Brown Rice & Fish Paella

One of the best recipes I’ve had since I started my elimination diet was prepared by my father.  He’d given us a cast iron skillet, and when he and my mother visited us last he wanted to try it out.  As I was already limited in what I could eat, we had to get creative with recipes, and this paella resulted.  It was delicious, I was satiated, and it made amazing leftovers!  My parents aren’t usually brown rice people, but they also loved all the flavor packed into this dish.

Ingredients

  • 6-8 2 oz. fillets of fish of choice.  (Cod and salmon work well here, but more traditional shellfish could be used here, as well.)
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 8 oz. mushrooms of choice, sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 2 cups short grain brown rice (Long grain can be substituted, but I prefer the texture of the short grain here.)
  • 1 container reduced sodium vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1/4 tsp saffron threads
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, sliced finely
  • 1/3 c. fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp. lemon peel
  • dash of paprika
  • 1 package frozen peas

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. In saucepan, heat broth to boiling over high heat.  Stir in saffron threads.  Cover and remove from heat.
  3. In cast iron skillet, heat oil over medium high heat until hot.  Add fennel, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper, and cook until the fennel softens.  Add tomatoes, red pepper, and mushrooms.  After cooking for one minute, add the rice and stir well.  Add the warm broth and lemon peel, and heat skillet to boiling.  Boil for approximately 3 minutes or until the liquid thickens slightly.
  4. Place skillet in oven and bake uncovered for 20-23 minutes.  Add the frozen peas.  Top with the fillets of fish, then dust with paprika.  Pop skillet back in the oven, and back 8-10 minutes longer until rice is done and fish is just cooked.
  5. Let rest for 5 minutes, and garnish with remaining parsley.
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Self Care

Just being an adult requires copious amounts of self care.  Remember playing The Sims?  They’d throw tantrums and refuse to do things if you made them study, work, or exercise for too long at a time.  We humans are like that, too.  We go crazy and it’s unbearable if we go-go-go without a break and without sufficient relaxation and kindness for ourselves.

That’s one of the lessons I’ve had to learn since my CFS came back and since my chronic pain started.  I used to get by on probably normal amounts of sleep (plus naps) and relaxation.  I could be up for class at 8:00 AM, be out of the dorm until the end of my last class around 4:00 PM (sometimes as late as 6:30), go back to do my homework, eat dinner, and then work until 2:00 AM.  Repeat.  I’d sleep in until late on the weekends, study and do chores, and then enjoy a film on Saturday nights.  I had no problem doing this for four years.

In Durham I spent more time than usual in my room studying, sleeping, and watching back episodes of The Great British Baking ShowDon’t Tell the Bride, and Come Dine with Me.  But I got through with my distinction.  In York my CFS came back with a vengeance, and I had to sleep really late each day to function at all.  I started needing more time to do yoga, to sleep, to lay in bed, and to have a cup of tea outside.  I forced myself to meet friends out more than I’d used to, as I seemed to need that social interaction to get through the weeks.  When I met my boyfriend (now husband), I needed that phone conversation each evening and our fortnightly meetings to propel me through my days.  When I hurt my back, I was in bed almost 24/7 and was in so much pain I could barely think straight.  Films and television shows were my new best friends, and I had to be as kind as I could to myself.

That has carried over into my present situation.  Although I’m able to go to work most days, I find that I’ve become more of a homebody and needed more self care than I had previously.  I can no longer push through my week at full-speed and make up my self care time on the weekends.  I need that care everyday for longer than would be ideal.

Of course, my self-care also involves going to appointments four out of five workdays a week.  Chiropractor Mondays, acupuncture Tuesdays, Pilates Wednesdays and Thursdays, and then finally muscle massage on alternate Fridays or Sundays.  It’s exhausting, so even though I’m doing all this for me and for my self care, it’s hard to view it as relaxing.

So what else can I do which would actually feel like self care and not an obligation?

I take baths sometimes, which helps the pain level and also gives me some peace in my own room, isolated from the cats and my husband.  I take pride in the food I buy.  It tends to be organic, brightly-colored, and without much packaging–real food, I suppose many would argue.  I buy and brew far too much tea, and I have an addiction to buying books.  I love window shopping, especially at jewelry and furniture/home/vintage stores.  One of my favorite items is a heated throw which I use in the basement no matter the temperature or weather outside.  A handful of times I’ve gotten facials, and sometimes I’ll apply face masks at home.  I cuddle my cats as much as they will allow, and I pet any dog who I walk past.  (I actually have been known to change my course if there’s a golden retriever…)  Often these small enjoyments aren’t enough to make me feel totally rejuvenated, and I have to spend even glorious days inside resting with a heating pad.

I hope that whatever you need to do to get through your hard days is enjoyable and helpful.

Baked Chicken

I know that chicken isn’t the most fascinating culinary option in the world, but I also know that it is one of the most versatile and readily-available options out there.  I love my chicken and turkey on the grill, in the oven, on the hob, on skewers, ground up, in sauces… you name it.  It goes well with most diet plans and programs like AIP, Paleo, elimination, and Weight Watchers, and I love finding new ways to use it.

For this diet I had to go back to the basics.  I love my curries, my baked enchiladas with veggies, and my stir frys, but right now loads of usual flavor enhancers are off-limits.  I can’t use my beloved tamari or soy sauce, any corn products (including corn starch), or anything with added sugar.  This recipe is super easy, super simple, and super fast, and I’m going to share how to do it two ways: with breasts and with a whole chicken.

Baked Chicken Breasts

Ingredients

  • Four chicken breasts
  • Juice of 2-3 lemons
  • 3/4 cup olive oil (You could use melted coconut oil here.)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 to 1 tbsp spice blend of your choice (I like tagine spice or Ras al Hanout–loads of flavor with warm spices and seldom with sugar.)
  • Glass baking dish

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Take out the chicken and leave to warm up.
  3. Mix all the spices and wet ingredients together in a glass baking dish big enough for the chicken.  Taste and adjust accordingly.  I have had the best luck with more of the runnier marinades, as this seems to make the chicken moister.
  4. Add chicken to the dish and flip to coat in the marinade/sauce.
  5. Put in the oven for 18-20 minutes for medium-sized breasts.  I have had to go up to almost 30 minutes for large breasts before.  Cook until no longer pink in the middle; juices should run clear.
  6. Let rest for 30 minutes.
  7. Serve or slice to use later in the week for lunch.

 

Roast Chicken

Ingredients

  • One whole roasting chicken, any giblets removed
  • One lemon
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Spice blend of choice or fresh herbs (I like this 10,000 Lakes No-Salt Blend which is mild, herby, and has some extra lemon in it.)
  • Olive oil to coat the bird
  • Roasting pan
  • Meat thermometer

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 475F.
  2. Take out chicken and allow to warm up on roasting pan of choice.
  3. Coat the chicken in olive oil, including inside.
  4. Combine salt, pepper, and the seasoning blend/chopped fresh herbs.  Pat all over the chicken, including inside.
  5. Prick the lemon with a knife or fork all over.  (Tip: Roll the lemon on the counter before pricking to release more juices.)
  6. Insert the lemon whole into the cavity of the chicken.
  7. Put chicken in oven.  Immediately turn down the oven to 400F.  Bake for 1 hour 30 minutes or until internal temperature registers at 165 degrees on the meat thermometer.  Juices should run clear if the meat is pierced with a knife.
  8. Take out chicken when done.  Cover whole bird with aluminum foil and rest for 10-15 minutes.
  9. Carve chicken and enjoy!

York

Minster6

As of today it’s been officially three years since I moved away from York.  That city is one of my favorites I’ve ever visited, and I think it’s my favorite place I’ve lived.

York is a fabulously historical city which boasts Romans and Vikings among its notable historic peoples.  As I would walk to work, I would pass under the majestic city walls, over the River Ouse, alongside the Museum Gardens and a bit of the old Roman wall, and then into a courtyard of the King’s Manor complex.  King’s Manor houses the Centre for Medieval Studies (where I worked in a small workroom at the top of the building), the King’s Manor library which housed mainly architecture texts, but I found some of my obscure medieval sources there), the architecture department, the Centre for Eighteenth-Century Studies, as well as a delightful cafe called the Refectory.  The oldest portions of the building are from the fifteenth century, and I considered myself lucky to spend time there reading and researching.

The complex is also around the corner from York Minster, a gorgeous Gothic cathedral which is home to the Archbishop of York, the second-highest seat in the Church of England.  Its white exterior looms over the low, medieval city, and its bells ring through the city center to mark the hour or a celebration.

The streets in the center of town follow medieval paths, with the most famous being The Shambles.  On this street was my favorite bread baker (open early, and closed whenever the bread ran out) and tea shop, and on one end was usually an outdoor market with local produce and goods.  The city itself was founded by the Romans in 71 A.D. as Eboracum, though in 866 its name was changed to Jorvik following a Viking invasion.  The Jorvik Viking Center is still in town, and boasts a fabulous stationary exhibit with artifacts as well as a moving, animatronic exhibit about daily life.

Mostly what I remember is the ease of walking about the town and how delicious a piece of cake from Cafe 68 was, especially in the sunshine with a pot of tea.  I remember the creations in the huge windows at Betty’s Tearooms–elaborate gingerbread and chocolate animals for Christmas and Easter.  I remember the stark white of the Minster and the ruins in the Museum Gardens against the blue summer sky.  I remember the gangs of people flocking outside on a warm day along the Ouse.  I remember watching the Olympic flame come through town a few minutes’ walk from King’s Manor.  I remember the Ouse flooding its banks, burbling up to the hill with Clifford’s Tower (the last remaining bit of the 11th-century castle) at the top.

I also remember feeling in control of my life until I felt sick.  For the first time I felt like an adult–eating well, exercising, commuting to and from London to see my boyfriend, walking to work among the tourists, discovering new foods and drinks.  I miss York for all these reasons and those above, and it will always hold a special place in my heart.

Minster3

Granted

Did you ever do that experiment in science class about the use of opposable thumbs?  Basically, you try to go a period of time–an evening, a full day, a class period–with both of your thumbs taped to your pointer fingers.  How many of your daily activities are impossible without your thumbs?  I remember attempting to brush my hair without my thumbs.  Nightmare.  The lesson was simple: we do so much with our thumbs that we take that evolutionary advantage for granted.

So what else do we take for granted?

I was faced with the reality that I am oblivious to so much.  I can stand up, brush my teeth, wash my face, climb my stairs, and sit in a chair.  It wasn’t until I couldn’t do these things last night that I was hit with how much effort these simple tasks are when my back, hip, and leg are uncooperative.

I’d noticed yesterday morning that both my thighs seemed tight.  Perhaps it was because I’d been extra stressed at work or had a hard Pilates workout a few days before.  Maybe I’d slept funny.  No matter, I thought.  I went to work, went to a massage therapy appointment for my back, and then went out for dinner with my husband (diet-friendly falafel, salad, and hummus).  We walked around the area a little while, and then came back to watch a little television before bed–nothing out of the ordinary.

When I got up from the couch my thigh was incredibly tight.  Huh, that’s never happened before.  As I went up the first flight of stairs the tightness got more intense, and after I climbed all the way to our bedroom in the attic it felt like it was pulling my entire right side.  Then, of course, my back started seizing.  It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before.  I’d sometimes had leg spasms with my back pain, but never this identifiable muscular constriction and progression up one side of my body.  I was literally doubled over because it was too painful to stand up straight.  I needed to hunch down and walk with my husband’s help, as my leg was suddenly incredibly weak and shaky.  He had to reach for everything I needed and support my back while I spit the toothpaste into the sink or rinsed the makeup off my face.

I’d taken all these little daily actions and my ability to perform them completely for granted.

I felt ashamed, angry, embarrassed, and incredibly sad, and I was reminded of the fact that everyone assumes I’m fine (but perhaps on the lazy side).  I show up to work and do my duties to the best of my ability while putting on a cheery face, but I have to calculate everything to the smallest detail.

Just using the mouse at my office has finally caught up with me.  I’m faster with the Windows brand mouse they issued to me, but the movement makes my wrist increasingly painful.  If I revert back to my ergonomic, thumb-directed mouse I’m not as fast.  If I’m not as fast, I can’t keep up with the speed I need to be at to meet the manager-determined quota.  For months I took using a mouse completely for granted, and now it’s something I have an internal debate about several times each day.

What do I do, then?  I know I can better appreciate the little things I do on a daily basis now.  I know I can clear out my bathroom even more so that when I do have an episode everything is at a more easily-accessible level.  For now, I suppose I also have to determine which is more irritating: the wrist pain or the lack of speed compared to what I’m used to.