Shepherd's pie and spinal issues

Steff stayed over several nights last week because grandma was visiting family in Los Angeles. I didn’t want to leave mom alone. I’m very glad she did, and not just because she’s the most awesomest girlfriend evar!!!1! (heh) Having company inspired us to get back into the kitchen.

Mom made shrimp linguini on Thursday night. No cream sauce this time - just a little juice from the oven-roasted shrimp with lemon, chunks of garlic, & grated parmesan. We used to order the same dish from Shells pretty regularly, and mom’s kicked its butt.

Friday night was Leftover Recycling night. We had a little bit of fried pork cubed steak, some pole beans cooked with garlic & olive oil, and a heapin’ helpin’ of mashed potatoes with roasted garlic. I started sautéing some thinly sliced Vidalia onions in my annatto oil, added a few cloves of roasted garlic and some roughly diced carrots, then browned about 1 lb of ground beef. Once the beef was cooked, I added the cubed steak (chopped up) and the pole beans. I added about 1/2 cup of the juice from the pole beans too. I stirred in a tablespoon of beef base (think beef bullion cubes but in paste form, refrigerated of course) that I’d dissolved in 1/3 cup hot water. Add a little kosher salt, some fresh ground black pepper, and then a few fresh herbs - oregano, rosemary, and flat-leaf parsley. I poured the beefy goodness into a 12" oval baking dish, covered it in mashed potatoes (to which I’d added an egg, a little water, and 1/2 tbsp of the aforementioned beef base), lightly scraped the top with a fork to give it wavy lines, and then baked at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. The potatoes didn’t brown as much as I wanted, so at the end I broiled it on high for about 6 minutes. Take it out of the oven, cover it in cheddar cheese, then back in the oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese.

I’d include a picture to show just how fantastic the shepherd’s pie was, but we demolished it before I even thought of dragging out the camera. Out of that huge baking dish, we three managed to eat all but two small portions. I’ll definitely be making this again.

It’s been quite a while since I last posted a recipe because I haven’t been up to cooking. My back is really kicking my arse, physically improbable as that may be. One of the guys at work asked if I was still meditating or practicing qi gong. I’d stopped, but his reminder renewed my determination to kick the pills and take care of this on my own. As of Thursday of last week I stopped the anti-inflammatory and the muscle relaxer. I tried not to take any more percocet, but I had to concede the fight at about 2:30 AM. After 4 hours of fighting the pain I gave up because I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I’ve lost that battle twice so far, but overall I’m doing better about not taking pills.

At work I’ve stopped using the wheelchair. I did pull it out for a foray into Wal-Mart with Steff last week, but otherwise I’m walking everywhere I go. Maybe not as fast as I’d like, but it’s better than the alternative. I was starting to think the wheelchair might be permanent. I use a cane if I’m going a distance that’s questionable.

The chairs at work are horrible. Half of the reason I persisted using the wheelchair was that the cushion on it was a little more supportive. I bought myself an exercise ball, and for the most part I’ve been sitting on that. I only switch back to the chair when I get tired and notice myself slumping. That’s worse than just sitting in the chair. The exercise ball also helps me get through the night because I can lay back on it and stretch my hips & lower back. My physical therapist Don showed me more stretches, and he agrees with me that stretching and re-mobilizing my back when it hurts is a better option than taking pills to mask the problem.

It’s been about 6 months since I hurt my back. All the progress I’ve made has been a result of the physical therapy. Admittedly I got immediate relief from the 3rd cortisone injection, but that stops the pain & doesn’t do anything for the injury itself. Learning how to stretch and carry myself properly has been the biggest factor in my recovery.

I did switch ortho doctors. I didn’t liked Dr. Waldbaum’s manner, and he stopped the muscle relaxer without saying anything to me. I’m now seeing Dr. Hudanich, who used to operate out of the same Florida Orthopedic Association office. He left because he disagreed with their methods, and he says Dr. Waldbaum is a physiologist rather than an orthopedist. He agreed that I was right to seek another doctor if my medical care was changed without any discussion. I’m glad to be seeing a doctor who agrees with me.

I’ve only seen Dr. H for the initial visit. He ordered a new MRI, which was done about two weeks ago. It’s my fault that my follow-up is the 23rd. I forgot to call and schedule it once the MRI was done. Dr. H also referred me to Dr. Salinas to see if another epidural will help. He gave me the referral during my relapse, when the pain was absolutely unbearable. It’s gotten better again since then, so we’ll see. I’ll keep the appointment and get Dr. Salinas’ recommendation.