Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Preventative Maintenance

That's how Chris and I operate. I'm all into preventative maintenance when it comes to our health check ups with the doctor. If something bad is to be found, I want it found early where it can be treatable whether chosen to go the holistic route or via medical care. Whatever! I want to be up to date on all that fun stuff.

With both of us having high cholesterol we both have to visit the doctor's every 9 weeks for blood work to check our liver enzymes and other levels. Then for me, there's the yearly OB visit and mammogram. For Chris, his heart doctor visits and other male related check ups.

Nothing beats a healthy lifestyle. Some folks never have to see the doctor. I'm not talking about whether you are sick or not. I'm talking about preventative maintenance when you reach the ages where some of these things (cancer, other illnesses etc.) start affecting people. I do believe that all the chemicals in the foods, air and water have a lot to do with it, but I'll get back to that topic later. Don't get me started...

I recently took Bella to the dermatologist to get her looked at. She had a large mole on her back that I wanted seen. She checked out just fine and won't need to be seen again for another year. You should visit the dermatologist at least once a year for a look see. Especially if you're always chilling in the sun. While I was there I made an appointment for myself. I hadn't been seen in about three years and wanted to get back to the routine. I also had a couple of moles in particular that I wanted looked at.

While I was there he gave me a good look see and then took biopsies of the two moles. He said they looked ok, but took samples just in case and also per my request.

So here I am. Back again to annoy some and remind others. Please get your annual physical check up appointments made. If you're a male over 40, get that prostate checked once a year! I know you hate the finger, but it's important. If you are female, get your pap done yearly and if you are at the correct age range, get those mammos too! It's also important not to forget your monthly self exams. Do it, it only takes minutes.

Also, try to get to the dermatologist at least once a year. Here's a chart for your viewing pleasure. Remember, when in doubt, get it checked out!

Tomorrow with time permitting I'll be discussing Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. Have you heard about it? Seen it? Please see my link on the right for more info and sign the petition!

Shopping for a juice extractor

I purchased 50 pounds of carrots for juicing recently. There was a time when we used to juice carrots, apples and melons quite frequently, almost daily. I wanted to get back into that groove again. We plucked our juicer out of the attic, washed about seven carrots and an apple (enough for about about 16 ounces of juice) and got ready to roll.

I turned on the machine and within seconds an awful grinding sound occurred, children screamed in horror, and I quickly unplugged the juicer. Either I put it together incorrectly (from such a long time of no usage) or it just died on me. I was able to borrow my parent's juicer for now until I can purchase another machine. I've been doing my research because there are plenty of machines out there to choose from. From the ultra expensive to the cheapo. I'm looking for something in between.

I have been making a tall glass of carrot juice each morning for my drive in to work and it's been giving me the energy I need to stay awake for the drive! Most times I'm ready to crawl under my desk when I get in and go back to sleep. Bella also likes to help push those veggies in and watch them turn to juice. Kristjan doesn't know what to think of it all. Just a snap shot of a lovely sunset the other evening at mom and dad's house.
Sorry I have not put any food on here lately. I haven't really made anything "new and exciting" to really blog about. This above is leftovers for lunch packed up and cooling off. Some pork tenderloin, petite peas and my addiction of sweet potato and goat cheese.

Last night while eating this for dinner I had given myself three little slices of pork with the veg. I loved the flavor of the veg so much I put two pieces of pork back and gave myself more peas. I must have made a boring flavored pork because it didn't stand a chance against the veg. We could have done without it.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bon Appetite has not failed me yet

I have been getting Bon Appetite magazine for about 15 years now (thanks to mom and dad!) and none of the recipes I've prepared from them has failed me. Every one of them have been delicious. Most have enlightened me to new flavor combinations and foods. It's a wonderful resource. I always look forward to my new issue every month.

Yesterday I decided to prepare the cover recipe for March. But first, a little look at my morning of cooking down kale. I purchased a case of it, gave some away, cooked a few bundles when suddenly the leaves were beginning to turn yellow on me, so I had to cook the rest down to save for later.
I had to clip off the stems, wash and then spin first.
In two pots with olive oil, garlic, onion, little white wine and broth I filled up a baking dish with the cooked kale. I used some for my dinner and the rest went in the frig for dinners later this week.

Back to last night's dinner. I made the Eggplant Parmesan Rolls with Swiss Chard and Fresh Mint which was the cover recipe. I also linked it as the feature recipe of the week on here because it was so delish! I made two modifications: used kale instead of Swiss Chard and used shredded mozzarella cheese instead of the Buffalo because I had it already on hand.
The eggplant I cut into 1/4 inch thickness. I salted them and let them sit for about an hour, rinsed and dried them and then broiled them about 3 minutes each side. I then put a little bit of the filling on each and rolled them up. The filling was kale, fresh mint, ricotta cheese, Parmesan, 2 eggs, salt and pepper.
On the bottom of my dish I put a layer of red sauce and then laid my rolls seam side down.
Poured more red sauce and then the cheese. The recipe called for putting a slice of cheese over each roll (as pictured on the right) but I used what I had. It's all good.
I baked it covered for about 30 minutes and then uncovered another 10-15 minutes until golden.
They were yummy little rolls! I'll be making this again! Like I said Bon Appetite rocks!

I just so happen to have extra filling left over that I put in the freezer for a rainy day. I think a purchase of two more eggplants will soon be in order.

I couldn't sell the idea

I purchased through a friend, at an amazing deal, a carton full of kale. Probably about 25 or more bundles for 14 bucks. Needless to say we are eating it almost daily! Last night I made a delish eggplant stuffed with cheese and kale with red sauce casserole. Kids weren't interested in the least. I couldn't sell the idea to them how wonderful it was. Nope.

So Kristjan had a bowl of his favorite mac n' cheese and for Bella I made two little mini cheese pizzas with flour tortillas, red sauce and mozzarella. I guess kale can be hard to get adults to eat, can't blame the kids for sneering at me. I'll convert them someday. One of my quests is to get my kids to love the veg as much as I do. Especially those healthy greens!
Downing that mac n' cheese. I have to remind the little guy to chew, he just gobbles it down! He also has his little green hat on which he always wears when daddy sports his cap. Though, daddy normally doesn't wear his cap that way.
Yo. Looks like you missed a little sauce there.
So Bella, does that little mini pizza taste good?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My war with time

From time to time I'm able to visit my blog friends and catch up on what they are doing. I get such great inspiration from all of them. When the world feels so overwhelming, seeing other perspectives is enlightening. Especially when my mind goes to the dark side. When I'm just looking at everything in a pessimistic light. Kind of like today.

One of the blogs I like to visit had a post that really made sense and I also could empathize with her. It's a post called the t.v. is broken by lovelydesign and she writes about how the combination of her overbooking herself with work and times being ill resulted in her three year old becoming hooked on television to become this whiny and bored little girl. She "broke" the t.v. by unplugging it and removing the batteries from the remote. After a few tough days, she got her playful and artistic daughter back again.

That was just a quick run down of that post. You really should read the whole thing. She's a lovely lady and I felt all her words. I too have used the television as a "babysitter" while I'm trying to get dinner done or tend to other chores in the house. I usually do my best to limit t.v. time. I really do. I find that when I turn it off, the kids complain they have nothing to do. Well, of course they do! There are plenty of toys and art supplies to start with. After time, they begin to play and all is good again.

So now I'll admit that I'm frustrated that I don't work from home with the ability to be able to be with my children all day. Time is something I am at war with because I just don't have enough of it and I feel like I'm not winning the battle at all. This too shall pass right?! I mean, I want this phase of rushing panic through each work day to pass, but then I don't want to rush life. They grow so fast and I treasure them being little.

Now that Bella is in the 1st grade her school work has progressively gotten more and more challenging for her. They are progressing so quickly that she's losing her comprehension and even regressing on some of the basics. We have to set aside time to work with her each night which is a priority to us.

Today I sent an email to her teacher requesting a conference.

Then I feel awful to push her when she's been up since 5:30am and we are still working on homework at 7:00pm. Sometimes I let her watch at least 30 mins of t.v. after homework and after her bath just so she can chill a bit. It's a long day for her just as it is for all of us.

Time. Darn you. I need more of you. Please be kind and guide me on how to manage you better. Without the t.v. babysitter.

Playing with pie crust

This Sunday I made another batch of Timpana which we are still nibbling on. I made a double batch of pie dough so that I would have enough to play some more with pie crust later in the week.

Even though I was out of eggs and really didn't have enough pie dough, I still made myself a spinach pie. I only had enough dough for the top. It was very delicious but it was lacking that one egg that would have held it together and the bottom crust. Next time I'll make it so that you can hold a slice in your hand to eat!

I mixed together in a bowl 1 medium onion chopped and 3 garlic cloves chopped. Those I cooked a bit first. Then I added three packages of frozen chopped spinach (thawed and squeezed free of water), 1 package feta cheese crumbled, salt, pepper and some crushed red pepper.

Next time I'll be adding that all important egg for binding and I think maybe some Parmesan for more flavor.

Served with some rocket tossed with just some onions, tomatoes and Dijon vinaigrette. There was only one slice left for lunch today. Even though it was missing things, it was still good enough for seconds!

Monday, March 15, 2010

A short visit with a friend

Chris was trimming some of the palm trees when he noticed a little friend inside under the flaps where the branches grow. He grabbed the kid's bug catcher and then gave Bella a great surprise.

It was a little red rat snake or corn snake. Bella got to look at it for some time while she and Chris went online to get the exact type of snake figured out. Bella was more than excited to get to be so close to the little guy.
After the visit it was time to release it back out in the yard.
There's its little head looking out. I bet it's wondering if it's safe or not. It wasn't keen on getting out in the grass so Chris decided to put it back up in a palm tree again.
There it goes back into another cozy little covey in the palm tree. Aren't the colors beautiful?
Once the head was well inside, Bella took a couple seconds to pet it. So very cool.

Ah...reminds me of when I used to drive my mom crazy as a kid picking up all the critters...

Spring has sprung....I hope!

We had some time this weekend to get the gardening started along with replanting and trimming. My parents gave us a bottle brush tree and a gardenia that they grew from clippings. We planted both of those along with a blueberry bush Chris purchased. He found the perfect spots for some muscadine and scuppernong grape vines along the back fence line. I believe those growing up the fence will look much better than the drab brown. He loves those grapes and usually purchases them by the carton every year. This way we can grow our own.

Chris's orchids are starting to open up and say hello!
I purchased two tomato plants that were already blooming and growing fruit. I put them in the ground this time. I didn't really have much success with them in the pots last year. I'll be planting some more younger plants soon. Chris and I will be putting together a 4 X 4 raised bed where I will plant the tomatoes along with some green beans or carrots (per Bella's request). We sowed some bell peppers seeds in small containers and purchased some beets seeds to plant. We found a raised bed kit that we will be getting soon. I was wanting a 4 x 8 but we realized the price for the soil needed would be too expensive. We can handle the 4 X 4 and then perhaps be able to save to build another next year.

I also planted one eggplant in a pot and then a pot with arugula seeds and another with more basil seeds. I want to make sure I have plenty of basil this summer. Pesto, pesto pesto!!!

I noticed under the kids play set a 4 X 4 area surrounded by wood in the shade. I threw some soil and compost under there and threw down some more arugula seed and lettuce seed just to see if I can use that spot too.

Bella had the gardening bug too. She used some of her money to get some flowers and a little butterfly to keep them company. She wanted them in the garden to make it pretty.
One pot with small basil plants. I hope my seeds sprout! I also hope we don't get any more frosts or freezes. Tomatoes and basil don't dig that kind of temperature!

I'm very excited this year. With the installment of a raised bed (maybe 2 if my play set area works out) I'll be able to yield more this year than just a tomato or pepper here and there. I need all the help I can get. Produce is so expensive now. I also hate having to pay such high dollars on produce that doesn't even taste good. You can't get a flavorful tomato in the store and just barely at the market. They are always best from home.

The kids had a blast playing and helping outside. A wheel burro full of dirt supplies hours of entertainment along with rocks, small shovels and empty pots. After rolling around outside and helping in the dirt, what would possibly be better than bubble time?!

Monday, March 8, 2010

House never smelled better

I am being completely serious! I've never cooked any Indian food before and knew they loved their spices, but had no idea that cooking with these ingredients would light up my house with such vibrant aromas! Chris was super excited to eat with all the smells coming out of the kitchen. He was like a child in a candy shop.

First off, I have to thank my dear friend Janet for telling me about this dish and I hope she shares her chicken curry my way (hint hint!). My comfort has always been Italian cooking but I love to travel the globe in the kitchen. From the flavor blast from this dish, I know we'll be traveling to India again soon for dinner.

Yesterday in between frolicking outdoors I had a stew pot full of saved vegetable clippings and turkey bones simmering away all day and some dough rising for bread later with dinner. I believe my yeast may be old. It doesn't rise as much and I can't get those large bubbles of air in my bread. Seems too dense for my liking. It's good, just dense.
This is a recipe I nabbed from the web. This is a very healthy meal, full of taste and easy to make. The recipe called for yellow split peas. A split pea is a split pea. All I had was green, so that's what I used.

Split Pea Dhal

  • 2 cups split peas (yellow or green)
  • 4 cups water or broth
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 3 tsp cumin
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

In a large pot, place the peas in the broth or water and bring to a simmer. Add the turmeric, cayenne, salt and pepper and cover. Allow to cook for at least 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a large skillet, heat the onion, cumin, and cloves in the butter. Cook for 4 to 6 minutes, until onion is translucent. Add the onion and spices to the split peas and allow to simmer for at least 5 more minutes.

Add a dash of pepper and more salt if desire. Serve over hot brown rice or alone in a soup bowl.


A beautiful weekend with the kids

We had a warm up this weekend. Time to get out and enjoy the weather! Kristjan loves to make bubbles. It's even better with his cool bubble maker with a fan.
The tree in the yard next door to my parents has a developing bee hive. Wish I could get up there and get some honey!
Swashbuckler Bella enjoying the bubbles too.
'Bubbles in the sky!"

I couldn't stop myself from looking up. The sky was so very blue.
Bringing mommy a flower.

My beautiful Bellabean.
Hugs and kisses on the lanai while listening to some Blues Traveler. Bella wanted to hear someone playing the harmonica.
I found Chris's harmonica in my dresser. Why it was in there, I have no clue. I cleaned out my dresser in the hopes I would find my old passport. I didn't find that, but found a ton of other odds and ends. By the end, it was nice to clean out my my junk drawers.....I mean, dresser.

We live near a recreational airport "Skydive City" where a lot of skydivers are floating, small planes are playing and when the wind and weather is right, the gliders are gliding. Yesterday there were many gliders out there. It was the perfect day for it.
This little guy didn't nap either day this weekend. There was too much cool stuff going on to nap! Needless to say he crashed hard by the end of each day! Here he is during dinner. Poor carrots didn't get their chance.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Your body and stress

Yesterday morning I got a call from daycare that Bella had bumped one of her loose teeth and there was blood. They calmed her down and had her wash out her mouth. Four minutes later Bella complained that she didn't feel well and was ghostly white. They sat her down. She then had a seizure lasting about 45 seconds before passing out for 30 seconds.

I took Bella quite a while to snap out of it and become aware of her surroundings.

I picked her up and took her to the pediatrician who after telling her what happened they mentioned that they needed some blood for testing. Just the little prick on the finger where they squeeze a few drops mind you. Luckily Chris was minutes from the doctor's office to meet us because Bella began to stress and hyperventilate thinking about the mentioned need for blood. Chris was able to calm her enough so that we could get those few drops.

We were able to get a same day appointment with a neurologist later in the day. He examined her and found her just fine and suspects that it was an isolated trauma or an anxiety induced seizure.

She worked herself up - ready to pass out so much that more than a normal amount of blood left the brain (as blood does before you faint) and she seized prior to passing out. She'll be getting an EEG soon just to make sure.

We learned that when Bella turns white after the sight of blood or any trauma due her, lay her down immediately.

You know, it's amazing how stress affects the body. Not just physical stress, which is more apparent. I mean, you break your leg, you know why you can't use it and why it hurts. But stress causes so many issues to the body. Just like Bella and her blood sightings. She gets so worked up with worry that her body responds. Emotional stress can cause from mild to extreme changes in the body. From headaches, to stomach aches all the way to ulcers and heart arrhythmias.

I've experienced anxiety attacks. Which for me was numb, cold and sweaty hands, tight chest, rapid heart rate and dizziness. I had times thinking I was going to just fall over and die when it was just anxiety causing my body to react. My best defense is staying away from caffeine, not drinking too much and exercise. It's the exercise part I need to work on. Oh, and not letting shit get to me might help too!

So as I grow more grays from yesterday's experience, I am again thankful that my Bella is OK and will make sure we get her all checked out just to be sure. I hope that she can slowly develop the confidence not to fear that little loss of blood that life causes from time to time.

Life's full of boo boos and kisses. Let's all just stop stressing about it and enjoy the kisses.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A foodies get together

A friend of mine posts daily the question "What's for dinner?" on Facebook. So a bunch of us respond daily with our menu for the night. The responses have gotten more and more interesting, bringing out the foodie in a lot of people. My friend decided to host a 7 course Facebook foodie dinner Saturday evening with all of us together bringing in our creations to combine into a huge feast.

It was just that! I brought the cheese course and two vegetable dishes. Creamed cauliflower gratin with pancetta and puree of sweet potatoes with goat cheese and pine nuts. Sorry I have no pictures! There was also a whole tenderloin roast, Cesar salad, French onion soup, mini finger pastries, baked bread, seafood lasagna, fresh pasta with red sauce, apple torte with fresh lemon creme, chocolate cheese cake and coconut lemon mini cupcakes. All of it homemade. It was incredible. What made it even more special was that we all donated a dish or two and made everything with that love of cooking. We all agreed, you can never get this wonderful food in a restaurant. Well....any restaurant anywhere near our geographical location that is.

Then there was plenty of red wine, good beer, Chris's stout and Prosecco pouring away... Sunday was rough for me.

I have here a great dish I made with polenta. The sauce was just seared chicken sausage, eggplant, peppers, onions and kale with some chopped roasted tomatoes. You can put just about anything on polenta in my book. Even by itself, it's good. I love to use eggplant a lot because of it's meaty texture and creamy flavor.

If we have another Facebook foodie gathering, I will remember to get some pictures up!

An extended moment and lots of gratitude

Yesterday (Sunday) I wasn't feeling all that well and all due to my previous evening's behavior. Put it this way, I'll remember to respect the power of red wine and good conversation.

It wasn't a complete waste of a day. Even though I was paying my dues for over indulging, I was forced to stop any chore production (cleaning, cooking etc.) and just hang. I got to take a two and a half hour nap with my little man while Bella and Chris went off on a road trip for a while. That was very nice.

Then later, after tucking in Chris and Bella because Kristjan and I had taken too long of a nap and weren't tired, I played some more with the little guy. We stayed up just about an hour later reading and playing. He loves books so much. We sat there that whole hour going through books singing and learning.

When it was time for bed I walked into the kitchen to take my daily meds and get some more water with Kristjan in tow. I picked him up and and while on my way back into the living room to change his diaper for bed, he squeezed me very tightly, giving me this wondrous hug. I then said "I love you Bubbers." and he then; for the very first time, said "I love you mommy." I was so very happy at that moment; tears coming out, just like when I first heard it from Bella. I squeezed him tightly and decided to extend that moment and just rock with him for a while. Bed can wait a few minutes more.

With all of that, I have to share my gratitude. Something I forget to remind myself at times and I allow the trivial processes of everyday life to cloud what's right there in front of me.

I am thankful for my family. That I have them, they all are safe and healthy. My two beautiful children, that no matter how insecure I feel how others think of me, I know they love me unconditionally. They still have the honest ability to love and be pure of heart. I am thankful for a wonderful husband, who protects us and has always been my best friend.

I am thankful for my large family, those near like my dad and mom, who have always helped when in need and continue to help and love us each day. Those that are far that I get to chat with now and then, and hope to see again soon.

I am thankful for my home, that I have work, food and clothing. I would give it all up for my children and husband.

I am thankful for my friends. Those that I know do care and are there for me. You know who you are. Thank you.

With all I have to be thankful for, to live for, I need to do a better job of taking care of myself. So that I can make sure I'm here to experience life with my family. Without my health, I have nothing.

I have a low key food week this week. Even though I plan to make mostly sandwiches, soups and salads this week, I'll try to make them original and maybe even post them. I truly need to come up with dinner faster. I adore my kitchen, but during the hectic work week, I need to spend more time with family, less time in the kitchen.

To my family and good friends, I love you.