January 27, 2014

The Thought Police Might Be After You

I believe in moral absolutes. 
There.  I said it. 
It just seems like saying that in today’s society is a bad thing, a very bad thing.

Moral absolutes mean that you think that there is a right and a wrong no matter your circumstances.  And while most people would agree that killing someone is a bad thing, other lifestyle choices are often off limits.
It seems that lately you are not allowed to think in ways that don’t show love and acceptance to all.  If you do express a dislike of a certain behavior then you are often branded a hater, a racist or homophobe. The list is pretty long it seems of groups that are off limits.

Yesterday I pondered why people feel the need to worry about what others say, but I think it is a part of a much larger issue.  The issue isn’t do I not like you, but the fact that if I do not accept your point of view as good then I must hate you.

I guess I see quite a difference between not accepting something as a good thing and hating the individual who did it.
The thing is I have people I call friends who are gay.  I have other friends who have had abortions.  I know others who have been unfaithful to their spouses.
These aren’t activities that I feel are the morally right thing to do.  The are not actions I want to emulate and cannot condone and also teach my children to be wrong.  Yes, wrong.  I do not believe that these are the right way of doing things.
But that doesn’t change the fact that they are my friends and that I love them. 
(and I will also admit that I have often screwed up and allowed my own emotion to lead me to not act as a friend, but I hope that in the end, I got it together)

I guess I believe that people are more than just the sums of their actions, and as a sinner, I don’t feel qualified to condemn them for their sins.
To me, God isn’t someone I want to box in.  He has given me grace, and I choose not to limit Him.
I feel that it is His job to figure out the sin part and best for me to be the best friend to others I can be and to show others love the best way I can.

The media and those with agendas want to get everyone all upset and polarized on issues though.  I do think that examining issues is a good thing, but so often instead we are manipulated and either change our view to fit the politically correct or stand ostracized as being a hater.
To me, this is telling me that there is a right and a wrong way that I am supposed to think about things.  That my current thought process and decisions do not matter.  That the standards I have decided to live by aren't on the list of ones to pick from.  That I really don't have a choice as there is only the one right way for all people.
I guess I don’t care to be told how I’m supposed to think, especially when I wonder who is the one who gets to decide what is the popular right or wrong as of this moment?  

Yes, I believe in moral absolutes.  I believe that there is a right and a wrong.  
But do I hate you if you think, act or believe differently than I do?
The answer is no.  I don't hate you.  I probably don't pity you either.  I probably think that you are amazing for living your convictions and for doing what you felt you had to do.  I wonder what brought you to that place for their decisions?  If you feel at peace?  I wonder how I might help you not feel like they have no other choice in making hard decisions.  I wonder how much pain some of those decisions caused, and if, as a friend, I have offered you support and love?

I think it is the easy and convenient way out to say that someone hates a group just because of how they behave.  I think it takes away actually getting to know people on either side as an individual, and that might be the hard part, the messy part?  Actually learning to relate to others where they are?

I guess I don't care for a herd mentality.  We are individuals and I prefer to know people, not groups.

January 26, 2014

Sheep?

I’m not one to be overly mouthy online any more.  I’d go off on things here and there on the old blog, but that is gone now and I like to think I’ve mellowed or at least matured in the last few years.
But some things have been bothering me lately.
I will admit that I don’t read blogs.  Yeah, I do check out the ones of a couple of close friends, but I really don’t have the time or inclination to read many outside of the herb world.
I do read Matt Walsh.  He’s a smart kid who hopefully will keep his crap together as he grows up.  He actually has a thought process as well and seems to value logic.  I appreciate this and he has given me a glimpse of hope for the younger generations (and saying that just makes me feel beyond old).
 
I think what bothers me is that on facebook so many people get upset by blog posts.  The trend lately has been to attack stay at home mothers, or wives, or people who have kids.  And then you have the other side who wants to defend their choices.

I just wonder.... does any of it really matter?
Does it really matter what these random people out there in the world really think? 
Why would I value the opinion, or give any credibility to, some random stranger on the internet.
Why would I click a link just to get irritated by the ignorance of someone and add to their ad revenue?
 
At a time when meeting our future spouse online via blind dates is acceptable and communities connect, it seems that we have given actual credibility to these faceless internet voices.
 
My kids have a name for this actually.  It is called being sheep. 
I know.  It isn’t some pithy saying that I can trademark and make a trend.  It’s been around for quite a while.... probably because there have always been those out there who follow blindly and accept things for what they initially appear to be.
 
Why be a sheep?  Why not ignore those who are foolish and think they have life’s problems summed up?  Why worry or give a thought (other than possibly pity) to someone who wants to bash your lifestyle?
 
I will admit that many people I know on facebook and online irritate me and often make me roll my eyes and shake my head.  (that’s what the hide button is for, you know).  I do believe that thinking on opinions of others is a good thing.  I think having a logical process to test things you hear is valuable in life.  That’s how you learn and how you grow.  I don’t just want to know what people who agree with me are saying.  I want to know the opposite stance and really test my view sometimes.
But I do not think that saying inflammatory things for shock value and then giving a heated response is worth much. 
Why do you have to give a response?  Why do you feel the need to comment?
Your value is more than a random comment on a blog post or a 'like' on a post.

Yes, I do believe in speaking about things that you feel are important.  It is worth standing up for things that you feel passionately about.  But is debating the issue on a blog post really the way to change someone's views?
I guess I see more credibility among people who are living their choices in a way that makes me proud to know them.  I want to see the proof that your way is better.  I want to see how your convictions really change the world and make it better.  Telling me in a random way on some blog I never heard of really holds very little weight in my view.
 
I think that we give too much value to what the media spins to us.  I think we are caught up in celebrity.  I think we are becoming more easily manipulated because of a loss of thought and logic.
I’m not recommending that everyone go out and start of study lf Aristotle, but seeking wisdom in all areas of our lives is a worthwhile pursuit.
 
I guess my whole point here is that being talked about badly might not be pleasant, and short of the whole ‘marriage tax penalty’ deal, I really don’t feel persecuted or punished for having the life that I have chosen.  It is one thing to not have people support or agree with me, but a totally different thing to be beaten or fined or thrown in jail for my choices. 
So I’d just encourage you to not get too upset about the faceless and essentially useless opinions of others.  If someone says something contrary to your belief there’s an easy fix.  Test what they are saying with things you know to be true.  Or just ignore them all together.
I wouldn’t worry about responding to those who are inflammatory in what they say, as responding almost always makes you appear as foolish as they are.

Then go out, get off the computer, and live the life that you have chosen.

January 24, 2014

Cheesy Burger Soup-S

It's cold.  Like really cold.
I don't want to go out.  I don't really want to do much of anything right now.  I just want to stay warm and cozy.
But the people in my house seem to want food regularly.  It's one of those things your realize when you stay at home full time that somehow surprises me?
People, especially small people, like to have regularly scheduled meals that include more than spinach dip and crackers.

The cold weather often makes me want to cave and just resort to comfort foods like potatoes and grains, but I know that I need to keep my focus on health and nutrition.
I'm also looking at what is quick and easy with ingredients I have on hand.  Our pantry stock is always unique to each of our families, but I think that somethings like onions, ground meat and cheese are always things that we tend to have on hand in most homes.
Burgers and cabbage are a staple here, but today I wanted something different.  Something warm, creamy and hearty.
My mother sent me a recipe for crockpot cheeseburger soup.  I had made a version once that was filled with all kinds of yummy things.  By yummy things I am talking about potatoes.
Potatoes aren't going to help me maintain weightloss, and I don't have the time for cooking slow.

This soup is hearty, creamy and delicious, but allows you to stay on THM with a Satisfying, S, meal.  It also hides a veggie and while their are no chunks of potato, you still get the richness that they would add.

Cheesy Burger Soup-S

1-2 pounds of ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 tsp garlic powder or a clove of garlic, minced
1/4 tsp smoky paprika
salt
pepper
2 cups beef broth (mine is a thick, gelatinous,concentrated homemade version so I added the extra water to compensate.  If you are using store bought, you might want to use 4 cups and skip the water)
2 cups water
1 cup half and half
1 cup cauliflower puree
8 oz cheddar

Brown the ground beef in a large pot.
Meanwhile, make your cauliflower puree, if needed.  I use frozen cauliflower that I defrost and puree with a bit of half and half in the blender.
Drain any fat from the meat and add the onions, celery, garlic and spices.  Cook for a few minutes on medium heat till the onions are translucent.
Add the broth/water and half and half.  Add the cauliflower puree.
Stir to combine.
Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
Add the shredded cheddar and stir and allow to melt over about 5 minutes and low heat.
Serve in bowls with additional cheddar shredded on top.

This goes nicely with a salad and some bread.
Check out other THM friendly recipes at Gwen's Nest for Trim, Healthy Tuesday.



January 14, 2014

Baby Muffins

Life with toddlers is sometimes tricky.  They go through phases where they will eat the weirdest things, and the next day will look at you like you are stupid for offering the same thing to them.
It does always seem like they will eat junk, but you  don't want to reinforce poor choices.
I'm always trying to find ways to sneak in fruits and veggies and while these treats are not THM approved for grown folks, they are great for kids who need their fruits and veggies.
These are muffins, but what makes them special is the addition of fruit purees.  I got the idea after reading Deceptively Delicious.  There are many inspiring ideas to help your kids get their veggies and fruits.
This is my version of a muffin that uses both a sweet potato and banana blend.  I figured why not take something yummy, like banana bread, and add to it?
Turns out Baby Chase loves them and so does Papa Bob too!  Papa isn't on THM and needs his veggies as well.

To puree the sweet potato, I first peel and cut it into a couple of pieces that I place in a small pan of water.  Bring it to a simmer and cook till the pieces are soft enough to be cut into with a fork.  Or you could just steam in a steamer basket until soft.
Place in a blender or food processor (I find the processor easier to use) and process until smooth.  It doesn't have to be a thin puree.  I just pulse a bit to make a thick paste consistency.
A medium sweet potato should yield about 1/2 cup, roughly, of puree.  A little more or less shouldn't make much difference in the recipe.
The banana is already soft so I use about 3 for 1/2 cup of puree and either mash it with a fork or just throw it in the processor after, or with, the sweet potato.

And yes.  There is sugar in this.  For many years I used only honey, but I kind of changed my view on this.  It's a small amount, and if you like, feel free to use honey.  You'll just need to alter the dry ingredient amounts.


Baby Muffins

2 cups whole wheat flour (I use freshly ground spelt)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup sweet potato puree
1/2 cup banana puree
1/3 cup oil
1 egg
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Blend all the dry ingredients together and then add the wet ingredients and stir to incorporate.  Add chocolate chips and stir.  When using whole grains, I like to let the batter sit a bit to soak up the liquids as I find it gives a better result.
Spoon into a greased muffin, or mini-muffin, pan.  I tend to use mini-muffin size so that waste is cut down (no one bite and then it sits and becomes stale) and size is more manageable for little hands.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for 12-13 minutes for mini and 15 for traditional size.
This makes 6 dozen mini and probably 2 dozen traditional size.




January 10, 2014

Spicy Curry Chicken and Zoodles-S

It has been a cold, wet, and nasty winter here.  It seems that is the going trend for most of the country right now.
This makes me crave warm, soulful comfort food.  But it  doesn't have to be off plan per Trim, Healthy Mama.  Food can still be satisfying, comforting and feel like love still.

If you have read any of my other recipes you know that I'm not afraid of a little kick of spice and heat.
And I feel that describes this dish well.... a little spice and heat, but not too much.  Just the right amount, you know?   It's like a little kiss of heat from the curry paste, and a hug of smooth from the coconut milk.
And in my mind the addition of zoodles makes it a more mild, family friendly dish (for full disclosure, my kids do find this to be not to their liking, but that just means more for the actual grown-ups in the house).

On the subject of zoodles.  You do not need a special piece of equipment to make them.  You can simply julienne them by hand with a knife.  Seriously.  I've heard that to be true, but have never had the patience to do a bunch of them as it is tedious (especially with a toddler hanging on your leg) and  mine don't look pretty.
I personally use a V-slicer, but found this nifty, multitasking slicer/peeler and bought it for my mother at Christmas time.  The julienne slicer is nice because you can flip it around and use it as a regular peeler.  It seems very sturdy and my mother said it worked well.  I almost (but didn't) tried it out before giving it to her.
You could also use a spiral slicer.  I've not used this either, but it's supposed to be a cool thing.
(I will also add that none of these are affiliate links.  I'm just giving examples.  I'd also say that if you are going to buy anything, in the spirit of frugality, please watch the prices on amazon as these are all about 50% higher in price now than they were in December.)

And I will also add that bell peppers are expensive.  I'd love to add a chopped one or 2 with an onion as well, and you can feel free to do so, but I find that a frozen bag of 'fajita mix' veggies from my grocery store is more affordable and a better choice for me.  Feel free to sub with fresh if you like.

Spicy Curry Chicken and Zoodles-S


  • 1-2 pounds chicken breast meat
  • 2 TBSP cooking oil
  • 2 TBSP red curry paste
  • 1 can lite coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup water or chicken stock 
  • 1/2 bag frozen fajita mix veggies
  • 3 zucchini turned into zoodles
  • 1/2 cup monterey jack cheese, shredded
  • salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder (optional)
Cut the chicken into small, bite size pieces and set a large-ish pan over medium-high heat and add the oil.  When it is warm, add the chicken with some salt and cook until golden brown.  This can take a while and you might need to turn the heat down to medium.  
When brown, add the red curry paste, coconut milk, water/stock, fajita mix veggies and salt.  Taste to see if you like the level of heat.  I personally like to add a bit more cayenne and garlic.
Cover and bring to a boil then reduce to simmer.  Let it simmer for about 30 minutes.  This should cook off some of the liquid as well.
Add the zoodles and let it simmer another 20-30 mintues.
Add the jack cheese in the last 5 minutes and let it melt.
Serve in bowls and top with remaining cheese.


Check out Trim, Healthy Tuesday at Gwen's Nest for more THM ideas.


January 7, 2014

Quilted Book Covers

I have to admit that I really enjoy sewing.  The issue is that, like most things, if you don't do it regularly your skills decline.  And I never had a ton of sewing skill to being with.
Yes, I like to think I could hang with the designers on Project Runway, but I can be quite delusional.
If baby Chase had been a little, sweet girl child, I might be making dresses, as clothing for a toddler is cute and pretty forgiving, but instead my little rough guy lives in t-shirts and jeans.
I don't make my own clothes as a rule because I can always buy a less expensive product that fits better with minimal time spent.  Sewing a garment takes time, and material isn't cheap.  And please don't get me started on fitting.  It just isn't worth it.

But sometimes I just get the itch to sew.

One day I was going through the remnants I'd accumulated over the last 5-10 years from different projects and realized I had quite a collection.  I had so much fabric that I decided to make a collection of book covers.  I had made these before after seeing an article in Quilting Arts Magazine.  Of course I don't follow directions and just kind of did my own thing, but I did take some of their basic directions.

Mine aren't quite as fancy as the ones in the magazine, but then, I'm not that fancy of a person either.
These are fabrics that I adore and are special to me as they each have a meaning and reference.
It also helps that I can justify having an overly nice machine with more functions than I'll ever figure out.

Things you'll need to make your own....

  • felt (any color, but I like green and it goes with everything)  I also buy the best I can afford.  This is a 35% wool.  I'd avoid the all poly ones.
  • fusible webbing (think of it as double sided tape for fabric)
  • fabric (your choice and feel free to mix it up)
  • thread
  • book or notebook
First:  Decide the size of your book cover.  I selected some notebooks that had an interior pocket and lined pages.  You can use art books or paperback books or even hardback ones.





Cut:  The felt needs to be cut out.  Make it a bit (1/2 inch, at least) wider/the up and down part and about 2-3 inches longer on each side.  This is important because the side ends will fold over and keep the notebook in place.  The top/bottom need to be larger so that you don't see the book underneath.

You next need to use a fusible webbing, like a fusible interfacing that has stick on both sides, and adhere it to the felt.  Mine isn't as large as the felt and it's fine.  It is generally just to get a bit of support and stability.
 Now for the fabric.   Select and fabrics and lay them out in a pattern on top of the fusible webbing and adhere them.  You can do a random pattern or patch different ones together before starting.  I choose to layer as I go.
The fabric needs to be larger than the felt all the way around.
 After positioning and adhering the fabric you want to zigzag or finish off the fabric edge.
Clip and turn over and straight stitch all the way around, either mitering the corners or just folding them over.



Make sure that you make this stitch an even one as it is visible.  I tend to use a contrasting thread over one that blends.



 Next, you'll want to mark where your folds will be.  You will need to place the cover around the book and make sure it fits.  Close it up so that it won't be too tight (as the flat book is smaller than when it is closed).  I use an iron to press the folds and the felt will keep the mark for the duration.

 

Now the fun begins.  Use decorative stitches and threads to enhance the outside of the book.  I personally like geometrics, but feel free to use all kinds of designs.  I like to think of this as a quilting technique and make even quilting lines in some books.


Hmmm, I wonder who this one is for?
When you have completed any embellishing, remeasure with the book or notebook and then stitch down the flaps that will hold the book.  I like to stay with the original stitching across the top and bottom for this seam.
Clip all those stray threads (you can see this is not my strong point).
Add the book and you are done!



January 4, 2014

About Relationships and Trees

I've been reading Guido Mase's book, The Wild Medicine Solution: Healing with Aromatic, Bitter and Tonic Plants, over the last few months.  I've truly had a few mind blowing moments where things really came together.  To help make sure I was really grasping it, I also listened to some online lectures (they are free, by the way) that he has given.
My kids were in and out while I was listening and their take on it had more to do with 'licking a pine tree' in their suburban, mom's heading towards being a whacked out hippie point of view.
They were really disturbed when I told them that 'forest bathing' is the equivalent to them going and playing in the woods on the trampoline daily.

But none of that is really my point.

You see, my kids also told me that they missed me.  This is coming from 2 teens who apparently miss me and want to spend time with me.  I didn't think that was supposed to be normal, but I don't take  it lightly.

I tend to be a higher energy person.  No, I don't bounce off the walls and am not hyper.  I'm actually quite introverted, but I need a certain level of stimulation or I tend towards nuts.
Getting thru pregnancy and that first year or so of a baby really wiped me out, but I feel like I am back now and somehow I turned facebook and Trim, Healthy Mama boards into a full-time job.  It gave me something to do as there's only so many times you can vacuum and dust in a week.
I think I was looking at stay at home as being a list of chores, like how I'd plan out my work day, when it is kind of just about being present and the interaction?

And then my friends are all online and I spent all day with them.  I did try cutting back groups, but would just spend more time in the ones I hadn't left.
My kids told me that all I did was sit on the computer all day, and they didn't understand why I'd choose people online who I didn't know or who frustrated me over ones I was supposed to care for and love.

So I needed a clean break.
I deactivated and just left.

So far it feels pretty good.  I'm not sure anyone has realized I'm even gone.  Imagine the shock that I'm not the center of everyone's world.

But I am the center of the world for some people and they are the ones who see and watch me daily and they did notice things weren't right.  I'm working on fixing that, and if it ever warms up, I'll be out licking trees and forest bathing with my kids instead of sending them out so I can sit on the computer.

January 3, 2014

Tikka Tikka Chicken-E

I recently had the opportunity to preview a recipe for Stacy Makes Cent's new cookbook, Keep Crockin', (affiliate link) and let me just say, that like most of her recipes I've tried, it was delicious.
The new cookbook has a great range of ideas and recipes with many quickly becoming my new go-to's for family meals.

Stacy has graciously released her recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala and it is wonderful.  You can click the link for her recipe and get a feel for how Keep Crockin' will look.
The thing is, most of Stacy's recipes are ones with a flavor profile like we are used to eating.  It's real food and doesn't involve going out and buying a bunch of ingredients or spices that are unfamiliar.  It's real comfort food in my opinion.  Her combinations are a fresh taste, but very palatable.
Her riff of looking at old, country church cookbooks is very close to how my family likes to eat.  Yes, I would like to think that I was inspired to learn to cook by Julia Child, but I'm actually much closer to the regional, Southern cookbooks from the 1940s that my grandmother passed down to me.

My issue is S.L.O.W.
I so dislike the word.
I'd like to think I have layers and that there are many words that describe me in life, but I pray that slow isn't one of them.  I like my pressure cooker, remember.  I like speedy!
So don't tell Stacy, but I'm not one to use a slow cooker regularly.
I will add that I gifted someone a slow cooker for Christmas and think that they are super, duper handy, but they are just not something that fits into my lifestyle as our family has lunch as a main meal due to a husband/dad who works 2nd shift from 4pm till midnight.  This means that I can't put something in a crockpot after breakfast because it won't be ready in 2 hours for lunch.  We tend to have our main meal as a family at noon with dinner leftovers because it is just me and the kids.  I'm also not one to be that on the ball and wanting to think about lunch and dinner prep at 9am over coffee, but that is more the slacker in me.

So I adapted this to the stovetop, and call it Tikka Tikka Chicken mainly because I just like saying Tikka Tikka and it just makes it sound a bit more speedy.
Served over a bed of quinoa cooked in chicken broth and it makes a perfect E meal.  Here's another quinoa recipe that tells how I cook it.

To alter Stacy's recipe for stovetop is pretty simple and takes about 30 minutes, longer if you want to allow the flavors to really simmer into the chicken.
I also have 2 growing teens, a husband and a toddler who is a bottomless pit besides myself.  I usually double this recipe so that there's plenty for us and a couple of leftover servings as well.

Tikka Tikka Chicken-E
  • 1 pound of chicken breast meat cut up
  • 1 cup tomato sauce 
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  •  ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  •  ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  •  ½ teaspoon ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • HEAPING ½ cup sour cream (I use low fat to keep it E.  Use full fat and serve with zoodles for S)
  • quinoa or rice


I get the quinoa started cooking, and then place 1 tsp of oil in a large, heavy pan (I use an enamel cast iron dutch oven) over medium heat, add the chicken with some salt and pepper and allow to cook until it is that lovely caramel color.
If the chicken starts to act like it is going to stick, you can always add a splash of chicken broth.  This keeps it in E territory without adding more oil.

Another issue I have with slow cookers.... you miss out on coaxing the love from food.  You miss that moment when chicken goes from pale and pasty to that lovely shade of caramel and is packed with flavor.  You might not see it in the final recipe, but once there, that flavor doesn't go away.

Add the tomatoes and seasonings then stir it all together and let simmer over low heat for at least 30 minutes. I will admit that I skip the shredding step as I just don't want to mess with it and it adds time ( a commodity I do not always have).
Stir in the sour cream the last 5 minutes or so and warm through.
Serve over quinoa with a salad on the side (to get those veggies!)  This makes an E meal in THM land.

The Keep Crockin' cookbook really is a great buy with photos of every dish.  It's a great inspiration for the seasoned home cook, or someone just starting out on a natural, whole foods lifestyle.
This link will take you to Stacy's original, wonderful recipe that she has released and allowed to be printed so you can get a tease at how good these recipes are.
Enjoy!