Thursday, May 31, 2012

Annie's Story



Hi Friends and followers,

It is with much pleasure that I introduce one of my oldest and closest friends with her first guest blog entry!  (By old I mean we've been friends a long time, age is relative as you know).  Annie told me her story when I was visiting Boston last month.  I was sitting on her back patio, enjoying a glass of Sancerre and trying to catch up on 20 years. And out came this jaw dropping piece of information. It really touched and inspired me for many obvious reasons.   Healing through food.  It never ceases to amaze me.  Please enjoy this amazing story and recipe and pass the word along...

Annie's Story

I woke up to a little surprise on August 19th, 2006.   It was the morning of my 32nd birthday and I thought I was having a stroke.  My arms and legs and face were asleep and I couldn’t wake them up!  As I tried to convince myself that the numbness and pins and needles would just go away, I started to feel dizzy.  I lay there in bed and pondered what to do.

Now, before I go any further, I have to explain that this was not my first medical crisis rodeo.   Over the course of the previous 10 years I had accumulated a list of health problems that would seem quite unbelievable for a young woman who looked so “healthy” on the outside.  I was dealing on a daily basis with things like exhaustion, ear ringing, weakness in my arms and legs, dizziness, shortness of breath, seeing “stars”, sharp pain in my shoulders, numbness in my toes, trouble swallowing, and debilitating stomach aches. I was so sensitive to noise and light that I couldn’t listen to the radio anymore and going to the grocery store was agony because the lights were so bright.  I couldn’t socialize or talk on the phone because I was so tired. I was dying.

I had gone to many doctors over the years only to be told things like -“just take your vitamins”,  “do more strength training”, “you must have tuberculosis” (wasn’t that wiped out in like 1940? And isn’t there a vaccine?), “you have asthma”, “this is psychosomatic”, and, my personal favorite, “it’s just a virus” (Dr. slang for “I don’t know what the f is wrong with you”).

So here I was on my birthday with my husband and 2 little kids (5 months and 2 ½) speeding to the hospital.  After a series of tests and visits to several different neurologists, it was determined that I had Multiple Sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that is extremely prevalent in my family.  As horrible as it was to hear, I felt relieved to know that I wasn’t crazy, that something really was wrong and I finally knew what it was.

As some of you may know, the current treatment for MS requires injections of super powerful immunosuppressive drugs for the REST of your life.  These drugs are not a “cure” either.  They are supposed to lesson the severity of symptoms and make flare ups less common, but, like most drugs out there, the side effects can make you even sicker than you already are.  I was desperate to find another way.

After about a year I found myself sitting in the old, run down office of an integrated medicine specialist (aka witch doctor). After some tests, his plan for me was pretty straight -forward.  He told me to stop eating dairy, gluten, sugar, and anything artificial, and to start thinking good thoughts.

Well, to my total shock, things started to happen fast.  At first I noticed I had more energy, and then, the symptoms that I had had FOR YEARS started to literally DISAPPEAR.  I went from counting the minutes and hours in the day, to losing track of the time.  I couldn’t believe it.

I am convinced that changing my diet and my outlook on life stopped my body from attacking itself.  It’s been 5 years and I am symptom-free.  I hope this helps or inspires someone! Thanks, Meredith, for letting me share.  The following gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free recipe is for you.  :)


Marinated Grilled Shrimp
over
Spanish Brown Rice
with
Grilled Hearts of Romaine

Serves 4

Ingredients for the Shrimp:
24 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flake
salt and pepper to taste
lime wedges for garnish

Ingredients for the Spanish Brown Rice:
3 Tablespoons EV Olive Oil
1 onion chopped fine
1 garlic clove
2 cups of uncooked brown rice
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup fresh diced tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
Ingredients for the Grilled Hearts of Romaine
4 hearts of romaine
1 pint of Grape tomatoes
2 avocados
olive oil for brushing the romaine
salt and pepper to taste

Marinating the shrimp.  Mix the olive oil, lime juice, garlic, cilantro, parsley, Worcestershire, the red pepper flake and salt and pepper in a bowl. Immerse the raw shrimp into the mixture.  Place covered in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours turning occasionally. Soak the skewers in cold water for about an hour.  When you are ready to grill, remove the shrimp from the marinade and skewer them.

The Rice.  In a large skillet brown the uncooked rice over medium-high heat with the olive oil and the onion. Cook for about 5 minutes and then add the garlic.   Cook for another 2 minutes. In a separate saucepan bring the stock, tomatoes and salt to a simmer and add the rice.  Lower heat and cover and cook for 40-45 minutes.  Turn off heat and let stand for 5 minutes. 

The Grilled Hearts of Romaine.  Cut each heart of romaine in half lengthwise and brush generously with olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper. Chop up the avocado and slice the lime wedges. Squeeze some lime juice on the avocados so they don’t turn brown and season with salt and pepper

When the rice is finished and you’re ready to grill. The shrimp will only take about 6-7 minutes to cook depending on your personal preference.  Place them on the grill first.  When you have about 3 minutes to go, place the romaine cut side down on the grill – keep the top open.
Plating.  Arrange the skewered shrimp on top of the rice.  Place 1/2 a romaine heart on each plate next to the shrimp and the rice and garnish with tomatoes, avocado and lime wedges.

All you need is a pitcher of margaritas and you’re good to go.





Annie recommends this dish with a good tequila margarita!


 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Theme: Mini Night



I went to a friend's themed dinner party last month and it was really lovely.  The theme was all things mini (i.e., tapas style) and everyone really got excited about it and put in some effort.  The host was especially vigilant in her efforts.  She had made mini lamb gyros with mint jelly and yogurt sauce on mini pitas, and spanikopita from scratch.  She said her mother was greek so she was raised watching her mom prepare these delicacies.  We all had a shot of carrot orange ginger soup awaiting our place when we arrived.  There were mini caprese skewers, fruit salad kabobs, ceviche cups, and my fave go-to; Giada's spicy chile-cherry tomato gazpacho with polenta croutons.  Dessert was mini cookies and petite fours.  I love a good theme because it challenges me in the kitchen and creatively while also narrowing the broad choice of recipes down a bit. I get to stick to one specific portion of my folders as opposed to just the "chicken entree" section which can be daunting.

I can hardly wait for my theme next month; French Garden Party.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Book Club Mamacitas


I always used to be anti-book club because I feel that I don't have time to read, nevermind read something someone asks me to.  It just feels like school to me.  However, this time around I was definitely needing direction in the toddler-control area of my life so I decided to check out the required reading; "Brain Rules for baby" by John Medina and I actually loved it.  I taught me so much about myself and how I parent, was raised, how I deal with emotions, how I express myself.  I thought it was going to help me control Dax but it really helped me control ME.  

OK, now that the psychology lesson is out of the way, onto the food.  

Our friend Shannon had a fun Cinqo de Mayo Mamacita dinner and it was a FEAST.  She buys all her latin fare from Northgate market in Hawthorne.  There was a duo of guacamole; thai and traditional, a tortilla shrimp salad, my mexican spiced brownies with cayenne, cinnamon and chili powder, and the host's baked churros with dulce de leche dipping sauce.  Of course I had to take over the bar and whip up a pitcher of pomegranate citrus margies.

I think book club is ok now. :)
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