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Posts by onehotmess

Sausage Frittata

In our house, there is only one Frittata. Like any egg dish, there are endless combinations and techniques that could produce countless varieties but at my house, this is THE one. Simple, quick, it can be made in advance and re-heats well (hello leftovers), filling, paleo and gluten-free friendly…what’s not to like?!

Messy Ingredients:

  • 6 whole eggs
  • 1 pint egg whites
  • 1 pound turkey sausage (or pork/chicken)
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and shredded
  • 1 bunch green onion, chopped
  • smoked paprika

In a large, deep saucepan over medium-high heat, fully cook the sausage (only drain very excessive fat, need some to prevent the egg from sticking). When done, reduce the heat to medium and add the grated sweet potato. Cook until the potato is softened, stirring often to make sure it doesn’t stick. Whisk the whole eggs and egg whites well in a bowl well then add to the sausage and sweet potato mixture. Cook over medium until the bottom and sides are set, be careful not to burn the bottom. Spread the green onion on top evenly. Generally, the sausage will add enough spices and salt to remove the need to add more. Once the bottom and sides are set, broil in the oven for 7-10 minutes or until the top is also set and slightly browned. Sprinkle with the paprika. When slightly cooled, slice like a pizza into 8 slices and serve, or put it in the fridge for later!

See? I told you it was easy! Variations can be made obviously but watch out for too much moisture, this dish will fall apart if too “wet”. Other options besides green onion – basil, sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese and olives, spinach or garlic and/or shallots. There are lots of potential varieties – have fun and enjoy!

Ratatouille

I love a good casserole; they’re often homey, comfort food, they’re quick and they’re delicious.  It’s true, I often fix big meals that have a protein, two veggies and a soup, or will spend 7 hours perfectly roasting a duck to crispy-skin heaven, but sometimes I just want to throw everything in one dish and be done. Finding dairy free casseroles is a little difficult and finding casseroles that are grain free can be too. After searching the internets I didn’t really find much that interested me in the “paleo” category and there wasn’t a lot else to choose from that was grain and dairy free. Then, I searched for vegetarian casseroles and found this one at “thecomfortofcooking.com“. It’s really amazing and hits all the homey comfort-food spots while still being a fairly fast casserole (with a mandolin slicer) and its paleo friendly without any alterations! I changed some of the quantities to made more of it (I should change the name of my blog to something about “leftovers”) but otherwise, it’s great as is. The photos of the food at thecomfortofcooking.com are fantastic too I should add, go check it out! I need to work on presentation….

Messy Ingredients:

  • 1 12 -14 oz jar GOOD pasta sauce, plain or with garlic/basil (you get out what you put in, don’t put in a 4$ sauce)
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 1 large yellow or sweet onion
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, finely minced (I slice mine paper-thin on the mandolin)
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 skinny Chinese or Italian Eggplants, roughly the same diameter as the squash (if possible)
  • 2 medium yellow squash
  • 2 medium zucchini squash
  • 1-2 red bell peppers (sliced in rings)
  • thyme (fresh or dried)
  • kosher salt
  • parchment paper
  • pound of ground protein (optional)
  • goat cheese (optional)

Slice all the vegetables to about 1/16th or 1/8th of an inch thick, rounds (slightly thicker than paper-thin). I highly suggest using a mandolin or else this quick casserole suddenly won’t be so quick. Stack the sliced veggies into individual piles.

In a 9×13 casserole dish, or similar size oven-safe vessel, Mix the pasta sauce, olive oil, onion, garlic, oregano and pepper flakes together and spread evenly on bottom of dish. Layer the vegetables, alternating colors and overlapping in whatever arrangement is pleasing to your eye. The key is to cover the majority of the first slice with the second one, so the layer of veggies will be quite thick. If you’re in a hurry and not worried about the presentation, just put all the slices down on top in an even layer. One of the wonderful things about this dish is how vibrant it is! Sprinkle with salt and thyme (to taste), spray evenly with olive oil and cover with parchment paper cut to fit the dish, lying flat on top of the vegetables. Bake at 375F for 45 minutes. Allow to cool a little and serve!

To make this a heartier dish than it already is, brown a pound of ground beef, chicken, turkey, pork or sausage and mix it into the pasta sauce before arranging vegetables and baking. Top with some crumbled goat cheese (if not avoiding dairy) before serving! This one is a WINNER!

*You may have some leftover slices of vegetables at the end. I either put them in a ziplock to use in salads later or just try to incorporate them into the pattern (see my photo with odd stripes of zucchini and random bell pepper rings).

Moss Landing: Sanctuary Tours in Monterey

As a Floridian, I’m no stranger to close encounters with wildlife. Between the wild buffalo, horses, Whooping Crane and alligators on Paynes Prairie to the deer, snakes, raccoons and possums in the back yard there is hardly a day that goes by without expecting to see something(oh yeah, bugs).  Going to the beach on the Gulf offered its own variety of encounters like the times a manatee or two would cruise on up to a group of us standing on a sandbar (and stopped for a meet and greet) or watching a pod of 3 or 4 dolphins swim by from the shore. Looking out for sting-rays in the shallows or being woken up from a nap by the wild parrots going by wasn’t unusual either at the beach, seeing (or dodging) wildlife was a regular occurrence.

The lack of wildlife in San Jose is hard to believe. It’s odd, eerie almost to me, to never see anything regularly other than hummingbirds. There isn’t a lizard on every bush or butterflies floating around. Not even mosquitoes really. I haven’t seen a spider bigger than a dime (not complaining) and I’ve seen exactly 2 roaches in nine months….both on the sidewalk in the downtown area (also not complaining). No frogs, no birds larger than a cardinal, nothing. When we go out to the places we hike, the noises are the occasional bird whistle and the wind blowing. No underlying continuous sound of crickets or cicada or frogs in the evening, no hum of life. It feels empty.

But then again, there are the whales.

It’s like this area just doesn’t mess around with all the little, average creatures. No, this area is saving up for the big stuff like sea-lions, whales, seals and pods of a hundred dolphins. Granted, I’ve only seen those things while on whale tours but still, not something I ever got to see in Florida!

A seal dodging a Humpback Whale

A seal dodging a Humpback Whale

Humpback fluke

Humpback fluke

Two sea otters hanging out

Two sea otters hanging out

One of three Orca that came out of nowhere. (blurry pic r/t choppy water/surprise whale)

One of three Orca that came out of nowhere. (blurry pic r/t choppy water/surprise whale)

Sea-Lions drying off a bit

Sea-Lions drying off a bit

Up close dolphin, one of a large pod of a hundred or more.

Up close dolphin, one of a large pod of a hundred or more.

One of 4-5 Humpback Whales we saw that day.

One of 4-5 Humpback Whales we saw that day.

Brussel Sprout Crack: A Sequel to Crack Broccoli

I have found the sequel to Crack Broccoli and this is a sequel worth taking a look at!  Find somebody, anybody, who says they dislike brussel sprouts and make them eat this. If they still dislike brussels after trying this then you should remove them from your life or possibly consider a restraining order. Something is wrong with them; they’re broken.

My husband and I went to a restaurant for dinner to celebrate my getting a new job (finally) after our move. We ordered the “special” appetizer despite usually steering clear of the special anything. On a side note:  I steer clear of the “specials” because very often, the “chef’s special” is often an effort on the part of the restaurant to unload surplus food that is going bad to possibly already-there-bad. Another reason not to order the special is that sometimes, that’s the chef’s chance to play with their food. This won’t always be something they’re really good at, they just want to try it out. If you’re feeling as daring as the chef, go ahead and try it. Other times, this is a regular item that they jack the price up on since they’re calling it “special” this week. On the other hand, ordering the “house favorite” can be a disappointment because the chef is just so tired of making that same meal. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule or course and in this case, I’m so so glad we tried the special.

This dish is one of those that stopped conversation at the table. The day after eating it at the restaurant I had a pound of brussels in the house ready to try it out the next day. We’ve happily eaten through three pounds of brussels THIS WEEK! How much more do I have to say? There is good news and bad news. The good news is that without a doubt, this is the tastiest way to ingest brussel sprouts. The bad news is that it is a bit time consuming to prepare. In the name of the love of food, I declare the work completely worth it. If good things come in small packages, good food comes with some prep.

Enough gushing on how good this is, let’s get to it!

Messy Ingredients:

  • 1 pound brussel sprouts
  • 1-2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
  • Pecorino-Romano cheese, finely grated

Wash and drain the brussel sprouts. Pre-heat your oven to 350º F. Trim the ends off of each and begin peeling off the leaves into a large bowl. Working from the cut end, pull off each leaf, whole (as possible). You will need to trim another bit off the end to keep peeling leaves. Eventually, there will be the “heart” of the sprout with tightly compacted, tiny leaves. Save these aside for a dish of sautéed brussel hearts. Toss the sprout leaves with enough olive oil to cover lightly and spread in a single layer on a foil-lined cookie sheet.  Bake for 7 minutes, remove, stir, and bake another 7 minutes. Remove again and stir, bake another 5-7 minutes or until the sprouts are browned and crisp but not black. Meanwhile, zest the half of the lemon into the bowl used to toss the sprouts in earlier. Squeeze the juice into the bowl. Shred the cheese and set aside.  Once the brussel sprouts are nicely browned and crispy, toss them in the lemon zest/juice mixture and pour them into a bowl. Top with cheese and serve immediately.

If you wait too long, the heat of the piled goodness will wilt the sprouts and the result will be less crispy but no less tasty. Seriously, try this at least once so you can know the incredible taste of roasted brussel leaves. I can’t wait to try this out at my next dinner party!

Watch Out for E.T. (or Ewoks)

This is my favorite hike. Period. Now, we’ve hardly scratched the surface of all the places we can hike I know and I may find another lovely place that I can’tstay away from but this one is perfect. Imagine this: At the (often crowded on the weekend) parking lot everything seems busy, bright, and chaotic. There is some traffic going by, people packing their bags to start off in groups, chatting, cars circling the lot to find a spot….  Then we set off. Almost as soon as we step off the parking lot onto the trail the thickness of the trees changes the whole atmosphere. The beginning is a downslope, like the path is urging you to hurry because it knows you can’t wait to be there.  After a few yards, the trees and undergrowth have muted all noise from footsteps to voices. No traffic can be heard anymore and the farther we go, the quieter and darker it gets. The trees filter the light and we feel our senses being soothed by blocking out the barrage of stimuli. We begin to notice the scent in the air, a damp, earthy scent and we inhale a little deeper. It smells like water and decomposing wood and a little like pine. The darkness lends to keeping moisture in and the earth is soft on our feet, the air is cool on our faces, refreshing. Breathe a little deeper. The low light makes the space feel_DSC8053 intimate even though at the beginning we will pass quite a few hikers. Gradually, the sound of the forest becomes more apparent. The trees and bushes rustle a little, we hear a few birds and begin to hear the sound of running water. It is all peaceful. As we get closer, the sound of the water drowns out everything else and we are alone with our thoughts…or we can let them go and just be.

FallCreek2

Now, doesn’t that sound nice? The farther we walk the fewer people we see and sometimes, we won’t see anyone for miles. That I like about this place also. The best thing about this hike, other than the feeling of peace (which I desperately need) is that the first 4 miles looks like the forests of Endor from “The Return of the Jedi”. One of the trails is actually called the “Lost Empire” trail…Ewoks may be hiding in the bushes for all you know and you may want to check behind you to see that a speeder bike isn’t coming up fast with a little man on it followed by a few more carrying Stormtroopers. For the non-Star Wars fan, E.T. could be riding up on a bike possibly. You want to pinch yourself because, especially when there is no one else in the way, everything looks perfectly staged for a scene from one of these movies. Because it is so quiet, you can imagine that the director has just called “action”! and everyone is holding their breath before their lines begin. It actually isn’t too hard to believe either. Both of those movies had some of their scenes filmed in Redwood forests of Northern California. Not this forest exactly but the overall scene is unmistakable. For a Star Wars geek like me, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect place to go to let go of…everything.

Besides a good part of the hike following the stream, the views and the peace, the hike is also challenging after the trail heads away from the stream. There, FallCreek1the hike goes up the side of a hill with some steeper sections and the trees thin out and look more like a forest from home. More oaks and young trees, more fallen leaves and a little more sunlight. At the top, we meet “Big Ben”, an impressive but fairly young Redwood. The decent from here is very challenging with a part of it being a narrow gully but eventually we end up back at the stream and follow it back out. Along the way there is an interesting historical site where they used to make wooden barrels (out of Redwoods! AH!) to transport lime in. The lime was dug nearby and some of the old equipment still sits there. Neat! The whole way around is around 9 miles, a little more really, so this hike isn’t one to start late in the day. It’s always an option to go out as far as you’d like and turn around to come back but I prefer the whole route.

Something else that strikes me about this place, though there could be litter the next time I’m there, but I rarely see any trash left behind. It is as if the forest impresses on people the special quality that makes it so nice, an impression that maybe unconsciously pushes people to put their litter in their backpack and not leave it behind. So many trails we hike have the evidence of uncaring, inconsiderate people left behind but not here. It isn’t because there are trash cans or Forestry Service people keeping it up either, I really think it is the atmosphere itself. You’ve been allowed into what amounts to a sanctuary, an intimate, peaceful place with the sense of things greater than yourself. A forest full of Redwoods where a single Redwood has lived on average of 500-700 years, trees that can continue to live up to 2,000 years, a place that is forever and timeless. (Show some respect and don’t mess it up!)

Writing this up has me wanting to go out there. I wish I lived close enough to go on a whim with a book and read by the stream. Take a snack and a warm jacket….I could be there for hours, blissfully happy and disconnected from the city.

Jicama Hash

Well I guess it may be looking more obvious that I have less to do now since I’ve posted a bit more lately. I know some things about myself and one is that when I find a project I really love I can throw myself into it and forget almost everything else. To the point of putting other hobbies I love (like cooking or photography) to the side and only feeling a little guilty. So now that we’ve moved and I’m lost for a deep project, I’ve taken back up my other loves of cooking, writing, photography and scrapbooking. Besides being back on the blog I’m also working on (appropriately) compiling all of my favorite recipes that aren’t already in a recipe book. Complete with scrapbooked dividers with cute little die-cut characters for the sections it’s time consuming. I find so many lovely recipes online and I print them, make them several times over months and tweak them to just our tastes…then I have stacks of crumpled, stained, printed computer sheets with notes on them hanging out behind my recipe book stand. It isn’t very organized and I like to organize. Many of these make it to the blog just so I don’t lose them forever but I’ve said before and stick to it now that cooking and computers aren’t the best combination even though this is my main topic…on my blog…on the computer.

In order to find new fodder I bought a few new cookbooks, one of which “Against All Grain” by Danielle Walker , is a paleo/dairy free cookbook full of great ideas. I’m not going to review it yet, I like to have a lot of time with a book trying out different recipes before I decide but so far, other than the almond flour chips (disaster 4 times, yes four), everything has turned out well. This one in particular used ingredients I have never had before, the main one being Celeriac or celery root. I’m not a fan of celery and though this recipe promised a mild celery flavor, a little celery is still terrible in my opinion. We did like the idea though in general of having more vegetables in a hearty breakfast so I fell onto another new root vegetable, the jicama. Packed with fiber, vitamin C and a bit of iron (and no calories to speak of) this very mild root is crunchy, sweet and holds up well in cooking. Unlike the butternut squash which turns to mush if cooked too long, I’ve slow-cooked cubed jicama for 12 hours without terrible results as well as chopped it fresh and thrown it in the skillet! The light flavor lends itself well to being a potato substitute (in anything but mashed potatoes) and it is on the refreshing side even eaten raw. So anyway, let’s get to it!

The Messy Ingredients:

  • 2 TBS coconut oil
  • 2-3 medium jicama, peeled and cubed
  • 1 LB spicy turkey sausage (or preferred ground sausage)
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, rough chop
  • 4 medium zucchini squash, rough chop
  • 6-8 large baby bella mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt and pepper or to taste
  • whole eggs for frying

I’ve found that depending on what texture you like best makes a difference on how to prepare the jicama. Bake the cubed jicama spread on a cookie sheet at 350ºF for 30 minutes to soften it up or chop fresh and have a mild crunch with this dish. The juicy crunch is nice for us so I just peel it, chop it into 1/2″ cubes and sauté them in the oil on medium-high heat for 5 – 10 minutes until browned on most sides. After that, add in the carrot, onion and sausage and cook until the meat is done, about 10 more minutes. The carrot should be softening by now. Once that is done, add in the zucchini, mushroom, spices and herbs and cook another 5 – 10 minutes until the zucchini is softened. Set aside and allow the juices to accumulate in the pan for 15 minutes while cooling. I like my hash less “wet” and I pour off the moisture/fat before putting them into a Tupperware.  This will serve 6-8 people or last 2 people 4 days or so (you know it, I love leftovers). This re-heats very well, so while it is in the microwave, fry up an egg or two however you like and lay them on top for a solid, vegetable rich and filling breakfast. Super quick for work day mornings and very filling to hold you through to lunchtime.

Enjoy!

I think my soul lives outside city limits.

Concrete-claustrophobia is a new feeling for me. I’ve never ever considered myself a “city girl” but not a country mouse either. I’ve travelled, I’ve flown all over the planet, I thought I knew what to expect having been to many large cities. On the other hand, I always said that I could never live in New York City. “It’s nice to visit” I’d say, “but I could never live here, too many people and not enough grass”.  San Jose is the 10th largest city in the Nation.

Apparently, being #1 and #10 are one and the same to me.

The houses here are so very close together, so close that I can’t open any of the blinds because each window faces a neighbors window about 8 feet away. I can see them, they can see me hypothetically. It’s weird. At home I had over 40 windows each looking out over a private area of my yard. They were all open almost all the time and I loved the light. Now I live in a dim cave. When I leave the house I’m reminded every time about how much land has been, in my opinion, ruined by the people living here. Concrete stretches everywhere! It doesn’t help that we live near the car-dealership row and have to drive by it often. So in addition to the 6 lane road with concrete median, lined with the concrete sidewalks and then spreading into the acres of asphalt parking lots, there is also the reminder of other human impacts to this earth with the acres of new cars sitting on those lots. The fact that they have so many points to just how many people they think will come and buy those cars. The land used to be farmland and the street we live on is named after the family who owned the land. I can imagine it was pretty not that long ago.

That is the other part here, the people. They’re everywhere as evidenced by long lines at the gas station, the inability to park at Costco in the afternoons, the massive crush of traffic at rush hour. Just so many people. Like any large city I’ve heard, the people are also a bit…self absorbed? I say hi, smile or nod to them as I walk by. I usually get no response, sometimes I get a hard stare, once I got a reply. Several times now I have been walking on the sidewalk in my neighborhood, approached by a couple of people coming the other way and instead of them falling into single-file so we can pass, they keep right on walking pushing me off the sidewalk as if I wasn’t there. I wanted to yell “I’m walking here!” but they’d probably just have ignored that too. It must be that I’m a country mouse because these events can put me to tears. Not only do I feel so alone and out-of-place but clearly, I don’t even merit space on a public sidewalk or any indication from humans that I exist.

I don’t know how much of my problem here is simply homesickness and it will get better or if the visceral ache I have in this city is something that won’t go away. I went to a wedding in Virginia last week and sometime during one of the drives through the city (a suburb of D.C. so hardly a tiny town) I realized something was different. I took a mental inventory and found what was missing after a minute, the hard, compressed knot weighing in my abdomen. I felt relaxed, as if I had been holding anxiety from being in San Jose and simply by driving by open fields and forests I felt better. I can only attribute this feeling to simply not being in a large city since it is the same feeling I get when I leave San Jose to go hiking. I do this as much as possible because so far, it is the only time I’m not miserable. I think my soul lives outside city-limits. It isn’t that I’m not trying to get integrated here either! I’ve applied to four jobs, joined a yoga class, go to the dog park regularly, joined a hiking group, attended 3 book club meetings, joined a girls-my-age group and we are about to start taking dancing lessons. I am putting myself out there…frequently! It has been five months of me trying and I read somewhere it can take 1 – 2 YEARS to feel at “home” in a new place. I don’t even think I need to feel “at home” here, at this point I’d take “not being miserable in a new place”.

Since I have never hiked before the thought of going out can be intimidating. Do I have the right supplies? Do I look like an idiot with my pink, clearly-not-made-for hiking-extra-backpack-lying-around? Am I wearing the right clothes? In addition to the self-doubt, I have little experience with mountains and I am completely directionless. Just driving there is stressful since I don’t know my way around and a lot of State parks don’t have clear addresses. I can’t read a map very well and wouldn’t have any idea how to use the compass feature of my iPhone.  However, we head out every weekend for 6 – 9 mile hikes(9.5- 14.5 km) through woods and terrain I’ve never seen before. Now that I have my own car, I’m going more often alone and I CAN’T WAIT to get there. Last week, Friday-Sunday I did 20 miles (32K)!

One of the first, and furthest hikes we went on was to Grey Whale Cove, north of us near San Francisco. The path we took was only 5 miles (8 K) but being able to see the views of the water, smell the ocean on the breeze and get some sunshine in was priceless. The drive up there was great and we found a little BBQ dive that was rated well on Yelp. They were cooking out of an old train car, outside seating only, but they were packed as it were and their food delicious. So I took my pictures and for the next week thought about this place existing somewhere past the concrete, to hold me over until next weekend.

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look before you leap? (starting 2015 with a whole new life)

(Continuing my documentation of our cross-country move)

This adage is very sound advice and generally I’m a cautious person when making big decisions but there was no looking at anything this time. Maybe part of what made this move difficult was the not knowing anything constantly, the feeling of the rug pulled out from under my feet and never knowing what to expect. Accepting a job offer and moving to California from Florida after only 3 weeks was so sudden the quickness of it left me off balance and did not help my adjustment.

In some ways, it would have been so much better if I had stayed behind while Daniel secured a place to rent for us and later we could have moved our things. I would have been able to apply for the Nursing License in California while still keeping my job a little longer and continue to earn money (and not be bored) instead of waiting to begin the application until after we had settled in the new rental house and then waiting 8 weeks longer to get the license approved. I could have had more time to settle the things that needed done before we moved and most importantly, I could have taken my time saying goodbye to everyone and everything I loved and would miss. I know I would have still been very sad of course but I wonder if I would have been so sad for so long or if maybe the depth of my feelings would have been less severe. I felt like somebody had died, really, I was grieving the death of my life as I knew it and felt very alone. Daniel told me he was afraid that if I stayed behind that I might never move.

As it was though, we were given a 1 bedroom, furnished apartment in Downtown San Jose with a limit of 8 weeks to find housing and move out. Meanwhile, all of our belongings were in storage and we had to live with just what we had brought with us in suitcases. Moving from a 3200 square foot home on a secluded acre to a very urban and, comparatively small apartment was a death in itself. Life seemed bleak, there was no doubting that things had changed for us forever.  I was alone long days while Daniel was at work and other than my school-work I had nothing to do. I couldn’t go very far because the dogs being crated over 4 hours made me feel guilty, I’m sure they missed their large yard and being crated for long periods was unusual before. Also, some days I didn’t have a car because I was tired of driving Daniel to work in traffic just for me to turn around again and go through the traffic home, then do it again in the evening to get him. So I let him take the car. The things I used to like to do that made me happy were boxed up or impossible to enjoy at the apartment. For instance, obviously, I love to cook but the meager and flimsy cooking equipment at the apartment made anything but the most basic cooking difficult. The knives were so dull they barely cut anything, we had just one pot and two pans, and a cookie sheet not much larger than a piece of notebook paper! We ended up eating out a lot or just having a salad and baked chicken. I love to read and got a kindle since I couldn’t get a library card without having an address. I tried to parlay my love of books into meeting people at a book club but the first meeting I went to had only 3 attendees (of the 9 that were supposed to be there) and I was the only one who had read the book! The second attempt went almost as poorly so I quit trying there. Other things I was interested in conflicted with my needing to drop off or pick up Daniel from work and aside from going to the dog park with Arthur, I had no opportunities to meet anyone.

Our anxious dog, Kendi, continued to be anxious at the new setup, confined more, new noises of people walking by in the hallway and riding in elevators had him on edge. Walking him became difficult because he would jump at dogs that would pass trying to defend himself against their presence. We had been doing behavioral training with Kendi at home to help him be better adjusted and less anxious over the small things that set him off and we were seeing some improvement. After he broke his tooth and the move though, we lost all the ground we had made with him and his behavior. Even though he had been on “doggie xanax” since the drive and for several weeks after we got to the apartment, he still was jumpy and anxious and when he was given the Xanax he was too sleepy to play. Xanax with dogs is just like with people. It will help in the short-term but in the end, it is a band-aid covering a larger problem and it shouldn’t be taken forever. After having surgery to remove his broken tooth and talking with the vet here (coincidentally a UF grad, go Gator Nation!) about his issues we decided to try him on Prozac. There were problems at first with him acting dazed but it cleared up and I am happy to say he is almost a different dog, for the better. He used to jump and skitter if I walked near him with the laundry basket and he would run terrified when anyone emptied the trash. He was insecure with other dogs to the point he would be aggressive and not tolerate their presence at all. After the Prozac he is so much more calm. He no longer runs from the trash bags and he is overly excited when other dogs pass but he doesn’t lunge and growl like he did anymore. I think trying the behavioral training was the right thing to do first but dogs, like people, have their own problems and imbalances and sometimes medication is the best thing. The puppy Arthur, adjusted so well. Arthur has so far, not lived anywhere longer than 2 months. His first 8 weeks was with his mother and litter mates, his second 8 weeks were in our home in Florida, the third 8 weeks were in the apartment in California and so far, we have only been in this rental home 8 weeks. I’m sure he expects us to pack up everything any minute now and take off again!  He is a sweet, curious and confident dog and thankfully he is mild tempered, he is 8 months old now and weighs 74 pounds, four pounds more than Kendi already and he has at least another six months of growing to do.

After getting used to being here for a few weeks we started looking for a place to rent that would allow dogs. This was very difficult. There were so many homes and apartments that were fine and fit our budget or were in an area we liked but wouldn’t consider pets. When we did find a home we liked that allowed pets we would get there for a walk through with the realtor and get a tour with one or two other families! Never have I heard of that, this is not an open house but our appointment was double and triple booked sometimes. People were offering more for the rents than the asking price and we didn’t get many of the places we wanted because the competition was so fierce. Finally, at yet another home where we had an appointment for a showing (with two other families) we thought we liked this one and quickly contacted the owner right after we saw it. We offered more than the asking rent and were able to rent this house. It’s bigger than we need but the houses that fit us better got snapped up by others. It is in an area that is nice, the streets are pretty and lined with trees. It is hard though to look at this house, with it’s “cookie-cutter” design and out-of-date tacky fixtures and compare that to our 90-year-old home that had aged and remained classic, the details were charming not out-of-date tacky and the repairs needed were easily forgiven, the house is very old after all. But here we are and here we will stay until we can afford to have another home of our own.

Meanwhile, Daniel goes to work happy, comes home happy, spends the weekend happy and goes off again to work Monday’s, still happy. I can’t tell you how much of a relief that is. Prior to moving I would worry about how he would be when he got home from work, angry or deflated after another soul-crushing day at work when asking “how was your day” was inviting a discussion about all the problems at his job. All weekend he would worry about having to go back on Monday and then he would leave for work unhappy. At the very very least, the whole purpose of the move was successful, Daniel has a job he loves and is as happy as I’ve ever known him.

Now that we are in a house and have a dog-walker, we have taken advantage of the hiking that is available here. Besides Daniel being happy, I still haven’t found any other good reason to be here other than the hiking. Part of it is that I feel suffocated in all this…city and desperately have a need to be away from it often. I didn’t feel this at home, the town was small and the green spaces were everywhere. Our yard was sufficient actually. So now, with our plastic coated, Astroturf back yard the size of a storage container backing up and surrounded by our neighbors identically laid-out smudges of “yard” the only words I have to describe it are negative. VERY. So my next posts will include some of our hiking and other attempts to enjoy being here. I’m really trying. I am.

Have a wonderful 2015, may it bring you (and me) happiness and love.

 

a leap of faith

So the blog here is mostly about food and nutrition, I use it as my own curated, online recipe box. This comes in very handy when I’m at the store and forgot what I was supposed to get for a meal. I can just look my recipe up online! However, as the title suggests it’s a little about my belief that experiences make up a life and not the things we buy or the house we live in or even our job. Well, for some people it may include their job but not me so much.

I decided around age 25 that I did not want children. For many many reasons, one of them being the ability to be flexible and travel and do things one can’t easily do when they have kids. Around the same time, in college, I chose nursing for my career. Also for many reasons, but one is that nursing allows me a lot of flexibility with my schedule and an ability to move around and have little trouble finding a new job. So this is part of why I became a nurse then, 8 years ago, to be able to take opportunities and travel and such. Except I didn’t move out of my hometown, I had friends and a job I liked where I was, it was easier to stay and it was good that I did stay because I met my now-husband in that town. But none of that took advantage of the choices I made.  The story goes: we bought a house, a lovely lovely old house that is now and will always be special to me. This house became my experience. It needed a lot of love and work and I jumped on learning handy things and working to restore a bit of history. My husband however, over the course of 5 years, was not happy in his job and was not having luck finding a comparable new one. Then he got a job offer at Netflix. This is a crucial moment. Stay in the house we both love and planned to retire in (but have a dead-end job hubby doesn’t like) or consider moving and starting all over again.

Here is the leap. I considered my beliefs that the things you have don’t make you happy, not even a house. I considered how unhappy my husband had been though he really had tried many things to try to be happy at his job but wasn’t. I considered the reasons I had chosen not to have children and to become an RN. We considered a lot of things together and end the end, took a big breath and a giant leap and accepted the job. We were moving. After 26 years for me, and his whole life, in Florida we packed up our things and drove out west to California 3 weeks after he got the job.

The transition was not without its problems. We both quit our jobs (gulp) the day after he accepted the job out West. Though Netflix paid for the move and sent very handy movers who packed for us, it was our understanding that if it was in the house, it was getting packed. This required a thorough going through to throw away, give away or sell anything we didn’t want or thought wouldn’t fit our (unknown) living situation after the move. There was also the problem of tying up any loose ends on projects around the house and getting it on the market. We were flying originally so we did the whole special vet visits to get permits to allow the dogs to fly and bought flight crates for them. (there is a story on that later). We planned with our families and friends goodbye dinners and in the worst situation, called up some very good friends of ours who had gone on a 3 week vacation right before we made the decision. This meant that before they left, we had them over for dinner, told them what we were planning but assured them it would be months before anything happened. Then had to call them and tell them we were so sorry we wouldn’t get to see them before we moved. Things were happening very fast. Canceling appointments that had not that long ago been arranged, finding appropriate lawn and other trustworthy maintenance workers for if the house needed anything while we were away, selling our two cars and buying one new one, arranging flights, car rentals and many, many other small things that needed attention. It was frenetic.

Everything kept changing last-minute. First, we were going to have just a month of temp housing provided by Netflix so we could find a place to rent. We thought we wanted to stay in San Francisco for that time to see how that was and possibly settle down there. Then we found out how long the commute would actually be and scrapped that. Start over with finding a place in San Jose. Suddenly, for no known reason, we were allowed two months temp housing. OK. We had assembled the flight crates so that the dogs could get used to them before they flew, unfortunately due to the time-frame, the crates only arrived about 4 days before we left. I had a good-bye dinner with friends and Daniel was out so I put the dogs in their new crates and left. Daniel got home a couple of hours later and let them out and I got home later and we all went to bed. The next afternoon I noticed that the crate our anxious dog was in looked damaged. We had gotten them used so I thought the crate had come that way and I hadn’t noticed. There were puncture holes in the plastic and the metal grate for the air-window was bent. This was very thick metal and I said to myself that surely MY dog didn’t do this, if he had he would have broken a tooth, some other poor dog had a hysterical fit in there. Then I looked just inside the crate bottom and found an entire canine tooth where he had broken it off at the gum line. This was Friday afternoon. We leave on Monday. The Movers were arriving in the morning and no vet was going to do an emergency surgery with such short notice, at least not on our budget!  (breathe deeply into this paper bag)  We consulted the vet on the phone and decided on a plan to watch the dog, who was eating and drinking fine, and take care of the tooth on the other side. Also, the vet suggested an anti-anxiety med for him which helped a lot. Flights and rental cars got cancelled, our dog would not have made a flight we didn’t think so we began plotting a cross-country driving route that would get us there in time for Daniel’s first day.

The movers arrived Saturday morning and stayed all day just packing, Sunday was loading. At this point I felt very bad for the dogs who had been crated through all the time the movers were there because all the doors were open and they would have been underfoot or lost in the street. So I took them out for a quick jog….where as we were running flat out I became tangled in one of their leashes and fell face first on the street. I like to think I fell gracefully…. I also think I had a small concussion after that with a very bad headache and some dizziness and nausea but I didn’t have time for that. Plus it was Sunday. Again, nobody really available, affordably, to take a look at me. I ached all over, neck, back, right shoulder and knee…I felt like I’d been in a car accident. Through all this various friends and family were coming by to say hi and bye and to help us out which was very nice and good to see them all. Crash to bed that night, in the morning we sell our last car and drive west.

The drive itself was OK. I never ever ever want to do it again though. Oh did I mention through all this I had just began an online BSN program? A decision made and paid for well in advance of our big move. So yes, the week of the drive was my first week of classes. The first thing each morning when we got in the car was to call a hotel in the city we planned to stop and make reservations. We figured out how to link my laptop to the internet through my cell phone and I spent time in the car every day after making reservations doing my school work. The dogs were lounging in the back among the luggage, the anxious one dosed with a little melatonin to keep him calm. Did I mention one of the dogs is a 3 month old puppy? Yes. We had gotten a puppy about a month before the decision to move. A potty training puppy in a cross-country car trip. F.U.N. No melatonin for him since he was so young but thankfully puppies do tend to sleep a lot.

Comfy on the luggageNo personal spaceBelly up!

 

We detoured through Alabama to see my Aunt and then up to Mississippi to visit my Grandma before we officially headed west. Each night we would roll into our stopping destination after 8 or so hours of driving, unpack the whole car, including the luggage rack(wouldn’t want anyone to steal our extra dog-food or luggage!) bring it all into the hotel room and crash. The next morning, re-pack the car and luggage rack, secure everything down again, dose the dog and get in the car again. We had audio books and took plenty of breaks to stretch our legs (and walk the puppy) and I worked on a cross-stitch and we drove and drove. Well, Daniel drove and drove. I didn’t drive at all.  We did stop in Arizona to meet with one of my best friends who I hadn’t seen for a long time. We found a restaurant that allowed dogs on the patio and later went to her home and visited some more. It was nice. Finally, after six long days of driving we arrived at our temporary apartment in San Jose. Let the house hunting begin.

I will stop here since this is such a long post. I know I haven’t posted in a while. A lot of sad and tragic things happened between August 2013 and now and I haven’t posted much but maybe I will get caught up and include more of the experiences I have since I’m on a whole new adventure here.

Goodbye until  next time, which isn’t goodbye at all…more like see you later!

Southwest Chicken Soup (and homemade chicken stock)

I love soups, I really do. I should put more of them on onehotmess because I have a few I love but have almost lost because I forgot the site or the site host changed/removed their post. I give all credit to paleOMG.com for this one, I have made some changes to fit our preferences and to make the meal more cost-effective.  As far as soups go, I don’t often have soup as the main dish because they just aren’t that hearty. Most hearty soups really belong in the “stew” section I think but this is definitely a soup. A soup you can call a meal! PaleOMG is an excellent site for paleo recipes, I have found many there I have liked and make often, and they are great every time.

Okay, to get more specific about this soup! This soup is on the spicy side, you can adjust the cayenne as needed if you can tolerate some heat but don’t want the whole thing. IMO, it isn’t that spicy but I like a lot of spice. The original recipe (linked above) calls for coating the chicken strips or tenderloin and baking them first. I cut out that step. Firstly, less handling raw meat to cut the breasts up and secondly it is more cost-effective to buy a whole chicken than just breasts or tenderloins. Also I really like using home-made stocks for my soups. There is a quality to home-made stocks that store-bought brands miss. They aren’t bad necessarily but not particularly flavorful and some of them can hide a lot of salt or other preservatives. Also I am suspicious of how much chicken/beef/vegetables are actually in the stock and where they came from. Are we talking about a use for leftovers at the food processing plant? In any case, I’ve made this several times, both ways and we prefer the boiled chicken better. The meat is more tender and more reminiscent of chicken soup. An added benefit of starting with a whole, home-boiled, chicken is that you get the start of a stock for no extra charge (and if you keep aside the picked carcass you can make a second stock to save!).

Ingredients

  • 2 TBS olive or coconut oil
  • 1 whole chicken, 3 – 4 pounds, more if you want extra chicken
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper (for color, any one will do), diced
  • 1 poblano or Anaheim pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 14 oz can fire roasted tomatoes (I like Hunt’s variety)
  • 1 TBS cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 TBS garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (leave out for a less spicy soup)
  • salt and pepper to taste (I wait to season individual bowls…this is a pretty flavorful sauce by the end)
  • 4 cups (32oz) chicken stock
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)
  • plantain chips for garnish (optional but strongly encouraged)
  • sliced avocado for garnish (optional)

Either method is good but for the boiled way be prepared to start the chicken about 3 hours in advance of the meal. You’ll need that much time to boil the chicken for an hour and, depending on how much liquid you have, time to reduce it down to a stock. Luckily, most of this part doesn’t require much intervention once it gets to a boil. Just turn it down to simmer and walk away for an hour. Remove the chicken to cool, take off the lid and turn up the heat to get it boiling. At this point if you can pick a (hot) bone out you can throw one back in and add any vegetable or spices you’d like or just have a clean chicken stock with nothing added. Allow it to boil another 30 -45 minutes (this time greatly depends on how much fluid is left over) and check it. It may need a little more time but this is a good time to start picking the cooled chicken and chopping veggies while you keep an eye on it. The stock should get a thicker quality as it condenses, the color should go from more clear to more opaque, towards the yellow side and you can taste it for seasoning if you want. Once the stock is reduced, pour it into a bowl, possibly the bowl with the now picked chicken bits, to keep while the vegetables get going.

With your chicken picked and set aside and your stock removed from the pot, add the oil back to the pot (oh yeah, one pot yay!). Heat over medium-high heat and add all the fresh vegetables except the garnish, and sauté until the onions begin to become clear and the peppers soften. Stir often to prevent burning or sticking. Next, add the tomatoes and spices and stir to mix. Finally, add back the picked chicken and stock and stir to mix the veggies and spices, allow to simmer another 30 minutes. When that is done, stir in the lime juice, ladle out the bowls and garnish with the optional touches. As I said before, this soup is a very flavorful, slightly spicy soup and only a little salt is needed IMO. But then again I like to go easy on the salt.

If you’re going to continue the cost-effectiveness, save the bones in the fridge overnight to make a stock tomorrow. You can make a chicken stock easily out of any chicken bones, regardless if grilled or roasted..I’ve never used fried chicken bones though if you pick off the breading then maybe it’s OK?

The quick method is to just put in any bones and giblets you have (including ribs, neck, back, and feet if you have them) into a large stock-pot with roughly 4 quarts cold water and 2-3 TBS white vinegar and boil. (the longer way involves roasting the bones/innards first until browned) Reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to simmer 4-6 hours until it is reduced to your liking. More time if you can or depending on how much stock you want. The longer the simmer, the thicker and more flavorful the stock. For added flavor and nutrients, for the last 10-15 minutes add any combo of: whole crushed garlic cloves, chopped onion, celery, carrot, bay leaf, rosemary, thyme, or oregano (I wouldn’t suggest ALL of those herbs together…maybe just pick two) and continue to simmer. At the start, you can skim off the floaty fuzz that sometimes comes up. To store, pour the stock into several sets of ice-cube trays, freeze and keep for later. Freezing them into ice cubes makes it easier to take out the amount you need after frozen without having to thaw the whole batch. Just pick out what will fill your needed measurement and add a couple extra to account for the spaces. Better to have too much than too little.   Alternatively, if you want to have an almost fat-free broth then refrigerate it overnight in the pot or a large pitcher and scoop out the fat that will rise to the top and harden in the morning. The stock should be gelatinous under this layer of fat, don’t worry! It is a little harder to get the congealed stock into ice-cube trays but I promise, it is worth it to be able to easily use later.

I’m not sure how long the stock will keep frozen, honestly I use stock enough that I haven’t run into any problems. Use your best judgement. There! With very little effort you can make an excellent stock with no preservatives and you can customize your flavor at the same time getting all the good stuff out of the chicken you bought. And you thought it was done after you ate it! There are many nutrition and health benefits to using home-made stock and it is my opinion that if you use a good stock for your recipes it will add to your dish in the end. You may think that you don’t taste the stock much but I think that is because you aren’t using a tasty stock.

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