Teeth & Soup

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Rice-noodles

Image by Martijn Nijenhuis via Flickr

As if my recent post about amalgam in my teeth weren’t enough, the last few days I’ve been in extraordinary pain from one of my impacted wisdom teeth.  It’s not tooth pain, thankfully, but my gums just at the area surrounding the lower left quadrant wisdom tooth swelled and caused me to accidentally and repeatedly bite the inside of my cheek connected to the area.  I’ve been careful with it, salting and brushing, and it’s starting to get better (slowly), but without dental insurance getting this taken care of is an impossibility.

However, because I wanted to eat without a lot of chewing, I ended up saying hello to necessity, and ended up creating a Thai-inspired soup with what I had on hand.  It’s not a proper Thom Yum Gai, but it was very tasty and since I had a request for the recipe, I’ll post it here.

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or 3-4 breasts)
3 large carrots
2  handfuls of sugar snap peas
1 medium non-green sweet pepper (ours was a mix of orange, pink, and yellow)
1 bunch fresh mint, chopped
1 bunch fresh basil, chopped
1 T. coriander
1 T. fresh grated ginger
4 slices of fresh ginger
1/2 gallon chicken broth
2 t. Thai chili paste
3 T. lime juice (or more, to taste)
~6 oz. can of coconut milk
1/2 pkg. of vermicelli style rice noodles, broken into 1 1/2 – 2″ lengths (a.k.a bahn pho)
sea salt, to taste
white wine
olive oil

Cut chicken into bite sized lumps and toss into a skillet already oiled and hot.  Throw in the grated ginger, sprinkle sea salt, and cook with a splash of white wine until chicken is cooked but not browned.

Empty contents of skillet into stew pot, scraping as much oil into the pot along with the meat and sauce.  Add chicken broth and lime juice and set to boil (this is a good point to determine how much soup you want to make; add water if there is not enough broth to cover and cook ingredients).  As it heats, toss in ginger root slices, coriander, basil, and half the chopped mint.

Shave skin and trim carrots.  Slice them into rounds as thick as nickels.  Slice the sugar snap peas at diagonal angles into approximately three pieces each (depending on size).  Trim off the top of the pepper and core; slice the pepper in half lengthwise, and then make long, thin slices.  Set vegetables aside.

Break rice noodles into shorter pieces to your liking.  When the broth comes to a boil, add in noodles and stir.  Toss in carrots.  Wait four minutes, and throw in the peppers and snap peas as well.

When noodles are almost tender, mix in chili paste, salt to taste, and coconut milk.  Stir thoroughly and remove from heat.  Carrots should have just a little give when you bite into them, and peppers should retain their color and sweetness.

Serve  with sprinkles of mint in large bowls that allow slurping of noodles and sipping of broth.  Keep salt, lime juice, and chili pepper on the table for those that want to adjust the flavor. (My daughter liked it the way it was, while I wanted more salt and lime and my partner wanted more salt and chili pepper!)

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In Defense of Adverbs

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Cover of "Twilight (Twilight, Book 1)"

Cover of Twilight (Twilight, Book 1)

Several months ago, I read among many, a scathing review of the Twilight series in which someone had actually counted the number of adverbs in a given chapter.  There were an appalling 26.

Reading famous authors’ books on writing, including Stephen King’s brilliant On Writing, mentions again and again how writers should eliminate any and all adverbs. At least, that’s the impression that’s stuck since reading said books.

I’ve become paranoid about adverbs.  I feel guilty when I see one, give an internal groan, and berate myself for using them as a writer.  When I churn another one out, I assume I will only need to find some more inventive way to write the same phrase without the offending word.  It’s as though the use of adverbs is seen as a form of laziness in writers.  I’m starting to have nightmares that soon they’ll be coming after my adjectives and commas next. DMS is especially unhappy with my standard usage of commas, double spaces after periods, and character in my writing voice. I do not conform to their AP style!

At what point do I cross the line into an obscene and unforgivable number of adverbs?  Is Meyer’s 26 a number to avoid?  Or is the cut off a bit earlier, say, around 15 or 20?  Is there a ratio of adverbs per page that’s acceptable?  And how will I be viewed by readers who count adverbs in any given chapter and find I’ve come up with a surfeit of such descriptive words?

So, here I am reading through Eila, Book 1, during what I hope will be our final editing pass before we send off query letters (and stalk) editors to get in good with some big-named publishing house, and I’ve been circling and keeping count of adverbs. The introduction is ok, there are only three.  The first chapter has a more worrisome number: 17.  But chapter two has an unacceptable 37 adverbs, and the third contains an obscene number: 43.

Near to hyperventilating over these numbers, I began thinking about what I had read through.  The content is standing much stronger than it did in draft zero several months and two previous editing passes ago.  I am able to see the characters and their actions better due to the clarity of the writing.  What’s more, as I circled adverbs and considered them in context, I began to realize that not every adverb needed to be removed.  Oh sure, there were the superfluous words ending in -ly that did not add to the flow of the text, but there were, as I found, good reasons to keep a number of adverbs in their current places.  They supported and enhanced the text rather than detracting from it.

I questioned why adverbs were considered so heinous by a great number of people, and started to see the good adverbs from those that tugged at readers eyes and hindered the enjoyment of the story.  Why do we have adverbs if they are considered malignant to effective storytelling?

It dawned on me, as I am certain others have discovered, that like profanity, every word has its place.  Some may have spawned from the laziness inherent in verbal communication, but when used in a way that gives a story greater vitality and nuance, how could we not use them?

Cover of "Zero History"

Cover of Zero History

And in this mindset, I picked up Zero History by William Gibson on the paperback shelf at the library and read two pages, engaged in the complexity of his language.  I stopped at the end of page two and counted: ten adverbs in two pages. There were two adverbs on the first page–a sin to have any in those first, crucial paragraphs–and here he has two!  Eight on the second, with two so close they might as well be in the same sentence together. Ten adverbs in two pages.

If the father of the cyber-punk novel can use adverbs, deftly and in moderation, then so can I.

Adverbs in this post: 4.

 

Temptation & Discovery

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For a while now I’ve been plotting for Daughter’s week away at camp at the end of August.  I’ve been planning to see certain people, do certain things.  One of those is to hurt myself with food.  It’s not that I want the pain, oh gods no, but I really want that chicken burger I’ve been craving and I want to cash in on my Trophy cupcake gift card from the time they screwed up and forgot my cupcake (remembering my partner’s and my daughter’s) and I didn’t find out until I was all the way home.  They gave me enough money on the card to get three cupcakes, and I think I have one left.  Maybe more.

But after spending this week sick (too many high-thiols* foods, apparently), a sudden attack of my lower back preventing me from putting my weight on my right leg for two days, and the discovery that spelt isn’t going to work for me, I’m starting to rethink my plans.  I mean, I really want to be able to say that once a year I’m going to have a wheat-filled day and then pop naproxyn sodium for the three days that follow, but considering all of the food accidents lately (“why is this wheat-free food making me sick?  oh, it’s really got this hidden ingredient I didn’t know about… oops.”) and now this happy-fun-time with spelt burger buns, I’m not sure that even decadence (yay, decadence!) is worth it.

*Foods high in thiols (organic sulphur): Being sick Sunday and Monday with that sulphuric taste in my mouth made me wonder what else could cause it, because I’ve been strictly avoiding chicken eggs that have been triggering such reactions since I was 18.  I did a search on Monday for not digesting foods and having the sulphur taste and turned up this high sulphur food list that includes a link between this reaction to high sulphuric foods to amalgam poisoning.

Now, I’d heard about mercury in fillings, and I’ve had amalgam fillings since my mid to late teens . . . around the time my health symptoms first appeared.  In fact, numerous sources state that amalgam-based mercury poisoning can lead to depression, chronic fatigue, short temper, insomnia, a dulling of the senses, memory issues, digestive problems, anxiety, food allergies, and so on.  The list reads like my own list of symptoms (even the damage to my sense of smell!) and I’m staring to come up with a game plan. It’ll take time, courage, and a lot of money, but here’s the long-term goal:

  1. Get a blood test to check for high levels of heavy metals, including mercury.
  2. Make an appointment using a free dental check up coupon at a local dentist that includes free x-rays.
  3. Use both medical and dental results to go to the low-income dental clinic and begin having my amalgam fillings replaced with a safer material.
  4. Use chelation and a food diary in the meantime to keep track of attacks and gauge how much is too much sulphur for my body.

It may just be hooey, it might just be coincidence, but I see this discovery a small ray of long-term hope for many of my medical issues all thanks to a very bad stomach upset.

On a brighter side, my homemade meals this week have been fantastic.  I made wheat-free brownies (thanks TJ’s!) with walnuts and bittersweet chocolate chips, served warm with vanilla ice cream and homemade chocolate whipped cream.  I cooked black beans in a way I never had before, and they turned out delightful, tried ono (or wahoo) for the first time, and made a wheat-free kung pao chicken that turned out fairly tasty.

Now if I could just figure out how to make a moist chocolate cake with a sinful frosting that didn’t crumble into dry crumbs an hour after slicing . . .

 

Update: As my daughter/partner dual birthday party planning approached, I let a lot of my basic improvements fall by the wayside.  But after a trip to the Hoh Rainforest with my other boyfriend, coming home, I’ve been good about keeping up with water, vitamins, wii fit, walking, maintaining the kitchen, and even practicing my Japanese!  🙂

Small Lessons, Big Results

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Recently learned . . .

Lesson 1: Split up the CoQ-10 into 300 mg doses, one with breakfast and one with lunch.  The latter will help me push through that post-lunch slump that so often recently devolves quickly into a nap I didn’t plan for nor wanted in the first place.

Lesson 2: Homogenized conventional cow’s milk makes my stomach sick.  Non-homogenized and raw cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, and goat’s milk rock (as do their cheeses).

Lesson 3: Daughter has the same problem as in Lesson 2.

Lesson 4: There is nothing satisfying as being able to know for a fact that a given food substance is causing my body distress and being immediately able to address it.  Having removed wheat, chicken eggs, and onions from my diet, my daily systemic inflammation no longer masks all the other things going on in this meat-bone package in which I am encased.  Localized pains and discomforts now stand out and I can better identify target areas to work on with my health care providers (when I have money to see them).

Lesson 5: I’m still a procrastinator.  Work on that . . . later.

Happy Accident: Greek Lasagna

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Yesterday I was set with all my ingredients to make my partner a lamb lasagna.  Except, as I discovered in the cooking process, we had forgotten something crucial: the cottage cheese.

You’re wondering what the heck I’m talking about, but trust me, next time you make lasagna, replace the ricotta portion with cottage cheese and you’ll end up with a moist and creamy filling.

So, we didn’t have cottage cheese, and I talked with my partner about what we did have in the fridge besides the mozzarella and parmesan–cheddar, jack, paneer, feta–feta!  Oh no, but that would be too strong for the lamb and tomato and morels soaked in red wine and . . . I can make this work!

I ran back into the kitchen, assessed what I had, and here’s what I did*:

  • Two hours before cooking, take a handful of morels–fresh or dried–and soak them in a small bowl of red wine.
  • Dice garlic and sauté in olive oil.  Add 1/4 c. of red wine and cook three to five minutes until the alcohol sizzles away.  Add 2/3 lb. of ground lamb and season with salt, tarragon, and thyme to taste.  Turn and separate lamb while browning, mixing in the garlic, and ensuring that the meat crumbles.  Turn off the heat and fold in a large, diced heirloom tomato.
  • Spread a thin layer of olive oil over the bottom of the pan and layer the first sheets of lasagna pasta (brown rice for us) having already cooked them somewhat in boiling water.  Lightly sprinkle red pepper flakes and grind black pepper over the mix. Place half of the lamb mixture in a fine layer across lasagna sheets, setting the other half in a bowl.
  • Slice a zucchini lengthwise and then finely slice along the length.  In the same pan as the lamb, sauté the zucchini.  When it browns slightly, set it aside.  Finely chop a handful of pitted kalamata olives.  Place another layer of lasagna sheets over the lamb and spread the olives across the sheets evenly.  Add the zucchini and crumble 1/3 lb. of goat or sheep feta over the top.  Lay another layer of pasta sheets over the top.
  • Sauté red wine-soaked and diced morels in the pan, adding it to the last half of the lamb mix.  Spread all of the mushrooms and morels in on this layer, and sauté sliced red, orange, and yellow bell peppers.  Add these over the top of the lamb with another sprinkling of red pepper flakes and black pepper from a grinder.  Place the final layer of pasta sheets.
  • Gently brush a thin layer of olive oil over the top sheets, and then place thin slices of mozzarella over the pasta. Squeeze the mozzarella between thumb and forefinger to widen circumference.  Shave parmesan from block and crumble over the layer of mozzarella.  Place lasagna in oven at 375 for about 20 minutes or until the cheese melts, bubbles, and gets brown at the tops and edges.
  • Slice into squares and serve with a salad with light dressing (caesar, oil/vinegar, lemon/oil, et al), or put it on a bed of fresh spinach.

 

*(Understand that with the exception of the wine-soaked morels, I hadn’t prepared anything ahead of time, so all of this was happening at the same time–I had a baking dish on the back burner, a skillet for sauteing on the front left, and a big pot of boiling water that frequently burned my hand, and at one point left a big long red stripe across my arm from spitting at me.  Don’t do it my way; do prep work!)

60 Small Ways?

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Actually, “60 Small Ways to Improve Your Life in the Next 100 Days” is a nifty list of things to do, but there are some things on this list that aren’t applicable to me (e.g. paying for everything with cash requires actually having money; using a pedometer requires the willingness to buy one and wear it every day; I don’t gamble my money in the stock market, and a lot of the money saving tips simply don’t apply because those aren’t ways I’m spending money in my life), and some that I would add specifically for me (e. g. work a little bit on each of my major projects daily).  This includes some of the changes I want to make at this new moon anyway (minding my words, as seen in #52).

While this says 60 things, there are a lot of these tips that require making lists or that are broken down into several aspects, so it’s a lot more than 60.  To accomplish all of this each day could add a few hours of work to one’s load everyday.

However, I did the math, and if I prepped today and started tomorrow, I would finish my one hundred days just a few days before my 33rd birthday.  So, today when I visit the library, I’m going to print off this list, go through it thoroughly and mark those suggestions that would resonate with my own needs for improvement.  I’d said to Daughter yesterday that I need to renew my routine and create one that will function well toward my goals; this list will help me focus on that goal.

I must admit to some cynicism, though, as some of these just don’t apply to the way I view the world.  When I read #2, the rules to keeping your house in order, I read all of the things I do already and all of the things no one else does in the house.  I close all the cabinets, put back the things that have been taken out, and pick up those things I’ve thrown down (ok, I don’t hang up my clothes; laundry is my Achilles heel; I still have a pile of clean laundry on my bed from last week that the cats have now claimed as their favorite fort, and I just sleep around it because hanging things up is such tedium that I’d rather pick through the clothes on my bed and throw the dirty ones in the hamper as I go).  Getting the other two members of the house to follow those three guidelines?  Not going to happen without a lot of shouting, complaining, or bickering on my end.  Of the others with which I find contention, including the tip that smacks of “The Secret”, #60 is the worst:

60. For the next 100 days, keep reminding yourself that everyone is doing the best that they can.

Nope, sorry, they’re not.  There are many people in this world I know or have encountered who are doing their best, often in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, but I’ve also known far more people who do the least amount of work for the greatest amount of benefit to themselves.  Laziness is inherent in primates, and humans are no exception.  It takes passion or a great motivator for us to rise above and do our best.  Even though it’s part of my own code of ethics to do my best in any action I take, I must admit to being a queen of procrastination and a consummate user of the b—s— essay to get me through completing an assignment.  When something matters to me, I will do my best.  When something matters to someone else who is important in my life, I will do my best.  The rest of the time it’s a struggle to get through an activity without wanting to cop out on quality and move on to something more exciting.  There’s my cynicism for you, at least in part.

Nevertheless, I recognize many admirable possibilities within the list that I want to pursue, and the one that will be most challenging or me is #58:

For the next 100 days, stay in your own life and don’t compare yourself to anyone else.

I suggest anyone reading this pick three things from the list that most resonate with how you want to improve your life and try them out for 100 days.

 

 

Less Pain

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Bob's Red Mill

Image via Wikipedia

Seems getting rid of wheat was a good decision.  My inflammation has significantly reduced since I stopped eating what proved to be an allergen.  I’m not 100%, but there are a lot of other factors leading to my chronic pain and other issues.  The fact that I can now feel aches in specific places (knees, lower back) rather than a near-constant swath of pain across my body with tenderness almost everywhere is a good reason to continue abstaining from wheat.

Of course, I had a mild flare up the other day, and went over in my head what I’d eaten.  I called Bob’s Red Mill because I’d eaten their organic Scottish oatmeal–I’m addicted to it–and Andre told me that there’s a cross-contamination issue.  I have to wonder how they can call it organic unless the only cross-contamination is with other organic products.  They have yet to provide a gluten-free Scottish oatmeal, though they have other forms, none can compare.  Alas!

I did find something good, though, this recipe for wheat free bagels looks as though it could be adjusted to include the extras I like including jalapeno-cheddar, poppyseed, or blueberry.  I could also make my own flavors if I want.  That’s, of course, assuming I can ever get yeast to obey me.

For those that like oatmeal and often make more than they need (a bad good habit of mine), you can save the extra for a different treat the next day.  While it’s still warm, take the oatmeal from the pan and pour it into a glass container.  I prefer a rectangular, short-walled container with a snap-on lid.  Use a spoon or spatula to smooth it flat, cover it, and place it in the fridge.  The next morning, slice it into thick strips, place in a non-stick or well-seasoned iron skillet, add a dash of cinnamon, and fry on both sides until golden brown.  Serve with a dollop of butter (or substitute) and a drizzle of agave syrup, maple, or honey.

The key to its firm consistency is to not add any type of milk or toppers (e.g. nuts, fruit, et al) into the oatmeal before placing it in reserve.  I flavor the pot of oatmeal with sea salt, raw sugar, cinnamon, and butter or Earth Balance.  I only add almond milk to the bowls along with any add ons each of us like (I most love putting walnuts and bananas or apple slices on the bottom of the bowl and mixing them in after, so they get cooked slightly by the heat of the oats).