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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Armchair Traveler..Well, Sometimes

At my job, we participated in a "Discovering Your Strengths" workshop from Gallup.  I wasn't surprised to find that my top five were intellection, strategic, empathy, input, and connectedness.  They all feel very accurate to me, but the two that jump out the most are empathy and intellection.  I spent over 15 years in the profession of counseling, a field where empathy is essential. What I did find interesting was intellection.  A collector of ideas.  A collector period.  That is very much a part of who I am, and it is who I have been my whole life.  I've saved boxes of ideas for all kinds of things, but some of my worst obsessions revolve around recipes, travel ideas, and books.  No surprise about the books either, considering that I am currently working as a school librarian.  But you should see the piles of recipes, recipe books, and travel books I've collected.  I've never really understood it until now...and I guess now it makes sense.

I recently purchased three home courses from "Great Courses" and they were "The Old Testament" , "The New Testament", and a wine course.  Along those same lines, I purchased a book about understanding wine and wine pairings.  And to even further the obsession, enrolled in something I find thrilling, which is called "Try the World".  The name grabbed my attention and I had to explore it.  If you haven't heard of it, but you love new experiences, travel, bringing the food and experiences home, and food well..this is for you.  I read about it on the internet, and decided to try it. 

Try the World is a company that provides a box from a particular region or country every other month.  Inside of the beautiful box you find local foods and information about that country, and links to music as well.  This month my box arrived and it was inspired by Morocco. In my box are things like Argan oil, couscous, a couscous sauce that has onions and raisins in it, a traditional Moroccan spice, kefka, and some moroccan cookies.  What fun! What excitement!  

My friend and I decided to start a weekly wine tasting using the course I purchased.  And we decided to cook together.  Now we are also going to cook foods that are from the regions in our "Try the World" box.  We are so excited to start our cultural adventure.  More information will be forthcoming as the weeks progress.  

My goal now is to share our recipes and wine tasting experiences with you.  I am so excited.  I have never traveled to any location where I didn't buy a local cookbook, and now I get to expand even more.  I have cookbooks from England, South Africa, Hawaii, Seattle, Boston, The Czech Republic, Italy, Germany...well you get the idea.  My hope now is to travel to some of these places that we are enjoying through cooking...I wonder when I will get to Morocco?  :-)  

Stay tuned.....

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Celebrate, Celebrate....

Now really, who buckles down and starts focusing on eating healthy ONE WEEK before any holiday?  What was I thinking?  Well, my hope was I'd be able to control myself and I did pretty well, if I do say so myself.  I wasn't perfect on this low carb venture, but I was excellent at planning ahead and even eating out selections (with a few minor focus glitches which you will understand in a minute).  

I tried that Cheeseburger Salad mentioned in my previous post and let me just say, YUMMO!  My husband (who doesn't need to diet and who doesn't appreciate being fed diet food even though I patiently explain lifestyle change versus diet to him) loved it!  It was filling, flavorful, and I felt a little guilty eating it because nothing that good can be low carb, right?  

We spent the weekend at our little cabin in Custer, South Dakota and we ate really well/low carb the whole time, with a few exceptions.  The first was Hill City's fault.  Have you been there?  It is such a cute little town with some really great little restaurants and shops.  We went into a wine shop there in town that has reopened.  I wish I could remember the name, but it has escaped me.  The great thing though, is that they have THE best 25 year old aged balsamic vinegar and garlic olive oil I've ever tasted.  I bought a jar each of this stuff, and then tucked it away at the cabin for next time.   

But I digress.  As we were returning to our vehicle after the purchase, I said to my husband, let's go to the Alpine Inn.  I've always heard they had good food, it is always packed, and for all of our years of wandering around there, we've never eaten at the Alpine Inn  

If you are a fan of the Black Hills, and if you  like traditional German/European food, then this is the place for you!  I highly recommend it.  Great service, great food, and great prices.  The desserts were my downfall, as we had a apple cinnamon Napoleon with ice cream.  That is not low carb folks.  The good news is my husband and I shared it, right?   I can't believe we waited all of these years, and we will definitely be back sometime very soon!!   

The other place that was my downfall was this place:  

It is a small restaurant in Custer called Bitter Esters Brewhouse.  Every time we go, I have to stop in  and order the mussels.  We did that again, and the mussels are amazing, but they are better with the crusty bread served on the side and the Magner's Pear Cider served on tap.  Again, not low carb my friends, but I did it anyway!  

Well, after my confessions about favorite places in the southern Black Hills, you might think I blew my diet altogether.  But the good news is, after a weekend of mostly being good but when I was bad, being really bad, I was actually down..drum roll please.......4.5 pounds for the week! How's that for motivation to get serious about getting healthy!

One could say I am off track, but I am home  again, focused for the week, and packing my lunches.  Breakfast was fruit, lunch was salad, and Chili Rellenos Casserole  for tonights dinner from Shae Pendleton at her blog "Hello Homebody"    I'll report in on the result next time.  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Low Carbing It Up

I think for me, maybe more than anyone I know, food is what I do.  I mean that in a very sincere, non-sarcastic manner.  As the oldest of four children, growing up on a large working ranch in the Sandhills of Nebraska, I started cooking at an early age to help lighten my mother's pretty large load.  Man did she do it all.  Haying, raising sheep, helping take care of the cattle, cook for all of us and any hired help, canning, etc.  She was and still is an amazing lady.  I took an interest in cooking and it didn't take her long to capitalize on that and  have me help with that chore.  Since I liked it, and since I had kind of an aptitude for it, she pretty  much let me make whatever my heart desired (as long as it wasn't too out there and as long as we had the ingredients).

Some of my favorite recipes come from those days, like Chicken Asparagus Stacks or Sweet and Sour Beef Stew Served over Noodles. And since those days, my recipe collection of favorites has expanded into an online cookbook of my own creation called "Every Day Favorites".  One of these days it will go to print, but I am never quite ready it seems.

I learned early on that the way to my husband's heart was through his stomach.  It wasn't a cliche in this case, just the plain truth.  Fortunately for me, he is willing to try almost anything...and be honest about the result.  That of course, encouraged me to cook more, try more, and expand my every day options.  The beauty of it all is we also own a grocery store, so I have access to a pretty large pantry!

When my children came along, I was blessed with not so picky eaters.  That is probably more the result of not catering to their pickiness, because over time, they developed a taste for almost anything I make.  And some things I don't/won't:  like liver and onions.  My daughter's favorite food at age 10 was sushi.  That was and continues to be pretty unbelievable in a land locked central United States state like Nebraska.

So why the title, Low Carbing it Up?  The thing is, I like to cook, but I also like to eat.  Sort of a hazard of the hobby I guess.  I cook pretty healthy as well, most of the time, but you know, after awhile, and with a little age, it sort of catches up to you.  I started low carbing last year and lost about 15 pounds, which was just denting my goal.  Family crisis, in particular my dad's nearly fatal motorcycle accident in July of last summer, derailed me.  He is still recovering, but I have let that circumstance be my excuse to not eat better and stay focused.

So as of this week folks, I am back on the wagon.  I started my week well, and as of today, am going strong.  Have lost 1/2 pound, and hope to loose a lot more by the weekend.  My goals to keep me line:  To continue to cook foods I love and that my family loves, but just low carb it up;  to make sure I use My Fitness Pal to log those foods I eat daily for keeping me honest, to do some loose meal planning weekly so I stay focused,  to make up healthy salads and ahead of time so I have them on hand when I get hungry, to pack my lunches daily for work, to freeze some low carb soups ahead for easy meals when I am in a hurry, and lastly, to figure out an exercise plan, a minimum of three times per week.

Would you like a sneak peak of one of the meals I plan to make this weekend?  Hop on over to the blog Can You Stay for Dinner and check out the cheeseburger salad with big mac dressing.  It is a little high in carbs for one meal, but if you plan to stay around 20 carbs, this would be the big carb meal for the day.  Stick with soup for your other meal, eggs for breakfast, and cheese or pickles or sugar free jello for snacks and you should be good.