Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Chicken Spring Rolls

When we lived back in Nebraska we used to frequent a little hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant in the down town area of our town. It was a dimly lit, shabby little brick building. The first time I went to it I was kind of frightened because the neighborhood is not the best, but I was meeting friends there so I figured it must be fine because they raved about the food constantly. I went in and was pleasantly surprised to find a cozy atmosphere, friendly waiters, and delicious, authentic food.  I ordered Pad Ped and chicken spring rolls, and my love affair with Thai food began.

I love Thai food.  It has now bumped Italian off of its second place category in my life. (Mexican will always be my favorite!) And with all my dietary restrictions, it’s nice because I can make it free of gluten quite easily. Since moving to Virginia we have found a fairly good Thai restaurant, but with our limited budget eating out doesn’t happen very often……and their chicken spring rolls are not the same. Because I like to cook I figured I would experiment and see if I could replicate the ones back home.  It isn’t often that I make something and it tastes almost identical to the original on the first try, but I hit the nail on the head with these.  The dipping sauce is not quite the same, but was tasty nonetheless.

Chicken Spring Rolls

1 chicken breast, diced
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
½ - 1 teaspoon madras curry powder

8 rice paper wrappers
2 oz vermicelli rice noodles
2 cups shredded lettuce
¼ cup cilantro, roughly chopped
2 green onions, sliced

Dice chicken breast into small pieces.  Heat sesame oil in a sauté pan until shimmery, add chicken and sauté until cooked through. Sprinkle with madras curry powder.  Set aside in a bowl to cool.

Chop lettuce, cilantro, and slice onions.  Put each in a separate bowl.

Cook vermicelli according to package directions, rinse with cold water thoroughly and set in a bowl.

Make an assembly line with noodles, chicken, lettuce, cilantro and onions.

Soak each piece of rice paper one at a time in a large bowl of hot water for about 30 seconds.  Take out of the water and lay on a clean surface. First put a line of vermicelli, about 2 tablespoons worth, leaving space to wrap it up on the ends. Follow with about a tablespoon of chicken, ¼ cup of lettuce, a pinch of cilantro, and a pinch of sliced onion.  Fold the sides in first and then roll up, tucking the ingredients in tightly. (I rolled it just like I would roll a burrito.) Roll gently as rice paper is very delicate!

Put on a plate that has been sprinkled with cold water.  Assemble the other 7; serve immediately with spicy dipping sauce.

Spicy Dipping Sauce 
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
¼ teaspoon hot pepper flakes
Crushed peanuts

Wisk first 4 ingredients together and sprinkle with peanuts.  Serve with chicken spring rolls.

These spring rolls were not difficult to make, just a little time consuming.  I can see myself experimenting with different ingredients now that I know how easy they are.  You could try cucumber, Thai basil, avocado….the possibilities are many!

Hope you enjoy these!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

January Health Update

I thought I would give an update on my health since June was the last update.  Honestly, my health has not been that great, but I am hoping to get it under control and feel better soon!

I was diagnosed with high blood pressure in July. After feeling “off” for a couple weeks and checking my pressure daily, only to have it be high every day, I finally went to the doctor to have it checked out. For those of you who know how I avoid doctors, this will come as a surprise to you that I actually went. J  But after a scary episode of feeling lightheaded, tightness in my chest, and trouble breathing, along with a very high blood pressure, I knew not to mess around with it.  My grandmother died of a massive heart attack when she was 48, and my brother also had a massive heart attack and congestive heart failure at 44. My Dad had heart problems and several of my other brothers have high blood pressure. 

I was not your typical patient though.  At the time I was eating healthy, unprocessed food, I exercised regularly, and was not over weight. But genetics and stress can really wallop your body, even if you are healthy. When the doctor asked if I had any stress in my life, I had to laugh. Yes, just a little…… He told me to avoid stress (easier said than done) and put me on blood pressure medication. Well, as much as I try to avoid stress it just seems to follow me.  But fortunately the meds have worked, keeping it under control. I have also had numerous test done on my heart and it is in good shape, for which I am thankful.

So you think that would have inspired me to be even healthier?  Nope.  I started eating wheat and dairy again.  When I am stressed out I crave comfort food and unfortunately all the comfort food I love is full of gluten and dairy!  Cookies, pizza, biscuits, pie…yep, it was a disaster waiting to happen! From September to December I packed back on 15 pounds.  It wasn’t that I was being a glutton; I was just eating those things which do not work with my body.  You would think that with that weight gain I would have been sitting around eating ice cream and cookies several times a day, when in actuality it was only a few times a week.  I think it was the bread products with every meal that did it more than anything.

After Christmas I decided I needed to get off of gluten and dairy again. Not only did I want to lose the weight I had so quickly packed on, I wanted my tummy to feel better again. While my IBS wasn't as bad as it had been a year ago, it came back some with falling off the healthy-eating wagon.

I have lost 7 pounds since December 30th, so I think it is pretty obvious that wheat and dairy does not agree with my body.  I am not exclusively wheat and dairy free, but I would say I eat that way 90% of the time, enough to make a difference in how I feel. I still eat cheese and I have had pizza once over the last month. So I think I have the right balance now, again. I eat healthy most of the time, but have an occasional treat. Hopefully I can get rid of the extra 8 pounds by summer so all my clothes I bought last year still fit! I think that is a reasonable goal.

My back is another story. My lower back pain is getting worse and I think it is just a matter of time before I am going to need to see a specialist.  I am hoping to hold out until we have good insurance to cover the expense.  Until then I have been trying to walk more and started doing yoga again. Unfortunately, standing for more than and hour causes pretty severe pain making it hard to get around, so cooking and other household chores are hard. Walking is actually less painful than standing, which confuses me, but I am thankful I can at least take Koda on walks.

So that is an update. Not good, but hoping for better days to come!  I have put my goals for January and February below.

January/February Health Goals

1)      No wheat and gluten 90% of the time.
2)      Walk at least 5 times a week.
3)      Yoga 3 times a week.
4)      Eat a serving of fresh veggies every day. I eat veggies everyday, but they are mostly cooked.  I need to incorporate more fresh salads and green smoothies into my diet.

What are your health goals?  I would love to hear about them!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Spicy Beef and Orange Stir Fry

Today I want to share another recipe.  This is a simple-to-make dish that is full of flavor and gluten free!  It comes together in about 45 minutes so it’s perfect for those busy nights. I often substitute the deer meat for beef since we have an abundance of meat in our freezer.

Spicy Beef & Orange Stir Fry

2-3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 pound beef, cut into thin strips
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 crown of broccoli, approximately 2 cups broken into bite sized pieces
1 red pepper, cut into strips
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
Zest from 1 orange, about 1 ½ tablespoons
Juice from 1 large orange or two small oranges, you will need ½ cup of juice
2 tablespoons honey
¼ cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons corn starch
¼-½ teaspoon pepper, freshly ground if possible
1-2 teaspoons red pepper flakes, optional

10 oz stir fry rice noodles

Cook noodles according to package instructions.  Rinse in cold water and set aside.

Prepare veggies by chopping onion, pepper, and separating the broccoli into bite sized pieces. Set aside in a bowl. Slice beef into thin strips and place in a separate bowl. Peel and set garlic cloves aside.  Zest the orange and slightly chop the zest into smaller strips. Extract the juice from the orange into a cup making sure it measures ½ cup of juice.  Mix in with orange zest.  To the orange mixture add honey, soy sauce, and corn starch whisking until combined. 

In wok heat the 2 tablespoons sesame oil until shimmery. Sauté beef in the oil for 5 minutes; add pepper and red pepper flakes to beef while sautéing. Remove beef with slotted spoon reserving the drippings in the wok. Set beef aside.  Add veggies to pan and put garlic through a garlic press.  You may add additional 1 tablespoon sesame oil or you can add ¼ cup water to the pan instead.  Stir fry veggies and garlic for 5 minutes or until tender/crisp. Add cooked beef back into pan. Add the orange/soy sauce mixture to the beef and veggies and stir together until the sauce is slightly thickened.  Add rice noodle and stir fry together until combined.

Serves 6-8

Not a fan of spicy food?  Omit the red pepper flakes and it’s still delicious! Shy of a ½ cup fresh squeezed orange juice?  Add a little orange juice from the carton to make up the difference. Don’t like rice noodles? This is also great over soba noodles or rice. These are the noodles I use in this recipe.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Ups and Downs

I thought I would share highlights of our life since I left the blog last year. The second half of 2014 had many ups and downs.  More like a few ups and many downs.......I will be honest, it wasn’t great.  But rather than go on about the downs I want to focus on the ups! :-)

1)  My garden ended up providing us with countless summer meals and 35 pounds of frozen tomatoes and several bags of frozen jalapeños! I have only 3 bags of tomatoes left, but the jalapeños should last me until next summer.  We more than tripled our garden space this fall so I will be able to plant a greater variety of veggies this spring.  Remington is also thinking about planting corn in a separate garden space.

2)  I was able to spend over a week with Oksana and see many of my friends back in Nebraska at the end of October.  While the reason for the trip was a “down” (health issues for Oksana), I greatly enjoyed spending time with her and many dear friends.

3)  Remington shot his first deer this year in November.  And his second, third, and fourth.  Needless to say we have plenty of deer meat in our freezer and I am trying to find creative ways to cook it!

4)  We found out in November we are going to be grandparents in June!  While many people would consider having an unmarried, pregnant daughter a “down,” we prefer to look at the baby as a gift from God!  We are excited to meet this little one and know without a doubt Nakoma will be an excellent mother.

5)  In December, Naomi was able to come home for a little over a week during the Christmas season.  We had a fun time decorating cookies, watching old movies, and eating lots of tasty food.  Nakoma joined us for the weekend following Christmas and we had a fun time together as a family, although we missed Oksana.

6)  We enjoyed a family hike the Saturday following Christmas, minus Remington who preferred to sleep. We had to give him a hard time since his pregnant sister and his crippled mother were able to make the trek to the summit while he slept. The day was perfect with highs in the 60’s.

We are looking forward to 2015 and the changes and exciting prospects of things to come!  

Friday, January 16, 2015

Welcome 2015

Hello friends!

Long time no see.....or get the idea. I have decided to start blogging again but have changed a few things up a bit.  As you can see, the blog has a new name!  I think this name is much more in keeping with the theme of the blog and our lives in general.

Another thing I have changed are the ways to follow my blog.   I offer following via email or bloglovin'.  I'm sorry, but if you followed by email before you will need to resubscribe because of the blog name change. I have also removed Google + as a way to follow as I really do not want my private life to mix in with my online life since my blog will be open for the world to see.  If you have a particular blog reader you use other than bloglovin' you can add me to that by searching my blog address, If you followed through Google + before you may want to change to a different way to follow. Hope this makes sense!

My content will stay the same as it was last year.  I will focus on our life, family, my health, and what life lessons I've been learning. Those of you new to the blog, I encourage you to check out my past posts. I look forward to sharing with you!!