Archive for Food

Prepping for NGCM 2014

April, also known as National Grilled Cheese Month, will soon be upon us.  In preparation for this celebration of ooey, gooey sandwiches grilled up in delicious fat, I decided to make a grilled cheese tonight.  I give you the tomato basil cheddar, mozzarella, bacon grilled cheese.

Grilled cheese sandwich

Pay no attention to the half-eaten appetizer grilled cheese

Ingredients:

  • Whole wheat bread
  • Unsalted butter
  • Cabot tomato basil cheddar
  • Mozzarella
  • Premium thick-cut bacon

Preparation:

cooking bacon

I first cooked a one-pound package of bacon in a large skillet.  After pouring out the bacon grease, I made sure to leave a coating within the pan to enhance the flavor of my bread.  My next step was to select the cheese from the secret stash in our fridge.

several types of cheese

Ok, so the stash isn’t super secret, but we do take cheese seriously in this house.  I buttered my bread, sliced up some cheese and built my sandwich in the skillet placing four bacon sliced in the layers of cheese.  I’ve talked before about knowing your bread and how it cooks.  Tonight I used new bread and slightly overcooked one side because I wasn’t familiar with it’s consistency.

The results were delicious.  The tomato basil cheddar and mozzarella merged well together.  The thin layer of bacon grease in the pan also added a noticeable and tasty flavor to the outside of my bread.  I would call this sandwich ground breaking or super special, but it really hit the spot after a long day at work.

 

New doc and pinto beans

Today I saw a new ENT doctor.  I wasn’t really sure how it was going to go.  A couple years ago I started seeing a different doctor in the same practice and then quit going due to insurance, not happy with the doctor and too many bad customer service experiences with the staff over the course of a week.  Now I’m really needing to re-establish a relationship with an ENT and this is the only practice  close to where I live.  One handy aspect of it is they’re two floors up from my pulmonologist so it’d be easy for them to chat and compare notes.  I ended up calling a few weeks ago to find out my doctor had left the practice so they needed to transfer me to someone else.   I’m not sure what the other doctors are like there, but I feel like I got a good one.

Dr S was extremely friendly and personable.  He was interested in what I had to say and actually listened.  He also didn’t shove his fingers in my mouth or jerk my head around by my tongue like the last one did.  Dr S tried to get a handle on my history, what I’ve been dealing with, what my current treatment is and figure out what he could do to assist.  I have five doctors so it’s nice when one wants to be a team player.  He checked me out, scoped my vocal chords and I’m going to be following up for a video laryngoscopy.  I felt like I was in good hands after the visit and am confident he’ll be a contributing factor in my treatment.

Later today I cooked a pot of pinto beans.  This may not sound like a big deal, but it takes at least six hours from start to finish after you sort, clean, soak and cook the beans.  I used to cook all kinds of things all the time.  Saturdays were often dedicated to trying new things and cooking large quantities of something to eat the entire following week.  The past few years I’ve hardly cooked anything at all either because I couldn’t physically stand in the kitchen that long or I’ve just been too exhausted to even think about it.  I feel like it’s a tiny accomplishment on my road to recovery from this summer.  I’m still on tons of medicine and still taking prednisone, but at least I’m able to have intelligent conversations now and spend a little time slow cooking something I enjoy eating.

New nacho strategy

I like nachos and cheese fries as much as the next guy, but I’ve never liked the clean-up part.  The other day I had the idea to heat up my chips in the toaster oven on parchment paper, transfer that to a plate, and then just throw the paper away when I’m done.  This eliminated:

  • Messy toaster oven pan
  • Metallic taste at times from aforementioned pan
  • Messy plate

I also gained toasted chips instead of room-temp chips or the slightly soggy chips from microwaving.  You could do the same in a conventional oven, but toaster ovens work more quickly.  The paper also allows you to pick up the entire “nacho” without scraping/scooping them out/off and effectively ruining your initial topping distribution.

As far as toppings go, I say the sky is the limit.  I try not to get too hung up on meat vs meatless, but I do hang my hat on a classy plate of nachos containing both melted, gooey cheese and shredded cheese.  Here are a few pictures of the latest nacho forays.  Ingredients include:

  • Chips
  • Pinto beans
  • Ground beef
  • Homemade nacho cheese
  • Shredded sharp cheddar
  • Diced onions
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Sour cream
  • Cilantro
  • Dried hatch
  • Dried habanero
  • Black olives

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My kid loves Alton Brown

As a parent it can be hard at times figuring out what’s no longer appropriate for “family time” as you transition from being that cool adult to someone with a little kid.  When Chuck was a baby she would often be fussy and fidgety for Liz, but would lie completely still for hours with me watching whatever I happened to be interested in on TV.  Since my asthma has been bad for much longer than Chuck has been alive, that means many, many hours of her early life were spent watching TV and movies with me.

At first I’d just watch whatever knowing she wasn’t paying attention, couldn’t exactly see what all was going on, and didn’t really understand anything.  I think it was around 6 months or so that we quit letting her sit in on R-rated stuff and definitely avoided all violence and anything sexual.  Eventually we started watching “kid stuff” with her but are fortunate she never got into some of the more annoying bits of children’s programming.

These days her favorite things on TV include:

  • Doctor Who
  • Star Wars (the original trilogy)
  • Power Rangers Samurai
  • Lord of the Rings
  • And anything with Alton Brown

AltonBrown_bowling

Yes, that’s correct – my kid loves Alton Brown.  We lucked out being he’s one of the coolest food personalities on TV, is a great educator, and does an amazing job with Good Eats and Iron Chef America.  Last night when it was getting close to bedtime Chuck asked…

Could I sit in the living room for a while and watch cooking shows?  Alton Brown, let’s watch Alton Brown.  Oh, and I’m hungry.  I need a snack.  I didn’t brush my teeth yet because I wanted to drink some juice.  Do we have any juice left?

So I fired up an episode of Good Eats from season 14 and got her some cheese and crackers from the kitchen with juice.  I’ve always enjoyed cooking and have tried to include Chuck whenever I’m preparing something.  It’s kind of cool that she’s so interested in food.  She loves olives, extremely sharp cheddar and asparagus, yet still refuses to eat eggs and mashed potatoes.  Every time Alton makes something Chuck wants to know whats going on, loves answering his rhetorical questions and always asks me, “Can we make that some day?  I want to try that.  It looks good.”  Occasionally the questions can become fast and furious and after a long day of questioning it’s a little tiring.  I just keep reminding myself – hey, at least she’s not obsessed with the latest Disney kid personality or Miley Cyrus.

Triple Decker Tomato-Onion-Grilled Cheese

A triple decker sandwich is generally defined as a sandwich containing three slices, or decks, of bread.  Some would argue a three-slice sandwich is only double-decked, but that’s just like their opinion, man.  This type of sandwich is always a good option when you want to have extra ingredients on the inside but are worried about the sandwich being too thick or flimsy for flipping.  This method reduces the amount of toppings in between the bread slices while maximizing the surface area for cheese to bond the bread and toppings together.

Ingredients:

  • Three slices whole wheat bread
  • Unsalted butter
  • Colby Jack cheese
  • American cheese
  • Sliced onion
  • Sliced tomato

Preparation:

Prepare your ingredients, slice your cheese and butter your bread.  One on my slices had a hole in the middle already so that automatically became my middle slice.  I like to preheat my pan to help the cooking process.  I also put my Colby Jack on the bottom half because I’m going to cook the bottom section longer than the top and this cheese will take longer to melt than the American.

IngredientsLayer 1Layer 2Cooking

The Flip:

Getting this kind of sandwich flipped over, or any grilled cheese for that matter, can be a bit tricky.  You need to turn it over quickly with spilling the sandwich’s contents as well as make sure your bread layers don’t become misaligned creating a leaning tower of cheesy bread.  Here are a few tips.

  • Pre-heat your pan to decrease total cooking time
  • Make sure your bottom bread layer is “set” and the cheese has melted before flipping
  • Slow-cooking longer is always a better idea than high heat for a quick meal
  • If your sandwich is in danger of falling apart, lift up your sandwich with a spatula, place the pan upside-down on top of your sandwich, and then flip the entire thing over in a controlled manner while holding firmly with pan and spatula

That’s how I easily got to this

imageimage

Now the only thing left to do is cook through your bottom layer and eat.  I often prefer ketchup with mine.  I call it the poor man’s tomato soup.

imageimageimage

P.S. – If you’re looking for a good beverage to pair with this sandwich, I highly suggest some Dr Pepper with fresh lime, or lime juice.

 

Summer 2013: ER Trip #5

Deciding To Go

This whole past week hasn’t been good with night time PF readings constantly dipping into the 300s.  My daily breathing treatment count slowly climbed to 10 by Thursday and I was once again being seriously asked if I needed to go to the hospital.  Of course I probably should have, but I really didn’t want to and had a case of the asthma-brain influencing my decisions.  I figured I’d go the cheap route and call my doctor yesterday morning to bump up my prednisone taper or something.  An email, I love that some doctor offices let you email them, to my primary care physician resulted in a quick reply that my doctor was not in today and suggested I contact my lung doctor.  While some might think I was blown off, the response was actually quite reasonable.  I still haven’t followed up with my lung doctor since I was hospitalized and they’re the ones that finally got me back on track in July before the drywall dust debacle at work last month.  So I left a message at my pulmonologist’s office, you can never actually get a person on the phone it seems, and waited.  I waited all day long and then ended up back in the ER.

It’s hard to describe, but unless I encounter a severe, unplanned trigger or circumstance – I can tell when I’m going to have a day bad enough to result in an hospital trip.  I kind of had that feeling Thursday and I definitely had that feeling Friday morning.  It’s that whole gut reaction thing.  I hadn’t slept for several days, but did get a couple hours sleep in mid-morning.  The sleep helps, but when you miss a scheduled breathing treatment, I’m not always sure which is worse.  Chuck and Liz got home just after 5 and Chuck really wanted me to play with her.  That’s about the time when the meds stopped keeping the symptoms at bay.  A good friend of ours brought over some amazing chili and corn bread for dinner.  We ate, Liz told me to go take more medicine, we hung out and watched some of The IT Crowd.  I was back into the cycle of PF at 400 or below, neb, get back up to 500ish and then slowly drop back down.  During this time I was noticing my O2 getting to 93, which isn’t bad, but also isn’t good, and when I’d start panting for no good reason I knew I had to keep an eye on things.

Around 11:00PM, PF values were at 350 and below.  I went ahead and told Liz and decided to re-evaluate myself at midnight.  An hour came and went.  I did everything I was supposed to and took all my meds, but my numbers were still the same.  It was time for ER trip #5.

I feel bad for Liz.  Yeah I have all the breathing problems, yeah I go for days without sleeping, yeah I’m on tons of drugs and am always getting stuck with needles – but I do all this while often getting to forget about normal day-to-day life.  Liz still has to go to work and teach, she ends up taking care of Chuck 90% of the time and that’s on top of everything else normal people do and take care of in their daily lives.  So while I’m feeling awful and need a ride to the Emergency Room, Liz, who is already tired, knows she’ll be up until at least 4am, will most likely be wrangling our daughter tomorrow AND has work obligations in the morning.  I think the Coen Brothers’ Nihilists say it best, “it’s not fair!”

Getting Treatment

Another quick PF check clocked me at 320, Liz’s mom came over to watch Chuck and I sloth’d my way to the car with asthma gear in hand.  Thunder had just started on our way out and I wondered how many other asthmatics we’d encounter.  With the high heat, insane ragweed/pollen counts and now a thunderstorm rolling in – I knew us lungers would be out in force.  The trip there was pretty easy since traffic dies way down after midnight.  When we pulled up to the ER entrance there was a less-than-smart citizen smoking a cigarette immediately next to the entrance.  While I would have loved to share my thoughts on all the no-smoking signs staring at the guy, I shuffled as quickly as I could into the building without breathing in the poison.  Before I knew it our friend from registration was telling a guy who I was cause she knows I can’t talk right when coming in.  I scribbled my name on a piece of paper, tried to answer a couple of questions to someone else, and they wheeled me back to a room.  Haley even came back later and got Liz some Subway.  All I have to say is it pays to know people.

Usually I get stalked back to the room by several people but today was the exception.  I lumbered off the wheelchair and onto the bed, was given a gown and the triage person left.  Remember me wondering how many other respiratory patients would be in there today?  Well there were a lot.  Ten minutes go by and someone from radiology showed up with a portable x-ray machine to perform a chest scan.  Liz told her it wasn’t really worth getting an x-ray right now because respiratory hadn’t even started meds yet.  I’ve had this happen before and when my airways are so tight, I can’t really breathe in enough for them to get a good image.  Five or ten minutes later you would have thought I’d just finished a marathon by the amount of sweat rolling off me because breathing can be hard work.  Another PF check showed me now at 260 so I decided to just start a breathing treatment of my own.  It really does pay to carry your own medicine with you.  Half way through my own meds, the room nurse came by assuming respiratory had started their thing from the noise of my nebulizer compressor.  She immediately put in another call to see where they were, got an IV started on the first try (last two trips took 4 pokes each), and set me up with 2L of oxygen.

The respiratory therapists, two this time, came by and were surprised to see me medicating myself.  They hooked me up with a couple duoneb treatments, listened to my lungs several times and relied on Liz for information.  Apparently I was really making their day because the main one announced they should go buy lotto tickets.

  • I knew my baseline, historical and current Peakflow information
  • I brought all my meds as well as had them listed on paper
  • I use a spacer
  • I’m compliant with my medications
  • I write down all meds taken and any circumstances surrounding my breathing
  • I had a fairly good idea of why today required me to come see them

They even asked if I had considered running a seminar on how to be a good asthma patient.  As usual one of the first comments was, “well I’m not really hearing any wheezing,” but they were surprised at how little air I was moving.  Liz quickly informed them of my general symptoms cause she’s awesome.  X-rays came back again to get that chest scan and Liz heard the therapists out in the hallway talking about how I don’t really “seem asthmatic” at first glance but I’m obviously a severe.  The respiratory therapists came back in to give me a 3rd treatment, but wanted my opinion on it since I had done nine in the previous 24 hrs and three more in the past hour.

RT: Here’s the deal, I think you could use another one, but I’m kind of concerned with your heart rate and the side effects.  What do you think?

Me: Let’s hold off for a bit and see what happens.  I’m already moving a lot more air.

After seeing my PF has gotten up to 450, they decide to go ahead and let me hold off for a while.

RT: We’ll check in with your doctor and see what he thinks.  I’d give you more medicine, but they only let me neb you 3x before a doctor gets involved…cause I’m just a lowly respiratory therapist.

Me: Yeah, and I’m just a lowly patient.

The Doctor

My doctor rolled in and right away I could tell there was something different.  On a rare occasion I encounter medical professionals too cool for school who want you to know they have it together.  They’ll say lots of big words, not really let you answer questions and walk out leaving you with more questions than before they arrived.  Dr C was not this kind of doctor, he was actually kind of awesome.  He had obviously looked through all my info.  He knew I had been there 4x prior, he knew I was on all the medications you would normally prescribe, and he knew I wasn’t your average asthmatic.  After discussing my medication, treatment and brief history the conversation quickly turned to something more interesting.

Doctor C: Have you guys by chance heard of RadioLab?

We then discussed that guy who gave himself tapeworms to cure his horrendous allergies and asthma.  While all three of us thought it was great the dude cured himself, Dr C wasn’t exactly endorsing the act of purchasing worms someone has harvested from their own feces.  After we had a good, well as much as I could muster, chuckle about infecting oneself parasites, the topic of conversation quickly switched to my Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack, aka the Asthma Bag.  I don’t know why all the medical people who see it thinks it’s so awesome.  Kind of makes me feel cool just to have it.  Doctor C picked it up and examined it thoroughly.  He really dug my setup.

So what to do…Doctor C was concerned with my O2 levels.  He also asked about other non-standard treatments they sometimes administer to avoid intubating.  My oxygen saturation usually registers pretty high in the 97-98% range.  After I had another breathing treatment and things settled down a bit, Doctor C took me off the nasal cannula to see who everything looked.  I did dip into the 80s briefly, but mostly stayed at or just above 92%, which was the defined line.  I was glad to not get admitted again.  I would guess we probably spent 20 minutes or more talking candidly with the doctor.  At no time was he acting like he needed to be somewhere else or one of his other patients in the ER that night was more important than me.  Interestingly I later popped his name into Facebook and discovered we not only graduated from the same university, we have cool Facebook friends in common.  Small world.

The Aftermath

One great observation the doctor made was when someone like myself is on prednisone, the taper really shouldn’t end until several days AFTER I’m doing well.  I did finally achieve that back in July but then had another setback with the construction dust flare-up.  So my taper’s back up to a “big boy” dose and I’m fairly confident I’ll be ok through the weekend until I can follow-up with my regular doctors.  The salumedrol is probably the most effective medicine I get at the hospital which I cannot give myself at home.  It’s a corticosteroid, similar to prednisone, administered through an IV.  I’ll be good for a couple days on that alone, and the extra oral prednisone should boost me the rest of the way.

This further cements in my mind the need to participate in an asthma research study.  I’m looking forward to beginning SARP III next month.  I’ve also been wondering if I should be nebulizing any other medications.  I’m already taking Spiriva, but maybe something like scheduled DuoNeb treatments supplemented with Albuterol treatments would be more effective?  Definitely something to talk about with the various doctors I’ll be seeing in the next few weeks.

Lastly I must mention the traditional drive through Taco Bell.  The hours of labored breathing can really work up an appetite.  I finally tried one of the new Fiery Doritos Locos Tacos.  The Nacho Cheese variety is pretty decent, but I was really disappointed with the Cool Ranch.  There just isn’t a strong taste to wow me into believing I’m eating an amazing Doritos-Taco Bell food combination.  To be fair Cool Ranch Doritos don’t exactly have an over-powering taste on their own, but I feel it should be stronger when combined with a taco.  The Fiery version takes the cake for me.  It has a big, bold flavor that improves upon the standard Nacho Cheese.

doritos_locos_tacos

Mt Dew: A Love Affair

As a small child I encountered Dr Pepper and immediately fell in love.  While others drank their Coke, RC Cola, and flavored pop like Cream Soda, Root Beer, Orange and Grape – Dr Pepper was the drink for me.  Eventually I moved to another part of the country where Pepsi was king and came across Mountain Dew.

By the time I was in junior high I had started working at this place with an old school Pepsi machine that dispensed bottles and provided me all the free Mt Dew I needed while at work.  In high school my friends and I would consume copious amounts of the stuff and the only reason I can come up with how I stomached all those calories is Mt Dew used to contain far fewer calories than it does today.  In fact, many people like to talk about just how bad Mt Dew and other caffeinated, sugar filled, chemical-laden sodas/pop/soft-drinks are.  Cause they’re bad for us, right?

I can’t say my innards have every been tickled or that I got a girl to like me because of Mt Dew, but I have done a lot of target shooting with this preferred beverage keeping me “hydrated.”

All one has to do is a quick internet search to find out Mountain Dew can dissolve a mouse, rot your teeth, screw up your pH levels, or cause memory loss and organ failure.  Some of the Brominated Vegetable Oil stories have been slightly debunked, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say you should consume that.  I’ve even heard that Mountain Dew exacerbates asthma, but you’ll notice in this article there was a similar correlation between smokers contracting a respiratory condition.

To be fair I understand all the bad things about drinking pop, soda or whatever you call it.  A friend of mine, who happens to be a rare lung disease nurse, says the biggest thing to worry about with Mountain Dew and similar drinks is the phosphoric acid they contain.  It can negatively affect your bones, teeth and kidneys, but my friend is most concerned with how it makes muscles gummy or less responsive, which isn’t good for your diaphragm.

So is there anything good about Mountain Dew?  Well there’s caffeine and I happen to think it tastes good.  Caffeine is known to be a natural bronchodilator.  It’s no where near as effective is puffing a rescue inhaler, but it does help.  I’ve heard stories of doctors giving asthma patients cups of strong coffee or other highly caffeinated drinks to assist with asthma.  Every time my pulmonologist has me do a pulmonary function test I’m asked to abstain from caffeine beforehand.  At some point in high school I noticed drinking Mt Dew helped alleviate the side-effects of my asthma medications.  Just that alone can be worth it at times, especially when you’re dealing with insomnia.  While too much Mt Dew could make me tired while driving at night, I can’t count how many times it’s helped put me to sleep.  Sometimes reclining just the slightest makes my oxygen saturation drop making it impossible to become comfortable or sleep.

I think the real concern here, like with many other things, is moderation.  I don’t drink Mt Dew every day, nor do I pick up a 2L to drink in the car anymore for a road trip.  I have a personal rule to drink twice as much water after a Mt Dew and that’s in conjunction with my other rule to drink at least a gallon of water every day.  When all is said and done, I figure pop is better for my health than alcohol or the many other harmful things I could be putting into my body.

Last night’s cheese fries

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb frozen crinkle cut fries
  • Roughly 4 oz shredded colby jack cheese
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • Garlic powder
  • Oregano
  • Black pepper
  • Yellow mustard
  • Ketchup

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425 and spread out fries on a cookie sheet/pan.
  2. After oven is heated cook fries for 10min.
  3. Add onions to top of fries and cook for an additional 12min.
  4. Add shredded cheese to top of fries and cook for an additional 3min.
  5. Remove fries from oven.  Add garlic, pepper and oregano to taste.
  6. Top with mustard and ketchup.

Usually I’d post a picture, but I was just way too hungry to stop and smell the flower.  How do you like to make your cheese fries?  What sauces or seasonings do you prefer?

Farfalle with kale

Yesterday I decided to use up some of our fresh produce from the farm stand and settled on a pasta dish.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box farfalle white wheat (extra fiber) pasta
  • About 3lbs of fresh kale
  • 2 large broccoli stalks
  • 1 cup fresh peas
  • 1 large onion diced
  • About 10 cloves garlic (use your judgement here)
  • About 3-4T olive oil
  • Two jars of sauce
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Oregano
  • Basil

Directions:

  1. In my large, wok-like frying pan I put the olive oil, onion and garlic into the pan with some salt, pepper, oregano and basil on medium heat.  While that started cooking, I roughly chopped my kale and added that to the wok, covered and started sweating down those leaves.  I then started prepping the broccoli, added that to the wok, and shelled my peas, occasionally stirring up my vegetables.
  2. After the kale had reduced down to something manageable I dropped the heat to low, added two jars of sauce, some more oregano and basil to taste, the peas and covered.  I started my pasta water boiling at this point and let the sauce-veggie mixture warm together as I cooked the pasta.
  3. Once the pasta had cooked about 11 min, according to the box instructions, I drained and immediately mixed in with pasta.  I served this on plates with some grated parmesan and whole wheat garlic bread on the side.

Awesome cheese wheel

cheesewheel

http://www.buzzfeed.com/emofly/an-infographic-for-cheese-lovers