Thursday, November 20, 2008

Migraines are my Personal Hell

photo 'borrowed' from my friend Jennifer Ramos
Titled: How I Look Younger Though Today I’m Older, or How My Migraines are Managed

This is the birthday I have really dreaded for a few years, but actually, it turned out not so bad. I look in the mirror and wonder how I got this old this fast and yet look fairly good. Oh yeah, it was the Botox I had 2 weeks ago. Ok, hold on, now I must explain. And the only reason I am outing myself is because I know a lot of people suffer from migraines and are looking for a cure (though there is none at this time), a treatment, a prevention, whatever. I am one of those people and I want to share my treatment program if it could help even one person. I’ve been suffering with migraines for some time and was fortunate to find a neurologist that specializes in migraines in Newport Beach named Phillip O’Carroll, M.D. I’ve been working with him for over a month to get my migraines under control with a couple of treatments. I typically have about 11 or so migraines a month and take Relpax when I get them. I was taking some preventative meds, but they stopped working. My new doctor has now put me on Lexapro, which he calls “Vitamin L” and thinks it should be in the water supply that’s how much he loves it. It’s an antidepressant but it evens out your moods supposedly and should help decrease the frequency of the migraines. The other treatment that he believes strongly in is Botox. At least initially, for me, he believes it should help me. The issue is right now, I get a headache, I take a Relpax. I get another headache, I take a Relpax. All of these migraines are caused by the Relpax; rebound headaches. I should only be getting about 2 a month, not 11. So to help brake this migraine/Relpax cycle, he recommended Botox. The first month I did the Lexapro, I thought I could break the cycle on my own, without the Botox. But again, 11 migraines. So this month, I opted to try it. This website explains Botox in the prevention of migraines but essentially it was found that people that had migraines and were using Botox for cosmetic purposes saw a decrease in their migraines. Thus, more research was done. Problem is, since it’s not yet approved by the FDA for use with migraines, at least my insurance doesn’t pay for it. But believe me, at this point, I am willing to pay for it for 1 treatment if my dr. thinks it will work. He’s seen many patients that it helped. Plus you get the added benefit of no ability to frown for 3 months. I only had it 2 weeks ago so I’m not sure if it’s helping the migraines yet with all of these winds and fires, but damn, I look at least 2-3 years younger (per my 14 y.o. son). I think I look 10 years younger. I think I need a major paying job because this may become a habit.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Recipe: A Twist on Pot Pie, Make it Moroccan

Moroccan Chicken Pot Pie

With kids doing something each night, life has become so stressful. So organization and prep is the key to decreasing my stress. I’m trying to be so organized these days and plan meals that I can make ahead or at least do the prep work for ahead of time. One dish meals are best for my sanity.

On Sundays I plan the meals and shop by Monday for the week. This past week, I roasted 2 chickens. On Monday we ate roasted chicken for dinner and had leftovers. I used that meat for this dish below and I still have the meat from the other roasted chicken that I put in the freezer for something next week. I haven’t decided what yet.

Here is a recipe I found in the Bon Appetit, Dec. 2007 issue and it sounded pretty interesting. I did make some changes because the original recipe had cumin and my husband can’t eat cumin. Also I wanted more color and texture in the dish and a little kick so I added the Tapatio sauce, apricots, marjoram, and artichokes. The pot pie was a huge hit with my family much to my huge relief. So I can now put it in my bag of tricks for another time.

On to the recipe for Moroccan Chicken Pot Pie

1 1/2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon marjoram
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
11/2 teaspoons of Tapatio or Tabasco hot sauce
1 lemon
3 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup of quartered artichoke hearts (I use frozen from Trader Joes)
1 cup imported green olives, pitted, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup low-salt chicken broth
1 refrigerated pie crust (half of 15-ounce package)

Preheat oven to 425°F. Mix chicken cubes with paprika, marjoram, and cinnamon in large bowl to coat. Sprinkle chicken generously with salt and pepper. Cut lemon in half; remove seeds. Using small spoon, scoop out enough pulp and juice from between membranes to measure 2 tablespoons. Add to chicken mixture. Add Tapatio sauce; stir to blend.
Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, olives, apricots, artichokes and raisins. Sauté until onion is almost tender, about 4 minutes. Add chicken mixture and stir 1 minute. Sprinkle flour over; stir 1 minute. Add broth and bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Transfer filling to 9-inch-diameter deep-dish glass pie dish.
Place pie crust over dish and seal dough edges to rim of dish. Using small paring knife, cut several slits in pie crust. Bake pot pie until crust is golden brown and juices are bubbling thickly, about 20 minutes.

Source: Mostly the Bon Appetit Dec. 2007 recipe with some substitutions

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Tutorial: The Remake of a Boring Cardigan Sweater

From this

To this

I got this Gap wool cardigan at the thrift store last year and never really liked the neckline or the fit. Since I’m not a sewer, I procrastinated on doing anything to it, and only wore it a couple of times. Finally, the other day some inspiration blew in with the northern winds and I thought to myself “what have I got to lose? The sweater cost me $5.” So I stuck the sweater in a couple of warm water washes to felt it and make it smaller. I pulled out my sewing machine and thought of a way I would minimally have to use that, and instead use mostly my needle and thread, my noggin, and my love of color and design. I also decided to enter this tutorial in the Birdie “Know-it-All Tutorial Contest to see what other's think.

I suck at drawing. No matter how many years I took art, I never achieved the ability to make anything symmetrical on paper so don’t laugh. Typically I don’t plan things out and just wing it, but this time I needed some sort of an action plan. As you will see though, my drawing isn’t exactly like my finished project but just an inspiration for it and I’ll explain why in a minute.
So I cut the sleeves ¾ length, the bottom band and around the neck and button band.
I used ½ of the bottom band for each sleeve to make them flare a bit. This is where my sewing machine came in. I zig zag stitched the sleeve edging on.

Next I started cutting out pieces for the flowers and leaves as well as the fastener bands.


I used the sleeve portions I cut off to make the flowers. I cut across the sleeve 1 ½ inch pieces and cut that circle to open that up. I twisted that piece and rolled it from the edge around my finger and secured it with a pin.

I later sewed the back of those to secure them so that they wouldn’t unravel and then hand sewed those on with needle and thread to the sweater.


I used parts of the neckband and cut pieces about 1-2 inches long. I cut a long oblong on the edge opposite the fold so when I cut the leaf, I could open it up and there would be a leaf with a crease in the middle.

I used an unraveled thinner strand of the colored yarn to baste stitch the leaves onto the sweater down the center of the leaf.

Fastener band:

I used 2 pieces that incorporated a buttonhole on each end.

The Edging:

I used a basic blanket stitch with colored yarn for edging the bottom and neckline.

I used a whip stitch to go around the fastener bands.

I put 4 buttons on the sweater to attach the fastener bands.

Here’s why I changed the original pattern. Once I put on the sweater I realized that it had shrunk a bit more than I realized especially since I had cut it apart. So the back gathering with a band idea wouldn’t work. Then just laying out the sweater, I thought it would be a bit much with flowers on both sides. The way the sweater fit, the fastener band could not be single and high, but would look more interesting lower and with 2.

It’s ok to use a pattern for inspiration. Once you get going on any project, things can change and so might your finished piece. And that’s ok. I can’t wait to hit the thrift for another sweater and another set of inspirations. I learned from the first one and have some ideas for another. I might even get a bit braver with my sewing machine. Maybe.

Coca Mallorquina

3 years ago my husband’s mother passed away. Prior to that we would go to their home many weekends and eat Cuban food prepared by both my mother-in-law and my father-in-law as they shared the kitchen. Since her passing, we really haven’t eaten much Cuban food and my father-in-law seemed not interested in cooking much, even for himself.

For several years, my husband has wanted his father to come to our home and teach us how to make one of the family’s favorite dishes, Coca Mallorcin. It’s a Spanish pizza but my father in law (Nestor) says that you can’t get his version anywhere, even if you spent $100. He says that in Spain, they don’t put enough stuff on the pizza and his version is the best. After eating his version last night, I would have to agree hands down that it is the greatest pizza ever eaten.

I believe one reason Nestor hasn’t made it sooner was because of the time the dough takes to make as well as just his loss of interest in cooking. I had a solution to get him over here and not worry about the dough this time. Thanks to Trader Joe’s and their refrigerated pizza dough, our first problem was solved. Next time we can make the dough from scratch. The next issue I hoped would resolve once he got started.

Our day started at 3 pm with slowly chopping and preparing the ingredients for the dough and at the same time listening to stories of Nestor’s younger years in Cuba as well him sharing his tricks and tips on how to make these cocas different and even venturing into the next time he comes over other dishes he will share with us. He was truly in his element and I hadn’t seen joy like that from him in a long time.

So, on to the recipe:

We made 3 pizzas

Preheat oven to 400

2 bunches of swiss chard

3 prepared pizza doughs

Spanish chorizo sliced (or a hot dried sausage such as Boar’s Head Apprezzese)

1 lb uncooked, peeled shrimp

¼ cup capers

½ cup sliced green olives

1 onion sliced

3 tomatoes sliced

5 cloves garlic minced

Olive oil


Flour for rolling dough

  1. roll out dough to fit onto cookie sheet or pizza pan
  2. brush the dough lightly with olive oil
  3. salt the dough (we added quite a bit)

4. start adding ingredients starting with ¾ of the swiss chard and end with the remaining swiss chard
5. drizzle olive oil on the pizza
6. bake at 400 until dough is cooked on edges. Swiss chard should be a bit crispy and shrimp should be pink (about 12-15 min)

And of course don't forget a good bottle of Spanish Rioja. We drank Marques de Riscal Reserva 2003. Chin-chin.