Sunday, November 22, 2015

Time Out

I am taking a brief adult time out to travel to see the most beautiful girl in the world.  My granddaughter turns 2 and we are headed to Oregon for the week.  I wish you all the most wonderful Thanksgiving with fun and laughter.

I will still be reading your blogs, but will be on my Ipad and I hate trying to respond on it, so I will just tell each of you in advance that I love your posts and agree with whatever each of you are saying.

Happy Thanksgiving and try not to get stuffed!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Red Curry: Paleo or Not, Your Choice

A couple of days ago I offered to go to the Independence Place for a little volunteering, creating, and fellowship. Debbie (the same one I have mentioned whom you can't tell no) suggested I come at 2:30 in the afternoon, so I said it would be no problem.  When I checked my calendar to confirm my availability I only looked at the things I had planned for the daytime.  I forgot to check my evening commitments or I would have seen that I had a dinner party planned for that night. (Not checking is just the first of many bad plansfor the day)

This would normally not be an issue but I knew I would not be leaving IP until after 4, which then would put me driving home with all the others at the beginning of drive time.  Again this would normally not be a problem, but IP is a good 30 minute drive from my house under the best of circumstances. Additional traffic and the usual back-up at the 459/65 exchange makes it a 45 minute drive.

Again doable if I got home at 4:45.  I would still have enough time to get dinner cooked and be ready for guests at 6:30, except in addition to a dinner party I was in the process of Christmas decorating. (I will be out of town all next week through late night on the 30th. Then I will immediately start the process of the Santa Letters which will consume the next few days. My neighborhood lights up the day after Thanksgiving and I want to be shiny like the rest of the subdivision. And yes, my house will be a tad overdone when I am finished.) All morning I was working on getting a little Christmas going and tidying the house. It took a little longer than I thought it would and I did not have time to stop by the grocery store before I left for IP.  So now I would not only be late getting home, but I had an additional 15 or so minutes tacked on the the already late arrival time.

I had read a recipe in a free download Kindle cookbook recently and remembered it as I was driving home. I remembered it basically cooked itself so that is what I decided to make.Fortunately I recalled enough of the ingredients and knew I could always punt if I needed to. (Understand I keep a very well stocked pantry) So I stopped to grab chicken, lemongrass, carrots, a shallot, a couple of packages of naan, dessert from the bakery, brown jasmine rice, and some wine.

As it turned out I remembered the recipe a little differently than it was written, so I am posting this as I made it.  It is supposed to be an Indian red curry, but since I did not re-read the recipe until I was about half way though putting the ingredients in the pot, it might be more of a Thai/Indian fusion curry.  Oh well! The most important thing was that I could get everything in the pot and let it cook with little interference from me while I vacuumed and set the table.  (I know this looks like a lot of ingredients, but most of them are just spices so don't let that scare you.)

5 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts in medium size cubes
2 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil
1 onion in julienne slices
1 shallot minced
6 cloves garlic
1 inch of fresh garlic, peeled and minced
2 cans coconut milk
2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 rounded teaspoons red curry paste
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 pound baby carrots
1 bag frozen green beans
Juice of 2 limes (grocery store had no lemongrass so this was a punt)
4 cups of cooked rice
cilantro for garnish

In a large enamel pot (or something similar) saute' the chicken pieces in the oil.  When the chicken loses its pink color throw in the onions and shallots and begin the wilting process but do not brown.  After they have wilted toss in the garlic and the ginger and stir it for about 30 seconds.  Immediately add the coconut milk and the chicken broth.  Stir in the tomato paste and continue stirring until everything is combined.  Add the red curry paste and blend well, then add the spices.  Put the lid on the pot and let it cook over a low heat for about an hour. After an hour add the carrots and green beans.  Turn the heat up to medium low until the vegetables are cooked through. This can sit on the stove on low for a while as long as you stir it occasionally. (I know for a fact it will simmer happily through an appetizer and a couple of glasses of wine)

Right before serving add the lime juice and stir through.  Serve in a large bowl over rice and garnish with cilantro leaves.  If you are doing that paleo thing just leave the rice out or serve it over cauliflower "rice".

The verdict on this was unanimous. It was delicious and everyone loved it. The only problem is that I have fat eyes and served huge portions that no one could finish, especially after wine and apps and the potential of chocolate pie for dessert. For the first time ever I had 2 guests who asked for doggie bags so they could have their remains for lunch the next day.

Tonight we had the final leftovers for supper and it was possibly even better after a little time in the fridge. I am going to be making another large batch and freezing it in dinner size containers for crazy nights when cooking is an issue.

p.s.  The spice measurements are the result of tasting repeatedly and adding a little of this and that until I found a flavor I liked.  Right before they got there I had to put about a dozen spoons I had used for tasting in the dishwasher, but it turned out very well. The original recipe did not call for green beans or carrots, but I needed some additional vegetables so I added them.  I will add them next time also, but I will probably also add some red and yellow peppers and cubed sweet potatoes.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Paleo or Not: Buffalo Chicken Casserole

If you look at my last 2 recipe posts you might think I am on some Buffalo chicken quest, when nothing could be further from the truth.  I simply have an odd way of planning meals.  Instead of thinking days in advance and planning an honest meal plan, I  buy whatever the weeks grocery deals are.  Each week I have a lot of raw products but no idea how I will put them together until the day we are going to eat them.  Consequently I do a lot of googling (I love that it is considered a real word now) and punting on a daily basis.

The other day I was looking for a paleo casserole recipe to use some cooked chicken I had in the fridge. I kept searching, reading one recipe after another after another, but I didn't bookmark any of them. I would follow one link after another creating new tabs then closing them out as I was through reading. I found one for  a Buffalo chicken casserole and thought it sounded good, but did I book mark it? Uh, no.  Could I find it in my history? Uh, no. (I know it is there, but after clicking on a few dozen recipes I got tired of looking so I decided to just try and create it. From memory!  Oops, the only thing I remembered was a medium spaghetti squash and a red pepper. Nonetheless I went ahead and tried to replicate it.  I have no idea how close I came to the original, so apologies to whomever you are. ) I am not trying to claim this is original, I just don't remember who you are and I hope my memory is somewhat close to what you published.

                                                   Buffalo Chicken Casserole

1 med spaghetti squash (cooked and separated into strands) or about 3 cups cooked spaghetti noodles
2-3 cups cooked shredded chicken
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 ribs celery, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped (I used yellow cause that's what I had, but red would be prettier)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup hot pepper sauce (I use Texas Pete's)
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast or 1 cup grated cheddar or 1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
3 eggs, well beaten

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the spaghetti (either squash strands or noodles) in a very large bowl. Add the chicken.  In a saute' pan heat the olive oil and quickly wilt the celery and the onion. Add the pepper and get a nice wilt going on it also.  When everything is nice and wilty but not brown toss in the minced garlic and stir it around the pan for about 30 seconds.  Take the pan off the heat and quickly dump all the veggies in the bowl with the chicken and spaghetti.  Mix it well adding salt and pepper. Add more to your personal taste if needed.

In a small bowl mix the mayo, hot sauce, nutritional yeast (gives paleo food a cheesy taste) or cheese and the beaten eggs.  Make sure everything is well blended. I used a whisk instead of a spoon on this just to get it mixed very well.

Grease a 9x13 pan and put the chicken/spaghetti/veggie mix in it.  Make sure it is even in the pan, then pour the eggy mayo mixture evenly over the top of it.  When I did it I noticed the sauce did not soak into the vegetables and chicken so I took a chopstick and poked holes all over it until the egg mixture seeped down into the pan.  Bake for about 35 minutes, until the top is browned and looks "crispy".

And here is the verdict:  I eat paleo foods regularly, so I understand spaghetti squash will not have the same mouthfeel that real spaghetti does.  TheHub was thrown off by the texture but he loved the taste.  I personally thought it was one of the best paleo dishes I have eaten.  The taste was fantastic! It had a wonderful flavor and some nice heat that was not overpowering. Yum!

I will make this again and will probably start having it a couple of times a month, because I can put it together in the morning, cover it in the fridge then bake it in the evening.  But, and this is an important but for us, I will make 2 pans of it.  One with spaghetti squash for me and one with regular spaghetti for TheHub. (For the record he had no idea it had nutritional yeast instead of cheese, so I won't even bother adding real cheese to his, but if I were not doing paleo, I would add blue cheese crumbles in a heartbeat.)

If you follow a paleo diet try this  and you will probably love it.  If you are not paleo try it using noodles and cheese.  I think you might find it is a keeper.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Real Me ABC

I followed the formula for the first ABC post but the more I have been thinking about it the less I think it reveals about my true essence.  So I created a different one suing things that are more essential to who I am rather than what time it is or my last beverage choice.

A-Adult ADDish (If I see something shiny I am toast)
B-Bookwormish ( I read all the time, just not necessarily books)
C-Competitive (I don't mean to be, it just happens sometimes...OK nearly all the time.  I tell my Beloved Sister it is not a competition, as long as I'm winning.)
D-Delightfully Odd
E-Eventually (As in I will get it done eventually but I am easily distracted)
G-Grateful (There is an abundance of things I am grateful for.)
H-Heavy (That's all I'm going to say about that)
I-Interested (I am bummed at how much I don't know and how much I will never have the time to learn)
J-Jobless (I used to be a SAHM but now the chicks have flown so I guess I am just a SAH)
K-Kind (I am very kind but I am not sweet)
L-Lazy (Gee that hurts to admit)
M-Moody (Sorry family!)
N- Non-touchy feely (I should be required to wear a Do Not Touch sign around my neck, but then the sign would touch my neck and that would begin some vicious scratch /itch cycle
O-Opinionated (if you don't believe me just ask what I think about anything)
P-Painted (Yes, I am one of those make-up women)
Q- Quirky
R-Rebellious (I just don't like being told what to do.)
T-Tactile (I like things, fabrics, and food by feel first.  If it does not feel "right" I don't like it.)
U-Ungraceful (Can you say klutz)
V-Vocal (Yeah, I talk too much)
W-Wicked (When it comes to my sense of humor.  I promise I never use my powers for evil.)
X-Xxactly Stumped (Sorry I just can't think of an x adjective except xenophobic and I'm not that)
Y-Young (At heart)
Z-Zealous (Of things I am passionate about)

Saturday, November 7, 2015

My Heart!

I am fortunate to be able to volunteer and help some of my favorite people. The Independence Place of Alabama is a faith based non-profit program for exceptional adults.  Most of these adults have gone through the federal educational programs until they were 21, then suddenly there were limited options to encourage their social and recreational needs.

I stumbled into volunteering accidentally.  Well, not really accidentally. My cousin's wife, Debbie, is in charge of their daily operations, and Debbie asked me to help do just one thing. I said OK because you can't say no to Debbie. (It's not just me, no one can say no to Debbie.)  I don't even remember what we did the first time I went, some craft type thing I think, or maybe it was cooking something. I honestly don't remember. All I know is from the first meeting with these people I was hooked, and now I find myself actively looking for various things to fit their personalities and skill level.

This past week we made snowmen (and yes, snowwomen, Haley) for a Christmas bazaar where they will sell their creations as a fundraiser.  There is something so special about sitting with this group creating things with their hands, and while they are having fun, they know this will benefit their program. We had a great time doing it, and it turned out to be something they could do easily so I am going back Tuesday for some more snowman fun.  After all, as I was leaving Haley asked "Will you come back on Tuesday and have more fun with us?"  How could I possibly say no to that?

I guess the entire purpose of this post is to strongly encourage each of you to find whatever your thing is and give a little of yourself to whatever cause you choose.  For me, this is not giving anything but time, and a few bucks for materials.  What I get back is priceless.  There is no where else in my walking around 3-D life where people are so glad to see me, where I am greeted with hugs, and hear things like "I am so glad you're my friend, Anne."

Find your purpose and passion.  Life is too short to not share our time, talent and gifts!*

*My youngest child is now a Jr, in college, so I understand I have more time to give than most.  Everyone has a different level of time and resources, so no judgements!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Elves Millie and Anne

And now it has begun.  Right after the Halloween stuff has been put away (Oh, who am I kidding?  It's in a box waiting for me to carry it upstairs.) it is time for Millie and I to change hats.  This week we launched the fund raiser we do each year for a couple of our favorite non-profits and have already received our first 2 orders.

We become elves and with the help of loving parents, grandparents or friends we compose, address and send very personalized letters mailed from the North Pole to children all over the U.S.   We don't eliminate Canada but we have to charge an additional dollar for the postage.

Rather than being a response to Christmas "wants" our letters focus on how the child is succeeding and what needs a tad of improvement. (My all time favorite letter mentioned Santa needing to tell a little fellow he really had to wear underwear to school daily.)  I would have killed when I was a kid to see Santa was proud of my report card, or leaf raking, or whatever Mom and Dad thought I had done well.  I probably would not have been as happy to see he really KNEW  I shoved my dirty clothes under the bed rather than put them in the laundry basket.

So if you are near my house and you hear early Christmas music know that I am not crazy.  I'm just getting my jolly on.

Monday, November 2, 2015

What's For Dinner?

Tonight for the first time in about 3 weeks I actually cooked.  I don't want to imply that I have not prepared meals for 3 weeks but I mainly reformatted foods that already existed completed and living in the freezer.  We have eaten soups, thawed and warmed lasagne, bbq pork baked potatoes, various salads, yadda, yadda,yadda.  I honestly do not think I have prepared anything totally from scratch in at least that long. (OK, truth here,  I cook for the freezer often just for weeks like this, so at one time this stuff was home cooked, but when all I have to do to get a meal on the table is thaw and heat I don't think of it as real cooking even when it was me who did it to begin with. And that was an incredible run on sentence that I am going to let stand!)

Tonight I began strict paleo eating__again and was determined to put a tasty meal on the table.  So bright and early I took chicken out of the freezer to thaw, made sure I had everything I needed and was waiting for time to begin fixin (see I am from the South) dinner.  At about 4 the phone rang and it was TheHub who found out he had to go to dinner with some people who were in town.  Well that meant dinner was now for 1 and my normal M.O. would be to just fix a peanut butter sandwich and then grab some leftover Halloween candy from the freezer and call it good.  Since I had already been true to the paleo plan I figured there was no reason to scrub the diet and then have to begin day one all over again tomorrow.  So I drove back home and began to prepare a self indulgent meal just for me.

Moroccan One Pot Chicken

3 small chicken breasts
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 small onion cut in rings
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon
black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
4 bay leaves
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 head cauliflower in florets

In a dutch oven with a lid, brown the chicken in the coconut oil.  Add the onions and wilt.  Stir in the minced garlic and allow to wilt but not to brown.  Pour in the tomatoes and the chicken broth.  Add the spices, lemon juice and raisins.  Turn the heat down to medium low, cover with the lid and let everything simmer until the chicken is nice and tender. (It took about 45 minutes on the mid low setting)  Check about 3 times during the cook time and add additional water or broth as needed.  I found I had to add another cup of liquid about half way through.  When the chicken is done, raise the heat to medium and toss in the cauliflower.  Cover and cook until the cauliflower is tender.  To serve put a little sauce on the plate, cover with the chicken breast and surround with cauliflower.

As it turned out, Son2 came here right at supper time.  I was glad to have both the company and another tester for the chicken. I could have/should have cooked a little rice for the non-paleo diner, but I didn't.  Show up at dinner time and you get to eat what I am eating, right?

 It was very tasty, light yet filling at the same time and the chicken was fall off the bone tender.* I was a little worried that the cinnamon would leave a strange taste, but all the flavors melded very well. Oh and don't be put off by the raisins. They plump nicely and take on the flavor of the spice blend, but retain some sweetness.* The cauliflower also absorbed some of the liquids flavors which made it very delicious and it needed no additional sauce.  This is going to go in my food rotation and next time I will make a gigantic pot for freezing.

There are a couple of things I will do differently next time. When I make it next, I am going to use thighs* rather than chicken breasts only because I think thighs would hold moisture and sauce flavor better than the breasts did.  I also will cut the raisin amount down a little (maybe use 3/4 as much) and will coarsely chop them.  I think pieces would have a better mouth feel than the whole raisin. (The flavor they brought to the dish was too good to eliminate them.)  The only thing this dish needs for anyone doing a non paleo meal plan is some rice. I will be sure to make a pot of basmati rice and will serve it over the rice, well to everyone but me.

If you are looking for something different to do with chicken, you might want to give this a try.  It was well worth trying!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

November: 30 Joyous Things

Well it is now November and I have completed my October joy list.  Some of the things were done and some fell by the wayside, but overall I would call it a success.  Having the list made me conscious of completing some things I might have otherwise put off and it also inspired me to do a few other things I might not have thought of doing if I had not been actively looking at a joy list on a regular basis.  My November list will be a bit different since I have travel plans that will take up a week at the end of the month.

Before I go on to November here is the official result of the 31 item joy list:

1. Remind myself of every good thing that fills my life Starting each day with a blessings count

2. Try a new recipe and enjoy whatever it is without guilt New coffee cake recipe (yum!)

3. Send a "just because I care" card  Headed your way, Millie!

4. Take flowers to someone   Last of the zinnias for Mom (Last of the zinnias my foot!  They are still blooming)

5. Do that silly paying for someone behind me in a drive through  Woo Hoo McDonalds

6. Call a friend I have been out of contact with for a while Enjoyed it much!

7. Introduce myself to someone new.

8. Quick shine the hardwoods (This sounds like a chore, but I love it after it's done) Done and the floors are ready for Christmas and look beautiful, but I finished this Oct 31 after noon.  This one I did just because it was on the list.  It would not have hurt anything to wait till next week

9. Take food to someone who is experiencing a bad day  I know someone in my realm was having a hard day, I just didn't hear about it, and I hated the thoughts of just throwing food at someone, though that could have caused them to have a bad day.

10. Have a small dinner party

11. Have a picnic on the boat Not happening, not going to the lake for the weekend again this month.

12. Decorate for Halloween

13. Make decorative skulls for Day of the Dead Not happening, can't find $1 skulls this year

14. Wrap every Christmas present that is already bought (Hold off on the bows though) Everything to date, but the month isn't over yet and I might buy something else

15. Buy fat quarters to repair a quilt made by my MIL, then mend it I mended some but have some left so this is only partially done

16. Go to a couple of wine tastingsbuy some tasty inexpensive wine Pennywise is a decent pinot noir

17. Go alone to a movie in the middle of the day  Went at night and let TheHub go

18. Find some free live music to enjoy  Serendipitous finding!  I was at our church this morning and found that the Alabama Symphony was holding an introduction to the symphony program for preschool and homeschooled kids in the church auditorium.  Not only did I get to hear some light symphonic music, but I got the watch precious kids learning about the orchestra.

19. Make Christmas decorations for the foyer ceiling partially done  The jury is still out about how this will look installed.  Lots of effort and mess so far

20. Make black pvc "candles" for the front steps for Halloween These are turning into Christmas candles instead

21. Try a new to me vegetable or fruit (might need to go to an ethnic store) Tried and liked Arabic pickled beets__totally different from regular beets, and to think I have spent my entire life hating them.

22. Begin video cooking instructions with Son3

23. Read at least 4 books "Honeymoon with My Brother"  "Diary of an Inexperienced Father" "Harebrained, It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time"  Only read 3 so only partial success

24. Listen to Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet Suite Listened to it then watched the ballet via YouTube

25. Learn a new skill (Boy this one is directionless)

26. Make S'mores and eat them I did this just because it was on the list.  The day we had them I really didn't want them.

27. Pack a couple of UMCOR shoeboxes for Christmas   Sent 2 boxes 1 boy 1 girl both age 8

28. Begin a family recipes cookbook  Lame beginnings, but it has begun

29. Write down 3 remembrances from childhood 1. Little Drummer Girl 2. Chicken Man 3. A significant first

30. Begin the process of scanning TheHub's family photos The first week in November is supposed to be bad weather.  Hopefully I will start it then,

31. Wear something in a color I never wear.  Turns out purple is a good color for me

32. (bonus) Make a Christmas gift for my Beloved Sister More about this later (After Christmas)

33.Volunteer with special needs adults.  I am kicking myself.  This should have been at number 2 instead of 33  Allowing me to volunteer my time with these folks is in reality their gift to me

33. At the end of the month reflect on what brought true joy and what felt like doing something just to knock it off this list.  To be honest some things I did just to knock it off the list (less than 3 things, maybe) so some felt more like than obligation than joy, but I suppose that is life.  Most of the things were just delightful and I will be happy to begin more of the same in November.

1. Reflect each day on 3 specific good things that happened the day before
2.Volunteer with special needs adults
3. Visit the most beautiful girl in the world (granddaughter)
4. Enjoy traveling with Mom (no matter what, enjoy it!)
5. Begin decorating for Christmas (Remember it will already be December when I return from the trip) 
6. Have a joyful Thanksgiving day!
7. Work on the family recipe book
8. Take food to someone having a bad time
9. Once weekly take Mom to a Christmas Shop or gift store.  Let her look as long as she wants. Practice patience. 1. The Place in Bucksville (Don't remember the name) 2Joyce Ann's Holiday Shop
10. Find and enjoy some free live music I was able to hear the closest thing to an angel singing as I will ever be able to hear while living on this plane. I went to Independence Place to volunteer and got to hear one of their participants play and sing. I was honored and humbled.
11. Go to a Christmas market (Lots of churches around here have them in November)
12. Dinner with Mom 1 time at my house and 1 time at hers
13. Read at least 3 books
14. Dig up bulbs at the lake place and transplant them
15. Make some new recipe completely out of my comfort zone. Peruvian food maybe? Indian curry dish
16. Begin addressing Christmas cards
17. Make My Beloved Sister a Christmas Gift
18. Wrap all presents that are bought (leave off the ribbons)
19. Attend  a seminar or lesson to learn something new
20.  Go to a museum by myself
21. Refashion at least one item of clothing I don't like anymore into something wearable and moderately fashionable
22. Try my hand at knitting, again. (this may be an effort in futility, again) Tried and determined I am just not a knitter.
23. Have a small dinner party  Party of 5 for wine, food, and conversation.  It was supposed to be a book club meeting but we didn't read a book this month.
24. Sit and listen to a complete symphony (can be live or a recording, just do it)
25. Listen (really listen) to a remembrance someone older has then write it down for posterity. Thanks Uncle Bob!
26. Do the silly pay it forward thing in a fast food line
27. Finish a painting for the lake place Changed to something Christmasy for the foyer
28. Splurge and buy a different fair trade coffee
29. Make some paleo "ice cream" (try and keep an open mind about how it tastes)
30. Eat some type of salad every Monday-Friday I think I missed one day, but having this written made me very conscious of eating raw vegetables.
31. Learn some Christmas jazz for the piano Need a lot more practice, so this will continue in December
32. bonus: Make and take some cookies and peanut butter fudge on trip
33.bonus:  Go to the nursing home with Mom to visit her longtime friend or go visit Uncle Bob at his house Visited UB at Mom's house.  A relative died and he spent the night at Mom's before they went to the funeral
34. daily: practice patience trying, some days succeeding and some days failing.