An American Tradition

I’ve noticed that there are so many families that don’t make it a habit of eating together in the evening.  Sometimes we have so much going on that we don’t have time to sit, talk and share a nice meal.  Ergo, we have too many families eating food out and not getting proper nutrition, not to mention the connection that you get when you share that time together, talking about your day and what’s going on in your lives.

So, I’m bringing it back!  We usually eat dinner together anyway, but there’s a special dinner that I want to celebrate – Sunday dinner.  I like the idea that no matter what’s going on, we get together on Sunday evening for a comforting, family meal.  As big B grows up, I think this tradition will keep us close and connected.  We’ve been doing this for the last few weeks, and I love it!  I get to spend some quality time cooking  in the kitchen, and my family gets a special dinner.  This week – white beans n rice!  We splurge and have an actual dessert at the end, which is usually planned by me.  Apple crisp (which also happens to be my favorite dessert  – like EVER!!).

Anyone else do something like this?


I fought the dough….but I won

It’s been awhile since I tried my hand at cinnamon rolls.  Turns out, they’re surprisingly easy.  I made some dough last night using a recipe for Amish Cinnamon Rolls that calls for mashed potato.  But I used pumpkin puree.  Because I had some.  And, well, because I’m obsessed with the pumpkin right now.  It’s gotta go in everything, dangit.

Anyhow, I did that whole 1st rise thing, and then rolled out the dough.  It made close to 30 rolls, so most went into the freezer to take out at another time and use, and 6 went into the fridge.  This morning I took the rolls out and let them do the 2nd rise and then popped them in the oven.  Here be the rolls right before they met the fire –

I rigged up some cream cheese icing before they came out of the oven and then slapped that yumminess on while they were hot.  Here’s the finished deal –

They were horrible.  You shouldn’t eat any of those.  Just leave them with me and I’ll dispose them for you.  Go have a bowl of bran flakes or something truly delectable.

Fat Bottomed Girls

Sooo, I was thinking lately about where I’d go when and if the boss-man (my oncologist, because I pretty much ask for his permission to do everything) cleared me for diving.  Would I hit up Cozumel for some easy drift diving?  Would I go back to Roatan and have “walk out your front door and into the water” diving?  Or would I spend weeks building up my strength/stamina (thanks for that loss of muscle tone, chemo – I’ll get you for this!!!) and roll into Bonaire, ready for some balls-to-the-wall diving?  The kind of diving where if you’re not actively in the water, you’re on a surface interval, waiting to off-gas enough to jump back in the water.  Diving where you lug your gear from a pickup truck to one of a zillion sites on the island, and pack-mule it to the water, 5 times a day.

Yeah, Bonaire.  That’s what I was gonna say, too.  I love that place.

Anyhow, it got me to then thinking of my most favorite characters underwater.  Hands down, number one is a juvenile trunkfish.  Imagine you’re underwater and you see rabbit poop float by.  That’s a baby trunkfish.  Teeny tiny, with fins pretty much transparent.  They’re a bugger to photograph, because they are shy and dart around so much.  But so cute.

Then they grow up and aren’t quite so cute.  This is a golden smooth trunkfish, after he ate his Wheaties and bulked up for the football team. 

Best part of them when they grow up though is their shape.  If you look at ’em head on, they’re narrow up top, and then widen out with a flat, but fat, bottom.  Every time I see one cruising around, it reminds me of Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls.  Probably this offends the males of this species, but still…..

Can you feel the love??

Ever have one of those days when things just seem so clear?  Take today, for instance.  I truly believe that God gives everyone a gift.  Some people are natural musicians, or artists.  Some folks can write really good prose; other people are just really good at robbing banks.  Me, I like to cook and bake.  I think I’m pretty decent at it.  Not in a professional chef kind of way.  I said I was a good cook – I never said I was all that innovative, culinarily speaking.  I like to think that I cook in a way that makes people happy when they eat. 

So, I was thinking about cooking today, and realized that if I can do something well, I should put it to best use.  I issued myself an edict:  Cook to love people.  I love my peeps:  my family, my friends, the ladies I work with (girls rule), and it makes me feel really good to feed them, so that’s pretty much my mission in life.  I’m gonna cook for the people I love, and I’m gonna do it a lot.  If you know me, you’re gonna be fed, and know that in everything I make for you, there’s love behind it.  It may not be the best thing for your waistline, but it’ll be the best thing for your soul.

I have a soul too, though.  No point in making mama unhappy.  So, tonight I made some really great chicken tortilla soup.  Full of good stuff like onions, fresh tomato, cilantro, and spices.  I didn’t want the soup to get lonely, so I made some truly yummy corn muffins.  There was some butter involved.  My bowl looked lovely with the soup.  Still, it was missing something.  So, with joy in my heart, I added sour cream.

And extra sharp white cheddar. 

I guess I really do love myself.

Weird Kid Stuff….

Surely my child cannot be the only weird one around.  Some of his funky little quirks I can understand.  For instance, the youngster has now declared that it’s not good enough to tell someone you’re 4 years old.  No, no.  It’s now 4 and a half years old.  The little runt is practically a high-schooler now, according to him.

Food stuff:  I’ll admit, when big B was an infant, I made his baby food.  I steamed, pureed and prepackaged all kinds of healthy food for him, so he’d grow up accepting veggies and such.  I’m pretty proud of that – he’ll eat piles of raw spinach leaves instead of salad, and will consume steamed broccoli no problem (provided you give him a nice glop of caesar dressing for dipping).  The boy loves sweet potatoes, far more than regular white potatoes (including fries, tater tots, and mashed potatoes).  But then, he gets a bit weird after that.  The munchkin doesn’t care for rice all that much.  Give him a pile of couscous and tell him that’s what it is, and he’ll tear it up.  Couscous everywhere!  He loves the stuff.  I fibbed a bit last night though – I made him shrimp etoufee for the first time last night and served it over brown rice.  Only way he’d eat the rice is if I told him it was couscous….and then sprinkled hot sauce on top of it.  Steeeerange.

Blane fell out of his bed for the first time ever the other night.  Heard a crash from his room, but it took him a couple of seconds to come out of sleep enough to cry about it.  He was plunked back into bed, no problem.  The next morning we asked him about falling out of bed, and we got two different stories.  He told his dad that something weird pushed him out of bed.  He told me it was just a mistake. 

Costumes:  Blane has recently decided that costumes are awesome and he wears them all the time.  It’s Saturday morning, and I’m about to make pumpkin waffles.  What is the monster wearing?  Captain America underoos, a blue batman costume, and the matching mask.  This is a new development – he wasn’t into costumes 6 months ago.  Now he lives in them.  Methinks a pirate costume is next….

Favorite Fall Foods

We had a cold front come in over the last couple of days.  For us, this time of year, cold front means down to the 50s at night and highs in the 80s.  Brrr!  All this gets me into the fall spirit though.  I feel a bit weird making fall food when it’s 100 degrees outside.  But now that one can actually wear jeans in Austin without melting into a puddle, it’s time to break out the crock-pot and pumpkin!  Today I’m listing some of my favorite fall type foods, foods I feel I just can’t get enough of when the temp starts to drop and you want something with some warmth to it.  Comfort, comfort comfort!

  1. Anything with pumpkin.  I mean it.  Not only does it provide some awesome flavor, but pumpkin is chock-full of nutrition and fiber.  I understand pumpkin is actually more rich in antioxidants than sweet potatoes.  Since I’m on a canned good boycott (cans are made with bpa linings, with the exception of Eden Foods), I’m heading off soon to the markets to search for small pumpkins to roast, puree and stick in the freezer for use.  Pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, and since this week I ordered a new waffle iron – pumpkin waffles!  Need I even mention pumpkin pie?  I don’t even need the crust, just some pie innards.  Recently discovered a recipe for pumpkin cinnamon rolls that are looking pretty tasty.
  2. Sweet potatoes.  See #1.  They’re pretty much interchangeable.  I make a great yamberry muffin/bread that freezes beautifully and I can take out and serve on the fly.  Also, recently made a whole-grain pasta with ricotta and rosemary roasted sweet potatoes.  It was awesome, and ridiculously healthy.  Also, just roast that sucker, add a dab of butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon and you’ve got a tasty side for just about any comforting main course.
  3. Lentil stew.  Yum.  It’s pretty versatile because you can use a number of proteins to add flavor to this one.  I’ve made this stew in the crock-pot a zillion times with ham hocks, ham steak, smoked sausage, you name it.  High in protein, fiber, and tons of vitamins.  Recipe at the bottom, which is geared for the stove, but you can easily just dump everything in a crock-pot and cook on high for a few hours.
  4. White beans n rice:  An homage to my Cajun heritage.  I prefer white beans to red, but this meal can be made with either.  Traditionally, this is made on the stove, but again, feel free to use the crock-pot, which is what I do.  Makes great beans.  Serve over brown rice and accompany with a green salad for a complete meal.  A slice of french bread for mopping never hurt a soul, either.
  5. Potato soup:  Is there ever a bad recipe for this stuff?  To make you feel better, I read an article recently that mentioned the oft maligned potato isn’t just a worthless, carb heavy brick.  It’s actually got quite a bit of Vitamin C, and if you make sure some kind of fat (roast cubed potatoes in a bit of olive oil before adding to the pot – flavor and some good fat are the benefits) is included with the potato, it takes longer to process and therefore is now a low-glycemic food, and not a high-glycemic one.  Rejoice!!
  6. Guilty pleasure – candy corn mixed with salted peanuts.  My mother-in-law turned me onto this one.  I don’t keep it around the house (lest I actually eat it….all of it), but when I hit up her house in the fall, she always has a jar around and I’ll snag a handful.  The combo tastes JUST LIKE a PayDay bar.  Yum.
  7. Oatmeal.  Yeah, boring old oatmeal.  Not really – oatmeal is awesome!  Seems crazy sometimes to eat it in the middle of the summer, but it’s perfect for fall!  My everyday oatmeal is Kashi Go-Lean creamy vanilla.  High protein, multigrain, and yummy.  Pop in the microwave, add a sprinkle of cinnamon and a handful of frozen blueberries.  The blueberries thaw out and then consequently cool off the oatmeal so you don’t ignite the roof of your mouth when consuming.  It’s awesome.  I also love steel cut oats, although they take a bit longer to prepare.  Those are perfect for the crock-pot!  You can dump them in with some dried fruit right before bed and by morning you have a nutritious bowl of comfort just begging for a wee drizzle of maple syrup.  The interwebs has tons of recipes for this application.  Pick the best looking one for you and go for it!
  8. Cobbler, of any kind or variety.  Topping with a scoop of ice cream or frozen yogurt earns extra bonus points with me.  If I love you, I’ll make you my stupid-good whiskey peach cobbler.  But only after acknowledging I’m the queen of cobbler.  I only reward good behavior. 
  9. At the behest of my mutti, I am adding another comfort food item, best enjoyed during the fall/winter:  chicken and dumplings!  I love my mom’s version, full of shredded chicken, thick broth, poultry seasoning, and tortilla-based dumplings.  May seem weird, but I’ve always consumed mine with drops of hot sauce sprinkled on top.  Warms ya right up!

What are your favorite fall foods?

Lentil Soup

1 bag green or red lentils

1 onion, small dice

2-3 carrots, small dice

2 stalks of celery, small dice

3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

2 Tbs. olive oil

2 bay leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

1 – 1 ½ quarts chicken broth/stock

3 ham hocks, 1 ham steak (small dice), or 2 links smoked sausage (small dice)

In a large soup pot, heat olive oil on medium.  Add onion, carrots, and celery and gently sauté appx. 10 minutes, or until softened.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute more, stirring constantly.  Add bay leaves and salt/pepper to taste.  Rinse lentils and sort for any small stones/dirt/funky beans.   Add to pot along with broth and ham hocks/ham/sausage, and a bit more salt.  Raise heat and bring up to a nice simmer.  Cook 40-45 minutes, or until lentils are cooked through and soft.  If using ham hocks, remove, let cool, chop meat and add back to pot.  Stir, check seasonings and serve!

Happy Anniversary

I’m not sure what to call the upcoming week.  I guess the most appropriate term would be “Hell Week.”  One year ago this week a giant bulldozer came and knocked over my whole world.  I felt pain on the 13th, went to the doctor the very next day, and by that night I received the dreaded phone call.  Everything happened so fast – I believe that while it was a ton of information to absorb in such a short period of time, so many times it takes much longer for people to be diagnosed, and truth be told – I really didn’t have that kind of time.  If things hadn’t moved so quickly, I probably wouldn’t be here today – my cancer grows fast

While I’ve never ever asked the requisite question:  “How long do I have,” my doctor told me a while back that he had a patient only a few years older than me present with my cancer at approximately the same stage – he was dead in a month.  One year later, I’m still here.  I’m thankful for every day, every moment.  While I have no idea what my life would be like today if I didn’t have this disease, I do know that way back then, I didn’t appreciate life the way I do now. 

What really stinks is that on September 16th, I had my biopsy.  It was also my mom’s birthday.  Sorry mom – I hate thinking the two events will be forever tied.  Truth be told, I really don’t know how I feel about this upcoming anniversary.  Celebrating the fact that I’m still here and focusing on this milestone sometimes makes me remember just how scary cancer can be, and I hate the feeling of being scared by cancer.  I don’t want my mindset to be “this is the disease that will one day kill me.”  I want my mindset to be, “I have a disease that is managed, and I just go on living my life.”  There are so many lifelong diseases that can and do kill people:  diabetes, MS, parkinsons, etc.  Why does mine have to be any different?  My sister has lived with type 1 diabetes since she was a young teen.  She’ll never get rid of it.  She lives around it. 

There are so many promising developments on the horizon in cancer research.  Maybe one will benefit me at some point.  I plan to be around to find out.  So, let’s not focus on what this week means so much.  Yeah, I’m here – why wouldn’t I be?

Instead – HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!  That’s what we should be celebrating!!!

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