Monday, April 16, 2012

Eat-the-entire-pan enchiladas

Another win for Pinterest:

Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas and I really wanted to eat the entire pan. Really. These are THAT good.

I think the secret is that you roast the veggies before baking the enchiladas. Great flavor with just cumin, salt, and pepper for seasoning

A food photographer I will never be - but you get the point between the plate and the pan - layers of veggie goodness.


Melissa's tweaks:
I only used 1T of grapeseed oil to toss the veggies in before roasting. The recipe calls for 3T, which honestly is overkill - 1T does the job just fine and cuts out 24o extra calories for the dish overall. Instead of baby spinach, I had some spring mix greens that were nearing their wilting date, so I just tossed those in. I only used 1 red bell pepper because I try to stay away from them (they are an "inflammatory vegetable"). I significantly reduced the amount of cheese (sorry, I didn't measure) and I nixed the sour cream. So all in all, this is a good healthy recipe with lots of different colored vegetables. The more color, the better! And, it happens to be gluten free too :)


Stacked Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas


1 poblano chile, cut into matchsticks
2 red bell peppers, cut into matchsticks
1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 medium onion, halved and slivered
1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
3 T heat-safe oil like grapeseed or coconut
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and black pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 cups homemade or store bought salsa/pico de gallo
2 ounces baby spinach leaves (about 2 big handfuls)
9-10 corn tortillas, halved (try making homemade tortillas!)
2 cups shredded cheese (I used a cheddar-Monterey Jack blend)
sour cream and thinly sliced scallions (green onions) for garnish, if desired


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly oil a large shallow roasting pan or rimmed cookie sheet.

Place poblanos, red bell peppers, cauliflower, sweet potato, onion, and corn kernels onto cookie sheet. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle the cumin and minced garlic over top. Add a generous pinch or two of salt and black pepper, then use your hands to mix everything together. After everything is coated well, spread the vegetables evenly in the pan. Roast for 30-40 minutes until vegetables are tender and begin to brown in spots. Stir or shake the pan every 10 minutes for even roasting. Remove pan from oven and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

Prepare an 8x8x2 or 9x9x2-inch square baking pan with nonstick spray. In a small bowl, stir the cilantro into the salsa. Spread 1/4 cup of salsa into the bottom of the baking pan. Add a layer of tortilla pieces, to completely cover the salsa. Top with 1/3 of the vegetables, a handful of spinach, and 1/3 of the cheese. Make a second layer of tortilla, salsa, vegetables, spinach, and cheese. Top with with a layer of tortillas, salsa, vegetables, and cheese. Cover with aluminum foil.

Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, until cheese is melted and everything is heated through.

Let it sit for 5 minutes and cut into squares. Serve with sour cream and a sprinkle of sliced scallions.

Serves 4-5

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Amazing Chocolate Muffins

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Photo courtesy of

I have to blog this recipe, 'cause these muffins are awesome. It's a recipe I pinned from Pinterest. My friend Lisa made them first and I just tried my hand at them and they are incredibly tasty and healthy to boot.

I made mine gluten free by using gluten free oats (gf oat and oats are the same thing, it's just the gf oats aren't processed on equipment that also processes wheat, so using gf doesn't change the taste). I used Stevia (in lieu of Splenda) and accidentally reduced the amount (learn how to read Melissa!), I used Greek yogurt, and I also left out the chocolate chips.

I will say, they are even more amazing with the chocolate chips (like the kind Lisa made) but I was going for "little sugar as possible, something more appropriate for breakfast". I can't wait to experiment with this recipe and maybe add some nuts or flax seed. I had the roomie try them and while she thought they were good, they were too chocolately for her (she doesn't like chocolate cake things - I know, :gasp: right?). These are a very rich chocolate - perfect with a glass of skim milk to keep the whole healthy thing going :)

The website that has this recipe says that the muffins are about 58 calories apiece. I did my own calculations and got about 80, it's close.

Here you go! Enjoy!

Triple Chocolate Chunk Muffin

(recipe from


  • 1 3/4 c oats
  • 3 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (or regular plain low fat yogurt)
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar (or 1-1/2 Tbsp. vinegar)
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 cup sugar substitute (like Splenda granular) OR 1/4 cup + 2 tbs stevia
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or use white chocolate or peanut butter chips!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with foil cupcake liners, or spray muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
In a blender, (or food processor), mix all of the ingredients together, except for the chocolate chips. Blend until oats are ground and mixture is smooth.
Place mixture in a bowl and gently stir in 1/2 of the chocolate chips (set the rest aside). Scoop mixture into prepared muffin pans.
Place muffins tins in the oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove muffins from the oven (but don’t shut oven off), and distribute the other half of the chocolate chips on top of each muffin.
Place the muffins back into the oven and bake for an additional 2-5 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. *Note, you could skip this step by putting all of the chips in the batter, and baking the muffins for 12-15 min straight, but this method gives the muffins the traditional ‘VitaTop Muffin’ look with the chocolate chips on top!
Cool muffins before removing from pan. ENJOY!!!
Servings: 12 Big Muffins or 24 Smaller Muffins

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Spring Cleaning!

Okay, so maybe "Spring" is pushing it a little bit...after all, it is just about mid-April, which usually means summer for all the places I've ever lived, but considering the temperature is in the 80s and there's little humidity...well, I'm calling that Spring. And with Spring, comes Spring Cleaning! I've never done Spring cleaning. Ever. I've been seeing posts on Facebook about Spring cleaning and so I decided to make a list too. And my awesome roomie has offered to help out some too. Now, since I am pretty limited right now in what I can physically accomplish since my joints are hurting so much, my goal is to complete my list by the end of April, so that gives me about 2.5 weeks...I think that's pretty decent, especially considering I am probably going to just pay the neighbor kid to take care of a few things (like power-washing the driveway and deck).

I'm not going to blog all the tasks (because, really, who wants to see what's under/behind a refrigerator that hasn't been moved in two years? Ick). But I figured I'd at least post the Spring Cleaning Kick-off Tasks!

Spring cleaning list tacked up next to the standard chore list (yes, my roomie and I keep a calendar of chores- both of us are super busy, so this house could get really messy if we aren't organized!). I even broke the list into Inside and Outside chores-hey, at least I didn't use a was tempting though ;-) ).

1) Trim gardenia bush

Gardenia plants have always hated me. I bought no less than 3 plants while living at my apartment and all of them died. I tweaked water, sunlight, and food. Didn't help. They just died. So I was thrilled to discover when I first moved in that a MASSIVE gardenia bush (it's really tree-like, meaning, I hope it is here to stay!) grows just outside one of my kitchen windows. The branches literally bend to the ground under the weight of the amazingly fragrant blossoms. was getting a bit out of control. So time to trim.

Thankfully, I purchased a branch trimmer a long time ago that was approved by the American Arthritis Foundation, which means that people with ouch joints can actually use this tool and not have to apply too much pressure to trim a branch. So I trimmed. It didn't need a lot, so it only took about 15 minutes (crazy how long one can put off a 15 minute task :) ). And then I cut some of the blooms to Springify my kitchen :)

See the branches piled outside? My wrists wouldn't handle the bagging of them today, but I can do that tomorrow. And just 3 of these gardenia blooms make the kitchen smell AMAZING!!!

2) Clean out spice/tea/baking stuff cupboard

A hodgepodge of expired teas and spices, all cluttered together

Decluttered, shelves cleaned, and better organized. I could probably get some cute storage boxes to make it look even more organized...hmm...

Spring Cleaning is off to a successful start!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Two years later...

March 29th was my second house-a-versary, so I thought it would be fun to do "before" and "progress" pictures of the different rooms two years after closing. I am not finished with any of these rooms (hence, "Progress" rather than "After"), but I'm really happy with the results thus far. I'm enjoying making this house into a home.

Breakfast nook: Before and Progress

Master bedroom - before and progress

Kitchen - before (oh pink formica, I do NOT miss you) and progress

Living room - before and progress

More living room before and progress

Dining room before and progress

TV room (slightly wasted space) before and progress (I have NOT touched this room at all, it is literally my apartment living room transplanted into this house)

Hallway before and progress

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My antibodies are raging war here...

Yes, it’s true. My antibodies aren't a fan of me.

So the last you heard of the medical saga was that I was going to get a CT done for the stomach pain. I got that done and it was all clear. Good news, but still begs the question - where is this pain coming from?

Another trip to the Rheumo doc (that’s waaay easier to type than rheumatologist) earned a “we’re missing something. Something else is going on”. So he started brainstorming. And I mentioned getting a second opinion (I’ve been doing some research on my own), and he heartily agreed because I think he’s at the end of his options with me. So he sent me to an infectious diseases doctor.

Why infectious diseases? It was actually a brilliant piece of his thinking outside the box in my opinion. I travel a lot. We just suppressed my immune system even more about 8 weeks ago, which was when I started having more (and new) symptoms. So maybe I had picked up something during my travels that was dormant or that whatever semblance I have of an immune system was able to fight in the background, but now that I am uber immunosuppressed, my body was like “yeah right, have at it”. I went to this really awesome doctor at St. Luke’s and he asked a TON of questions and then looked at me and said “I’m pretty sure this is not infectious. But because you do have a couple of “flags”, I am going to do some basic tests/cultures. If they turn up negative, we’re not putting you through the meat grinder”. So I was chest-xrayed and had about half of the blood in my body drained (yes, that’s an exaggeration, but it was a LOT of vials!). And everything was negative. Yay, I am not infectious. :)

Meanwhile, my symptoms keep worsening. Major issues with fever and swollen joints (as in hip and SI joints so inflamed that I have trouble walking in the evening). And I hurt. All the time. My wrists, fingers, ankles, toes, hips, and shoulders are the worse, and even the connective tissue between my ribs and my jaw is not happy. I was pretty miserable in the evenings during this past weekend in AZ, so I called my Rheumo doc on Monday and he worked me in yesterday.

We started the paperwork to send me to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN (they specialize in rheumo-stuff). We had talked about doing this at my last appointment if the ID doc couldn’t find something. And he also mentioned some awesome rheumo docs at the UT rheumo clinic (in Houston)– so I’ve got an appointment in May with them, and hopefully they can work me in sooner. And then we talked other medication options.

In hopes of tiding me over until I can get a second opinion at UT or Mayo, we’ve drastically increased the dosages on both my immuno-suppressive drugs. So if I was uber immuno-suppressed before, call me uberificially immunosuppressed now. We’re also looking at using some biological medications that will kill my B cells – B cells produce antibodies and my antibodies attack me. Autoimmune diseases can be caused by overactive/dysfunctional B cell production (B cells come from white cell lymphocytes ). He’s starting the process of getting me approved for one of them –it’s not a common med to treat Sjogren’s, but it has been done before for patients who are “not responding to aggressive therapy” (that would be me). It’s ridiculously expensive and difficult to get a hold of, so there is a lot of insurance hoopla to go through. Thankfully, there was no more talk of the scary new lupus drug he had mentioned earlier. I have done some additional research and refuse to go on it, but looks like it’s off the table. Thankful about that!

So there we go – future consultations at the UT Autoimmune and Rheumatology Clinic and the Mayo Clinic in work. Uberificially immuno-suppressed. And my antibodies don't like me :).

So thankful that my rheumo doc doesn’t have ego issues about me getting a second opinion – not that it would have stopped me, but it makes it less stressful. And I am thankful that even though I am hurting and am uncomfortable, God gives me the grace to still get work done and spend time with friends and family.