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Friday, September 28, 2012

The third and fourth generations....

My daughter sat on the steps this morning outside the bathroom door where I was trying desperately to get ready without throwing up, "Momma." she said really quietly. "Everyday I have a tummy ache and I tell someone and no one cares." She wasn't whining she wasn't being overly dramatic.  She was resigned in her posture. Sad and rejected. 

But there wasn't time to talk about it.  The tyranny of the urgent took over.  It was the time of day where commands are shouted "Get your shoes on! Pack your snack! Find your coat! Where is your sister's lovee?!" I was flying around trying to get all the stuff together to get ready and out the door.  There was no time. Where is the time Lord? I failed her.  As I drove them to their daycare I glanced in the rear view mirror repeatedly.  My never-quiet girl sat staring out the window, tears brimming in her eyes. I need to talk to her.  Where is the time Lord? We arrived and she flew in the house, tears retreated as she became her normal exuberant self playing with her friends, the worries of the moment vanished and I felt temporarily released into my schedule as I scooted off to work.   All day, a heavy heart, I kept seeing those brimming eyes in the rear view mirror.  A reflection of my own brimming eyes.  Why wasn't there time, Lord. 

So tonight I pulled this sweet girl on to my lap.  All stories and limbs, telling me of her day through her gap-toothed smile.  "Honey, Mommy wants to talk to you about what you tried to tell me this morning. You said your tummy hurts every day.  Can you tell me about that? What you think might be causing it?" 
"Mom I know you say it's because I need to eat but I eat as much as I can and it still hurts and I know you think it's sometimes because I need to go the bathroom but I go and it still hurts!" "OK, well what do you think is causing it?" "When I do my math, I get a terrible tummy ache the whole time because I know if I don't get it done I will have to bring it home and you will be sad and think I didn't work hard. I get a tummy ache on the playground a lot because sometimes I want to play with one girl and she will stop talking to me.  And then I will make a new friend and the next day she won't want to talk to me any more either.  Some days it seems like no one wants to be my friend." "Couldn't you look for a girl who is lonely and ask her to play?" "No one is lonely but me.  I am the girl who is alone." What do I say, Lord? Her eyes start brimming again.  She is heart sick and it is so familiar and I have felt this ALL of my days and why is this happening to her too, she who is so unlike me I thought, she is brave and cheerful and chatty and friendly and I am never those things and she feels it too and the invisible umbilical cord tightens and I feel it drain the blood from my face. Why, Lord, why her?

"Oh sweet girl" I rub her back, and stroke her hair.  I pull her deeper into my lap as if I can hug away the hurt and the loneliness and the anxiety.  I don't want you to worry so much about math.  I want you to work hard, I do. But you do not need to worry about getting it all done or that I will be upset OK? Just do your best." "OK momma." "And I know friendships are hard, it will take awhile before you know who you really want to be good friends with.  It changes on a daily basis.  For now try not to worry so much and just have fun.  OK?" "OK Mom" "You know how much I love you?" "Yes, but it really helps to hear it every day too."

This really happened today.  I wish it didn't.  I wish I just made it up.  Besides how badly I handled it this morning I don't doubt for one second where she learned to be so anxious.  One of her anxieties is directly from me putting pressure on her to get her work done.  She has been telling me every day (multiple times) that she has a stomach ache.  "You probably didn't eat enough." "You probably need to go the bathroom." or my favorite "You'll be fine." have been my responses.  My little girl was hurting and I was digging the cuts deeper by my hurry, my nonchalance, my lack of care.  And what is more, I gave them to her.  And it all seemed so familiar.  I know of 4 friends whose kids are in counseling for anxiety.  Kids my daughters age! Why are our children feeling so much pressure? What is happening to our little girls that they need therapy at such a young age?  The anxieties I have been plagued with my whole life I often thought of as my vice, my crutch, my weakness.  How often have I looked at my own brimming eyes plain in the mirror and called it out for what it is....sin! “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation." Exodus 34:6-7

I need to deal with this deep-rooted sin of anxiety in my life. 
"The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God you fear everything else."
-- Oswald Chambers

This, this.  This was my very motivation for this blog, for change.  I didn't want them to end up being anxious too.  But I think I thought I would lose the anxiety by changing who I was.  I need to lose the anxiety by repenting of it.  Calling it what it is.  I need to change how I look at it.  I need to bury it under the Word.  I need to live out that repentance.  I know this verse better than any in scripture; "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7.   He couldn't have spelled it out any better for me.  I am so sad how today started off.  But it ended well.  And tomorrow, I am going to read my daughter this verse and ask for her help as I learn to live this way, with a peace-guarded heart and mind.   I pray that all will join me in my crusade to teach this younger generation of hurting girls where to give our anxiety-sin over to and how to find peace. 


Thursday, September 27, 2012

I can't believe I am saying this....

OK so last weeks goal of healthier sleep has had some struggles.  One is that I forgot how exhausting it was growing a person in the first trimester.  So I keep napping nearly every chance I get.  Which of course makes it a little more difficult to get to bed at bedtime.  I also have a variety of other symptoms making it hard for me to sleep.  Last night I was severely nauseated and ended up having a banana, slice of cheese and some crackers and peanut butter in the hopes of staving off the nausea.  Plus I am getting lots of headaches that I try really hard to ignore rather than taking medicine for.   You see I have migraine medicine for pregnancy however it has caffeine in it and I didn't want to take it before bed.   Plus I am just trying to minimize how much meds I take if possible.  I know that within a few weeks I should have a "system" in place where I can get on a schedule for healthy sleep and taking care of these symptoms.  So ALL that to say.....I'm still working on it.  Now I am throwing another goal in the mix....

Once upon a time I never drank coffee.  Then I would drink one cup in the morning when I worked.  Eventually that became a morning cup and a late afternoon cup every day to keep me going.  (maybe this was all needed because of the bad sleep habits!?) Another once upon a time I was also a LARGE consumer of diet soda.  Like seriously ridiculous amounts.  And my other beverages? Something with NutraSweet like Crystal Light or some form of juice.  Plain regular water? Hardly ever.  Then I took a medication where all carbonated beverages tasted terrible.  I stopped drinking soda cold turkey and was on the medicine for almost two years and had no pop.  Since I have gone of the meds and pop tastes good again I have resumed drinking it a little but not nearly to what I used to.  And really all I did was increase how much of those Crystal Light type drinks I consume.  So......I'm a mess.  These are not good habits, I realize this.  Throw in a pregnancy where you are supposed to limit caffeine and NutraSweet and I am in a tough spot. 

Yesterday at work I had a cup of coffee.  My coworkers seemed a bit shocked.  I have never been that much of a rule follower but I do know that not only for my own good but for the good of my baby I need to get this in check.  I need to fall in love with drinking water so I will drink so much of it.  So my new goal is one caffeinated beverage only a day and one NutraSweet drink only a day and LOTS of water in between.  This for me is a work in progress.  Maybe one day I can eliminate it all together. It's a vice, I strongly admit it.  But I am working on improving so here we go.  Some of these changes are painful....

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Art Walk

Last week Wed was the kickoff of the 4th Annual ArtPrize in Downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan where I live.
This is such a great event.  The doors of the city are busted off and thousands of people swarm the city, strolling the streets, enjoying life and most specifically, art.  We missed the first year. I don't know what we were thinking except we had two very small children and it seemed daunting.  And we were so sad, so we have been out every year since. The second year this was the winner....

This was an ENORMOUS drawing all done in #2 pencils.  Crazy. It was so crowded I couldn't stand back and get a picture of the whole thing so this is the side shot.  It was beautiful and looked like a photograph.

And the third year it was this stunning piece....
This beautiful depiction of the crucifixion is actually a mosaic made out of beautiful glass tiles.  It was so gorgeous.

Who will be the winner this year I wonder?  There is lots to see around town. Something for everyone.  And the kids love exploring and seeing cool things too.  They picked the perfect time of year for this event as it seems every year the sunny crisp autumn weather makes for perfect exploring, not too hot, not too cold.  We usually venture down 3-4 times in the 3 weeks and so this weekends three hour trek was just our first taste but we had a great time. 

The first thing we all saw was a giant T-Rex! My nephew in the orange isn't grouchy, I think he was doing his best dinosaur roar and had a scowl. 

A beautiful day in the city

So much to see. The paparazzi all lined up to take a picture of a natural exhibit, a great blue heron fishing in the Grand River. God always lets us know he is the original Artist.
 Do these boys look excited to be standing by a giant dragon or what?
 My daughter loved this mermaid carved out of a tree trunk.  She was very cute and asked the artist for his card and then said, "I think you did a wonderful job!"

 Uncles are always good for a higher vantage point!
Inevitably after three hours of walking kids start to get cranky. My daughter didn't think she could make it any further.  My mom gave her a little pep talk, cheered her on and the last thing we saw was this huge sandcastle. She watched the artist working and noticed all the detail and was amazed.  She said that was her favorite so far!

Your town may not have Artprize, but you might have a museum you haven't been to in awhile. Or a park.  Or a trail in the woods.  Get out as a family (or even an extended family of 16.5!) and enjoy the beauty of fall together.  I bet you will see something worth talking about! And for heaven's sake if you live in Michigan and haven't been to Artprize, I don't care where in Michigan, make the trip.  It is awesome!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pizza night with a twist

Yup, still pregnant.  Which means I am totally eating mass quantities of comfort food.  And loving all things carb. 

One thing we do almost every other week is pizza night.  I feel sort of bad about pizza night.  Pizza night has always always been about what I want and also what the kids like and pretty much never about what my husband likes.  If he had his way he would eat his pizza with sausage and green pepper.  For some reason that combination sounds hideous to me.  So I had an idea to make a pizza-esque casserole and make it more tailored to my husbands flavor preferences.  And you know what? The girls and I loved it!

Pizza Night  -  Casserole Style
Disclaimer: All of today's pics are very yellow.  This is a problem I have taking pic of my food in my kitchen that is void of natural light.  The food is more appetizing than it looks is my point!
1 bag of Egg Noodles
1 extra large jar of spaghetti sauce {or homemade if you just made some - although I had a jar of Prego I had to use up in my fridge.  Haha get it, prego.....preggo. Nevermind.}
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese {or more depending on how much you ♥ cheese!}
1 1/2 lbs Italian seasoned ground turkey (or any ground meat of your choice)
1 package pepperonis
Handful of peppers - color, size, type up to you
Minced garlic
Italian seasoning blend herbs
Chop peppers coarsely. Throw in a pan and saute with 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp minced garlic until starting to soften.
Add ground turkey and brown. When almost done add 1 Tbsp Italian herb blend.
Meanwhile boil your noodles.  It should be mentioned, they don't have to be egg noodles. Any pasta of your choice.
Then it's layering time...
This was where I decided to make two square pans instead of a 9 x 13.  Nothing is worse with tiny eaters then having a big old casserole that you end up eating 6 days in a row to use up the leftovers.  Made one for now and froze one for later.  I know, I am a genius.
Layers go like this:
1. Sauce (1/3)
2. Noodles (1/2)
3. Meat/pepper mixture (1/2)
4. Sauce (1/3)
5. Noodles (1/2)
6. Cheese (1/2)
7. Meat/pepper mixture (1/2)
8. Sauce (1/3)
9. Cheese (1/2)
10. Pepperoni (1 layer)
That's right! 10 layers folks.  Mmmmmmmm.... Yummy.  Bet your pizza doesn't have 10 layers.
Here they are, 10 stories high.  One went right down to the freezer and the other went right into the oven. And came out looking like...
Now cover with foil (or realize you are out of foil, send your sweet husband to the store for foil, remember three other things you need him to get, then get irritated that he is taking so long and you are trying to get dinner in the oven!) and bake at 350 for 30 minutes
After 30 minutes, remove the foil & bake for another 15 minutes
Let cool/set 10 min after baking before eating.  Meanwhile crank up the oven for this:
Garlic Cheese Bread
Take a tube of pizza dough (or if you are one of those amazing baking people make your own pizza dough) and roll it out thin in a jelly roll pan.  Brush with olive oil and season with garlic salt.
Top with mozzarella and bake at 425 for 12-18 min
Yeah this isn't exactly diet food.  But it was yummy.  My husband kissed me and said, how did you learn how to make this!!!? Magic. The cheesy bread. Well it was bread smothered in cheese and garlic.  What is not to love? The casserole.  As I said I was trying to throw my hubs a bone because he never gets pizza the way he likes it and he was thrilled and you know what? I thought it was so yummy.  We got two dinners of four servings each and there was a big portion left that I scarfed down as leftovers for lunch one day.  Yummy yummy.  Have a great Tuesday everyone!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Tight tummies while I still can!

Well as of five minutes ago I have gone PUBLIC...

We are having a baby! Again! Very excited!
Honestly I don't know what this will to our blog.  Some weeks I may not be able to keep up, to be honest. I was pretty darn sick with the other two! That hasn't been bad yet so...crossing my fingers.  And usually it doesn't do great things to my eating habits either.  Something about permanent nausea and strange all day cravings, not exactly a great diet plan but we will see!

So I have a funny pregnancy story from my first pregnancy with that adorable gap toothed girl holding the one!
I was demonstrating a stretch on a ball to a patient at about 7 months pregnant and it was late in the evening and we were the only people in the clinic.

I attempted to sit up and get off the ball to let the patient do the stretch.  Yeah nothing happened.  What happened to my abdominals? I was stuck on the ball and my patient had to help me up.  My patient with a rotator cuff injury. Awesome.  Not my finest moment.

(this is a good chest/pectoral stretch FYI!)

So 7 months pregnant your abs aren't working at optimal strength and that is OK.  But I had a lot of trouble with an unstable pelvis during that pregnancy I wished I had worked a little harder pre-baby on that strong core.  And in between kids I have worked a little more diligently so that I won't be quite so unstable with subsequent pregnancies. 

One of the MOST important abdominal muscles is the...

Transverse Abdominus (TA): The most important layer of the abdominals because it is the deepest layer. Find your hip bones on both sides of your abs, roll your fingers in, and cough. You will feel a muscle touch your fingers as you cough, now contract this muscle without coughing. Notice you are holding your breath. The goal is to contract the transverse, while inhaling and exhaling. You can do it!!! The transverse if vital to developing a strong core because as it contracts, it supports your low back, decreasing the strain while bending, twisting, and lifting.

I suggest working your abdominals 3 days a week. Remember that breathing is an important component as you complete each repetition.

One of my favorite exercises is this:
Lower Abdominal Strengthening Level I
Lie on your back and work on finding the contraction of that TA. Put your hands on your lower abdomen if the feedback helps you. Raise one knee up toward your chest. You will feel the TA kick in if you hadn't found it already. Hold steady and lift the second knee up toward your chest.
If when you lifted the second knee your low back arched off the floor or your stomach poofed up or both your TA did not hold.  Slowly lower one knee at a time, completely relax your stomach and start again.  You should be able to maintain your back flat against the floor, a steady tightening of your stomach (no popping out) while you raise and lower your legs and not holding your breath. Repeat 8-10 times.
Lower Trunk Rotation
With knees up at 90 deg and a good TA contraction, now bring your knees over to one side and then the other slowly.  Stay within a small range to start so you can maintain a good contraction of your abdominals.  As you master this ex you may move in a bigger arc. 
Of course in school we always said the core is more than your abs it is the "Butt and Gut" so we can't neglect the backside.
My two favorites are:
Lying on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, lift your hips and butt off the ground.  Hold 5 sec and lower down. Repeat 10-20x.
Hip Extension
Lying on your stomach lift your leg from the hip using the butt muscle.  Make sure you keep the hip down on the ground and do not roll off.  Hold 5 sec and lower down.  Repeat 10x on both sides.
So there is a quick overview of my favorites. I better get them in now since it won't be long where they won't be working so well.  I can make my husband do them too since we know he needs a good core workout!
 Happy core strengthening everyone!

Friday, September 21, 2012

His voice...

Tonight was hard for me.
And try as we might sometimes we aren't brave.  Sometimes we cry long and hard. Sometimes we don't feel heard or understood or loved.  Sometimes we are angry.  Sometimes we feel broken.  This is the human condition.  To feel.  Sometimes when I feel low or small or unworthy or destroyed, I go to speak and no sound comes out.  I have no voice. 

When you feel your voice is silenced, you learn....to listen.

Once upon a time there was a pretty basic average college student, and one day her doctor told her she needed to have her thyroid removed.  Bummer.  So she did.  This doctor also said that she would be a bit hoarse for a week or two after surgery.  She was a LOT hoarse.  Like couldn't speak above a whisper, hoarse.  Her fiance called her Chewbacca, hoarse. Difficulty swallowing water, hoarse.  So on the 14th day the girl inquired of her learned Dr, why has my voice not returned.  Of course it was hard for the Dr to hear her but he reassured her that in some cases the nerve can take closer to a month to return.  She waited and waited.  Days turned into weeks.  She couldn't answer questions in class.  She couldn't talk to her family or friends in a noisy place.  And most devastatingly....she couldn't sing.  Not that this ordinary college student was destined for American Idol or anything. She just LOVED to sing.  Especially praise to God in church.  Why Lord? Why would you take away my voice? Why would you take away my instrument of praise to you? Don't you want me to praise you? The girl was heartbroken and would silently cry out to God.  Many weeks she would have to leave church because standing there not singing was equally as devastating as lip syncing her praises.  This seems like such a silly thing to some but it meant so much to this girl.  Weeks turned to months.  The Dr, who was appearing less and less esteemed in the girls eyes as the weeks went on, continued to push back the time limit on when normal voice returns after surgery.  As time went on the girl began to feel that God was speaking to her.   "My child, of course I love when you praise me in song. But that is not the only way you can praise me! You have heard the phrase 'When the Lord closes a door, he always opens a window'. Well I am telling you.  Sometimes when I close your mouth it is so you can open your ears." The child began to listen closely to God, focusing on ways she could hear his voice and ways she could praise him, without a voice.  But still always when in the car, she would open her mouth wide and try to sing a long.  For six months after surgery, no sound would come from her throat when she would try to sing.   But one winter day she was driving home from school and she opened her mouth and out came....

And really that was what she had learned.  She wanted to be completely His.  To do what he would have her do.  To go where he would have her go.  To praise him in all ways.  And sometimes to just listen to his voice.  When it feels like the dreams you have seem SO far, he will sing to you of the plans he has for you!

You may have guessed who that ordinary girl was by now.  And even though I feel much changed from that girl.  Really some days I feel stuck back in that same old place.  Silent screaming in the dark cold loneliness of feeling lost in a world that is really broken.  I am not broken.  Jesus Christ makes me whole.  But this world is broken.  And full of loud voices that sometimes drown out my own.  Worse sometimes I let them drown out my Saviors voice.  Today was one of those days.  The voices were all louder.  And when I wanted to write to you.  I tried to speak and nothing came out.  I have had dreams crushed in recent weeks, some I was so baffled on why God would not be excited about "my plan" when it seemed like the best thing for Him and for me.  Other disappointments which were also things I didn't envision for my life and even though I wanted to cry out "Why me God!?" I knew his oh so loving response would be "Why not you?" and I held my tongue.  And decided to listen.  Which of course made me think of another song.  That's right folks this is a two-song post.  Look out.  This is an oldie....

Two best lines:

This is the faith
Patience to wait
When there is nothing clear
Nothing to see
Still we believe
Jesus is very near


Could it be that He is only waiting there to see
If I will learn to love the dreams
that He has dreamed for me

Oh that is so good it kind of hurts.  Perhaps our heroine from the story would have regained her voice a lot sooner if she had learned to listen a little sooner.  Perhaps not.  The key in all this is that it is our job to listen sometimes.  Some of my dreams need to change to look like his dreams.   And I am trying so hard to be a good teachable daughter and get on board with this.  It's something I seem to have to do over and over again.  I saw a cool image the other day that I loved....

So there you have it.  If you are looking for me.
I'm in the hallway....
Praising him....
But not necessarily by singing

John 10:2-4 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.

Deuteronomy 32:1-4
Listen, you heavens, and I will speak;
hear, you earth, the words of my mouth.
 Let my teaching fall like rain
and my words descend like dew,
like showers on new grass,
like abundant rain on tender plants.

 I will proclaim the name of the Lord.
Oh, praise the greatness of our God!
 He is the Rock, his works are perfect,
and all his ways are just.
Psalm 46:10
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

Thursday, September 20, 2012

to sleep perchance to dream...

Ok not everything in this blog is not supposed to be me spouting advice, at least it shouldn't be. It's about me trying to achieve better health, I am not a beacon of health, an expert on all things health and nutrition.  I do have knowledge regarding fitness and rehabilitation but I obviously have a lot to learn and even more challenging to APPLY to my life. 
That being said I would like today's healthy habit to be more of something that I am challenging myself to....getting more sleep.  My original goal this fall was to get up and exercise before the girls, like 6 or 6:30 depending on the day.  Well that is not happening because my plan of going to bed earlier, is not working out.   I need to go to bed earlier.   Tuesday night I went to bed at 12:30 which isn't as bad as I have done in the past but still I need to do better.  When I tried to get up at 7:30 this morning it felt like 4 am, ugh.  Plus this doesn't help me in my struggle to cut down on coffee and diet coke (but lets save that beast for another day!).

Something to the phrase sleeping like a baby! My youngest can conk out anywhere.  There is even a picture of my husband passed out.  He does this because he doesn't get enough sleep either though!

What is wrong with not getting enough sleep?
According to Phyllis C. Zee, MD, PhD, professor of neurology and director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, says healthy sleep habits are critical to maintaining a healthy mind and body. Researchers have found that not following healthy sleeping habits can cause:
  • Loss of energy and feelings of exhaustion
  • Anxiety, depression, or irritability
  • Mood changes
  • Overeating, weight gain
  • Memory problems, trouble paying attention, delayed reactions, and a reduced ability to learn
  • An impaired ability to think fast and avoid mistakes or accidents
  • A limited ability to multitask
  • Insomnia or sleep fragmentation
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Increase in blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias, stroke, diabetes, dementia
So how is your sleep? Try this quiz from Everyday Health Magazine:

6. Do you watch TV, use your computer, listen to the radio, read, or do anything else in your bedroom besides sleeping and having sex?
7. What is the temperature in your bedroom?
8. How often do you wake up in the middle of the night?
9. How would you describe a typical night of sleep?
10. Do you have any physical, emotional, or hormonal conditions that might interfere with your sleep?
  • Yes (0 pts)
  • No (2 pts)
  • I don't know (1 pt)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Grow garden grow

Wednesday is activity day. However I mentioned yesterday that I was going to try to find ways to sneak more food in.  I did! Three years ago, my husband I decided to give up the dream of selling our spare lot (cause the mean old city I live in says no!) and said well we might as well grow some food! So my honey built me these beautiful raised garden beds....
Here we are after a major spring landscaping day including getting the plants in enjoying a fire in the distance.  This year we added a hose "cap" to the fence so it isn't sharp to lean over to harvest or weed.  My husband is so smart!

We got our plans for the beds from this article here.  The wire fencing was our idea, keeps out the bunnies! However the birds always eat all our strawberries, think I may need to cover them with a mesh hat next year!

These gardens are great for family time.  The kids love to help plant, water and pick.  They even help me weed. I still can't get them to eat tomatoes though! Silly girls!

 These pics are of my baby "helping" water our first year (2010)! She is so little!!!!
Now look at her! She will often wear her galoshes when it's watering time! Any excuse to wear galoshes is fun!
We also enjoyed the wildlife. This year we kept finding this big fat toad in there.  We thought he was stuck so we would let him out and he would come right back.  So of course we named him.  And of course we named him Kermit.  He really didn't like that the girls were always trying to pick him up though!
And of course the harvest is always so nice too!

Don't those colors just make you happy!!!
Finally, it was time to get out my BIG pot!
Amanda's Chunky Herb Marinara
1 Tbsp oil
1 cup diced onion
2 cups diced peppers (assorted)
1/4 cup garlic cloves minced
3/4 cup red wine
3/4 cup water
1/4 fresh parsley
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp celery salt
1 Tbsp minced onion
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp tarragon
1/2 tsp fennel
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp crushed bay leaves
1 can whole tomatoes, undrained and chopped
1 6oz can tomato paste
Heat oil in a big soup pot over medium high heat.  Add onion, peppers and garlic.  Saute 5 min or until tender.
Pretty! Let's get closer....

Add paste here. Saute here for several minutes until it begins to brown (almost burn) this adds deeper richer flavor to the sauce. 
Now I was making a triple batch of the recipe above if you were thinking, "That looks like a lot!"
So I used three cans of paste and only bought one can of the crushed tomatoes because I was using it to supplement my own. Here is a pic of mine. 
As you can see I only coarsely chop and I don't bother peeling.  Plus I use even the little grape tomatoes in with the great big ones.  It definitely makes a chunkier sauce so it may not be for everyone but it skips any extra steps of skinning or blending them in the food processor. 
Next you add the tomatoes, water, wine (I still had some of that cherry wine from the other day so that is what I used, I know it wasn't red but it still enhanced the flavor. If you don't want to add wine just use all water) and all the seasonings.
I decorated the top with little piles of herbs prior to stirring.  I used a lot of different seasonings.  Of course they are all seasonings I keep on hand.  You can mix and match to your own preferences.  I remember my Aunt made me some lasagna once that had fennel in it and I liked that subtle licorice flavor and always add it to Italian now.  The rest are pretty standard but again it's all about your own preferences.  I was going for a robust flavor.

Stir them all in and this is also the part where you get out your potato masher and try to break up the chunks as best you can.  Or like me I assigned this job to my big strong husband.  Watch out for splatters! Then bring it up to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer at least 30 minutes stirring occasionally. 

I got 5 bags of sauce to freeze! My husband taste-tested it before we bagged it.  He said, "Do you have any idea how glad I am that I married you!?" I love him.  He would pass up a cheesecake every day, but tomato sauce steals his heart!
So there you have it.  Gardening. A great family experience you can enjoy the whole summer long. With lots of productive harvesting in the later months! Plus I will tell you.  Last two years the frost came in late September/early October and we still had tomatoes coming.  I learned this cool trick.  You can pick them when they are still green.  Put them in a great big brown paper bag and store them somewhere cool and dark like the basement.  They will continue to ripen off the vine.  We did that and would go down and harvest the top layer out of the bag each week.  Gives you a chance to make another batch of marinara or salsa or whatever.  Works like a charm for us!  Happy growing everyone.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Low carbs...WHAT??!

It's Tuesday, recipe day!!! Yea! This will be the hard part only doing the food thing once a week. We may need to rethink this plan...hmmmmm

You all know I love me some carbs.  But I hear all about these lettuce wraps all the time I thought. Hmmmm....might be interesting....

Asian Lettuce Wraps with Coconut Pineapple Rice
(please bear with me - I took a bunch of photos this time!, I'm practicing)
1lb ground chicken breast
1/2 medium onion, minced
salt & pepper, a dash of each
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh ginger minced
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
2 1/2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 Tablespoon water
1 Tablespoon natural peanut butter
1/2 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons chili sauce (or more if you like it hotter)
dash of fresh pepper
3 green onions, chopped
1/2-8oz can sliced water chestnuts, drained & chopped
1/4 cup peanuts, chopped
10-12 large outer lettuce leaves, rinsed and patted dry

1. Heat a large, non-stick skillet on high. Add chicken, onion, salt & pepper, and cook until chicken is nearly done, stirring often to break up the meat. Add in minced garlic and ginger, and continue cooking until chicken is no longer pink.

 Can you hear the sizzle?
Add ins
 I tried to get all Pioneer Woman and you and take one handed pics of myself adding the pepper.  Yup not awesome like her!  Wish I had my own personal photographer.  I would pay them in food :)

2. Meanwhile, in a microwave safe bowl, combine sesame oil, soy sauce, water, peanut butter, honey, rice vinegar (I was out, had to use apple cider vinegar), chili sauce and pepper. Microwave for 20 seconds, then stir until smooth. Add into the skillet and stir to combine
3 Add green onion and water chestnuts into the skillet then cook for 1-2 minutes until the onions are soft and the water chestnuts are heated through.
4. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts (As you can see I added them right to the skillet. Tasted great.  But the leftovers, the peanuts were kind of....wet...they didn't have crunch anymore. My advice save peanuts for garnish and don't add to whole pot!)

 Yeah I couldn't go completely low carb.  I made rice!!! Haha! I was a. trying to make sure my kids would eat it, b. I love carbs too, and c. sometimes I would have some sort of tortilla AND rice so really it is better! Right? Say yes.  I was inspired by my Mother-in-law on this one.  We were all out to eat at a Thai restaurant the other day and she ordered Pineapple Fried Rice but had it in her head that it was Pineapple Coconut Fried Rice so when it came coconut-less she was sort of disappointed.  I thought Pineapple Coconut Rice sounds really awesome. So I made Minute rice (I seriously only had minutes!) I added a splash of pineapple juice, chopped up pineapple, a handful (or two) of coconut and a dash of garlic salt.  It was really yummy and fluffy!
Then it was time to stuff! I told my girls it was like lettuce tacos. They tried briefly to eat it this way.  Then it all fell apart and they ate it with a fork.  It was yummy.  Actually for leftovers I got lazy and just tore up some lettuce and threw it on top like a salad.  Yummy!
Hope you enjoy! I fail at carb reduction don't I? Do we have to wait another week for another recipe? Boo. We'll see maybe I can incorporate it on another day?  Hmmmm.......