pictures, words, food, adventures and once in a while, something random

Archive for March, 2012

Being alive

“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle

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No-Bake Peanut Butter Crunch Bars

While trying to eat right, I am constantly in search of foods I can still enjoy in flavor and volume to please my palate, my tummy and my figure.  This snack is so far my favorite and I just had to share it with you guys.  Follow the recipe below with a side of 2 tbsp. (chilled) old-fashioned creamy peanut butter.  What I do is dip my crunch bar into it and mm mmm mmmm!  Did I say mmmm?  Makes 24 bars.  129 calories, 3g pro, 23 g car, 1g fiber, 4g fat.

Thank you Woman’s day magazine for this recipe!

For an easy on-the-go treat, try these slightly sweet bars that are full of texture, thanks to crushed whole-grain flake and puffed rice cereals, unsalted peanuts and dried cranberries.
Active Time: 10 minutesTotal Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Recipe Ingredients
2 cups slightly crushed whole-grain flake cereal (we used Kashi)
2 cups whole-grain puffed rice cereal (we used Arrowhead Mills)
1 cup dried cranberries
1⁄2 cup unsalted cocktail peanuts
1⁄2 cup reduced-fat creamy peanut butter
1⁄2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1⁄2 cup honey
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
Recipe Preparation

1. Line a 13 x 9-in. baking pan with nonstick foil (let the foil extend about 2 in. above pan at both ends).

2. Mix cereals, cranberries and peanuts in a large bowl.

3. Mix peanut butter, sugar, honey and butter in a 2-qt saucepan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly; simmer for 1 minute.

4. Immediately stir into cereal mixture, tossing to evenly coat. Coat hands with cooking spray, then use them to spread and press the mixture in prepared pan. Chill until firm, about 1 hour.

5. Holding foil by ends, lift from pan onto a cutting board. Carefully cut lengthwise in 4 strips and then cut each strip in 6; remove foil.

Enjoy!


The four-legged human

“Dogs never talk about themselves but listen to you while you talk about yourself, and keep up an appearance of being interested in the conversation.” ~ Jerome K. Jerome


Grow

Change is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.”
~ Author unknown


Let’s agree to disagree

This is what I always tell my scale when it comes back with my weight.  Each time I step on it, I hold my breath for two reasons.  The suspense and because my stomach’s in the way.

Inside some of us is a thin person struggling to get out, but they can usually be sedated with a few pieces of chocolate cake.  ~ Author Unknown

I’m always on a diet.  My favorite is the ‘seefood’ diet.  I see food, then I eat it.  With every fad diet comes a few things in common – watch what you eat and exercise.  So if it’s that simple, then why have I spent thousands of dollars on drops, videos, pills, memberships and plans?  Because they all work!  It’s my will power that doesn’t.

So far I’ve lost 40 pounds in the last year.  I have 35 to go.  My daughter’s getting married in 4 months and there’s this cute dress she wants me to wear.  If I fall off the wagon, I will look like a pink sausage with stubs.  I know I can do this, I just need to stay strong and continue to learn more about ways to stay healthy.

What do you do when you’re tempted to eat bad food or too lazy to exercise?  Do you have any tips?


Messages

What is the Universe telling you?

Could it be, that fortune cookies may actually be valid messages?  That’s almost like saying the magic 8 ball can help me with my decisions, right?  Well… I wouldn’t take it that far, but lately I’ve been reaching one crossroad after another because I want to do so many things.  I couldn’t decide and that night’s fortune cookie came at  the right time because I was actually contemplating going back to work.

“Decide what you want and go for it.”

One thing is for sure, I didn’t want to go back to work, I just need to stick to my plan.  Eventually I was able to focus.  I made a list, identified which ones I was passionate about and which ones were desirable.  As I categorized my list, I started putting them in order.

I’ve completed the first item, finishing all the paperwork for my non-profit.  Now I’m just waiting for the IRS to get back to me.  Meanwhile, while I wait I have photography to keep me busy.  Then there’s this book that I’ve been trying to write.  I’ve started it but my self-doubt just kept getting in my way.  I felt like my stories and my writing was not good enough.  While I contemplated if I should even keep it on the list, I grabbed another fortune cookie.

 

Ok… I get it.  Thanks for the nudge!


Laughter

As a child, I laughed often.  Maybe that’s why I refuse to grow up. ~ Christine Sternfels


Prayers

I wonder who’s praying harder…


Collecting memories

What surrounds your home are reminders of what’s stored in your heart. ~ Christine Sternfels

I collect memories, not things.  Memories stay in your heart, even when you’re losing your mind.  Things fade, get old, lost, broken, become outdated and useless.  As my dad would say about material things “You can’t take that with you when you’re dead.”.

There was a time when my most precious possessions were beautiful and expensive things.  We lived in a neighborhood of ‘Joneses’.  One day, the entire hill we lived on was almost consumed by a wild fire in Southern California.  The only reminder of those ashes would be the hours of working too much, missing out on my children’s lives and spending whatever time I had at home being too tired and cranky to do anything with my family.  The Grand Prix fire changed my life.

When you get that pay check and you’ve paid your bills and set some aside for a rainy day, try to allot a portion for non-tangible things such as travel and giving back to your community.

There’s nothing wrong with working hard for a living, as long as you make an effort to have a life.  Work to live, don’t live to work.  Then go out there and collect memories.


There’s always room for improvement

A family that improves together… stays together

I’ve had my share of self-help books and have read hundreds of personal improvement articles.  Some lessons stick, some don’t, and the rest is just stubborn old me.  So what happens if your bad habits start affecting your kids?  I don’t know about yours, but mine made jars.

Mom’s a potty mouth and dad whines allllllll thhhhe time!

I didn’t want the kid to feel left out, so I created her own jar.  She came home from school, gave me a kiss, grabbed an apple and looked at the jar (I left it beside the apples on purpose).  After reading the label, she shrugged her shoulders, tilted her head, smiled and let out a sigh and here is the discussion that followed:

The kid: “Oh mom, you know you’ll be financing this anyway right?”
Me:  “No.  You’re using your own money for this, I’m tired of picking up your s##t!”
The kid:  “Ooh you just said sweet honey iced tea… I guess you need to put a quarter in.”
Me:  Well you left your sox on the table, that’s two quarters!

Feeling I won this battle, I smirked.  She smiled, opened my swear jar, grabbed two quarters, put them in her trail jar and said “See mom, I said you’d be financing this anyway”.  She hugged me before walking away and said “I’m gonna do my homework now, I love you”.


Chocolate cake in 5 minutes

The most dangerous cake recipe!

I got this recipe from my former boss.  I’ve made it several times since with my kids for a midnight snack while giggling over boys and nail polish colors.  I’ve served it on occasion while entertaining… making the cake was the main event.  I must say it is good with some coffee ice cream with a drizzle of Bailey’s or with some old-fashioned vanilla ice cream and a dallop of whipped cream.  You can have fun with it, use your imagination!

Ingredients: 
4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons real cocoa – not hot chocolate mix
1 egg 3 tablespoons half & half – or milk
3 tablespoons butter – melted
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
a small splash of vanilla extract

You’ll need a large coffee mug.

Add dry ingredients in the coffee mug and mix well.   Add the egg and mix thoroughly.  Pour in the half & half and melted-butter, mix well.

Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla extract, mix again.  Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 5 minutes at 1000 watts (high).  The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don’t be alarmed!   Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.   EAT! (this can serve 2).

“A recipe everyone should know!”

And why is this the most dangerous cake recipe in the world?   Because now, we’re only 5 minutes away from chocolate cake at any time.  Enjoy!


Shadows

Most of the shadows of this life are caused by our standing in our own sunshine.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


It’s bath time!

When you’ve done everything possible to quiet her down, yet a full tummy, a nap and dry diaper didn’t work… a nice warm bath will usually do it.


The new chocolate chip

This is one of those “You have to try it at least once” kinda things… like dipping french fries in vanilla ice cream or sprinkling sea salt on you caramel coffee.

 

Ingredients: Nutella  and Sweet Maui Onion chips

To make: Simply grab a chip and dip it into the chocolate.  The result… chocolate chip!

When I first tried it, I was like “Hm… crunchy, salty, sweet and oh my…”.  It tasted strange at first bite, then as I chewed, I began salivating.  I know, it’s a strange pairing but like I said before… just try it.  I wonder what I can dip my Sea Salt & Vinegar Chips into?


Finding happiness…

Quoted from one of the seminars given by Anthony Robbins.

6 BASIC HUMAN NEEDS

  1. Love
  2. Certainty
  3. Uncertainty or the need for some adventure
  4. Significance
  5. Growth
  6. Contribution

This topic is just part of a twelve-hour seminar.  Out of that, this discussion is what got me thinking.  Identifying my most basic needs, my top two, how it controls the direction of my life and what has it cost me?  At the end of the day, we all are searching for what makes us feel good.  We search for the meaning of true happiness and hope to find it.

As Tony Robbins said… “Life is not about getting what you want.  It’s about becoming more.  Happiness is temporary moments, fulfillment is what we need to go after because it lasts.”


What’s in a name?

We usually name our pets according to their personality or how they look.  Sometimes we use movie characters, like the time we named our black labrador Charlie because of Charlie’s Angels (Now I wish we named him shadow because he always follows me around).  Then there are those times when we think we’re funny and name our bull dogs Daphne (Sorry if you named your bulldog Daphne) or when an “Aha” moment hits you and you thought you were such a genius for coming up with such a brilliant idea of naming your smart dog Einstein, only to discover he’s dummer than a rock and everyone who meets him asks you how you came up with that name.  But for most families, the kids will name the pets.

Last week, we got Cj – aka The kid – a beta fish…

Can you guess what she named him?   Well folks, I’d like you to meet…

Sushi.


Never give up!

“God closes one door and opens another, but it’s hell in the hallway.” ~ Joseph Garlington

Don’t settle.  Don’t quit.  Persevere.  Hope.  Achieve.  Go on and never give up!

Thank you to a blog post about “The Dreams of God” I read on “To Live For Him“, I found
Joseph Garlington’s quote (Which inspired me to shoot this photo and make this post).


Best Friends Forever

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.  ~Roger Caras


“Make your own pizza” night

For last Friday’s girls’ night, we decided to get creative.

My guests brought their own toppings and drinks…

I provided glasses…

two dozens 8-inch pizza crust and a gallon of pizza sauce (both purchased at Cash & Carry) .  I had my oven set to 425 degrees and covered the bottom grill with foil.  We were able to cook 6 at a time (directly on the top grill, placed mid-high) and took about 12 minutes for each batch.  Keep it in an extra minute or two for a crunchy crust.  The cheese dripping to the foil was burning and produced smoke in my kitchen, which added a “wood fire” flavor so I just kept the vent on high and had the windows open to stop my fire alarms from screaming.  Here are the ones I was able to photograph (before the wine kicked in).  Drum roll please….

Margherita pizza – Pizza sauce, pesto, mozzarella, tomatoes, basil leaves, crushed garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Chicken BBQ pizza – BBQ sauce, chicken sautéed with red onions in bbq sauce, 4 blend cheese and parsley.

Turkey pizza (Voted best) – Pizza sauce, ground turkey pre-cooked, turkey bacon, sliced smoked  gouda, shredded cheddar and cilantro.  I don’t like turkey that much, but I will eat this combo any day!

Classic Hawaiian – Pizza sauce, Canadian bacon, pineapple, Colby & jack cheese and green onions.

Garden Pizza – Marinara, Italian squash, zucchini, bell peppers, carrots and Asiago.

We ate, we drank and we were very merry!  Clean up didn’t take long.  At the end of the night, this was all that was left…


Moist & Tender Chicken Ranch BBQ

Flaming Chicken1 whole chicken (Large).  Cut it up in 10 – 12 pieces.  Marinade Sauce: 1 cup Ranch dressing  and 1 cup Italian dressing (Do not use fat-free dressing).  2 TBSP sea or kosher salt.  2 TBSP garlic powder.  2 TBSP onion powder.  2 TBSP Paprika.  2 TBSP Mesquite seasoning liquid smoke.

In a pot, put all ingredients of marinade sauce and use a hand egg beater to mix well.  Piece by piece, dip chicken piece and massage in the sauce mixture until all pieces are well coated.  Now put all the chicken in the same pot and cook on medium heat for 45 minutes, covered.

Use smoking hickory chips on top of your charcoal right before placing the chicken on the grill.   Best results if charcoal is about 5 inches away from grill and if grill has a cover.  Make sure the grill’s air vents are closed before placing the chicken.  Immediately cover your grill and keep closed for at least 8 minutes.  Manage your flames to ensure you don’t burn your food.  Bring the pot you cooked in with you so you can use the juices to brush on while you BBQ or dip the chicken in there every time you turn it.  Best with the chunky & moist corn breadand a spinach salad with tomatoes and a raspberry vinaigrette dressing topped with glazed walnuts and candied cranberries.  Enjoy!


Progress

“Our social progress has not kept up with our technological progress.  We need a new way of thinking.  ”  ~ Ted Turner

After watching Oprah’s Master Class: Ted Turner, I discovered him to be brilliant.  He spoke of hard work, success, losing 80% of his fortune, getting back on his feet, sacrifice, honor, giving back to humanity and taking steps to help save our planet.

It was all very interesting and inspiring but one thing kept bugging me.  The question of “What am I doing to help save the planet?”  Thinking about it  inspired  me to post this.

Did you know that industrial revolution has only been around for 200 years?  Before that, (for 3 million years) all we had for progress were fire and stone tools?  Now, think about breakthroughs in the last few decades.  Let’s name a few.  Transportation, housing and community development, drugs and technology.  There are thousands of inventions to make life… convenient.  Now I understand why Al Gore’s documentary on the environment was called “An inconvenient truth“.  With all the inventions this generation has produced, there is much-needed attention to green technology.  We have 50 years of natural gas left.  That’s not very much time.

Getting educated in what you can do to make a difference is a good first step.  After searching the internet, I found this.  10 easy ways to be green.  What are your thoughts on global warming and have you done anything to help the progress of our planet’s health?


Curry Potatoes with Garlic Pita

This dish is not only easy to make, but is also a party favorite!

Servings: 8-10
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: Less than an hour!

Ingredients for Curry Potatoes: 1 can coconut milk (approx 13.5 fl oz), 1/2 stick of unsalted butter (1 whole is better, but not if you’re watching your weight), 2 lbs. red potatoes (cut each potato into 8 pcs, leave skin on), 1 bunch spinach (cut stems off and then into 3 strips), 4 stems of fresh thyme (each stem about 5 inches), 1 cup chicken broth, 4 cubes curry paste (See samples of curry paste below).  You can choose the spice level.  I usually get the mild one and offer spices to my guests to add the extra kick.  Medium is also safe.

Now let’s cook!  Wash everything (Potatoes, spinach & thyme… not the butter).  Set heat on medium high, use any kind of pan that will hold your ingredients.  Start with the butter and thyme.  Once butter is melted and the thyme has been swished around in it for a minute, add the potatoes.  Mix it around on high to coat the potato, then pour in the chicken broth.  Your kitchen should start smelling good.  Cover for 5 minutes, leaving it on high.  Make sure it does not burn, adjust your heat down to medium if needed or slide the pot back and forth over the heat while keeping it covered.  We are trying to infuse the flavor of the stock into the potato.  Next, add the coconut milk.  Every time you add a new ingredient, mix everything around.  If the thyme leaves have fallen off by now, carefully pull the stem out of the pot, if not then it’s ok to wait till the end.   Cover for 5 minutes, leaving it on high.  Next, add the 4 cubes of curry paste.  They usually come with 8 cubes.  Scatter the 4 cubes in the pot and push it under the sauce.  Cover and leave on medium for 15 minutes stirring every now and then.  Now add the spinach, stir then cover and leave on medium for 5 minutes.  Let it simmer for an additional 20 minutes on low.  Best served hot off the stove.  Make sure all curry paste cubes have dissolved and stir very well to ensure good distribution of flavor.

Garlic Pita Recipe
Ingredients: A pinch of sea salt, Pita bread (5 pcs of the 7″ rounds), 1/4 cup olive oil (extra virgin is best), 3 cloves of garlic (freshly peeled, not the bottled kind) and 5 big leaves of fresh basil.

Let us begin!  You can do this while cooking your curry.  Crush garlic (a good way to get your aggression out) and put in a small bowl.  Add the pinch of salt and 1/4 cup olive oil.  Mix around.  Now fold the basil in half and cut off the its spine and stem, then slice it up into little strips (no thicker than 2 pennies).  Add basil to the bowl, mix it around ad let it sit for a few minutes.  Then spread it on the pita using a spoon or marinade brush or even with your hands.  Pre-heat oven to 325 once you set your stove to low for your curry to simmer. On a cookie sheet, place the greased pita and let sit while the oven is pre-heating for 10 minutes then cook it in the oven, middle rack for 10 minutes.  To serve, cut into 8 pieces (like little slices of pizza).

You can pour the curry in a bowl and place it on a bigger plate so you can spread the pita slices on the plate for easy dipping access.  Enjoy!

PS… I will not be held responsible, if your friends start to frequent your house for this app…. just a warning!


It’s just PMS people!

Sorry to my male followers, I know when you see “PMS” your first impulse is to dash out of the room.  If you’re in a relationship, this may actually help you when your wife or girlfriend is PMSing.  Besides, nowadays, there’s no such thing as too much information or privacy anymore.  Tips for dudes will be at the bottom of the page.  Feel free to pass go without collecting $200.

As you see on the picture I’ve attached, this is how my kid feels when aunt Flo is in town.  The poor thing is turning 13 next week and is not looking forward to this as she gets older… I just keep telling her “I’m not possessed, mommy’s just PMSing”.  P stands for Pre, Present and Post.  So there’s really only one good week of emotional stability here, if that.

So ladies… this curse we have that happens every month or so doesn’t get any better with age.  Hitting mid-forties is not so fun for me.  Imagine being on a roller coaster ride of emotions – that’s us before turning forty.  Now imagine the same ride on steroids, that’s how it’s like after forty!

Refusing to take any medication, what do I do?  I googled it!  Yes, that’s my research.  And also spoke to my doctor about it.  There isn’t one way of stabilizing your emotions because we’re all built differently.  A suggestion was made that I take testosterone… “Heck no!!!” was my first reaction because that would mean shaving my mustache daily as opposed to twice a month.  (If you’re a man and you’re reading this… yes, women shave their faces too!  Waxing gets expensive and we’re in a recession here).  Besides, I don’t want to sound like Barry White when using my bedroom voice.  So NO to testosterone.  I will try the B complex first.  It’s a combination of all vitamin B’s to help even out your mood and helps boost your energy.  I’ll try that and running 3 miles a day.

Anyway, lately I have not been able to maintain my composure while watching TV!  I am bawling my eyes out to CSI and The Voice!  It’s so bad.  Then yesterday, I was on the verge of using my purse on one of the parents of our opponent’s team while watching my daughter’s basketball game.  He was making comments about the girls on my team.  That’s when I knew it was bad because usually, I am a very happy-go-lucky “I love my life and love your neighbors” kind of person and now I have violent thoughts of using my purse as a weapon!  I should hide in a cave!

I’ll be fine, I just need wine!  I’m having a “Make your own pizza night” with my friends.  They bring their own drinks and toppings, I simply supply my home, wine glasses, pizza dough and pizza sauce.  I will probably blog all the pizzas they come up with and besides, life’s too short to dwell on PMS.  Have a good weekend everyone!

For the guys… when your woman’s PMSing:

  1. No matter what you say, you’re wrong.  This is not the time to argue.  Wait 7 days.
  2. No matter what you do, you’re wrong.  This is a good time to stay in your man cave or just out of our way.  But when we call, be there like the Flash or you’re gonna hear it.
  3. Chocolates.  Always have some stashed unless she allergic to them, then you’ll need it.
  4. Pay attention.  When we’re talking, listen.  There’s always a quiz later, which may be up to ten years from now.
  5. Flowers may not be a good idea because we’ll only think you’re guilty of something, unless it’s your anniversary, mother’s day or her birthday.
  6. Make sure you always have the last words and they should be “Yes dear”.
  7. Understand.  Understand that it’s not you, it’s our hormones… so it’s not us either.
  8. Hope.  Hope that you can survive the next two weeks and look forward to that one week of emotional stability.
  9. Keep track.  Know when this happens.  A well prepared man is a man less affected, thus lesser trips to the shrink will be required.
  10. Don’t define us by our actions during this time.  Couples have so much to deal with and this is really nothing compared to other challenges.  Love us and know we love you.

I’m keeping it short because I don’t want to challenge anyone’s attention span today, including mine.  You’re welcome to add tips though.  For the ladies… how do you handle PMS?  For the men… how do you deal with it?


Caprese Skewers

Serving size
24 skewers

Ingredients
24 Mozzarella balls.  24 Grape tomatoes.  Basil leaves.  (Optional) Traditional Basil Pesto Sauce & Spread.

Tools
Bamboo skewers (Can be found in most groceries, at least 4 – 5 inches in length with a knot on one end.  You can use long toothpicks or regular 6 inch skewer sticks) and sauce brush.

To make
Take a skewer and stick one mozzarella ball, followed by a basil leaf (poke on one end of leaf, one tomato, the other end of the same basil leaf and a mozzarella ball.  Lightly salt with sea salt.  (See picture)

OPTIONAL:  If you do not use a basil leaf, brush with the pesto sauce (Enough that all surface is coated) and no need to salt.   Plate, serve and enjoy.  Best served cold.  You can prepare during your party or before your guests arrive.

Have balsamic & olive oil on the side.  This is so easy to make!  Great with my Garlic Cheese Bread and Bad Salad!


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