Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I'm back!!!

Ravings: So I owe you all a huge apology for being gone so long. You know sometimes life just happens and before you know it a week has gone by. That’s what happened to me. Overestimating my abilities and underestimating how things would play out.

So here’s the scoop. My father has been dealing with some back problems for about 4-5 years. He has now had 4 back surgeries. This final one is what took over my life for a week. The first one was just a botched job all the way around. He had a second one by the same doctor to fix the screw ups from the first one. That never really worked. His pain was not relieved. In the mist of all of this, while he was one medical leave recovering, his position was illuminated from the trucking company he was working for. At that point, he’s a 62 year old man who has worked in the trucking industry his entire life and he has a back problem. Would you hire him?

He decided to take early retirement and apply for social security. He’s been denied twice now, so he’s had to wait to turn 65 to be eligible for Medicare. He went those years without medical insurance, paying out of pocket for pain meds so that he could function at all. Last fall he found another doctor and scheduled yet another surgery to fix the still present problems causing all his pain and limiting his ability to even walk. He went in for surgery just a few weeks after my wedding. Without going into too much medical detail, he and his doctor decided that fusing two vertebrae together was his best option. The surgery went well as far as we could tell and he spent just shy of a week in the hospital recovering and gaining enough strength to make it into his house. Looking back, we all realize it was too soon, and he fell climbing the front stairs to his house. When the back pain didn’t get much better and a deep shooting pain developed in his right leg (he described it as an electrical shock), we headed back to the doctor. An MRI revealed that a screw had broken loose and was hitting a nerve, causing the pain in his leg. It most likely happened when he fell. Don’t believe for a second that my sister and I didn’t take full comical advantage of being told that our father had a screw loose!
After a nerve blocker shot that worked for less than 24 hours, we scheduled yet another surgery. This one simply to fix the loose screw. Sounds simple enough, but with our family history, Danni (my sister) and I prepared for the worst. We planned out time off for the rest of the month, planned who would be at the hospital and at home with him. And then he was up, out of bed six hours after surgery. The hospital was prepared to send him home the day after surgery, but he decided he wanted one more night to be sure. He doesn’t want to fall again and is being cautious. I’m actually kinda proud of him since he’s normally bullheaded and refuses to follow doctor’s orders. We then had to scramble around re-arranging our schedules and I spent the rest of the week at home with him. He’s now doing great and is getting around really well and is saying he is pain free…..well, other than the huge slice down his back.

That’s my really long explanation for not posting over the past week. Oh, and I’m sorry.

Cravings: As a way of sucking up for being absent for a week, I have two recipes to share. We finally got some venison (from Jason’s brother who split his deer with us) so I made Beanless Venison Chili. It was a bit spicy, but so good. I adapted the recipe slightly from Endofthevine blog, which was adapted from Field and Stream Magazine.

Venison Chili

5 slices thick cut bacon, cut up
1 sweet onion, rough chopped
1 cup mushrooms (which I had sliced and frozen)
1 bottle roasted red pepper, chopped
3 cloves minced garlic
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 dried hot pepper (not sure what kind it was b/c my sister dried some out of here CSA box)
4 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 lb venison, chunked and canned (so it’s already cooked)
¼ cup honey
2 Tbsp molasses
1 bottle beer
½ cup red wine
2 cups diced tomatoes

In a heavy bottom pan, cook the bacon over medium low heat to render the fat and brown the bacon. Add the onions and cook until becoming translucent. Then add the mushrooms and red peppers, and just begin to cook them. Then add the garlic and vinegar and cook for a couple minutes. Add the spices and the venison and cook for a few more minutes, making sure everything is coated with the spices. Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer and cook for 30-45 minutes. I garnished it with a dollop of Greek Yogurt and some shredded cheddar. We had plenty left to throw in the freezer.
Last night I made quinoa cakes with Greek inspired salad. Everyone loved it! I mistakenly bought quick cook barley a while back (I had intended to buy pearled barley) so I decided to use that as the flour in this dish. This also ended up being very wet. They cooked fine but were pretty delicate to flip. I think next time I’ll up the barley a bit.

Quinoa Cakes
1 cup quinoa
1 ½ cups water (you could also use broth)
¼ cup finely chopped red onion
1 Tbsp olive tapenade
½ cup ground quick cook barley (I used a coffee grinder)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried rosemary
¼ cup parmesan cheese
2 eggs

Cook the quinoa in the water or broth. While that’s cooking, sauté the onions until soft. Let the quinoa and onions cool a bit and then add everything to a bowl and form into little patties. I pan friend these in about 2 Tbsps olive oil in batches. I’m going to try doing them in the oven next time.
For the Greek Inspired Salad I just mixed some arugula and mixed greens and had the rest of the toppings self-serve since everyone in my house doesn’t like something. You could really use whatever salad you like.

Greek Inspired Salad
Greens (arugula, mixed greens)
Tomatoes, cut up
Red onion, sliced/chopped
Cucumbers, sliced/chopped
Kalamata olives
Feta cheese
Annie’s Goddess dressing (because I can’t get enough!)
Fresh Parsley to garnish 

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