Oh how I love family traditions! Especially ones that taste good, (and may or may not raise your blood pressure, but let’s not dwell on that.)
Over the past couple of months THIS has become a weekend family tradition for us.
Every Saturday morning I see Brenden dragging this thing from the utility room (he wishes he had a garage) setting it up, pouring the pellets in, and setting the thermometer to connect to his iPhone.
(Who knew smoking meat could be such a nerdy/techy activity?? Maybe Brenden just finds a way to make everything nerdy/techy? Either way, he loves it.)
Last weekend we ran around doing our normal weekend stuff while this baby (we need to name her) did some pretty awesome smoking for us. Whenever the smoker is ON I go through the fridge: “Can you smoke this? How about THIS??” And I pull out random stuff and bring it to the fire.
Brenden has smoked tomatoes, hot dogs, chicken wings, bacon, pork roast, ribs, (yummmmm, my favorite) and whole chickens:
He used a method called “Spatchcock” (not kidding) to flatten it out. This way it’s able to cook evenly and smoke to perfection!
And then there’s bacon makin’! I don’t know how to articulate how much this family loves bacon. Maybe just by saying, “one day it will probably kill us.” Because it probably will. We eat bacon every morning, then sometimes pork again of some variety by the end of the day. (Hands over face.)
No one really knows the health ramifications of bacon, but that aside, everything in moderation is a good rule… right? Well moderation is certainly not something we’re practicing over here currently. So… if we are going to eat it, it might as well be delicious. Deeeeelicious.
So at the beginning of Brenden’s bacon making there was some trial and error. We went through a few pork bellies before we cut into it and were like “mmmm yeah, perfect salt to sugar ratio.”
Brenden first started off using brown sugar, and now he uses white sugar. The white sugar actually dissolves and absorbs into the meat as opposed to the brown sugar which seems to fall off right after you rub it on.
So the method he has adopted is this:
Go to whole foods and buy 3 lbs pork belly.
Mix: 1/3 salt, 1/3 cup white sugar, 2 tsp curing salt.
The curing salt is pink. I’m only telling you this because I am a stickler for safety, but this could be LETHAL if ingested in huge amounts. Meaning, if Michael or Brielle decided they for some reason wanted to eat an entire box of this, they would become very very ill. We keep it super high up and out of reach, and I doubt very seriously any human would want to eat that much pink salt anyway, but it’s worth mentioning! Good, off my chest.
Here it is: The ingredients, if you care: Salt, Sodium Nitrate, and pink food coloring.
Mix mix mix and pat onto the pork belly. Okay, this is a picture from when he used BROWN sugar, picture it white. He cut the meat into two sections and made one a little spicy with some Sriracha. Yes please.
Just squeeze it on, (no measuring needed) and pat the sugar/salt mixture on after all the sauce is rubbed in.
Then place the meat in a bag and seal it closed. It will stay in the fridge for a week. He flips it once a day (for some reason) and sometimes I flip it too because I think maybe he forgot that day, so when we both flip it, it ends up NOT being flipped at all! Perfect example of too many cooks in the kitchen.
After about a week he pulls it out, and now it’s ready to smoke. The thermostat talks to his phone so he knows when everything is done without any hassle.
After it’s done he lets it rest and then slices it, and we fry up some regardless of what time it is, because it needs to be tasted immediately! It’s just too good to wait.
My tan lines are fading fast, time to relive our vacation via a blog post! The first few days home were an adjustment to say the least. Whew! Seriously, peeing alone for four days and not having to mediate one sibling fight… that kind of freedom is hard to recover from. 😀
We stayed at the Casa Marina Waldorf Astoria Resort and I have to say, it was exceptional. I also have to say that we paid for it with our Hilton points! If we had to fork out actual dollars instead of hotel points we would have opted for a different hotel. This is a huge perk to Brenden’s hobby of making sure we have credit cards that give us the most return for our purchases.
We use the AMEX blue on groceries and get cash back on that until it caps out at the max allowed for the year and then we switch to the Hilton card where we get hotel points for every dollar we spend for the remaining of the year. The most bang for our buck comes from the blue card in the form of cash back so once that reaches its max amount allowed it’s pretty nice to have hotel points racking up on our Hilton card for the rest of the year.
It’s funny to see him geek out on all these details, but it turns out it really does make a difference and I’m so glad he spends time optimizing in this area! I can’t remember the last time we actually paid for a hotel room.
I did’t get any full front pics of the resort but it was beautiful.
Roosters and chickens strolled around like guests at the resort, which was so funny. Everywhere we went we heard clucking and crowing, and they seemed to be monogamous (or maybe that’s just me being a romantic?) Whenever I saw a beautiful rooster I would see a significantly less beautiful chicken with him, palling around enjoying their day together. They spent a lot of time scratching in the soil under the shrubs by the pool, digging up bugs for the chicks trailing behind them. They were all over the city too! The first night we went to Mallory Square to watch the beautiful sunset and experience the Sunset Celebration. It was beautiful! Then we walked a few feet away to the Hot Tin Roof for dinner.
The Yucka fries are what stands out the most in my memory. They were ammmmazing and served with a pesto dipping sauce which sounds weird but it was just so good. We also had the PEI mussels with grilled ciabatta, pork empanadas, crab cakes (which we found out had dairy in them so I didn’t eat any sadly) and I had the most refreshing delicious New Zealand Sauvignon blanc. The menus lit up!! Back-lit, people. Which made for a very cool ambiance as you looked around the restaurant.
The Hot Tin Roof is famous for its views and it did not disappoint! The post-sunset sky was stunning. After dinner we went down to the dock to see a Sublime cover band. Apparently they always have a big live entertainment event for the spring break crowd during this time of year. Let me tell you, we felt ollllld in that group. Happy but old!
Thursday morning we took a two hour jet ski tour around Key West. I was the one who wanted to do it! I was giddy and excited! I pictured us puttering around, maybe occasionally accelerating just to get a rush.. but no no no. This was sooo different.
We were FLYING full speed ahead. I reached 50 mph, not because I wanted to but because I had to speed to keep up with the rest of the tour! We were hitting huge wakes and I thought for sure I was going to flip my jet ski or fly off.
It seemed like everyone else was having a blast but I really and truly didn’t like it AT ALL. The only real moment I enjoyed was when we slowed down and got to play in the Gulf of Mexico where it was shallow and calm and I could see the bottom. (That’s where I got this picture of Brenden. When I was stress-free enough to pull my phone out of its waterproof case.) We did fun circles and got to play around instead of flying through the choppy water 50 mph. Seriously, no thank you.
Okay, enough about the darn jet skis.
One of our favorite places was Grand Vin. It’s a sweet place right off Duval street where you can buy a bottle of wine and sit outside, enjoy a glass and they will put your name on it and you can come back and enjoy the rest later! We had a bottle of wine there all week. It was a unique/fun feeling to go back to Grand Vin for “our” bottle of wine. 🙂 Next we had dinner at Nine One Five. I think this was my favorite restaurant of the trip. Click here to see the fans blowing the flowers above the tables. This was the exact view from our table and it was incredible! The ambiance, the beautiful smells, the food, the colors. It was just too wonderful. The address is 915 Duval Street, hence the name.
For a starter we had calamari and bacon wrapped asparagus. Called ‘Addictive Asparagus’ on the menu for a reason!
Brenden had the Seafood Soup which he said was delicious but I couldn’t taste it because it had cream in it. I had Pasta with Shrimp in a wine sauce. The pasta was made in house and it was to.die.for. The noodles literally melted in my mouth and tasted like no pasta I’ve had before. The next morning was Friday and I remember thinking, we still have three full days!! It was incredible to have that much time with my man in full relaxation mode. No responsibilities and not a care in the world. We never travel without the kids so having this much time together alone was just bliss.
I had so many naps… I told Brenden I didn’t know I was that tired and he said napping is my super power. I can nap on command, even if I’ve already napped twice that day, and it doesn’t even ruin my sleep that night. Yes, I’m proud of my cat-napping ability. It serves me well. 🙂
We heard we HAD to go to Latitudes Restauraunt. It’s on Sunset Key, a short ferry ride over Key West harbor. They were booked for dinner until May! Which was a good thing, considering I can’t imagine spending the $$$ to eat dinner there. Some locals joked that we should bring three wallets. So yeah, no thank you. We decided to go over for lunch, and it was delicious.
We had stone crabs caught that day.
I ordered a blackened fish sandwich and fries… I wish I had some of those fries right now!
Brenden had a fish and risotto dish. He said it was good but I couldn’t taste it because of the cream. All in all the food wasn’t anything to write home about. It was just some yummy fresh seafood. But the sights, the ferry over, the panoramic gulf views. The warm wind and scents from the flowers and trees. The atmosphere. All of that combined is why it’s worth raving about.
After lunch we took a walk around the Island. Sunset Key is a private island with adorable little houses and sweet picket fences with colorful flowers draping over every-which-way. We walked the entire island in about twenty minutes and loved the quiet atmosphere. No cars, just the occasional gulf cart. Peace and serenity.
The white sandy beach where we sat for lunch is apparently where those blissful Corona commercials are filmed! Makes total sense:
We took our time heading back and before we knew it, it was dinner-time. We got a recommendation from some locals for dinner:
I was seriously excited for some Cuban food!! Bring on the rice and beans! It was authentic, amazing, and just a taste of Cuba for real.
I got grilled chicken with black beans and rice and it came smothered with sweet plantains. Realllllly good. The portion of chicken could have fed a family of four which kind of turned me off considering I saw these birds in live action clucking around all day with their cute little chicks behind them. It’s okay… I value lean protein for fuel too much to be phased by this for long. So I enjoyed every bite.
Meanwhile Brenden had the slow roasted pork and was right in his element. There was a hot sauce on the table that was almost gone when we left. It was delicious, all of it!
One of my favorite discoveries on this trip was the watermelon juice. I found it at the hotel breakfast buffet and I was determined to recreate it for the kids as soon as I got home.
I would drink two glasses with breakfast and then take some to the pool with me for later. My version of it at home was not quite as good, sadly!
It was surreal spending so much time together with no distractions and no responsibilities. Wow. At home a two hour date night is a treat!! Here we had a date night every night… and all day. I mean, come on. Mom-life culture shock much?
The last night we decided to go to Sunset Pier to just see if they could accommodate us. We didn’t have a reservation and it worked out perfectly. We got a table right on the water and got to see the boats and the insane sunset.
We started dinner with some conch fritters. Mostly because I was curious!
They were okay. Kind of a weird texture… I detected some stringy-ness every now and then.
But my dinner was two-thumbs up. I mean three if I had three. I am a sucker for ribs. Ribs and coleslaw and street corn?? BRING IT ON.
Brenden got steak skewers and raved about his too.
We were so happy. And this was our view.
The next morning was Sunday, time to go home. We woke up in time for the sunrise for once! So glad we did. Four days was my limit. I loved every single moment of independent bliss but by night four I wanted to SWIM home to see my babies. I missed their little faces and non-stop noises and fighting and their very persons. I MISSED THEM.
That is what makes a vacation without kids so amazing…. there is such a contrast from vacation to mom life!
Sunday morning we went to Banana Cafe before taking the taxi to the airport. The herb and potato omelette hit the spot. I am so grateful to our incredible moms (and company!) who made the kid’s time so healthy and happy. They felt like they had a vacation too, I could tell when I got home! They were so full of love and joy and security. It was such a gift, to be able to relax with each other knowing our babies were happy and well cared for.
Five??? Come on, how is that even possible? It feels like just yesterday I put a number “5” on her dress representing five months.
I’m putting all this down now because if I don’t it will never happen. I always wait too long and then it just falls off my radar, all the pictures drifting farther and father back in my iPhone album.
This post can’t possibly do justice to what is going on in my heart right now… my little girl is growing into a beautiful young woman right before my eyes… so I won’t even try. Instead I’ll just write what happened this weekend so I never forget it.
Friday morning before preschool Grandmommy Erkel surprised us with a birthday cake! We sat around and sang happy birthday and had coconut cream cake for breakfast!
We were driving to preschool and Brielle was already saying “best birthday weekend ever!” It’s not hard to win her little heart. 🙂
We made Funfetti cupcakes with sprinkles for her preschool celebration. They love to help in the kitchen… It’s always messy but always fun.
Brenden and I went to her classroom to read two of her favorite books: Why Should I Help? and How to Pick a Pup. The kids in the class were SO CUTE sitting around interacting with us and talking about the books. She has such sweet little friends! Michael loved to be there too. He sat on the floor and basically made a huge commotion while we read.
Then we went to Red Lobster for her birthday dinner on Friday night. Don’t ask me WHY she wanted to go to Red Lobster. We don’t ever go there as a family… and I hate that they keep live lobsters in a tank until they kill them! But she wanted to go so we did. They had Shirley temples and picked at their rice and shrimp. It wasn’t a huge hit other than the cake and liquid sugar with cherries in it. 😀
(Brielle is showing off the bracelet her daddy gave her.) We had her birthday party at Classics Gymnastics and it was a blast!! Her favorite activity during the week is her gymnastics class and she LOVED to share it with her friends.
It was so much fun having all her girlfriends there to celebrate with us! The kids had rosy cheeks after running around and doing obstacle courses and different activities with the awesome leaders. The favorite was the foam pit and the monstrosity of a bouncy house!
I made myself a promise that next year we will keep it simple and have a small family party. I loved this big to-do but there’s something so valuable about keeping it simple too. I don’t remember having these kinds of birthday celebrations as a kid, I mean, the presents alone…. It will take a month to open all of them!!
This morning when she was eating her birthday chocolate chip pancakes before church she said: “So am I a ‘plain five?’ I want to be an older five like five and a quarter or five and a nickel.” Brenden and I died. These kids seriously never cease to amaze us.
This “I want to be older” mentality was very welcome after Friday when she cried all day because she didn’t want to turn five. Her concerns were: “Is it hard to turn five? How will I know how to do it? Will I still fit in my clothes? I don’t want to get any bigger. Will I still look like me?”
Some of her questions made me laugh and hug her, others made me want to cry with her. Like when she said “I don’t want to get big like Aunt Lizzy. Can’t I always stay small like I am right now?” Sob. I mean, these are my thoughts too… coming from her makes them even more real and painful.
Then we had a long talk and looked at her Peppa Pig calendar. We looked at the day before her birthday and the day after her birthday. I told her she would be the exact same size before and after her birthday… she would just have a different number.
This morning she opened her presents from us and her favorite, (surprise surprise) was her makeup kit and nail polish. Michael and I already got our makeovers!
Brenden smoked ribs all day and we had a family dinner tonight. We went to another dear friend’s party, (yay for drop off parties! It is how I was able to write this post!!) And then Michael gave Brielle his gift to her: A beautiful orchid. (Thank you Daddy!) Their relationship is a treasure to my soul. She went to sleep so so happy. So full of love and hugs and joy. And her favorite new doll!
She will be my baby forever. I love you so much Gabrielle Elise Grace.
Day 5 of my sugar cleanse! Here are some tricks I’ve been doing to not keel over and die:
1) Water water and then some more water.
2) When I feel “off” or have an intense craving I eat a spoonful of organic coconut oil. Immediately I feel better; and a sort of buzzing energy in my brain. That stuff is incredible.
3) I drink bone broth throughout the day. I need to master making this on my own (aka mine tastes like crap) but in the meantime I’m drinking organic drinking bone broth from Whole Foods.
4) I eat lots of nuts and sardines and I have avocados in my purse that I eat with a spoon. You don’t even need to peel them, just dig in and scoop out the goodness! Healthy snacks on hand is a must. I’ve avoided many a sugar catastrophe thanks to my stash of weird food. 😀
5) I’m being kinder to myself physically. I haven’t done kettle bells since I started my fast. I do a medium intensity step class and it requires the perfect amount of energy. I seem to get more winded and my muscles tire easier, but my mind is firing like never before. I am remembering things better, being more productive, and I feel like I can prioritize and plan more effectively. The fog is gone. It feels good!
6) I drink ‘Amazing Grass’ Green SuperFood. I didn’t know what that was until about a week ago when I heard some friends talking about it. I got it at Whole Foods and it’s kind of disgusting… But I mix it with lemon-lime seltzer water and suddenly it’s not half bad! And it’s loaded with everything good for me. Loaded I tell you.
I drink my green drink and an entire cup of water (in addition to the seltzer water with green powder) before I have my coffee with almond milk in the morning. I make myself work for it, and my body thanks me! By 6AM I am hydrated and full of antioxidants and nutrients.
Getting a good start to the day in this way makes it harder to mess up later. When I get started on the right foot I want to stay on the right foot!
7) I’ve been drinking smoothies. My new favorite smoothie is:
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 tbs ground flax seeds
1 tbs ground chia seeds
2 tbs almond butter
Splash of almond milk (I’ve never measured it.)
Splash of vanilla extract
Huge scoop of coconut oil.
(I blend it without the coconut oil first and share some with Brielle and Michael then I add the coconut oil and reblend for me. Reason: Brielle doesn’t want “hair cream!!!” In her smoothie. I use coconut oil for Michael’s dry scalp so she assumes I cook/make smoothies with hair cream. And I eat it right out of the jar sometimes too. Her eyes just go wide. Poor girl.) 😂😅
8) I just don’t keep sugar in the house. If I leave it out of sight it seems to be out of mind, and I am able to avoid “decision fatigue,” which is a real thing!
9) I’m aware that I’m detoxing. When I have a bad attitude or frustrated moment I remind myself: you are giving up sugar. One of the most addictive and dangerous substances of our time. Take a break. Breathe. Be kind to yourself and slow down. Then I eat about 20 baby carrots.
10) I’m avoiding all grains as well, flour, pasta, bread, etc. which requires more will-power but I think ultimately helps me cut sugar cravings much more quickly. I’m not having blood sugar spikes and crashes all day, leading to more cravings. It can become a vicious cycle!
When I reach ten days sugar free I want to create and cultivate a healthy and different relationship with sugar than I’ve had in the past. This body and mind needs clean burning fuel and energy without all the harmful effects of sugar! Can I get an amen???
This post is long overdue! I’ve been making this chicken at least twice a month and I’m excited to finally have the recipe on my blog.
Why I love it so much:
1) It’s affordable. I usually have the spices on hand anyway, so all I have to do is buy a big pack of chicken and I’m done ingredient-wise.
2) It’s delicious and interesting and not your normal boring chicken dish… Huge plus!
3) It’s easy. Throw some spices and meat into a slow cooker and you are done!
Chicken (I use this from Trader Joes – bone in/skin on.)
The spice mixture:
4 teaspoons of salt
4 teaspoons of paprika
1 teaspoons of cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons of onion powder
2 teaspoons of thyme
2 teaspoons of white pepper
2 teaspoons of garlic powder Rinse the chicken with cold water
Get all that beautiful spice under the skin and all over the meat. (gag.)
Place it into the slow cooker on low, no liquid needed, for 5-6 hours.
That is literally it.
I serve it up with cornbread and green beans.
The evolution of my cornbread:
1. Always a slightly unhelpful helper to help mix the batter. 😀
2. Butter into a cast iron skillet, and into the oven for a few minutes to melt the butter and get the skillet hot.
3. Batter into the hot pan. Don’t forget to use mitts when you put it back in the oven!
4. It comes out with buttery golden edges and reminds me of my childhood. The beans are from Trader Joes, just a bag of fresh green beans. I toss them with olive oil and minced garlic (from a jar!) and roast them at 400 for about 20 minutes. They are really just so good cooked this way.
That’s it! Comfort paleo food at its finest. Okay, the corn bread wasn’t paleo, but it was worth it! Hope you try it.
There’s something so beautiful and personal about a family dynamic, whether it be big or small. Here are some reasons, (7 to be exact) we are a family of “only” two kids.
1) Two is a lot. Sure, three is more than two, and four is more than three, and five is more than four. But two is still a lot. One is even a lot. We are talking about human beings here. Humans, who for the rest of our lives will be intimately connected with us and involved with us. Read: Effort and selfless work. And joy and fun and laughter, yes, but effort and selfless work nonetheless. Just because some families have ten kids doesn’t take anything away from the fact that two is still a lot.
2) It’s okay to want two. I remember telling my therapist a while ago that I didn’t feel called to have a big family and I felt a lot of guilt about it, like I should want more kids. I mean, wasn’t that the “godly” thing? Shouldn’t I be selfless and sacrificial in this area to the extreme?
Women all around me were having more kids and it was difficult not to compare myself to them. Why could they handle more than me? Why did they want more responsibility than me? Was it a deep and telling deficiency that I had? Did it mean I had less love to give? So many questions and insecurities pop up when we compare ourselves to others. We are not everyone else! I am me and they are them. God made us different for a reason. I’m embracing the crap out of that.
3) Children are a lot of work. My parents had three more babies after I was in my teens so I spent a lot of time with amazing/hyper/sweet little kids all around me. Even being intimately involved in that beautiful chaos didn’t prepare me for the emotional, spiritual, and physical work that goes into each one when they are your own.
4) I know my limitations. I want to be of actual use to my community, my family, and my world. I want to have the capacity to foster children in the future or be children’s advocate in court (CASA) or maybe even adopt? I know if I continue to grow our family from my own body I will be tied up with little time and energy for anything else. I want to create time and space in my life to be available and capable.
5) I’m thinking about my marriage. Yes, having another child would mean more richness when they are older and even more grandkids for us to enjoy later (yay!!) but it also would mean more stress on our marriage overall. (See #3.)
It’s no secret that babies add stress to a marriage. The lack of sleep, the hormones raging and dipping, the fear of my baby suddenly just ceasing to exist. (Why do they have to be so fragile for the first few months??) And then there’s pregnancy…. I’m a tyrant when I’m pregnant, and that’s being gracious.
There’s something so sweet about having the time and energy for my husband that I simply wouldn’t have the luxury of if we added numbers to our crew. It would be there, under the surface, dormant and waiting to come out at some future time when things were calmer and the baby was older, but it would be pushed to the back burner. I feel like we have arrived in this area and it feels good.
6) Age is definintly a factor when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth. I know I don’t take the term “advanced maternal age” lightly. (Geez, could they come up with a more flattering name for women having babies in their late thirties?? How about “overly-ambitious” or “glutton for punishment”?)
7) Labor: I just can’t leave out the obvious… I don’t want to go through labor again. I chose to do it all natural, twice. And both times were the most intense, incredible, empowering experiences of my life. And I have no desire to do it ever again! There are babies who are already on this earth who need someone to love and care for them. That can be meeee!
I’d love to hear your story!
(Pictured: Michael and Brielle, ages two and four. Michael had a microscopic boo boo and was getting sissy’s sympathy.)
Apparently fat really doesn’t make us fat after all?? Sugar does? Says this guy.
He’s adopted a keto diet over the past year and most of his calories come from fat. And somehow he isn’t blowing up… (This picture makes me so happy. Rhode Island in summer!)
I love to cook chicken because it’s economical and I really enjoy eating it. But Brenden doesn’t like it much. Something about it not being “fatty” enough?
Well the other day I had a whole chicken sitting in the fridge and I knew if I roasted it and served it up for dinner I would get some “thank you”s but not a lot of “wow this is good”s. And sometime a girl just needs a “WOW”.
So I decided to wrap it in bacon. The best part of the experience was the kid’s reaction.
They were pretty amazed at the process:
“I’m not going to taste that. That looks gross.”
“Are you putting those carrots in its bottom?”
“Is it dead??”
They touched everything and loved it. And somehow we managed to not contract a foodborne illness.
Next time I will use twice as much bacon. I didn’t realize it would shrink so much!
I used a recipe from The Cookie Writer for a delicious maple syrup herb butter. I poured 1/2 cup beef stock into the bottom of a baking dish. stuffed the bird with chopped carrots (I cooked them again outside of the bird before we ate them) and doused the bird with the herb butter before we wrapped it.
The butter recipe:
1 tbsp.fresh rosemary, chopped (I used dry)
1 tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped (I used dry)
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 tbsp. maple syrup
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper
The kids loved to mix mix mix and spread spread spread.
Then we wrapped it with bacon and baked it at 375 for an hour and 10 minutes. I turned it to broil and cooked it another 5 minutes to get the bacon extra crispy.
To salvage all the delicious bacon fat/chicken drippings I made a delicious out of control gravy to go over all of it. Not like a bacon wrapped chicken doused in butter needs gravy. But why not, right?
The gravy was super easy and rich thanks to the bacon grease!
Butter, drippings, corn starch, salt and pepper. Stir stir stir. It thickened right up.
There’s nothing like gravy with bacon grease in it. Oh my.
And bonus, I used the chicken bones and leftover meat to make a delicious chicken soup later. It was really rich and different thanks to the bacon flavor. Bacon bacon bacon. Sorry, I’ll stop now.
I’ve been trying to write this post for a week now. Life has been crazy with these littles. CraYzee. (I chose this calm picture because it’s the exact opposite of how it’s been around here lately.) 🙂
I’ve been contemplating some big family changes that have my mind spinning on hyper-drive. I hope I’ll start to feel normal again soon? Probably not. I have a feeling I’m about to embark on a journey of weirdness and “non-normalness” like none other. Which has me saying “help” and “I’m excited” simultaneously. But back to the point of this post: FOOD!
I made this amazing Indian inspired dish last week and Brenden and I lovvvved it. I’m meal planning for next week and realized: it’s not on my blog! I love having all my favorites right here so I can meal plan somewhat painlessly. So into my arsenal it goes!
Let me tell you first: If you order Tikka Masala at your favorite Indian restaurant you’ll love this recipe. Like love, love. I found the recipe on ruled.me and made just a couple small changes. This is the first time I’ve made a Keto diet recipe!
The ingredient list:
1 1/2 lbs. Chicken Thighs, bone-in skin-on
1 lb. Chicken Thighs, boneless/skinless
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
2 tsp. Onion Powder
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 inch Ginger Root, grated
3 tbsp. Tomato Paste
5 tsp. Garam Masala
2 tsp. Smoked Paprika
4 tsp. Kosher Salt
10 oz. can Diced Tomatoes
1 cup Heavy Cream (I used full-fat coconut milk)
1 cup Coconut Milk (from the carton)
Fresh Cilantro, chopped (to top)
1 tsp. Guar Gum (I used almond flour)
I had no idea why they called for one pound of skin on bone in thighs AND one pound of boneless skinless thighs. It didn’t make sense until I saw it all come together. The boneless skinless thighs provide a lot of extra meat and the bone in thighs provide the skin that melts into delicious flavor and fat during the long cooking process.
It was a labor of love though, considering I dislike (okay, hate) dealing with raw poultry. I had to cut cut cut into skin and bone. And if a vegetarian is reading this I’m sure they are like WHAT…?? Yeah, it’s pretty gross when you think about it. Which I try not to do.
I cut all the chicken into little bite sized pieces. I used kitchen shears for the bone in skin on pieces. Which made things easier, but also potentially more dangerous. My hands were freeeeezing and I could have just taken a finger off without noticing much. So I used a different technique to cut the meat. I didn’t cut the meat like I would cut paper. Instead I held the scissors vertically, point to the cutting board, and sliced downwards. Again, labor of love! But the end result was worth the time. I had delicious Tikka Masala leftovers for lunch for a week!
After the meat was all cut up I put it in the slow cooker and grated a knob of ginger over the top. Next I added the spices.
Talk about fragrant! This is what Indian food is made of. (And I did not buy the salt-free blend on purpose! But I made up for it in pink Himalayan salt, don’t worry.) 😀 Next I added this stuff. I mixed well and closed the top of the slow-cooker.
I turned it on low for 6 hours. (You can also cook on high for three hours but there is something about the low/slow heat that works magic on skin-on chicken thighs.)
After it was done I added some more coconut milk instead of the heavy cream (the cream at the top of the can this time) and left out the Guar Gum and used almond flour as a thickening agent instead.
Michael and I made cauliflower rice to go with it.
He’s wearing a pair of swim trunks his friend Waltie just gave him. He lovvvvves swim trunks. And wearing them while cooking in January?? Why not.
The end result is so worth the time and effort and I can’t wait to taste it again!
Watching Brielle deal with her Great Grandmommy’s death has been fascinating and painful. I’ll be be buckling her in her carseat and she’ll say, “Mommy when is great grandmommy coming back from heaven?” And I gather my resolve to answer yet another question. Because this one holds weight and consequence, un-like the previous five-hundred questions that morning. Well, except for this one:
“Is God shy?” No sweetie, He’s all powerful and mighty! “Well is He invisible then?” No sweetie, (well, sort of?)
“Well, why isn’t He HERRRE then??”
But the Great Grandmommy question… She’s asked it before. And every time my heart breaks when I tell her, she isn’t coming back, we are going to see her… And she is so much happier where she is, with great-granddaddy… And Jesus… And will be even happier when she sees us!
Then with her 4.75 year old wisdom, Brielle continues…
“But mommy, it will take forever to see great-grandmommy then. I have to have white hair to get to heaven. And I still have to be a kid. And then I have to be a parent. And I’ll miss her so much until I’m old.”
And it cracks my heart in half and takes my emotions to a new heightened level that I didn’t know existed.
What do I say now? The words choke in my throat. They feel so unnatural as I speak them to her huge eyes staring back at me. I say some things out loud and I think some things internally, not even sure what I should say at all:
Just be happy and live your life and savor the memories of your great-grandmommy. Your heart will grow to feel this less and less as the days pass. Your life will take on so much adventure and excitement that it will pass by in a blink. And… Not everyone goes to heaven when they are old and grey. Some people go to heaven when they are young and half-way.
That is the realization that caught in my chest last night as I lay in bed after a delicious day of loving on my babies. I’ve never feared death before. Well, I’ve feared getting caught in an elevator and flying on planes but I’m not sure I’ve ever thought the concept of “death” was as terrifying as the thought of being stuck in a metal box slash tube.
But last night I feared death. Hard-core and completely. Dark thoughts and crying. Because I wasn’t just fearing it for myself. I was fearing it for the little love of my life, who if I let my mind wander, would be sitting in her carseat asking whoever was buckling her in: “When is mommy coming back from heaven?”
The mind is a dark scary place. It is also a bright joyful place. I can choose to think thoughts that are life-giving or think thoughts that are depleting and paralyzing.
Last night I chose to watch the shows in my mind that were soul-sucking and depleting. And I couldn’t find the remote control to turn the channel. I remember doing this as a child too. Laying in bed, crying because my mom might die and leave me. Now I’m crying because I might die and leave my daughter. And I imagine her dealing with it. And it’s not hard to imagine, because I see how she’s processing her great-grandmommy’s death, and I add a trillion percent. And my soul and spirit and mind and heart get so spun up and out of control that I am shipwrecked on a dark shore.
Brenden lay next to me and told me “This isn’t healthy. You aren’t going to die. You are thinking the worst thought you can, and making it a reality in your mind.” Funny thing about anxiety, it’s not logical. So I keep crying.
I wish I had a recorder going for seventy-percent of our conversations. I would replay them over and over and write them down and keep them forever. Last night was one of those times and I can never do what he said justice. His words were balm to my soul. They calmed my spirit and I was able to sleep, the feeling of not being there for my baby in her darkest hour of need, gone.
If I allow anxiety into this area of my life it can and will lead down a destructive path. It will fester and breed, taking on new form and new depth. Anxiety is anxiety, no matter the flavor or category. This kind of anxiety is not somehow more honorable or courageous because I’m thinking about my daughter and her well-being. No, it’s still sin. Christ wants us to look forward in Hope, not dread and fear.
And only God is in ultimate control.
The pilot of the plane we will be boarding for Key West in March is not in ultimate control.
The driver heading toward me in the opposite direction going 60 miles an hour is not in ultimate control.
The doctors who care for me and try to keep my healthy are not in ultimate control.
I am not in ultimate control.
Control is a myth. No matter what I do to try to gain and maintain it, it is not attainable.
Only God is in ultimate control. And He wants me to find Freedom in that. And Trust. And Joy. Christ wants me to look forward in Hope.
This morning I sit here reliving all this. I’m having my coffee and feeling alive and refreshed. I feel a joyful surrender. It’s the kind of surrender that brings life and peace and is not of this world.
And I remember an old hymn that I haven’t thought of in years.
His oath, His covenant, and blood, Support me in the whelming flood. When every earthly prop gives way, He then is all my Hope and Stay. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand, All other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.
I’ve been thinking a lot about school lately. Brielle and all her little friends are slated to start kindergarten this Fall…
I told Brenden last night out of the blue: “I think I might want to try homeschooling.” He looked at me and blinked and said, “But you said, there is no way in hell I am ever homeschooling. Not once, but many many times.”
He’s right. We decided two years ago to send our then 2-year-old to public school when she was ready. We toured schools and then based our home-buying solely (literally solely) on that decision. We would never have chosen this home otherwise. I’m not sure either of us even “like“ this house. Poor house. It’s a split level brick house in a neighborhood where all the other homes look the exact same.
It’s a great neighborhood though. Family-friendly and safe. Deer wander through our backyard which is a great quality depending on if you want to keep plants or not; and we are walking distance to one of the better ranked public schools in the area.
Ever since she was three years old, whenever we drive past the playground I say “There’s your school and your friends!”
But so much for planning. Because now I feel another think coming. I feel equal parts dread and excitement at the thought of home-schooling.
I am no stranger to the feeling of crazy and loneliness and exhaustion that a day as a stay at-home-mom can bring. But I also am no stranger to the feeling of wanting what is absolutely best for my kids. And letting it fuel and guide me…
Brielle thrives at her now-preschool. She has the most perfect little block letters and writes as fast as I talk. “Mommy, how do you spell “Happy New Year.?” I start spelling: “H. A. P. P. Y. Space. N. E. W…” She writes adorable little letters. Usually going in the right direction. (I think writing from left to right occasionally instead of writing from right to left is a “leftie” problem??) Who knows.
And I love my me-time three mornings a week and our schedule. I’m excited about her little neighborhood school and our upcoming adventure there this Fall.
But just yesterday I started to hear a small-voice: “What is best for her.” Yes, she may thrive and do well after a bit of an adjustment with her new schedule and longer school days. But what is over-all best for her? And I find my mind wandering. I find myself reading homeschooling articles and researching curriculums. I find myself feeling equal parts dread and excitement.
Wish me luck. Just like everything in motherhood, there is rarely a decision that we make that is all tied up in bows. Comfort and pros. No matter what we decide there will be a lot of cons too. Such is life. But I am determined to do what is best for her to the best of my ability.