Friday, April 30, 2010

An affair with Keifer

I want to first off say thank you for all the nice complements ! For many years I have had more than a little interest in something called nutritional healing, and have studied it with herbal medicine , but simply on my own and not in a formal setting. It started when I was first diagnosed as having PCOS and being unable to conceive. For so many years I was told by doctors an others that my life would be so perfect if I just lost weight ( wrong- life happens in spite of what the scale says and losing weight will simply address the physical issues and nothing more). It took a naturopath to find the condition and point out that my weight was a symptom of this condition and not the cause. It is a symtom becase of the way the body metabolizes food in PCOS , but ironically weight loss helps to bring the other symptoms under control. When he explained how a diet specifically focusing on certain nutrients addressed the metabolic issue , that made me very curious as to why. It was obvious that this thing called nutrition could do a lot more than just build strong bones and muscles, and I stated to study everything I could get my hands on about it. After Nick was born and autism entered our lives, nutritional healing once again became a factor. Could supplements and diet reverse this problem ? Turns out that it can make a dramatic difference. If it were not for evening primrose oil supplements, Nick would had been lost still and weight loss would have never been possible for him in the first place. Proper nutrition, addressing what a body lacks, can work a miracle.

There is food, and there is food. The longer I am on this journey, the more I am reminded at every turn of the importance of high quality, nutrient dense real food. One thing new to me is the concept of soaking grains before use in cooking. Soaking helps break down the grain and allows it to become more digestible. For some people grains are a problem in greater amounts. PCOS patients are amongst those. It has something to do with the metabolism of starch carbs amongst other things. It seems that this can be lessened with soaking the grains. It is one thing that currently is stored in my brain and makes sense but has not come to the level where I can put it into words yet, so let me show you my first experiment into this- steel cut oats soaked in keifer

Yum yum !!! But what is keifer you ask ? No, not the guy in the series 24- it is a cultured milk product similar to yogert.
I will let this web page explain- from

"Both kefir and yogurt are cultured milk products...
but they contain different types of beneficial bacteria. Yogurt contains
transient beneficial bacteria that keep the digestive system clean and
provide food for the friendly bacteria that reside there. But kefir can
actually colonize the intestinal tract, a feat that yogurt cannot match.
Kefir contains several major strains of friendly bacteria not commonly
found in yogurt, Lactobacillus Caucasus, Leuconostoc, Acetobacter species,
and Streptococcus species.It also contains beneficial yeasts, such as
Saccharomyces kefir and Torula kefir, which dominate, control and
eliminate destructive pathogenic yeasts in the body. They do so by
penetrating the mucosal lining where unhealthy yeast and bacteria reside,
forming a virtual SWAT team that housecleans and strengthens the
intestines. Hence, the body becomes more efficient in resisting such
pathogens as E. coli and intestinal parasites.
Kefir's active yeast and bacteria provide more nutritive value than
yogurt by helping digest the foods that you eat and by keeping the colon
environment clean and healthy.Because the curd size of kefir is smaller
than yogurt, it is also easier to digest, which makes it a particularly
excellent, nutritious food for babies, the elderly and people experiencing
chronic fatigue and digestive disorders. "
It is thick , but not quite as thick as sour cream. Like yogert it has a "twangy " taste but it is more liquid than yogurt. To me this is a little easier to work with in a recipe , as it easily pours much like buttermilk. Here is the recipe I used for the dish:
Overnight oats with keifer

1 part steel cut oats
3 to 5 parts keifer
1 cup blueberries
1 t cinnamon

Place in fridge overnight or up to 24 hrs. In the morning add 1/3 cup
dried fruit and place in a greased casserole dish.Bake covered at 375
for 40 minutes

Not exactly a quick cook, but very yummy and filling. I was a little concerned that Nick might protest the twang without some major kind of sweetening, but he loved the taste. This one will be repeated in the future.

Lunch was an attempt to use up some leftovers from the night before, and it worked

A Thomas Lite multigrain English muffin spread with red pepper hummus, topped with leftover roast vegetables and mozzarella cheese , then baked at 400 for 10 minutes. Mini roast veggie pizzas ! I was out of wraps, so these worked just fine.

Today begins a celebration of one of the eight holidays in my spiritual tradition and I wanted to get the shopping and chopping done early so Saturday would be totally free for fun. We did our grocery shopping in the evening and grabbed a quick dinner out. I had a barbecue chicken sandwich and was reminded of my love hate relationship with barbecue sauce. I love the taste, but it gives me heartburn almost instantly. I should have grabbed soup or salad instead.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Rabbits knocking at my door

I had a dream last night where a couple of bunny rabbits came to my door and asked that I stop eating to many veggies because I was taking veggies away from them. I think it had something to do with watching my son play Rabbits Go Home on the Wii and trying to use up greens yesterday. Sometimes dreams are just you mind repeating the events of the day in a colorful way.

Breakfast was cinnamon fruity oatmeal (pear, apple and blueberries) topped with a quarter cup of cottage cheese. I am not sure if I like this combo as well as oats with seeds or nuts.

Lunch was Quinoa Orange Basil salad over romaine, watercress and dandelion greens. Grains over greens seem odd ? It's really not, and with the right kind of grain you can get a wide range of nutrition. Quinoa , however is something else. While treated like a grain, quinoa is not actually a grain.Instead it is a member of the same family as spinach and swiss chard.
It was revered as an important food by the Incas. It contains a complete protien and is high in lyscine,which is needed for tissue growth andrepair.This could make a great breakfast alternative for growing children or those working on strenght training.Because quinoa is a very good source of manganese as well as a good source of magnesium, iron, copper and
phosphorus, this "grain" may be especially valuable for persons with migraine headaches, diabetes and atherosclerosis. Magnesium also relaxes the blood vessels, thus promoting cardiovascular health.One word of caution- if you are on an oxolate restricted diet, avoid quinoa as it is high in these. So Quinoa falls into the realm of other rabbit habits!

Dinner was attack of the vegetables- grilled chicken breast with roast veggies ( eggplant, asparagus,zucchini,mushrooms,peppers, broccoli and butternut squash mix) and Doubly Delicious Greens
Doubly Delicious Greens

1 large bunch bok choy -- chopped
1 large bunch Swiss chard -- chopped
1 medium onion -- coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic -- chopped
1 can diced tomatoes (no salt) -- (15 ounce)
2 cups shiitake and/or baby bella mushrooms -- sliced
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian herb seasoning

Place bok choy, Swiss chard, onions, and garlic in a large steamer and
steam until almost tender, about 10 minutes. In a large pot add tomatoes,
mushrooms, steamed greens mixture, and seasoning. Simmer over low heat
for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serves 8.

We got in more boxing, walking and ab work. I noticed yesterday that Nick is beginning to develop somewhat definable abdominal muscles and it looks cute ! He is also beginning to get noticeable muscles on his shoulders and neck ( cannot remember the names of these). It looks funny to see his body begin to get some kind of definition ! I am not so sure about my own body. Things feel tighter in my abdominal region and my clothes fit different, but I have not taken my measurements or dropped a size that I am aware of, so I am not sure. Just carry on, knowing that something is happening .

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mini gardens and gum

Years ago we were blessed with the opportunity to share a very large garden plot with another family for a few years. After growing many culinary herbs in small pots on my windowsill, I jumped into the opportunity with great zeal ! I planted tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, Swiss chard, eggplant, lettuce, spinach, beets , Brussels sprouts and more. I learned how to can, bought a pressure canner and preserved the harvest. I also mastered the art of making jellies and jams at that time. I loved it, and there was something deeply satisfying about getting my hands in the dirt, watching the weekly progress and trying to make use of all of the bounty before the next truck load ripened. Some things we went a bit overboard with planting, and there is no dilemma quite like trying to find homes and uses for a station wagon full of fresh tomatoes because your freezer is filled, you have no space for a single canning jar more, you cannot eat that many and at the time the food banks would not accept fresh produce grown at home.Ah, memories ! One year the garden ended, and I have not been able to have access to another, so I have to content my desires with growing herbs in indoor post , which is sort of like listening to a symphony with one ear bud. Two years ago I successfully grew salad greens in a dishpan by a sunny window. This year, in an attempt to keep from going bankrupt, we are attempting cherry tomatoes. I say we because I am including Nick is this project, and he will have to play the role of bee in a few weeks. Tomato plants will grow indoors and flower, but in order to produce tomatoes they need pollination. This can be accomplished with a paint brush and a gentle hand- labs do this all the time when creating hybrids.
So with a pack of seeds, potting soil and some used containers, well washed, let the garden begin ! I also planted some containers of basil, chives and parsley and plan to pick up some cilantro , dill and sage within the next week or so. Think of me as Rebbecca of Sunny-brook Windowsill !

Nothing extraordinary happened yesterday- school, exercise, study and the usual round of house stuff. All fueled by the following, who's recipes have been already posted

Breakfast- Polenta with cranberries, pineapple and melon and pumpkin seeds

Lunch - Turkey burger on an Earth Grains flat, broccoli slaw and raw veggies . Our store had these baby cucumbers this week and they are like crunchy kosher dills without the vinegar or seasonings.

Dinner- grilled chicken breast with Garlic pasta and kale with cherry tomatoes added and baby spinach topped with coconut salad.

New challenge. Nick is suddenly obsessed with chewing gum. By obsessed , I mean eating two packs of it a day ( and swallowing it). While chewing sugar free gum can help cut down cravings and be an aid in weight loss ( hey...should I get to do a product placement here like The Biggest Loser ???), two packs a day is NOT acceptable. Nor is swallowing the gum. I talked to him about it , but he is totally shut down about it( as was in the beginning of this journey with all food), impound the gum and ration out portions till he gains control. I hate doing this because it means that not only will I be bombarded with endless requests for gum and have to spend a lot of energy reminding him why he cannot have a pack every time he wants gum and that gum is not food, but also will require that I find better and new hiding places. It also means that he has NOT learned the fundamental changes that he must in order to make this a lifelong commitment. I can understand needing to be "the policeman" for a time until he learns a new behavior, but he has to claim the skill and the process for his own.That is a really hard thing to mentor !

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Stress busting through boxing

I think I am seeing some other non scale progress here. The power of vigorous exercise to relive stress ! Often times I simply think myself to death about a problem or issue, but yesterday I found myself reaching for a more physical release, and it felt great !

I started the day with cinnamon raisin oats , topped with a mix of honeydew, cantaloupe and pineapple. Fresh fruit with oats is wonderfully sweet and satisfying !

Then it was off to the tasks of the day , which included three big mental puzzles on top of the usual school things . I pondered, I wrestled, I was getting nowhere fast, and Nick was trying his best to be helpful. He may struggle with expressive speech, but the boy understands volumes ! We kept breaking for walks , but it was not helping the brain puzzles much.

Lunch was Garlic Pasta with kale and an assortment of veggies and hummus on the side. Crunchy sometimes helps thinking( I joke that the crunching wakes up the sleeping dwarfs in your brain), and kale just does a body good. Kale's phytonutrients help your liver to produce several detoxifying substances that help in the prevention of numerous cancers, including breast, ovary and colon. It can also lower the risk of cataracts with it's high level of lutien, B vitamins and minerals. Kale is also very high in calcium. If that was not enough, kale can also help decrease the loss of mental function. ( can I have a bushel of it , please ????)

Garlic Pasta with Kale

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
6 cloves garlic -- crushed
1 lb kale -- stems removed, leaves cut into bite size pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb whole wheat pasta

Bring large pot of water to boil. Add kale and salt. Simmer 1 minute or
until kale begins to wilt. Add pasta. Cook 8-10 minutes or until pasta is
al dente. While pasta is cooking, heat oil and garlic in a small
saucepan over medium heat, stirring 2 minutes until heated throughout.
Remove from heat.
Drain pasta and kale. Transfer to serving bowl. Add oil and garlic.
Sprinkle with Parmesan. Toss before serving.

After lunch it was back to the drawing board, and I slowly came to the conclusion that I was dealing with a no win situation and I wanted to scream ! Nick suggested we do some Wii Boxing, and I agreed. I tried to vent my frustration out through the game, and it felt darned good ! I could not come up with a solution, in spite of feeling better about it, and I tried to put it on my mental back burner.
Dinner was a quick favorite- Turkey Burgers with sweet potato fries and coconut salad. We had these on the new Earth Grains Tins- 100 calories per bun , but many more grains and healthier ingredients than the Arnolds or Pepperidge Farm thins. It is great to see different choices in these better for you options !

Turkey Spinach Burgers- serves 5

1 lb ground turkey
10 oz frozen chopped spinach defrosted and drained
1/4 cup oat bran
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 T dried parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce or Braggs Animos or soy sauce

combine all in large bowl. Divide into 5 burgers grill or broil 7 minutes on each side
or bake in a 350 oven for 30 minutes.( cooked burgers freeze well)

Sweet Potato Fries- serves 3

3 medium sized sweet potatoes
1 t olive oil
cinnamon to sprinkle

Wash sweet potatoes. Leave peels on and cut into fry shapes. Pour
olive oil on cookie sheet and spread with a paper towel. Spread
potatoes on the cookie sheet in a single layer, sprinkle with
cinnamon and bake at 350 for 45 minutes

After dinner I was really quiet and tense - happens when I think myself to death over something, and Bob suggested we watch Men who Stare at Goats. Funny movie based on true events, and I enjoyed it. I think I would like to buy this one to have in my collection. It made me stop thinking quite so hard about my dilemma ( lest it become a goat and I kill it with concentrating ), and somewhere in the middle of the night the perfect solution came to me , and there was great rejoicing in my head . The wanna be goats would be safe to bleat another day and two big dilemmas were solved .

Monday, April 26, 2010

Spinach Sunday

Sunday turned into a very restful day - a nice thing after the shop and chop. I was able to catch up on some of my studies and hear some very enjoyable music. Great ways to refresh the inner me !

The guys left very early for two singing commitments and decided they would grab breakfast on the road between them. It was more of a lure to help Nick adjust to the idea of singing two services than a nessesity, so it left me to fly solo. I grabbed a serving of the coconut salad, topped it with pumpkin seeds . I added a cup of coffee and I was ready to go !

After a morning of singing and studying, the guys came back for lunch. The first of the spinach meals of the day- Popeye would be proud !

Lentil sweet potato salad
(originally found at Kath eats real food)

1/2 cup green lentils -- rinsed
2 small or 1 large sweet potato
1/4 cup walnuts
5 dates
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp maple syrup
1 Pinches kosher salt + ground pepper
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Baby Spinach to serve

Cook lentils in a pot until tender using a 4:1 water to lentils ratio.
Bring to boil, reduce to simmer and cook for about 30 minutes on low.
Meanwhile, dice sweet potato, spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with
cinnamon, salt and pepper, and bake cubes at 400* for about 30 minutes.
Chop dates and toast walnuts in the microwave (1 minute on high) or in a
dry skillet.When lentils and potato are done, toss everything together
and serve over chopped baby spinach.

We have all learned that spinach is good for you, but did you know the real reason this is so ? It's not the iron, but the flavinoid compounds that help to protect against so many diseases. Spinach helps to protect against stomach, prostate and ovarian cancer, supports cardiovascular and bone health, improves mental function, eyesight and more. It is low in calories, high in flavor and just plain does your body good. That is my excuse for inadvertently planing two spinach meals in one day ! ( and doing this is proof that lately I need all the spinach I can get !)

Italian Sausage Soup (crock pot)

1 lb Sausage -- cut into pieces
4 cups hot chicken broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 clove garlic -- minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup whole wheat mini pasta shells
1 box frozen chopped spinach
Grated Parmesan cheese

Combine broth,tomato paste, garlic and red pepper flakes in 4 1/2-quart
CROCK-POT® slow cooker.Add sausage slices. Cover -- cook on LOW 5 to 6
hours. Thirty minutes before serving add pasta and spinach
Ladle into bowls -- sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

This one may be the best crock pot recipe I have ! It is the kind that I would plan to use even if I did not need to use the crock pot for convenience. When we must be out or run a late afternoon errand I plan a crock pot meal - and a good one- because if you know that dinner is waiting all ready for you at home , you will not fall into fast food temptation.That can save money AND your health in the long run.

It's going to be a very interesting week here. One of the eight festivals of my spiritual path happens this weekend, and there is a kind of tension in the air that is making me antsy. I don't think it is any different than for those who walk a Christian path as they approach Christmas. The excitement, the preparation, and the general spiritual awareness that something big is about to happen makes for a tense but happy time. Same is true for me now, but that tension is coming from the very earth itself. I just have to remember to breath and remind myself that my observations may not be based in the reality of the situation. My family means me no family means me no harm....

Sunday, April 25, 2010

My own food revolution- 4 bushels of produce for the week

Yesterday was our weekly Shop and Chop day.We go as a family for a couple of reasons. First, it makes a terrific learning opportunity for my son. He knows how to follow a list, how to identify more kinds of produce than most adults , how to read a nutritional label and is now learning about price per unit and how to make a substitution. Second reason is that in shopping together there are no arguments about where the money goes. Shopping together can be a lot of fun and many hands make quick work. It seems that my son is not the only one learning . We have been watching Jamie Oliver's Food revolution, and my husband thought Jamie was perhaps exaggerating about the sugar content in flavored milk or picking on an isolated brand. He has started reading food labels himself ( house rule is that if it has more than 13 grams of sugar per serving it does not get bought ), and has discovered this problem to be true. He has also discovered this truth about many "lite" yogurts and so forth. He has also become shocked at the sodium levels in things. It's a whole different food revolution going on in this house !

After breakfast we headed out , and did our usual use of the store's boxes instead of bags ( easier for us to get in the car, put on a cart and use to bring out the scraps from chopping) and Bob noticed that we had bought 4 bushels of produce for the week. No more or less than we have bought every week for quite some time. There is rarely anything that gets tossed, and he is beginning to agree that we are becoming rabbits. 6 hours of chopping and cooking later, I had it broke down to ready to go veggies and salads for the week. Here are the salads being offered in MY "school lunch "program.

Quinoa with Orange and Basil serves 8

1 cup dry Quinoa (prepare according to package)
1 Handful chopped fresh Basil + some for garnish
3 Oranges: cut into small pieces with pith and seeds removed
1/2 c dried cranberries
1/2 cup pecans or sliced almonds
1/2 Lemon or 1 Tbs Lemon juice
juice from 1/2 Orange
1 T Olive Oil
Salt to taste
chopped Green Onion (Scallions)
1 Dash the following spices:
ground Black Pepper

Prepare quinoa according to package.
Let quinoa cool and toss with all of the above ingredients.

Coconut Fruit Salad

1 cup cantaloupe -- cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup honeydew melon -- cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup pineapple -- cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 cup green grapes -- cut in half
1/2cup red grapes -- cut in half
1 pint organic strawberries -- cut in half or quarters
1/2 pint blueberries -- (1/2 to 1)
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Mix all ingredients together

24 Hour Cole Slaw

2 cups shredded red cabbage
2 cups shredded green cabbage
1 onion, chopped
1 golden beets, shredded
2 carrots, chopped
1 apple, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
3/4 cup water
1 cup cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups splenda
1 teaspoon celery seed
Toss veggies together. Heat , vinegar, water and spices,Bring to boil.
Pour over cabbage - onion mixture. Chill 24 hours.

Broccoli Slaw (because I had several huge broccoli stems )

5 large broccoli stems, peeled and shredded
3 carrots shredded
1/4 c mayonnaise
2 T rice wine vinegar
1 T honey mustard

Combine and refrigerate

After all that chopping , it was time to make dinner. Happily, I took care of that prep while I was doing the other chopping
Chicken and roast vegetable salad

1 zucchini , sliced
1 fennel bulb sliced
1 red pepper cut into strips
1 onion cut into wedges
16 baby bella mushrooms sliced
1/2 lb asparagus sliced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic minced
1 teaspoon dried crushed rosemary
1/8 teaspoon pepper
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
9 cups mixed salad greens
dressing of your choice

Preheat oven to 400. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.
Place all veggies but salad greens in a zip lock and toss
with the vinegar, garlic, rosemary and pepper to coat.
Place on cookie sheet and roast for 30 minutes, or till tender.
Meanwhile grill the chicken breasts and season as desired.
Cut chicken breast in strips. Divide salad greens into 3 portions,
top with 1/3 of the roast vegetables and 1 sliced grilled chicken breast.

After dinner we settled in for an evening of Huggermugger . I love playing these kinds of board games with my son especially ! Bob is another word geek and we always have a great time , but with my son it serves to be a better indication of knowledge mastered than a paper test. It always calms any anxieties I have about what he is actually retaining or understanding , and it makes for a lot of family laughs ! All in all it was a very good day !

Saturday, April 24, 2010

An ordinary day, PCOS and weekly weigh in

Isn't it funny how a food can provoke such a strong emotional response ? It seems universal that when we hear cake, we think of pleasure , celebration and possible diet derail. We hear apple and we think healthy, but when we hear liver, it is almost always a negative mental picture. It's the core stuff behind the psychology in advertising and such. Eating is so much more than the simple process by which we gain physical nourishment !

Fridays are always happy days here , where projects are wrapped up, the prospect of two days of different activities is in the foreground and so forth. I made polenta with golden raisins and topped it with frozen mixed berries. When these are stirred into the hot polenta they defrost and release their juice into the mix. Mmmmm ...

I got back to my ab work , we did strength training , walking, school and got into a fascinating discussion about boomerangs. Nick likes to flip to How it's Made when he has a break between subjects, and lately he has been watching with a really critical eye. My dad did a lot of woodworking and repairing things in non traditional ways, and some of my ancestors on his side were stone masons. It seems he may have inherited that trait, and it is fun to watch him think out loud !
Lunch was a cup of Peanut Soup, Colorful salad over mixed greens and baked sour cream and onion chips
Colorful Salad -makes 10 1/2 cup servings

1 c. parsley -- chopped
1 c. cilantro -- chopped
1 small red onion -- chopped
2 red peppers -- chopped
2 medium cucumbers -- peeled and seeded, chopped
2 c. corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
2 stalks celery -- chopped
3 carrots, chopped

Mix all but carrots together. Dress the mixture with any Vinaigrette Dressing.

Dinner was Indian style lamb with sweet potatoes. Kind of a curry dish without the intense heat. The green is kale, and I would imagine you could make this dish with spinach, chard or any dark green,
Indian Style Lamb with Sweet Potatoes

½ lb lamb chops, cut into cubes
1 medium-sized onion -- quartered and sliced thin
2 TBS minced fresh ginger
3 medium cloves garlic -- pressed
1 tsp garam masala (or curry powder if none can be found)
5 cups finely chopped kale
3 cups sweet potatoes -- peeled and cut in 1-inch cubes (about 1 large potato)
1 TBS + 1 cup chicken broth
salt and white pepper to taste

Prepare all the vegetables by chopping and have ready.
Heat 1 TBS broth in a large-size stainless steel braising pot or skillet.
Healthy Sauté onion, garlic,ginger, and lamb in broth over medium heat
for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.Add garam masala, mixing well
for about half a minute. Add 1 cup broth and stir in sweet potatoes and
kale. Simmer on medium low heat covered for about 15 minutes, stirring
occasionally, or until lamb,potatoes and kale are tender. Season with
salt and pepper. Serves 4

Weigh in again, and as I have mentioned before it is not an easy road. PCOS makes it very difficult because of the way the body metabolizes food. In PCOS weight is not the cause of, but a symptom of the disease. To successfully lose weight the underlying cause has to be addressed, and then the body balances and weight loss happens. With eating nutrient dense foods my body is balancing ( I am seeing many non scale changes), and the weight loss will follow. Working to build muscles will also causes a temporary gain , and many people have found the scale to go crazy while they are strength training, but progress soon comes if you persist. I had another gain this week, but I am not concerned about it- I am addressing bigger issues than the number on the scale , and that number will drop as a result in time.

Me- UP 2.2
Nick- maintain
Bob UP 0.6 ( he is experiencing seasonal allergies at the moment , and I believe he is carrying a couple of pounds of junk in his head at the moment)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Earth Day and Liver

Happy day after Earth Day - or as my son kept calling it Green Day. I think the green logos and the said named band got twisted in his head and it made for some funny moments.

We began the day with something I called Fruits of the Forest Oatmeal. Why the name ? Because I got tired of saying oatmeal with berries, pears and apples. Fruits of the Forest sounds so much more interesting, don't you think ? Great oatmeal dishes deserve fun PR !

I had originally planned on certain lessons and activities for the day, but Nick was so excited that it was Green Day that I abandoned those plans and decided to turn a lot of earth day programs and activities into our lessons. It's one of the beauties of homeschooling- the ability to change plans and strike when and where the iron is hot. One of the things we caught was a program called Life after Oil- which dealt with a scenario of life once the globe's oil supplies run out ( something the Peak Oil people are predicting to happen in the next 20 years). He was pretty cool with the idea of no cars until he saw this meant no shipment of foodstuffs and forced rationing. That scared and greatly upset him, until I explained that it simply meant people would have to do things in a different way and that there is indeed food all around you , outside your front door. This became a biology lesson where we grabbed the field guides, headed out the door an found food in our back yard. Dandelion leaves wrapped around orange sections are absolutely delicious - if you make sure you are picking dandelion greens from a non sprayed source and carefully was them before eating. These and several other foodstuffs are growing right out your door, at your feet. Nick was impressed and reassured that life would go on - an important belief for any human being !

Eventually it was lunchtime and I decided to make something I saw on Marissa's blog , but with some different ingredients. Lithuanian rye bread ( love love love !) with red pepper hummus, baby spinach , sliced avocado and cucumber slices. I paired it with some baked pita chips and veggies- it was really tasty ! I think I am ready to classify hummus as one of my favorite foods in the world .

The following meal may cause memories of childhood trauma, responses of EEWWWW and other such side affects.
With that said, I present to you last night's dinner- Healthy Saute'd Liver and onions with Vinegar and Honey Glazed Brussels Sprouts, Couscous salad and a green salad with cranberries and walnuts

Healthy Sauteed Liver and Onions

1 medium red onion
3 TBS low-sodium chicken broth
3 TBS low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 lb calf's liver -- sliced thin (1/4-inch)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic -- chopped or pressed
1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and pepper to taste

Thinly slice the onion. Chop or press the garlic.
Turn stove to medium. Heat 3 TBS low-sodium chicken broth in a stainless
steel skillet.When the broth begins to steam, add onions, cover and
Healthy Sauté for 4 minutes.When the onions have lost most of their water
content and have become dry, push them to the side of the skillet,
leaving space in the center.Heat the second 3 TBS broth in the center of
the skillet, leaving the heat on medium.When the broth begins to steam,
add the sliced liver and Healthy Sauté uncovered for 3 minutes.
The pieces will be browned on one side, and the liver will release
Turn the liver pieces over and brown the other side for 3 minutes. When the liquid has evaporated, the
liver is done.Remove the pan from the heat and drizzle the liver and
onions with balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil,
and garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste.Transfer to a serving plate and
serve immediately.

Vinegar and Honey Glazed Brussels Sprouts

1 pound Brussels sprouts
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with foil.
Trim the ends off Brussels sprouts and halve. Set aside in a mixing bowl.
In a small saucepan, combine vinegars and honey. Bring to a boil over
medium heat and cook, stirring often, until mixture is reduced to ¼ cup.
Toss vinegar and honey mixture with sprouts, and spread on prepared
baking sheet.Bake for 25 minutes.Makes 4 servings

Confession- as a child , one of my favorite meals was Liver and Onions, and we ate it once a week because liver was cheap, high in protein and good for you. My mom would coat it in flour and spices, pan fry it quickly , and it was one of the most tender, tasty things she made. I ate a lot of organ meats as a kid- at that time they were considered to be healthy. Then came the late 70's and a really bad study on cholesterol led people to believe that eating eggs, liver and so many other foods would lead to heart attacks. Finally, the truth is coming out . These foods will not raise your cholesterol and are actually good for you. Did you know that liver contains compounds that help to actually prevent a heart attack ? It's true. The danger form eating liver too often comes from it's incredibly high level of Vitamin A, and certain health conditions make it hard for the body to process the level. Liver supplies 29 grams protein,36 percent of the RDA for iron and 634 percent of RDA for Vitamin A.162 percent DV of riboflavin, 72 percent DV of pantothenic acid, 72 percent DV of folate, 66 percent DV of niacin, and 54 percent DV of
vitamin B6. It does a body good !

Thursday, April 22, 2010

O is for the way it is obvious,u is for uncomfortable,c is for...

OUCH !!!!
I was rather excited that I was beginning to feel benefits from the abdominal work so quickly, and pleased that I was not really feeling any soreness from the developing muscles. I think I spoke too soon on that one , for late in the afternoon I started feeling soreness in my glutes , sort of proof to my mind that abdominal muscles influence back muscles in the form of an anatomy lesson I was not likely to forget. I decided to walk it out- ignore it, and by bedtime they were throbbing crybabies that demanded my attention, and woke me in the middle of the night in protest. Tylenol and an Epson salts bath are going to be very good friends of mine today, Progress happens with pain, and healing is a zitch !

Breakfast was cinnamon oatmeal with cottage cheese, pumpkin seeds and half a banana. I thought a little extra protein might be wise while I am trying to build some muscles.

Lunch was couscous salad I made over the weekend with an Peppridge Farm Deli Flat spread with red pepper hummus , sprinkled with a pinch of mozzarella and a big pinch of fresh cilantro and grilled.Yummy ! Some carrot and celery sticks joined in.

Dinner was a wonderful Indian Mango salad on a bed of romaine and watercress with roast broccoli , garlic whole wheat pasta and boneless skinless chicken thighs seasoned with garlic, thyme, paprika and lemon juice. The mango salad is going to appear on our table more often !

Indian Mango Salad

1 red pepper chopped
1 red onion chopped
1/2 tbsp. Mrs Dash
2 mangoes peeled and sliced
2 firm tomatoes -- chopped
1 pinch chili powder
2 stalks celery -- chopped

Mix all ingredients in a covered bowl and refrigerate.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Progress and worthwild pain

Busy day ! Best to begin it with something healthy- quinoa and frozen berries !

Then school, exercise, housework and a lunch break for some leftovers

Colorful salad and leftover Polenta casserole. Leftovers are something that I am trying to once again embrace. Having a family of 3 makes it hard for cutting down some recipes. You cannot cut some things smaller ( an egg for example), and not everything freezes. The polenta casserole kind of deconstructed when it was reheated ! In the afternoon it was a trip to the DMV to renew my license. I hate driving, but as much as I hate the act I hate the thought of having to redo the whole behind the wheel test even more, so I renew it. I have to say, the pain of this activity was infinitely less than the pain one of my nieces was experiencing at the same time. I got a new license for my trouble , but she got a brand new Abigail Marie !

7 lbs 1 oz and 20 inches long. Ready for the world, and will not have to deal with the DMV for at least 16 years !

Dinner was veggie lasagna in the crockpot- a MUCH better outcome with texture, but it seems all my lasagnas want to slide off their stack and deconstruct. It does not bother the guys, but it bothers me ! I served it with a salad of assorted greens , apple , pear and walnuts.

I noticed yesterday that my walking gait is more stable, even and a little faster. Working on my abs is helping my head to feel a little more connected with the ground when I walk ( hard to explain this one) , and that makes me feel a little less tentative about the terrain under my feet. That has been something that has really bothered me with arthritis. Because of the pain in movement it seems your focus tries to go to places not in pain, and in time you sort of lose your "connection" with things that the painful parts connect or engage with. When a step causes pain and you must constantly step, the survival mechanism does what it must to keep us alive.I think the abdominal work helps to increase the blood flow in my lower body, and with blood flows a certain "cellular awareness" or something, and you begin to be more alive. At least that seems to be what happens. Not sure, but I am looking forward to another opportunity to get out to walk in the woods again ! Perhaps one day I will be able to even consider running if things keep improving.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mountains where they should not be

Day one of additional ab work, and I learned something very important about my body. I laied down to do some crunches, something i have not attempted since my days before pregnancy, and noticed that as I rolled up, my abdomen formed a mountain ridge down the center- weird to say the least ! I continued my planned work and felt around on my abdomen while I was working and noticed a weird separation feeling with my hands. Not painful, but weird in the fact that I had not seen this on other people doing ab exercises. So after I finished I started nosing around sites with anatomy discussions and such , and finally came upon a description of what was happening , why it happened in the first place and some possible solutions.

It seems that I have an abdominis rectus separation- it happens with abdominal surgeries( I had two major ones in the span of a year) and pregnancies where the mother has weak abdominal muscles- like me with pregnancy squeezed between the two surgeries. In the case of this separation, traditional ab work will never repair the damage, but other isometric type exercises can improve the condition. Often time surgery is required to reconnect the muscles. Instead of feeling defeated when I read this, I am taking it as a red flag. Someone says I can't do this on my own- consider it done ! I WILL do it, just to prove to the person pronouncing it that they are wrong. So I made notes of what exercises have been proven to help and I am going to work with them. Last night after all the days work was done I was a little sore , but I noticed that I seemed to have more "stability" for lack of a better word. I also seemed to have greater bladder control ( something that has become a very big issue, and I believe is linked to this muscle tone issue as well). I will continue and see how this improves.

Last night for dinner I tried a new to me recipe, Polenta Vegetable Casserole. Think of a cross between a Shepard's pie and a lasagna but minus the meat and a whole lot less cheese. It was pretty okay- meaning it was tasty, but a little too fiddly for my tastes. I served it with a salad made from romaine, watercress, baby spinach, arugula, dried cranberries and sliced almonds

Polenta Vegetable Casserole

2 cups fresh organic baby spinach
1 cup zucchini -- chopped
1cup broccoli -- chopped
1 cup red pepper -- chopped
1 cup green pepper -- chopped
1 cup fresh tomatoes -- chopped
1 cup fresh mushrooms -- chopped
1 medium onion -- chopped
1 tablespoon oregano
1 cloves garlic -- chopped
1 tablespoon Mrs Dash
1/8 cup water
1 jar pasta sauce -- no or low salt
6 cups water
1 1/2 cups sun-dried tomatoes -- soaked overnight & cut into small pieces
4 cloves garlic -- minced
2 cups cornmeal
Cheese topping
1 cup mozzarella cheese -- grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Saute' vegetables, herbs and seasonings in
water for 15 minutes until the vegetables are tender, adding more water
if needed to prevent sticking. Mix in pasta sauce, reserving 1/4 cup.
Meanwhile, bring 6 cups of water, sun-dried tomatoes and minced garlic
to a boil.Then slowly add cornmeal, stirring constantly on low heat for
5 minutes until the cornmeal thickens.
Spread 1/4 cup pasta sauce over bottom of 8 X 11 baking pan, then spread
a layer of polenta over the sauce. Place a layer of the vegetable/sauce
mixture on the polenta and then another layer of polenta
and vegetable/sauce mixture. Sprinkle grated cheese over top. Bake in oven
for 20 minutes until heated through. Serves 8.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Arthritis, tragic abs and up a creek with a flimsy paddle

Life moves much like a stream, always flowing, always heading somewhere and the terrain it flows over dictates the characteristics of that flow. Flat lands create gentle meandering courses, hills create swift flowing movement and boulders create rapids.The stream can seem to disappear when it flows through a cave, but when it flows over a cliff , it becomes a waterfall. Yesterday made me feel as if my life's flow is in a waterfall of late !

Thursday I noticed that my arthritis was flaring up , and I was having pain in walking. Let me rephrase that- pain is not really accurate. It is more accurate to describe it as the feeling that my knee, hips and lower spine are not capable of supporting my weight and may collapse.Not a new feeling in the least, and i know more movement can help to lessen this feeling. It did not, but I was too wrapped up in life to give it a lot of thought. Thursday night I had trouble sleeping because there was no comfortable position to be found with my knee, and Friday it was worse because of the lack of sleep. Friday night was also fairly sleepless because of the discomfort, and while shopping Saturday I taxed the knee, hip and lower back too much. I could not complete all of the shopping, and had to send Bob into the last stop to complete the list. Again, I did not really think much about it because there was too many other things pulling at my focus. Yesterday afternoon was nice and our plan was to head to the park and play frisbee for some activity after lunch- portabello and red pepper sandwiches serve on Arnolds with veggies and strawberries on the side.

Portobello Red Pepper Sandwich
1/2 large red onion -- thinly sliced
4 large Portobello mushrooms -- stems removed
4 deli thins
2 cups large arugula leaves
2 medium drained roasted red bell peppers -- from jar,
seeded and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
3/4 cup raw tahini (pureed sesame seeds)
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Mrs Dash
1 teaspoon Bragg Liquid Aminos or low sodium soy sauce
1 large pitted medjool date -- chopped or 2 deglet noor
1 small clove garlic -- chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Arrange mushrooms and onions on baking sheet
and roast until tender,about 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, make tahini
spread by blending all spread ingredients together.
When mushrooms/onions are done, place on deli flats Spread generous
amount of tahini spread on top half of split pita. Place 1/2 cup arugula
on bottom half and then, 1 mushroom cap (pat dry with paper towels to absorb
liquid), sliced onion and roasted red pepper.
Serves 4.

We got to the park, and I was having real problems walking on non paved terrain, so we decided to skip frisbee and simply walk. My knee was really bothering me , and after about a block I could not walk without hanging onto something- Bob was that something. I decided to try to just push through the pain and walk no matter what, and I could no longer do it after about 3 blocks. It made me come to some really sobering thoughts. First, in spite of weight loss and activity, my arthritis is getting worse instead of better. Second, it is time to begin walking with the use of a cane.Either that or give up walking all together. We came home, and the knowledge of this made me feel like I am now living in one of those waterfall experience , where I have no control and am at the mercy of gravity and the obstacles in my terrain. Defeated, but defeat always makes me think deep to uncover an unheard of approach. Is it possible, I pondered, to better cope with my knee and hip instability with the strengthening of my nearly non existent abdominal muscles ? Would it be possible to work on strengthening these and temporarily using a cane to give my frame more support so more speed can be archived, greater distance and therefor increased weight loss and less stress on the joints ??? Lets find out ! So starting today I am adding abdominal work into my day. I am not doing it to lose weight or get a six pack, but rather to strengthen my core muscles so they give better support and this will allow me more movement which will burn more fat and bring greater weight loss.

Dinner followed some searching on Google to find some exercises that should help this objective. Southwest Chicken with Braised Kale and Squash with Pumpkin seeds

To make the chicken , I places boneless skinless chicken thighs in a 9x13 pan and added 1 can of black beans ( drained) , 1 cup of frozen corn and 1 jar of salsa and a handful of chopped cilantro. I covered it with foil and baked it at 350 for an hour. The kale and squash were made with this recipe
Braised Kale and Squash with Pumpkin Seeds

2 bunches kale
1 medium butternut squash or small pumpkin
1 medium red onion -- coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic -- sliced
2 tablespoons Mrs Dash
2/3 cup water
2 tablespoons Fig Vinegar
1 cup pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds -- lightly toasted

Strip kale from stems. Discard stems. Wash leaves well, and coarsely chop.
Peel, seed, and cube butternut squash or pumpkin. Place kale, squash,
onion, garlic, and Mrs Dash in a large
pot with water. Cover and steam over low heat for 20 minutes or until
squash is tender. Add vinegar and toss. Serve sprinkled with lightly
toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds. Toast seeds in oven at 300 degrees
for 5 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Serves 6

So today is back to school and a new , focused effort to repair the machine known as my body.My abdominal area has always been a problem ! While my arms, legs and back was strong, my abs were pretty wimpy when i was younger. Then I got pregnant, had a stillbirth, had major exploration surgery that cut me from six inches above my navel to the hair line, a pregnancy with a 12 lb baby and a C Section with an incision parallel to the other one in less than a year, and never working to regain muscle tone. Ladies and gentleman, I have my work cut out for me !!!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Shopping, chopping and a new way to shop

Yesterday I had some extra time to devote to a mini field trip to see something that is an application of the idea that not all food is created equal. It is called the Nuval scale, and it ranks foods by nutritional value.Some of the nutrients used in the scale are fiber, foliate, Vitamins A,C,D,E,B12,B6,potassium, zinc,omega fatty acids, iron, magnesium and more. Nutrients that detract from the overall score are saturated fats, trans fats, sodium, sugar and cholesterol. Finally, something that actually recognizes that micro nutrients are of greater importance ! The scale will help people make wiser choices with food, and could go a long way towards battling obesity and many other problems we face in today's society. I discovered that one of the stores in my area was using the system , and I wanted to see it in application.
The Nuval number is listed on the shelf price tag, and you can easily see the score. This is for a large container of Dannon Plain, nonfat yogurt- 96 ( which incidentally ranks higher than Chobani Greek Yogurt- which rates a 63)

To find out more about the system and a store in your area that is using it, check out Nuval .
Enough fun though- on to my own quest for shopping ! I did not escape that store without purchasing a few needed items, but my main needs were to be found elsewhere this pass. I think there is something now deep inside of me that has become a rabbit, and calls me to come buy things to bring home, chop and eat( and most of these veggies come in at 95 or higher on the nuval scale)
This weeks Mt Chop Me- a pretty slender haul for some reason. I think the zucchinis, eggplants and peppers made up the greater amount this week.

My friend fruit ! How I love you- no chopping involved !! Sadly, we will need to buy more fruit before the week is over. After the primary chopping it was time to make some salads for lunches this week . Bob brown bags breakfast and lunch 5 days a week, and I find making two salads of some form to store in the fridge makes putting together lunches super simple.( salad, some kind of fish or seafood, fruit and a grain). We alternate the salads and on Friday or Saturday we eat the leftovers ( makes for a quick deli type lunch)

Colorful Salad

1 c. parsley -- chopped (by hand or food processor)
1 c. cilantro -- chopped (by hand or food processor)
1 small red onion -- chopped (by hand or food processor)
2 red peppers -- chopped (by hand)
2 medium cucumbers -- peeled and seeded, chopped (by hand)
2 c. corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
2 stalks celery -- chopped (by hand) - optional
3 chopped carrots

Mix all together. Dress the mixture with Vinaigrette.

Couscous Salad

2 cups water
2 Tablespoons oil
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh gingerroot
2 cups couscous
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup chopped zucchini
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup chopped green onion -- including tops
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 can garbanzo beans drained
3 Tablespoons oil
1 1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup sliced almonds

In a 1-quart saucepan, bring water, 2 tablespoons oil, turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger to a boil.
Stir in couscous and raisins6. Cover pan and remove from heat; let stand for 15 minutes.
Transfer to a large mixing bowl and add zucchini, carrot, green onion, bell peppers, and garbanzo beans and almonds.
In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, and salt. Pour over salad and mix well,
breaking up any clumps. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

I also decided to make a batch of granola for sprinkling on top of yogurt. We have grown to love plain yogurt with frozen blueberries and a sprinkling of granola for an evening snack.Granola can be made very easily, and in making it you can control whatever ingredients go into your mix. Making it in a crockpot saves time and oven space !

Crockpot Granola 3 points

5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2cup honey
1/4 cup oil
1 cup raisin or other dried fruit
1 c sliced almonds( or other nuts)

Set crockpot to low heat.
Combine all ingredients until oatmeal is evenly coated.
Cook in crockpot for 3 hours with lid slightly off.
Stir every half hour or so.
(I leave the wooden spoon in the crockpot with the handle sticking out.
This way I don't forget to leave the lid a bit open or to mix it.)
serving size 1/3 of a cup

Finally it was time to make dinner- sometimes the hardest meal for me to plan because of the chopping and shopping ! I had cut up extra peppers while making the salads as well as zucchini and onions, placed them on a cookie sheet and topped them with Italian sausages. I baked them at 375 for 45 minutes and served them on hoagie rolls with Pita chips. Quick and easy !
Later today we plan on playing in the park. We have jump ropes, Frisbees and Health Care Insurance. It should be a good day !

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Peanut soup, pesto and weigh in

Good day as far as school and exercise were concerned. We did 2 sessions of walking, spent time with weights( non traditional kinds called cans and raw fruit in bags) and moved through the days lessons without serious incident. It's nice to have a day that is an even keel ! Friday means the end to the rhythm of the main week and into the pace of the weekend. Okay, for me it is just grocery shopping and errands, but it is different ! After our breakfast of oatmeal and our lunch of split pea soup with veggies and hummus, , the plan was to make yet an0other soup- this time a twist on an old favorite. I was going to make Peanut Soup. Normally I woulod make it with 4 cups of chicken stock, a can of solid packed pumpkin, 2 stalks chopped celery , one chopped onion and a cup of peanut butter- thick, yummy, cheap but could be made better. I came across this recipe and decided I HAD to try it out . Very glad I did, as it was heavenly . I paired it with open faced grilled cheese sandwiches with cilantro pesto. Cilantro has a possible connection with cheleation( removal of metal toxins in the body ). It also has a reputation to be an anti-inflammatory( reduces swelling in the body), helping to lower cholesterol and more, so along with a good taste it can do your body good. My main reason for choosing this recipe was that I had a ton of it in my fridge as well as in my freezer !

Peanut soup

1 medium butternut squash peeled and cubed
1 cup broccoli florets
1/2 cup lentils
1 medium beet -- shredded
2 sweet potatoes, chopped
1 small zucchini (cut into chunks)
1/2 cup raw cashews
12 whole pitted dates
1 apple, chopped
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup peanut butter

Simmer first 10 ingredients, for 45 minutes or until vegetables are very
tender. Blend all ingredients with immersion blender until smooth and
creamy.Add peanut butter , heat through and serve.


4 cloves garlic
1/3 cup Brazil nuts (selenium)
1/3 cup sunflower seeds (cysteine)
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds (zinc, magnesium)
2 cups packed fresh cilantro (Chinese parsley) (vitamin A)
2/3 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons lemon juice (vitamin C)
2 tsp dulse powder
Sea salt to taste
Process the cilantro and oil in a blender until the coriander
is chopped. Add the garlic, nuts and seeds, dulse and lemon juice and mix
until the mixture is finely blended into a paste. Add a pinch of sea
salt to taste and blend again.

And being Saturday, it is time for another weigh in. One thing that I have succeeded in doing is restoring my fertility , and I am once again falling into a pattern of a gain each month with ovulation. Nothing to be done about it but applaud that it is less than it was when I was younger.It happened when I lost 110 lbs to get pregnant- I went from having an erratic cycle to becoming as regular as clockwork and conceiving. The nutrient rich diet has given my cycle rebirth - an indicator that some really deep level things are happening in my body and weight is just not the focus. Truly balanced health is, so i am not at all bummed about the gain. This too will pass.

Me- UP 2.8
Nick- DOWN 0.2
Bob- DOWN 1.6 ( his body is really responding to the eating, and he LOOKS like he has lost much more and seems to have more energy)

Friday, April 16, 2010

A weird little chicken

Thanks for the comments and support ! We all get those days that make you go "grrrr" , and it seems with each stage of life new ones come up. I am soon to be 52, and life is filled with a lot of wild cards these days it seems. Looking at retirement in a few years ( Ha Ha Ha !), looking at my son going to college or whatever he chooses for his life in a year, aging parents who need care decisions ( my mother in law is in a nursing home and my mom will most likely be in one soon, my father in law to watch over ), and on the very near horizon the realization that after 15 years of being the main focus in my life, I am coming to a time when I will no longer be a homeschooling mom.All of those hours spent on lesson planning, chasing down materials, adapting lessons, record keeping and more will be over. After 20 years of either working to improve my body so I could conceive, being pregnant , being a mom of a little or a homeschooling mom, I will finally have the main focus be on me. It's like I am suddenly back to being on the edge of 17, wondering who and what I am , but with a lot of life wisdom to temper the choices. You don't quite know what to expect it seems.

Much like what I found the last time I bought chicken legs . Our market often has a good deal on 5 lb bags of chicken legs and thighs, and when they go on sale I buy them , split them up into meal size portions and freeze for future use. The last bag I bought had several legs and one sort of scrawny, wings removed whole chicken. I portioned off the whole chicken , with intentions of using this guy for a big pot of stock, but forgot to label him as such. Note- ALWAYS label what you put in your freezer because things can become very indistinguishable ! So I pulled him out thinking he was a bag of legs, and Surprise !!

So what do I do with this whole chicken on a day when it is almost too warm to run the oven ? Crockpot to the rescue. Here is how to do it where it does not wind up swimming in grease or so dry it makes you choke.

Take a sheet or two of aluminum foil and bunch it into a ball. Place in your crock pot with a scant cup of water in the bottom ( crock pots work best with moisture, but the moisture will not evaporate so go easy). Then place your chicken on the foil ball and prepare your seasonings

Roast chicken rub

1 teaspoon Black Pepper
2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 teaspoon Thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons Paprika
1/2 teaspoon olive oil

Mix together and then paint your chicken with the mixture

Now here's the important part- cook on low for NO MORE than 5 hrs ( 3-4 is optimal)! Modern crockpots run very hot, and the old method of starting them in the morning and letting them run all day will produce something that has a very unpleasant taste and texture. Many a meal has been spoiled by this fact.
I served the Weird little chicken with roast broccoli and a spinach , strawberry, walnut red onion salad with lemon dressing from the other day. Yum !

Exercise wise it was a great day. We went out for a couple of walks and spotted 4 red tail hawks circling in the sky above. I suddenly thought about those cartoon depictions of vultures scanning soon to be dead prey and my changing life, and just got a fit of laughing. I may be getting older, but I am far from ready to let these guys have at me ! Funny how thoughts like that can make you walk extra laps ! All around us the trees have burst into leaves and there are ten million dandelions on the lawns. Rather than focus on those circling hawks above, I think I will join with the dandelions and trees and get excited about my own soon to be new life .