So I think I mentioned a few posts back about starting a immunosuppressant/chemotherapy drug for my stupid autoimmune thing (Sjogren's Syndrome and Lupus and Vasculitis, to be exact), because the Prednisone just wasn't fitting into my lifestyle (as it wouldn't fit into anybody's lifestyle, I am sure!). I was on my new medicine for about 3 weeks, with none of the dreaded side-effects that can come with it, like hair loss (noooooo!!) and nausea and up-chucking. So I was being pretty smug, saying to everyone I knew how freaking awesome I was feeling, and how this drug wasn't gonna kick MY butt, ho no! Well, pride goeth before a fall, I've been told, and I am here to tell you that week 4 on the drug really kicked my arse. Like, violent barfing sessions (sorry for the visual), severe 24 hour nausea and unintended weight loss. Which, to some might seem like an up-side of the Azathioprine, but not to me--believe me when I tell you that is NOT the way I wanna lose pounds.
To make a long story short, after calling my most excellent doctah, I was ordered to go into our convenient little lab IMMEDIATELY for blood work, which I did, good patient that I am. Next day, phone call from my most excellent doctah (and believe me when I tell you that a call from your M.D., him or herself, is never, ever a good thing, at least in my experience) telling me to STOP the drug, a.s.a.p., because I have suffered some serious liver damage, and will have to be tested weekly to see if what I've done to my liver has been reversed. Kinda scary. So now I'm babying my poor sickly self in what I'm calling a "Detox", which is kind of ironic, because except for the occasional glass or two or wine, I am about the most devoutly healthy eater I know. I follow all the rules--limited sugar (believe it or not, I give 95% of the desserts you see here away) and NO processed foods, lots and lots of fruits and vegetables and whole grains and lean proteins, and lots and lots of exercise, even when I feel like S*#t.
In a nutshell, I (and my family) am worried and a little tired of all of this monkey business, but hey, waddya gonna do? Carry on, and move onto the next promising med when I'm able. But for now, all I want to do is focus on the good--like my sweet in-laws coming tomorrow (Big Daddy's family has a camp in Sebago Lake, Maine, and they like to stop here on the way from CA), my dearest girlfriend Lisa next week, and my fun Willow House party in a few days. And the good-est thing of all....cooking and this blog. Because I love to cook good food for everyone I love.....like this Spinach and Orzo Salad!
Can I just tell you that I have made this recipe for about 7 years now, and I always, always get asked for the recipe. I also always double it because we like to eat it for days--I think it just gets better the longer it sits in da fridge. Have a graduation party or BBQ to attend? This is a great dish to bring, because it feeds a crowd, and can sit out all day long (no mayo!). So here's what you do....Cook the orzo pasta (looks like rice) in salted water, then drain..........
Set aside. Toast some pine nuts (I know these are pricey, but they are soooo worth it in this recipe, adding a nice piney taste) over medium heat. Keep an eye on them; they burn quickly!.............
Take half of your spinach and puree it in a food processor or blender, adding one tablespoon of olive oil, until a paste like consistency appears (hot tip--use the oil from your sundried tomatoes here--the flavor from this oil is PRICELESS!)......
Rough chop the rest of the spinach. Mix the puree in with the cooked orzo until pasta is well coated.......
. Gently mix in the chopped spinach, red onion, pine nuts, feta cheese and sundried tomatoes.....
In a jar, combine remaining olive oil, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, mustard, basil and tarragon. Pour over orzo and gently mix until well incorporated. Just look at this bowl of goodness!...................
Chill for at least one hour, then serve. I like to serve mine on a bed of red leaf lettuce, and sometimes, when little Miss Thing (vegetarian) isn't around, we'll go nuts and add cooked chicken.
Here's the recipe:
SPINACH AND ORZO SALAD
8 oz. orzo pasta
1 / 4 cup pine nuts
6 oz. feta cheese, roughly crumbled
3 / 4 cup sundried tomatoes, packed in oil, chopped
4 oz. baby spinach
1 / 2 of 1 red onion, chopped
3 tblsp. olive oil
1 tblsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tblsp. red wine vinegar (you can also use lemon juice)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
pinch dried basil
pinch dried tarragon
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cook the orzo in salted boiling water as per package directions. Drain and set aside. Toast pine nuts in a small skillet on medium heat, stirring occasionally until pine nuts are lightly browned. Careful---these burn easily! Take half of the spinach and puree it in a food processor or blender, adding one tablespoon of the olive oil. Roughly chop the other half of the spinach. In a large serving bowl mix the spinach puree in with cooked orzo until the pasta is well coated. Then gently mix in the remaining spinach, the red onion, feta cheese, pine nuts and sundried tomatoes. In a small jar, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and all remaining ingredients. Shake well to combine. Pour over orzo spinach and gently mix until well incorporated. Chill for at least one hour before serving.
TODAY I'M MOST THANKFUL FOR......
*Our beautiful daughter, who makes me laugh and smile every single day.
*Our funny mutt Wee Willy Willard, who makes me laugh and smile every single day.
*My handsome husband, who makes me laugh and smile every single day, and is my biggest cheerleader in life AND my best friend.
I am so blessed!