Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Vanilla-Chocolate-Strawberry-Mocha Pound Cake??

When you have ADHD you have to consciously slow down to read. Otherwise, you'll miss a number of things including but not limited to the big picture and important details. It happens to me all the time even though I attempt to slow down when reading (it takes a great deal of effort) and this time it cost me a pretty swirl in my Vanilla-Chocolate Pound Cake. Instead of a tablespoon of boiling water, I got ahead of myself and added a 1/2 cup--the measurement for the batter mix.

Needless to say, the swirl was far less swirly--bordering on non-existent.

Being the optimist that I am, however, I was able to inject my ADHD creativity to introduce a new line of pound cakes that are far more impressive that a simple chocolate/vanilla blend. Albeit some may be less of a contrast, each is guaranteed to be delicious.

Dreamscicle Pound Cake

For this recipe you replace the whole milk with orange flavored milk and substitute the hot chocolate mix for International Coffee's Orange Cafe.


Latin Pound Cake

This recipe calls for Nestle Abuelita Mexican Style coco mix, which you can find in the International section of your grocer. As you may already know, I add a pinch of Ancho chili pepper to my coffee filter each morning along with cinnamon for that extra kick. You may add a bit to this mix to make it bite back. 


Yin Yang Pound Cake

For an darker contrast try a dark chocolate coco powder like Moonstruck Dark Chocolate which uses the Dutch process to enhance the color. They advertise this flavor as "rich and decadent." 

Since I've cut out a lot of sugar from my diet I crave sweets more often and the drive for dessert is far greater than it used to be. So I allow myself dessert but I try to find ways to cut down on the intake of sugar. My greatest affinity is for Gummy Bears, so I bought fruit Popscicles since the candies are full of corn syrup and artificial sweeteners. I prepared a small slice of pounds cake with half a serving of Greek yogurt ice cream and for an added touch I tried new Dole Dippers--frozen strawberries covered in rich, dark chocolate! They come in packs of four and also go well with vanilla Greek yogurt.




Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Review: Wen is a Wen-ner for Me!

If you relied solely on the reviews of the general public, you would think that Wen by Chaz Dean is one of the most surreptitiously deviant and poorly formulated products on the beauty market:

"I tried Wen hair care, hoping it would help with split ends. It was not a helpful product for my hair. I have fine but thick hair, and I ended up with sticky feeling hair with flyaway dry ends. But to add insult, I was encouraged to set up an account so I could get advice from a Wen Consultant. DO NOT DO THIS!! I have been charged monthly and shipped products I have not ordered."

"I've used this product twice. The first time, my hair certainly didn't feel clean afterward and it definitely didn't stay clean. I usually wash my hair twice a week, no problem. It's Wednesday, and I'll be washing tonght for the third time this week. I'm so disappointed because the commercials make it look so great. Sad deal, not worth it."

"Do not buy Wen products and especially DO NOT BUY THEM FROM THEIR ADS! Their ads lie and their guarantee is tough to get back. The product is not that great - just use your moisturizer as shampoo that is what Wen is... moisturizer works better, is cheaper and you won't have to deal with the scam tactics that the company uses & keeps billing even though you call to cancel."

The first issue I would like to address is that Wen is a "scam." I want to preface my review by clearly stating that I am not reviewing this product for any benefit besides lending wisdom to the general public and venting and I did not receive these products from any other means than a regular consumer. That said, I have worked in the call center of several businesses and despite my personal feelings about how those businesses are managed a few concrete facts became clear to me after working with thousands upon thousands of customers:

1. People want something for nothing. And I mean nothing.

Customers want free shipping and free services and they have no dignity when it concerns getting these things. They will lie, degrade you, threaten you, and steal from you. It happens every single day to businesses who are simply offering a decent product and would like to remain lucrative. 

2. People make purchases and don't read the fine print. Oh wait, people don't read the large print either.

One scenario that I will use to festoon the necks of at least 95% of people who wrote reviews for WEN calling it a "scam" is that Erin Entitlement went online, made a purchase without reading any of the details of how the company operates, and then became surprised and outraged when the terms she lackadaisically agreed to ACTUALLY TAKE PLACE. Not only did she want a free product, but she also wanted a representative from Wen to visit her home, pick up the product, package it, take it to UPS, and pay for the return shipping. Or maybe she thought that Wen just sends free product and then grants your money back 3 months later when you remember to call to cancel.

3. Companies will charge your credit card if you provide it to them because you PURCHASED THEIR PRODUCT.

This is pretty straight forward. Again, businesses don't hand over free product or services and just say,"Oh we just asked for your credit card because we're taking surveys on how many customers use Visa as opposed to Mastercard. We didn't really intend to charge you for that stuff you've had 3 months. It's ok. Keep it. If you want to make a donation later, it's tax deductible."

If you want to become completely disillusioned about humanity, work in a call center. I have worked for Christian organizations, clothing companies, and credit scores businesses. My advice would be, don't call religious hotlines because you're talking to someone who has a personalized, scripted prayer for you and just spent the last half hour talking to their neighbor about how drunk they became the night prior. Besides that, just be a decent human being and an honest consumer and research what you purchase.

That said, I had no problem whatsoever ordering Wen. I went online, and immediately changed my shipping frequency to every 10 months so I would not be charged again in a few weeks. I returned the empty bottles after a month and a half, kept the free gift, and sent the package insured mail. It arrived a week later and I received my FULL REFUND a week after that. I didn't have to call anyone at any time. Thanks, Mom, for teaching me how to read.

The product itself was good for me. I realize everyone is different and my hair is now more fine than thick. My best friend tried the product too and her hair is very thick and curly. She didn't like it as she said it made her hair more "poofy." I thought it made my hair greasy at first but then I realized I was not rinsing well enough. Don't use it in the bath--only the shower so you get a very thorough rinse. Once I rinsed it as the instructions stated, I will admit I was somewhat impressed. I typically have to wash my hair every day due to an oil scalp, but I have dry ends. Using Wen, I didn't have to wash my hair every day, it felt lighter, cleaner, and super moisturized. Plus the lavender brand that I purchased honestly smelled like lavender and in reading the ingredients I was pleased that it was shorter than other shampoos and I could easily identify and pronounce all of them.

I really needed all the extra fullness and moisture. Using the deep conditioning was a laughable event since I let my hair air dry and I ended up looking like a poodle. 

Wen offers a started kit in 3 different "flavors"--lavender, sweet almond mint, and pomegranate for different types of hair. They have a money back guarantee and ordering online is very simple. 





Monday, September 1, 2014

Grilled Spiced Chicken and Fry-Like Sticks

So here's the thing--when I can't get to my regular butcher for local, organic meat, I shop at Kroger for their Simple Truth line. As far as I can tell the difference between "natural" chicken and "free range" chicken is that free range chickens can eat bugs. This confused me a bit because who cares if chickens eat bugs but then again, if they can eat bugs in on the prairie, who knows what else they're getting into?

Also, despite the fact this recipe calls for an entire chicken I will say no thank you. I tried cutting up a chicken once and I didn't care for it all that much so until someone teaches me the fine art of butchering, I'll stick to my drums in a package or on itunes.

That said, I threw a side dish to compliment this spiced chicken and also if I just eat chicken and salad I'm definitely going to be hungry again in less than an hour. So I added my fry replacement: parsnip sticks:


Parsnips contain more sugar than other root vegetables like their cousin carrot so they can help curb a sweet tooth. They are higher in nutrients than potatoes and I season them with olive oil, salt, and in this case, the same coating I used for the chicken. You can use anything from old bay to cayenne pepper, then broil them until they're crispy like fries.

Any time a recipe calls for iceberg lettuce I think "eww" and then I think "no" so for this recipe I used lamb's lettuce for the salad instead of the nutrient-lacking iceberg lettuce. Mache is also prettier for those of you who like to make googly eyes at your food. I know I do.


I'd like to give a special shout-out to my mother who allowed me to borrow her spices. Coriander is $5-7 a bottle. Also it is essentially cilantro seed which I didn't realize.

Meanwhile pass the ketchup. These parsnip sticks are crunchy.

What's the Issue?

"Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

I have unfortunately noted a trend in womanhood--acidic to the soul, crippling the ability to incorporate sound choices, a silencer. 

Why is it such an issue for women, wives, and mothers so neglectful to approach the subject of their own needs?

Shame can arrive at any moment: we may see our own faults in the actions of our children or become fearful at any given moment that our own flaws or past mistakes or regrets may surface, manifesting in order to wound us again, to harm and shame the ones we love so much.

If you are struggling with approaching God--maybe for the 10th time in one day--to receive mercy and grace, consider who confidently interacted with God in the Bible:

1. Hagar

Hagar was chosen by Abraham's wife to bear children for him when God's promise was not manifested quickly enough to provide the promised son. She was Abraham's concubine, an Egyptian servant of his wife Sarah. Hagar began to despise Sarah when she bore a son. Abused and rejected, Hagar fled.

Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count...She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” 

This is the first time the Angel of the Lord,believed to be Christ,appeared to a person in the Bible--a  servant woman chosen by man to fulfill God's promise, abused, rejected, and sent away in shame. Yet she responded to God in confidence, naming Him "the One who sees me."

2. The Canaanite Woman


 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
“Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment
This example has generally caused a fair amount of controversy among those who feel it was rather indignant of a loving Christ to send away someone asking for help. After all, he offered to heal the Centurion's son and he was a Roman man--a Gentile. I would encourage you to study the Scriptures to learn more about Israel's relationship with Canaan but for now, we'll remained focused on what was obvious.
This woman called on Jesus by name. She knew who He was and what He could do. She knew she was being a nuisance and she didn't care. She loved her daughter and she was desperate. She took an insult and turned it into opportunity by refusing to become scorned. And she was rewarded by immediate gratification.

3. The Woman with the Issue of Blood
A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
Here is a woman who had a chronic illness that would have also made her "unclean"--another excellent topic to research as it would have made life even more difficult in addition to suffering and seeing physicians. Another desperate woman, it would be safe to assume she was alone, she was definitely broke, and most certainly broken. Great risk was involved in touching Jesus for a variety of reasons and here she was trembling with fear yet courageous enough to be honest with God. 
Our confidence does not have to come from who we believe we are, where we were raised, what we know, or how we perform. Our confidence to approach God's throne for mercy and grace comes first and foremost with the knowledge of who He is and what He is doing. 




Saturday, August 23, 2014

You Say Tomato, I Say Gazpacho




So, I left out that I added garlic. But here is my smoothie/gazpacho recipe. The thing about blending is that you can mess up a sauce and call it dressing or in this case, make a rough smoothie and call it soup. The blender is a universe in which the possibilities are vast and endless. If this were a Sci-fi Veggie Tales you'd see a cucumber Spock and a tomato Captain getting beamed up and whisked away to the planets of Dip and Dressing.

Green Gazpacho/Fiber Smoothie:

1 stalk celery

5 green olives

1/2 a tomato

1/4 cup parsley

1/2 large cucumber with skin

1/2 cup chopped pineapple with juice

small garlic clove, smashed

a shake of cinnamon

a dash of hot sauce

I've linked all of the ingredients to health sites so you know what kind of nutrition you're getting. Cinnamon is a big part of my life--I use it every day. It dates back to Bible times and you can find it in the Mediterranean diet that has proven to prolong life and vitality.

If I really were going to make green gazpacho, I would add avocado, salt, olive oil, and artichoke hearts in brine with a pinch of Ancho chili powder.
















Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Gluten-Free Crispy Chicken

Chicken provides an excellent platform for gluten-free recipes. Rice or corn substitutes are commonly used to flavor, coat, and replace anything from bread crumbs to pie crust.

This recipe is no exception as it incorporates a crunchy, affordable, and delicious replacement for your average flour coating.


ingredients

  • 4 cup(s) cornflakes, crushed
  • 1/2 cup(s) buttermilk
  • 4 (6 ounces each) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/2 cup(s) sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon(s) white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup(s) (about 2 ounces) blue cheese, crumbled, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoon(s) chopped fresh chives
  • 1 head(s) iceberg lettuce, cut into 4 wedges
  • 1 cup(s) cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced

directions

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick foil. Place the cornflakes in a shallow bowl.
  2. Using 1/4 cup of the buttermilk, brush the chicken breasts on all sides, then season with the cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Coat the chicken in the cornflakes, pressing gently to help them adhere, and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, make the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, vinegar, and remaining 1/4 cup buttermilk. Stir in the blue cheese and 1 tablespoon chives.
  4. Divide the lettuce and tomatoes among plates. Spoon the dressing over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon chives and additional blue cheese, if desired. Serve with the chicken.
what I did differently

In addition to the cayenne pepper, I added smoked paprika. Lettuce wedges are a novel idea, but not big on nutrition, so instead of a lettuce wedge I prepared a spinach salad. 

A swap option I almost always use it plain Greek yogurt to replace sour cream. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Hair: It's Not Just a Musical

I started losing my hair because of a condition called Telogen Effluvium four years ago when my brother passed away. A close friend noticed first. I brushed it off (pun intended) as temporary but after years of continuous loss--literal in a variety of forms--my hair kept gradually falling out. Sometimes just a bit, other times in clumps. Trauma is a main cause of this condition but the triggers vary:

  • major physical trauma
  • major psychological trauma
  • iron deficiency
  • hormonal changes
  • extreme weight loss
I was officially diagnosed by a dermatologist in Charlottesville, Virginia who didn't think I had any issues until she really started to look through my scalp (of course, being a Web MD addict, I had already diagnosed myself). 


When I was younger, I was always known for my hair. I rarely cut it, mainly due to laziness, and it was long and thick and simply different than everyone else. 


Although this particular issue wasn't age related for me, many aging women start to lose their hair. This is what I have done to combat the problem:

1. I started cutting my hair shorter. 

When the hair thins, the longer it is, the more stringy and sparse it appears, so I started keeping my hair like most people should keep their stated opinion: short and simple. Not only do I enjoy a short hairstyle because of low maintenance and less product, but I also started to cut it myself. The first time, I trimmed it a bit and layered it and it turned out very well so the second time I cut it, I really went for it. What was the worst that could happen? Now my haircut is free and my hair looks fuller.



2. Explore different hair products. 

Because of my involvement with Swagbucks, I was able to try Wen products through a sixty day free trial. Wen has a money back guarantee--even if the bottles are empty.You will see more than a few bad reviews about Wen however, my impression of the negative reviews pertaining to erroneous charges is that people just don't know how to manage the program. You can order it online without even speaking to a representative and choose how often they replenish your order. It's not difficult at all if you're paying attention. 

Everyone has different reactions to hair products. At first, I thought it made my hair too greasy but then I realized that I wasn't rinsing properly. It's not like regular shampoo, it's closer to massaging your scalp with conditioner. 

I believe it does clean your hair better because I could go two days without washing my hair and it still looked acceptable. I felt good about the level of moisture since I tend to have an oily scalp but dry ends--even when it's first cut. It also smells good and the lavender and mint aroma was spot-on and I felt that the tingle stimulated my hair follicles. I used to add peppermint to my shampoo since this is another recommendation for women with hair loss. 

To stretch the product even further, I used Biotera dry hair shampoo between washes. It adds lift, which is what you need--extra volume. Look into products that promise volume, lift, and fullness and do your research. 

There are other products on the market like Rogaine for women and Joan River's Great Hair Day (which I can't help find amusing) but know the potentially adverse affects for both your head and your wallet. 

3. Create a New Personality

Personally, I've always worn hats. My mother has always been jealous about that aspect of my life. She felt that her nose was too big to wear a hat and some women who are not used to wearing something on their head could feel the same. If you don't like drawing attention to yourself, any new "look" can feel intimidating. But the aging process is also about reinventing yourself so if you're having an issue with thinning hair, why not take a new risk and discover a new you?

Honestly, I have to wear hats now because so much of my scalp is exposed to sunlight that I burn very easily and the last thing you want is a red, splotchy scalp to add to your issues. I have a collection of hats and because I feel most comfortable being casual, I wear my cowboy hat or baseball cap the most,


Here I am in Richmond with my short haircut and cowboy hat. I'm feeling confident and I'm not worried about a thing except going to see the recent exhibit at VMFA that celebrates beauty.