Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween 2010

It's the beginning of the holiday season! My favorite three months of the year.

I didn't dress up this year. I just wasn't feeling it. Nothing came to mind that I had to wear or be and financially I didn't want to spend any extra money on a costume. I still had a ball walking them around the neighborhood. This was Kristjan's first year "trick or treating". He enjoyed it. He particularly enjoyed seeing every household's pet. He wanted to pet every dog he heard or saw.
Here is my beautiful go go girl wearing some of mommy's makeup. I believe Chris and I are in deep trouble...
We also had a ferocious dinosaur on the loose! He had a long tail too. The tail weighed more than him almost! This was outfit number two. Chris picked up his first dino outfit and found it was too small. Poor Kristjan was a wreck! We had to run out that instant and find him one that fit. He wore it around the house a few times and loved being a dinosaur. I can't imagine him being anything but. He loves dinos man. They are all over the house, in the cars, always on the television and end up even in my dreams.
Getting ready to head out!
A cool pair of glasses Bella got in her goodies bag. Those are definitely keepers!

Roast away!

Food! I still love my food. I just haven't either made anything new or I keep forgetting to document. I have been going through a major lifestyle change and my portions have dwindled greatly. I'm not starving myself and only eating half of an egg white with a celery stick, just watching everything going in my trap. Not just what it is I am eating, but how much of it. That is very important. I am almost to my twenty pounds mark! I still have more to lose, but I'm having fun wearing those items in my closet that I couldn't wear for such a long time. I would love to get to the point where I have to buy new clothes because everything is too big!

I have found that we eat way more in quantity per meal than what our body needs. You go to a chain restaurant like Carrabba's (just for an example because they give you an extreme amount of food) and have some appetizers, soup or salad then the entree' (two chicken breasts with a side of Alfredo pasta) and you have eaten enough calories and fat for a couple of days! That's just one meal! I'll just stay away from there or just have the soup or the salad alone. Better yet, split a meal.....with three people.
Getting ready for Halloween with Chris carving the pumpkin. He wanted to do a recognizable character this year.
It's Jack Skellington from "The Nightmare Before Christmas"!
We saved the seeds, washed, dried them then roasted them. Delicious! I may go out and buy any pumpkins on sale now to make soup and more of these bad boys.
I found some locally caught grouper on sale and couldn't pass it up. No way. It's such a buttery fish. I had to make some creamy veg to go with it. Roasting the cauliflower is my favorite way to eat it. The charred parts are so sweet and the inside creamy. I'll do this any time before boring old steaming again. All you need is to preheat your oven to about 450, toss your cauliflower with salt, pepper and olive oil and roast away. Turning them about from time to time so you get more brown parts. It's that easy.
While I had the oven all hot, in a separate pan I roasted some cherry tomatoes and red onion with the same mixture. Salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil. That's all you need.
I'm sure I sound repetitive here! For the grouper I rubbed them with....what? Salt, pepper and olive oil. Pan seared them about 4 minutes per side. Done.
Put it all together and you have a yummy little meal! I can't get this at Carrabba's.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sticking to my guns

I've grown very aware that I really dislike having to repeat myself. Not because the person honestly doesn't hear or understand me, but because they just aren't listening or even care to bother. Seriously; I mean, my blood pressure rises sometimes and I can feel it happening.

I am referring to my beautiful children. One in particular. She's eight, has a mouth of a 12 year old, can have the laziness of a teen (I suppose they're lazy as that's the biggest complaint I hear), and the maturity at times matching her 2 year old brother.

I can't pin all of the blame on her as I do realize I have performed as the overly pampering Latin type of mother all these years. Tending to her every need making sure she is happy and comfortable. For me it's a combination of my OCD on neatness, always being pressed for time and then my lack of self discipline. For that I mean, sticking to my guns.

We are having listening and comprehension issues, laziness, whining, crying, you name it. Could be a phase and I know I'm supposed to pick my battles, but being such a control freak I find it hard sometimes.

I knew things had to change when the other day, I overheard Bella speaking with Chris. I was in my bedroom getting ready but could hear their conversation in her room over Kristjan's baby monitor. We were getting ready to go out for breakfast and I asked her to please get dressed...several times.

When Chris asked her why she hadn't gotten dressed, she answered: "Well, mommy didn't lay out any clothes for me." The light bulb in my tiny little head popped...along with a blood vessel.

It was time for a change. A time for them to learn to earn, learn to listen and learn to take care of themselves. A time for me practice more self discipline.

Seems my kiddos absolutely love their television. Bella also loving her Wii and DS. If I was going to have to make the change, I would have to use these tools to get it done. I don't want my kids growing up feeling entitled to all for nothing because mommy did everything for them.

So tomorrow our household will be implementing the good old fashion chore chart! Here's where my sticking to my guns plays in. I have Chris on board of course.

On Bella's chart she has the choice of earning television / gaming time or cash.
I had to make the little man a chore chart too. His of course is easier, but I think with my help he can handle them. He needs to earn his television time too.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sneak peak

Just love taking pictures of this guy.
Sneak peak into Halloween! Bella found her perfect outfit for this year. She's going to be a go go dancer. I'll put on some cute makeup and some bling bling for the Halloween festivities. She loves her boots. The outfit really called for white ones, but I thought black would be better so that she can also wear them for school. I don't have the "wear one time only" kind of budget. Man...I want a pair of black boots!

I'm feeling better every day. I have no more pains anymore and was pleasantly surprised when I found I had lost 2 pant sizes! Woohoo! I had to get a new pair of pants for my 20 year reunion and for the first time in a very long time, I was able to say "I need a smaller size to try on please."

Food? Yes, I'll get some back on here. Promise.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My budding artist

Bella loves art. She's always drawing and telling stories. I love her imagination.
A hungry seal thinking about dinner.

A caricature of her brother wearing a dinosaur top.

Mack the dog. She created a character called Mr. Putter and this is his dog. She has some of her drawings hanging at school and apparently has a few stories with these two characters.


After seeing the gastroenterologist I found out what my problem was. Acute Pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is usually caused from either gall stones or alcohol. I don't have any gall stones.

So I am to not have any of the drinky drinky for three months. Not a drop. During that time my pancreas should heal. After that time I am allowed that occasional glass or two of red wine with a nice meal on the weekend or that occasional beer or two on a Saturday night. The everyday glass of red wine or home brew is no more. I was told that lifestyle was now a thing of the past for me. My pancreas can no longer process such requests.

I now also know why I was so bloated and miserable. When the pancreas is ticked off and inflamed it doesn't process lactose very well.

I am six days without any funny stuff and I already feel better. The pains under my rib cage are gone and I almost feel normal again in the tum tum. Every day I feel better. I have to say that I'm not miserable or sad about the new rules. Being healthy so I can hang out here on this funny planet and with my family as long as I can is far more important than a pint or two of brew. It's been a vivid wake up call for my ass. That's an organ I have to have. I was blessed that it warned me to chill out. I better take care of it!

Now Chris has a designated driver for all of the holiday festivities this year. My 20 year high school reunion this weekend, Halloween parties, Thanksgiving and Christmas. My doctor told me that I may be one of the only people being told they CAN start drinking again on New Year's. Very moderately of course!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Taking in the new weather

Ah, it's nice to be able to hang outside without your undies becoming drenched and sticking, your makeup melting off and your white shirt becoming see through from all the raging heat. We are like a bunch of jail mates finally able to play in the court yard. Let this cooler weather hang on. Please!
My cute little man exploring.
Hey! Where are your shoes dad?
Thought this little guy was pretty. They are very cool looking.
This summer has been riddled with wasps. They are nesting everywhere. You knock down the nest, the next day they are back. We all have to be very careful because if there is a safe spot, they have built a nest. Here's one in the corner by the back door. Notice how all of them are looking right at me. Like they are saying "Bring it on!"

Hmm, we'll take care of you guys. Can't have you nesting everywhere while the kids romp around.


Our weather these past few days has finally become less humid and cooler. It's such a delight after a summer of insane heat. I love what little fall we get and I definitely love the cooler weather. We may not be able to swim anymore, but I love the clean crisp air, opening the windows at home and being able to bundle up.

We decided to take a little road trip this Saturday with the kids. First we stopped by the Vegfest downtown. There were natural food and craft vendors, music, food, artists, animal adoptions and lots of animals running around.
Bella got her first face painting done. The artist was surprised when Bella asked for black and white, but then seem inspired as she added glittered frosting on the eye brows, in her hair and gave her some bright pink lips to finish. A pretty view of the University across the way from the festival.

After the festival we drove around a bit and did some exploring. We visited a friend's garden shop where they have a lot of exotic plants then went by Whole Foods. I love Whole Foods. It's not near the house at all and since we were so close, we had to stop by and pick up those items we love and just can't get anywhere else.

Their red quinoa, their awesome chicken, feta and spinach sausage, French lentils, aged Parmesan and their rocket. The rocket I get at the grocery store doesn't have the robust flavor as the organic. I absolutely love it.

After a lovely day out we came home and fired up the grill. The kids played outside while we grilled up some zuchinni, oranges, red bell peppers and those kick ass sausages. I tossed my rocket with some orange juice, salt, pepper and a little olive oil and covered the plates, then topped with grilled goodies and some Parmesan. Yummo with a glass of red wine.

A little cooking

I really didn't make anything new and wondrous in September really. I had a medical issue come up mid month which resulted in me having to live off of broth for a while. I'm still taking it easy. I was making food for the crew and soup for myself. A lot of chicken salad, sandwiches and pasta for them.

I had a morning where for almost 4 hours straight I experienced great pain in my right side below my rib cage which also hurt in my back. I attempted to see my doctor but instead went to the ER. Of course, by the time I make it to the hospital, my pain had mostly subsided. After blood testing and ultrasounds they found nothing wrong with my gall bladder, but did find I had acute pancreatitis. Not dangerously high, but above normal on the "normal scale."

I was instructed to omit the booze, any soda, any spices and just hang with broth for a while to rest my system. After seeing my main doctor, more blood tests and more ultrasounds, I still have my little pancreas enzyme issue, but all organs look fine. I am now scheduled to visit a gastroenterologist this Friday for further checking.

I was allowed to slowly get back to my normal diet (within reason) and I was allowed a little wine here and there. I've since been a bit gun shy for another "attack" and have cut my portions way down and even still just have a little broth for meals every now and then.

It's been scary. Only good part is I've lost some weight! One of my favorites. Roasted cauliflower. I should have let them cook a bit more. I love the charred bits.
To accompany my sweet cauliflower I made a very flavorful dish from Martha's site called Cinnamon-Spiced Moroccan Chicken. Very easy and very tasty.

What happened to September?

I have to say, that was a stretch! A whole month without a post. I am so sorry to have been absent for so long. I could go on and on with the excuses, but you've heard them all already. You know, work, work, work, busy at home and this time I was ill and constantly at the doctor's office. I'll spare you the details.
Something more important happened in September. My beloved Bella's 8th birthday! Grandpa and Grandma came down for a few days to celebrate. Bella received wonderful presents (still working on those thank you cards) some yummy cup cakes and got to go to Sea World the next day.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


That was the first thought that came to my mind when I saw my cousin Rachelle on her wedding day. Absolutely stunning. Congratulations to newly married Mr. and Mrs. Bianchi and their families.

xoxo Nessa

Man's best friend, the dust buster

Forget the dog. Anyone that knows Chris knows that his best pal at home is his trusty dust buster. We hear that thing buzzing along all the time. Especially after meal time. Does Chris have a little OCD (obsessive–compulsive disorder)? I believe so, and he'll admit to it and not really care. He's not one to like a mess or cleaning it up. It's funny though, because kids love to make a mess. Especially during meal time.

It's actually funny to see him walking around with this thing all the time. I don't mind at all. I suffer from a bit of OCD myself. Just in other areas that's all. I believe we all have areas in our lives where things have to be a certain way.
See, the kids don't mind it either. Kristjan just sits there while those blueberry muffin crumbs get sucked away.
There's still some food lingering on the face however. I guess the dust buster can't pick up everything.

Leftovers and a new rotation

I'm bad about prejudging how much rice to make for us. Packaged pasta is easy for me, I always cook the whole box. If by chance there is any leftover I save and toss in salads. If I cook a cup of rice, there isn't enough and if I do two I always have leftovers. I would rather have too much than to run out so I usually go with two cups. Then there's those occasions when we order Chinese food. They always throw in too many containers of rice.

I hate to toss out food. I'm sure I have mentioned that before. Money in the trash. I printed a recipe out that called for making a side dish with orzo pasta. Then I thought...hell, I have a tub full of leftover rice from the red bean dinner the other day and I have a container of leftover grilled veg from Saturday's dinner. I think I'll make a rice salad instead. I'll try that orzo side dish some other time.
In a large bowl I threw in my cooked rice, chopped up my leftover grilled eggplant, zucchini and onions then added some chopped kalamata olives and capers.
For some crunch I toasted and chopped some pecans and tossed them in too.
Then I added the zest and juice of two lemons, salt, black pepper, chopped parsley and extra virgin olive oil. I left it out to come to room temperature and be ready for dinner time.

I still wanted to make the chicken portion of the recipe I printed though. It's from Martha's site under "Spinach and Brie Chicken with Tomato Orzo". I did have to make a little change however. The brie at my market was very expensive and they had fontina cheese on sale, so I used that cheese instead. I laid out the chicken cutlets and first put down a good layer of Dijon mustard, then some previously frozen spinach that was thawed and drained. On top of that I placed the fontina cheese. I thought to cut the cheese a bit to make it easier to roll up the chicken. Topped with some salt and pepper.
Rolled them up, rubbed on some olive oil and topped with gray salt and black pepper. I put the oven rack to 4 inches below the top and then broiled these babies for about 10 minutes.
Since I didn't make the orzo side, I really didn't have a sauce for the chicken. I wanted a sauce of some kind. In a separate pan I cooked up a small diced onion and 2 gloves of chopped garlic.

Once translucent I added a cup of white wine and a few rosemary sprigs and let reduce. Once reduced, I added some butter to finish. I know! It's so not me! I added a lump of butter to something! I figured - while I'm eating lots of cheese why not go all the way and make a rich savoury sauce!

Next time I'll puree the sauce. It would look much more clean and fancy I think.
All done! It was awesome. Chris loved those little chicken rolls so much he ate his dinner portion plus half of his lunch portion for the next day! He told me this recipe must go on our regular dish "rotation". They were very tasty indeed. The combination of the tartness of the Dijon with the creaminess of the cheese and chicken. Yummo!

I will make this recipe again this way and the original way with the brie and tomato orzo side. I'm sure it's just as lovely that way. Martha's recipes have always been a hit with us. Even the modified ones! :o)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Channeling a little Jamie

Technology is good. I have to say I love my DVR cable box. I can't sit and watch the television whenever it fits my fancy and most of the shows I love aren't on when I am home. I can record them and save them to watch them later. I have the ability to record a series so that I'll never miss recording an episode. I'm referring to the "Jamie at Home" series on the cooking channel. I love watching him create easy and fresh recipes from his garden. Can I be your neighbor?

One of his favorite tools in the kitchen are his hands. They do many different things and happen to be free! I needed a light meal and thought Caprese would be just the ticket. I also wanted to make it the Jamie way. By using my hands to help this time.

I had two pints of grape tomatoes that I washed and cut in half, then half again. In a large bowl I put in all my chopped tomatoes, salt, pepper, pinch of cayenne and some olive oil. With my hands I dug in there and squished the tomatoes between my fingers to loosen the juices up and to tenderize them will mixing in those flavors I added. I gave it a taste and was ready to eat it right then! Where's the bread?

I cooked up some pasta and drained , saved some pasta water and set aside.
In the tomato mixture I added a large bunch of chopped basil and some chopped buffalo mozzarella.
I added the pasta then tossed well while adding more extra virgin olive oil, good balsamic vinegar and pasta water until I got the flavor and texture I was looking for. Man it was good! One of my favorites and so easy to pull off.

If make this and have leftovers, make sure to take it from the frig and let it warm and loosen up some before eating it.

Explosive flavor

A few weeks ago we attended our foodie dinner and the theme was soul food. Our friend Joe brought in red beans and rice. It was fantastic, my favorite entry. I had to have the recipe from him. Sunday I made it happen. With just a little difference. He used andouille sausage, I used Portuguese Chorizo. I couldn't find any fresh andouille.
First I browned the chorizo in a pan. I cut them in large enough pieces so that upon eating the dish, one could remove them if they didn't want to eat them.
The trilogy all chopped.
In the mortal and pestle a whole garlic bulb with some gray salt.
Worked until almost a paste.
Once the trilogy had cooked in some olive oil until the onions were translucent, I made a well in the center and added the garlic paste. Cooked quickly in the oil, then deglazed with some good dark beer.
I then added the red beans that had soaked overnight, the sausage, cumin, pepper and some stock. Put in a preheated 325 degree oven and cooked slowly all day. **Make sure to put in plenty of stock. Double the amount than what you have in bean mixture. I checked mine after a couple of hours and had to add more liquid as it had reduced more than half!
Look at that! This is after about 5 hours in the oven. I added a large amount of chopped parsley before I served. Believe it or not, my Dutch oven cleaned up lickety split. I used my beloved Le Creuset Dutch oven. I have three in my collection so far, all given as gifts. They are well made, can handle the heat and clean up so easily. They are worth their weight in pure gold and should last me a life time.
The flavors in this dish were amazing. I served over Basmati rice. I'll make it again with the andouille next time to see how that goes and remember to add more stock in the beginning.

Dream house

Before I get going here, let me take a moment to correct myself on a previous post. I feel I should do it and it will make me feel better.

On a previous post I mentioned that I listen to a show once a week on the Martha Stewart channel. I described her as having a small show on the Martha channel. Well, she's much more than that. She's also "One of the nation's best known career coaches" – CNN. So to you Maggie Mistal, I'm sorry to describe you as small. You are a great success! :o) Here is her site for more info.

Now for the dream house. It was constructed with sheets, pillows, chairs, books and the mini princess house. There were 2 bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. Bella kept sending Kris into his room for time out. The kids spent hours playing in it during a long rainy Sunday.

I see you down there Bella!