Broccoli Cheese Soup

I had to get the fridge cleaned out so I could fit this week’s CSA veggies in there. Luckily, it all came together deliciously!IMG_1864

4 crowns of broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces
2 leeks, diced
1 5oz can evaporated milk
6ish oz Velveeta
1 brick cream cheese
1 can cream of mushroom soup
Better than Bouillon Chicken base
4 – 5 cups water
Dash of pepper

Throw in a crockpot. Cook on low for 8 hours. Enjoy!

Though my UP24 reports some concern over my sodium consumption. Perhaps this didn’t help!! But more on the UP24 nutritional info in another post. Out of curiosity, I logged my food diary into both my Jawbone UP24 and the Weight Watchers app to see what would come of the information. I’ll share that in the next couple of days.

Cherry Tucker is my kind of girl..

Portrait of a Dead GuyPortrait of a Dead Guy. by Larissa Reinhart. Henery Press 2012. ISBN-13: 978–938383-02-1

I obtained this copy at the GaCOMO Conference. One of my favorite parts of the conference is the author reception. Of course, I love the whole conference and always return full of fresh & fantastic ideas. But I come home with a bag full of books too 🙂

This year the first author I met was Larissa. She was delightful. We chatted a bit about being from the Midwest and relocating to the South. I think she embraced it a bit more readily than I did ~ Not that I haven’t grown to LOVE it!! But I did have a bit of culture shock. I believe Larissa’s journey was Midwest to Japan to the South. I guess moving to Japan will use up all of your culture shock. Anyway, after working my way around the room, I was drawn back to her table. I’m a sucker for a light, candy read as a palate cleanser between more meaty stuff. This Cherry Tucker chick seemed to fit the bill. Spunky female solves crime with a handsome sidekick or two… that’s my recipe for a fun quick read. Seems to be Larissa’s as well. So I bought the book & lined it up next to some of my other favorite authors – yes, some of which I haven’t read their books either.

Then the other day, I was in search of a good candy read. I’d worked through the warped Chop, Chop and then a couple of business focused books, and I needed something funny, light, and above all else entertaining. You know, your basic page turner. I was hesitant to grab Portrait of a Dead Guy because what if I didn’t like it? Could I write an honest review? Well, no need to fret… It is a keeper!

Portrait of a Dead Guy introduces us to Cherry Tucker. Cherry is an artist in the small town of Halo, Georgia. Cherry’s family isn’t quite from the wrong side of the tracks, but let’s just say she has some disadvantages in small town living. As you can imagine, art doesn’t provide the most secure financial footing in a small town. Out of desperation, Cherry accepts a creepy assignment to immortalize a town misfit from a good family. From there on out, things actually find a way to go downhill.

Unlike other female mystery series, Cherry isn’t the town busy-body but she does have something to prove. Her lack of experience leaves her learning through trial and error. Like other great mysteries, there is a healthy dose of romantic tension. Cherry finds herself shuffling between Todd, her sorta ex-husband, and Luke, a past crush back in town and better than ever.

I love that I didn’t figure out the mystery prior to the big reveal. The twists and turns hit me unexpectedly, but not unbelievably. The story is well crafted and within the overall context. I never felt purposefully mislead for effect – but I did utter an ‘ah-ha!’

I would generally recommend this for new adults and up. Some of the language is ‘choice’ but never vulgar. There is sexual tension but never graphic descriptions.

Like Cherry, I can do some great thinking over beer & wings. So here’s our companion recipe:

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Chicken Wings 3 Ways: Salt & Vinegar, Garlic Parmesan, and Teriyaki

4# of wings in total. 1# was Teriyaki, 1.5# Salt & Vinegar, 1.5# Garlic Parmesan.

First, preheat to 400 & cover 2 baking sheets with aluminum foil. Spray foil with nonstick spray.

For Salt & Vinegar and Garlic Parmesan:

Combine: 1 t Oregano, 1/2 t cumin, 1 t salt and toss with 3# wings Bake in a single layer for about 50 minutes, flipping half way through.

While they are baking:
Salt & Vinegar: combine 3 T white vinegar & 1/2 t salt in a plastic zippered bag. Toss 1/2 of wings in this to finish and serve.

Garlic Parmesan: combine 2T Olive Oil, 2 T fresh basil, thinly sliced, 2 cloves garlic, minced, 1/4 c grated parmesan cheese (the almost powdered shelf stable kind seems to work best) in a plastic zippered bag. Toss 1/2 of wings in this to finish and serve.

For Teriyaki:

Combine: 1 T olive oil, 1 t seasoning salt, 1 t onion powder, 1 t garlic powder, and pinch of black pepper and toss with wings. Bake in a single layer for about 45 minutes, flipping half way through.

While they are baking, mix 1/2 c cold water, 3/4 c brown sugar, 1/2 c soy sauce, 1 t garlic powder, 3 T cornstarch in a bowl. Microwave for 1 minute to dissolve brown sugar.

Dip wings in sauce and return to the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes. Sauce will brown and become sticky. Pour remaining sauce over wings and serve.

All 3 were fantastic and super easy. My boys were in hog heaven.

Don’t Shy Away From This One…

I’ve recently read an awesome book that I think you should read too. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan. The title is perfect, the entire book circles around two boys kissing. Honestly, when I first heard of it, it didn’t interest me at all. But then my library purchased it and put it out on the shelves. The cover clearly shows two boys kissing. In case you are new, I live in the Bible belt of Georgia. These kinds of things can cause a bit of a stir. So I thought I’d check it out. Boy, am I glad I did. Whatever causes you to pick this book up, please do so.

The book is narrated by the generation of men that were lost due to the AIDS epidemic. They tell their story as well as a variety others. The center of the story is an attempt by two 17-year old boys to break the Guinness World record for longest kiss. Their efforts go viral gathering attention of supporters and detractors. We learn their stories and experiences as well. Some other stories we learn are the gay teens who form their own prom, a young man who explores his sexuality with “hook up” sites, and a long time -by teen standards- gay couple who struggle with the changing dimensions of their relationship.

As with any outstanding writing, the story is powerful and thought provoking. No matter your personal beliefs, the identity struggles that occur are powerful and frequently painful. There are a few scenes that I carry with me now, weeks later. These are singled out due to my experience. With so much rich content, I’m certain there are so many others that will become part of who you are as well.

Many of the boys struggle with disclosing their sexuality to their families. Some become demanding, requiring them to say it and accept it immediately. The narrators point out the boys emphasis upon that moment. The moment that they reveal their true selves. They put so much emphasis upon their own experience in that moment, their emotion, their relief, their announcement. They own that moment. The experience of those to whom they reveal is secondary. In that moment only pure acceptance is what is desired.

Another teen explores his sexuality on internet hook up sites. Exploring in secret, through anonymous sites, drives this teen to undervalue himself and his body. The anger of his parents in this behavior only triggers a tragic series of events that is gritty and heart-wrenching. This is one example of the universal appeal of high quality writing. This family’s experience is one that any could fall into when teens of either sex undervalue themselves, believing that sexuality is just what you do with your body as an object.

Another scene that will stay with me occurs at an abandoned mini-golf course. The sub-characters stay with me. Levithan doesn’t blame the boys that hurl hate and bottles at the boys. He instead addresses their humanity. Boys acting out in accordance with expected behavior instead of an inner sense of right or wrong. As a parent of a teen, having your child fall on either side of this exchange would be painful.

Ugh! This book talk could go on literally forever and I would only scratch the surface. The book is rich with extraordinary thought provoking content. Read it. Allow your teens to read it. One scene, previously mentioned, is gritty and a bit graphic more in an emotional sense then in a physical one. For this reason I would recommend this for 15 or above – but others say 12. I was the last in the school to allow Hunger Games so use your judgement not mine.

And now for a recipe… PANCAKES!! Read the book, you’ll know why. We’re still homeless due to a relocation, so I won’t be cooking these up in our hotel room 😦 The underwriters for the buyers of our home are disorganized leaving us displaced – which I’ll leave that rant for them. Just pray they pull themselves together & eat pancakes. Click the link below for some great ones. I don’t think there’s anything better than an Amish pancake.

Amish Griddle Cakes {Tastes of Lizzy T}

 

Day of Food: lunch

We had to vacate the humble abode today for 4 hours while 2 groups of prospective buyers shop. Please Lord let one of them fall in love with it like we did!! So we headed out to lunch at Cracker Barrel. I selected grilled chicken tenderloins with green beans and carrots… Probably all bathed in butter but completely yummy.

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Just realized this is a horrible day for accountability! It’s bunco night!!!

Simple Start or Dumb Move?

Random message board and meeting room chatter seems to be mixed as to whether this new introductory period “Simple Start” in the Weight Watchers program is a good idea or not. However, most of that chatter seems to me to be coming from folks who haven’t tried it yet.

I’ve been a Weight Watcher lifetime member for about 3 years now, having lost 35 pounds under the earlier Points program. I’ve transitioned to Points Plus and now giving this Simple Start a try for the recharge benefit. Each time there’s a change, negative chatter appears. But I haven’t been disappointed by Weight Watchers yet. And if the ladies in my meeting are any indication of how well this Simple Start works, I’m on board! One lady signed up two weeks ago so she received the Simple Start plan. At her second weigh in she was down 11 pounds. ~ In two weeks! I think that is one heck of a motivator.

I could stand to lose a pound or two, most of us can. But that’s not really why I’m trying it out. I like the food choices. During the month of December, I spent a lot of time surfing the net and exploring ways of eating that fall in line with my priorities: whole food, heart healthy, low sugar… I’ve spent a lot of time at My Humble Kitchen’s 25 Day Grace Filled Journey to Real Food, 100 Days of Real Food, and Whole 30. You know what I notice about the food list for Simple Start? It’s unbelievably similar. There are some differences. Weight Watchers promotes fat free dairy. And I’m a fan of raw dairy, so I’ll have to find some internal reconciliation on that. And also, the WW list allows for a small treat each day – and lets just face it, I need that. Call me weak, or a sugar addict… I don’t care I own it.

So anyway, I’ve decided to give it a shot. I’m on day 2 and haven’t chewed anyone’s head off yet. Yesterday wasn’t too shabby. But it was the first day, so of course I had a little extra enthusiasm. Day 2 didn’t kill me. I went to Krispy Kreme for a donut. And had a fantastic dinner of Sittin’ Chicken, Smashed potatoes, & green beans. Here’s the recipe if you choose to join me. Oh and here’s your disclaimer: I’m not a WW expert. I’m no longer an employee. I’m just a member that loves it. My recipes may or may not be in full accordance with their plan, but it works from me. Enjoy!

Chicken Sittin'

Sittin’ Chicken

1 Whole Roaster Chicken
Cooking Spray
Garlic Herb Seasoning from Mrs. Dash

Heat oven to 450º Stand chicken up on a Pampered Chef Fluted Pan. Spray chicken with spray. Sprinkle with seasoning. Place on bottom rack in oven. After 45 minutes turn oven temp down to 350 and continue baking until a thermometer inserted at the meaty part reads 165 or above.

beans

Green beans – stick in the cast iron and cook until slightly browned. If needed add a bit of vegetable broth.

potato

Smashed Potatoes

4 potatoes, peeled & diced
1 onion diced
1 T butter
1/4 c fat free milk
1/3 – 1/2 c fat free sour cream

Boil potatoes & onions. Smash with butter, milk & sour cream. Yum.

And now, I’ve sat on this post for a full week… so I can give you the results of my first week on Simple Start. I stayed the exact same. No loss. Why you ask? Probably because I mostly fell off the wagon on Wednesday. And I have a donut addiction. Yes. I bake and eat donuts almost daily. This could be seen as a positive. I bake and eat donuts everyday and don’t gain weight. See – I’m a glass half full kind of girl 😉 Anyway – I’m getting back on the Simple Start wagon. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Menu for week of May 11

Hey all, Guess what?! I’m done!!!!!

graduation

That’s right I’m completely finished with grad school!!! And you wanna hear something else fantastic? I’ve been selected to share my “pet project” of superior service to seniors at my first professional conference. I’m thrilled. But the best part of all? I have so much more time to read!!! New favorite book: Where did you go Bernadette – MUST READ!!  I thought it was just fun for the first section – then I realized that we were dealing with self-identity and the personal challenges of women dealing with changing roles.

Anyway, this week’s menu:

Saturday: gluten free spaghetti with meatballs & tomato sauce

Sunday: (Happy Mother’s Day!) Crock pot Porkloin with roasted potatoes and green beans

Monday: Tuna Patties & coleslaw

Tuesday: (junk food night) chicken nuggets, french fries and corn

Wednesday: meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and green beans

Thursday: hamburgers and zucchini sticks

Friday: cheese pizzas

Saturday: egg salad sandwiches or over lettuce

Have a great week!