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Friday, May 31, 2013


The other day I read that quinoa, stuffed into sachets and hung on window sills and doors works really well as an all natural insect repellent. I was three minutes away from doing just that with my jumbo bag of it, purchased at the West Side Market, because, well, it's one of those healthy foods that we're supposed to be eating.

I'd never eaten quinoa before, and certainly never cooked it, so I was really diving in there buying a bag of that size, but hey, it was a better price than the smaller bag. I was being budget savvy. But then the time came to cook it...Oh boy, was it ever a failure. I didn't rinse it nearly enough, not realizing that when they said it can be bitter if not rinsed well, they meant it will taste like rotten flesh and spoiled fish left out in the sun for weeks on end- in Arizona, in August.

Needless to say, it took me a couple of weeks before I worked up the nerve to try making a batch of it again. This time I took extra care to really rinse it well, then I soaked it, drained, soaked again, drained, and re-rinsed, the whole time saying "Oh, quinoa! Take that you dirty, dirty grain!"
That seems to have washed away all that funk. Or at least shamed it into submission. My first experience cooking it was a hot dish. I used quinoa in place of rice in a pilaf dish. My rice pilaf is fantastic, and I figured I couldn't go wrong doing this with quinoa. But like I said, I was wrong. So this go, I decided to try a cold dish. Partly because I still had memories of that hot, steaming plate of nastiness, and partly because it was just plain hot here yesterday, and the thought of hot food turned my stomach a little bit. I ended up just chopping some raw veggies: vidalia onion, yellow squash, zucchini, tomato, red, yellow, and green peppers, and garlic. Then I threw in some cooked chick peas, drained, that are patiently waiting for me to get back to the market to buy some lemon so I can make them into a proper hummus. While my quinoa boiled, I roasted some sunflower seeds. My method for cooking this time was to use a big pot, full of boiling water and the juice of two squeezed oranges, dump the quinoa in and let it go until the little guys grew tails. About 15 minutes. Then I drained them through a strainer and threw it in the fridge until my seeds were done roasting and my veggies were all chopped. I tossed all the veggies, the chick peas, the seeds, the quinoa, and a few splashes of EVOO and a healthy splash or three of a yummy Greek Vinaigrette that was in the fridge.  I tossed it all together well and then chilled it until The Wifester was home and we were ready for dinner. This is what came out of it:

And let me tell you, it was super fantastic! I'll definitely be making this one over and over again this summer. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Good, The Bad, and the Heartburn

After a month of extremely healthful eating, minimal contact with meat, poultry, or fish, and practically no cheese or butter, something catastrophic happened: Memorial Day Weekend.

You just can't avoid cookouts and potato salad and all things grilled on Memorial Day weekend, you can't! Oh, I know, I know- you actually can avoid those things if you really want to and are dedicated, but who the hell wants to on a holiday weekend, especially the one that marks the start of the summer cookout season?!

We indulged in chicken brats, fresh from the West Side Market, and if you've never had the opportunity to buy your meats fresh from them, you don't know what you're missing! On top of yesterday's brats and potato salad, and chips and dip, we had pizza on both Friday and Sunday nights, and even allowed ourselves each a Diet Coke on Sunday. What?! Lesbians gone wild, I tell ya!

Saturday contained a mixture of fried potatoes and eggs for breakfast, then Subway sandwiches with cheese, potato chips for lunch, and then wine later on that evening. In fact, I also had wine yesterday. Shh!

So, after a weekend of bad food indulgence, is it any wonder I came home yesterday with my belly aching, acid in over-production, and that gnawing, aching, bloated feeling which lasted well into the morning and woke me from a deep sleep on several occasions throughout the night?

The thing is, once you start eating healthfully, really eating healthfully every day- you realize how bad all those good-tasting foods make you feel. And That is one hell of a let-down. Because I do love those bad for me foods. I really, really do!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Disasters and Douchebaggery

The devastation in Oklahoma is terrible, and it makes my heart ache for all the lives, human and animal, that are so terribly affected by it.
My empathy meter goes through the roof with these kinds of disasters. I don't know how to be callous to it, but sometimes I wish I did. Like this morning when I clicked on a CNN link about the storms, and on the top of the page was a picture of a woman comforting a dying dog amid the debris.
Who chose to use that photo, front and center, with that story?
I know, I know, "if it bleeds, it leads", but give me a break. Then, I see a video all over facebook; An elderly woman is being interviewed while she searches through the rubble that was her home. She is talking about how she hid in a small bathroom holding on to her dog, and how after the house collapsed, she lost him, when the reporter says, "Oh, look! A dog!" And that's when you see the woman's badly cut and bruised arms trying to lift that debris off of her beloved dog. And then you see his sweet little face peeking through the pile-of-stuff-formerly-known-as-house, frightened eyes pleading to be rescued. The scene cuts, apparently to omit a few minutes of her trying to lift stuff in order to free him, and finally, you hear her plead, no, more than plead - she begs, "Oh, help me! Help me!"
Finally, either the reporter's arm or a crew member's arm reaches in and helps her lift a heavy looking sheet of something or other up just enough that the dog is able to come out of his buried alive trap of rubble.
Why, WHY did this poor old lady even have to ask?! WTF?!
Have we really lost that much of our connections to others that we can stand by filming, watching this struggle and do nothing to help until asked?
Because if it is, maybe we do deserve this kind of devastation. Maybe we need this kind of loss to change our ways. Maybe it's our collective karma kicking our asses. Maybe my empathy and that of those, who like me still have it, is simply not enough to suffice, to offset all of the douchery and ass-hattery of today's modern society, what, with all the suicide bombers, kidnappers and rapists, sadists, and the bigots.
And then there's the politicizers- you know, the politicians, wannabe politicians, pundits, and general dick heads who can't wait to turn even a tragedy of this magnitude into a political cry for or against some policy or another.
True, everything is political, when you get down to it. I realize that. I understand how it works, the connectedness of it all. But I want people to just wait a minute or two before going on the rampage about federal relief funding, about god's wrath for our sins, and the need for prayer and about all the garbage that gets tossed around. Just stop and think, what would I want to hear if I was searching through rubble for my family, for my belongings, for my child...
I'd probably just want to hear, "How can I help you right now?"
And that's really all those people should be hearing from us.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Chillin' With My Brussels

"My pants are getting looser!"
I wasn't surprised one bit by The Wifester's discovery yesterday. We've been eating primarily plant based diets for supper for the last two weeks. We have only allowed ourselves poultry at supper, and confined that to twice a week. It has been a good couple of weeks, too. Only a couple of times did we go to bed and say, "I'm still hungry." But we weren't hungry enough to eat more of anything.
We found a few truly keeper recipes, too, like the Marinated Brussels & Kale Salad. And seriously, don't let the kale deter you. I hate kale. I've hated it with a passion every single time I've tried it. My sister in law, who is a phenomenal cook, made kale chips and swore that they were wonderful, and that is the only time I've honestly felt like she bold faced lied to me. I've always found kale to be bitter and disgusting, until now.
I mean, I've loved brussels for as long as I can remember. I've talked about my love of the little, round, bundle of yumminess time and time again. Even after bouts of illness that I associated, or attributed to having eaten tainted brussels, I've come 'round and been jumping back in the saddle with the little boogers. I can't keep myself away from 'em. I'll gobble those little pillows of deliciousness every chance I get. But, oh sweet mother of all things edible, I never knew they could be so fantastic cold! I've eaten them steamed and roasted and grilled and broiled, but never in my life did I think to chill them.

On Mother's Day, The Wifester and I went to a Mother's Day picnic with The Wifester's mom, our sister in law, her mom, her sister in law, and a host of aunts. It's a yearly thing, and it's great. All the non-moms host it for all the moms, and it truly is a wonderful way to celebrate all those mothers.

Anyways our contribution was this super fantastic dish, whose recipe was requested more times than I can count, and then asked for again, and again. And since it was in such high demand, I thought I'd share it with you.

Marinated Brussels and Kale

2 lbs Brussels sprouts
1 large bunch of kale, center stem discarded, leaves thinly sliced
3/4 cup olive oil
2 lemons,zested and juiced
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp honey
2 large shallots, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup parsley, chopped fine
1 small sweet onion chopped
½ each red, yellow, green peppers
4 large garlic cloves, minced
salt to taste
fresh ground black pepper to taste
*this recipe also called for 1/3 cup almonds, coarsely chopped – I used roasted sunflower seeds instead, due to The Wifester's nut allergy

Combine lemon juice, honey, vinegar, shallots, garlic, sweet onion, and ¼ teaspoon salt + a pinch of pepper. Stir to blend well. Set aside.

Prep Brussels and slice the larger ones in half. Toss with kale. Bring ½ inch water to boil in a large pot, add Brussels and kale, cover pot and steam for 3-5 min. until just barely tender. Drain the sprouts and plunge them in a bowl of ice water. Leave them there for 1-2 min., then drain.

Whisk in the olive oil with the lemon juice mixture. Toss Brussels and kale with the vinaigrette to coat well. Add almonds or sunflower seeds. Salt and pepper to taste. Cover and place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving, best if made a day in advance. Stir mixture occasionally to ensure even soaking.

There you go. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Next Year

A girl walks into a writer's group meeting...
And finds herself wishing she had just stayed home.

No kidding. I was looking for some inspiration, maybe some insight and tips on how to write better, write more, just WRITE. What I found was a room full of egos attached to, well, to be honest, fundamentally untalented writers except for one, who was marginally fantastic. I'd like to meet with just him and have some time to pick his brain. Otherwise, not much came out of that meeting for me, except the firm knowledge that I had wasted two hours of my life in that room. I'll keep looking. I mean, maybe I'm being too harsh, but I can't grant any respect to a writer's group "Facilitator/Writing Coach" who uses Stephen King as an example of diverse writing styles, and then goes on to list only a couple of his most popular books without a single mention of anything he has done outside of the horror genre. I brought up the Hearts in Atlantis series, only to be met with that deer-in-headlights stare. I tried to help stir memory as best I could, being on the spot in a room full of people I don't know and feeling vulnerable and nervous, and I said, "You know, the collection of short stories about the single mom, a widow, with the little boy and they meet the older gentleman." To which I received the response, "Oh, you mean The Sixth Sense?"
No. No I don't mean The Sixth Sense, you fucking moron. Maybe, before you try to utilize the name of Stephen King as an example of versatile writing styles, you should school yourself in some of his truly diverse writing, like The Body (Stand by Me), or The Green Mile, or how about his memoir, On Writing.
Just a thought.
And maybe you should look into knowing the differences between M. Knight Shymalan's writing style and Steven King's. Just sayin'.

So suffice it to say, this group was not a proper fit. I want someone to challenge me to push my limits. I want someone to challenge me to write about the hard topics, to be more free with the fun topics, and to dive in there and really, truly put a wholehearted effort into this god-damned book that has been not much more than an outline for the last five years.

Maybe I'm asking for too much. I tend to do that.

Anyways, on to more venting:

During this past week The Wifester had an uncle, actually a great-uncle, who passed away, and I had a great aunt pass away. This has been a tough year for The Wifester's family, she also lost both of her grandparents, on her mother's side, within just a few months of each other. My heart goes out, especially to The Wifester's mom. I can't imagine how difficult this has been for her.

With so much loss around us recently, we've really been contemplating our own mortality. I think that's pretty normal, isn't it? I've known for quite some time that my current state of health (or lack thereof) is quite detrimental to my longevity, and to my quality of life. I have been open with you about my desire, my need to lose weight. It's a battle that has consumed my entire life. I remember being 6 years old and going to my great uncle's funeral where my great grandfather, upon seeing me for the first time in several months, exclaimed, "Whooo-weee! You're as fat as pig!"

I remember year after year of Weight Watchers meetings and Slim Fast type shakes, and that was years before there was such a thing as Slim Fast. I remember opening my lunch box to an apple and a thermos of flavor-of-the-day diet shake drink, while my friends had pb&j sammies, or bologna, or ham...
I remember looking in the mirror the day before school started each year and sighing and telling myself, "It's okay, when school starts next year you'll be skinny." Next year always did come, and with it was that same conversation in the mirror with that fat little girl who possessed me.

It just now occurred to me that I still say "Next year..." I've been saying my book will be complete next year for years. I've been saying I'll get my finances in order next year for my entire adult life. And, of course, I've still been saying next year about my weight.

I'm tired of being the master procrastinator. Next Year is now. I have to get these things under control. I have to make them happen. Next Year won't do the hard work for me. I have to do the writing. I have to make the better financial decisions. I have eat the healthier foods, and I have to get more exercise.
And with that, I think I'll go take The Sally-dog on a walk.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Then and Now

I got the call this morning that my Aunt Mickie had passed away. Actually, before I got the call from my mom, I got the email via facebook from my cousin. I let mom tell me about it as though I didn't already know because I know she hates facebook and especially hates it when facebook tells me something before she can.

I'm sad at hearing about Aunt Mickey. She was such a sweet, caring woman and she had one of those smiles that illuminated every room she entered. Aunt Mickey was my grandfather's sister, on my father's side. A true Southern Lady, she had that grace and charm that, at least in my opinion, can only come from being raised as a proper Southern girl. Polite and considerate while being honest and forthcoming. Sweet and proper without being prudish. Nothing that I am, but everything I strive to be.

While reminiscing on Aunt Mickey and her sweet, gentle nature, my mother said to me, "You know, what I always remember about her is that when I met Dad and he introduced me to his family, from day one she always welcomed me with open arms and she treated me like I had always been a part of the family."

Funny you should mention that, I thought, considering the way you treated The Wifester when you met her. Considering it took you over a year before you even took the time to ask her what she did for a living. Considering you never, not even once even asked her about her family. Considering you spent hours in the same room with her and never once attempted to initiate conversation with her and only gave brief answers when she directly asked you questions. Considering...

She continued with her description of how much it meant to her for Aunt Mickey to have been so welcoming, "You know, back then there were a lot of people who didn't like to see your Dad be with a Mexican woman. It was not so widely accepted like it is today. But Aunt Mickey never acted like it was anything but perfectly normal. She welcomed me and made me feel right at home, right from the start. That goes a long way. And it says a lot about her character."

"Yes," I said, "a lot of things have changed since then, and a lot of things are still the same. That kind of acceptance is very important for building those family relationships."
I wondered if she was able to make the connection between the two situations.

"It leaves a lasting impression when family members welcome you right from the start. Everyone should have an Aunt Mickey" I finished. There was nothing more to say.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Crabby(ish) Patties

It's no secret that The Wifester and I are fat. We are. But we're trying not to be. If you've ever struggled with weight loss, the real kind, not just "I gotta drop 15 to fit in those jeans", but like the need to lose half of your body weight, then you know what we're up against.

I realize it really is a lifestyle change. I've been told that my entire life, I get it. But being willing to make that change is more difficult than it sounds. Seriously. I mean, first of all, who doesn't love chocolate and cream filled anything? And butter and jam and all that good stuff? If you tell me you don't, I'll call you a liar to your face. Maybe you've denied it to yourself long enough that you forgot how wonderful it was. Maybe you honestly think you don't like them. But if you were to take a bite of a wonderfully decadent, chocolate laden, butter-based, cream filled something or other you would melt in your seat and ferociously fend off any entity that dared to take even one bite of it away from you.

As you can probably tell, sweets are my Waterloo.

So we've been working on limiting the sweets at our house. It's torture I tell you. Torture.

We've also been working on having more plant based meals. I mean, we already cut out beef and pork, so we're left to fish and poultry as it is. But obviously that hasn't been enough for the kind of dietary changes we need. Portion control is also a factor. But gosh it's hard to feel full off of a plate full of lettuce! And then there's the cost of eating the right foods. (Why do fresh veggies cost five times as much as ramen noodles?)
I've also been looking for meatless alternatives for entrees, and for sides that are more filling and lower calorie/lower fat than what we've been doing. I've found several recipes that have turned out great, a few not so great, but so far, the very best thing I've found that made me feel like I had a truly decadent dinner, while maintaining the low-cost, low calorie, and low fat criteria, has been the Crab(ish) Patties that I whipped up the other day. They aren't exactly meatless, but they are filling, delicious, and easy. And you really could leave out the Louis Kemp artificial crab meat and they'd still be super fantastic.


1 pkg. Extra firm tofu – frozen, then thawed, then drained and crumbled
1 pkg. Louis Kemp Artificial Crab meat coarsely chopped
2 eggs
¾ - 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs plus extra for dredging
1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ each of medium red, green, and yellow peppers diced
 1 small yellow onion diced
1 stalk celery diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
Old Bay Seasoning, salt, and pepper to taste
Olive oil for frying in pan
lemon wedges for garnishment


You should mix the ingredients at least two hours or overnight the night before you want to cook them so that the flavors really set into the tofu. Otherwise your tofu will be very bland and flavorless. I mixed mine up at around noon, and then cooked them for dinner that evening. They were fantastic!

In a large bowl crumble the drained tofu until it is a fine gain consistency. In a separate bowl beat eggs. Add eggs to tofu crumble, mix in the chopped crab meat, veggies, and seasonings. Cover and set in fridge for two hours or the night before. 

When you are ready to cook them, pour some EVOO in a skillet, just enough to coat the bottom of the pan. If you have a really good non-stick pan, you may be able to do without the oil at all. Form patties to the size you want. I made palm sized patties and ended up with a dozen. Lay them on wax paper to make handling them easier. Dredge them in a dish of seasoned bread crumbs. Just the crumbs, no need for egg or milk or anything, the crumbs will adhere to this tofu mixture without any problem. Cook these babies over medium to medium high heat until golden and crispy, about 4 minutes each side. 
Alternate cooking method: Place patties on a greased cookie sheet and cook in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for about 12-15 minutes each side, or until golden and crispy.