Category Archives: Food

Jeannine Nena’s Ham Hock Soup

Ham hocks
3 carrots
5 potatoes
1 onion
1 bunch watercress
1 bunch Chinese parsley
1 can diced tomato
1 can tomato paste

Boil ham hocks 3-4 hours with garlic, salt & pepper to taste with water just above the ham hocks. Bring to a rolling boil then simmer with the lid on. Every hour and a half skim off the oil and replace the water to above the ham hocks.

In a separate pot cook the macaroni drain and put aside.

At about 3 and a 1/2 hours add onions, potatoes and carrots to the ham hocks. Add the watercress, Chinese parsley and cooked macaroni and simmer for 10 more minutes.

Beef Allergy – It’s Official!

2 years ago (almost to the day)  I wrote a post about my suspicions that I became Beef Intolerant. Last week my allergist confirmed that in fact I am allergic to beef. Looking back I didn’t document my hospital trips, because that’s so fun to reminisce, right? My last trip to the hospital was during my honeymoon in 2013.

My honeymoon was a real delight, and for the most part I can’t complain… except that part where I ended up in the ER after having one of the most delicious prime rib dinners the day before. We spent the first two night’s of our honeymoon at The Madonna Inn. The last night there we ate at Alex Madonna’s Gold Rush Steakhouse, a genuinely wonderful experience. We left the next morning and took the gorgeous drive up California State Highway 1 from Morro Bay all the way up to Monterey then cut across to get on the 101 to stay with friends in Richmond. The drive up was incredible and gorgeous! I was feeling fine until the last hour of our drive. I wasn’t feeling particularly well and had a small fear I might have food poisoning.

We arrived at our friends’ home where they were kind enough to feed us a delicious plate of lasagna with bolognese sauce. It was late when we arrived so socializing was minimal and everyone soon went to sleep. About 20 minutes into sleep I woke with that familiar pain I’d experienced in April. I figured I could manage my symptoms and went to use the restroom. Things escalated quickly and my symptoms of discomfort quickly turned into anaphylaxis. It was about 12:30am, so I woke Chris to inform him what changed while I tried to down a couple of Benedryl. We had no idea where the nearest hospital was so we had to wake our friends who insisted on driving us in. I spent the next 6 hours in agony. For some reason the 3 different ER Drs who examined me and knew I was experiencing an allergic reaction, but decided that Benedryl was my only hope and didn’t give me epinephrine until I requested it over 5 hours into the agony. Then it was like a light bulb went on for them. As ER Drs, why didn’t any one of the 3 that examined me think of this first? I got a shot of epinephrine and left the ER about 1-2 hours later, feeling exhausted, but no longer suffering symptoms and with a prescription to carry an epi-pen.

My poor husband! He had never experienced such a medical crisis with anyone before and was entirely beside himself on what to do. Also, because they doped me up on pain meds it was not safe for me and my IV to walk to the restroom down the hall unassisted so he got to experience that, over and over and over.  At this point we had barely been living together, just 2 weeks, I hadn’t yet farted in front of this man, and now I’m a terrible physical mess of being swollen with hives, vomiting, and having diarrhea, all while barely conscious. Not really how I had envisioned my honeymoon, ya know?

After that oh-so-fun and exciting experience I was officially off beef. It was the last time I had consumed any. From this point on I needed to be mindful, which was sometimes difficult because it was easy to forget about. My beef intolerance was inconsistent and then it was a full blown allergy. Seriously, who the heck is allergic only to beef and bison?!

Last year I began seeing an allergist. I told him about the beef allergy and his eyes lit up. At the ER the Drs had no clue what I was talking about and may have assumed I was full of it, but here, the allergist knew exactly what I was talking about and had an answer for me… Alpha Gal! He also explained that ER Drs aren’t trained to deal with the wide range of allergies so he wasn’t surprised when I told him about my visit to the ER and the confusion on the Drs faces when I explained I thought it might be an allergic reaction to beef.

Galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose, or Alpha-Gal for short, is a delayed allergy to mammal meat affecting a growing number of the population. This allergy is initially caused by a tick bite. Since the reaction to eating mammal meat is delayed by several hours, the proper diagnosis is often missed or misdiagnosed. People who are afflicted with the Alpha-Gal allergy have to be constantly vigilant about the ingredients they consume, because an allergic reaction can be severe and life-threatening.

But then we ran into a small problem, to my knowledge I’ve never had a tick bite so it’s all the more unlikely I’ve ever been bitten by a lone star tick, the tick they think is to blame. Also, I can still eat pork, elk, wild boar, and other meats that many other’s can’t. My Dr thinks it’s possible I consumed beef that had been bitten by the tick and by doing so my body created antibodies that way and now I’m allergic to beef.

I get it, it sounds weird. It is weird. Heck, until 3 years ago I could eat beef with no real problems.

Cutting beef from my diet reminded me a bit of quitting smoking. I smoked for 13 years, but I quit when I was 26. The hardest cigarettes for me to quit was the one after dinner and those I’d have while hanging out with friends who also smoked. In like fashion I began to miss cheese burgers, prime rib, corned beef, pot roast, beef ribs, chili, pastrami and Ruben sandwiches… oh the list went on and on. Obviously I had to make adjustments and after 2 years it’s been pretty good. I’ve been able to replace a number of things with turkey, chicken, pork, lamb, or elk. Oh, the first time I had an elk burger it was like having a beef burger, but without all the bad side effects. It was the tastiest damn burger ever!

One of the biggest adjustments was hosting my annual chili cook off. I skipped 2013 because we lost our beloved BigBoy kitty around the time I would normally host the competition and I simply didn’t have the energy do it that year. So last year I hosted my chili cook off, it was our 10th. There was already a veggie/white chili category so at least I was able to enjoy that, but I wasn’t able to try many of the competitors, including the winner for the Best Meat Chili category, and that was just kind of a bummer. I mean, I’m handing out an award with my name on it to the winner of an item I was not able to eat. The silver lining in all of this? My allergy encouraged some extra creativity from competitors so we had more competitors with turkey and even one featuring kangaroo meat.

We live near Little Saigon and the Korean Business District in Orange County and eat at many of the local restaurants so I need to be very mindful of the food I’m eating. I was already allergic to shrimp and now with beef I need to check everything because oddly, beef or shrimp are added to a number of dishes I might not have previously worried about. I just have to ask if either item is in anything because they get slipped into the soup base or inside an egg roll or dumpling. Fortunately, there’s also a lot of vegetarian options at many of these restaurants as well.

This diagnosis also answers the mystery of my ER visit a few years previously. It was before I’d ever suspected beef as the culprit, but I’d been rushed to the ER in anaphylaxis, the same symptoms I had on my honeymoon. We knew it was an allergy, but at the time I thought something I’d eaten earlier that day might have shrimp in it because nothing else made sense. I did however, have a steak. Fortunately, that ER was awesome and immediately put me on an IV of epinephrine, which was the only reason I even thought to ask for it at the ER on my honeymoon. It took a few hours for the symptoms to subside, but they did. For years I had no idea what the allergic reaction was from.

Recipe – Pollo al Vino con Pomodori

Because of my Meetup schedule I tend to eat out at restaurants fairly regularly. I have a Meetup event at least once a week, sometimes I’ve had as many as 5 in a week. Most of these are events I host and therefore need to be in attendance  and a majority of them involve eating at a restaurant.

Lately, Chris and I have decided to eat at home more. 1) It helps save money. 2) We make healthier choices for meals. 3) Since I’ve been having food issues/intolerance/allergies, this helps ensure I’m less likely to have problems.

One of the dishes I make that Chris likes I’ve named “Pollo al Vino con Pomodori”. Essentially, it’s chicken in wine with tomatoes.

I like chicken thighs, bone in, skin on so we buy the “family size” packs and freeze them in groups of 4. It’s cost effective and easy for when I need to make a meal.


4 chicken thighs (bone in/skin on) – You can easily change this out, but be aware the cooking time might need to change if you do so. You don’t want to dry out your chicken (another reason I like bone in/skin on).

2 tbsp butter
4 tbsp olive oil (more or less, depending on how much chicken you cook)
1 medium onion
1 1/2 head of garlic
1 bunch fresh basil
1 tbsp parsley (I used dried, but you can use fresh instead)
2 14.5oz cans of diced tomatoes (you can of course substitute with fresh)
1 6oz. can of tomato paste
1 bottle of dry white wine
6 oz. shredded Parmesan and Romano cheeses
salt and pepper

Chicken waiting for sauce

In a large pan melt butter in some olive oil over medium heat. The butter is for color and flavor, but the olive oil has a higher smoking point. The pan should be large enough to cook the chicken, but then also deep enough for the wine and tomatoes to be added later. Season to preferential taste and brown the chicken in the oil/butter.

Place chicken aside in an oven-safe casserole dish.

Wine sauce, onions, and garlic.
Wine sauce, onions, and garlic.

Using the same pan you cooked the chicken in add dry white wine. Cook to reduce. To be honest, I wanted a lot of sauce, so I made sure I had plenty of ingredients to work with and used an entire bottle of wine. Frankly, I was not likely to drink it so cooking it sounded like the best option.

After the wine has had some time to reduce a little add chopped onion and a whole head and a half of crushed garlic.

Allow the sauce to reduce to about half.

tomatoes in wine sauce
Once the sauce has reduced add two cans of diced tomatoes and one can of tomato paste, some parsley (dried was all I had) and lots of fresh basil. Simmer for about 10 minutes.

When sauce is ready pour it over the chicken in the casserole dish and top it with Parmesan and Romano cheeses. Cover it with foil, and into the oven on the middle rack at 350 F for an hour.

This is nice served over pasta or rice.

Recipe – Broccoli Cheese Frittata

Recipe – Broccoli cheese frittata

This recipe takes the essentials from another recipe I have made. I adapted it to be able to use the ingredients I had available at the time.

8 medium eggs beaten

2 cups broccoli minced

3 cups shredded cheese (I used Kirkland brand Mexican Style Blend: monterey jack, medium cheddar, queso quesadilla, and asadero cheeses.)

½ cup onion minced

3 cloves garlic minced

½ cup flour

1 tbsp celery seeds ground

1 tbsp dried parsley ground

Salt and pepper to taste

I used my food processor to mince the broccoli, onion, and garlic.

Preheat oven 350°F

In a large bowl beat eggs, blend in flour, mix in all ingredients.

Oil (I used olive oil) a 9×13” baking dish. Spoon ingredients into baking dish.

Bake 350°F for 45 – 55min.

Serves 6-8 people


Original recipe – “Creamy Greens Casserole”

 2 cups frozen spinach – thawed and drained

1 cup sliced fresh mushroom

½ cup marinated sundried tomato, cut up

3 cups shredded cheddar cheese

16oz low fat cottage cheese

6 eggs beaten

¼ cup flour

Preheat oven 350°F

In a large bowl beat eggs, blend in flour, mix in all ingredients.

Grease a 2 quart baking dish. Spoon ingredients into baking dish.

Bake 350°F for 35 – 45min. Until knife inserted in center is clean.

Serves 6-8 people

My Take

My alteration of the recipe above was to use my food processor on the mushrooms and tomato as my fiancé greatly dislikes the texture of mushroom, but he’ll eat it if it’s finely minced.

mushrooms, onion, and sundried tomatoes

I’ve also increased the eggs to 7 or 8 depending upon their size, use fresh spinach, and added in spices: salt, black pepper, sage, oregano, and basil. I will also top with another layer of shredded cheese. We love cheese in this house!

Fresh Spinach Frittata


Cooking Exercises

This past weekend was a whirlwind of activity that left me in need of a few days rest. My oven, food processor, and hand mixer also got a serious work out.

Chris and I had two events, one for each day. Both events required food items. Since we began dating my cooking skills have been getting used pretty frequently and I admit, I love it.

10 Year Anniversary Party

Saturday I hosted the 10 year anniversary party for my OC Pagan and Witches Meetup groups. The group, when asked, requested that we host a potluck house party. The idea was to have privacy to just socialize. A nice change since a majority of our Meetups are in public spaces.

Once I posted the event on the Meetup pages I created a Google doc for everyone to list their potluck item. This allowed everyone to see what was being brought and hopefully keep our food options well rounded.

I’ve learned that people are more apt to participate once someone else has initiated the activity. So after creating the Google doc I populated the categories with items that Chris and I planned to bring. It was also an example of how to fill in the spreadsheet, because oddly, people make up their own concept and run with it despite instructions that state otherwise.

My assistant organizer, William, had informed me at the Witches Meetup on the Thursday prior that he had no time to shop or cook on Saturday since he’d be at WonderCon and asked if it would it be ok to give me money in lieu of food to help support the supplies needed for the event. I agreed and decided I would also make one more dish on his behalf.

Mind you, it was just a few days before the event, 29 people had RSVPed yes, but only 5 had posted any food items to the list. I was in slight panic mode. One thing I can not abide is a party short of food.

So, my portion of the menu included a large chicken and rotini pasta casserole, potato salad (about 5lbs worth), and a broccoli and cheese frittata. For the record, I’d never made the casserole nor the specific frittata before.

While I was cooking all of these items, somehow I assumed I would have time between, when things were in the oven, to take care of other details, such as creating the favors, finish stuffing plastic eggs for the egg hunt, and making/wrapping prizes for the games we planned to play.


Yeah, that didn’t quite happen the way I had hoped. I ended up being an hour late to my own party, but I sent Chris ahead and had others already there helping put things together so it was ready when people arrived.

The party overall turned out rather well. Members from both groups attended. There were some folks who were brand new to the groups, while others we hadn’t seen in a while made an appearance. They were quite enthusiastic about the two games we played and there was an ample amount of good food for all. I was also honored with a trophy in recognition of my decade of service to the OC Pagan and Witches Meetups. That was a real nice surprise!

I received many compliments on my potato salad and frittata. While the casserole was enjoyed, I think it needed more spice and a little less ricotta cheese.

We got home about 1:30 am from the party and opted to clean up what mess was still in the kitchen in the morning. My thoughts were that I still had food to cook, so we could get sleep now and deal with it later.

Easter Dinner with the in-laws

Sunday morning… it’s Easter for the Christian folk.

My future in-laws invited us over for dinner. I offered to cook  two items to add to the feast, it was another collaborated effort. My portion: creamed corn and coconut mochi. Again, I offered up an item I hadn’t made previously, the creamed corn.

As it turned out I got plenty of compliments on both, but between the two the creamed corn was the biggest hit.

As I come out of the kitchen from helping  set up some of the food, Chris’ dad (who totally cracks me up) genuinely asked if we’d spent the morning at church.

o_O WTF?!

I reminded him that pagans don’t go to “church”.  He knows I’m a witch, I thought he knew his sons were atheists. I’m not really sure of much after that. Honestly, I thought it was quite funny.

We actually had a very delightful afternoon with his family and their friends. Once I realized that those present all went to church together and was then questioned about how Chris and I met I chose to deferred to Chris to answer and left the room immediately. To be fair I was stopped while I was walking to the restroom. I wanted Chris to decide on how such discussions would be handled. I had already answered other wedding related questions, such as what dress I would be wearing, if I was excited – a question I find a bit silly. I mean, would you expect that my answer be that I was simply bored by the whole nonsense? Of course I’m excited! I get to marry one of the most awesome men I’ve ever met!

What I didn’t realize is that she knew about the drama I’d had with some of my bridesmaids and perhaps asked because the drama had been so draining and disappointing for me. More on that in another post.

Later on when I was asked about more details regarding who was officiating our legal wedding next month I didn’t bother to hold anything back. I was straightforward in explaining that the couple who would be marrying us were the leaders of my coven. She stopped asking any questions of me all together after that. *shrug*

We got home around 8pm. I was wiped out and a lot more sore than I expected to be. But dishes needed to be washed, as did laundry, and a litter box needed to be cleaned. Being the sweetheart that he is, Chris took care of the majority of chores.

It was a very busy and full weekend, but it was grand and full of love. 🙂

Originally I planned to post all the recipes here, but I think I’ll make a second post with them all.