Taco Pasta Bake ****Updated

taco pasta bake

I saw this recipe on pinterest yesterday and decided I just had to try it, I made it last night for dinner and made a few changes but it was so popular that we had no leftovers, my son asked if I could make it again tonight he liked it so much.  So here it is:

1 small box of pasta (any kind, I have used wheels, elbows, mostaccioli it doesnt matter use your fave shape) 1 large onion, diced and sauteed until translucent in 1tbsp of olive oil, 1 lb of ground beef or ground turkey (we have switched to turkey around my house), heaping 1/8 c home made taco seasoning or 1 store bought package, 1 cup water, 1 8oz pkg cream cheese, 1/4 cup shredded tex mex cheese**optional add ins depending on whether you like beans 1 can pinto beans or kidney beans (your preference)–, and/or 1 can fat free refried beans

boil pasta until just cooked then drain and set aside, brown ground beef/turkey after the onion is cooked, drain any fat in the pan,  add taco seasoning (heaping 1/8 of a cup if you make your own), and 1 cup water w/ ground beef, beans and onion for 5 min, add cream cheese and tex mex cheese to beef mixture, stir until melted remove from heat, put pasta in casserole dish, pour the beef, bean and cheese mixture over the top and mix in.  bake at 375* uncovered for 15 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Serve with sour cream, and/or extra tex mex shredded cheese and sliced avocado ( I like all of the above on top) it is OMG delicious!

Bone Growth Stimulator/Supplements

********update, if your insurance company does not pay for this device or you have a large co payment in order to get it I would say save your money, it turns out that the claims that this device makes are not proven medically or scientifically so I would not recommend it.  The best thing you can do is make sure you do your physical therapy, make a decision to lead an active lifestyle after surgery for example, walking every day.  Exercise will help you recover and rehabilitate more in the long run than expensive devices and or supplements.  Spend time strengthening your core because a strong core will also do more in the long run in managing pain and providing the strength of the muscles around your spine and therefore reducing pain and the chance that you will have further damage to discs in the future, I am  4 years out from surgery now and this is my own advice I am offering and taking.  I am happy to answer questions of anyone currently or having experienced back injury and or surgery so feel free to email me at c.reed.cate99@gmail.com or by posting a comment here, I will respond as quickly as possible.

The newest addition to my recovery from the ALIF surgery is a CMF Spinalogic bone growth stimulator .  It is worn like a belt around my waist for 30 minutes a day.  I will need to wear it for at least the next 6 months.  According to what I have read about it, it creates a magnetic field that apparently increases the rate of new bone growth by 21% vs patients who do not use one.  It is really not hard to fit it into my day, right now I usually put it on after my shower but before I get completely dressed, in fact I am wearing it right now over my bathrobe.  After I return to work, I plan to put it on as soon as I get home.  You simply wrap it around your waist like a belt and there is a circular part that sits right over the discs that you had fused and fasten the Velcro so it fits snugly, then you press and hold the button on the controller which is attached by what looks like an old style phone cord until it beeps. Then it times your session and beeps again after 30 minutes.  That separate piece has a belt clip that attaches to the belt part so you can walk around during the treatment.  The only thing I notice when wearing it is a feeling of warmth on my lower back, there is no pain involved.  It was covered by my insurance company which is BCBS Anthem but they required a prior authorization by my surgeon’s office which took about 2 weeks to complete. I believe it is probably very expensive for people who do not have insurance or whose insurance company doesn’t cover it because I have seen them on Ebay for $200-500. I just got it this week and have not missed a day yet.  The nurse that told me about it told me that I am to bring it with me to my follow up appointment and that they will check the timer unit and it will tell them if I have used it faithfully or not.  Of course as far as I am concerned if I don’t use it I would only be holding up my own recovery and I want to do everything I can to regain my normal activity level so what would be the point of cheating? This is what the device looks like:

So between this, the daily walks for at least 20 min and taking extra calcium supplements I think I am doing all I can to promote the bone growth between the vertebrae that were fused (L4-S1 in my case which are the lowest 2 discs in the lumbar spine).  I have also added a new supplement called Dolomite powder by KAL.  It contains 1100mg/110% of calcium, 2mg/11% iron and 630mg/150% magnesium.  I am mixing 1tsp into OJ and a little milk to make it palatable since its rather chalky, this mixture makes it taste like a creamsicle.  I take this  in addition to the OsCal calcium supplement with D3.  It contains 600iu/150% of vitamin D3 and 500mg/50% of calcium.  The drawback with all this calcium with my pain meds causes Miralax to be a daily supplement as well since these things all cause constipation.  I hope all of this information helps those of you out there going through the same condition as me and I know there are a lot of us.  If we all help by sharing information hopefully we can look forward to a pain free and more active future!  Thanks as usual for reading and please feel free to share your own stories or tips by commenting on this post.

Resources:

https://www.djoglobal.com/products/cmf/cmf-spinalogic

http://www.vitaminshoppe.com/store/en/browse/sku_detail.jsp?id=KA-1135

Home Made Biscuit/Baking mix

***Update 2-12-17 Now I have been using this recipe for several years and have found that anything that I make with it comes out lighter and much more delicious than anything I ever made with store bought Bisquick so it has become something I always have on hand and have made some changes to the recipe to improve it.

So, I was thinking, what else in my kitchen, that I use  quite a bit, can I make myself?  I was looking around on Pinterest, and saw numerous recipes for home made baking mix to take the place of store bought Bisquick.  I have always had Bisquick around and my mom always did too.  I figured the ingredients are pretty simple and if I make it myself not only will it be less expensive but also healthier since there won’t be any preservatives or chemicals that I can’t pronounce. This recipe costs me even less to make, all told, it takes approximately $5 worth of ingredients and in bulk it replaces about 3 boxes of Bisquick.

After some test runs, this is the best and my own bulk version of this recipe:

5lb bag of flour

3/4 c baking powder

1/4 c sugar

3 Tablespoons salt

3 cups butter flavored shortening

Mix it all in a very large bowl, I have a big stainless steel bowl that I also use for bread making.  I used a potato masher instead of a pastry blender to mix it and it blended it perfectly, keep blending by turning the bowl and pushing the masher down the sides of the bowl until it has a crumbly appearance. Like this:

finished baking mix in the canister

finished baking mix in the canister

This mix can be stored for 8 weeks or so in an airtight container, longer in the refridgerator which is where I keep it. I am using a large cereal storage container, it can also be kept in the freezer and it will last for 6 months. I have also written down the most commonly used recipes (biscuits, coffee cake and pancakes) and used packing tape to attach to the side of the container so we don’t have to go looking for recipes.

I use this often in my house, my son loves to make pancakes, we like biscuits, coffee cake on sunday mornings or holidays as well as a coating for chicken when mixed with spices and there is a pot pie recipe you can make with it that is delicious! If you don’t use baking mix often you can cut the recipe down by half or thirds. This mix substitutes for Bisquick in any recipe that calls for it.  follow this link for Bisquick recipes:  http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/product-recipes/bisquick-recipes

Try it and let me know how yours turns out or if you come up with a new idea for something to make with it!  as always, thanks for reading 🙂

Make your Own Taco Seasoning

**UPDATED 1-12-17

Making your own taco seasoning  not only saves money but it tastes so much better than the packaged taco seasonings and doesn’t have all the chemicals and preservatives that the store bought packets have, and which by the way include silica (You know those packets that come with shoes and bags, etc that says “do not eat”  and is actually what sand is made of …..yepper!  that is an ingredient in commercial taco seasoning!)  This was yet another Pinterest idea that I tested and I can say it worked out really well although I have also made some changes to the ingredients as an improvement. I have been making my own for several years now and have no plans to go back to store-bought much like with the home-made baking mix, soooo much better and less expensive than bisquick!  If you haven’t seen that post, follow this link https://syrinxasylum.wordpress.com/2013/04/09/home-made-biscuitbaking-mix/

tacoshaker

I have started keeping and washing some empty containers of different types to store all of these new home made products in, recycling at its finest!

******I store this taco seasoning in an empty parmesan cheese shaker container, the benefit to this is that not only can you measure the heaping 1/8 cup that you need to make tacos out of one side but you can also use the sprinkle side to treat it like a condiment to add zing to other foods, this version could be classified as medium as far as level of heat, to make it hotter just add more cayenne and red pepper flakes to your liking or to make mild use a little less. I store the excess in an empty mayonnaise jar to refill the sprinkling container and because we use it a lot and it’s easier to mix up a bunch at one time to save time later. We use this in chili, add it to rice while its cooking to make Mexican rice and on so many other things just like you would use salt but we are a family of Mexican flavor lovers.

I make this in large batches and since I buy my spices at a discount all the time (for instance the $1 and even .50 spices that is at walmart and even big lots.  I am sure that making this quantity is saving us money, and we know for sure what the ingredients are so is also healthier i.e. no additives or preservatives.

mixstorage ingredients

Ingredients (on the left are the amounts for regular size batch which makes about 1-2 taco dinners ****on the right in parentheses is the amount for a large batch)

3 Tablespoons Chili powder (1 cup)

2 teaspoons paprika (1/2 cup)

2 teaspoons onion powder (1/2 cup)

1 heaping tsp salt (2tablespoons)

1 teaspoon garlic powder (1/4 cup)

1 teaspoon cumin (1/4 cup)

(this believe it or not is what makes it have that “taco” scent, who knew?…well, YOU will as soon as you open the container 🙂  )

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (1 tablespoon)

optional depending on how much heat you like:

1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (1 tablespoon)

pinch red pepper flakes (2 teaspoons)

Measure all your ingredients into a bowl, mix slightly, use a small funnel to pour from the bowl into your storage container, then shake well before each use to make sure they stay well mixed right before you use it.  and that is all there is to that, see?  couldn’t be easier!

******Here is another Pinterest recipe from my blog for Taco Pasta bake that use this seasoning for.  We love this so much we make it almost every week now! follow this link for that recipe:  https://syrinxasylum.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/taco-pasta-bake/

taco pasta bake

This state park is a hidden gem in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. It offers hiking trails of 1.5 miles and 5 miles in addition to camp site picnic areas and all located along the beautiful Edisto River which is the longest black water river in the US. We enjoyed a beautiful afternoon hike there and I would highly recommend this area to anyone who loves the outdoors like we do.

Danger High Voltage Creativity! I found Steampunk Nirvana!

steampunk1 steampunk2 steampunk3 steampunk4 steampunk5

Steampunk Nirvana: Honest to god I thought I died and went to Steampunk Nirvana recently. The hubs knew of a place where there was so much stuff and the owner needs to clear it all out so he can finalize the sale of the property. I cannot disclose the location but as soon as I saw it I hardly knew where to look first. There were so many pieces of machinery, outbuildings full of boxes of all things metal-working. I managed to score an entire box of old propellers (it doesn’t get more steampunk than propellers, at least in my opinion). Every type of gear and cog both large and small, plumbing pieces, signs, old sodium light bulbs etc. I took all of my finds home and washed them. All the rusty gears and cogs got a coat of clear so the rust doesn’t come off on my hands. So now I am looking at these pieces and picturing what I can make out of them. I have ideas for clocks and lamps. What would you say to a propeller pendulum clock?……I am saying yes to that idea as well. As I finish these creations I will post them and of course they will be for sale in my Etsy store SyrinxAsylumArts. I am finally getting more traffic through there and even a few sales so that is encouraging. So here are the pictures of my finds, I know it probably sounds extremely geeky to be so excited by this but I had so far had to buy the gears and cogs online so its so cool to find a fairly local source.  I am so inspired.

Stay tuned for what becomes of my “shinies” bwahahahah!