My Identity Outside Chronic Illness: Traditional Vegan Costa Rican Casados Modified For When You Have No Spoons

The frozen plantains I used in this recipe.

If you read my Mission page, you’ll find that I want to make hobbies accessible for those with disabilities and chronic illnesses (however you may identify). Before my whopping 6 diagnoses (RA, fibro, lupus, gout, and hypothyroidism) in the past year, I loved to cook and bake. As I became progressively sicker, I found myself ordering more takeout. Then I married, and as newlyweds on a budget, I discovered the magic of crockpots.

Let me tell you, crockpots are magical. I will eventually come up with a list of kitchen hacks I’ve come up with for this blog.

The number one rule of crockpots is that anything you can make on the oven or stove, you can adapt to a crockpot.

For this recipe, I am especially proud because I came up with a genius hack (that I forgot to take pictures of) that I hope will help you in your cooking endeavors.

The hack

I used a vegetable steamer to cook plantains separately inside the slow cooker at the same time as the rest of the recipe.

I am not a meat eater, but let’s say you need to make a dish that isn’t a stew and has something cooked separately, like tofu for my fellow vegans, or chicken for my meat eaters.

Put all of your other ingredients below, place the vegetable steamer in the middle, and put your separate ingredient on the vegetable steamer. Let the slow cooker cook as usual. Et voila!

Vegan Costa Rican Casados

There are two types of Costa Rican food that come to mind for me – Gallo Pinto and Casados. The difference is in Casados, you don’t mix your rice and beans together.

Supplies

Slow cooker/crockpot

Vegetable steamer

Ingredients

– 1 can of black beans, not drained

– 1 cup brown rice

– 2 cups water

– 1 pack of Goya frozen yellow plantains

– 1 medium avocado

– 2 tsp garlic powder, divided

– 2 tsp paprika, divided

– 2 tsp adobo seasoning, divided

– 2 tsp cilantro, divided

– 1/2 tsp black pepper, divided

– 1/4 tsp salt, divided

Directions

1. Pour the black beans into one side of the crock pot. Remember we are trying not to mix our rice and beans!

2. Place vegetable steamer in the middle of the crock pot.

3. Pour the rice into the far other side of the crock pot opposite of the black beans.

3. Slowly pour water on top of rice.

4. Evenly sprinkle seasonings on the rice and beans (so there’s 2 tsp adobo, sprinkle 1 tsp adobo on rice and 1 tsp adobo on beans).

5. Take the frozen plantains out of their packaging. Don’t try to break them apart. Put them in the steamer. It’s okay if they lean to one side.

6. Set the slow cooker to low. Because of the plantains, you don’t want to set to high. Set to low for no more than 5 hours, preferably less.

7. In the end, your plantains will be dark, a dark brown that is almost black, which is not traditionally Costa Rican, but they will taste delicious and not be burned.

8. At the end of your 5 hours, find your avocado. Take the avocado and slice it in the number of how many persons are eating. Each person gets a slice. I made this for my husband and myself, so we each got half an avocado. Traditionally the avocados are cut up into thin long slices, but this is for people who have limitations. If you have wrist problems (like me) try using an avocado slicer or a handy friend or family member. I merely sliced the avocado in half with a plastic chefs knife and scooped the avocado out with a spoon. Do not put the avocado in the slow cooker! Keep fresh by storing it on your cutting board or plate.

9. Grab a plate and oven mitts. Take the vegetable steamer with the plantains out of the slow cooker and dump the plantains on the plate.

10. Scoop some rice, beans, plantains, and avocado on your plate and enjoy!

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!

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!

Keeping My Identity With Chronic Illness: Good Day Oatmeal Cookies

With my recent breakthrough in positive thinking after my diagnosis with fibromyalgia, I realize at the core of it is maintaining an identity, or keeping myself centered on who I am outside of my illness.

It’s easy to be swallowed up whole by fibromyalgia. When this happens I become bitter, depressed, and at my worst, angry.

Fibromyalgia anger, or painger (the experience of feeling anger because you’re in pain) is something that scares me. When I have painger I irrationally lash out at loved ones, the people I want to hurt the least. Painger takes my nastiness to a 12 on the Richter scale. It could destroy a continent.

In fact, it was for this reason that I started this blog, so I could have a space to talk about my illness, figure out ways to cope, carve out a community for myself, and maybe help others along the way.

Going back to identity and painger, part of a person’s identity involves the positive things they enjoy doing. Investing in positive aspects of your identity can help with painger.

I grew up in my family’s kitchen. The kitchen was the center of our home. When I was six and my sister was two, we tried making our first recipe. We had been left alone in the kitchen (no, I am not a boomer or gen X; Millenial here) and proceeded to destroy it by trying to make our own custom cake. My sister crawled around on the countertops at age two as we used a hand mixer from the 1950s, boiled noodles, and did something awful to the microwave. At the end my sister and I were covered in splatters of chocolate, and the kitchen was splashed in it. Dad came in and yelled at us, but we did it again. We were just successful the next time.

In this positive addition to my identity, I am exploring something I have always loved: baking. Mixing with your bare hands and pounding bread is a great way to alleviate painger and all kinds of negative emotions!

Vegan Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients

– 2 cups white sugar

– 1 cup vegetable oil

– 2 tsp vanilla

– 2 Tbsp soy milk

– 2 cups all purpose flour

– 1 tsp baking powder

– 1 tsp baking soda

– 1 tsp salt

– 2 cups oatmeal

– 1 tsp pumpkin spice

– 2 Tbsp molasses

– 1 cup raisins

Directions

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees

Wash your hands and combine wet ingredients

Add in oatmeal and dry ingredients

Wet your hands and use a spoon to make rounded balls of cookie dough. Place the balls of dough on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.

My baker chronic illness warriors, may you have good moments and days ahead to live your identities. Remember even if you can’t, you are still you. There are other ways to find who you are.

We all are, chronically ill or not, learning how to live with what we are.

And with that, a recap:

Pocket full of starlight: the negative feelings that come with chronic illness have remedies. There’s almost nothing a warm cookie can’t fix.

Pocket full of darkness: sometimes our negative emotions can’t be helped. It’s okay if you can’t stir a spoon right now or if you just yelled at the cat. There are thousands of yous waiting on the horizon of life.