Homemade Olive Oil Mayonnaise (aka Rockstar Mayo)

*Note: Regular readers have seen me post about cooking/food before. It’s a hobby and passion of mine, and I believe, a key to our overall health. In that spirit, here is a recipe post, which originated from a picture on I recently posted on my Instagram feed (@hawktilly). But it’s related to my health journey, and the beginnings of a doctor-ordered ketogenic diet. I’m working on more posts around that, and I’ve got other surprises in store as well. But, since this post a bit different than what my usual readers see, I thought I’d offer a short note of explanation. Hope you enjoy! 🙂

I love to cook. I’m the person who reads cookbooks like novels. But homemade mayonnaise? Well, it always, ALWAYS intimidated me. More than almost anything (well, except flan, but that’s a story for another day). When I first tried Paleo a few years ago, it was time to finally get comfortable. So, I experimented with a few different recipes from my favorite blogger/authors, and Mel Joulwan’s was my favorite. Over time, and through lots of trial and error, I modified her recipe to create something uniquely my own. What you see below suits my family’s taste and works for me 99% of the time. On the rare occasions it doesn’t, it’s usually because I haven’t followed the tips here. When you master mayo-making, you will feel like a total Rockstar. As Lora can attest, I still make her admire my handiwork with each batch. So, read it through, follow the tips, and get to work. In less time than it takes to sing “Bohemian Rhapsody”, you’ll have your very own batch of homemade mayonnaise.

A few simple tips and tricks will help you master the recipe and technique quickly, so let’s start with those (gratefully gathered through many hours of learning from experts and my own trials):
          Before you start, make sure your all of your mayo ingredients are room temperature. I usually measure out my eggs, mustard, and lemon juice and get those into the blender roughly an hour before I’m planning to make my mayonnaise.
          The “best by” date of your eggs is the “best by” date of your mayo. If you like, write that date on your jar. Usually, ours is gone well before we hit the date. Of course, like anything else, if it smells off or has separated, do not use it. Common sense always rules.mayo-oct2017
          When adding oil, stream as slowly as possible to incorporate and emulsify into the eggs.
          Fresh lemon juice does not work well for mayonnaise. The acid level of individual lemons varies from one to the next. So, bottled is preferable for this application.
          As it pertains to raw egg concerns, you really have three options: (1) Buy organic, pasture-raised eggs (from a trusted local source, if possible) for the safest raw option.  (2) Buy pasteurized eggs. (3) Pasteurize eggs yourself…there are plenty of online resources. Any of the three should eliminate bacteria worries!
          Use your favorite neutral-flavored oil. Mine happens to be organic light (not extra virgin) olive oil. I have also followed the same recipe using avocado oil. I liked it, but came back to my fave.
          For me, the traditional blender works best. Some people swear by a stick blender, but I’ve not had success with that method. You can even find lovers of good old fashioned whisks, but my arthritic hands cannot go that route. Mad respect, though.

As for how to use your glorious creation? Well, it’s mayonnaise, so let your imagination run wild! I happen to think that homemade mayonnaise has a far superior taste and texture to anything store-bought. But if you go that route (or like us, just feel more comfortable with extra mayo in the fridge), my Southern wife would like me to clearly state for the record that Duke’s is hands down the best of the grocery store bunch. Now that I’m doing a doc-ordered ketogenic diet (detailed post coming soon!), I need healthy fats. So, I’m back to making and eating lots of mayo. Yay! I use it as my base for creamy dressings; from Italian to green goddess. I mix it in to my tuna/egg/chicken salads. And it’s life changing in deviled eggs. Of course, once you master this, there are plenty of variations. Roasted garlic, chipotle, jalapeno, etc. The possibilities are endless! Okay, without further ado….

Rockstar Mayo Recipe (makes approx. 2 cups)

In a traditional blender, mix the following room temperature ingredients at low speed until blended (10-15 seconds):

          2 eggs, out of shell
          2 tbsp bottled lemon juice
          1 tsp kosher or sea salt (I’ve used both with equally successful results)
          2 tsp Dijon mustard
          ½ c light olive oil (not extra virgin)

With blender on lowest setting, slooooooooowly stream in 1 ½ cups of additional olive oil. I try to get the smallest continuous stream of olive oil I can (see tips and tricks section). It should take roughly 4-5 minutes to get all of the olive oil into the blender. Do not be tempted to dump the oil in at any point. Your patience will be rewarded. Believe me! When it’s done, give it a taste, and season with a pinch more salt, if needed. I just whir it in for 5 seconds with the blender, if needed.

Okay, that’s it. Please let me know how it goes for you. I can’t wait to hear! Have fun, Rockstars! 😊

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Other Side of Invisibility

Generally speaking, I’m not big into selfies. I prefer to take pics of my son and my dogs. That said, friends on social media will likely be familiar with the “progression of mediocre selfies” series; multiple attempts at family self-portraits taken during our adventures. Our crappy selfie skills have become a family punch line. But truth be told, I adore their candid silliness. 😊

For the last 18 months, I’ve been sick enough that I’ve largely disengaged from my previous everyday life. I don’t have to tell you all that, of course, because I’ve been absent here. Pain and fatigue are quite a tag team, as many of you know. They’ve largely limited my ability to write in complete sentences. But I’m slowly writing a post on my continuing pharmaceutical roulette, and I hope to feel well enough to get back to a more regular rhythm soon. I cannot thank you enough for sticking it out with me. 

At this point, you may be thinking “Girl, you weren’t kidding about not writing coherently. I mean, how do those two paragraphs even relate to each other?” But bear with me, because I took a mediocre selfie for this post. 

My selfie skills haven’t improved, but the caption says it all. When you’re chronically sick and mostly homebound, you can feel invisible. When everyone around you is racing to work, you can feel invisible. When your daily accomplishments include “got out of bed”, “slept for more than 3 hours straight”, or “made it to the doctor”, you can feel invisible. 

Much has been written about the frustration of the invisible chronic illness. But less is said about the invisibility we feel.  We are so often forced to the sidelines, as the world spins around us. So, this selfie proves, to me and to you, that I’m still here. Even without a job. Even without makeup. And it’s no accident that I’m holding a crochet project. If I take it slow and use the right tools, crochet is good exercise for my joints. It’s also a calming influence on my mind. I feel accomplished when I complete projects — in crochet, in the kitchen, or with my writing. And that’s crucial for my type-A personality. 

Is the feeling the same as closing a big deal or leading a strategy session with a business partner? As crossing a half-marathon finish line? As singing a solo in front of a crowd? Nope. But like my selfie, these hobbies remind me of where I am on life’s journey. They help me remember that I am here. And no matter what, I’m grateful for that. ✌️

Heart To Heart Thoughts From Inside My Chronic Life

  • bedvsout-selfie

    The look changes. The diseases do not. On the left, in my natural habitat. On the right, after spending energy to “clean up”. Oh, and sunglasses hide a lot. 😉

    Rheumatoid Arthritis is one of 100+ types of arthritis.

  • But it’s also not “arthritis”, as I knew it pre-diagnosis.
  • Yes, it’s joint inflammation, immobility, and deformity.
  • But it is not cartilage degeneration, like osteoarthritis.
  • Which is common starting in middle age.
  • RA is an autoimmune disease.
  • This means my body is attacking itself.
  • Specifically, the lining of my joints.
  • RA can be systemic, which means it shows itself well beyond the joints.
  • My eyes, lungs, heart, and autonomic functions are all impacted.
  • And RA affects people in every age group.
  • Including over 300,000 kids in the US.
  • I’m always in pain. Like, 24/7.
  • But the fatigue, both from RA and fibromyalgia, is sometimes just as hard to handle.
  • My outward appearance generally doesn’t match how I feel.
  • I evaluate every task, every day, to determine whether to perform as normal, perform with modifications, or skip.
  • Yes, this includes showers, which zap my energy.
  • Some days, I can manage a short one in the evening before bed.
  • Some days, I can’t.
  • I contemplate my toothbrush twice a day.
  • Sometimes, I can’t manage the back and forth motion required for my manual brush.
  • Other times, the vibration of my electric toothbrush is unbearable.
  • This constant evaluation is mentally exhausting.
  • Fatigue does not mean “in need of a nap”.
  • It’s limb heaviness.
  • It’s brain fog.
  • It’s like having a bad flu, constantly.
  • At least once a day, I break down in tears because of the pain.
  • Pain keeps me from sleep 3-5 nights a week.
  • Opioids do not take it away.
  • Most days, they dull the pain.
  • And are necessary for me to function at all.
  • I use them in combination with other therapies and treatments.
  • So don’t be surprised if I smell like menthol.
  • It’s just the Bio-Freeze.
  • Medical marijuana is not legal where I live.
  • But it’s on the ballot again.
  • I’m scared that millions of chronic pain patients like me are getting lost.
  • While we debate the serious and separate issue of opioid addiction.
  • I have a permanent disabled parking permit.
  • Which I only use when I need it.
  • I have received angry stares and comments because I don’t “look” sick enough to have one.
  • If you have heard about a treatment, I have tried it.
  • Yes, this includes medications, alternative therapies, diets, protein shakes, vitamins, balms, and yoga.
  • Even if it worked for your mother/sister/uncle/grandpa/spouse/roommate, autoimmune disease affects everyone differently.
  • And though I use some of them, my diseases continue to be mostly unresponsive to treatment.
  • Save the unconditional love and support of my wife and son, a treatment that work wonders.
  • Despite all of these challenges, I try to stay positive, especially online.
  • I share photos of wonderful vacations I take with my wife and son.
  • But I don’t share the activities I skip to rest in bed.
  • Or the number of days I cannot even bear to get out of my pajamas.
  • The same goes for work, entertaining, date nights, soccer matches, and well, everything.
  • Many days, my bed is both my office and my dinner table.
  • And my computer and TV are my views to the outside world.
  • So I often feel apart and alone.
  • If I cancel plans we’ve made, it’s because I’m in really bad shape.
  • It is never because you are not important to me.
  • And it breaks my heart that you might think otherwise.
  • That you might stop inviting, stop calling, stop writing…
  • I want to do everything I could do before I was diagnosed.
  • But I can’t.
  • And resetting my own expectations is the hardest task of all.
  • I often feel guilty saying “no”.
  • I often feel like a failure when I can’t do what others can do.
  • Seven years in, I’m starting to accept that I need a different balance.
  • “No” allows me to be better in control of my chronic life.
  • So my disease no longer controls me.
  • It’s hard, and I’m far from perfect.
  • But no matter what comes, I plan on enjoying the hell out of this crazy, beautiful life.
  • As it is, not as I wish it was.
  • For as long as possible.

Thank you for listening. Namaste.

Election 2016: Change Comes From Within (The Voters)

DISCLAIMER: As loyal readers know, my blog is focused on living with Rheumatoid Arthritis. From time to time, I wander off topic (cooking, travel, politics). Today is one of those days. This year’s Presidential election has been the ugliest and most vitriolic I can recall, and I’ve been feeling a bit helpless. The below outlines my thoughts on what we, the citizens, can do to change the political climate. Thank you, Carla, for your feedback. And as always, thank you all for reading.

“Every nation gets the government it deserves.” – Joseph de Maistre

Since I’m not running for office, I don’t have to follow the #1 rule of campaigning: don’t insult the electorate. Plus, I’m going to constructively criticize (not insult, I hope) all of us with three numbers. 15. 96. 37.

Let’s look at the first two as a pair. A December 2014 Gallup poll found that U.S. Congress has a 15% approval rating among the American people. There’s a little wiggle room in the exact percentages, according to Politifact, but in general, the numbers haven’t moved much in the last decade. And this means a whopping 85% of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing, whichever party is in control. In fact, head lice, cockroaches, root canals, traffic jams, and even Nickelback all boast higher approval ratings. The same poll did show that Congress is more popular than telemarketers, North Korea, ebola, and gonorrhea. So, I suppose there’s a feather in their collective caps.

Now, want to guess the second number? Almost 96% of incumbents are re-elected to Congress. Despite the fact that we’d rather listen to Nickelback while getting a root canal. This cycle, we’ve heard a ton on both sides about how voters are “fed up” with career politicians, how they want our leaders to fix the “rigged system”. A 15% approval rating certainly supports these sentiments. But the media coverage on voters’ motivations largely misses the other piece. We are not victims. We the people continually ask these very politicians – the ones we think are terrible at their jobs – to make our laws and spend our tax dollars. Year after year. Election after election. 96% of the time, in fact. Why?

Before we attempt a diagnosis, let’s dig into a third number. 37. This is the percentage of voters who turned out for the 2010 mid-term elections. As Pew Research points out, midterm voter turnout since 1948 represents a 15-20% decrease from Presidential election years. The fact that our high point is only 52-57% is cause for concern, but that’s an issue for another day. It seems that many millions of Americans wake up every four years to vote for our highest office, then simply tune out until the next Presidential election. Not the best way to change a rigged system.

So, back to the question of why. The numbers suggest that both voter apathy and polarization play a role.

Voter indifference is a fairly easy diagnosis. Americans overwhelmingly disapprove of Congress, but we keep re-electing the same people to serve. Minus the media spectacle inherent in a Presidential race, most Americans don’t even turn out to cast votes at all. But America isn’t a monarchy, and whether the President shares your party or not, Congress and state/local officeholders impact most of our lives more than the individual serving in our highest office. We simply aren’t paying attention most of the time, for most political races.

Yes, a slim majority of us vote when the Commander-In-Chief is on the ballot. But many of us don’t force politicians to earn that vote. We check a box based on our party preference. Increasing polarization is one reason we are not likely to see a Presidential landslide in either direction. It may also explain why third-party candidates have trouble gaining traction. Regardless of individual policy positions or qualifications, each of the two major party candidates is likely to receive 42ish% of the popular vote, just because of the “R” or “D” next to their name. And the undecided population dwindles with each cycle.

We’re further polarized by the hyper-partisan media bubble, which reinforces the idea that “our” side is good and “their” side is evil. We see pundits on TV talking past each other, and we do the same on our Facebook feeds, reiterating party talking points. Think about what happens after every Presidential election. The “winning” side heaps praise on the White House for the next 4 years, taking credit for all positives. The “losing” side blames every negative thing on the White House. These narratives are repeated by leaders in the Senate and House, and reinforced by the partisan media outlets we choose. We reward Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz for ideological purity. We slam Hillary Clinton and John McCain for “compromising their beliefs” to find solutions. Winners and losers. Party over progress. We’re in a climate where it’s politically dangerous to even meet with politicians from the other side. Where our politicians refuse to hold hearings on a President’s Supreme Court nominee. Where the other side is painted as dangerous to the very future of the country. In short, we’ve officially reached a stalemate. As evidenced by that dismal 15% approval rating, this environment is endlessly frustrating to voters. But, it’s also the behavior we continue to reward, as shown by the 96% incumbent re-election rate.

The theme of 2016 has been voter frustration with the rigged system, corrupt politicians, and greedy bankers. And once again, we pin our hopes on putting a savior in the White House who will fix it for us. But change doesn’t reside within the Presidency. It resides within us. We decide whether our politicians, both in our cities and in Washington D.C., keep their jobs. Imagine what would happen if voters harnessed our power and tried a different approach this year. Imagine an America where we stop re-electing party ideologues and obstructionists. Imagine an America where “work across the aisle” compromise and real progress are rewarded, not labeled as party traitorism. Imagine an America where voters pay more attention to real issues than to horse races. Imagine an America where voters step outside the partisan bubble and reject “us” versus “them” discussions. Imagine an America where we engage in respectful, nuanced dialogue about complex issues, and seek out media that does the same. Imagine an America where we stop shouting, and start listening to and learning from each other’s perspectives. Imagine an America where we vote.

These three numbers are disheartening. But they also remind us that we have power. We can speak out with one voice, and break the vicious cycles of apathy and partisanship. To paraphrase Mahatma Ghandi, let’s be the change we want to see in our politics.

Vote like it matters to our country. Because it does.

 

P.S. If you’re into these ideas, here are three of my favorite sites:

Pantsuit Politics (their twice a week podcast is required listening for me!)
No Labels
ISideWith.com

What are some of yours?

More on Choices…

In 2012, I came off Methotrexate (MTX), a powerful DMARD (disease-modifying antirheumatic drug). It’s widely considered to be the gold standard for treating severe RA, often in conjunction with one of the biologics you see in those unrealistic, misleading pharmaceutical ads. And this combination was occasionally somewhat helpful in controlling my symptoms. I know, “occasionally somewhat helpful” is not a ringing endorsement. But I’m six years in, and I’ve not found any combo of drugs that has given me more than 30% relief.

If this drug was a key part of my best cocktail, why did I stop taking it? Well, as users of MTX know, liver toxicity is a serious concern. So, along with the weekly injections, patients require regular liver checks, also known as monthly blood work. Yep, it’s pincushion central. And my liver function tests took a nosedive in July of that year. So, my rheumatologist took me off immediately.

Fast forward to today. It’s February 2016, and I’m desperate for something that will get me any relief from the crushing pain and extreme fatigue. Unfortunately, I’m mostly out of options. My last biologic stopped working, and because it’s Rituxan, I have to wait four months for it to exit my system to try another. (Aside: I’m running out of “others” to try, but that’s a ‘Choices’ post for another day…I smell a series here!)

While I wait, my best option is to restart a drug that has already proven itself to be detrimental to my liver. I’ll take every precaution, and my doc and I will be paying close attention to that particular organ. But my quality of life is paramount, so if there’s even a chance it’ll help, I’m taking it. So, tonight, I’ll be back to Thursday evening injections and Friday MTX hangovers. It’s a different kind of #tbt. That’s Throwback Thursday, for those not versed in the lingo. I’m not posting a picture on Facebook, but I thought I’d share it with you, dear readers. I don’t think it would make sense to anyone else.

WP_20160204_17_10_41_Rich_LI

Ain’t no party like a Methotrexate party…

 

Impossible Choices…RIP Glenn Frey

For those of us struggling with autoimmune disease, Glenn Frey’s death hits especially hard. In case you haven’t heard, Mr. Frey suffered with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) for 15 years. And based on what I’ve read, Mr. Frey had long taken powerful biologic drugs to slow the progression of his disease. These medications suppress the body’s immune system, which seems to have caused him to contract both acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia. And his pharmaceutical-weakened immune system wasn’t properly equipped to fight back. Often, that is what “complications from rheumatoid arthritis” means.

 

This news was a sobering reminder of the impossible choices we patients face. So, I shared my thoughts on FB earlier today, and wanted to repost for all of you here:

In early 2012, the heavy drugs I take for RA disabled my immune system from fighting back against the flu. I ended up in the ER with sepsis, and required life-saving measures. This is the catch-22 of current treatments for autoimmune disease. Without the drugs, many people with severe RA (like Glenn Frey and me) cannot perform daily tasks, or even get out of bed. With the drugs, we are at greater risk of developing other illnesses, and our immune systems are so suppressed that we have a hard time fighting them. Beyond that, the drugs are very costly, they treat but don’t cure our diseases, and despite the commercials, they often only provide partial relief. So, it’s easy to understand the love/hate relationship we have with these drugs.

Thousands of stories like Mr. Frey’s, along with my own, motivated me to start this blog in Jan 2011, with a goal of raising awareness and helping others battling RA. They are why I constantly seek new Eastern and Western options for treating my disease. They are why I practice gratitude daily and strive for a healthy, positive mindset. They are why I fuel my body with amazing nutrition everyday, to give it the best chance to fight back. They are why I share that nutrition with everyone I meet.

These pharmaceutical treatments are a key part of my toolkit, and I am grateful that they help me get out of bed most days. But I refuse to rely on them completely, and Glenn Frey’s story illustrates the truth of these impossible choices, and why we must keep searching for answers. Thank you for the music. RIP.