"Soup is a lot like a family. Each ingredient enhances the others; each batch has its own characteristics; and it needs time to simmer to reach full flavor."
-Marge Kennedy

     In my cooking and baking, I long for flavors with depth and dimension. Cinnamon - for example - is wonderful.  It's cousin, cardamom has much more depth and a  complexity that I find absolutely delightful.  There is a similar flavor relationship between your basic onion and a shallot.  Shallots have an amazing ability to really transform a dish.
     Soup at it's best; simple ingredients stewing away to create something greater than the sum of their parts.  It tastes slightly different every time that I make it, is highly versatile and makes you feel fabulous.  The squash is chockfull of Vitamin A and fiber, the ginger, pepper and garlic all have anti-inflammatory properties, etc.  Change it up as much as you'd like and enjoy!


Beautiful Butternut Squash from Sylvester Manor Educational Farm

Ingredients:

  • 3 - 4 lbs. fall/winter squash (try butternut, Hubbard, Kabocha, etc.)
  • 4-6 large shallots: outer skin removed and quartered
  • 3 tart apples: cored, peeled, and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 3 cloves garlic: peeled and left whole
  • 1-inch chunk of fresh ginger: peeled
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 4-6 cups chicken or vegetable broth, depending on desired thickness
  • Salt and black pepper to taste: Remember to take the sodium level of the broth you are using into consideration.
  • Optional: ground white pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 375℉.
  2. Peel, remove seeds and cut squash into 1-inch chunks.  Here is a great guide to preparing butternut squash.
  3. Place chunked squash, shallots, and apples evenly in a large roasting pan.  Drizzle with olive oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper.
  4. Roast in preheated oven for 20 minutes.  At 20 minutes, and garlic cloves and stir the chopped produce, rotating the layers to ensure even cooking.  
  5. Return pan to oven for an additional 20 minutes, checking after 10 minutes to make sure the garlic isn't burning.
  6. Remove pan and add ¼ cup of broth to roasting pan.  Turn oven temperature down to 325℉ and return pan to oven for 10-15 minutes.
  7. Blending:
    1. If you have and immersion / hand blender, transfer contents of roasting pan to a large,heavy bottomed pot. Add 1-½ cups of broth, and blend until smooth.
    2. If you do not have an immersion blender, add the contents of the roasting pan to a traditional blender with 1-½ cups of broth and blend until smooth. Add to heavy bottomed pot.
  8. Once smooth, continue to add broth until you've reached your desired thickness.  Heat on stove to bring up to temperature, season to your liking and enjoy!
    1. For a creamier twist, add a few TBS of coconut milk with the broth!
     I was a sickly child.  Not on the same level as Tiny Tim, but certainly a few notches more sickly than the average snot-nosed tyke.  My allergies were remarkably awful, with my immunologists placing my reactions "off-the-charts" in many cases.  The minute I started sneezing, my parents and I knew that we were in for an acute sinus infection so wicked that it would keep me from school for a good two weeks.  Allergy shots and 2 inhalers alleviated some of my woes but, I was still a mess and I was always tired.
     Throughout junior high, things remained at this moderately manageable level.  My junior year of high-school, I went through my dreadful defiant teenage years and, many of my behaviors masked some of my early symptoms.


Erythema Nodosum in lower legs

     The summer following my junior year, I developed erythema nodosum - an inflammatory skin condition brought on by Streptococcal infections and some autoimmune disorders, such as sarcoidosis - on both of my lower legs. A 3 week round of antibiotics (to treat a suspected Strepp infection)got rid of the painful, swollen lumps.  However, a new batch of rashes began to flare up on my back and shoulders in a symmetrical pattern every time I came down with a cold.  Doctors and my parents finally started to take my complaints seriously. 
     A battery of tests followed, the first of which was to rule out systemic lupus. Next, my GP ordered a CBC (complete blood count) and found that I had remarkably high leukocyte counts (white blood cell levels).  They tested for leukemia, which came back negative.  My white blood cell counts were still quite high, but with no lingering symptoms besides a relatively susceptible immune system and fatigue, they stopped testing.  Things were quiet for a few months.
     In November of my senior year of high school, I had a mild seizure during class.  MRIs and an EEG showed no abnormal activity.  I had tremors in my right hand following the incident on occasion for which my doctors prescribed oral Lorazepam. 
     It was only 15 months later that I had another seizure and was diagnosed with MS.  My parents and I looked back at all of the aforementioned symptoms with renewed understanding. The diagnosis was in some ways a great relief and helped to make sense of my medical journey up to that point.
    What were some of your earliest multiple sclerosis symptoms?  Comment below. Thanks for reading!  
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This past weekend, I published a post discussing how to fight inflammation with food.  Now it's time to bulk up the recipes page with recipes to help everyone incorporate these anti-inflammatory foods into your culinary repertoires.

     First, a little background on a swollen stem - yes, that is how it is classified - called kohlrabi.  Many Americans have never heard of this delicious veg, which has been popular in the German-speaking areas of Europe for ages.  The name itself combines the German words for cabbage and turnip, which is a fair way to describe the flavor.  The texture is most similar to that of a crisp apple or potato and is beautifully suited for shredding.


     This bright, fresh slaw was a great way to introduce customers to kohlrabi at the farm.  

Behold! Kohlrabi, escarole and my horrendous farmstand label penmanship
Ingredients:
  • 1 small head of red/purple cabbage
  • 2 large kohlrabi bulbs (any exterior color will do, they're all the same on the inside)
  • 3-4 large peeling carrots
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
    • optional: for a twist, you can use cilantro instead...it would be wickedly good on fish tacos
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise or fat-free Greek yogurt (Fage is my favorite brand, at the moment)
  • 1 TBS apple cider vinegar
  • 3 TBS Dijon mustard
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • *Optional*: add 1 TBS of poppy seeds
  1. Prep your cabbage: Wash all of the produce and halve the cabbage. Putting the cut side down on the cutting board, slice thinly to create a shredded effect. Repeat with the other half.  Place in a large bowl.
  2. Prep your kohlrabi: These buggers can be a pain to prepare, as they're so tough to cut through.  Remove any leaves and their stems and rinse. Next, top and tail the bulb itself (slice about ¼ inch off of the top and the bottom of the kohlrabi bulb). Then, use a potato peeler or a small knife to remove the rest of the skin.  Once the skin is removed, shred the kohlrabi using the shredding/grating setting on a food processor or using a cheese grater.  Add to the bowl with cabbage.
  3. Prep your carrots: Wash and peel your carrots.  Shred in food processor or with a cheese grater. Add to bowl with cabbage and kohlrabi.
  4. Parsley / cilantro: Add chopped parsley or cilantro to bowl of shredded veggies and mix together.
  5. Dressing: In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise (or yogurt), apple cider vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, and poppy seeds, if using.  
  6. Finishing touches: Mix the shredded veggies with as much or little of the dressing as you'd like, until you reach your desired level of gloopy-ness.  Enjoy!
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     Most people know that inflammation is something to be avoided.  However, many forget that inflammation plays key roles in many physical conditions and illnesses.   For example, the lesions found in the brain in multiple sclerosis and other similar demyelinating diseases are examples of localized inflammation of the myelin sheath following the autoimmune mechanism that damages the sheath.  The digestive tract can also become inflamed, in Crohn's disease - an inflammatory bowel disease - and Celiac disease, which both exhibit inflammation of the tissue of the digestive tract.  Many other illnesses and conditions display inflammation that contributes to the cause and/or exacerbation of symptoms.

     Many drugs are used to treat inflammation; NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin, naproxen (Aleve), ibuprofen (Advil), and some corticosteroids (prednisolone, methylprednisolone (Solu-Medrol), etc.).  Naturally, there are unpleasant implications associated with all of these, and they are not suitable for the long-term management of inflammation and the related pain.  


     While it won't cure inflammation, one of the safest, and most effective ways to manage inflammation for the long haul is through your diet.  Sadly, the American diet is remarkably pro-inflammatory.  The high-carbohydrate, high-fat diet does nothing but amplify the symptoms of inflammation.  Have no fear, though!  There are plenty of painless, easy, and delicious changes to that diet that yield pretty spectacular anti-inflammatory results.  Dr. Andrew Weil's anti-inflammatory food pyramid is a great resource and covers some of the categories that I omitted from this post for the sake of brevity.



Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid


Produce:



What! Those colors. How, Blue Sky Organic Farms? How?
  • Dark, leafy greens and related veggies: kale, broccoli, broccoli rabe, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, spinach, Swiss chard, bok choi, kohlrabi, etc.

Behold the beauteous bulbs of kohlrabi!

  • Peppers: sweet peppers and hot peppers contain capsaicin, which is a magnificent anti-inflammatory.
  • Squash: If you're craving a starch, swap complex carbs for squash.  Use a spaghetti squash instead of pasta, have mashed butternut squash rather than buttered mashed potatoes or rice.
Fats:
  • Oils: To reduce inflammation, make sure to get enough fats that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids.  The main thing to remember about fats and inflammation is to avoid saturated fats and frying.  
  • Nuts and seeds: Nuts - particularly walnuts, pecans and pine nuts - are very high in Omega-3 fatty acids, as are flax and chia seeds.
Protein:
  • Fish: Fish are also chock-full of healthful fatty acids. Just be cautious of other health concerns.  The heavier darker fleshed fish will likely have a greater accumulation of toxins that reside in those great oils. However, buying local, wild caught fish from a reliable source that fishes in healthy waters will help to avoid these issues. Also, frying your fish is a no-no for fighting inflammation.  Try to grill or bake it. 
  • Chicken: If you're going to go for meat, pick chicken, so as to keep away from the less healthy preparations and fats in pork, beef and the like.  Chicken is so versatile, it can easily serve as a vehicle for many anti-inflammatory spices.  Try this delicious, northern Indian dish or make a white chili with shredded chicken and green chili peppers!
  • Beans: Beans are great.  Load them up with garlic, onions and cumin.  Yummy and healthy.
Spices:
  • Turmeric: I'm a big fan of turmeric, as I've discussed before...here.  It's been used for ages in Asia for it's anti-inflammatory properties.  When used correctly, it makes food both delicious and beautiful, staining it a stunning bright yellow.  Here is one way to use it.
  • Ginger: Another ancient medicinal, we all know that ginger is great for settling our tummies.  It's also been used to reduce the pain caused by the inflammation of the joints in arthritis.  It adds  fabulous zing to roasted butternut squash soup and traditional Asian dishes.
  • Pepper and Paprika: Just like their vegetable forms, dried peppercorns and ground paprika have exceptional anti-inflammatory properties in individuals who do not exhibit a sensitivity to these kicking spices.
  • Garlic, Cinnamon, Cumin/Coriander, Nutmeg, etc.  All of these flavor-packed spices make for more deliciousness and less inflammation.  Make like the Spice Girls and "spice up your life!"
So, load up on the fruits, veggies, fish and spices.  Cut back on those refined carbohydrates, sugars, and fried schtuff. 

Thanks for reading, best of luck to you all in managing inflammation through your diet!

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     It's been over a year since my last post.  There are many reasons for this intermission of sorts.  My family moved to the Washington, I moved to Colorado to be closer to extended family and attend nursing school, and there was lots of work in between.

New friends in CO

     Between January of 2012 and the summer of 2013, I was in remission but, still unclear about my long term plans.  In September of 2013 - while applying for a few nannying jobs in the Hamptons - I had a genuinely unpleasant and disheartening experience, surrounding this blog and my multiple sclerosis.  A family had reached out to me about becoming their nanny during the upcoming school year. They seemed like a good fit; the scheduling wouldn't be too taxing on my health, the kids were at a fun age, and both parents were teachers.  We agreed on an interview date and time. The morning of said interview, I received an email from the mother, who said she had found my blog and was unwilling to interview me because of my multiple sclerosis. Given that this woman was educated - and a teacher - I was taken aback and confused and asked for some clarification for her decision to end things before she had even met me in person.  She said that she was concerned to have me caring for her children because multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease and that I wouldn't be capable of caring for her children because of some of the symptoms I've discussed on here in past posts.  

     I accepted her decision but, I explained that I am perfectly able to live my life normally at this stage, my illness and I do not pose a threat to the people around me and that being immuno-compromised only means that some part of my body is not being recognized as my own by my immune system.  She immediately returned my message, stating that she would agree to meet with me at a different location, without her children if my neurologist wrote a letter explaining my case.  She said she didn't want her children to catch anything.  Naturally, I declined.
     Now, I've had this illness for nearly 4 years and should know by now that many people don't have any sort of understanding of multiple sclerosis, or other autoimmune disorders.  Many people hear autoimmune and equate MS to AIDS, as this woman did in her emails to me. I'm not sure why this came as such a shock to me.  She quoted my blog in her messages, misinterpreting many of the things I have said.  It's just so interesting and frustrating to me how solidified the misconceptions of individuals without multiple sclerosis (and other autoimmune diseases) are towards those illnesses.  
     Have you experienced discrimination due to your chronic illness, such as multiple sclerosis?  Thanks for reading!
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word vomit.

    Prolonged cold snaps do things to me.  More specifically, they seem to make my thoughts and focus phlegmy, like milk that has curdled.  During the last few sessions with my therapist, my ability to carry on a conversation seems to have been reduced to a level on par with the verbal capabilities and coherence of a drunken toddler.  

     There are days when certain words sound like utter gibberish to me.  Most recently, it's been, "scarf."  I'll question it every time my tongue flops it out.  I think, Surely that's not a word...it's too silly, much too akin to the yippings of a puppy.  My mother will confirm the word's existence in our language, and I'll work my mouth and brain around the letters, repeating them until they finally sound familiar.

     It would seem that during the chilly winter months, I flounder around through a fog of confusion that is even thicker than my baseline level of M.S. befuddlement. Beyond my difficulties in carrying on a lengthy, involved, perceptive discussion, I'm spacier and less focused in the extreme cold. Important accomplishments in my professional, academic and interpersonal lives have entirely eluded my memory.  This all made me sad and frustrated at first, but I'm learning to accept that these symptoms are just hurdles - not road blocks - that I need to compensate for.  
     The summer heat brings on inflammation and fatigue that can lead to any number of symptoms.  The winter makes me feel molasses-y; mentally and physically. Which of your M.S. symptoms are exacerbated by the cold weather? How do you make up for any deficits that they cause?  Comment below!  I always love to hear from you guys.


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     I might make upwards of 15 carrot cakes a year.  My father is a carrot cake vacuum.  Our dog, Augie is a glutton for the batter.  "You'll never guess what was on sale at the store," my father said, carrying organic carrots and cream cheese into the kitchen.  My dad seizes every opportunity to ask for a carrot cake; national holidays, birthdays, good medical news, and this week - the Super Bowl.
     This is the first desert that I've posted here and I decided that dammit, I'm actually going to take my own pictures this time around, rather than mooch others' and retouch them.  This recipe is a favorite in my family and is very versatile.  You can change the spice proportions and types to your liking.  Here we go!





Cake Ingredients: (Adapted from The Colorado Cookbook)



  • 1-⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs + 1 egg white
  • 1-⅓ cup white, granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup raw / Demerara sugar
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 2 cups all-purpose (AP) or Cup4Cup Flour (for those who are gluten-free)
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2-½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • Heaping ¹⁄₈ tsp cardamom
  • Scant ¹⁄₈ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground / milled flax
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 cups cleaned, grated carrots
Steps:

1.  Preheat oven to 300° F.




2.  In standing mixer, cream together sugars, oil, eggs, and egg white.




3.  In separate bowl, sift together all dry ingredients, flax, and spices.


...waiting for batter-y dishes...

4.  Add flour mixture to mixing bowl of sugars, oil, and eggs and mix until ingredients are uniform throughout mixture.




5.  Add grated carrots and vanilla.

6.  Pour into lightly oiled 9 x 13 in pan and bake for about 50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

7.  Top with your favorite cream cheese frosting (mine will follow shortly) and enjoy!



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