Listen To Your Angels’ Voices

This is not a post to start a debate or even a discussion about religion, beliefs, spirits, psychic phenomenon or life after death. It is simply me sharing my opinion and a recent experience in my life. So please, take it as such.

Last week my husband and I traveled to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware for a long weekend to celebrate my birthday and to relax for a few days. It was a much needed getaway and we enjoyed every minute. On our first full day there, we lingered in a local coffee shop filling our bellies with freshly baked decadence. I struck up a conversation with our server, who was able to give us directions to all of the best thrift stores in the area. Now that’s MY idea of a vacation!

So off we went…hunting for treasures and taking in the sights. Several times during that morning I got these strong feelings of my sister-in-law Bonnie. We had just lost Bonnie on Christmas to breast cancer and the pain is still fresh. I told myself that I was thinking of Bonnie because we were in a beach town. She had most recently resided in Myrtle Beach. When I’d get another gut sensation, I’d tell myself that I was just seeing things that reminded me of her. These feelings were very strong and would come at the oddest times, when I wasn’t really thinking of anything else, like when I was driving or strolling through a cookware aisle in a thrift shop. I told my husband after the first strong experience and the feeling was so strong that I honestly expected to turn the corner and see her. But of course I didn’t.

We then headed to Cape Henlopen State Park, one of our favorite places to visit when we’re in the area. It was off season, with a cool ocean breeze and the beach was practically deserted.

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As we approached the path to get onto the beach, I started to tear up, again thinking about Bonnie. I told my husband that I can’t get her out of my mind and kept envisioning her walking on the beach collecting shells and searching for sea glass. She loved sea glass. Her eyes were always scanning for the shimmer that would lead her to a small piece of sand-smoothed treasure. He squeezed my hand and said “Well, maybe she’ll send us a sign that she’s with us”.

As we walked onto the beach, I stood still and snapped photos as my husband starting sifting through the line of shells that the tide had left as it receded earlier. He was like his sister in that respect as they both were always amazed by the beauty of nature.

DSC_0046And it took all of about 60 seconds for my husband to find his very first piece of sea glass. A lovely, smooth green trinket deposited on the beaches of Cape Henlopen after it’s journey in the depths of the ocean. He held it up for me to see as we both realized that Bonnie had indeed been with us that morning after all. And the shape of the sea glass just cemented it for us.

DSC_0047So you see, it is my belief that one of our beautiful angels had been traveling with us that morning. It is also my opinion that we are constantly given signs from departed loved ones, of different types of energies in our environment and yes, even a hint of premonitions. Those gut feelings, those nagging thoughts or even those fleeting visions. I believe that they are messages for us. It’s just up to us to figure out what they mean or what they’re leading us to.

My messages from Bonnie lead us to a keepsake and the knowledge that she is still with us. It gave us comfort and provoked memories of a wonderful woman. What will yours lead you to?

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Canning Homemade Beef Broth

I don’t know about you, but I just love it when I can make something that is cost efficient, tastes better that anything you can buy and makes your kitchen smell divine! Yesterday I found a beef soup bone on clearance for $1.04. Needless to say, I grabbed it, brought it home and plopped it directly into my crockpot along with 2 onions (skins on), some fresh parsley and a tad bit of sea salt. It stayed there overnight and when I came down this morning, my kitchen smelled awesome!

I then strained the broth, brought it to a boil and ladled it into 7 pint jars that had already been sterilized. I put the jars into my prepared pressure canner and processed at 11 PSI for 20 minutes. And this is what I got…dark, lovely homemade beef broth. After everything was said an done, I’ll bet it didn’t cost 2 bucks. And it will be waaaayyy better than store bought!

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Artichoke Hearts Anyone?

I’ll admit it. I love artichoke hearts! I love them so much that when I actually found cans of them at the Dollar Tree…I bought 20 of them. I excitedly brought them home and placed them in my pantry while dreaming of the wonderful recipes that I would create with them. That was last year. Apparently I only created artichoke spectacular~ness about 10 times in the last year because as we were cleaning out the pantry over the weekend we found 10 cans that have an expiration date of May 2014. Luckily, hubby loves artichoke hearts as much as I do so not a problem. That night we started off with baked artichoke hearts. Delish! Last night I created an Artichoke/Spinach/Chicken pizza that was quite fantastic. Even hubs managed to mumble the words “holy cow this is good” between bites. Here’s what I did:

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Chicken Spinach Artichoke Pizza

  • 1 pizza crust of your choice (homemade or store bought)
  • 1 can of artichoke hearts (or 1 bag frozen, thawed and drained)
  • 1 small onion (or half of a large one) ~ diced
  • 1 large skinless boneless chicken breast (or about 8 chicken tenders)
  • 2 cloves of garlic ~ minced
  • 1 tbsp of butter
  • 1 package cream cheese (light or regular)
  • 1 box frozen spinach (thawed and water squeezed out)
  • 2 cups (or more!) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper

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  1. In a medium skillet, cook your chicken in a drizzle of olive oil on medium heat until cooked through, turning once. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer cooked chicken to a paper towel to drain and cool. Cut or shred chicken into bite-sized pieces
  2. In a medium skillet or saucepan heat onion and garlic in the butter until soft, about 5-8 minutes.
  3. Add cream cheese to onion mixture and heat just until cream cheese is melted. (stirring often)
  4. Meanwhile preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  5. Add artichoke hearts to melted cream cheese. Stir. Heat for one minute.
  6. Stir in spinach to melted cream cheese mixture. Heat for one minute longer.
  7. Roll out your pizza crust onto lightly greased baking sheet.
  8. Spread the cream cheese mixture onto pizza crust. Spread to within 1/2 inch of the end of crust.
  9. Place chicken pieces on top of cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle mozzarella on top of that, then topping with the parmesan.
  10. Place into the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is desired crispiness.
  11. Enjoy!

Next up…I’m thinking an artichoke crostini with some of that yummy peasant bread that I made earlier in the week!

Side note: This is what it looked like outside of my kitchen window this morning. Wind chill is in the single digits. Lord only knows when I’ll get to my garden. I have the itch terribly!!

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Peasant Bread ~ Easiest Bread Ever

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I have finally found a no-knead bread that is quick, easy and doesn’t affect my flour phobia. Yes, I despise touching flour. Don’t ask. I don’t know. I think it’s a tactile thing. But it gives some real heebie jeebies! Anyway…

As I was spending some time in Pinterestland I came across a bread recipe that not only didn’t require me to touch flour, but it also didn’t require kneading the dough, waiting 12 hours until you can bake it or even a loaf pan! MY kind of bread recipe! I first saw it here at Alexandria Cooks. She gave such detailed instructions that even I could follow. So I had a go at it. And bang! Success!

It’s quite simple really. Here’s how to make this delicious, hearty, buttery bread:

Peasant Bread

  • 4 cups (510 g | 1 lb. 2 oz) all-purpose flour* (do not use bleached all-purpose)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons active-dry yeast
  • room temperature butter, about 2 tablespoons
  1. Mixing the dough:
    • If you are using active-dry yeast: In a small mixing bowl, dissolve the sugar into the water. Sprinkle the yeast over top. Let it stand for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the mixture is foamy and/or bubbling just a bit — this step will ensure that the yeast is active. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. When the yeast-water-sugar mixture is foamy, stir it up, and add it to the flour bowl. Mix until the flour is absorbed.• If you are using instant yeast: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, and instant yeast. Add the water. Mix until the flour is absorbed.

2.  Cover bowl with a tea towel or plastic wrap and set aside in a warm spot to rise for at least an hour. (If you have the time to let it rise for 1.5 to 2 hours, do so — this will help the second rise go more quickly.)

3.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Generously butter the inside of two medium oven-safe bowls (such as Pyrex bowls). Using two forks, punch down your dough, scraping it from the sides of the bowl and turning it onto itself. Divide the dough into two sections and put each half into one of your buttered bowls. (I use a large metal spoon for this part as the dough is quite slippery). Let the dough rise for another 20 – 30 minutes.

4.  Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375º and bake for 15 to 17 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and turn the loaves onto cooling racks. If you’ve greased the bowls well, the loaves should fall right out onto the cooling racks. Your bread should be golden brown. If not, pop back into the oven (on the cooling racks) for another 5 minutes.

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5. Enjoy! And there is no doubt in my mind that you will!

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Black Bean and Bacon Dip

In my attempt to eat more foods that are magnesium-rich, I have started to look at my snacks. Most are not very healthy in any way, let alone mineral rich. Beans, however are loaded with magnesium. But how to snack on beans?? Make a tasty dip with them, that’s how! And what’s more tasty than bacon? Tough one, I’ll have to get back to you on that.

So I scoured the internet and found one here that looked promising. I made this for a recent game night and have to say, I’d give it a thumbs up with four stars. Here’s the recipe:

Black Bean and Bacon Dip

  • 6 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 jalapeño chili, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 (15 oz.) cans black beans, undrained
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 large tomato, diced

Preparation

  1. Cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp, 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
  2. Drain all but 1 Tbsp. fat from skillet. Add onion and peppers; cook over medium-high heat until soft, 8 minutes. Add spices; sauté for 1 minute. Add beans; raise heat to high. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until thickened and slightly reduced, 10 minutes.
  3. Puree half of mixture in a blender. Stir puree into remaining mixture in a bowl; season with salt and lime juice. Let dip cool to room temperature; stir in scallions, cilantro, tomato and bacon.

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I served it with multi-grain “Scoops”, but I’m sure it would be great on a veggie platter as well. Rich in minerals (magnesium, potassium, calcium and iron), loaded with fiber, low in saturated fat (2 g per serving) and high in protein. Can’t beat that!

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The Long Road Back From Hell

As you may have noticed, I haven’t blogged in over a year. There’s a very good reason. I was in hell. Not where Satan resides, but a hell on earth. Let me start by saying…I usually don’t put things like this out there in internet land. This time is different because I may be able to help others. If even one person can benefit from this post, it will be worth it.

It started (or so I thought) in the Spring of 2013. I found myself to be in a downward spiral with my health. Weird things were happening to me and I didn’t understand them at all. Every muscle in my body ached and/or throbbed, my fingers started to vibrate and move all by themselves and I was getting muscle twitches throughout my entire body. As my illness progressed, I started having auditory hallucinations, muscle loss in my hands and calves and I suffered from tremors. I had headaches that could take down the strongest of mules. At one point, for three days, I needed assistance in walking due to the fact that I had gone numb from the waist down. Back/spinal pain that was horrendous and skin that felt like it was crawling. My feet were on fire to the point that it hurt terribly to have shoes on. I started having bouts of hypoglycemia. The soles of my feet became so painful that there were days that I would avoid walking.

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Of course I went to the doctor. Initially I was told it was anxiety and was referred to the psych department. Yeah, ok. Of course I’m anxious…my body is shutting down! That’s helpful. I underwent three different MRI’s, an x-ray and blood tests too numerous to mention. I was sent to see several different specialists and each time things were only “ruled out”, but no one could tell me what was wrong with me. I was given new meds for each various symptom (at one point, I had 6 new scripts on my night stand!) but I didn’t want band-aids. I wanted someone to tell me what was wrong so I could fix it! No more band-aids!!!

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Insomnia kicked in, leaving me sleepless for days on end. Numbness, buzzing sensations throughout my body and ringing in my ears certainly didn’t help induce sleep. I ended up on the computer night after night hoping to find an answer. At 4:00 on a July morning, as I was laying in bed staring at the ceiling, something “clicked” in my brain. I remembered a discussion I had with my ENT doc a few months back. He had put me on daily Prilosec 8 months prior and as he was examining me, he commented “I don’t want to keep you on this medicine much longer because it will suck the minerals out of your bones”. Huh?? I remembered looking it up when I got home and sure enough Prilosec, and other medicines like it, can suck the calcium, magnesium, potassium, etc. right out of your bones and entire system. I took myself off of the Prilosec.

With that thought it my mind, I got up and started looking up mineral deficiencies. Bingo! I came across numerous sites that discussed magnesium deficiency and what it can do to the body. Wow! Muscle twitches, insomnia, tremors and the list went on and on! Did you know that magnesium is responsible for over 300 bodily functions and that it can be considered the most important mineral in the body? Me either! I also found that the foods highest in magnesium were rarely on my plate. I won’t go into all of the benefits, what magnesium does, what foods are best etc. but I urge you to do a little research on your own about this wonder mineral.

I learned that the best way to absorb magnesium is through the skin, so I immediately started soaking in Epsom salt baths. I am not exaggerating when I say that I saw and felt an improvement after that very first bath. You have no idea how wonderful it was to feel that there may be an answer after all! I took magnesium supplements, soaked in Epsom salts daily and even bought magnesium oil to spray on my skin before bed. I started to feel better. The twitching was almost gone, the tremors were minimal, no more bouts of hypoglycemia. But still…something wasn’t right. I couldn’t get over the hump of feeling sick, having lots of pain and the other odd symptoms would still come back to rear their ugly heads on and off.

In October, I was lucky enough to have sought out a doctor that listened to me for 45 minutes straight, ran some blood work and gave me an answer. I had Lyme Disease. Not just Lyme, but the co-infection Bartonella as well. Holy crud. Lyme Disease. My mind raced back to about 10 years ago when I was in bed for days with a severe “flu”. Since that time, my feet had tingled and my body would get achy. Then 7 years prior, I had very significant dizzy spells and underwent testing for MS and other scary neurological diseases after lesions were found on my brain. The chief neurologist at the time released me with a clean bill of health stating “sometimes we don’t know why those lesions occur”.

Since that time, I had developed muscle pain, headaches, bouts of Restless Leg Syndrome and some small visual disturbances. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia 6 years ago. Then I was seen for severe calf pain, periods of muscle twitching, poor circulation, heart palpitations and odd electric sensations in my legs. I was repeatedly told that they were all symptoms of Fibromyalgia.

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Nope. Lyme. It appeared as if I had Lyme Disease for a very long time and we theorized that I was re-infected in the Spring, which is probably when I picked up the Bartonella.   Apparently Lyme can affect any part of your body. Your muscles, joints, central nervous system, digestive system, endocrine system…all of it. Lyme can leave lesions on your brain and attack your spinal fluid. As I looked back over the years and realized that most of what I had undergone was probably due to Lyme, I was not only shocked but angry. I learned that the current testing for Lyme disease that is used by most doctors and hospitals is grossly inaccurate. I’ve learned that Lyme Disease can imitate numerous other diseases like MS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease. You know what else I’ve learned about Lyme? It depletes the magnesium from your system!! Double whammy for me.

I started treatment in November. I am currently taking 3 different antibiotics and probiotics so that the antibiotics don’t destroy my stomach. I take extra magnesium supplements along with milk thistle, Vitamin D and a B complex. I have a Hepatologist that keeps track of my liver. I eat plenty of citrus to get my Vitamin C. Once every 6-8 weeks, I am given an i.v. cocktail of vitamins to help boost my immune system so that it can aid the antibiotics in fighting off the Lyme and Bartonella. 

There are more good days than I had in the summer for sure and I can say that I’ve seen some improvement. For instance, my headaches now come only once every few weeks rather than every day. In February, the soles of my feet finally stopped hurting. But I know that I’m in for a long road ahead of me. Most days, I can muddle through the pain, fight the fatigue, ignore the ringing in my ears and occasional twitching and do exercises to stretch out the terrible tightness in my muscles and tendons. But there are also days like today. I got little sleep due to having bad tremors all night, which has left me exhausted, in pain and wanting to go back to bed until it all goes away. But when I feel beaten, I talk to the Lyme and tell it that it needs to get out of my body and that I will do anything in my power to make sure that it does.

Lyme is scary. Not knowing is worse. Bottom line is that I am the one that found my answers. I researched until something made sense. I tested my own theories. I sought out medical help until I finally found someone that was able to help me recover. I didn’t take no for an answer and I didn’t accept “it just happens” as an explanation.

Don’t get me started on the whys. Why wasn’t I told about the side effects of the Prilosec when I was first given it? Why didn’t anyone dig further into Lyme Disease as an answer? Why doesn’t the government, medical community and insurance companies acknowledge this terrible disease and work on more accurate testing and diagnoses?

We are all responsible for our own bodies and we just have to keep pushing until we get on the right track. All I ask of you is two things. First, please look up magnesium deficiency as there is up to 75% of the population that is deficient and doesn’t even know it. This can have devastating effects in the long run. Second, if you truly believe that there is something physically wrong with you and aren’t getting the answers you need…keep pushing, keep asking and keep researching. You deserve to be as healthy as you can be. In the mean time, I’m going to keep trekking along this road back from hell. It’s a place that I don’t ever want to be in again. And I’m going to take a nap. :-)

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Oven “Canning” ~ Long Term Food Preservation for Dry Goods

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I finally decided to try something that I’ve been researching for quite a while now. “Oven Canning”. It’s not really canning, but that what it’s been dubbed. Short version: You slowly heat your dry goods at a low oven temp, which kills any bugs and nasties and rids the food of any excess moisture. You then seal the jar and the shelf life of the dry goods is supposed to be extended by years. Pictured above: Whole Wheat Four, Cornmeal, Brown Rice, Oatmeal and Masa.

My mental breakdown…

  1. Safety: Yes, I know you can’t “can” in the oven due to the potential for botulism spores to grow. Botulism thrives in moist, low-acid foods. Dry foods are just that…dry. Therefore, the dry foods do not provide conditions for botulism to continue to exist. Coupled with the fact that the foods have already been dried once before, I consider this form of preservation to be very safe. In my opinion, the worst thing that can happen is that the food goes stale.
  2. Cost Efficient: Preserving dry goods allows me to purchase in bulk and then preserve in more manageable sizes. Yes, I could buy mylar bags, food grade buckets and oxygen absorbers, but how cost efficient is that? And after I open that 5 gallon bucket of whole wheat flour, what are the chances that I’m going to use it all before it goes bad? I’ll be much more likely to use a quart of the same flour and be able to use it while it’s fresh.
  3. Easy to Store: I find it much easier to store mason jars than I do bagged flour, rice, beans, cornmeal, etc. Some people freeze their flours to kill off any buggies that may be in there. No need to bulk up your freezer with dry goods!
  4. Emergency Prep: I find this to be a great addition to not just my pantry, but for emergency prep as well. Before I store the jars, I tape a recipe or cooking instructions onto the jar. That way, I’m not searching for a way to use the masa (corn tortillas!) when the time comes.
  5. Variety: You can preserve some processed foods this way as well. Pastas, some crackers and some cereals can be preserved for much longer than sitting in their original boxes or bags. The thing you have to remember is that these foods must be low in oil or they will become rancid under these preservation conditions. Check the label and make sure any oils used are at or near the bottom of the list of ingredients. So now…when I see my favorite crackers on sale, I can use this method to preserve them until my next picnic and/or pig-out session.

I do have to say, that these are my personal opinions. It is important that you do your own research if you feel unsure about this process and make then make your decision. I haven’t preserved crackers or cereal yet with this method, but it is next on my list!

If you’ve read this far and are still interested in this preservation process, here’s the how-to in order to get started:

  1. Gather pint or quart mason jars, clean lids and rings. 
  2. Clean and sterilize the jars and then make sure they are BONE DRY. I ran mine through the dishwasher, then air dried overnight. Hand wash the lids and rings, making sure they are thoroughly dry as well.
  3. Line up empty jars onto a large baking sheet.
  4. Fill jars with dry goods (using a canning funnel will make this a cleaner job for sure!), shaking the jar slightly to assure the food is settled. Fill the jars, leaving approximately 1/2 inch headspace.
  5. Place baking sheet with jars into a cold oven. Preheat the oven to 200 degree. (Allowing the jars to slowly heat up will prevent breakage from sudden temperature change). After the oven is preheated, heat the filled jars for one hour.
  6. Take jars out of the oven ONE JAR AT A TIME, wipe the jar rim with a damp (not wet) paper towel to assure there is not food residue on the rim. This will help assure a good seal.
  7. Place a clean lid on the jar. Secure with a clean ring, tightening securely, but do not over-tighten. Place covered jar onto a clean dish cloth.
  8. Do this with each jar, leaving the remaining jars in the oven while you work. You need to do these last few steps rather quickly so that the temperature inside the jars doesn’t lower.
  9. Let the jars cool for a few hours or overnight. They should all seal during this time (you may or may not hear the “ping”) You can tell that the lid has sealed when the raised circle in the middle of the lid has “sunken” into the jar. It will no longer be raised.
  10. If you have a jar that hasn’t sealed, put it in your pantry and use it first.

And there you have it! I for one, am very happy that I discovered this preservation method. Not only will it make my life a lot easier, but it will do wonders for my wallet!

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