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Heat Intolerance and MS

The heat is really killing me this year. Ok, not really killing me. The heat doesn’t actually make my MS worse, and it’s highly unlikely my MS will kill me. The heat just exacerbates the underlying symptoms. Basically, the electrical impulses travelling along your central nervous system are slower/more likely to dissipate when your body temperature is elevated. This is the case for everyone, but combine that with damaged myelin and nerves and ta-da! Many of my dormant symptoms, and some new ones, come out to play. Just to make sure I don’t forget about them. Ha ha, such fun.
Learn more about heat intolerance and MS. 

The most disabling symptom for me is fatigue. Like, a couple of weeks ago, I had too many blankets on the bed and when I woke up I was hot. Now normally, I’m completely mobile and have good strength, clear speech and excellent cognition. The only symptoms I really get regularly when I’m not fatigued are tingling in my feet and lower legs, and burning in my left foot. I do have other things come and go – twitches, weakness in my left hand, memory difficulties, for a few months I had this weird symptom where I couldn’t do basic arithmetic! That was fun when splitting the bill at restaurants. I was normally the person who sorted that out. Glad that went away again. But really it’s mostly all minor stuff I can deal with.

However, that morning when I woke up too hot under my doona, I could not sit up. I could barely move my arms. My legs felt like they weighed a tonne. I could hardly keep my eyelids open and everything seemed foggy and slow. Sita came in to wake me up. I turned my head slowly and looked up at her – focusing was tough and blinking was hard! my eyelids were so heavy! – and told her I was fatigued. My speech was slurred; I’m surprised she could lipread me. But she knows the signs of fatigue. I asked her to pull me into a sitting position and bring me a glass of cold water. After she did, I started to cool down, and 20 mins later I was feeling better. It took me 40 mins to get out of bed.

I’m lucky to work in a place with flexible working hours so I can start and finish late, which is what I did that day. However, it’s only early Spring and I’m worried about how I’m going to manage in Summer. The heat intolerance is definitely worse this year. Once I get to work I’m ok – I’m in air con. But getting there, and also that first half hour after I get there and have to cool down… it’s getting harder. I can manage, but I worry. I’m the one bringing home the not-bacon, so to speak. I try not to stress but my family relies on me.

I’m reaching out to my Regional Service Coordinator with MS Qld for advice and I’ve joined a support group. Slowly MS is becoming a bigger part of my life, which I’m not really keen on! But I’m trying to accept the inevitable.

If only it wasn’t so darned unpredictable! But then again, if it wasn’t, then I probably couldn’t recover from the fatigue in 40 mins, either. So you know. Silver lining, I guess?

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Magic Jelly Blog

Life is nuts, nuts, nuts right now! We’ve got so much going on, it’s crazy. And my laptop is dead, my phone is dead, I can’t find my camera and my iPad takes shitty photos, which is why I haven’t shared pictures of the awesome Mulberry Cobbler I made last week. I will, when I can get the photos off my phone, which I had to use to take the photos because I can’t find my camera (I think it’s in the spare room, which is still unpacked even though we moved here over a year ago), and my iPad takes shitty photos. As I previously mentioned.

So anyway, this is a picture-free post. I just had to share though. I found this Magic Jelly blog today and I’m so excited I could cry! So many vegan recipes and they are all things I’ve been wanting to try, and written by an Australian so I don’t have to faff around trying to find ingredient substitutions.

There is cashew whipped cream, people. Made without coconut or tofu. You do not understand my excitement. Whipped. Cream. *squeals*

Go there and look: http://magicjelly.com.au/blog/

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Friday Feast: Vegan Barszcz (Borscht)

I recently took Yankee Elv’s surname (we were civilly unionised earlier this year) and so now I sound like I’m authentically Polish, even though I haven’t a Polish bone in my body. The closest I come is a Russian/Finnish Jew about five generations back. Not quite the same.

Anyway, I was determined to be a good Polish wife, so I learned how to make Polish beetroot soup. This beet soup was originally eaten in the Ukraine, but it spread all over Eastern Europe during the middle ages. In Poland it’s traditionally eaten with uszkami (or sometimes over pierogi), but we just had it plain or with pieces of rye toast (using King Henry Bakehouse rye bread, which is locally produced, vegan and made with 100% rye flour). Once I had it with herbed, roasted button squash. The flavours were very complementary.

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Obviously my version of barszcz is a vegan version, which was surprisingly not that hard to do. Barszcz is a primarily vegetable soup anyway, I just had to swap the chicken stock for vegetable stock, leave out the optional ham hock and not serve it with a dollop of sour cream. Otherwise, it was good to go. That makes sense I guess considering it was a soup traditionally eaten by the lower classes and filled with cheap, abundant veges.

I came up with this recipe myself, but it’s based on this vegan borscht recipe and this more traditional red borscht soup recipe. I pureed half the batch and left the other half chunky to see which I liked better. I’m normally a smooth soup person, but I really enjoyed the bursts of concentrated flavour I got when eating the pieces in the chunky soup, so I actually liked it both ways.

The real test was Yankee Elv, who grew up eating Polish food. She says it doesn’t have the sour tang that most barszczs have (usually from fermented beets, vinegar or pickling juices), but that she loves the earthy flavours. It’s different to what I’m used to as an Aussie – I eat a lot of strongly flavoured Italian, Asian and Indian foods, plus Mexican after my time in Texas (it’s steadily becoming more popular here now). The flavours in this soup are more subtle; you can taste the herbs and vegetables clearly, but they meld gently together and no one takes precedence over another. Yankee Elv’s description – earthy – is a good one. She says it tastes like the earth smells after rain. Give it a go for yourself and see what you think.

Vegan Barszcz

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Ingredients:

  • olive oil for frying
  • 1 leek, cleaned and finely sliced
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 small-medium beetroot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and chopped
  • 6 to 8 button or cap mushrooms, chopped
  • 4 cups vegetable stock (broth)
  • 1 tab lemon juice
  • 2 tabs apple cider vinegar (add more if you want that sour flavour)
  • approx 1/4 cup of fresh dill, chopped (stems removed)
  • approx 1/4 cup (generous) of fresh parsley, chopped (stems removed)
  • 2 tsp dried thyme (can use fresh if you want, but use more as the flavour is more concentrated when dry)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 400g can butter beans (or other white bean)

Method:

  1. Heat a little olive oil in a large pot. Saute the leek, onions and garlic over medium heat until soft.
  2. Add beetroot and parsnip and saute for another 5 mins.
  3. Add mushrooms and vegetable stock and lower the heat. Simmer, covered, for 30 to 40 mins, stirring occasionally.
  4. Taste broth, then add desired amounts of the remaining ingredients. Simmer for 10 mins more, or until beetroot is tender.
  5. If you want to puree some or all, let it cool for 10 mins, then puree with a stick blender (immersion blender).
  6. You can serve it as is, with rye bread, vegetables, vegan sour cream, pierogi, uszkami, sauerkraut, pasta or however else you like!
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Friday Feast: Vegan Okonomiyaki

I tried something new today: vegan okonomiyaki! I’ve never had it before, but let me tell you, it was okonomiyummy! Or maybe I should say okonomnomnom?

Oh come on, I had to go there.

So anyway… now I’m past the bad dad jokes…

Okonomiyaki is a Japanese fritter type of thing (some say pancake, some say pizza, I say big fritter), which is traditionally made with eggs and meat/seafood. However, Sara Lynn Paige shared a vegan recipe that looked so good, I thought I’d try it. Okonomiyaki means ‘as you like it’ in Japanese, so outside the basic recipe, you have a lot of leeway as to what you put in it. You can have it, you know… as you like it. I put in two cups of greens/veges, whereas I think Sara Lynn Paige must have only had about 1 cup of veges, based on her pictures. Mine looked like there was a lot more green. It also took lots longer to cook (maybe I had the heat on too low though). However, the end result was still ultimately yummy, if a little less perfect looking. Here’s what I did:

Vegan Okonomiyaki

okonomiyaki

Ingredients

  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup of non-dairy milk or water (I used a mix of oat milk and water)
  • 1 egg replacer (I used Orgran’s)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 to 2 cups minced greens or other fillings (I used 3/4 cup of raw spinach, 1/2 cup of stir-fried celery leaves, 1/4 cup of raw shallots [scallions], 1/2 cup of diced cooked red onions and celery, and approx 1/4 cup diced honey soy marinated tofu)
  • Toppings – optional (I pressed slices of honey soy tofu skin into the moist surface of the fritter as soon as I put it in the pan and I sprinkled chives on top of the finished product to serve)

Method:

  1. Mix the ingredients (except toppings and oil) in a bowl. Do not overmix.
  2. Heat some vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat.
  3. Put some batter in the pan so it makes a thick pancake (about 1cm thick). This should use approximately half the batter you made.
  4. Let the okonomiyaki cook until you start to get a few little bubbles on the surface, then flip it and cook the other side. You might need to flip back and forth a few times until you get a crisp brownish surface. (The original recipe said 3 to 5 mins. I took more like 10-12 mins.)
  5. Remove from the pan and pat the oil off if you want.
  6. Serve with additional toppings and sauce if you want. (I tried with teriyaki sauce on some bites and sweet chili sauce on others. Good for both, although the teriyaki sauce is quite salty.)
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Eco-friendly Wet Weather Gear

In case you have missed it (and if you don’t live in South East Queensland, then it’s entirely likely you have), Brisbane has been experiencing some seriously wet weather. My shed has flooded for the first time ever. On Tuesday, we had the wettest day in 23 years. It’s been pretty crazy.

And I have a broken umbrella.

Fortunately, Yankee Elv had a spare unbroken umbrella, so I’ve been using that, but it did get me thinking about the broken state of my umbrella. One of the metal spines (arms? prongs? what do you call them?) is snapped in half and the nylon fabric has become detached from another metal bit. It was a pretty cheap umbrella to start with. The plastic handle was really uncomfortable and it was super flimsy. As one blogger, Sharon Russell, said:

Many people have adopted the belief that buying several cheap umbrellas is less costly than buying one umbrella of good quality that will last a few years. Instead, they simply plan to replace broken umbrellas whenever they need to.”

I must say, I have fallen prey to this attitude. What’s worse, when I stopped to think about, it occurred to me that pretty much every bit of an umbrella is non-biodegradable and non-recyclable. Also, considering the cheapness, I’m pretty sure it’s not made from recycled materials. A bummer all around.

So this led me to thinking… what kind of environmentally sustainable wet weather gear might there be available? The answer: not much.

Treehugger has a nice list of umbrellas, but everything is American (except one, which is British). I found a Dutch raincoat (but seriously, brown and yellow? what possessed them?), however it looks a bit thick for our climate. It mostly rains in summer here. Ecouterre has a list of raincoats but they are all so expensive! There are some good, inexpensive, Australian umbrellas made from recycled umbrellas available at Positive Impact, but they only sell them in sets of 1000 or more for corporate clients. I think that might be a couple too many. Even ebay can’t help me. :(

I guess I could go for the Urban Dictionary definition.

Does anyone know where I could get some eco-friendly wet weather gear?

Short of making my own raincoat out of the one Ikea bag I happen to have available and would rather like to keep?

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Friday Feast: Mango Pico de Gallo

This home-made salsa is based on a mango pico de gallo we used to eat when we lived in Texas. It was my first foray into pico de gallo ever (I know! But I’m Australian and it’s not something we typically eat here.). It was from HEB. Don’t look like that. It was good! Especially with those Tostitos cups or fresh made tortillas. You can’t get fresh made tortillas in Brisbane unless you make them yourself. I miss them. I miss Tostitos cups too.

I eat this pico de gallo piled on Mission corn chips/strips which I heat in the oven. In my pre-vegan days, I’d put cheese on top, but I find that it doesn’t taste that different. The heated corn chips add a really rustic flavour to the bright salsa. I also sometimes eat the salsa as an accompaniment to beans and rice. Or as a dip. Or on a spoon.

Yankee Elv has a weird genetic thing that makes coriander (cilantro) taste like soap, so we substitute parsley for coriander. However, if you don’t have that weird genetic thing, you like coriander and you’d like to be authentic, then that’s what should really be used.

Mango Pico de Gallo

Ingredients:

  • 2 mangoes, diced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 5 – 6 tomatoes, with the cores discarded and the outer flesh diced for use
  • 2 green chilis, diced finely (include the seeds if you like more heat)
  • 1 red chili, diced finely (include the seeds if you like more heat)
  • a handful of chopped parsley leaves
  • lime juice, to taste

Method:

  1. Stir all the chopped fruit/veges together in a bowl.
  2. Add the parsley and lime juice and combine.

THE END! Easiest recipe ever. :)