Sunday, December 30, 2012

Hot Jambalaya!


 [It's not actually that hot, but I say it in Mrs. Doubtfire's voice.]

I've been visiting a new Paleo recipe site and this was one of the first recipes I tried. Given that it had snowed and not warmed up above about 45 for almost a week, I was looking for warm comfort food! This was extremely easy and very tasty.

PaleOMG dot com is the site and you really need to get out there if you're looking for recipes. The specific link to this one is http://paleomg.com/jambalaya/.

The recipe is straightforward: andouille sausage, chicken breast, onion, green pepper, cauliflower, spices, tomatoes, and chicken stock. You can also use shrimp for more authentic jambalaya, but I didn't want to clean it that night. Maybe next time.

Anyway, the link gives the specific recipe, but here are a few notes from me.
1. I used a bit more (maybe 1/2 cup) chicken stock than the recipe called for. Since the exact amount of meat isn't specified (2 breasts -- is that a pound?), I just thought it needed a little more. It was definitely not too much liquid.

2. If you haven't started using cauliflower in place of rice, you've really got to try it. This goes for whether you're eating Paleo or not -- anyone looking to reduce carbs/increase veggie intake should try it. It saves Weight Watcher points and bulks up food just like rice would. You just run it through a food processor using the grating blade and you have riced cauliflower.

3. I was not completely sure if I was supposed to pre-cook the chicken before adding it early in the process. Answer: It cooks quickly and thoroughly in the 15-20 minutes called for in the recipe.

4. This makes a LOT of jambalaya, or it did for me. It was a large head of cauliflower, and I used a full pound of chicken. We easily got 6 healthy portions out of it. I wouldn't want to keep it more than two days in the fridge -- cauliflower may be fine to eat, but it starts to smell funny after a couple of days. Or that could just be me.

When I make this again, I'm sure I'll use shrimp, probably for 1/2 the chicken. It doesn't take long from start to finish - maybe 45 minutes including getting everything chopped at the beginning. I love andouille sausage and almost always have some in the fridge, so having another way to use it is awesome.

Give it a shot. Next time I make it, I'll take a few pictures.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Snow on Christmas!

I'm back in blogging land after a little while off. Please pardon the randomness of this post.

Christmas was excellent, and yes, we had snow in Texas on Christmas Day! I'm sure it wasn't the first time, but I definitely can't remember a specific time it happened. And COLD. Like 19 degrees cold. I literally sat on the couch all day and watched the traditional Christmas movies: A Christmas Story, Miracle on 34th Street, Die Hard... We'd already watched Holiday Inn and White Christmas. I played with my new tablet (!) and completely vegged out. Perfect Christmas day.

Our backyard, photo courtesy of Bug. Poor plants. Poor basketball.

I did make a chicken soup that day. I've got a favorite chicken tortilla soup recipe, but I've never converted it to Paleo -- it had corn and beans in it, not to mention the tortillas, sour cream and cheese that tops it. We'd gone to a party where one of the guests brought a soup that was very close to Paleo - it only had a little corn in it. I'd already decided to try it and of course then I found a Paleo "tortilla" soup online. Anyway, simply cooked chicken, rotel, chicken stock, and then topped with avocado and plantain chips. Very yum. I'll experiment with other spices and types of tomatoes when I make it again.

Speaking of food, I've now got positive proof that I can't eat crap and not pay the price. At Mom's for Christmas, I had a small bit of cornbread dressing, an apple dumpling (those things are crack), and a sugar cookie. I. Thought. I. Would. Die. before the day was over. Stomach cramps telling me I was an idiot. I'm pretty certain it was the gluten more than the sugar, but combined was not a good plan. So of course on Christmas I have to eat a Ghirardelli peppermint chocolate, so I haven't felt my best for several days. I'm still trying to decide if it was worth it. Maybe - it WAS Mom's dressing... But it definitely makes me wonder what's going to happen on the cruise! A week of exposure to food like that, when I will not want to feel bad -- at least I know what to stay away from!

We sail in 36 days! SO excited and ready for a vacation. We got our stateroom assignment (good location) and RDub got his passport. Now if my passport renewal will just get here, we'll be all set! I've made zero progress on the ten pounds I want to lose before we leave, so that starts now. I'm debating a "whole 20" during January. I can't decide if it's a good idea to eat really clean/pure Paleo and then sail (and risk adverse reactions to food I can't control) or just do what I've been doing and get a few more pounds off by exercise and cutting portions. That's a decision for another post - nothing is happening before the 1st anyway. I didn't gain over the holiday, so at least I'm not more in the negative than before!

And so we come to the end of a year. I'm working on a goals recap for myself to post here - hopefully before the actual end of the year. I'm also working on a more defined blogging structure - recipes, workouts, random stuff (I have that one covered) -- so that I'll get back in the habit of writing more than once a week. More to come.

If you blog, do you have a structure? Or does that just defeat the purpose?



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

25 Days of Blogging, part 3

I've not had the slightest idea what to write for the last several days. I've read so many postings on the tragedy of last Friday, and am not sure I can add anything at this point to the words eloquently written by others. I know that losing a child is so devastating that words seem to be completely inadequate. Knowing people care and hurt with you is precious. Honor the memories of the lost, respect the feelings of the survivors, and above all, pray for the strength for all touched by this tragedy.

Maybe I'll have something to say in a few days, but for now, I'm just going to pick up with the Christmas blogging. [I just found out that peanutbutterjenny, who started this challenge, is from Newtown and lives minutes from the elementary school. She's studying to be a teacher.]


www.peanutbutterjenny.com
15. The best gift you've given.
I don't know if it would be the best, but it's one I was soooo excited about it. Remember back when everything had those two angels on it -- one looking up with chin on folded arms, wings showing? I had one on the little notebook I wrote about here. Anyway, my mom has collected Snow Babies (angel figurines) for years, and I decided to get her a large print of these angels. It was framed beautifully and I remember being so excited about her reaction. To this day, it hangs in the living room where I grew up. It was the first time I remember being more excited about something I was giving than wondering what I would get myself.

16. Hardest person to buy for?
Apparently I surround myself with difficult people. RDub is absolutely impossible to shop for, because he is a world-class shopper and simply puts stuff in an online cart somewhere and gives me the password. Or he buys it himself, gives it to me to wrap, and tries to forget about it until he can open it.

17. Post a picture of an old Christmas card
I have some, but I'll come back to this.

18. When do you open gifts?
Christmas morning! The kids get to open one on Christmas Eve. This year, though, we're going to open some on Christmas Eve with the son, daughter-in-law, and grandson. I believe Bug wants to wait on hers until Christmas morning (at least I hope!).

19. Favorite stocking stuffer
I'll answer a different question, maybe. The traditional stocking stuffers - both when I was a kid and now with my kids -- are underwear and socks. I am breaking tradition for the first time this year because I'm not sure I can buy my 30-year-old son socks anymore. If I get an emergency call from his wife in February because he's wearing rags, I'll know it was a failed experiment. Oh, and cuties (tangerines).

Outta time for today. Join the conversation if you haven't already!




Friday, December 14, 2012

25 Days of Blogging, part 2

www.peanutbutterjenny.com/blog/
And now for our second installment of the Christmas Challenge!

10. Favorite holiday scent
I am apparently a very indecisive person. Or schizophrenic. Whatever. Vanilla/sugar cookies, pumpkin, pine. It used to be cinnamon, but now I sort of get itchy if there's too much cinnamon in the air -- does that happen to anyone else? My current favorite candle is spiced apple toddy -- seriously awesome.

11. Favorite Christmas tradition
I already mentioned that I love waking up on Christmas morning in my own bed. But I think my favorite tradition is Christmas Eve -- we put on It's a Wonderful Life, make apple cider, and just hang out together. One present gets opened by the kid just like it did when I was young. Often I'm cooking/baking that evening, so the house smells Christmassy.

12. Wrapping paper or gift bags
It's always a combination. If I've saved wrapping (or shopping for) presents to the last minute, definitely bags. I started earlier this year, so it'll be a good year for the wrapping paper approach. I've tried to match them for years, but I discovered this year that I'm down to remnants of both, so I'm using red, blue, and brown paper this year. Next year I'll get to start over with new colors.

13. Favorite Christmas book
Love this question! I decorate with books and usually add to the pile each year.

This box sits on my hearth, and I re-read at least a couple of these each year. My favorite would probably be "An Angel's Story" by Max Lucado - it's a fictionalized account told from the perspective of the archangel Gabriel of "angels battling Satan's armies with the future of mankind hanging in the balance." [I literally had to stop typing right here and go read it again.]

14. Real or artificial tree
We've had both in the past, but now I'm firmly an artificial tree person. With animals, there's no way to keep a real one intact for the month! I do love the smell of real trees, though.

And that catches me up. An entry next week, and then it'll be Christmas. Where did the time go?!?!?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

25 Days of Blogging


http://www.peanutbutterjenny.com/blog/

I just came across this and thought it might be fun. I'll have to play catch up, but it'll make me blog regularly for a little while! Here we go.

1. Your favorite Christmas movie
Great, I get stuck on the first one. I think I have to go with Holiday Inn. I have so many memories of watching this with my mom every single year.

Runners up: A Christmas Story, It's a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, and Miracle on 34th Street.

2. Your 2012 Christmas wish list
A new tablet and clothes for the cruise in February.

3. When/how did you learn that Santa wasn't real?
I don't understand this question. Santa is real. I first learned that he gets a lot of help from parents when I was 7 and I woke up before my mom was in bed on Christmas Eve. Santa had already been there and she was still in the kitchen. That was the year I got the fabulous Barbie Dream House.

4. Favorite Christmas song
Again with the "favorites." "O Holy Night" is really high on the list - the Celtic Women version gives me chills every time. But I think I have to pick Straight No Chaser's "12 Days of Christmas" because the season doesn't start for me until I hear it. And it doesn't have a version by anyone else.

5. Best gift you've ever received
Above-mentioned Barbie Dream House (the three story one with an elevator) was pretty high on the list! I'm really bad at remembering/listing gifts -- I loved my tennis bracelet the RDub surprised me with years ago, but I lost it this year (in the mall, no less) so it makes me sad right now! I love being surprised, even by little things, so I'll go with "all the surprise gifts" as my favorite.

6. Your favorite tree ornament
Oh my, I love them all! "Our first Christmas together" makes me smile as I pull it out of the ornament box. The crystal castle and hearts we bought in our first couple of years together -- bought at Dillard's because we had a credit card and no money -- and the fragile, hand-painted Santa globe from 1991 that miraculously survives every year. For a recent answer, I'll choose this one:
My sister and two best friends spent a girls' weekend here, and we all got matching ornaments. I smile when I see it!
7. Most memorable Christmas
Who comes up with these? I'm old and losing my memory daily. I'm pretty sure it was 1995 - the year my daughter was born. She was two months old, and I was exhausted. It was the first year (that I remember anyway) that we stayed home on Christmas instead of traveling to everyone's house (cramming hours of driving into 2-3 days). It started the tradition of making sure we are home on Christmas Eve night/Christmas morning that continues to this day. We may travel part of those days, but we wake up Christmas morning in our own bed!

8. Post a picture of Christmas decor
Yay, an easy one!


9. Easiest person to buy for
My daughter, hands down. She's so fun to buy clothes for.

Okay, stopping there for today. More days to come!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Monday musings, on a Tuesday

Just stuff running through my increasingly taxed brain:

1. I'm trying to find a dress/outfit for our cruise, for the formal dinner night. I do not want to go to the mall, but shopping for clothes by mail is scary. I also have those 10 pounds I really want to lose. I'm sort of between sizes, so I may just have to shop in January to get something that fits right.

2. At work, the goal setting part of annual reviews is going on right now. It somehow seems unprofessional to write "win the lottery" as a goal.

3. Christmas shopping is hard this year. No one needs anything, and most of the wants are not things I want to buy! Shop for yourself, people, and just put my name on it.

4. Speaking of Christmas, what am I supposed to do for all those people who would usually get baked goods from me? Do I just suck it up and do it anyway, knowing that it'll just make me want junk food I really shouldn't have? And for that matter, giving away stuff that really doesn't do great things for the recipients seems hypocritical. Bacon doesn't seem very Christmassy, but it may have to work. I thought of nuts, but I could go broke buying that for everyone.

5. RDub has to work on Christmas Eve. I'd be more upset, but mostly it just means I get to lay around and not do much. It'll be the first day I get to sleep late - no lunch to make, no kid to get up, no work to go to - in forever. That is not an exaggeration. And if I make it to 8am, it'll be a miracle.

6. I get to sing a special Christmas song with a very talented woman on Sunday. We practiced together on Saturday and it is so funny to me how much alike we sound at times. I've only known her a couple of years (if that long), but I'm just so blessed to get to do this with her.

7. There is nothing quite like watching your baby performing on a stage. To watch that baby and realize she's a young woman is heart-breaking and breathtaking all at once.

8. I have a really bad track record with the "rob your neighbor" gift exchanges. I either take a really lame gift (thinking it's funny or cool) or (sometimes and) come away with the "least likely to have some use/fit in my house" gift. Example: Ornament exchange, $5 limit or so -- I took a really cute glass snowman, I got two homemade, pipecleaner ornaments. True story.

9. I'm getting my hair done Thursday. Color, of course. But I'm actually considering getting bangs for the first time in quite a while. RDub used a morphing program to play with the idea, and now I'm really scared. I looked like the woman on the 10pm news who got arrested for writing hot checks. My hairdresser will talk me out of it if it's a bad idea. Really she will.

And that's all for this Tuesday edition of Monday Musings.




Thursday, December 6, 2012

Decorating and delirium.

It has been crazy busy around here, and I realized that with all the fun stuff, I took NOT A SINGLE picture! We had family visiting, lots of food, kid party, choir performance, just to name a few ... and it might as well have happened in my head since I have basically no documentation of it. Fail.

When I realized this, it ticked me off so much I just decided not to write anything at all. But that's not the least bit helpful, so here's a recap.

Bug's Choir performance at the Bass Hall:
On the Wednesday after Thanksgiving, most of our family converged on the house in order to attend the school district's choir and theater program at the Bass Hall. For those of you not from Fort Worth, this is the Bass Hall:


Obviously I had to steal borrow this off Google - thank you, IgoUgo!

I worked downtown when the Hall was being built. We've been there for concerts and plays, and it's just incredible. That my daughter got to perform on that stage is mind-blowing. The 3 district high school varsity choirs and 5 middle school choirs performed a couple of pieces each, and the high school theater departments did scenes from their respective plays, including The Wizard of Oz and Hairspray. They did such a great job -- oh, and we were on the second row!

Leading up to that event, I had a house to clean and decorate. It's not ever often that our family comes to our house for the holidays, so it sounded fun (!) to have all the Christmas decor up -- in four days. If you don't know me, let's just say that Christmas throws up all over my house. It's a sickness, I'm sure, but it's just for one month, so I'm not gonna worry too much. Just a sample:
Yes, I got this idea from Pinterest.
And yes, I most likely emptied those bottles all by myself.

My snowmen, collected over the years.
This bookcase is very hard to photograph - maybe next year I'll add lights!



Entry table -- those pumpkins were out for fall,
and got a new sparkly coat of paint for the holidays.

I love my tree!I don't think you can see it, but there are ornaments hanging from the curtain rod on the windows.
That was my new thing this year.

Since this was taken, the lights in the middle of the banister have gone out.
No idea how half a strand goes out, but that's how it's been this year.
Of course, being under a deadline, the house decided to wage war on us just for kicks. For example, the attic decided it wanted to keep the Christmas trees up there this year, and fought back:
Game room ceiling, Monday night.
The body attached to the foot that made this hole was a little banged up, but not badly hurt. The words flying out of the mouth from the body attached to the foot are not suitable for print. The woman married to the body involved was probably a tad more worried about the damage to the ceiling than to said body, but I was on a deadline. He fixed it - good enough for the time being, anyway.

The house was finished in plenty of time, food was prepared and eaten, and 16 of our family and two friends enjoyed the concert immensely!

Youth Event
I always say if you're having one party, have two. You'll already have the house clean, and might even have leftovers to use for the second party. So, family left by Friday, and Saturday night brought the teenagers from our church over for the dessert round of a progressive dinner. About 40 adults and teens sat around eating great amounts of sugar and drinking apple cider. Oh, and it was about 80 degrees outside, so of course everyone was in a Christmas mood.

Another stolen picture - notice the shorts and lack of winter wear.
This weight loss thing meant I would be making desserts and not eating them -- always fun! I adjusted the menu at the last minute to include an apple dumpling recipe that the family (who had been here) unanimously swore was the best dessert ever. I had no idea until I googled the recipe that it was originally from my baking idol, Pioneer Woman. I found a version of the recipe here (thanks, Pinterest):
You've got to try this one. I'm not even kidding.
The food theme was southern food, so we also had chocolate chip cookies, Texas chocolate sheet cake, pumpkin roll, and pecan pie squares. I did finally eat an apple thing, but managed to stay out of the rest of it. Nope, no pictures of the table.

The Wizard of Oz
This particular event doesn't involve me directly, but bears mentioning anyway. Bug has been in rehearsals for this musical for about a month, and the shows start tonight. This week she had dress rehearsals on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, and hasn't gotten home before 10pm or so. Have I mentioned we share a car? I had to use it on Monday, so at 10:15pm I'm sitting outside the school waiting for them to get out of practice. I've gotten totally spoiled to her independence! Anyway, we're going Friday and again on Sunday for the final performance.

_________________________________

Now on to the rest of the holiday festivities - music program at church (and associated practices), travel to see family, and of course the shopping. I'd like to say I'm done, but that would be a lie. Or a delusion.

What do you have coming up this month?