Counting & Colors

I’ve started to believe the whole Resolutions thing should be done in the late spring.
The impending threat of bathing suit season gives much more incentive to keep fitness/healthy goals than sweater weather and frigid conditions where ‘extra warmth’ can somehow be worked into logic.

I’ve started to evaluate my meals, but I’m using a different method that most people I know.

Calorie counting has long been praised.

source

There are countless apps and sites that can help people keep track.  I know many who have had success with this method, myself included.

Sure, it’s tedious, but it really makes you think.  Food journals are great.

But…this method isn’t for me.

I stopped enjoying my food.  Instead I obsessed over nutrition math and how many calories were in something.  I didn’t savor things, and would feel guilty about choices.

That’s not a way to live–at least not for me.

I began to look at What I was eating, and there was quite a bit of brown foods.  Granted, brown foods are Delicious.  They’ve been grilled, roasted, seared, or fried.  Brown food is (mostly) comfort food…meat and potatoes type stuff.  Now, I know what Food Network host Anne Burrell has to say about them, but a plate of brown foods provides no balance.

Love this rainbow fruit plate. Photo by my friend Kat.

So instead of looking at numbers, I focused on colors.  The more color, the more variety and different nutrients.  Plus it’s fun and has a child-like feel to planning.

I feel better when I eat this way.  I still count, but mostly it’s how many fruits/veggies I have in a day.  When I only worried about the numbers on the label, I would eat low-cal or low-fat, but I doubt many meals were all that nutritious.

This image serves as a good reminder for things. Spotted on Pinterest, a site I Love these days.

I know this is close to Michael Pollan’s stance.  I haven’t read his books, but they have been suggested to me many times (and I do plan on reading them eventually.)

If you want to change your eating habits or lifestyle, find what fits You.  A change is a process, but if you hate it–it won’t stick.

I still indulge.  Far too often than I should, but I’m enjoying it.

 

What works for you?
 

 

 

 

 

Posted in eating, food, learning, life, serving | 1 Comment

Cooking and Crafting

My best friend loves to craft.  I have long envied her ability to come up with fun, whimsical projects. While I don’t craft, she doesn’t cook.  It’s our balance.

Over the weekend that changed, I decided to take on a craft I’d seen on a website.  She was the first person I told.

The move prompted her to blog about it, you can read it here.

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What My Father Has Given Me

It’s Father’s Day weekend.  Tomorrow I’ll join my brother and spend a ‘Day of Labor’ at my dad’s (this is now his favorite gift, as opposed to something from the store.)
The writing below is part of what I gave my dad last year (along with the work in the yard!)  It’s lengthy, but I opted to paste it all rather than edit it.  

My Dad's first Father's Day. Yes, that's me.

 

Lessons I’ve Learned from My Father 

          As Father’s Day approached, I thought a lot about gifts to give, but more often I found myself thinking about what my Dad had given me.  Unconditional love, unwavering support, and an inconceivable amount of lessons (to say the least—yet largest).  Many of which are simple yet profound things that have shaped my life, and who I am.  Things I have carried with me through my life that I hope to pass along one day.

I decided to compile a list of stand outs, ‘Greatest Hits’ if you will. It includes stand-bys, and maybe a few surprises, but just like any selection its impossible to include every single great thing…there’s just too much.

“My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.”
— Clarence Budington Kelland

  • REALLY enjoy the music.  I don’t remember silly kid songs from my childhood.  I was blessed with artists like B.B. King, James Taylor, Paul Simon and Jimmy Buffett.  While both parents liked the artists, I specifically remember how my dad would listen.  Sometimes it was as small a gesture as mimicking trumpet scores, other times it was a full body jerk led by the head shoulders and arms that resembles a Joe Cocker/Ray Charles style move.  He would point in the air at the parts he liked.  And after CD’s became popular I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard ‘Oh listen again!’ and a certain part would be cued up.  Without knowing it he taught me: If you’re going to listen to music, and REALLY enjoy it, put your body heart and soul into it.
    And if you aren’t moving at all…find something else.
  • When talking to someone, Listen.  Growing up I would swear that my dad would make tiny notes about his patrons’ lives while talking to them (recent trips, names, etc.) It wasn’t true of course.  Instead, he just really listened to them.  As busy as the drug store would be when he was speaking to a person they had his attention and concern.  And you could tell it comforted them.  Drugs take care of the bodies, my dad always tries to take care of the people. 

  • Have a tool set in the house and jumper cables in the car.
    There are a couple of reasons for this.  First off it’s just good common sense.  There is a feminist ‘We can do it!’ quality but I believe that came from my mother.  Where my dad comes in are two parts.  The first:  You may not use them often, but when you need them you’ll be glad you have them.  And the second: A person needs to be well rounded and capable.  To know how and when to take care of something, and to be able to identify when it’s time to call in the pros.
  • Have a Hobby.  Hobbies are special.  They’re a gift of something you love that can take away stress and simultaneously give a sense of accomplishment.  While gardening is the go-to thought, I can’t think of a time when my dad Didn’t have a hobby.  Photography, Building things, Fish (inside and out) and yes…the yards.  Not only does a hobby come with mental benefits, it makes someone a more interesting individual overall.  The only minute downside is that a hobby is often misunderstood because there’s not a way for someone to understand Why it’s so special; It just is.

  •   Take Time to Notice the World Around You.  I used to make fun of my dad on trips.  Actually all of us did.  Suddenly we’d notice our group was missing a member, and the first place to look was about 10 feet behind us.  We knew where he was.  He’d stopped to take a picture.  Whether the photos ended up as snapshots, or composed pieces each was a frozen moment of time, and you could tell it was very important.  Neither one of us is a huge fan of overly posed pictures…instead we want to capture life as it happens

  • When faced with a decision or problem, put pen to paper. Seeing things visually makes sense.  It’s logical.  If it’s right there in front of you, you can’t argue with it.  Whether it’s the pros and cons of a big decision, or doing the math and finding out if an offer will save you money or not.  Drawing a diagram helps everyone to be on the same page mentally/visually and those help too (and everyone knows the benefits of sketching a map!)

  • If you fall on your face, learn something from it.  We’re all human.  Everyone is going to make mistakes.  My dad made sure of two things, first that we didn’t wallow in embarrassment or self-pity, and second that we learned something.  If you’re that embarrassed you’ve at least learned how not to land in that situation again.  You can’t take it back, but you can be more prepared when you move forward. And life is always moving forward. 
  • Be prepared for those who will doubt you. The phrases “because I want to/it” and “all of my friends do” didn’t get you very far in my house.  But typically if you could explain a rational reason why the outcome would be better.  My father plays the role of Devil’s Advocate better than anyone I know.  As children it was called ‘mean’ or ‘unfair’ now I see it was a way of protection.  For children not to expect hand-outs but be prepared with rationality.  And to also know that if your own Dad asks you ‘Why?” then you better bet a stranger or a boss or countless other people will.
  • Take Notes and Keep Records.  No one can remember chapter and verse what a person says, but if you can look it up you’ll save yourself time and grief.  The biggest example of why this is important is when dealing with hospitals and insurance companies, but there are a multitude of other reasons.  I’ve long kept accordion files with contracts, leases, statements and other items.  In email boxes items are flagged and sorted into folders that could be called up readily.  If I hadn’t watched my dad quickly reference files or items, I wouldn’t understand.  I realized early that tedious note-taking and filing was self-protection, and a way to stay informed, and to quickly solve problems.  I’ll admit, this behavior, while obviously beneficial, could have lead to another trait my father has—the tendency to be a pack rat because “You may need it one day”
  • When you decide to settle down, never ever settle.  I have high standards. I didn’t learn them from my mom; I learned them from my dad.  He set an example of what to look for when seeking a partner, and I grew up in the best example of a relationship I have ever known.  As a girl growing up it was priceless to have such a great exa
  • mple right in front of me.  When I was young, I was occasionally told ‘Your parents have the best marriage” or “Your parents are like a fairy tale” I found it odd then.  I thought ‘Isn’t this how it should be?” The answer is yes, but the reality is that few end up being that special.  I don’t know why, but I do know this:  My mother taught me how I should be in a relationship. My father set the bar for what to expect.

Adam, My Dad and I in Aruba. We took this trip months after my mom passed. She died at sunset, so this image makes me think her spirit is there with us.


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The Perfect Pair.

I spend a lot of time thinking about flavor.  One thing I often find both exciting, and challenging at the same time is flavor pairings.  Sometimes things just work.

Oddly I'm only a fan of the miniature version.

Certain flavors or foods seem to lend themselves to pairings.  Peanut butter is one that comes to mind.  It’s half of the most basic and beloved PB & J sandwich.  Of course, there’s also a near cult level devotion from those who believe there is no candy superior to that of Reese’s.

Now that it’s (unofficially) summer, I’m enjoying a few fresh/seasonal pairings.

I love basil and tomatoes, whether on pizza or bruschetta.

Can't you practically Smell the goodness?! Yum!

Cilantro and Lime is another that makes me happy.  I love the smells, the brightness, the way those flavors alone can take a dish somewhere warm and sunny.

There of course are plenty of other greats, steak and potatoes, chips and salsa, cheese and…(almost) everything.

But if I had to choose one, my end-all favorite flavor pairing of all time, it’s an easy choice.

My favorite, is Dark Chocolate and Raspberry.

Mylot.com

Delicious!

The bright, tart flavor of the raspberry, paired with the deep rich almost bitter flavor of the chocolate, could there BE any better combo?! (I think not!)

 

An indulgence of mine is the Ghiradelli chocolates that have this pairing.  Quite the treat.

Single Serving Sweets

So what’s your favorite?

Do you have a combination you love?

 

Posted in Cooking, eating | 1 Comment

Hitting the Brakes, Taking Stock and Switching Gears

       Wouldn’t it be nice sometimes if life were like those Choose Your Own Adventure books? Where you could realize ‘Hey! This isn’t NEARLY what I thought it’d be!” and just go back to some beginning, start over and try again?
Yes it’d make it easier, but it would probably also make it less surprising.

Either way, I’m not here to talk about serious life events, regrets, or choices-but I have found, hitting the reset button can do wonders.

My mind is a busy one.  I am constantly making lists (this includes making lists, of things I need to make lists for). I’ve struggled with sleep because my mind would be too busy thinking about what I had to do, despite knowing a clear focused (and rested) mind would be key in getting those things done. The biggest problem would be that I blurred the lines of work/play.  I would think about work long after I was home, and I hated that.

So, I changed things.  I give myself a blank slate, twice a day if I can afford the time.
My workday is set up that I have a lull just beyond halfway through.  At that point I stop, reassess what’s happened, and what I must do.  I can completely switch gears in this time, and it helps.  (Yes, lists are made).

When I come home I reset once more.  Most days I go into my room, lay down, and listen to a Relax app or just rest for 15-20 minutes.  I STOP my life.  I try to get my mind as absolutely clear as possible, then after the break, it’s back to reality.  This way I’m no longer dealing with work.  The remainder of the day is mine.  (I actually have been re-seting for some time, but lately I’ve been more regimented about the process, and have seen changes to correspond with the habit). 

I am aware that this is a luxury I have.  Twice over.  That I am able to stop, take few moments to look around, set up a new plan of action, and go.  That’s why I don’t take it lightly, and I highly recommend it.

Take a few breaks, Stop and smell the roses, enjoy the feeling of having a break slate, even if it’s just for a few brief seconds to reevaluate.

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

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Keep Holding On..

Over the past weeks and months, Mother Nature has held a fairly firm grip on the headlines.  While we’ve all heard it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind, in 2011 she’s been a downright hormonal, fit throwing shrew.  

Forces of nature (or as some controversially call them, “Acts of God”) make me more uneasy than almost anything else.  There is no reasoning with a tornado, and you can’t find a motive behind why massive waves of water took over communities.  That’s just how it is. No amount of asking why will appease, no justice to be sought.

One thing has stuck out to me throughout these events: the love, hope, and care given both before and after.  I’m thick in the social media scene where I live.  It’s given me great friends, and resources.  During storms that combed through Arkansas night after night, so many posts included “Please be safe” or “Be careful”. Texts, calls, and warnings were issued telling others to hunker down.  Those weren’t nights anyone volunteers for, but having that phone in my hand, seeing others remark, made me (and I’m sure plenty of others) feel much safer.

While that in itself is nice, afterwards is what has truly stuck with me.

People helped.  I’ve read of people wanting to rush out in the middle of the night to bring a chainsaw and help those with damage.  People whose homes had taken in water started sandbagging a neighbor’s house so they wouldn’t experience the same fate.  People gave money, and food. People Stopped worrying about an agenda, or politics, or differences.  They wanted to help, to do what’s best, to look out for someone else.

I believe, truly, as a population THIS is who we are.  I believe at the core of things people are good.  It’s something I wish we would try to remember, that we ARE these people.  While holding our loved ones tight, we can reach out to lift up another.

We are amazing, we just have to act on it–to love and take care of one another.

My home wasn’t touched by the storms.  But I too have recently experienced my own unavoidable life changing force.  Death.

My MeMe died mid-April.  If you know me, or have scanned through a few pages on this site, you know what she did, and continues to mean to me.  Her loss is something I am still processing, and likely will be for quite some time.

Going through a death or helping a friend through one is never easy.  You would never know that from my friends.  I received an almost instant surge of love and support.
Even ones who didn’t know what to say…just showed up, to listen, to try to find something to laugh about, to nurture…to remind that in tragedy there is love and hope.

.

Posted in Comfort, family, friends, learning, life, MeMe | 1 Comment

Inside the Silence

It’s been nearly two months since I’ve posted. That’s not something I’m proud of, but I do acknowledge it.
I’ve tried to write. I have a post half-finished here (one that will likely never be published actually) and I’ve written countless others during a commute (sadly due to my accent, disconnected thoughts and colorful language my dictation apps have been a bit sub par in capturing my thoughts at the moment, more often leaving me staring at a screen wondering “WHAT was I talking about?!”)

The facts are these: Things got messy for a spell.

None of the scenarios I faced was uncommon, yet each took a toll. The result of which was a substantial amount of questioning, and self-examination…from the grandiose of ideals to trivial undertakings.

The cessation of posts was largely because of that. It was compelling to work though each matter in words and phrases, leaving them online as though it were some sort of homework. But, I knew that was never an option for me. I feared if I began to write, then thoughts would trickle out of that Pandora’s box and weave their way into my words.
Others throw their life onto their pages, and I commend them for their honesty and fearlessness. I compartmentalized, and there are certain areas not open to the vast spectator filled internet. I’d much prefer to air grievances, whine, curse and confide sevrets over a cup of tea, a bottle of wine, or even a well timed text.

I still don’t have things sorted out, but I’ve resolved myself to the fact that: that IS a part of life. (In fact if I had the answers I’d be penning a book to be published, not posting a blog!)

During the infinite questioning, I even wondered if I was Done with cooking. The hobby had often been my refuge and I toiled with the idea that it no longer held the same magnitude for me. I got my answer a few weeks ago.
I was miling about in my grocery store, I turned into the produce section, and I froze.
Everything looked good. All synapsis were firing trying to think of recipes or ideas for new dishes, and logic trying to argue that if in fact I DID buy all I wanted, much would go to waste.

It was one of those instances that are only symbolic to the person they happen to, and can likely make you look like a fool to onlookers, or even those you try to explain it to.
I felt calm, and excited all at once, like a weight was lifted. It felt like things were righting themselves again.

For the life of me I can’t tell you what I cooked that night. Then again it doesn’t really matter, does it?

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It’s on the Plate

Lately things in my life are a little out of whack. 
That doesn’t mean things are necessarily bad, or good, but there is a substantial amount of change…and waiting.  (I’ve had difficulty with both in the past)
In just about every single case, there’s nothing that I personally can do to impact things.  And that’s alright, but it certainly doesn’t make the process any easier.   I know I’ve been stressed, but it was Food that really pointed out how much was on my mind.

In the past when I would get tense, I either don’t want anything to eat, or I forage through the pantry and come up with unusual combinations of food that rarely have any nutritional content whatsoever.   Not too long ago I discovered that cooking helped to calm me.  It gave me a focus (it’s not easy to dwell on something when you’re trying to keep your fingers in tact!)  It was my outlet.

This week–my mood has shown up on my plate.  Things I’m making are just…off.  I know by the texture, the smell, the taste.  I can tell in the process that there is something amiss, yet these are recipes I know by heart.  Ones I have done he exact same way dozens of times.   My chicken noodles lacked a warmth, and rolls are meant to be mounds, not flat-ish circles.   I’m going through the motions even at my stove, and it’s showing.  In the one place I use to conquer this stuff. 

Since I am the only variable I can control, I’ve come up with a plan.
I’ll be plating up dishes I’ve never taken on, pushing myself to a level that is just beyond my comfort zone.  I will embrace the process and the challenge.  The rest of the stuff will play out in ways yet to be seen.  This will help me bide my time till that happens. 

If you see me, ask me “What’s Cookin’?” 
Just don’t mock the menu.

Posted in Cooking, family, food, friends, life | Leave a comment

Slow Cooker Sunday: Super Easy Chicken Salsa

It’s been a while since I’ve done a slow cooker recipes.  The holidays threw me off, then it was tough to get going again.  But, I’m back (by that I mean I did a slow cooker dish this week, next week we’ll see how it goes.)

I had frozen chicken breasts in the freezer, so that served as my starting point.  Once again  I went to crockpot365 for inspiration.  I found her ‘Salsa Chicken’ recipe, and used that as a starting point.  This has to be one of the easiest dishes I’ve made so far.  If that wasn’t enough it’s also delicious and healthy. Plus you may have many of the items already in your fridge/pantry which makes it that much easier.

Ingredients

Chicken breasts (or chicken thighs, whatever you have on hand–I used 3 large chicken breasts, but you could use more and still have enough sauce/salsa)

1 can black beans, rinsed
1 can kidney beans, rinsed
1 heaping cup of frozen corn
1-2 cups of chunky salsa
Sour Cream (I used fat-free, I just wanted the consistency to change)
Rice or Tortillas (optional)

Put chicken in the crock pot (if it’s frozen it’s fine-just toss it in)
Add other ingredients & cook for 6-8 hours.

Once it’s done you have a few options:

  • Serve the breasts (or thighs) whole and spoon salsa on top
  • Shred chicken, serve on top of rice, add salsa
  • Shred chicken, put it and salsa mixture into tortillas

I served mine over Cilantro Lime Rice.  I think the flavors of the rice blended well with the salsa and added a touch of brightness.

Cilantro Lime Rice

2 cups instant rice (everything needs balance, slow cooker/ instant rice)
1.5-2 Tablespoons lime juice (if you happen to have limes, juice of one lime)
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
Chicken broth  (just a few tablespoons)
Salt to taste
Cook the  rice as directed.
Fluff with fork before adding other ingredients.
Enjoy!

 

Posted in Chicken, Cooking, food, recipe, slow cooker | 2 Comments

Quin-Whaaa? (Cooking with Quinoa)

This week I tried Quinoa, and Real Simple is largely to blame.

The issue that inspired me Doesn't it make you want to get in the kitchen?

The February 2011 issue had “The 30 Healthiest Ingredients” and I quickly scoured the list to see what I was eating regularly, and what I would put on my list to try.

Quinoa made the top of my list.
It was described as  “A complete plant-based protein, (meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids) this offers the same energy and satiety you would get from meat, sans the fat and cholesterol.”
It looks like a grain, cooks like a grain, but it’s actually a seed.  It’s gluten-free, cholesterol-free and kosher.

Another benefit?  Well not only is it fun to say (Keen-Wah) you don’t hear about it much.  It sounds so much more exotic than rice or pasta.  Just mentioning it garners a bit of respect.

That respect, is actually what kept the ingredient in the back of my mind for years.  As you’d expect, I watch cooking shows (to be clear I prefer Top Chef far and away above the others.)  In summer of 2009 the show had a spin-off called ‘Top Chef Masters” (featuring restaurant elite).  One episode has ALWAYS stuck in my mind.  The remaining chefs were asked to create a dinner for Zooey Deschanel and her friends and family.

But there was a catch.  There’s ALWAYS a catch.  Ms. Deschanel is vegan.  And gluten intolerant. And doesn’t eat soy.
I remember hearing that and my jaw hitting the floor, wondering WHAT would be made.  Chef Michael Chiarello, made pasta.  Using Quinoa, and he won.

Fortunately, Eating Well happened to have a recipe this week that featured Quinoa (I follow the magazine on Twitter.)  I made some adjustments, ending with a recipe that has 4 items on the “Healthiest Foods” list.  It’s filling and good.  Details below:

Quinoa is found in the specialty food section.  It’s a bit pricy ($5 for 12-16 oz).  This is a pet-peeve of mine (WHY must healthy food cost more?!?)  buy the pre-rinsed.

The seeds must be rinsed or they’ll taste bitter. I tried to rinse mine at home to make sure…and created a big mess. Since they’re so small I’d recommend lining a colander with cheese cloth (or a few paper towels) and rinsing.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 Boneless Skinless chicken breasts-cooked*
  • 4 teaspoons reduced-sodium  soy sauce, divided*
  • 4 tablespoons plus 3 teaspoons canola oil, divided*
  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 teaspoons grated or minced garlic
  • 3 cups chicken broth (or water, if need be)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup broccoli spears
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 bunch sliced scallions
  • 1/2- 3/4 cup steamed edamame *
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

PREPARATION

  1. Toss chicken with 2 teaspoons soy sauce in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. Place a large, high-sided skillet with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon canola oil and quinoa. Cook, stirring constantly, until the quinoa begins to color, 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add broth and salt and bring to a boil. Stir once, cover and cook over medium heat until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. (Do not stir.) Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Add in edamame and let sit again.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk 3 tablespoons canola oil, the remaining 2 soy sauce and vinegar  in a large bowl. Add the quinoa and edamame, scallions and broccoli; toss to combine.
  4. Heat remaining oil in skillet and cook the chicken.  Add to quinoa, garnish with cilantro
** (Notes)  The Original recipe called for scallops.  I cooked the chicken because I knew it    would be done, rather than guessing and having it raw.
**  I didn’t have sesame oil (which can be pricy) so I used additional canola
** Since I used Chicken I used more soy sauce, for coating
** Edamame and Broccoli replaced Snow Peas and Red Bell Pepper
See the original recipe here

There it Is!

Posted in Chicken, Cooking, food, recipe | 4 Comments