Thursday, January 28, 2016

Buffalo Chicken Chowder

After our extra warm December with temperatures in the high 60's, January brought more seasonal weather and along with it my desire for soup/stew/chili, etc.  In the past three weeks I have made three different soups with leftovers that have gone into the freezer providing me with easy lunches.

The most recent soup I made was supposed to be a chili, that I ended up turning into something completely different because as I began to make it I suddenly didn't want the beans or corn.  It is done in the crockpot but I'm sure it could be made on the stovetop.  I made it during the snowstorm and served it with a pan sandwich for dinner.  Mr. Helen, who normally does not eat soup other than if I serve it, actually served this to himself after his karate class on Monday night. Then he named it as I was saying I couldn't figure out how to describe it.  That was enough of an endorsement that I figured I'd share the recipe here!

Buffalo Chicken Chowder
Changed  a lot, from here

1 pound ground chicken
1 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup Frank's Red Hot sauce
1 14 1/2 oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 14 1/2 oz. can white hominy, drained and rinsed
4 cups chicken stock or broth
8 oz. light cream cheese
Blue cheese crumbles (optional)
Hot Sauce
Oyster Crackers

Brown the ground chicken in a non-stick skillet, then transfer to your crockpot.  Add the 1 T olive oil to the skillet then saute the onion, celery, and garlic until soft and slightly browned.  Add that to the crockpot along with all the other ingredients, setting the block of cream cheese on top of it all.

Cook on high for 4 hours or for low on 8.  Stir or whisk to incorporate cream cheese and create a creamy texture. Top with blue cheese crumbles if you like and serve with oyster crackers and extra hot sauce.

Next time I make it, I think I'm going to reduce the stock to 3 cups so it will be a bit thicker.  But it really is good just the way I made it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Nothing New Under the Sun

Back in 2002, Mr. Helen and I began to plan our long awaited "honeymoon."  When we got married in 1992, we paid cash for our very simple wedding as we both had part time jobs that we used to finance it. We also started with 1 full time kid (Little Helen) and 1 summer kid and child support (Little Mr. Helen), each of us had some debt, and honestly we were leaning towards poor.  But love conquers all, right? Well, it conquers everything except how to pay for a honeymoon on top of that other stuff.

So, we spent the next 10 years raising the kids, paying our bills, and making it with little to spare.  In 2001, Little Helen graduated from Duke University and it was one of the proudest days of our lives for sure.  It just felt so good to know that though we had little we had figured out how to help her in every way possible to be successful. (Not to cut her short - she had many, many scholarships and grants.)

After we got her packed and a small U-Haul packed up we started the drive home, leaving her behind to take a traditional Senior trip to Myrtle Beach. On the drive home Mr. Helen stated that now that we had finished that off, we should finally do something for ourselves. Once home we talked it out and decided we would take our honeymoon/10th Anniversary trip to St. Martin.  We had about one year to save for it.  And so it began.

I immediately started researching and of course, we talked at length with his best friend who is from the Island.  We decided on staying at the Grand Case Beach Club.  We were saving as fast as we could but began to worry that we wouldn't be able to afford the trip we really wanted, so we started looking at alternates.  Then, as fate would have it, on September 11th the World Trade Center was taken down by terrorists and the travel industry ground to a halt.

In January, we were hearing that the travel industry was offering some spectacular deals to get people back into airplanes, so I looked again and found us an 8 day/7 night trip with airfare, airport transfers and an ocean front room at the Grand Case Beach Club for $1499.00.  Not each, that price was for both of us!  Needless to say, we booked it and our delayed honeymoon was a few short months away.

Because our dream vacation was now a reality, I started thinking about being on a Caribbean island, in a bathing suit for a lot of the time, and knew I wanted to lose a few pounds to feel better about that situation.  I hadn't done any real "dieting" for about 8 years but decided I would try to follow the Weight Watchers program I had used to lose my quit smoking weight, just doing it on my own.  Within a week, I was feeling so evil and cranky that I decided I had to change something.  The thought came to me that in order to avoid dieting but also maybe lose some weight, I could simply cut my meals in half.  So, eat whatever I wanted, but just eat less.  Basically a form of portion control, right?  So that's what I did.  I started eating about 1/3-1/2 less each meal, except for green vegetables.  But I ate anything and everything, including pizza and dessert.  If I wanted two scoops of ice cream, I would have one.  I tracked nothing and I did not weigh myself.

The other thing I did was set my sights on a size, rather than a number on the scale.  I think I was wearing about a 14 that January and I decided I wanted to be a size 10 for the trip. The first thing I did was order two pairs of shorts in a size 10 (from a department store in Florida).  I had about 5 months and decided I would try those shorts on once a month.

As for exercise, this was pre-runner Helen but I had always been a walker and though I can't remember specifically what I did, I'll assume I was either doing my Reebok step aerobics tape or taking a walk each day. No hard core drastic workouts.

Long story short, it worked.  Five months later, in May, we went on our trip and I was a solid size 10. I felt amazing, and I think I looked pretty good too.  I was able to maintain that until my thyroid malfunctioned in 2005 and ever since then, it's been up down and all around and even strict dieting has not mattered much - or given me permanent results.

Every once in a while I start to feeling not so good - it's not any one thing, just a bunch of miscellaneous aches and pains, nights of no sleep, struggling with exercise, etc. and I start wishing I could figure out what to do to feel, and if I'm honest, to look better.

This weekend I had a lot of thinky time as we waited out the snow storm.  It just so happened I was doing some organizing in the office are and started looking at our St. Martin photos and was reminded of the whole story I just wrote up there.   As I sat and thought, I realized I've had a long time aversion to any sort of dieting.  I really just don't like it and every time I start, I feel resentful and soon quit.  These feelings have been very exasperated by the whole thyroid situation.

Still, as I pondered it all, by Sunday night I had made up my mind that even if nothing changed for me size wise, I need to feel better and so, I have decided to once again cut back, without weighing or tracking myself or food.  No hardcore dieting, just simply eat less.  I'm two days in and I'm hungry. Yet, last night for dinner I had two pieces of homemade pizza and a salad.  I know I'm getting plenty of food and my body is just used to having less food.

Here's hoping that my new old way of doing things will perhaps get me back to a new old way of feeling and looking better.  Now, to see if I still have those size 10 shorts somewhere!

Ecclesiastes 1:9

What has been will be again,
What has been done will be done again;
There is nothing new under the sun

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

7.2 Pounds

The new year started off with a bang in the Helen household - a couple of bangs, actually.  First of all, on new year's eve, I finally got in to see the eye doctor about my left eye which was watering so much I could barely keep makeup on it.

Turns out I'm having an allergic reaction to "something" and by wearing contacts, my eyes are defending themselves by creating bumps under the eyelids.  Huh.  That's why every time I took my contacts out it felt like I had sand in my left eye and my eyes would water constantly.  Turns out both eyes were unhappy, just that the left eye was angrier than the right.  So, steroid drops and no contacts for two weeks.  When I screamed, "TWO WEEKS?!!!"  My (cute, young) eye doctor replied, "I KNOW!  It's a long time but if you don't stop it now, you might not be able to wear your contacts for longer than that.  Honestly, if it was me, I'd probably have to go on vacation for two weeks because I look like crap in glasses.  At least your glasses are nice."  I cracked up.

Secondly, Mr. Helen and I did something this year that we never do if we're just home on New Year's Eve:  stayed awake until just after midnight and saw the ball drop.  He's still working the later hours so I made us antipasti plates to snack on, then later I grilled some chicken.

We had started watching Making of a Murderer on Netflix and ended up watching four episodes of it that night, which brought us up to midnight.  (Put that on your watch list if you haven't yet - it's a fascinating documentary on a murder that happened in Wisconsin.)

Finally, I weighed myself on January 1st, which is the first time I weighed myself since I finished up with that nutritionist I worked with January-March of last year.  As I have for the last few years, I used my zero scale and I have one of the segments set to where I weigh myself once a year.  Turns out I gained 7.2 pounds in 2015.

I have no idea when I gained it - but I suspect this was a slow creep as I didn't notice huge differences in clothing.  This equates to 2.2 ounces a week of weight gain.  I'm going to state right here, I am fairly certain it's due to the changes in my exercise patterns since I started working the part time job. Not only have I not been working out as hard, I haven't been working out as often - and as I stated a couple of weeks ago, exercise was really falling apart for me in December when I was working even more.

I know I haven't changed my eating, and this year in particular, I did no Christmas baking nor did I find myself partaking of a lot of extras.  Thus my suspicion of a slow creep.

Obviously, this is something I would very much like to reverse and will be working on a plan to do just that.  Even if I lose it at 2.2 ounces a week, next January 1st I should see "Loss" and 7.2 pounds on my Zero Scale.  I can honestly say I've reached the point where I am so done with hardcore dieting that hasn't even entered my mind, other than to state here that I'm not planning on doing that.

The older I get, the more I am finding that it has become imperative to accept myself right where I am at any given moment but that doesn't mean I can't learn a good lesson like reducing of exercise means other things also need to be conscientiously adjusted!

I'm not looking for advice so need to comment with ideas on what I can do.  I'm actually trying to follow Lori's example and simply state what the facts are at this time, without judgement or harshness, yet knowing I can figure it out and do better.

Here's to 2016 and the new lessons it will teach me!