Vegan Newlywed’s Mexican Inspired Beans and Grains

While living with Bear I devised a way for us to still cook in and save money while I could retain some spoons: slow cookers. I could assemble my savory creation at a time of day when I had the highest amounts of spoons possible, then set the slow cooker for the amount of time and power setting needed for dinner to be ready around 5-7pm. Bonuses included always having leftovers for lunch and me being able to multitask and set about regaining spoons throughout the day.

Many people frown on crock pot cooking, but for some of us it’s a very viable and practical way to obtain the sustenance we need to provide for ourselves. I never crock pot cooked until recently – largely because I did not have a crock pot – and enjoyed planning handcrafted elaborate meals. Not to the extent that I love baking, but I can heat up a kitchen.

The following recipe is an experiment of mine that resulted from Bear and I needing food, us being unable to buy food, and me consequently raiding our vegan pantry.

We are Texan folks who love southwestern flavors, so I experimented with our decent spice rack to liven up an otherwise meager beans-and-rice-esque meal.

Tip for college grads and other poor people like myself: spices will take you a long, long way into dressing up a meal. You don’t need a lot of them. All you need to know is the genre of food you enjoy most and what spices are used. Are they easily and cheaply attainable? Onto the next cuisine if not.

Vegan Newlywed’s Mexican Inspired Beans and Grains

This is, literally, black beans, quinoa, tomatoes, green chilies, and spices. You can sub rice if you want, but I avoid rice for health reasons and prefer to eat quinoa.

Bear and I are working on our own herb garden where we will hopefully be able to grow some of the herbs I mention in this blog, and hopefully you can too. It’s fun and economical!

Finished slow cooker.

Ingredients

  • 2 cans black beans, undrained
  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 can ro-tel (AKA tomatoes and green chilies in a can)
  • 2 Tbsp cilantro
  • 1 Tbsp oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Instructions

  • Dump everything into a slow cooker, dry ingredients first, then end with the water. DO NOT drain the liquid from the cans and include it in the recipe.
  • Set your slow cooker for 4 hours on high if beginning at noon, 3 if a little after, or if you are doing this before noon, set your slow cooker on low for however many hours you need until dinnertime (let’s say, 6pm).
  • Do whatever you need, come back once it’s done, and eat!

I had zero spoons the day I made this and a sad pantry, but it had all the staples I needed. My husband came back for seconds! That means, yes, you DO need the cilantro.

Vegetarian Creamy Potato Soup

It’s the final countdown to the wedding, and my pain flare won’t go away. All I’m doing is laying on the couch or hiding under a glacier of ice packs on the bed. Bear is doing everything. Thankfully the semester has been over for graduate school so I don’t have to worry about anything too serious, however, I do have a website I need to attend to for a nonprofit. This is no where near my radar.

I have begun experiencing electric shock throughout my body throughout the day starting last week, beginning in my hand joints. Bear and I tried going out to celebrate my getting published for real by going to a plant nursery, and the electricity jolted me up and down the left side of my body. We turned around and had a day in bed. But before I retreated to my sheets, I threw together this “imagination recipe” that Bear loved.

Imagination recipes are recipes that you dream up on the spot. Bear has told me repeatedly that he thinks it’s super cool I can do that, and I concur. It’s not as cool as getting published, flying an airplane, or being able to use magic, but it does make me feel productive and proud of myself when I can at least throw something in the slow cooker.

Vegetarian Slow Cooker Potato Soup

I did all of this at once, threw it in the crock pot all day, and zapped it with an immersion blender at the end. If you lack less spoons than me I will add in an accommodation.

You may notice that I typically do vegan recipes, and I identify as vegan, however, I could not make my own cream of celery soup so I tried to find the closest thing I could to a vegan cream of vegetable soup on the internet due to my spoon shortage. Don’t @ me. If you’ve got an easy recipe to share lemme know.

Ingredients

  • 9 full size baking potatoes (adaptation – small bag of mini golden potatoes)
  • 2 cups of vegetable broth
  • Amy’s Organic Soups Cream Of Mushroom Semi-Condensed 🌱 This is what Google thinks is vegan, I know it’s not, I’m so, so sorry too.
  • 1 cup of Gardein grilled “chikin” cutlets (or any other vegan grilled chicken substitute like Quorn, however, do NOT use tofu as it will disintegrate and to prevent it from disintegrating would cost you too many spoons)
  • 2 Tbsp Rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp Garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup vegan cheese (I used Go Veggie)

Directions

  1. Decide whether you are using mini potatoes (fits inside the palm of your hand, is circular) or the brown potatoes. If you are using the brown potatoes, chop them vertically into somewhat thin strips but not too thin, about an inch, but do not peel. If you have the mini potatoes, simply rinse and dump the whole bag into the crockpot. The mini potatoes route will save you lots of spoons if you have electric hands.
  2. Add in all ingredients, including the chicken substitute.
  3. Stir.
  4. Top with vegan cheese.
  5. Set the crock pot on low for 5 hours.
  6. When the crock pot is done, use an immersion blender and cream the mixture inside the crockpot. Leave it a little chunky but still creamy.

Enjoy your crockpots, and may the spoons be with you!

My Identity Outside Chronic Illness: Agave Sunrise Apples

It’s the week of my spoonie wedding, and the stress is high. I am rapidly transforming into a bridezilla supreme. A long time ago I saw a video in German about Apfels (which I learned was German for Apple) stuffed with marshmallows, chocolate, and caramel, then baked wrapped in Filo dough. It looked like a dream and I was even more impressed I could tell what was going on. (German is not one of the languages I speak or write.) In this dark hour of intense stress and monster transformation, I decided to create a healthy version of these Apfels with what I had on hand. Besides, when I had shown my mother the video literally in the bridal salon she told me I was not allowed to have that many calories.

The Creation of the Apples

My fiance and I finally moved in together. I was stressed and, knowing I needed to reach out to my partner, decided to create a recipe that would involve the two of us. Bear typically loves getting his hands dirty in the kitchen and is an excellent sous chef.

That being said, we recently both moved in, and don’t have my dream stocked pantry. I also wanted to make this low carb, and I didn’t want to make pastry dough myself as my hands have begun to feel an electric shock about every thirty minutes.

If you have difficulty using your hands (as I do now) you may want to spread this out over a few days (such as refrigerating the apples after peeling), or involving your friends and loved ones (such as a cooking party, hanging out with a friend, or involving your significant other as I did in this instance).

Agave Sunrise Apples

This is a baked apple recipe that uses agave nectar instead of sugar. Agave nectar is naturally low-glycemic making this more diabetic friendly.

Ingredients

  • 9 small sweet red apples
  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup Agave nectar
  • 2/3 cups water

What You’ll Need

  • 8″x8″ baking pan
  • Parallel fruit and vegetable peeler
  • Knife

Directions

The baked apples, after coming out of the oven, with the sauce in the bottom.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Wash and peel 9 apples.
  • Using a small knife, chop the small top and bottom parts of the apple off, then use the knife again to wiggle the stem out of the apple. I like to think of it as “picking the belly button” of the apple with the motion of the knife.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the ingredients and swirl the apples around in them. Make sure the top and bottoms are covered completely.
  • Using a fork, place the apples into a greased 8”x8” baking pan and stab the tops of the apples with the fork lightly. Pour the remaining mixture over the apples and into the baking pan.
  • Bake for 50 minutes.
  • After removing, find a large solid spoon and serve the apples on a small plate. Drizzle some of the remaining sauce in a pan over the apple and sprinkle with powdered sugar (if you want and can). Eat with a knife and fork.

I hope you all enjoy my experiment. It’s namesake is the song Tequila Sunrise. As someone who became a vegan baker (yes this recipe is vegan as well) in college and very, very innocent, I discovered agave nectar to bake with then. I would bring agave cupcakes to parties and people would mistakenly think they were spiked, and I had no idea why until someone was kind enough to explain to me that tequila was made from agave.

I think some grown ups could have some fun with this by adding some rum or whiskey to their mixture to bake the apples in. But don’t listen to me as I can’t card everyone who comes on this site.

Have fun, and happy baking!

The Planet Hoth is In My Lungs

I had a scary ER visit last week where they suspected I had walking pneumonia or a gallbladder problem of some kind. They tested me and because I am miraculously always okay, nothing was found.

The past few days I’ve done nothing but lay in bed.

At first I thought it was because I had to help my fiancé put a king size mattress on our bed frame – wherein my nails were all ripped off and I proceeded to shout at him when he asked if I could do anything at all, I thought things were going well teamwork wise until that point – and even though we purchased a luxury hybrid Casper I felt like I was sleeping on glass that first night.

I had a doctors appointment wherein I went over the mattress duel and my nurse said I needed to make sure my man did not do that to me again; he needed to call in some man force and get a friend to help. I should not be doing that.

Anyhoo, after the bed made it into the bed placement zone on Wednesday I have been broken physically. Before the bed made it here I began suffering from costocondritis, or inflammation of the chest wall, and do not wear bras anymore. Not even when the in-laws come. Or when I go to Jesus’ house. I think Jesus is more okay with it than the in-laws but people get lots of things confused with Jesus.

Two days ago, about the time the mattress fiasco killed me, my costocondritis worsened and I began breathing like a flat nosed dog in July. It felt like the flu.

Oh no.

Last December at exactly this time, the week of my fiancé’s Christmas party, I came down with the flu, and I had it for 3 weeks.

I’m getting married in less than two.

Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, we’ll have ourselves a wedding. Or maybe it will be postponed, held in a hospital room, I don’t know.

Being Well When We’re Ill: Round 1

I’ve had Being Well When We’re Ill, a Christian take on Chronic Illness by the theologian Marva J. Dawn for a week now. I was wary of it at first, as the first two chapters are rather dark, speaking to the soul of a downtrodden spoonie, and this I understand. I often cry out in writing to other chronically ill and disabled people in the hopes of touching someone else – and Marva does exactly that.

Marva herself has multiple illnesses and at times is a wheelchair user. Still, she does many wonderful things. She travels to speak at conferences, sings, teaches children, and still goes on missions trips! The book quickly becomes uplifting and a delight to read, while still staying doctrinally sound while never being preachy. The book is full of tenderness while explaining some basic tenets of Christianity, as if she is grabbing a long time Christian and slowly guiding them home to comfort, or bringing a new visitor in and seating them home on the couch.

There are many golden nuggets in this book and I’m not quite a third of the way in yet, but this gem made me smile from my lower belly up to my retinas:

“Author Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) is known for her novels and short stories dealing with people’s vain attempts to escape God’s grace. Before she died of the lupus that crippled her for the last 10 years of her life, she recorded some of her struggles in letters to friends. In one letter to Louise Abbot she wrote,

‘I think that there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe. I know what torment this is, but I can only see it, in myself anyway, as the process by which faith is deepened. A faith that just accepts is a child’s faith and all right for children, but eventually you have to grow religiously as every other way, though some never do.

What some people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than to not believe…

Whatever you do anyway, remember that these things are mysteries and that if they were such that we could understand them, they wouldn’t be worth understanding. A God you understood would be less than yourself.

… I don’t set myself up to give spiritual advice but all I would like you to know is that I sympathize and I suffer this way myself. When we get our spiritual house in order, we’ll be dead…. you arrive at enough certainty to be able to make your way, but it is making it in darkness. Don’t expect faith to clear things for you. It is trust, not certainty.’

The spiritual practice of recognizing that Jesus called us to take up our cross (and not our teddy bear!) enables us to live with the uncertainty of abiding in faith. Even though we cannot know or feel with certainty, we can know the Trinity with trust because we participate in it with Jesus, whose cross conquered sin and death forever. That we know!” – Marva J. Dawn

As someone who has grappled with the idea of God on an emotional level since childhood, but still looked for him everywhere, searching until my heart broke and I left the faith to come back as an adult, I often felt defective. I never felt like a real Christian. But this passage maybe makes me believe I have credibility of a sort. We seek and we find, but what we find may all be different. For those of us with chronic illnesses, our finds may be drastically different!

I am looking forward to the rest of this book. For any other struggling Christians, I have a question so I know I’m not alone:

Have you watched the SNL movie Superstar? If you have, do you find Will Ferrell Jesus weirdly comforting? I always find the idea of God easier to grapple with after watching Will Ferrell Jesus. It’s weird. It’s irreverent. I know. Probably need to get my salvation card back from the library.

Recap:

Pocket full of starlight: “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on a light.” – Albus Dumbledore

Pocket full of darkness – Was Albus Dumbledore just that kid who made one-liner witticisms in class? Then he grew up, became super old and grew a beard so instead of being that jerk in class people now think he’s wise?

Fighting the She-Wolf: Fibromyalgia Painger Coping Techniques From a Weird Hippie

I had a great day today, filled with productivity, intimacy with my fiancé Bear, a side quest to find cake balls, and the two of us pretty much telling my parents I was moving in. They took it as well as you could expect a preacher and his wife could.

Bear and I celebrated all night long until it was bedtime. I was sure that my alter ego, the She-Wolf, would not appear as I had such a wonderful day. I was wrong.

What is the She-Wolf?

The She-Wolf is an irrational, bitter, negative version of myself that exists around sunset til 12pm the following day. Symptoms of lycanthropy include extreme anxiety, nervous chittering, catastrophizing, only seeing negative outcomes, thinking someone said horrible things, general paranoia and moodiness.

My mother coined the term lycanthropy two days before Bear and I initiated operation secret move out and called me a She-Wolf. As a Technical Writing major I wrote an actual step by step procedure on how Bear could deal with me as a She-Wolf. Becoming a She-Wolf with the onset of fibromyalgia pain worsening in the evening and realizing this made me and Bear realize I needed to book it out of the ‘rents place.

The She-Wolf Does Not Rest

As previously mentioned today was great, and I was not symptomatic at 5:30 as usual. She-Wolf didn’t come barging in until 10:30 and Bear and I were trying to sleep.

In Bear and I’s house we each have separate office spaces. Mine contained a new order of books, one of which was Heal Your Body by Louise Hay. I previously read You Can Heal Your Life by her and thought it was fascinating, a new viewpoint I had never heard before.

Hay’s book contains a diagnostic list of diseases and affirmations to be recited in a mirror. I went through and said anything that applied in the mirror by my desk and I felt She-Wolf backing off. This took about 30 minutes.

Next I brewed some chamomile tea and tried to softly sing a song in our kitchen. I drank it and went through the affirmations again after becoming thoroughly depressed while reading Being Well When We’re Ill by the theologian Marva Dawn. I’m sure I’ll sink my teeth into it later but when the She-Wolf is rising I need something fluffier. I think I need an All the Shit I Am Reading post soon.

Finally, I used my green aventurine stone and did a two minute meditation after playing with my crystals.

I felt safe enough to go back into the bedroom, but the She-Wolf came back after my rib cage cried out upon lying down.

I am back in my office and have just recited the same affirmations from Hay. This seems to be a rinse, lather, repeat thing. At least it keeps my She-Wolf away. But my lack of sleep is here. However, I felt a storm blow in so that may amount to something too.

My Identity Outside Chronic Illness: Simple Vanilla Cake

I’ve begun doing affirmations in the morning and evening. Finally, for the first time in weeks, I was able to do a yoga routine yesterday morning. The happy feelers were abuzz and I knew the sun was shining on me. I was absolutely not going to waste this gift of a day sulking in bed or in my armchair. Today I was going to create.

Today I was going to do something I truly loved.

I have been a vegan for 8 years. During college and my single years I would bake intricate vegan recipes and deliver them to churches and other charitable events. As I baked this cake I planned my married baker gal goals in my new house in my new neighborhood. Before my illness I baked too much to eat everything myself. Recent news of my gallbladder means I really shouldn’t eat much baked goods, so I’m researching organizations in my new area that could use an ever loving Spoonie full.

Without further adieu, may I present the debutante:

Simple Vanilla Vegan Cake

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup turbinado

1/2 tsp salt

2 Tbsp rice vinegar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

2 Tbsp confectioner’s sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and stir in the wet. I used an old hand mixer from the 1950s I picked up at a thrift store.

Pour into a greased 8”x 8” pan and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove and cool for 15 minutes. Sprinkle confectioner’s sugar lightly with a spoon as seen in the picture. Optional: top with blueberries and a mint leaf.

This was adapted from I Can You Can Vegan. I didn’t have all the ingredients, so I improvised. It turned out tasting a little bit like funnel cake. If you have Coco Whip available to you, it could also make a great topping instead of the confectioner’s sugar. The texture was spongy and this would be great piled high with plenty of fruit!

So, my fellow Chronic Illness Warriors, happy baking!

Grace and Gratitude

The Bouquet that started it all.

I never thought I would meet a nice guy. Or a decent guy. A kind guy. Someone who was sweet to his mother and animals. The kind of guy who had interests, passions, and hobbies. A real person that cared about things that mattered, who lived for a cause, and wanted things in the earth to grow.

This is, to many people, the definition of an interesting person. But when my fiancé went out of his way to meet my dog, get to know my roommate, FaceTime my father, all before we became an official couple standing in my doorway with a bouquet of wildflowers, wherein I made the move – I knew he was intentional. Nothing he did was by chance. He saw the world in a grand design of patterns, a graph of charts and maps to set upon to reach a glorious destination. His heart was tender but it’s beat was strong, rhythmic and deep, he was searching for someone with whom it could roam the forests with in the daytime and snuggle up with by the firelight after dark. That heart saw something in mine and it didn’t want to leave.

If I seem like I romanticize him here it is in part true. He deserves it because of what I’ve put him through, and the path that he’s chosen that I’ve so often warned him about: a life married to someone coming to grips with chronic pain.

Very often I flip flop between positivity and deep negativity on this blog. It’s hard to remain objective at age 27, engaged and not used to parts of yourself you didn’t know exist emerging in pain on random days of the week. My fiancé has been a real trooper in that he miraculously understands that when I try to rain on his parade, it’s my physical pain talking. This is why he is my Bear. He is strong and elusive, yet fuzzy, warm and a great comfort.

A few weeks ago I wrote Bear a letter and asked him to put it on the wall, somewhere he could easily see it, in case my pain took over and I didn’t behave how I wanted. In the letter I put a piece of myself that was still gentle and loving and would give him a kiss when he needed it if he would only look at it.

Maybe that’s marriage insurance, but I can only do so much for my dear Bear right now.

To my Bear, I give you all the tenderness in the world and I thank you for sticking by me through all my inexplicable suffering. I’m glad you’re the team optimist. Let’s make it to the wedding day.

Coming Back to Yourself

Since my fibromyalgia diagnosis, many terrible things have happened.

I’ve lost my job, I’ve lost most of my friends, I’ve lost my apartment and two cars. But I’ve found I’ve gained a lot, too.

I may have lost my mind but my heart’s come on pretty strong. The things I’ve loved have never left me. My closest friends are still here, as is my family and fiancé, no matter how many times I go Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde at them.

My dream of going to graduate school came true. I read all the time; it’s my biggest solace. There is yoga every morning, a dog in my lap, a sketchbook on the table, a notebook in my purse, my collection of odd lipstick and my wearable glitter. I have, honestly, gone out in green lipstick and glitter on my face to the falafel stand. My fiancé has agreed to help me dye my hair purple after our wedding.

The love is all still there. It never went any where. It just takes some eyes to see it.

This love is what makes living with chronic illness possible. The yoga, the dog, the glitter, and the books are all coping mechanisms that help me block out the pain. Without me I would live in a rainbow free world in black in white where all I could feel is sorrow.

So when you see the things that bring you joy, take a little snapshot in your mind. Let the world know how grateful you are for dogs and books and glitter. Be annoying about your love. Let it overflow, because without it there is desolation.

This is how fibromyalgia brought me back to myself after a huge disconnect of trying to fit into corporate America and “the man.” I was forced to listen to no one but myself to live my life.

Is this a positive? Definitely yes.

Let the love flow through you, y’all.

And now, a recap:

Pocket full of starlight: all the positives in my life are all still there and some have come back to me in the wake of my illness.

Pocket full of darkness: my computer crashes every 5 minutes so all my posts are written on a smartphone. That’s why this sounds like this was written by an 11 year old.

My Fibromyalgia Book List: The Fibro Book Club

It’s been a little while since I posted. Generally I’ve been a molten lava monster experiencing an existential crisis. Thankfully I found a book that helped: You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay.

I discovered this book by picking my chiropractor’s brain, a chiropractic doctor whose intelligence I respect, who showed me multiple books. My acupuncturist has also recommended a few books to me, and I have asked my fiancé, whose mother is a pharmacist, for recommendations. From now on, if I have the chance, I will ask my doctors for book recommendations.

Let’s return to You Can Heal Your Life.

The book largely focuses on mirror work and self-empowerment for physical and mental ailments. At first I was skeptical, but looking back on it I appreciated the idea of putting power back into an ill persons hands. The idea of mental wellness through an illness certainly can’t hurt. But the idea that it can cure cancer does. However I don’t think this is what Hay is arguing.

In order for her arguments to work, adopting her New Age worldview outlined in the beginning of the book is necessary. As someone who has more of that bent, this was easier for me to do than some. I like the idea of us choosing our parents and them choosing us. It’s a healing concept. Empowering.

Generally after my health downturn I have felt I have had no power. Power of the mind can be cultivated in any situation, which is why I have developed my fibro book list:

Just read:

– Herbal Medicine for Beginners

In the mail:

– Gray’s Anatomy

– Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica

– Heal Your Body

– Clinical Pharmacology Made Ridiculously Simple

– Medical Medium

– Stedman’s Medical Dictionary

– Why We Sleep

I recommend ordering your books off of Thriftbooks with a coupon code from Retailmenot. It’s cheaper than Amazon. Half Price Books is great too, but they don’t always have the selection.

After believing I was screwed over by the medical system, I realized I knew nothing about my own physiology. I wanted to order some books about the human body and make me more knowledgeable in my communication and what I put into my body.

There are a few books about herbalism. My fiancé’s family have been botanists for generations and he is a plant enthusiast. As someone leaning towards holistic medicine and wanting internal power, I wanted a hobby we could share together. Connecting through herbal medicine seemed like a good way to cultivate our marriage. Please note I do not reject western medicine.

I still read fun books, like The Sight, which is like badly written Game of Thrones with wolves. When I’m trying to relax this is what I read.

So, my fellow spoonies: what Spoonie related books do you read? I would love to know!