Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dietary Changes and What They Can Teach You

So I've already written a bit about how DH had to undergo radioactive iodine treatment for thyroid cancer. He's had the treatment, he's doing well, and he still doesn't appear to be suffering from any of the possible side effects, so whew! He's nearing the end of the 3 week period where he's had to avoid iodine in his food, meaning he's had to avoid almost all processed foods and dairy, so he got to try out a vegan diet for the duration since he's pretty strict about not eating meat. (He's a better hippy than I am; I'll eat seafood once in a while.)

I've learned a few things from this enforced dietary change. It bears repeating that I realized I rely on things like packaged veggie broth, canned beans, and store-bought bread products far more than I would like. We didn't starve without those pantry staples and actually ate quite well. My favorite new food is garbanzo beans NOT from a can. The ones from a can do not hold a candle to dried beans you cook yourself, and they are so easy! They are a lot less finicky than other beans we've made from dried. (I'll add recipes below.) The quinoa pilaf I wrote about a few days ago was delicious too, and quick. We also ate salads for several meals, and delicious veggie packets that I learned about from Girl Scout camp training. Desperation and hunger can make you pretty inventive in a pinch!

So here are the directions/recipes:

Garbanzo Beans (from dried)

Start out by picking through a package of dried garbanzo beans, tossing any foreign matter or suspicious looking beans. Put them in a colander and give them a rinse, then soak them. Make sure they have PLENTY of room and PLENTY of water when you soak them; they swell considerably. You can soak them anywhere from a few hours to over night. Once they are soaked, drain them and throw them in a pot with fresh water to cover them by an inch or two. Bring them to a boil then reduce the heat a bit, cover the pot, and let them cook for an hour or so making sure to stir occasionally. Add more water as necessary. (DH made a batch in the pressure cooker; it only took 8 minutes plus the heat up/cool down time.) You don't need any seasonings, no salt, nothing but the water and the beans. Once they are tender drain them like you would drain pasta, and then the sky is the limit. I find them to be a lot easier than other types of beans because they don't break down like, say, black beans, meaning they don't thicken the cooking water. That means they aren't going to go from perfect to a burnt, goopy mess in mere seconds as soon as you turn your back, and when you drain them they are still basically intact for incorporating into a recipe, or for storing for later use.

Sauteed Garbanzo Beans

I threw this together one night when I was too tired to come up with anything else for dinner. The beans were ready to go in the refrigerator and they looked good, but they needed something more. Here's what I did:

1/4 of a sweet onion, cut into a large, rustic dice
minced garlic from a jar, about a half teaspoon (you could use fresh)
fresh basil, minced (about a tablespoon)
cooked garbanzo beans, about a cup
olive oil
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

Saute the onion in olive oil with a little bit of salt until the onion gets translucent, a little brown, and delicious. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so. Add the beans, a little more salt, and some pepper. Cook until the beans get all warm, then add the basil and cook for just another few seconds.

Serves one.

Veggie Packets

This is a camping classic, although they taught us to put chicken in it so I had to modify it a bit to make it vegetarian.

Whatever veggies you like, cut into chunks.* Here are some I like to include:
Sugar Snap Peas

Pineapple, also cut into chunks. (We fight over the pineapple; it's the best part!)

A protein:
I love butter beans straight out of the can; I bet my garbanzo beans would also be terrific! We've also used other types of beans.

Polenta from a tube, sliced up and placed on the bottom layer

Salt and pepper to taste
Salad dressing to taste, about a tablespoon per packet (I like an Italian vinaigrette)

Make an assembly line out of your ingredients so everyone can make a packet with their favorite items. Use a large piece of foil and place your favorite items in the middle. Salt and pepper as you go along. Add some salad dressing over the top, a tablespoon or so, and close up your packet.

Place the packets on a cookie sheet and cook in the oven at 475 degrees for about an hour.

Open the packets carefully as the steam can burn!! If we don't use polenta in the packets we make rice separately and pour the veggies over a scoop of that. It is such a delicious meal, super healthy, and super filling. Too good to save for just camping trips, that's for sure!!

*A note- DH and I ate this while the kids were away and it was a lot easier to cut up veggies for two people than for all 5 of us! You just make as much as you need for the amount of people who are eating. This is such a flexible recipe.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Warm Quinoa Salad

A lot has been happening around here! DH continues to fight his thyroid cancer; he had to have a radioactive iodine treatment a few days ago. We sent the kids and dogs away for a several days since he is giving off radiation and it would not be safe for them to be here. I'm still at home but I can't be in the same room with him. He's also not allowed to prepare food for anyone but himself, he has to sleep alone, he has to use a separate bathroom, and so on for a week. He also has to follow a low iodine diet which is really restrictive. No iodized or sea salt is the number one priority, which means almost no processed foods. No restaurant food either, since you can never know what kind of salt they use for sure, and no dairy since they clean the equipment that milks the cows with iodine. (Who knew!!) It's turned our kitchen upside down, but we're managing. He has to be on the special diet for about 3 weeks, starting two weeks prior to the treatment and one week after, so he's almost to the end. He says he's going to bring home 3 pizzas from his next appointment, which is when he can go back to eating normally. He's doing well, too; no nasty side effects so far. (And there are a LOT of nasty side effects possible, so whew!!)

As for his diet, we've been making almost everything from scratch. I've made him bread and muffins, we've cooked up a ton of dried beans, and he's made homemade veggie broth. It's made me realize that even though we use far less processed foods than the average American family, we still rely on the convenience of canned beans and store-bought broth way more than we should. It's been a tasty experience- cooking from scratch is usually delicious, but very, very, VERY time consuming and labor intense. I've been cooking everything for our shared meals since his treatment, something I'm not used to for sure! I'm very spoiled that way; I usually only cook two or three meals every week. DH cooks lunch every day, Martha Jr. cooks several dinners per week, sometimes I can get The Eldest to cook a meal, and we'll either go out to eat or bring home take out for the rest.

Today I just didn't feel like cooking beans again and I wanted something quick and tasty, so I turned to quinoa. We usually have quinoa as a base for Mexican, either tortillas or quesadillas, but it can be used for salads and pilaf-style dishes just like rice or pasta. DH can't have the tortillas or tacos so I wanted to come up with a tasty pilaf-y something or other. Here's the recipe for my dish, and it tasted pretty good if I do say so myself! I didn't measure so this is one where you have to taste as you go, especially at the end when you mix everything together. I've read other quinoa recipes and this is probably similar, but it's my particular take on those.

Warm Quinoa Salad

~ Cooked quinoa (I cooked it with DH’s homemade veggie broth; half veggie broth/half water would have been fine)
(To cook the quinoa, place 1 cup uncooked quinoa in a covered microwave safe dish, add a drizzle of olive oil, some salt and pepper, then add 2 cups of liquid; microwave on high for 9 minutes with the cover on then let sit until all liquid is absorbed- thank you Melissa D'Arabian.)(Or you could cook it on the stove following the package directions, which would probably taste a little better. The microwave is a shortcut but the quinoa seems fluffier when cooked on the stove.)

Diced veggies:
~ Onions (I used half of a large Vidalia)
~ Sweet peppers (I used 3 small, one each red, orange, yellow)
~ Carrot (1 good sized; 2 would have been better)
~ Cucumber (I only used a small bit I had left over, but could have used more)
~ Yellow cherry tomatoes (I cut them in half and used a lot since they are so yummy)
~ Medjool dates, pits removed and diced (I used about 5 or 6)

~ Olive oil to taste (just a drizzle at the end since olive oil is added to the quinoa and to the sautéed vegetables as they cook)
~ Balsamic vinegar to taste (a generous drizzle)

~ Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the carrots, onions, and peppers in olive oil until they are caramelized and delicious; season with salt and pepper to taste as they cook.

Once the quinoa has absorbed all cooking liquid, add the rest of the ingredients and stir well to combine, tasting it for more salt/pepper/oil/vinegar. (Go slow when adding these ingredients, starting with maybe a couple of teaspoons of the olive oil and a tablespoon of vinegar, if I remember my amounts correctly- too much of any one of them can throw the whole thing off. That's why I added the dates at the last second- it tasted kind of off without them, but then I threw them in and they balanced it all out perfectly.)

Serve warm.

DH said it was the best thing I've cooked for him- can't beat that!! :)

Monday, October 22, 2012

What Has Obama Done??

Well, here's an answer to that very question. It's a good read; well worth the time.

There's also this:
Long list of Obama's accomplishments with citations

And this:
Want a better economy? Vote Democrat!

And this!!
Smallest government spender

Saturday, October 13, 2012

What is UP With That??

I'm no fashionista but I like to look neat, tidy, and somewhat pulled together. I don't spend a lot on clothes or a lot of time shopping, but I don't go to Wal Mart for my clothes either. Not to be snobby, I just don't want anything that's going to wear out after 4 washings. The girls have both dragged me out shopping recently so I've poked around the stores to see if I can find a new top or pants or something pretty for myself. Let me tell you, I wouldn't have the garbage they are selling in the stores now. JCPenney and Sears both have tanked as far as the quality of their clothes; I am so disappointed. There wasn't a single top I would have in either store; almost everything was made of thin, cheap, see-through material that wouldn't last 2 washings, let alone 4. From what I saw their clothes have come down to the quality Wal Mart used to carry. (And if that's what JCP and Sears carries, I can't imagine what Wal Mart is stocking!) I found some pants at JCP for Martha Jr. that were OK and I found clothes for The Wild Child at Sears the last time I took him shopping, but NOTHING in women's clothes. (The Wild Child wears shorts and T-shirts almost exclusively, so that's not really saying much, however.) I've walked out of Ross and TJ Maxx without buying anything recently, too. I'm starting to despair of ever finding decent, reasonably priced clothes again. Dillard's and Macy's never have anything that appeals to me from a style standpoint; everything is either too young or too old, and that's about it for stores in my area.

I have no idea where to buy clothes now. Guess when my current batch of clothes wear out I'll have to go around nekkies. ;)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Neopets: Habitarium Hints

Here's a bit of silliness for you!!

The Eldest got me hooked on some of the games on the Neopets website back when she was an only child. She stopped playing a long time ago, moving on to World of Warcraft and other, hipper games, but I still enjoy a good round of Destruct-o-match or Sutek's Tomb. I've also maintained a pet (Samoa Cookies) and a Habitarium. I've been playing the Habitarium off and on for a while, so I know the ropes. Recently The Wild Child was logged on when I sat down at the computer so I checked out his Habitarium and let me tell you, it was a sad, sad sight. He had 2 P3s, both soldiers, no eggs, and one Larnikin nester from Professor Clodbottle. He had next to nothing stored up in his storage building. At least he had a storage building! He also had a house and a couple of nests. I've managed to build him up from that to a decent store of resources, two pages of eggs, and several new P3s. They are all busily working away toward The Wild Child's goals of new buildings and upgrades. He's advanced a level too.

I wanted to help him out more quickly so I looked up strategies on Google, but after reading them over I realized they were just plain wrong! Well, they may have good advice if you are using Neo Cash or if you interact with Neo Friends, but I don't do that. My Habitarium (and The Wild Child's) is a closed system. Since I disagree with what I've found for strategies, I'm going to put my own out there in internet land. I'm not going to go into any detail about what the upgrades do or technical stuff; Google has plenty of good advice about that.

Here's what I did to help out The Wild Child and grow his Habitarium:

1. I don't remember what you start out with as far as buildings, but you need at least a storage building, a house, and a nest. Work for those first.

2. Put that nester to work! Make eggs and harvest them; do not hatch them unless you absolutely have to. These little P3s die all the time and you need the eggs to replace them. They especially die when you don't play the game every day. When you leave it for a while then go back to it, you'll come back to an empty Habitarium. (Although that's when Professor Clodbottle will give you new nesters.) (Oh, and when they die, they turn into gems; make sure to click on those and harvest the points.)

3. Set your goals. Take a look at the items in the shopping bag and decide which resources you need to buy the item you'll want next. You'll always need food, both the kind that makes the P3s "a little less hungry" and the kind that makes them "a little less tired". You'll also need nectar droplets since that helps when they are wounded. (That's when the top status bar goes down when you are looking at a particular P3.) (Once you are able to purchase a hospital and barracks the nectar isn't as necessary.) You'll need grass, pollen, and water for those items. If you decide you want a building or upgrades then you'll need to gather wood, stone, and mud. Some of the decorative items can be useful as well. I like the fencing since it can protect the sides of buildings and pen those little P3s in when you want them in a certain area.

4. This is probably my best tip, and one I didn't see on the strategy web sites. You can help your P3s work efficiently if you move your storage unit by the resource you are working to harvest. If you play around with it you can set it up so that the resource goes directly into the storage unit and the P3s don't waste time walking back and forth. If you need wood, move the storage unit almost on top of the trees. Let the workers harvest wood for a few moments and see if they are putting the wood directly in or taking time to walk the wood in. If they are still walking the wood in, then you have to re-position. I've even used fencing to hem workers in, especially by the rocks, so that they don't walk between loads. If you have a lot of P3s or a lot of eggs, you can hatch more workers than usual to build up a particular resource. I wanted to upgrade my barracks recently so I needed more rock so this is exactly what I did and I had the upgrade in no time.

5. Place your buildings strategically. I have most of my buildings around the perimeter with stone or other buildings or fencing along the side. I figure it makes it harder for the bad bugs to damage them if they can only get to one side.

6. Don't waste time on the seed hammers to fix damaged structures. The P3s are good at repairing damage; it just takes a few minutes no matter how extensive the damage is. When I open my Habitarium I take the P3s out of the barracks and houses and set them down in front of the various buildings and nests to get them started on repairs.

7. Always keep some of the P3s in the houses or barracks so you always have a fresh batch to rotate out. If I have 6 soldiers, for instance, I'll have 3 out at any given time and 3 sleeping. If the bad bugs invade while I have the game open I can quickly pull out more soldiers. If I have 3 stored up while the game is closed, then I have 3 at the ready when I open it up again.

8. Always have soldiers out and about! Those bad bugs can really damage your resources.

9. Use all 3 varieties of P3s to make it easier to keep track of them. When you get to where you can have 20 plus P3s it gets confusing to know which ones you've checked on and which you haven't. It's just a little easier if you have all 3 varieties going. I even have 3 houses; I'll use one for larnikins, one for pinchits, and one for mootixes. Make sure to check on each P3, too. If you're familiar with the game this is one of the basics you should know how to do already, but if you're a newbie, you click on the P3 you want to look at and their status shows up in the round thingie. The top bar is health, the next bar is food, and the bottom bar is sleep. You want all 3 bars full! To get the top bar full they need nectar, to get the middle bar full they need to eat something that will fill them up, and to fill the bottom bar they need to eat something that will make them less sleepy. Putting them in a house, barracks, (for soldiers), or the hospital will also help. Make sure to check on the workers if a bad bug has been near them; they are quick to sustain damage if they are caught in the crosshairs. I try to move the workers away from the bad bugs and let the soldiers handle the fighting since the soldiers are hardier. The nesters are never near the battles since they are all on their nests making more eggs for you, right?!

10. Always upgrade! Upgrade the nests, the houses, the barracks, the P3s, everything! It makes them all work better. I love it when the houses can hold a gazillion P3s. I rarely have as many P3s hatched as I'm allowed, but it's nice to have the sleep/recovery space when it's needed. If you absolutely had to forgo one upgrade, I wouldn't upgrade the hospital. Since I don't battle with other Neo Friends I don't have that many injuries so it isn't as necessary.

11. Speaking of sleep space, make sure you have enough space in the houses/barracks for most of the P3s you have hatched. You can switch them out in shifts, but sometimes you need to find space for more of them if they are all tired at once. I'll even put them in the hospital sometimes if I need the room, just to manage the little buggies.

Well, there you have it, one of my guilty pleasures. I shouldn't be wasting time on Neopets but every now and again it's a fun diversion, so if I can get a blog post out of it I might as well. ;)

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Video!!

Our greyhounds are a joy. I've been trying to get some video of them playing in the backyard but their play sessions are so brief I can't manage to find the camera before they are done. (They're sprinters, so a minute or two of play and it's all over but the panting.) Yesterday Martha Jr. decided to take our older boy, Warren, into the pool, which he loves. (Our girl, Cina, hate, hate, HATES the pool so she hid.) I had the camera ready before hand this time, and got some footage of Warren both in the pool and running around the back yard. For those who don't know, zoomies are when the dogs run like crazy, and helicopter zoomies are when they run in circles, both of which you'll see on the video HERE. Enjoy!! :)

PS: I wanted to embed the video on this page, but alas, I do not have the computer savvy to pull it off, so you'll have to check the link.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Rain Rain Go Away...

Rain rain go away... maybe go hang out over Texas and the dried out parts of the country for a while. It's done nothing but RAIN lately; I think my garden is going to drown. I have a rain gauge (a tube with a ruler on the side on a decorative stake) and we got 5 inches over night a couple of days ago. And it isn't done! Forecasters say we have another day or so then we'll dry out for a little bit. I've watered my tomato plants maybe twice since I planted them. (They don't like a lot of water.) I have a bunch of other plants this year, too. We put in summer squash, cucumber, basil, pepper, and several plants each of collards and swiss chard. The cucumber is going crazy! It's vining all over the garden fencing and has several buds, but no fruit yet. The squash was doing well and we had a lovely blossom but the bugs got it. I read up on how to kill the pests but the info said they have a short season, so since the plant seems to be holding its own I'm letting well enough alone; the bugs will have their fill then I'll get the rest.

On the home front, The Eldest and I are getting over colds. Colds trigger really nasty, scary coughing fits for me so I went to the doctor about it, wondering if the coughing was triggering asthma attacks. He gave me some breathing tests and said I don't have asthma anymore!! That was welcome news. I was diagnosed back in 2007, the year I was losing weight, so I am guessing getting the weight off improved the asthma. The doc said that's a plausible assumption, so keeping the weight off has gained even more importance. It's a hard, hard battle, though. I'm getting some help on that front, thank goodness! DH has a new insurance company through his job and they called me about different wellness services they offer, including phone sessions with a nutritionist! I jumped on that and it's been great. The woman who is counseling me is a sweetheart and she's been very helpful. I've lost about 4 pounds now, largely due to the cold, but I'll take it. (Colds tend to suppress my appetite.) I'll take that as a jump start and work to keep it going. The insurance company sent me a very nice packet that includes a pedometer, tape measure, "portion plate", and a work book.

DH is hanging in there. He didn't catch the cold (thank goodness) but he's dealing with his thyroid issues now. The lab work came back and it turns out he had two kinds of thyroid cancer, so now he has to have a radiation treatment to make sure none of that tissue got anywhere else in his body. He's dreading it, but we'll get through it. The kids have to be out of the house for a few days so we're sending the little ones up to his parent's and The Eldest is going to stay with a friend. We're even sending the dogs to the kennel for a few days, just to be on the safe side. I'm staying here in case he needs me, but we can't hug or touch or sleep in the same room. :( He has to follow a special diet for a couple of weeks leading up to the treatment; I'll have to spend some time looking over the recipes and making up shopping lists. I glanced at the cookbook and there's a nice variety of recipes, so it shouldn't be a big deal.

Today is a "home day" and I need it! It helps keep my fibro under control if I can spend a few days each week at home without going anywhere near my car. I still go outside for walks and gardening, of course. Those walks are pretty important; I missed a few days in a row due to the absolute miseries from this darn cold and my legs ached so much it was difficult to sleep. (Added to the difficulties sleeping from the cold itself; not a good combination.) That balance of just enough exercise is so crucial to managing fibromyalgia; that would make it my top bit of advice to anyone newly diagnosed. Figure out how much you can exercise without it being too much, and DO THAT!! It is the best medicine out there.