INGREDIENTS:

Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette:

    • ½ cup fresh blueberries
    • ¼ cup aged balsamic vinegar
    • 2 teaspoons honey
    • ¼ cup avocado oil or light olive oil
    • ¼ tsp sea salt
    • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
    • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
    • ½ tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard

Walnut-Crusted Chicken:

    • 2 cups walnuts
    • ½ tsp onion powder
    • ½ tsp garlic powder
    • ½ tsp sea salt
    • ½ tsp ground black pepper
    • 2 eggs, whisked with 1 T water
    • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    • 2 TBSP olive, coconut or avocado oil

Salad:

    • 2 cups kale, washed, ribs removed, and roughly chopped
    • 4 cups 50/50 Spinach/Spring Mix salad greens
    • 8 radishes, thinly sliced
    • ½ cucumber, sliced into half moons
    • ¼ red onion, thinly sliced
    • ½ cup fresh blueberries
    • 1 medium carrot, shaved with a vegetable peeler or grated with a cheese grater
    • 1 medium avocado, sliced

DIRECTIONS:

In a blender, combine all dressing ingredients. Blend on high speed about 20 seconds, or until dressing is smooth and emulsified. Taste dressing and add more honey if it is too tart. The sweetness may vary depending upon the ripeness of your blueberries and the quality of your balsamic vinegar. Set aside at room temperature.

Place walnuts in a food processor and pulse until walnuts are ground, resembling course breadcrumbs. Avoid the temptation to leave the food processor on high, as this can result in a nut butter. Mix ground walnuts, onion and garlic powders, salt and pepper in a medium bowl or pie plate. In a separate medium bowl or pie plate, whisk together eggs and water.

Cut each chicken breast in half by thickness by laying the breast on a cutting board and pressing down on it with the palm of one hand. Using a chef’s knife in your other hand, hold the blade parallel to the cutting board and slice through the thickness of the breast, using a sawing motion. Repeat with the other chicken breast. You should now have four fairly thin chicken cutlets. Pat them dry with a paper towel.

Heat your chosen cooking oil on medium heat in a large, nonstick skillet. If your skillet is not large enough to accommodate all four cutlets, use half the oil at a time and work in two batches. Dip each cutlet in the egg wash, then the walnut mixture, pressing the walnuts onto the chicken. Place chicken in heated pan and cook approximately 3-4 minutes on each side, until walnut coating is deep golden brown and chicken is cooked through. Remove to a CLEAN cutting board to rest. Allow to rest and cool for five minutes, then cut into ½-inch slices.

While chicken is resting, assemble your salad, by combining all the ingredients except avocado in a large bowl. Divide the salad into four bowls and top each bowl with a sliced walnut-crusted chicken cutlet and ¼ of the sliced avocado. Drizzle prepared vinaigrette over chicken and salad and serve immediately. Leftover dressing can be stored in the refrigerator, but will be best if you let it return to room temperature before serving.

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After years of having our symptoms dismissed, having our pleas for help and understanding seemingly fall on deaf ears by our doctors (and many times our friends and family as well), it can be a relief to finally have a name for what has gone so horribly wrong with us. The relief is short-lived however, as we begin to realize the full scope of all that is really wrong with us. Although surgery can be extremely successful for some, many of us are left with some degree of symptoms or complications to deal with. For those of us who also have a connective tissue disorder, such as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), the issues with our tissues can seem endless. The thought of “getting healthier” can seem like a daunting task. We do not have control over every aspect of our health, or every aspect of our fight, but we are not powerless! We do have control over some lifestyle choices, that can help improve our day-to-day lives.

MAINTAIN A POSITIVE ATTITUDE:
The single most important item within our control is our attitude! We don’t have to ignore our reality or turn a blind eye to the negative aspects of our conditions to have a positive attitude. We can choose to frame things in a positive light. For example, if I am no longer able to walk as far as I could this time last year, I can look upon that situation with an air of defeat… or I can remind myself that I was also unable to walk that far three years ago, but with determination, with time I made progress! It may be unfair that I must start over again, but I am worth every ounce of effort that it takes to do so. I can acknowledge the unfairness, and then choose to focus on making progress towards my goal. A positive attitude is not going to will Chiari or EDS away, but it can improve our experience of living with these conditions.

CHOOSING FOODS WITH YOU IN MIND:
With connective tissue disorders, and the myriad of effects they can have on our bodies, eating healthfully can feel like walking through a minefield. Mast cell issues can cause sudden or intermittent allergic reactions to a wide variety of foods. Dysautonomia can require us to consume large amounts of salt (and still may end in nausea and vomiting). We are more prone to gastroparesis, gastric dumping, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and other gastrointestinal problems that limit our food choices. Despite all these challenges, most of us can make food choices with optimum health in mind. Many EDS experts recommend eating whole, nutritionally dense foods, and taking supplements to help mitigate the vitamin and mineral deficiencies many of us are prone to, due to malabsorption. If inflammation is an issue, we can avoid dairy, sugars, refined flour, fried foods, and replace them with foods that are known to reduce inflammation, such as: salmon, blueberries, beets, broccoli, spinach, and foods cooked in turmeric, ginger, garlic, and olive oil. Most importantly, we can educate ourselves on our various conditions and what the experts on those conditions recommend, discuss this information with our own doctors and develop an individualized plan for ourselves, and apply this knowledge to our everyday life. Knowledge is key with conditions such as ours! While eating well is not going to shrink our cerebellar tonsils or cause our bodies to make collagen differently, it can help improve energy levels, and reduce pain and other symptoms.

MOVING IS ESSENTIAL TO MOBILITY:
Despite the pain and the fear, we can choose to move every day and strengthen our bodies as much as possible. Deconditioning is a real issue for many of us who have had such debilitating pain and other symptoms, that even after a successful decompression surgery, we may find ourselves unable to function normally again. And while we may never be 100% again, we usually can gradually improve our strength and endurance through a good physical therapy and exercise program. Experts agree that strong muscles help reduce many of subluxations and soft tissue injuries that are common to us. It isn’t always easy to find the motivation to get up and take a walk or to do those exercises your physical therapist assigns, but we must remind ourselves that we are worth the effort, and that even the very slightest bit of progress, is still progress. As the adage goes, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

We encourage you to fight for better medical care, for more research, for doctors and loved ones to listen to you. But with that also comes a responsibility to do everything you can to take the best care of yourself possible. To follow your doctor’s recommendations (once you find a good one), to eat well, and to stay as active as you possibly can. But you don’t have to go this alone! If no other positive thing comes out of being diagnosed with Chiari or any of its comorbidities, we do promise you this; the Chiari community is full of amazing, inspiring, loving, encouraging people who will stand in your corner and cheer you on through all your challenges, even if no one else will. And we here at Chiari Bridges will be there along the way with tips and advice on living your best life possible with Chiari and all its ugly friends. Remember, pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional!