Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I know Whole30 doesn't want you drinking your calories. And Paleo doesn't really care, so long as you get your fruit. Both diets just do not want you adding sugar. To ANYTHING.
I have found that I cannot carry large quantities of food around with me on my day-to-day business. I found that out when I didn't eat breakfast one morning and by the time I was able to eat, it was too late. I got sick instead. Having a fruit smoothie is a great pick-me-up or snack when I rush out of the house without breakfast and can't sit down for lunch. Don't worry, I don't skip lunch...I just usually have to eat it on the run. Okay, more like I eat it in pieces. I may have some protein at 1pm, some veggies around 1:45 and not finish the meal in its entirety until 3pm.
I eat enough to keep me going.

I did some prep first. With this particular smoothie, I used frozen strawberries. With other smoothies, like my Watermelon lime, I cut the watermelon into pieces and freeze them in advance. But either way, these are easy and take no time at all to prepare.


6 small strawberries (or 3 large)
Juice of one lime
1/2 a round/slice of 1/4" thick fresh pineapple
1/2 medium banana

Put all in a blender, with 3/4 cup water. If not using frozen fruit, add 4 or 5 ice cubes. Blend. And put in your to-go cup and walk out the door!

Friday, August 15, 2014

I started the Whole30 challenge 5 days ago. [sigh] I really miss bread.....

But - it has forced me to change the way I think about food. So far, I've not had the grumpies, or anything else most people go through on their first four days. I guess I'm lucky on that.
The fiance' is also benefiting from my culinary adventures....he has liked what I've cooked so far.

I do make a fabulous Tomato Basil Soup- my own copy of Noodles & Co.'s version...and I like mine better. But tonight I tried making a recipe I found on another blogger's site...then realized that I didn't have all the ingredients they used. And I was being too lazy to go to the store.

Which means I kinda 'winged' it. And know what? It turned out fabulous! I really think this is going to go in the 'keeper' file of soups I love. Now, I know pepperoni is not Whole30 compliant. That's ok. I didn't put it in my portion, but I did leave it and listed it as an *added ingredient (for those of you not on the Whole30 program). For those of us who are, please read the labels of the canned items you are using. Some brands are compliant, some are not. READ YOUR LABELS!

Yummy Fire-y Crock pot Tomato Soup


1 28oz can diced tomatoes
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T olive oil - enough to saute the veggies, but not too much.
1 t black pepper
1 t oregano
1 t red pepper flakes
1 14.5 oz can fire roasted tomatoes
1 14.5 oz can beef broth
6 slices deli pepperoni, diced

First- take your canned tomatoes and put them in the crock pot. Turn on the crock-pot on low.
Saute the onions, celery, and carrots in olive oil until tender. Add garlic and saute two minutes more.
Add to crock-pot.
Put the lid on the crock-pot and walk away for 4 hours.
When you come back, add the spices and stir.
Using a stick blender (or regular blender if that's what you have), blend all ingredients until desired consistency. I like mine smooth with some chunky pieces hanging out.
Add enough of the beef broth to smooth out the soup. I used the whole can.
Put lid back on and let simmer for 1  hour more.


Now, if you are not on Whole30- you can add the pepperoni for the last hour of simmer, or just before serving if you don't want to 'ruin' your diet leftovers!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A while back my better half won free plane tickets (and because they dragged their feet, free car rental, too!) to anywhere in the continental USA. Where did we go? Well, where else? Virginia.
Not because we love Virginia, but because we are big history nerds and wanted to see Jamestown (the original, not the tourist trap one), Williamsburg and Yorktown.
And because my brother lives near there, we crashed at his place. So other than food (which we would eat no matter where we were), our trip was free!

We had a blast walking around old ruins, cemetery's and churches. One place in particular in Yorktown was this restaurant called The Carrot Tree Restaurant in the historic Cole Diggs House. Read about them here and their FB page here.

It was nearing the end of our trip and our food money was getting low, so we decided to just order an appetizer and share it. It was a good call! 

Simple biscuits with Virginia Smoked Ham and some sort of sauce. I was in love. So when we got home I set out to try and recreate that wonderful appetizer. And I think I've got pretty darn close. My biscuits need a bit more tweaking, but overall, I got this!

Without further ado, my biscuit recipe (adapted from a Cook's Country version), and my Major Grey's Chutney Dressing Sauce. Oh, the ham? Yeah, you'll have to buy that online. Unless you live in Virginia.

Drop Biscuits:
3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 stick (1/4 lb, or 8 T) butter, melted.

Mix the dry ingredients together. Add the melted butter to the buttermilk, then pour into dry ingredients and mix well. Scoop onto baking sheet. Use a little melted butter to brush over the top, if you wish. Of course I did!
Bake for 15 mins at 475 degrees. Done. 

Major Grey's Chutney Dressing Sauce:

8 oz plain yogurt
1/4 c sour cream
1/3 c major grey's chutney (I make my own, but you should be able to purchase it)
2 t orange vinegar
1 t lemon juice
1/4 t allspice
1/8 t white pepper

Mix together. Stick blend if you want.
Serve cold with rolls or biscuits.

So- when I put everything together, it turned out fabulous. I mean, I have forgotten how good Virginia Ham really is...but you better like salt...but it is salty!
I don't like salt, but I love this ham once in a while. It's a guilty pleasure about once a year.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Yesterday's Cherry Cheesecake Cups were such a huge hit, I thought I would try my hand at making one with my favorite combo of flavors- Chocolate and peanut butter. Oh how I love thee! And if I do say so, these turned out absolutely fantastic!
These whip up so quickly, there's no reason why you can't make a dessert several nights a week...
Okay, so maybe this isn't exactly on the diet plan....but one small spoonful won't hurt...then give the rest to the husband. Problem solved! Besides, men lose weight faster than women. (What a horrible trade-off, right ladies??)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake Dream Cups 

1 pkg Cream cheese, room temperature 
1/2 c milk (+/-) 
1/2 c peanut butter 
3/4 c crushed Chocolate graham crackers or cookies 
1 T cocoa 
2 T powdered sugar. 
Reese's PB cups- either regular size cut into 4 pieces, or use mini's. 

Mix the cream cheese and PB until smooth. Add half the milk and mix well until there are no lumps and it appears light and fluffy. About 3-4 minutes. Add more milk if it is too thick. 

Separate 2 T of the PB cream cheese mixture into a separate cup. 
Add the cocoa and powdered sugar. Mix well. If too thick, use some of the leftover milk to smooth it out.

Place 2 T of the crushed chocolate grahams into the bottom of a cup. 
Spoon 2 T of the PB Cream cheese on top. Smooth it out a bit. 
Add 1/2 T of the cream cheese PB Chocolate mix on top. 
Decorate with Reese's if desired. 

Chill for at least 30 minutes. 
Makes six (6) servings.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Born in the inner city? Chances are you'll be poor your whole life. 
Born in the 90210? Most likely rich. 
Born in the suburbs? You could go either way.

The rich get richer, the poor get poorer and the middle class is slowly disappearing. The great divide between the upper and lower class is based in education and increases further with each generation. But why is this?

Someone once wrote that the biggest determining factors of how well a student does in school is 1/3 in-school factors and 2/3 family characteristics (ie poverty, housing, parental education etc).
They're saying that if your parent is poor and uneducated, most likely you move from house to house within a poor district, and you get sick a lot because you lack healthcare, that you do not do as well in school as your suburban or rich counter-part. 

They're saying: You are less educated because you are poor.
I say: You're poor because you have less education.
A small be perceptible difference. 

Why do I say you're poor because you have less education? 

Because every once in a while, a student from a poverty-stricken area will defy the odds and end up at Harvard or Yale or Princeton. Hard work is available for ALL students, no matter how rich or poor the district. This type of student usually takes it upon his or herself to get educated. To find out what they needed to know and do to get into an institution of higher learning. Because their parent certainly didn't know and the poor, usually inner city public school wasn't (or more likely couldn't) offer the resources needed because of minimal funding.
That type of student is an exception. Not the rule. 

So it is not just because your family is poor. It is because your family isn't educated enough to help you. You the student, on the other hand, have always had the power to break the cycle.

Let's take a look at how schools are funded:

In a simplistic nutshell-
School districts' money is spread evenly across their schools...and by evenly I mean the calculation used (based on attendance (not enrollment) and teacher load) is the same for all schools within a district. The initial funding comes from property taxes. 

Some schools/districts qualify for state and federal funding like Title I.
Many times, if a school is in need of specialists like a gang intervention spec or a homeless expert or language coordinator, the school doesn't get extra money for them. The school must find the salaries for the extra positions from their existing allotment of funding. Poor schools, like people, tend to get poorer as time goes on, and then attendance drops so the funding drops. Lower school funding means students are not getting a quality education because of classroom overcrowding, deteriorating buildings, less supplies and resources, and many more resulting factors.
Let's not forget that the federal government is tying test scores to funding. As you can imagine, this is a disaster of epic proportions playing out in slow motion. 

You can now see how schools being funded by property taxes is another big failure. Rich districts have higher property taxes so school funding is higher.  Poorer districts have lower property taxes, so the base funding starts out much lower than its higher-tax counterparts.

Because I am an economics major, let me explain it this way-
In economic terms all the problems together form what is known as 'Economies of Scale' in the public education system. In microeconomics terms, Economies of Scale are the cost advantages that businesses obtain due to size, output, and scale of operations with cost per unit of output generally decreasing with the increasing scale (since fixed costs are spread out over more units of output).

Got that?
In layman's terms- the bigger the operation, the less it costs per unit.
Now think of the school system the same way....larger, richer schools can do more for less cost than a poor, or inner city school can. The product produced is an educated child. 

Over time, this process increases the educated rich and uneducated poor alike, which increases the gap between the two while the middle class is slowly dissolved.

Would increasing the funding for poorer schools have an effect on the number of poor students attending school and obtaining a higher education degree? Possibly. In the short run it could lead to more students attending school. In the long run it could increase the number of students attending college and eventually moving to the upper class category (because in reality how many poor kids go back to their poor neighborhood to live once making it big?).
If this falls true, then the upper class increases as does the divide between the upper and lower classes. There's just more people now in the upper class than lower class.
And if we continue on this track, eventually the lower class (poor) would be eliminated- which sounds like a good thing, doesn't it?
But if the truly poor are eliminated, does that mean there are no more class distinctions?

I doubt it. Because you still have the distinctions on the amount of money individuals earn. Is Bill Gates the same as Micky Arison?
Now you're wondering who Micky Arison is, right?
Both Bill and Micky are billionaires. So why have you heard of one and not the other? 

Because they are not equal, not even in the world of the rich.
Gates, as you know, runs Microsoft and practically every computer in the world has one program or another of his on it.
Micky Arison on the other hand- the best he can do is sell you a trip to the Bahamas or Alaska. Arison is the CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines. 

Gates is worth just shy of $80 billion- a stark contrast to Arison who is worth right around $6 billion.
This difference is the equivalent of living in the North Shore of Chicago or living in Cicero.

While I fully support educating all students equally so they have the same resources, class-size and activities available (and yes, this means that funding is unequally distributed to be higher in some places and lower in others)- adequate funding alone will not correct the bigger problem.

What exactly is the bigger problem?
The bigger problem is that virtue and honor and hard work are no longer desired. As a people, we have divorced knowledge from experience- devaluing the kind of knowledge that comes from hands-on experience and instead substituting classroom lectures by an individual who likewise has no practical experience because he was also taught by a lecturer with no practical experience. 'Upward mobility' and 'social mobility' are the catchphrases of most social programs. 
The American Dream was the idea that everyone has the opportunity for prosperity. Anyone could own a house, start a business, and be a leader in their community. Making laws that directly affect him or herself and the citizens of the community in which they live. However, no longer are communities self-governed within a self-governing state. Instead, a large and imposing centralized government is at the helm making decisions that affect communities in which the rulers do not even live or are connected.

Because of this centralized government, the individuals who do rise to the top become the new ruling class, the elite. They now make the rules that govern your livelihood. And they want to stay there, so they keep the status quo in their favor.

No, what America needs is a return to a more localized form of government. (Big government has a place, but it should not be allowed to overstep its bounds like they do now.)
A focus on all students being educated equally. Male, female, rich, poor, black, white. Doesn't matter.
Hard work and practical application trumps higher learning ( except those in the medical profession- I would really like my doc to have gone to medical school!).
A limit on the number of years an individual can serve in public service positions (total, not each position). Public service was never meant as a career, but a duty you served then went back to your own life.
Eliminate lobbyists.
Eliminate corporation or business donations to political parties and groups.
This all is just a start. There are more things that could be done (or undone) to help- the list is mighty long.

America needs their original American Dream back, without the convoluted cloud of centralized government bureaucracy and ruling elite.
But first, we must raise individuals that believe that life is valuable and that virtue, honor and hard-work are important and worthy characteristics to have.
Then we must convince the new ruling elite to change the status quo for the benefit of future generations, and to vote themselves out of office.

(You can stop laughing now.)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

I started thinking that there must be an easier and quicker way to shred chicken then using two forks and 30 minutes of my time.
Tada! There is!
I saw this somewhere else...and I wish I give credit to whom thought of it, but I cannot remember.
So- here's my cheesy little video.
BTW- I cut each breast half in half, and I did a total of three breast halves. Less than a minute. Done!

Friday, May 23, 2014

I had a 50' garden hose that didn't fit in my little garden hose reel bucket thingy (that's the technical term). So I thought about throwing the hose away, being as space is at a premium where I live.
Then I thought, why would I throw out a perfectly good hose? Why not cut it up instead?
So I did.

I managed to get about seven (7) fairly good and equal lengths of hose out of that one 50'er.
Then I went to the dollar store and started buying little garden accessories like seed packets, plastic trowels, takes, etc. I purchased raffia from the craft store, and I already had e6000 and hot glue. I was good to go.

So this is what I had to work with:
Only one piece of the hose is showing. Ever try getting seven pieces of cut up hose in one photo?

It's prettier in person. My concrete basement wall does not do it justice. Nor does my crappy iphone camera.

Close up of a bird in the hand

I used the rake as the hanger

is worth two in the....trowel?
bouncy butterfly

Flake flowers, and real seeds

 And that's it. That's all I did. I circled the hose, e6000 it together, with hot glue as the quick clue holding it in place until the e6000 dried. Then I placed the various pieces of decor around until I thought it looked good, then did the same thing, e6000 in place, hot glue for quick stick.
That's it. It's that quick and that easy. I think I had the hardest time cutting the hose. Those suckers are thick!

Well, good luck with your garden hose craft project!