Sunday, January 01, 2012

Looking forward to 2012!

Happy New Year! 2012 has rolled in fast and I can't tell you how much Jeff and I are looking forward to clearing out 2011. Some of you may know, Jeff had to have yet another surgery the Wednesday before Christmas - this was on his knee, the same one they operated on this summer. This makes the 4th surgery he's had within a year - his neck, shoulder and twice on the knee.

The surgery went fine and he's on the mend, with plenty of physical therapy coming up to get him back in business. It was very last minute and tossed a wrench into our holiday plans, but we are both glad we got it done and out of the way. My on-going issues are not so easy, but there may be a glimmer of hope with an appointment at the Center for Functional GI & Motility Disorders at the University of NC. This won't be happening until March, so sadly there are a few more weeks to go. I've mentioned that I've been having to follow dietary restrictions and we've gotten a few e-mails as to what that entails. My doctor has me following something called the "low-FODMAP" diet.

You can read more about it here if you fancy - this is a diet based from a researcher in Australia that is gaining in popularity here in the US. It can be fairly complicated, convoluted and confusing, especially because many of the websites out there have conflicting information about what you can and cannot eat. The research is constantly changing, based on the details obtained as they test different foods. Many of my most coveted, favorite foods were on the list to avoid and it was difficult to get started, but I've been doing my best to follow it. However I haven't seen much, if any, improvement yet and it has been several weeks. We're looking forward to seeing what the specialists at UNC have to say, though I can't say I will be getting my hopes up.

So, here's to 2012 - the year with minimal doctor appointments (hopefully!), answers to those unanswered questions and leading a healthy, happy life!

With that news out of the way and you know what we've been up to the past few weeks, I can catch you up on some of the recipes I've been making for Jeff. He is able to enjoy eating a variety of foods and at least I can gain some pleasure by making it - that's something, right? It's the small things in life.

This Roasted Broccoli and Farro Salad with Feta was one dish that I almost cheated with, but I held out with a sad frown and a bowl of rice.

What I liked about this dish was that it can easily hang out at room temperature for awhile without worry - no rush to make certain it is served pipping hot. I used to only be able to find those earthy, lightly nutty grains of farro in either ginormous bags at Costco or tiny ones at a local market marked up ridiculously high in price. Thankfully, one of our favorite shops has started carrying it in the bulk bins, making in a snap to grab just what we need.

Cooking time for the farro can vary depending on what you pick up - pearled farro (hull removed) can be done in as little as 20 minutes, where "whole" farro (hull retained) will take closer to 45. While the farro takes its time in a hot bath of bubbly, salted water, it was refreshing to see that the recipe calls for using the entire stalk of broccoli, rather than just the brilliant florets. With the florets cut into bite-sized pieces, the beefy stalk is peeled to remove the fibrous outer layer, revealing its sweet, crisp and under-appreciated stem. Sliced into coins, both the florets and stem are simply tossed with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and fresh ground black pepper, to be roasted in the searing cavern of our oven.

You'll know the broccoli has been cooked enough when there is a slight char and the stem rings give under pressure with a knife. The duo are slid into a large bowl, to be tossed with the plumped, pleasantly chewy farro, creamy nubs of salty feta, sliced scallions, fresh parsley and crushed red pepper for a hint of spice. Salt and fresh ground pepper are sprinkled on to taste (be sure to take a small bite first just to see first before you add anything), along with a drizzle of red wine vinegar for an acidic punch. To give a bit of glisten, and of course, a fruity finish, just a tablespoon more of your favorite virgin olive oil rounds out the dish.

Just before you serve, take another greedy taste for yourself - you may want a dash more vinegar as it may have mellowed out as it married with the rest of the ingredients. For variety, think about using half, or even all, cauliflower instead of the broccoli, or go wild and nix it all together for another vegetable like asparagus.


  1. I tried to leave a more eloquent comment but after 10 minutes with a flashing cursor and not much else, I realized any comment is better than none at all:

    You must have to be so strong, every day. Despite this past year being particularly difficult for you and your family, your blog posts have always presented themselves with a positive, optimistic undercurrent.

    Thank you for sharing your life with us - here here, to 2012!!

  2. Thank you for another wonderful recipe!
    Prayers will go up for both of you.
    May 2012 be a year of healing and happiness.

  3. Hi Joe: You mentioned that this diet was convoluted.

    I'm not sure why you need it, but try this website.
    I have been considering it.

    It is for all kinds of problems and she seems quite straight forward.

  4. Here's to a healthier 2012 to both of you. Have been following your blog for a few years now and always enjoy your recipes!

  5. Happy New Year. I am glad to see your Blog today and hope for the Best for both of you in 2012. The salad looks wonderful, I am having a B'day party for my youngest son Saturday, I will add this to the menu. Thank you Joe.


  6. Rina - Thank you for continuing to come back!

    Ann - Let me know if you give the recipe a try.

    Charlie - Thanks.

    Debbie - I hope to run with that theme. I'm glad to hear you've been following us for awhile! Hopefully we can keep it going.

  7. i was pleased to read your post, and am glad that Jeff is on the mend. my husband Geoff was also v ill last year and finally got a diagnosis of crohn's disease, this means a low fibre diet. wow it is challenging to find nice recipes to follow so if you have any to share we would love to try some.positive thoughts are with you and hope 2012 is good.

  8. Hi Joe, I'm so happy to see your post. I hope you and Jeff have a wonderful, healthy, happy 2012!

  9. Sounds like it's been a rough year, so I hope for a great year ahead! This meal looks perfect - I have farro and love feta and broccoli. Making this soon!

  10. Goodness, Joe, I've been out of touch lately and you've had quite a few months. Here's to a healthier New Year for the both of you. I took a peek at the diet, and it is difficult as you described. My son has become lactose intolerant in the last year, and we've had to deal with eliminating dairy only and that's been difficult enough. We have the hang of it now, but any dietary restrictions always make things more difficult. You have quite an undertaking.
    Our best wishes to Jeff for a healing knee!
    And the recipe?? Wonderful! With my season of eating with abandon, this one will help me get back on track.
    Hang in there, sending healing and healthy prayers from San Diego to you both.

  11. Hi Joe,
    My son had some problems in his GI track for 6 months last year. What really helped with his issue was the probiotic Florastor or saccharomyces boulardii. Within 24 hours his diarrhea was cut down to 2 times a day instead of over 10 times. I think having the correct probiotic to match his problem really helped. He is now on a maintenance plan with the probiotic Reuteri. I really think the saccharomyces boulardii saved him though. We tried so many other kinds and that one is the only one that lessened his symptoms. I wish you a healthy New Year.

  12. Your recipes are always great and I totally understand the frustration with dietary restrictions. I have and still do suffer from some of the same issues as you are dealing with now. I hope your March appointment is very successful. It is at least nice that Jeff is on the mend from yet another surgery. We hope to hear the same about you in due time. I'm glad that you are so far able to continue some occasional posting to the blog. I will keep coming back no matter what. Best wishes for a better year 2012 for everyone !

  13. Joe,
    I'm so sorry to hear of your troubles, and not just because it means you post less recipes!
    I hope Jeff is on the mend, that's a lot of surgeries.
    Best wishes for a healthy New Year and the recipe sounds delicious. I am trying to make not just one new recipe per week, but to use one new ingredient per week and I've never had faro before, so this is going on the list for next week.

  14. Joe, I hope you and Jeff will soon leave the doctors behind. I had one of those years (18 months) about three years ago. It was difficult, but it is a small blip in the rearview mirror now that I have gotten used to the new normal.

    Thanks for continuing to add to this blog. I enjoy visiting to see what you have been up to lately.

  15. Hope things are going to be much better in 2012. Nice to see you posting again.

  16. Hi Joe,
    I'm very sorry to hear about your GI problem and Jeff's surgery. I'm sure 2012 has got to be better for both of you!!
    I, too, was put on a very stringent diet at the beginning of 2011, due to IC - interstitial cystitis. I was expected to give up ALL of my favorites, starting with coffee and chocolate, and TOMATOES, Lemons and anything considered acidic. And I did for a time, and my problems seemed to go away. Now I am careful to limit my ingestion of acidic foods when I feel a "flare-up" coming.
    Hopefully, you too will get to the bottom of what ails you, and you will learn how to manage it. Good luck!! And thank you again!!

  17. I have recently cut out wheat (and most grains) and have really enjoyed using almond flour when I am in the mood for a treat or bready things. If you are interested and able to eat almonds, I highly recommend and her cookbook, "The Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook."

    I wish you both the best as you continue your journeys toward healing and health!