Monday, May 6, 2013

Words are Powerful

Recently in my life someone said to me, "No one cares about you."

Talk about powerful words.

We have to be so careful what we say to our spouses, children, friends, and even our enemies. Words can haunt our hearts for hours, days, weeks, even years. We have to ask ourselves if "winning" a conversation or disagreement is worth the damage our words can cause.

I've learned, it's never worth it. Sometimes, I have to choose to ignore things or just walk away from a comment even when I feel misrepresented. Sometimes when we are simply trying to explain ourselves and feel like our motivations are right, they can be wrong.

What you say can mean life or death. Those who speak with care will be rewarded. Proverbs 18:21 NCV

Monday, April 15, 2013

Misinterpreted Passion

What are you passionate about?

If I scroll through some people's Facebook timelines, their passions are obvious: My mother shares scripture and teachings on her Twitter and Facebook more than once a day; She's passionate about Jesus. My Aunt Debbie shares photos and tips about making party food unique; it's safe to say she likes throwing a pretty party with a good theme. My cousin-in-law Raeia's timeline is filled with Pinterest pins of recipes that are genuinely whole foods and good for you, as well as work outs. She's passionate about being healthy, really healthy.

Do you know what I'm passionate about? Food. I should probably equal that out with exercise but that's a post for another day. Several years ago, I decided I wanted to learn to cook from scratch. At that point in time, I just wanted to be more like my great-grandmothers before me. I learned to can, freeze fresh produce, and make jams. Then I learned to bake bread. I even learned to make fresh pasta. While I've been on this journey, I've also learned a lot about our food system. It's not as safe as you would think. Additives, food dyes, and preservatives change our brain chemistry, over exposure to GMO corn can cause cause fertility issues, neurological diseases, and cancer.

I began to wonder why our great-grandparents had families of 8 or 9 children instead of struggling with infertility and multiple miscarriages. And how they rarely had troubles breast feeding or how rarely children developed autism. How commonly did people have Alzheimer's?

My mom says (if I remember correctly) that once your eyes have been opened to the truth, it's up to you to decide what you do with that information. You can keep it to yourself or share it.

It's been brought to my attention that: my desire to share the things I have learned is rude, I make people think that if they aren't just like me, I think they're stupid., and this is why I have no "real friends". I, in turn, feel like my 11th grade self who never understood why she was the only unpopular Varsity cheerleader ever.

I won't lie, I don't understand why we medicate our children for hyperactivity rather than changing their diets first. But, I never EVER meant, one single time, to act like I think I am a better mom than anyone else. My house is messy, there are always dirty dishes in my sink, and I just cannot keep from buying crackers to keep on hand. I am not perfect, I am just me. Warts and all. I get so excited learning to make things from scratch because I think it's fun. Maybe you enjoy gardening - I kill everything that can't tell me it's thirsty, or music - I can't play an instrument or sing, or art - please don't ask me to draw anything. It's embarrassing. But I can cook. I love it. I always have.

My heart is broken. Surely, you all didn't think I was that self-righteous and mean. But I am thinking more people feel that way than I'd like to know.

I'm hoping this may clear some things up, I'm sorry I offended so many of you.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I Walked Away...Alzheimer's Sucks

     I'm not even sure what the point of this post is. All I know is that the past few days I've had to come face to face with something I have tried to run from for years. Where do I even begin? Well, let's start at the very beginning...

     I am a child of divorce. And through that hard bit of life, I have also had the privilege of having an extra family it seems. Two extra parents, extra brothers, and two extra sets of grandparents. I was in the 7th grade when my parents started dating new people, and my Mom met a man younger than her by 7 years. He became my stepdad when I was 15. Noah has always been great to me and my brother Chess. But this story isn't about him, it's about his mom. 

     When we met Aundria, she didn't have grandkids yet, but she always treated Chess and me like family. She is by far the kindest person I have ever met in my life. I never heard her say anything negative about anyone, ever. I never heard her raise her voice or speak in anything other than a soft tone of voice. Not like I've forgotten if she had...she really didn't. She hosted us almost every Sunday for lunch. She made the best creamed potatoes. I can still remember how they tasted. I wish we had learned her secret to those awesome potatoes. 

     About 8 or 9 years ago, she started to forget things. One Sunday she put flour in the tea instead of sugar. Another Sunday, she added cinnamon. You know...just little things that we could kind of giggle about on our way home. It was 7 1/2 years ago she was diagnosed with Dimentia/Alzheimer's.  I'll never forget that phone call. I was working for Clinique in a department store, and I sat down right in the middle of the floor and listened to my mom tell me that eventually she wouldn't know me. And she'd never know my children. Not because she was sick and wouldn't be living, but because she wouldn't have the ability to remember. The last time that stands out to me that she and I truly interacted was at my wedding reception. That was 6 years ago. 

     For 6 years, I've only visited her a little because it was so hard to see her on this journey. She's been living in an assisted care facility for 3 1/2 years now. Until this weekend, I'd only visited her once or twice. I know how horrible it sounds. I'm an adult, no one was going to make me go...but it was so hard to see her so disconnected. Now, her journey is coming to an end. 

     This weekend, I've had to come to terms with the fact that when things got tough, I walked away out of my own selfishness. It was as though if I didn't have to see what was really happening to her, it wasn't. I didn't have to accept it. Total denial. If you've never had a loved one to go through having this illness, you just can't understand. It's not a forgotten thing here or's total forgetfulness. Even forgetting that you shouldn't put your hands in your dinner plate or how to do even the simplest things. One day, she just didn't walk anymore. It's loving someone who no longer has the ability to even chose to love you in return. 

     The past two days, I've gone to see her and just watched her sleep. It's been an odd experience because she was always so very ladylike and I think if she knew she was snoring in front of us she would not like it one bit. But she doesn't know...she's been gone for a long time. Alzheimer's is like having someone die twice. It's the only situation I've ever witnessed where it genuinely feels hopeless. There's no turn around. You just don't come out of it. 

     So, this post, I guess, is an apology. It's a way for me to say I'm sorry to someone who will never hear me, but didn't notice I wasn't around.

     Kindness, genuine, unconditional kindness is one thing about her I will never ever forget.  My beloved Grandmother, Aundria, is only 68 years old. She hasn't known me for a while now. But I'll always remember her. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Monthly Menu Planning and Grocery Shopping Part 2

     First of all, let me say that the best thing that's come out of my monthly menu planning and shopping experiment is that there isn't any stress over dinner. Granted, I focused so much on dinner that I kind of forgot our lunches here at the house. Oops. However, next month, I'll know better. 
     I have a lot of things that will carry over to next month, partially because we traveled a bit to visit family, and partially because we eat a lot of breakfast around here. :) We have some meat in the freezer, and still two gallons of Organic Milk we haven't touched! I'm pretty excited. 
     We have a lot of new menus in our collection now too.  All the recipes I planned for this month were new. I had never made them before. And now I am going to share more of our favorites with you! 

Chicken Fried Steak with Creamed Gravy
4 Large, thin ribeyes cut in half
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 cups Panko Bread Crumbs
1 tsp ground pepper
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs
Oil for frying

Combine Panko, flour, baking powder, salt, and black pepper in a shallow dish. In a second dish, whisk milk and eggs. Dredge chicken in dry mixture, dip in milk mixture, and dredge in dry mixture again. Pour oil to a depth of 1/2 inch in a skillet. Heat oil and fry steaks in bathces, about 10 minutes, adding oil as needed. Turn, fry a couple more minutes until golden brown.  Remove to a wire rack on top of a pan.  You can place the pan in the oven to keep the steaks warm. 

Creamed Gravy:
1/3 cup flour
2-3 tbsp pan drippings
3 cups of milk
salt and pepper to taste

Carefully drain all but 2-3 tbsp of the pan drippings from the skillet. Add flour adn cook over medium high heat. Whisk the flour until it becomes brown and forms a paste. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly until combined. Let the gravy come to a boil adn then reduce heat and simmer until the gravy thickens. Salt and Pepper and serve over Steak and Mashed Potatoes. 

**This recipe can be repeated with thinly cut chicken too. This is the best "chicken fried" recipe I have tried! 

Balsamic Chicken with Roasted Vegetables
10 (20 oz) Chicken Thighs
20 Medium Asparagus, ends trimmed, cut in half
3 Bell Peppers, any color
1 cup carrots
2 Red Onions
10 oz Sliced Mushrooms
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 cup EVOO
1 tsp Sugar
2 cloves of Garlic

Preheat oven to 425. Wash and dry the chicken well. Combine all the ingredients together using your hands and arrange in a very large roasting pan.  The vegetables should not touch chicken, and all should end up in a singer layer. Use two baking dishes if necessary. Bake 35-40 minutes. Enjoy! 

This post also appears on my cooking blog:

Monday, September 24, 2012

Pictures from the Last Few Weeks...

Ella Rose has two teeth!!

My Sweet Girls

Silly Carly Beth

She's going to crawl any day now...

Sweet Ella Rose

Carly Beth is into superheroes right now

Real food or not, we have to stop for a frosty on our way to Auntie Jane's! 

Ella Rose graduated to the next seat...

We battled over this bite of zucchini for two hours until she fell asleep... 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Monthly Menu Planning and Grocery Shopping

     This month, I decided I was going to plan our menus and shop for the whole month! I did a lot of research online and read other bloggers experiences with shopping for the whole month. It was my hope to come in under $400 which is technically our food budget but I know good and well we spend more than that  by eating out when I just don't feel like cooking. I worked for two weeks researching and printing recipes. I picked recipes we'd never had before, and even printed recipes to make our own ketchup and mustard, some muffins and cookies.
     On Friday, I went out with my grocery list. I used a printable I found online to help me stay organized. I hit Aldi first and bought everything on my list they had available. I spent $117 roughly. I filled up my cooler in the back of my car and headed to Walmart. At Walmart, I spent about $240 on food. I bought all my meat here.  I didn't shy away from the items that I love and are staples in my kitchen: Good quality meats, King Arthur Flour, Ghiradelli chocolate chips, and Organic milk. Even though I was shopping for a whole month and  was concerned about the bottom line, I am more concerned about what my family is eating on a regular basis. This whole experiment is pointless if my family isn't staying with our healthy eating and minimal processed foods. I came in at about $50 under my goal of $400. I was really proud of myself!! $50 may not seem like a huge deal but over the course of the year is $600 we can save. That sounds pretty good to me!
    I froze three gallons of milk. I also cut the peppers and onions I purchased and put them in freezer bags in the freezer. I froze Asparagus and the other veggies I purchased. I also processed my avocados for future recipes and froze it in freezer containers.

     So far, I have made three new recipes of things I printed and I wanted to share them with you because they are SO yummy!!

Crockpot Santa Fe Chicken
   Adapted from
   Yield: 4-6 Servings
2 Chicken Breasts
1 14.4 oz can Rotel
1 15 oz can Black Beans
1 can Shoepeg Corn
2 cups Chicken Broth
1 Onion, chopped
1 Pepper, Chopped (Any color will do, I used Orange)
1 tsp each: Garlic powder, Cumin, Cayenne Pepper
Salt to taste

Combine Chicken broth, beans, corn, Rotel, onion, pepper, and seasonings in the crock pot. Season the chicken breast with salt and lay on top. Cook on low for 10 hours or high for 6 hours. Half and hour before serving, remove the chicken and shred, return to the slow cooker and stir in. Serve over rice, tortillas, or chips for nachos.

Creamy Chicken Marsala
Yield 4-5 servings
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
1 package Baby Bella mushrooms, cut up
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 cup Marsala cooking Wine
1/2 cup Chicken Broth
1/2 cup Half & Half or Heavy Cream
1 Pound dry pasta
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
5 tablespoons of butter
Salt and Pepper to taste

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Melt 1 tbsp in a large skillet. Cook chicken until lightly browned. Transfer to a plate. Boil water, and cook pasta according to the directions on the box.

Melt additional tbsp of butter in the skillet, add garlic, mushrooms and onion and cook for 6 minutes. Add cooked chicken back into the skillet. Add the Marsala, chicken broth adn cream and bring to a boil. Simmer until sauce is slightly thickened.

Drain Pasta and reserve 1/2 cup cooking water. Add the Pasta to the skillet along with 3 tbsp butter and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Cook until the pasta has absorbed some of the sauce, add the reserved pasta water as needed.

Season with Salt and pepper and serve with additional Parmesan cheese if desired.

"Instant" Pancake Mix
     Adapted from Alton Brown,
6 cups All-purpose flour (I used 1/2 King Arthur White Whole Wheat and 1/2 King Arthur All Purpose)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a lidded container, Shake to mix.  Use the mix within 3 months.

"Instant" Pancakes
2 eggs, separated
2 cups buttermilk (I used Almond Milk and it was so yummy)
4 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups "Instant" Pancake mix
Heat an electric griddle or frying pan to 350.

Whisk together the egg whites and buttermilk in a small bowl. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks and melted butter. Pour the liquid ingredients on top of the pancake mix. Using a whisk, mix the batter just enough to bring it together, don't try to work all the lumps out.

CHeck to see that the griddle is hot by places a few drops of water onto the griddle.  It's ready if the water dances across the surface.

Lightly butter the griddle, wipe off thoroughly with a paper towel.

Gently ladle the batter onto the griddle. At this point you can sprinkle chocolate chips or fruit into the pancake if you'd like. When bubbles begin to set around the edges of the pancake, it's ready to flip. Gently flip the pancake and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes.

Serve with yummy maple syrup! :)

Yield: 12 pancakes

***This post also appears on my recipe blog:***