RA since early childhood, I have never considered myself to be battling illness but rather striving towards wellness. Won’t you join me?

#liveyourbestlife #positivity #wellness #rheum #bcsm #RA #essentialoils

flower through brick

**Please note, all content and claims are my own and do not represent medical advice**

Time for a pain pill? The struggle is real.

Neck and shoulderUgh…I’m hurting

One of the areas where I frequently have pain, is right across my shoulders. It’s where I hold tension and is a good indicator of how stressful or zen my day is going.  Often, at the end of the day this area is screaming at me. Like right this very moment!

T 3’s?

There are times when I am in a lot of discomfort and honestly, I would just rather not have to take a dose of pain medication. This is often due to timing. If I take them too early in the afternoon, they may have worn off by the time I really need them when I’m standing making dinner.  If I wait too long, the pain may get on top of me and be harder to control. If I take too many doses a day, I may end up needing to ration my supply down the road. Then there’s just the simple fact that I don’t like to always be taking pain killers. I know I am not alone in having these sorts of thoughts. Don’t get me wrong, I still need my pain meds but I do like to have some additional tools in my toolbox. And hey, lets be honest, it also allows me to more freely enjoy a glass or two of wine. Red wine, for the antioxidants – it’s good for you.

time for pills

         calendar                        no-wine

What I sometimes do instead

One of the things I love about using essential oils is that there are many times when, in the past I would have reached for a prescription or an over the counter medication, that I am now using my oils. And to be honest, they often work faster and better than anything in pill form. I especially like them when trying to target something specific. Like a pain in the neck or my excruciating knees.

Past Tense and Deep Blue – Essential Oil Blends from doTERRA

pasttense-10ml

deep-blue-5ml

 

I’ve recently starting using Past Tense to target the painful area across my shoulder blades. It works so good and so fast!  It comes in a roller bottle that I can have with me anywhere and use at any time.  As an added benefit, this blend also provides soothing effects on both the mind and body so is a great one to have when in stressful situations.

For sore joints, Deep Blue is the bomb!! I use it, diluted with a bit of coconut oil to rub into my knees before I go out if I’m going to be on my feet a lot. Also, after an activity, if my legs are screaming at me, it works great to cut down on the intense hurt that can be an inflamed, angry RA joint. Having something that can provide me with relief and is also completely natural really appeals to me. If it appeals to you as well and you’d like to find out more or make a comment, here’s how to get in touch.

**Please note, all content and claims are my own and do not represent medical advice**

 

Four Years Cancer Free

Today is my 4 years ‘cancer free’ anniversary. There are many milestones and significant days that one remembers when having gone through cancer. For me, this date represents the day I had the first stage of my treatment process which was my lumpectomy. It was at the follow up appointment with the surgeon that I was given the news that I was cancer free. It was an enormous relief. Every moment from the telephone call telling me my biopsy had come back positive to getting this news had been spent hoping for the best, but also trying to prepare myself for the worst. How can you help it? It’s a scary time, and you feel very vulnerable.

When we got the good news report, my spouse and I wanted to do something special. It was just shy of noon so I felt we could get away with a celebratory cocktail. I chose a martini. Go big or go home right? This felt like a pretty big deal, and it was. My chemotherapy and surgeries were still ahead of me, and while I was uncertain of what the next year would look like, I was clear on the fact that this was a day I would never forget.

Four years feels good. Next year will feel even better. If you are reading this and are just starting your journey, in the middle of treatment, dealing with the aftermath of ‘recovering from the cure’ or like me, working your way to a 5 year survivor mark and beyond, I offer you my understanding, support and encouragement. In looking back to two years ago, I remember wondering if I would ever get back on track and feel like myself again. Today, as I hit my 4 year survivor mark I can tell you that in some ways I do. In other ways I am very different and for that, I am also grateful.

     

 

Rheumatoid Awareness Day 2017

rheumatoidawarenessday2

February 2nd is Rheumatoid Awareness Day so I like to acknowledge and support the research and efforts that are being done to better understand this disease and to continue to strive for better ways to treat it. I have had RA since childhood and have navigated this landscape most of my life.

Rheumatoid disease effects more than just the joints. It is a systemic process that impacts many systems in the body. Very different from Osteoarthritis which is deterioration of the joints causing bone on bone pain and injuries.

As with many autoimmune conditions, a lot of the medications needed to manage the disease can have a serious negative impacts on one’s health. I hope that more and more research is done to find the root cause of conditions such as this and that breakthroughs will be made on how to treat them.

My medication ladder, as I sometimes refer to it, has been gradual. While my Rheumatoid response was quite well managed through my teens and early adulthood, once I reached my 40’s it really became aggressive. At that time, so did my medications. Starting with anti-inflammatory meds, moving to more of the big guns such as Sulfasalazine, Gold Injections, Methotrexate, Humira, Rituxan. It is at times, troubling to me when I think of the toxicity of these substances being pumped into me. But, there are times when I have absolutely needed them. No question.

Just when I thought I was at my max for the ‘big guns’ in pharmaceuticals, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My chemotherapy was an entirely different playing field. Oh my goodness, that’s a story for another time.

As I reflect on things, I really feel I have been on a wellness journey all my life. I have always respected and understood where medication is required but I have also, always valued and respected how it is not the only piece of the puzzle. Very early on, I recognized that my emotional health and stress levels had a direct impact on my disease activity. I know I am not alone in that!! In fact, so many conversations I have with people with RA tell me the same thing. That’s why I like to do things to help support my emotional health as well, like mindfulness mediation, embracing my love of music, eating real and healthy foods and managing stress.

One of the most impactful and beautiful things that I do to complement my health is using essential oils. I’ve been around oils for decades but for some reason, I had put them aside and really hadn’t been remembering to use them for a few years. Well…..the drought is over. I have not only been using them again and absolutely loving it, I’m now also running a business by sharing and introducing the oils to others. I chose doTERRA to partner with because I find their oils to be the best in the world and the company to be in complete alignment with what I was looking for.

doterra-oils

If you would like to learn more about essential oils, I would love to connect with you. I am based on Vancouver Island but I can work with people all over the globe.

https://www.mydoterra.com/nanaimo/#/joinAndSave

Okay, so now I’m going to tell you how I used my doTERRA essential oils to help support me today. I started by day with my current favorite blend for the diffuser.

rockin-morning-blend

Then, I had to do about 4 hours of straight driving to take my Dad to and from an appointment a few towns away. It was a gorgeous day and we spent some nice quality time together. Once I got home however – ouch!! My neck and shoulders always take the worst beating from a long time driving. I wanted to reach into my oil supplies and use something topically to help with the discomfort and spasms. My oil of choice is one of our blends called PastTense. It’s in a convenient rollerball and is primarily used for tension and related discomfort. It can also reduce stressful feelings. That gave me the boost I needed to recharge.

doterra-pasttense

I will end the day with another diffuser blend. In my house we have an issue with snoring. My magic blend for a restful sleep for all, is 3 drops Marjoram and 3 drops Lavender. It’s a nice relaxing blend that also clears the airways. We love it.

I’m going to be continue to write about my wellness journey and discoveries along the way. Let’s start a conversation. Do you find complimentary health methods help you navigate your own personal wellness plan? I’d love to hear about it.

Find me here: https://www.mydoterra.com/nanaimo/#/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nanaimoessentialoils/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Risotto with Asparagus and Lemon

Risotto with Asparagus and Lemon

Risotto is one of my favorite things to make when I have a large batch of chicken stock. This version features fresh asparagus and lemon zest.  Its light, fresh and perfect for Spring.

Making risotto is easy but does require technique and timing along with good ingredients in order to produce a restaurant quality dish.  Some of the best risottos in my opinion are the simplest with the chosen ingredients shining through.  A good risotto has a  silky, creamy texture with each rice kernel soft and flavorful on the outside and just slightly al dente in the center.  When plated the risotto should have body but still be loose enough to relax on the plate.

Ingredients

2 cups arborio rice

1 – 2 tablespoons butter, splash of olive oil

1/2 cup white wine

6 – 8 cups homemade broth

2 shallots minced fine

1 clove garlic thinly sliced

1/2 cup Parmiggiano Reggiano grated

1 bunch fresh asparagus trimmed and chopped – blanched

zest of one lemon

fresh rosemary micro diced

salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Heat stock on stove in a separate pot that you can easily use a ladle in.  Keep at a constant temperature, just below simmer.

In a large heavy pot melt butter and a bit of olive oil.  Add minced shallots and saute for 1 min, add garlic and rosemary and saute until fragrant.  Add rice and saute until all grains are nicely coated and edges appear translucent.

Deglaze with 1/2 cup of white wine.  Stir quickly to distribute and until liquid is evaporated.

Now begins the process of adding the hot stock and stirring until each addition is absorbed.  The slow additions of liquid and the continual stirring with a wooden spoon is what gives risotto its creamy texture.  This is a process that cannot be rushed and generally takes about 20 minutes.  Your pan should be kept at as even temperature as possible with a noticeable sizzle when the stock hits the pan but not so hot that it all evaporates instantly.  The adding of stock and having it absorb and evaporate while cooking is something that should be an even an unhurried process.

When the risotto has almost reached its desired consistency add in the asparagus along with another ladle of stock and completely heat through.  Remove from heat, add additional stock if needed to loosen.  Add in 1/2 of the cheese, stir together. Check for seasonings, add salt and pepper to taste then serve.

For service, have plates warmed and portion out risotto onto each one.  Garnish with additional cheese, generous amounts of lemon zest and a drizzle of olive oil.

Serve immediately.

Tips for a great risotto:

  • Choose the right rice.  I always use Italian Arborio rice which can easily be found in most grocery stores.  Other varieties of rice for making risotto include baldo, carnaroli, vialone nano, and Calriso which can be found at specialty markets.  All of these varieties are a short grain rice which is what you want.
  •  The pan should have a large surface area and distribute and retain heat evenly.  I use large enameled cast iron pot.
  • First saute your shallots or other aromatics to soften but do not allow them to color.  Then add your rice and saute until each kernel is coated and the outside edges become translucent.  This step will give each kernel a protective outer shell that will ensure the outside becomes perfectly cooked while the center remains al dente.
  • Your first addition of liquid should be wine.  This produces a more flavorful rice.
  • Each addition of stock (1/3 to 3/4 of a cup at a time) must be hot.  This to ensure the correct absorption and releasing of the starches.  Have this in a pot on the stove and keep just below simmer at all times.
  • After each addition of liquid, stir your rice until almost completely absorbed but not dry.  Adding the stock slowly and stirring until each addition is absorbed ensures the rice releases its starches slowly, thereby cooking at the correct speed and developing the creamy consistency.
  • Any additions (vegetables, seafood, meat) should be already cooked and folded in as the final additions of liquid are being added.
  • If using cheese this should be the last addition.
  • Taste and season throughout.  Check for flavor and doneness as you cook.
  • Use really good ingredients.  For me this means homemade stock and good cheese that I grate myself.  If budget allows I use Parmigiano-Reggiano if not, then a Domestic Parmesan.  This is not the time for any pre-grated powdery stuff in a plastic container. If using any herbs I like to use fresh.
  • Risotto must be served and enjoyed right away to be at its best.  Have your wine poured and your favorite dinner companions at the table.  Enjoy!

Celery Soup and Herby Garlicky Dough Knots

 

Celery soup and buns

This meal is rated triple E for everyone and is Economical, Easy and Elegant.   Perfect choice for a late summer supper with the family.

I had several bunches of celery in my fridge (we buy a lot of celery) and wanted to use up all the remains while they still had some good life in them.   Decided on soup and buns which ended up being herby, garlicky  knots.  Made for a great combo.

celery soup ingr

1 medium onion chopped, 2 Yukon gold potatoes, 2-3 cups celery, 2 – 3 Tablespoons butter, 4 cups broth or water, a splash of milk or cream if desired.  2 Tablespoons of fresh dill.

celery soup prepped in the pot

Sauté the chopped veg in the butter slowly – do not let the vegetables brown.

Add the liquid and 1/2 of the dill.  Simmer covered for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Let cool slightly then liquefy using a blender, food mill or stick blender.

The original recipe suggests that this soup then needs to be strained as there may be excess celery pulp.  Not the case for me, I whirred it all up in my super powerful mixer and it was silky and smooth.

The recipe for the celery soup can be found here:  http://www.pinterest.com/pin/390476230165542858/

Herby Garlic Dough Knots

Garlic herb knotty twists

These twists, buns, bread-stick things were made using a 1/2 batch of pizza dough that I made using the bread machine.   So many variations on what can be done.  What I did here was a mixture of melted butter, tons of chopped garlic, chopped herb mix of rosemary, parsley and thyme and some parmesan.

Roll out dough into a somewhat rectangle shape.  Spread on the herb and butter mixture.  You can then slice them into strips as is or, roll it up jelly roll style and then bake them as pinwheels or twist them up like I tend to do.   When slicing, use a pizza cutter or sharp knife.  I like to slice these as soon as possible and then usually twist them into some sort of shape, giving them a chance to rise again prior to baking.

Bake @ 350 for about  20 min.

 

What Rheumatoid Awareness Means to Me

*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.

RA Kitchen Tips Draining Pasta

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 spider

 

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.

kitchen tongs

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 – https://arthritiskitchen.wordpress.com/ra-kitchen-tips-an-ongoing-series/

Short Ribs Braised in Porter Ale with Maple-Rosemary Glaze

Short Ribs 019

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.

Short Ribs 002

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.

Short Ribs 004

Step 3 – prepare the braising liquid.  Carrots, onion, homemade stock, dark beer, rosemary, bay leaves.

Short Ribs 007

Step 4 – add ribs to the braising liquid and cook low and slow covered in the oven.

Short Ribs 010

Step 5 – Ribs waiting for finishing glaze.

Short Ribs 012

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:  

http://tinyurl.com/2exktjc

 

 

An apple a day….?

yard shots july 004Look 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.

IMG_4266[1]

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

Directions:

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.

onions and apple 004

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.

Enjoy!