Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ruby Slippers and Space Shoes

I have never had a sense of style--I admit this. In order to put together a stylish outfit I usually have to ask for help or consult a magazine. The reasons for this are many. One, I never had to buy a lot of clothes as a teen because I wore a uniform, two, my mother and grandmother usually bought all my clothes, and three, all I really want to wear all the time are boot leg jeans, a wife beater, and either sneakers or boots. I would wear that outfit every day of my life. In fact, my roommate and best friend from Bible College can attest to the fact that I wore the same outfit once 3 days in a row. Pure awesomeness.

A fourth reason would be money. Clothes are expensive, let alone shoes and accessories. I would like to work on being stylish and trendy but I am lazy and poor.

I thought if I could hold on to a few key trends ever once in a while, I could slowly step into being trendy and "with it" (I'll also have to stop saying "with it").

Let me be clear though, that when I do choose fashion, I do not shy away from Hollywood flash and edgy trends. I also want to be clear that I love shoes and used to have over 100 pair when I was a shoe manager at Macy's. I found this web site through Woman's Day and I am amazed at the diversity of the shoes and the prices. Now, I went here looking for the little flats under $20 but I quickly became distracted by some of the more peculiar shoes that no one in my town would own (if I wanted to go out to a club again like last Friday and bruise my wrist and booty by falling down several times trying to dance in 5 inch heels).

Here are some of my favorites. You can buy all kind of patterns and colors that won't require a stunning ensemble--everyone will be looking at your shoes:

                                                              (Qoors Spike Heels $15)

                                                         (Bumble Bee Wooden Platforms $43)

                                                              (Neon Pink Space Shoes $32)

Now, I originally went there to check out their flats, which come in a variety of colors. I discovered that emerald greens, teals, oranges, and reds will be big for spring. You can get a jump start with a wide variety of flats (I found replicas at my preferred store, Belk for no less than $59-$80) less than $20.

I'm really excited about ordering. You can even get free shipping.

Now if I can only grasp what to wear with my new shoes...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Taste the Rainbow of Lasagna

I'm a fan of your standard recipe going created. For instance, on one of the reality cooking shows last year, I noticed a ravioli made with barbeque meat instead of ground beef--what a fantastic idea! I haven't gotten that creative yet, but this recipe for spinach lasagna inspired me:


    1 tablespoon(s) olive oil
    1 small onion, finely chopped
    Kosher salt
    2 clove(s) garlic, finely chopped
    1 package(s) (10-ounce) frozen leaf spinach
    1 package(s) (10-ounce) frozen broccoli florets
    1 container(s) (15-ounce) part-skim ricotta
    6 ounce(s) (about 1 1/2 cups) part-skim mozzarella, grated
    1/2 cup(s) grated Romano cheese
    1 cup(s) whole milk
    4 ounce(s) cream cheese, cut into pieces
    1 pinch(s) freshly grated or ground nutmeg
    8 no-boil lasagna noodles

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion, 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until very tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  2. While the onion is cooking, thaw the spinach and broccoli according to package directions. Squeeze the spinach of excess moisture and pat the broccoli dry. Roughly chop both and place in a large bowl. Mix in the ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella, and 1/4 cup Romano.
  3. Add the milk to the onions and whisk to combine. Bring to a simmer, then whisk in the cream cheese, nutmeg, and remaining 1/4 cup Romano. Gently simmer (do not boil), stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce on the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish. Top with 2 1/2 noodles (breaking as necessary to fit). Spread a third (about 1/3 cup) of the remaining sauce over the top. Dollop with a third (about 1 1/3 cups) of the ricotta mixture. Repeat twice.
  5. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella, cover tightly with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until the noodles are tender (a sharp knife should go through with no resistance) and the top is golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes more. Let rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.

I have never made a lasagna with a white sauce and I don't think I would have ever thought about cream cheese being in the sauce. 

So I thought, why couldn't you use the special flavors of Philadelphia soft cream cheese to make variations of this recipe? For instance, the Spinach and Artichoke flavor would have been perfect for this recipe. 

The Tomato and Basil flavor would go great with sauteed red onions, red peppers, diced chilies and tomatoes, along with the spinach. 

The Chive and Onion may be suited for the addition of bacon, lemon flavoring, and cheddar, like a baked potato lasagna.

Obviously the Pineapple version would go over well if it included ham, then I think I would include the red peppers and bacon in that dish as well. 

Last year I became obsessed with making gourmet deviled eggs. I may have found a new obsession.

Garden Vegetable and the sweeter blends like Strawberry and Honey Nut Spread are left. I think the Garden Vegetable would be great for a breakfast lasagna but would be curious to any cooks out there about using the sweet spreads for a lasagna or something even more creative.

In the mean time, this dish cost me around $5 per serving. By the way, you can use Parmesan cheese in replacement of Romano. It tastes almost exactly the same. If I had known that, the dish would have been around $3.50 a serving.

Also, the sauce for the lasagna is fantastic. You could easily use it for a host of other dishes if you don't mind the fat, calories, and cholesterol.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Cheap Beer, Oiling Up, and Other Steamy Stories...

You should be aware that our household contains beer snobs. I am the most gracious of the beer snobs, which include two, since I will drink Bud Lite and even order it on occasion if it's on tap cheap for Happy Hour.

Erik, on the other hand, will not drink bad beer--and Bud Lite is, in fact, bad beer. Someone had to tell the truth. We may have Dos Equis, Killians, Guinness, and many varieties of craft beers, but Coors or Miller--heavens no.

Some of you may feel the same way. You may throw little shindigs and invite folk, instructing them to "BYOB." And they do. They snarl and pickle up their noses at your bitter beer while you pity them in secret for drinking watery horse urine by the six pack.

And then they have the audacity to leave it at your house. Never.

That's why I'd like to advise all the ladies out there that their husbands no longer have to shoot the leftover cans of Natural Ice. There's a purpose for that cheap beer. A higher calling. Redemption, if you will.

The hops in beer apparently add smoothness and shine to hair. Did you know? Rinse with a can or bottle in the shower, wait 5 minutes, then rinse again (unless you want to go to work smelling like an alcoholic).

Since I've started my new workout routine, I have vowed to have a spa day at least once a week. That could include a pedicure, a facial, or using the hot stone massage set my friend Kristy gave me for Christmas.

I rarely actually go to a spa. I try to save money by using natural remedies and concoctions at home. For instance, sugar scrub is an amazing exfoliant and the olive oil will act as both a moisturizer and a protective sealant. I use it on my legs to prevent ingrown hairs and skip the hassle of putting lotion on every morning. When I use sugar scrub I don't have to use lotion.

All this preparation can also benefit from steaming your face, either over a vaporizer or pot of hot water (not too close) which will open the pores to cleansing and moisturizing.

Olive oil is a marvelous invention, lending itself to moisturizing masks as well. Olive oil is high in fat--in the same way that avocado is high in fat, which is great for the skin. One avocado and 2 tablespoons of olive oil, left on for 10 minutes, will leave your skin smooth. If you can resist the temptation to lick your own face, you're good to go.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Always Put Your Foot in the Potatoes

I would love to start out this blog by saying I make the best mashed potatoes ever, but that would be incorrect. My Grandmother does. She taught me everything she knows and I added to it thinking I may do better. There's something to be said about the original. It's simple, it has just enough salt, and it will make you slap your proverbial pappy.

But my potatoes are good.

After our feast of roast beef on New Year's Day, I was pleased to discover the horseradish sauce (made simply with horseradish sauce, sour cream, and whole grain mustard) was almost exactly what today's recipe for Seared Chicken with Smashed Potatoes and Cream Sauce called for. I didn't have to whip up a new batch and I could use what was left over saving time and money. Hurray!

I'm not saying this recipe was bad--because it wasn't--but it could have used work. I guess I just can't help myself--smashed potatoes? They are disappointing next to mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes--mine anyway--have chicken broth, evaporated milk, butter, and salt (and on occasion, ranch if no one else is eating them). But let's move on to something a bit more positive. Let's proceed with one of the best aromas in the entire universe--simmering wine. Wine over heat, especially combined with other tremendous odors like garlic or lemon, is just divine. My gravy, if you'll recall, is my favorite dish from Thanksgiving--it goes over everything. The sauce for this recipe certainly could have been doctored a bit, but it was, by far, the best part of this dining experience.


    1 1/2 pound(s) small red potatoes (about 20)
    Kosher salt and pepper
    1 tablespoon(s) olive oil
    4 (6-oz each) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    3/4 cup(s) dry white wine
    1/4 cup(s) lowfat sour cream

    1 tablespoon(s) Dijon mustard
    1/4 cup(s) fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

  1. Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, add 2 tsp salt, reduce heat and simmer until just tender, 15 to 18 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water; drain the potatoes and return them to the pot. Gently smash with 1/4 cup of the cooking water (adding more if the potatoes seem very dry).
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season the chicken with 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper and cook until golden brown and cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes per side; transfer to plates.
  3. Add the wine to the skillet and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the sour cream, mustard and parsley. Spoon over the potatoes and chicken

I use my favorite dry white Chardonnay to make sauces, because it truly makes all the difference in the flavor. Then you can also pour a glass with dinner as a compliment.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Gluten Free Pizza

Last year I learned how to make a fantastic pizza crust that was easy and cheap. This year, it's a challenge to learn how to make wheat-free bread products in an allergy household.

I am so happy to discover Bob's Red Mill products. I read Bob Moore's biography last year and discovered he has stellar character and he's magnanimous to boot. I feel good about buying his products, especially since I can either buy his products at the local Kroger (where I earn reward points) or our local Amish Market.

The downside to this pizza is that the dough is a little sticky, but if you buy rice flour, you can add it to your hands when removing it from the bowl. If you do that, I will spread beautifully onto a 16" pizza pan. This recipe calls for store bought dough for a square tart, but I found that it lasts longer (for those of you who save money with leftovers) if you make the larger pie.

I have not yet made a crust pizza with tomato sauce--and I've made 4 within the last year, at least. You don't even have to make white sauce or any sauce. If you mix your topping with olive oil and spices, the pie tastes great. I have learned that you can add kale or potatoes or even almonds to pizza to make it more healthy and unique.


    1 pint(s) grape tomatoes, halved
    1/2 jar(s) (12-oz) roasted red peppers, cut into ½-in. pieces
    3 scallions, finely chopped
    2 clove(s) garlic, finely chopped
    1 tablespoon(s) olive oil
    Kosher salt and pepper
    1 (sheet) frozen puff pastry, thawed
    3 ounce(s) Asiago or provolone cheese, finely shredded
    Green salad, for serving

  1. Heat oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, roasted peppers, scallions, garlic, oil, ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper.
  2. Unfold the pastry onto a piece of parchment paper. Using a rolling pin, roll pastry ½ in. bigger on all sides. Slide the parchment (and pastry) onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle the entire pastry with ⅓ of the cheese.
  3. Top with the tomato mixture, leaving a 1-in. border all the way around. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake until the pastry has puffed and is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with a salad, if desired.

I added fresh Parmesan squares around the crust. 

Once you commit to cooking, things get better. I am quicker washing the dishes, and being prepared to prep food and think ahead for shopping to buy local and get fresh produce. Also, since I've become a member of www.fitday.com I've been more mindful of my portions, plus you get a better idea of how much fat, calories, and nutrition in general are in a portion of food. 

This extra large pizza lasted both of us for 4 days, through lunches and breakfast. It's approximately $14 per pie.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Fergie is Nothing Next to my Ham Hock

I don't know that there is any food more Southern that black eyed peas. It is one of our blessed traditions in the South to eat black eyed peas on New Years Day, and enjoying them at your dinner table on January 1st is representative of anything from wealth to good health.

It is thought that the tradition of eating black eyed peas for good luck started during the time of the Civil War (think Scarlett pulling up carrots) when Sherman's army took ravaged the South's food resources, but ignored the peas, which are rich in fiber, potassium, and iron.

Our New Year's Day dinner consisted of roast beef and shallots, mashed potatoes, and Hoppin' John black eyed peas for good luck. I learned a few things:

1. Shallots are smaller, mild, bundled onions that you have to travel to 4 stores to find. You will finally find them at the store that is furthest from you, in my case the Kroger store in Forest, VA. God bless Kroger and their unusual offerings of strangely named produce and health foods.

2. Louisiana hot sauce is a unique hot sauce with a Cayenne pepper base and are specifically made in Louisiana and are officially Cajun products.

3. Tying a beef roast is done so the meat will not fall apart.


    1 pound(s) dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and soaked overnight and drained
    3 tablespoon(s) olive oil
    1 package(s) (13- to 14-ounce) kielbasa, sliced 1/2-inch thick
    2 large onions, chopped
    6 clove(s) garlic, finely chopped
    2 (about 1 1/2 pounds total) ham hocks
    4 scallions, thinly sliced
    1 jalapeño pepper (seeded for less heat if desired), thinly sliced, plus more for serving
    Kosher salt
    2 cup(s) long-grain white rice
    Louisiana hot sauce, for serving


    Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the kielbasa and   cook, turning once, until browned, 2 to 3 minutes; transfer to a plate.
    Reduce heat to medium, add the onions and remaining tablespoon oil, and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
    Return the kielbasa to the pot and add the soaked peas, ham hocks, and 3 cups water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until the peas are tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
    Twenty-five minutes before the peas are done, cook the rice according to package directions.
    Transfer the ham hocks to a plate. When cool enough to handle, shred the meat, discarding the skin and bones. Stir the meat back into the pot along with the scallions, jalapeño, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Serve over the rice with additional jalapeño and hot sauce, if desired.

4. This horseradish sauce (I used to pass on horseradish but I'm finding the older I get--not that I'm old at all of course--the more I am open to different flavors) is great on meat, but can also be used as a sandwich spread and a dip:


    3 tablespoon(s) mixed peppercorns, black, white, pink, and green
    1 (4-pound) boneless rump or rib roast, at room temperature
    Kosher salt
    1 1/2 pound(s) (about 20) medium shallots
    2 tablespoon(s) olive oil
    3/4 cup(s) sour cream

    1/4 cup(s) prepared horseradish
    2 tablespoon(s) whole-grain mustard
    1/4 cup(s) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Place the peppercorns in a resealable plastic bag. Using the bottom of a heavy pan, crush the peppercorns.
  2. Tie the beef, if desired, and place in a large roasting pan. Season with the crushed peppercorns and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, pressing gently to help the peppercorns adhere. Roast for 40 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, peel the shallots, cut them in half, and place in a large bowl. Toss with the oil and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper.
  4. Scatter the shallots around the roast and continue roasting to desired doneness, 130 degrees F for medium-rare, 40 to 50 minutes more. Transfer the roast to a board and let rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing.
  5. While the beef rests, make the horseradish sauce. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, horseradish, mustard, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper; fold in the parsley. Serve with the beef and shallots.


The roast--which was all natural, organic beef from our locally owned meat shop--was $3.47 per serving.

The shallots were $5.15 if you don't include the gas spent trying to find the suckers.

The sauce was $0.48 per serving.

The black eyed peas were $0.94 per serving.

I think we've learned an important lesson together through these recipes.

Skip the cussing shallots.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Perfect "Fit"

Like most people, I always make a New Year's Resolution to lose weight and become more healthy. Since 2003, when I was diagnosed with ADHD and mild bipolar disorder, the antidepressants contributed to an average of 5 pounds per year. So by the time I quit my antidepressants in 2009 (I don't recommend this without a doctor's approval) I had gone from a 140 to a 170. In clothing terms, that means I went from a size 8 to a size 14 in 6 years.

The consequences (and there are many) of having a mental illness and a learning disability--or maybe I should positively say "challenges" include poor memory, lethargy, and fluctuating weight gain and loss, as well as poor organizational skills (how can you do something if you forget--make a list? you lose it!). It's always been my intent to lose weight by keeping a calorie log and lately, since I've had other health issues, someone recommended I keep a log of my mood, symptoms, etc.

Stress is also an issue for those who have ADHD. As I mentioned, it's extremely difficult to remember tasks, where you have placed something, or any other regular details that most people can easily glide through daily because, when you have ADHD, your mind is constantly playing your life's soundtrack on the fast track. Seriously--things move so quickly in your mind you have to concentrate to pay attention, willfully intend to stop, and you struggle to remember hour to hour, day by day. The stress from having the disability alone is overwhelming at times so if you have other life challenges, it's debilitating at times.

But I'm a naturally positive person and fairly simple (when I'm not being complex) so I was overjoyed to learn about Fitday.com.

Fitday takes care of several issues that I have because of ADHD:

1. The FOOD portion of the program allows you to find the foods you eat, select the portions, and add them to your daily food journal. What that means for me is that I no longer have to look at my labels, write down and calculate calories or fat grams, or keep track of any of it. I tested the accuracy of the calories for my breakfast this morning, including 1/4 cup of oatmeal and an egg. The journal was 100% correct in it's calculation. I was elated.

2. The MOOD portion of the program allows me to keep a written journal of how I felt that day, what I was going through--basically anything I want. Then it will give a scale of different emotions, you choose what end of the spectrum you're on for that day (sad, angry, hungry, etc) and it will color code if you are having an average day, below average day, or a good day.

3. There are pictures, graphs, and charts that are clear and accurate. You log your credentials in one area, then view your progress within another area. This section of the program allows you to see a color coded pie chart of your fat, calories, alcohol intake, etc.

4. You can track your calories burned vs. your caloric intake. It's awesome. I hate doing any form of math--this makes things so much easier. Plus, just like your food catalog, it will allow you to search what you've done (swam for half an hour, walked 2 miles) and will automatically tell you how many calories you've burned.

                                            (my friend Amber and I, at our first 5K)

I'm really excited about how easy this is going to make my life going forward in relation to my health and weight loss goals. You can join this site's Premium program for a little over $4 a month. I don't see the benefit of upgrading so far, besides not receiving ads, which may occur since you provide your email and food log. I don't care about that though. If you do, it could be a negative factor of the service.

Perhaps one day soon I can reach my goal weight, what I was in my twenties. Until that day, I can at least enjoy the relief of organizational burdens this fabulous site provides.

                                                         (Joe Elliot and I, circa 2000)

What Comes Before Everything

"Do everything in love." --I Corinthians 16:10

Maybe it's the skeptic in me, but every time I read a warm and fuzzy Bible verse I think to myself,"Yeah, but what was the context of this verse? What command or demonstration of faith or trial occurred in order to arrive at this "nice" instruction? Maybe it's not the skeptic: perhaps I desire to know the means by which we become obedient.

In this particular passage of Scripture, what the Corinthians are instructed to do before "everything in love" smacks of valor--be on your guard, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong. I can only assume these are only a few of the prerequisites for doing EVERYTHING in love.

As you revisit your New Year resolutions this month, think about how your commitments affect others. For me, writing more involves reaching out to others with my words and experiences. The more connection we make with others, the more at risk we become for hurt and trouble but it is also opportunity for healing and restoration--which is why the more faith and courage we have to fortify our understanding and execution of love, the better.

Also, the instruction to do everything in love helps us to question our motivation. Paul also said to the Philippians,"Do nothing our of selfish ambition or vain conceit, rather in humility, value others above yourself."    What are your intentions within your interactions with others? Is your purpose to love them, value them, affect their lives? Are you thinking about the motives and intent of others in context of how they are affecting you or how you may affect them?

This is one of the considerations that has most affected my relationships with people.

I would encourage you this year to make a list of the people in your life with which there is or has been conflict or whom you have not forgiven. Then throughout the year, gain strength and freedom by working through forgiveness.