This week has been a particularly tough week. Although I love team sports, my body sure wasn’t playing ball this time around. Between a day of having every symptom I have to a string of days of feeling like my limbs wanted to “pass out” on me, I struggled to keep up with my doctors appointments and my other usual low-key activities. I was very excited because I had one day this weekend where I felt fairly good and I managed to actually catch up with friends who I haven’t seen in months. This was my first social outing in a long time. It was so wonderful to feel a little bit of normal.
While most people think nothing about having a friend over for a few hours, I have to prep by resting for several days in advance and I have to rest for several days afterwards as well. But sometimes the increase of symptoms that I always get after an outing is worth it just to have a few short hours of semi-normal. In order for me to have outings, or any social activity, I have to prepare a great deal and I have to make sure that I have prepped for a wide range of scenarios. I always have to make sure I have an escape plan from everything I do as well. If I go out, I need to make sure I bring food and water with me, or a way to get the food and water that my body will handle safely. I have to make sure there is a way for me to rest and a way for me to get away from stimuli. Most importantly, I need to make sure that I have a way to leave at any moment, hopefully with someone to help me get home. This makes every outing a chore and often not worth going. However, sometimes after weighing the odds, I throw caution to the wind so as to spend the afternoon with a friend or a few minutes floating around in the lake. These moments make me so happy and make me appreciate every moment of sunshine I can get. Just a few minutes of normal can make the struggle worth fighting. However, I definitely always pay the price.
This week, the price I paid was pretty steep. However, I am holding on to the beautiful moments that made it all worth it. A lot of these moments revolved around… wait for it, wait for it….. baking! Wow! I know! Shocker! Right? Two good friends of mine put aside a real adventure so as to include me in the fun. They traveled several hours to come have an afternoon of baking adventures with me. It made me so happy.
When they arrived, we discussed what to make and decided we needed to make something A) we had never made before and B) something spectacular! The one other contingency was that it would be great if it involved custard. After a very short deliberation, where I opened Mary Berry’s cookbook and pointed to a Party Pavlova Tower and said,”What about this?” we decided that yes, indeed, this was spectacular looking and that we could probably substitute the cream/yogurt filling for custard. With this decision in hand, we headed off to the grocery store to get a gazillion eggs and various other ingredients. As we walked into the grocery store, we decided that we should probably make some type of dinner and we quickly decided on a recipe I had been meaning to try for the past week… Chicken Apple Empanadas. After an entertaining shopping trip, where I had to poke at some raw meat (my least favorite thing after cooking raw meat) and one of my friends disappeared frequently only to then pop back up with a wide variety of fancy cheeses and other tasty things, we made it home and got down to business.
We had several whoopsie moments during our adventure. The first was not realizing that the Pavlova took a million hours to bake. Once we realized this, we buckled down and prepared for the long haul. The second issue we ran into had two parts. The first being that we mixed the egg yokes and sugar before the cream was ready which caused the texture of the custard to concern us. It turns out that if you mix the yokes and sugar in advance, it can cause a grainy texture to the Custard. The second part that went slightly wrong was the vast quantity of Custard we were making. Because we essentially tripled the batch it caused my poor friend to have to spend probably two hours or more at the stove stirring. Eventually, although slightly grainy, it thickened up nicely.
Halfway through making the pavlova, we decided that we needed to have an intermission to make dinner. I started the dough and got it cooling in the refrigerator as my friends started cooking the chicken and slicing the apples. As we waited for the dough to chill enough to roll, we all secretly nibbled on the filling which by itself was amazing. I would almost say just make the filling and eat it with pasta or rice if you don’t have time to make the whole enchilada…or in this case the whole empanada **Heartfelt apologize for that terrible dad joke**
Although the Empanadas worked, the gluten free dough was really hard to work with and I wasn’t able to fill them very well. Because the dough has no stretch from the lack of gluten, it is prone to tearing and crumbling. Next time I make these, I am going to experiment by making a different dough in hopes that I can add more filling. I highly recommend this recipe. The only changes I made were to substitute gluten free flour for the normal flour, I used red onion instead of yellow, and I used a Smoked Gruyere cheese instead of Cheddar. I decided to used Granny Smith apples as they are less sweet and complimented the onion and cheese really well. The last change I made was to make the Empanadas 5 inches instead of 3 as the GF nature of the dough made it impossible to stretch over filling at such a small size. I liked this size anyway, because it made it feel more like a meal than an appetizer. Here is the recipe: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/chicken-and-apple-empanadas-recipe
After consuming the deliciously steaming hot Empanadas, we tackled the second faze of the Pavlova. My friend went back to endlessly stirring Custard, I went back to endlessly whipping egg whites and our other friend cheered us on by keeping us entertained with gossip and life happenings. What seemed like endless hours later, the Pavlova meringue layers were fully cooked, the Custard thickened, and the fruit sliced….it was time to assemble. At this point, let it be known that we were all slightly punchy and ready to consume our masterpiece.
The building process
I must apologize, I got ahead of myself. I haven’t explained what the heck a Pavlova actually is yet…. Let me explain. A Pavlova or rather a Party Pavlova is a tower of beauty. It has layers of baked meringue, cream (or in our case custard), and berries. See the Spectacular Exhibit A below. We were very proud and giddy over our successful adventure. However, I recommend having about 40 people around to help you consume your Pavlova as it is extremely rich and sweet. It also doesn’t survive well over time so best to be eaten in one go.
The after math of this adventure made me struggle for the rest of the week. I didn’t get up to much, other than binge watching Bomb Girls on Netflix and laying in bed. However, I decided I was sick of the meals I had been making recently and needed something new on the plate. A few days previously a friend had sent me a recipe for Gluten Free Sweet Potato Gnocchi and I figured this was just the thing to try. Gnocchi is unbelievably easy to make and very quick to cook. Did I mention it is beautiful too? The orange of the sweet potato gives the Gnocchi this warm, rich, sunset color. I wasn’t sure what to put on top of the pasta, but went off the recommendation in the recipe and served it with Butter, Salt, Pepper, Rosemary, and fresh Basil. It was so yummy. It would probably be tasty with some type of sauce or some melted cheese as well. Here is the recipe: http://bbritnell.com/3-ingredient-sweet-potato-gnocchi/
Before it was cooked
Last of all, since I knew I was headed to visit my parents for a day and was planning on press-ganging my papa bear into helping me paper mache the beginning of Tom and my oh-so-secret Halloween costumes, I figured I couldn’t show up empty handed. I searched the ever helpful interwebs for new types of cookies and stumbled upon a recipe for Snickerdoodles. I instantly was reminded of many childhood days hanging out with my friends eating homemade snickerdoodles while our parents played music and drank tea. I decided this was just the thing to make. The recipe was super easy and equally easy to make gluten free. Although they came out drier than I was hoping, they still melted in your mouth and with a cup of tea were pure bliss.
Over all, this week was a marathon of hell with a short wind sprint of fun. But as any former soccer player knows, it’s all about endurance and making it the full 90 minutes….and I refuse to sub out now.
**Apologizes for the cheesy sports analogies….but I only said I was gluten free, not dairy free……oh man that one was even worse. I’ll stop while I’m only so far behind.**
I am a long time Spoonie and mysterious Zebra who has been dealing with CFS, EDS, PCOS, VCD, and a whole slew of other health issues since I was 10 years old. My blog is about my journeys through life with health issues. It's about my struggles, my goals, my interests, and the adventures I have while being mostly bedridden and house bound. It is a place where I can share and hopefully advocate for other people like me, who are dealing with similar types of chronic illnesses. This is a safe space for sharing, honesty, and support.
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