Thursday, November 6, 2014

The "Gratitude" Red Herring

A lot of us suffer from something I would call a "blessing competition," or maybe even a "gratitude delusion." Such as when I was a kid I would start to feel down and pity myself and then say "Hey, at least you're not starving in Africa," or "At least you didn't have to cross the plains like the pioneers and lose the family you loved." Unfortunately it's something that's been passed down for generations. Think of everything bad in the world and all the misery others have endured to urge people to feel gratitude for what they have. It was the same in my family (with the best of intentions, of course).

Well, when I mentioned this to a very wise woman (actually, my therapist at the time) she said that the mental and emotional suffering most of us have today is just as hard as crossing the plains in winter, or any number of other hardships. Especially because it's such a lonely pain, it all happens within us personally. It's not a group trial. I think she would know since she saw the intense suffering of all her patients and their lives.

I know that every person on this earth will suffer trials in their lives. Everyone handles them differently, but what is hard for me, may not be hard for you, and vice versa. There were times when I thought I would much rather be pulling a handcart with my minuscule supply of belongings and empty belly, than deal with the trial that currently had me in it's grips. Everyone's trials are meant to test them and to help them build a stronger character, and since each person is unique, so are their trials. Makes sense doesn't it?

Anne Frank wrote in her diary about when her mother told a friend looking for advice, that since she was having a hard time she should think of "all the sorrow in the world and be glad you're not sharing in it." Personally that causes self-loathing in myself; feeling like I'm ungrateful. A feeling of shame for the pain I feel because my life could be so much "worse." Well, guess what, "worse" is relative. "Hard" is relative. My niece said "Hard is hard. My life is hard, your life is hard. Hard is hard." You've had trials in your life, and so have I. Comparing them is, to me, as bad as comparing how clean your house is to the neighbors'.

We try to force gratitude as a form of "perfectionism." The same way we always try to look perfect on the outside (house, family, clothes, etc.), we try to feel perfect on the inside too. But I strongly believe that it's okay to feel our pain and say "This hurts; this is hard." I'm not suggesting we just give up. There are a huge variety of things you can do to be happy again, or friends, or therapists you can talk to. We don't have to continue suffering, but I do hope that we stop feeling guilt and shame for our pain.
God wanted us all tested, the privileged and the poor. Don't EVER think that someone's life is perfect. Don't EVER assume that someone has it easier or harder than you. The blessings we recieve from the trials we endure are all different as well.
We're all in this together. And I also strongly believe that God could have put us all on individual planets to live out our own lives and trials, but he put us together because we need each other and we can help each other. I know that to be true, but it's still hard for me to accept the help of others. Pride, I know. 

Anne Frank wrote in her diary, in rebuttal to her mother's words: "What's the good in thinking of all the misery, when we are already miserable?... I don't think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains." 
She also suggested going out into nature and feeling close to God and nature to cure your sorrows. 

That sounds like a much better plan to me. That and being there for each other without judgement. 


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Cookbook in short

I was submitting most of my recipes for a tri-ward cookbook and I thought I should share them here too!
I have a beloved little blue book that I put notes and only my most favorite go-to recipes in. I pulled these recipes from there. It's almost a complete list, there are a couple that I can't share because they are now secret family recipes (mostly recipes that Ben and I have adjusted to perfection and if you read them I'd have to kill you). ;)

You'll notice that most of these recipes are very easy and don't require a lot of ingredients, that's because I am not a cook. I do like to bake, but I do not like to cook. Over time I have gained a little more pride in having a great dinner for my family, and that makes it more enjoyable to cook things for them, but still I would prefer to not have to cook at all...any day, ever. But yet I'm still kinda picky about what I make. I don't just cook something easy because it's easy, I'm all about quality. So, if it's easy AND it tastes great, then I'll take it! 

Here you go. Enjoy. 


Go-To Taco Soup

1 can corn (drained)
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cans chili flavored beans (I usually use Bush's, but generic works too)
1/2 packet taco seasoning

Toppings: shredded cheese, sour cream, and chips. Avocados are great too. 

Put corn, diced tomatoes, chili flavored beans, and taco seasoning into a pot. Stir well and heat. Serve and add toppings to each dish. Fast and delicious! 

Italian Chicken

4 chicken breasts (not frozen)
2 handfuls of uncooked string beans
4-5 Potatoes (cubed)
1-2 packets Italian dressing mix
1 stick of butter (melted)

Set oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the chicken breasts down the center of a 9x13 pan. Put the string beans along one side and potatoes along the other side. Sprinkle the Italian seasoning packet all over everything in the dish, then spoon the melted butter all over everything as well. Cover with foil and cook in the oven for 1 hour. 

Crock Pot Cream Cheese Chicken Chili

2 chicken breasts (still frozen)
1 can Rotel tomatoes
1 can corn (do not drain)
1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
1 packet ranch dressing mix
1 T cumin 
1 t chili powder
1 t onion powder
1 brick cream cheese 

Put the chicken in the crock pot. Top with the corn, drained and rinsed beans, ranch dressing, cumin, onion and chili powders, stir to combine then top with the cream cheese. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, stirring one or twice to blend in the cheese. Shred the chicken and serve over chips or rice.

Creamy Chicken on Rice

2 chicken breasts
1 can cream of chicken
1 brick cream cheese

Put chicken, cream of chicken, and cream cheese in a crock pot together on low for 8 hours or high for 3-4 hours. Serve on rice.

Chicken Tomato Alfredo

2 chicken breasts
1/2 C butter (softened)
1 brick cream cheese
3/4 C milk
2 medium tomatoes (diced) 
2 t basil
garlic salt and pepper to taste
1 package fusili pasta (or your preference) 

Chop chicken into 1" pieces - cook in large skillet. Once fully cooked drain and return to heat. Add cream cheese and butter. When completely melted add milk , tomatoes, basil, garlic salt, and pepper. Stir, cover, and keep over low heat. Add cooked pasta. Mix well and serve. Great with garlic bread. 

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

1/2 C Brown Sugar
1 T Corn Starch
1 Can Pineapple Tidbits (with juice) 
1/3 C Vinegar
1 T Soy Sauce

Bring to boil all ingredients and add thawed meatballs. Serve on rice. 
Optional: Add bell peppers by sauteing them first in olive oil , then soak up oil with paper towel and add other ingredients.

Healthy Oatmeal Cookie Balls

1/2 C Peanut Butter
1/2 C Honey
1 C Quick Oats
1 C Powdered Milk

Mix and roll into 1" balls. Let sit in the fridge for a while, then enjoy! Kids love them!

Spring Break Pasta Salad

1 box penne pasta (cooked)
1 1/2 tomato (diced) 
1-2 Avocados (diced)
1/4 C Shredded cheddar cheese (or blend)
1/4 C Mozerella
2 T finely diced red onion (or to preference)
Sprinkle Parmesan
Add Balsamic Vinegrette dressing to taste

Mandarine Poppy-Seed Salad

1 can Mandarin Oranges
Almond slivers 
Brianna's Poppy Seed Dressing

Best Ever Banana Muffins

3 large bananas (best if they're very ripe)
3/4 C Sugar 
1 Large Egg
1 t Bakin gSoda
1 t Baking Powder
1/2 t Salt
1 1/2 C Flour
1/3 C Butter, melted

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees, grease & flour tins. Mash bananas. Add sugar and slightly beaten egg and mix well. Add melted butter. Make a well in the middle and add dry ingredients. Bake 20 mins. Optional: add brown sugar on top of muffins before baking for a crunchy topping. 

Hashbrown Casserole

1 package frozen hashbrowns (2 lbs, thawed)
1/2 C Butter, softened
1 t Salt
1/2 t Pepper
1/2 C Chopped Onion
1 can Cream of chicken
2 C Shredded Cheese (cheddar)
Green onion
Bacon or bacon bits
1/2 C Sour Cream

Pre-set oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9x13 cooking pan. Combine ingredients in a bowl and mix. Pour into the dish and bake for 35 minutes. Enjoy!

German Pancakes

6 Eggs
 1 C Milk
1 C Flour
1/2 t Salt
2 T Butter (melted)

Pre-set oven to 400 degrees. Beat eggs, flour, salt until smooth. Butter 9x13 pan (make sure it gets on the sides). Bake for 20 minutes and let your kids see how huge it is before it comes out of the oven; they will love it. 

No-Bake Peanut Butter Pie
(Makes 2 pies)

1 brick cream cheese
1 1/2 C Powdered Sugar
1 C Peanut Butter
1 C Milk
1 tub Whipped Cream (16 oz)
2 Graham Cracker Crusts (9")

Important, you must do the first steps in this order: Beat cream cheese and powdered sugar together well. Mix in peanut butter and milk and beat until smooth. Fold in whipped topping. Spoon into crusts, cover, and freeze until firm, then drizzle with chocolate sauce and serve. 
Tip: Freeze the filling without the crusts, overnight, and it makes peanut butter ice cream! 

Best Peanut Butter Bars

1 C Butter 
1 C Peanut Butter
1 C Brown Sugar
1 C White Sugar
2 eggs
1/2 t Salt
1 t Baking Soda
2 C Flour
2 C Oatmeal
2 t Vanilla (Mexican vanilla is best)

Topping: 1 1/2 C Peanut Butter

Chocolate Frosting:

1 stick Butter
4 C Powdered Sugar
3 T Cocoa
1/2-1 C Cream (milk if you must)

Bars: Pre-set oven to 35 degrees. Mix wet and dry ingredients in separate bowls, then mix together. Press batter into a large cookie sheet and bake 15-17 mins. Don't over-bake. When it's done remove from the oven and spread 1 1/2 C peanut butter on top (melt for 20-30 seconds in microwave to spread easier). When cool spread chocolate frosting on top. 

Frosting: Beat butter, powdered sugar and cocoa while slowly adding cream. Beat to desired consistency. 


1 1/2 C White Sugar
1/2 C Butter (softened)
1 t Vanilla
2 Eggs
2 3/4 C Flour
1 t Cream of Tarter
1/2 t Baking Soda
1/4 t Salt

2 T Sugar
2 t Cinnamon

Pre-set oven to 400 degrees. Mix sugar, butter, vanilla and eggs. Stir in flour, tarter, baking soda, and salt. Mix well. Shape dough to 1" balls. In a small bowl mix 2 T sugar and 2 t cinnamon, then roll dough balls in it and place on greased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Remove from the cookie sheet immediately and allow to cool. 

Delish 6 Minute Caramels

1/4 C Butter 
1/2 C White Sugar
1/2 C Brown Sugar
1/2 C Light Karo Syrup
1/2 C Sweetened Condensed Milk

Combine all ingredients in medium microwaveable bowl. Cook 6 minutes in the microwave stirring every 2 minutes. Stir and pour into a lightly greased dish. Let cool, then cut and wrap in wax paper and store in an air-tight container. 
Optional: Add kosher salt or nuts to the top immediately after pouring into the dish and lightly press it into the caramel with the back of a large (greased) spoon. 

(Makes 8x8, good for one small family, double the recipe for bigger families or a group and put in a 9x13. These will go fast.)

3/4 C Flour
3/4 C Sugar
1/4 t Salt (kosher is best)
1/2 C Butter (softened) 
2 Eggs
1-2 T Lemon Zest
2 T Lemon Juice

1 Rounded Cup powdered Sugar
2-4 T Lemon Juice
1/2-1 T lemon Zest

Pre-set oven to 350 degrees. Grease 8x8 pan. Zest and juice 2 medium lemons, set aside. Mix flour, sugar, salt, and butter. In separate bowl whisk eggs, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Pour into flour mix and beat until combined and creamy. Pour into baking pan and bake 20-25 mins. Look for golden edges. Cool, then add glaze.  

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sickly Sweet

It all started with Carb Night Indulging!

I was ready. I had been dreaming of the sweets I was going to enjoy yesterday night all the previous week.
While at Walmart on Saturday night I went ahead and bought a Gooey Butter Cake to save for my special carb night. Every day for the last week or so my sweet tooth has been crying out "Don't forget me!"
So I got ready. Oh boy.
Besides the gooey butter cake  I planned on getting a dozen doughnuts from a new bakery in town because I had a 1/2 off coupon, but they had closed before I could get there. I wanted to go to Gandolfo's and get a slice of their chocolate mousse cake, but they close early on weekdays. Bummer. So I went to Ridley's and got a slice of their cookies and cream cake. I've had it before and it was delicious! Except I noticed they were skimping on the cookies and cream frosting and only frosting the sides with plain white frosting! Wha... why? Oh and I got peanut butter cups. 
I ate those first and they seemed more sweet than I remembered, but I wasn't too concerned about it.
Then I tried the cake. I got three bites into it and couldn't take anymore. It was too sweet and too rich.
And because I couldn't think clearly since I was stunned at how little sweets I could handle I tried out the gooey butter cake which was hiding in it's container at the bottom of my purse. :)
.... two tastes later I put it back. 

This was way too much sugar!
We had a coupon for free crazy bread that the girls got at the Highland Fling so we bought a $5 hot 'n ready and got our bread. That was pretty good. I missed bread. Garlicy bread. 
Then I had some Cotton Candy ice cream that Ben was nice enough to save for me. 
That was GOOD! Better than I remembered. You've got to try this stuff, it's a "new" flavor from great value.
Then Ben started making a coconut cream pie. I thought it would be pretty mild compared to the rich chocolate cake and the sickly sweet gooey butter cake. 
While making the custard (from scratch) he came over to give me a taste. 
I tasted it and whoa! It was good, but it was intense! So sweet! 
But it was just custard, it didn't even have the coconut in it yet. Well, he came back two more times to give me tastes and it was like a shock to my system! 

After waiting a while and drinking lots of fluids I had a piece of pie. It wasn't too bad that time. I really liked it. But I learned that this diet has curbed my appetite for sugar. I really just wanted something that was very mildly sweet that I could eat a lot of and enjoy. Like the pumpkin roll, or the apple pie that I had in Kentucky that my sister bought from her Amish friends. Oh, I still dream about those baked goods.
Now that stuff is truly home made.

So my sweet tooth got a beating, and I learned my lesson. Next carb night I'm taking it a little easier.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

My New (gotta love bacon) Diet

A while ago my brother in law called up Ben and told him about a diet that he and their sister had started. Ben didn't tell me anything about it for a little while until he seemed more interested in it, then he divulged. It's called the Carb Night Solution.
Frankly, I have tried a couple diets when I was younger but I just don't like them. I even went vegan for a while last year to see if that would help me drop weight, but it didn't. All diets seem to have some people saying they're great, but then those people end up gaining it all back very quickly and overall I just feel like it's fad after fad. Atkins, Paleo, South Beach, etc.

When Ben showed me pictures of his brother and sister after they had done their diet for I think about 1 1/2 months I was pretty stunned. Neither of them were fat by any means, but I noticed the difference immediately, and when his sister sent a picture of her in her prom gown we both said, "She might be getting too skinny." So right off I realized that it was something that worked and worked quickly. When their family came into town I asked Ben's sister more about it and she told me that her brother had read the book, but that she hadn't yet. She got the rules and basics from him and just started the diet. They had also told their other brother in San Diego about it, who is a Navy Doctor, and he said it was sound and also started the diet with his wife. That was a pretty big endorsement to Ben's sister, and me as well.

I was very interested at this point, but I was still nursing (and keeping my milk is extremely difficult for me) so I didn't want to do anything to jeopardize that. I waited until later to get started. In the meantime Ben started the diet. I noticed his change very quickly. Of course the first week is mostly water-weight that drops, but even after that I noticed areas where fat would normally store beginning to shrink.
Now, at this point I still hadn't read the books, but I knew the rules.

To put it simply it's a ultra-low carb diet (30 carb grams or less/day), high in fat and high in protein. Plus, throw in a carb night (carb binge) about once a week. That's basically the gist of it.

What I didn't like before I started it was seeing how much meat they all were eating! I told Ben I didn't think I could do it because I'm not a big meat lover. Occasionally, sure, but I don't prefer steak (in fact I've never even made one before), chicken is okay, but I wouldn't want it everyday. Ben was making chicken almost every day. Chicken fajitas, fried chicken (made with a pork rind batter - low carb), marinated chicken, and occasionally steak, and then bacon and eggs pretty much every morning.

BUT then I got on Pinterest to look up low-carb, no-carb, recipes and found tons of stuff and it looked pretty delicious.

So, when I had to stop nursing I got on the Carb Night diet.
Here's the thing. Before I got pregnant with Cora I was fitting into about size 12 jeans....not super comfortably. One thing I like about my body is that it hides weight well. About half way through the pregnancy I gave in. I was stressed and in pain and I would eat lots. Double my portions, and eat lots and lots of treats....especially baked goods. They are my temptation. Before I had kids I would eat pretty little, and what I ate usually had sugar in it. My body handled it fine. Now, that's not an option. I say to all those teen girls and under 25 year olds, cherish your body! Appreciate how easily it loves you back, because that won't last! And be prepared for the time when everything about your body will change, so be good to it.
So, after the pregnancy I was pretty big. I had huge love-handles, huge butt, huge thighs, and even back fat which I had never really had before.
But I have never been the kind of person to dwell so much on my body or let it rule my confidence so I just ignored it. More like, I didn't see it for what it was. I knew I had put on fat and I knew I didn't look like what I wanted, but because I was still attractive to my husband I didn't worry about it too much, and I still had my confidence.

Because there is a trip coming up in the very near future I felt like I should get my swim-suit body ready. But I didn't think too much about it...until I got my new swimsuit in the mail. When I tried it on I knew I would not be too happy wearing it in public. Also, I was getting really frustrated that I had a very limited amount of clothes I could wear because few of my old clothes fit me. I figured I better get on the diet and try it out.

The day after I started I decided I should take some "before" pictures. What I saw STUNNED me! I looked like I have never looked before. I had never been that big and I was just saddened. I had no idea that's what I really looked like! Especially the back picture because I never look at my back before. That was BIG TIME motivation. I wanted to look like I had before when I was younger; I wanted to fit into my clothes again; and I wanted to look good for my husband too.

And so it began.
I ate a lot of eggs that first day.

Here's how it goes:

  • 30 carbs or less/day, high fat and high protein.
  • After 10 days you start your first carb night after 4pm. Binge on carbs! Yay!
  • After that you can have one carb night a week, but not closer than 5 days from the last one. 
  • Don't go longer than 6 months (I'm not sure anyone would ever need to).
  • If you indulge in an extra carb day, or go off the diet, then start the 10 day routine again.
Here are the results that I am loving:

Since I can't have regular sugar I use splenda, or diet stuff that has sulacrose in it and I HATE that flavor. So it's actually making me not want sugar so much because my mind is associating it with that splenda flavor that I don't like. I'm sure that all those ladies that love that "diet soda flavor" will love doing this diet." 

I love that this diet makes your body target it's fat stores. All those pesky places that I don't like, like tummy, love handles, thighs, butt, etc. that's where my fat stores are and they are depleting. 
It hasn't been hard to stay on the diet because I see actual results quickly! The food isn't bad and I CAN have carbs, just not everyday. I CAN HAVE CAKE! Next Tuesday :) 
I like that I can use sugar substitute to curb my sugar cravings, even though it's that nasty splenda stuff it still kicks the sugar need. 
Now: I am wearing my old jeans again. I know that before I didn't even fit into an old pair that was 14/15 (holy cow, I know!) Now i just put on a pair that is size 10! They're a bit snug, but I got them on and that's exciting for me! Because sizes vary so much I'm conservatively saying I've lost 3 pant sizes. And that still sounds great! 

I should mention that while I have been on the diet I have also been helping to remodel my parent's kitchen so that has been more of a workout than I expected (which I'm grateful for). Laying tile, grouting, helping to build and move cabinets. So you could say I threw some exercise in there. ;) 

As for what I have been eating: 
  • Diet A&W Root Beer with heavy cream in it. Tastes just like a root beer float!
  • Eggs: boiled, scrambled, fried. Cooked with chorizo, or topped with salsa, or topped with cheese.
  • Bacon. (I like it very, very crunchy)
  • Breakfast burritos made with low-carb tortillas. Filled with eggs, bits of sausage, cheese, sour cream and salsa picante. Oh yum!
  • Grilled chicken salad
  • Stewed ranch mushrooms
  • Caprisi salad
  • Hamburgers (without the bun) {this week I'm going to try them with oopsie bread}
  • Cucumbers with lime (an old favorite snack)
  • Italian chicken
  • Califlower with alfredo sauce
  • Cheese chips dipped in sour cream
  • Whipped cream (actual heavy cream that's been whipped in my kitchen aid) mixed with sugar free jello packet (strawberry and orange so far, both yummy)
  • And grilled chicken nuggets from chik-fil-a with avocado lime ranch dressing (only 7 carbs total)
And I can't remember the rest, but if anyone is interested you can check out my ):diet:( board on pinterest to see more recipes I found there, there's even cheesecake. The Carb Night Solution book I think also has some recipes. 

I was so excited just to fit into my size 10 jeans, then when I told Ben he mentioned imagining myself in a size 7 or smaller. (Note: Ben has never said anything about my needing to lose weight nor has he ever, ever made any reference to my being big. He simply encourages me by telling me of the progress I've already made. I'm so grateful that he's always made me feel beautiful no matter what my size or what I look like.)
But to imagine getting down to a 7 again is just awesome! I haven't been that size since probably my sophomore year in high school. I haven't kept track of how many pounds have gone up or down. First because it was just after we moved that I started the diet and I had no idea where our scale was, and second I would have only checked out of curiosity because I really don't (nor have I ever) cared about a number. Who cares how much pressure I'm applying to the earth's surface? I care about what I look like and how I feel about myself. If I look in the mirror and think I look so great, but I have a high number then what's the point? A number is a number, and I don't like math. I will just say that out of curiosity I weighed myself when I did find our scale and I remember it was a little higher than I would have guessed, but I simply don't care. Nor should anyone. I've actually been building lots of muscle lately, especially working remodeling that kitchen, so I guess I should have expected to weight more since I've developed muscle and it's much heavier than fat. And I fit into my jeans! So even if I weighted 200 lbs and fit into my old clothes I feel good in, then I wouldn't care much anyway. Yada yada yada, sorry for going on and on.

If anyone wants more into on the diet feel free to ask me (I might have to ask Ben though, lol). Or I just looked up their website. You can find it here: Carb Night Solution.

I think at the end of the month I'll post a before and after picture :)