Get In My Belly!

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What a difference 4 months can make!  Documenting your progress with pictures is so important, even if you are the only one that ever sees them.  You might not notice any changes over the course of a month, which might lead to discouragement or a sense of failure and disappointment.  However, when you put a picture side by side, a month apart, you might just amaze yourself!

I’m so very late with this post, I meant to post last Tuesday…but life.  Better late than never though…right? We started homeschooling my 11 year old son 2 weeks ago, and I’m still trying to figure out both our schedules, but that’s a blog post for another time.  In my blog post, Believing Is Achieving, I disclosed that one of my major goals for 2017 was to plan and prep meals more consistently and eat out less.  So far so good, but the year is young.  One of the products I purchased for myself that has been a game changer in our household – meal prep containers.

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Seriously, these cost me $20 for a pack of 20 and they have been working awesome for us.  My husband can pre-pack his lunches with either leftovers or I prep some meat and veggies for the week.  It makes it so much easier to grab something healthy for lunch or snack and resist the temptation to eat out because I’m too tired or busy to cook/make something.  I ordered mine thru Amazon, but I’m sure you could find them anywhere.  I prefer the 3 way containers, but they also come in 2.

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I can’t stress this enough.  If you remember nothing else that I ever say, remember these 2 things:

  1. Throw out your scale!  DO IT!
  2. EAT EAT EAT – stop dieting

I’m an emotional eater. I eat when I’m upset, bored, lonely, happy, angry, etc… You get the picture.  I shared with my nutritionist that I don’t actually remember the last time I was truly HUNGRY.  Dieting just made me feel deprived and angry.  Angry at what I perceived to be my failings.  Anger that I couldn’t be the kind of person to eat whatever I wanted, never exercise and stay magically thin and fit.  Anger led to binge eating, losing control and hating myself.  A vicious cycle I couldn’t seem to break.  One of the key things my nutritionist and therapist taught me was that food isn’t inherently good or bad.  It’s a mantra I live by now.

FOOD ISN’T INHERENTLY GOOD OR BAD

It’s about choices.  Some foods are better for you.  They have better benefits.  I feel better when I eat them.  Sometimes you just need that slice of cake or that piece of pie or bowl of ice cream.  My life is now a series of choices.  I know that an apple is better for me than a ding dong.  I know I need to fuel my body.  Once I changed my mindset, and food wasn’t a series of things I wasn’t ALLOWED to eat, my eating habits improved.  Improving my eating habits, filling my plate with nutritiously dense foods, fueled my body in ways that I could FEEL.  I found myself with more energy, both physical and mental.  My moods improved.  I wasn’t constantly filled with self-loathing.  I didn’t feel like a failure when I reached for the mega-stuffed Oreo.  I enjoyed the heck out of that Oreo, but I stopped at 1, instead of eating 6 or more.  I started to learn to love myself.  It’s a process, one in which I’m still evolving.  I’ve found new confidence and joy in my body and what it can do now that it couldn’t do before at almost 300 pounds.

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I’m willing to put myself out there and be vulnerable in sharing my journey.  If even one person understands that they are not alone, that I understand how they feel and that I am here to inspire, motivate or just love them through it, then putting myself out here – the good, the bad and the ugly – will have all been worth it.  My goal is health.  Healthy looks different on everyone, and I think that is beautiful.  I think YOU are beautiful.  I don’t have a goal weight.  I just have goals.  Society doesn’t dictate what beautiful means to me, I define it for myself and I embrace every scar, every stretch mark, every fabulous flaw because it’s the roadmap in my journey, in my beautiful life.

So what do I eat?

Snacks

A big part of my daily nutrition comes in the form of Shakeology by Beachbody.  I usually drink one as my afternoon snack.  The long hours between lunch and dinner are my most vulnerable.  If I’m going to reach for the Oreo or bag of Doritos, it’s during the interminable mid-afternoon.  I prefer the chocolate flavor.  It curbs my cravings, gives me a boost of energy to finish the day strong and fills me up till dinner.

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I also enjoy fruit, granola and trail mix for my snacking pleasure.  I’m a creature of habit, so I’ll typically have the same breakfast, lunch and snacks every day for weeks until I get bored, then I change things up.

BREAKFAST

This is an easy one, because I eat the same thing for breakfast every morning.

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And coffee.

Lots and lots of coffee.

And eggs.  I love eggs.

I vary what I put in my omelets, but I love me some eggs for breakfast.  I always add spinach, I’m not a huge vegetable lover, so I get them in however and whenever I can.  I might add turkey sausage or diced ham.  I’ll throw in some peppers and onions, a little cheese, different kinds every week.  Sometimes I add an avocado or fruit on the side.

And yes I eat the whole egg.  Yolk and all.

Lunch

Part of my meal prep for the week is grilling some chicken for easy go-to lunch choices during the week.

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A recent favorite of mine is the turkey, avocado and red pepper roll up!  So good!  And no I’m not anti-bread.  I LOVE bread.  It’s important to meet my protein goals every day, and that’s harder to do if I fill up on carbs, as lovely as they are and as much as I love them.

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Another lunch favorite is the quesadilla.  I eat this one quite a bit, it’s easy and I love a hot lunch.  I’ll add grilled chicken, spinach and peppers/onions to a whole wheat tortilla, sometimes throwing in some cheese or avocado.  The quesadilla is great because it’s a versatile choice, there are so many directions and iterations you could try to shake things up if you get bored easily with food.

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DINNER WINNER OF THE WEEK

First, I will share my list of favorite websites that I use religiously for recipes/ideas when I’m not using Pinterest.  Pinterest is pretty much my one-stop shop, but these websites are beautiful and have deliciously wonderful recipes.

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Our favorite dinner last week came from How Sweet It Is.  It wasn’t too difficult to make, I did throw in some cheats and I was able to prep most of it ahead of time to reduce actual cooking time.  It was a hit with the family, even the man-child, and he’s impossible to please these days.  It tasted even better reheated the next day.  I can’t wait to make it again!

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I mean seriously, how good does this look?  And I’m usually a Pinterest fail, so when my food (or project) comes out actually looking very similar to the fancy picture, I’m super stoked! Even admiring how pretty it looked, I was still afraid to taste it.  I would have curled in the fetal position, crying for days, if it hadn’t tasted as good as it looked.  Luckily, it did!  Here is the actual recipe.  I didn’t grill corn on the cob and shave it off, that’s too much work for me.  I just bought the Del Monte Fire Roasted Corn (yes, in the can).  I made the bacon ahead of time, crumbled it up and stored for later use.  I also kept the grease in a bowl and reheated it for cooking per the instructions.

A small serving of this tasty dish filled me up, but not in that uncomfortable food baby belly wear elastic pants kinda way.  I love it when a recipe comes together from kitchen to table like this one did for me.  It’s just the best feeling, especially when you aren’t the best cook in the world, like myself.

Anyway, I hope some or all of my suggestions work for you and your family.  Meal prepping really does help control poor eating habits and choices, not to mention all the money we’ve been saving not eating out.  It takes a bit of organization, planning and prepping but it’s so very worth it.  Try it!

It’s a game-changer, I promise ❤

Just Keep Cooking…

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My second objective in 2016:

FOOD 

Specifically, eating healthier, cooking more and eating out less, trying new things.  I know I sound like millions of other New Year hopefuls.  I’ve certainly made this pledge/resolution many times before, with little or no success.  My surgery last year was a game changer for me, but the second half of my weight loss journey is going to be harder than the first half, I know this and I’m prepared.  I’ve already made so many positive changes, but as I’ve mentioned before, I’m an emotional eater.  Eating is hardly ever about hunger for me.  I wish I was the kind of person that could go out to eat and order from the “skinny” menu, but I’m not.  I wish I was the type of person that could bypass the chocolate and pick up the apple instead, but I’m not.  Now, I might dip the apple in chocolate…does that count?  What if it’s dark chocolate?  Mmm chocolate covered strawberries or those Dove dark chocolates with sea salt and caramel or ice cream topped with chocolate fudge magic shell…  The point is I love food.  I love eating.  However, I do not love cooking.

Digging back through my archives, I found these two little gems, which I think accurately depict my love/hate relationship with cooking.

http://mybrainonkids.net/2012/09/03/french-cooking-with-a-redneck-twist/

http://mybrainonkids.net/2010/03/11/the-skinny-on-the-french/

I want to love it, I truly do.  I want my avocados to look like this on my plate after I slice them:

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Instead, they look like this:

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I mean seriously.  I post my food pics to Instagram with the hashtag “foodporn”, but honestly it’s a horror show, and I should probably use the hashtag “myfoodpicsmakeyouwanttonevereatagain”.  Also, I suck at hashtags.

One of my objectives for this year is to try new foods.  I’m infamously picky.  For some people, trying new foods may sound exotic or exciting, but I’m over here like “hey, I’ve never eaten a Mango.”

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Alaskan Cod with Jasmine Rice and mango-ginger-mint salsa

Also, my foods are always from the same color family.  But hey!  Now I’ve had mango.  I wasn’t impressed.  Sorry mango.  It’s not you, it’s me.  I overcooked the fish too.  I didn’t have an exact recipe for this, and apparently not all fish cooks the same, and I can’t just wing it.  I need specific, detailed cooking instructions complete with pics.  Even then, it’s touch and go.  The odds are never in my favor.

I’m also an extremely lazy cook.  I look for recipes that have the least number of steps, which is why I love my crockpot or recipes where I can use cheats.  It’s been really cold here the last week or so, a good time for soup.  I wanted something a little heartier than Campbell’s chicken noodle soup.  Thank goodness for Pinterest!  Those who can’t…Pin.  I could waste spend a whole day Pinteresting.  This recipe was easy, very few steps and I could use my favorite cheats.

Cheat #1: Onions and Celery

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They sell them already chopped and diced!  Granted much more expensive than buying a small onion and 2 celery stalks and chopping it myself, but I save like 5 minutes or more and a finger!  FIVE MINUTES!  Do you know how much Bill Gates earns in 5 minutes?  $34,200!!!  Give or take.  He makes about $114 per second.  I mean, I don’t make Bill Gates money obviously, but that’s not the point.  FIVE MINUTES SAVED!  And a finger.

Cheat #2: Garlic

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You can buy it already minced or chopped!  I assume that 1 clove minced is equal to 1 teaspoon, I’ve never actually measured it out and if I’m wrong, please don’t tell me.  Ignorance is indeed bliss.  The recipe called for 2 cloves, minced, so 2 teaspoons it is!

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This recipe was great because it said that I needed to sauté the onions and celery (and carrots, but I don’t like carrots so…) for 7 minutes.  I literally set my timer for 7 minutes.  Also, I recently learned that this pot (that I call the spaghetti sauce pot) is also known as a “dutch oven.”  I used to use a skillet when the recipe called for a dutch oven, because I didn’t know I had one.  I thought a dutch oven would look more like a toaster oven, except more…dutch?  I don’t know.  I wasn’t exaggerating my lack of kitchen prowess.  I received a cookbook as a wedding present.  It was titled “How To Boil An Egg.”  I was offended until I realized…wait, how do you boil an egg?  I still have to google it, I can never remember for how long (you can also buy eggs already hard-boiled in the grocery store fyi).  You are all probably feeling pretty sorry for my husband and kids about now.  They could tell you some cooking horror stories to be sure.

Anyway, then you add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Again, I set the timer.  Add 1/3 cup flour, cook for another minute (with timer).  It suggested I sprinkle the flour over the mixture gradually…who’s got time for that?  I just dumped it in.  Well, I did stir while I was dumping it in.  It’s now time to add the broth, 8 cups worth, bring to a boil and then simmer for 10-15 minutes.  I hate the range.  Honestly, just pick one.  Is it 10 or is it 15 minutes?  Sigh.  I usually just split the difference.

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Cheat #3

The recipe calls for “3 cups cooked shredded chicken”.

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If I won’t even dice up an onion then I’m certainly not going to cook and shred a chicken.  Lucky for me, I didn’t need to do it!  I find this in the frozen section, and it’s great for soups, salads, crock pot recipes, etc…

At this point all remaining ingredients are added:

2 cups of uncooked egg noodles

12 oz of Evaporated Skim Milk

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp dried oregano and ground black pepper

1/4 tsp dried thyme

Cook for an additional 10 minutes or until noodles are al dente.

Voila!

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It was quite tasty.

So, this year the goal is to cook at least 4-5 nights per week.  We eat leftovers 1-2 nights per week, which still leaves us 1 day to splurge and go out.  Quite a big change from a year ago when we were eating out 4-5 nights per week.  I’ve been really good about cooking at home since my surgery.  My portion size is still very small, so eating out at most places is a waste of money unless I can split with someone or order an appetizer as my main dish.

In the spirit of trying new things, I will be attempting to cook different types of cuisine throughout the year.  Here is my list:

  1. Thai Cuisine
  2. Lebanese Cuisine
  3. Spanish Cuisine
  4. German Cuisine
  5. Korean Cuisine
  6. South African Cuisine
  7. Caribbean Cuisine
  8. Greek Cuisine
  9. Filipino Cuisine
  10. Indian Cuisine
  11. Indonesian Cuisine
  12. Brazilian Cuisine

Don’t worry husband, I have all our favorite delivery restaurants on speed dial.  Is speed dial even a thing anymore?  I’ll be posting my failures and successes (lol).  Trying new things and making healthy choices will continue to be challenging for me, but I think I’m up for it, plus I have all of you to keep me accountable!

Please feel free to share your favorite recipe from the above listed cuisines or cheats/lifehacks for cooking, or you can just come over and cook for me 😀  You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Google+.  The icons are on the side or bottom, depending on what device you are using.  You can also e-mail me @ mybrainonkids4@gmail.com or leave a comment!

Have a great week ❤

Oh, A Pinteresting We Go-Go

I’ve been trying to organize my Pinterest boards lately, because I can’t find anything.  I have vague recollections of pinning good stuff about chicken or pork or brownies, but when I look at my boards, all I see are 1,300 pins of potential failure and disappointment.  I can’t remember which ones I’ve tried and failed.  It’s easy to remember which ones I’ve replicated successfully because the answer is zero.  One of my friends suggested that I create a board of attempted pins so I can clear out the epic failures.

The only reason I keep pinning is because my kids hate it when I attempt to cook, and making their lives miserable is one of the bonuses of parenting.  Plus, I am sick and tired of cooking the same crap over and over and over again.  Pinterest recipes come with pretty pictures of divine culinary delights.  I yearn to break out of my cooking rut, at least until I try, and then remember that I hate cooking and I am spectacularly bad at it.  I’m terrible at following instructions.  I skim instead of read recipes and inevitably end up missing some crucial step in the process.

So it is with dread and fear that I walk into the heart of my nemesis…the kitchen.  The first thing I notice is that the dishwasher is duct taped shut which means the dishwasher has been run and not emptied which means a sink full of dirty dishes, not exactly conducive to the whole cooking experience.  The question is can I ignore the mess and fix dinner, or do I delay the nightmare by confronting the other nightmare that is my kitchen sink?  My husband will tell you that I am a hoarder in training.  This may or may not be true, but one thing I will admit freely…I have a pretty high tolerance when it comes to filth and clutter.

IMG_0978IMG_0979Sorry for the blurriness but I thought to preserve the gag reflex of my reader by not publishing the gory details with vivid clarity.  I’m pretty sure that was dried tomato soup, but maybe it’s vomit…I don’t know.  Right now you know without a shadow of a doubt that you are never inviting me to a potluck.  It’s okay.  I hate potlucks.

I’ve decided to make Stuffed Shells for dinner.  The pinner of this recipe swears it’s easy peasy and yummylicious.  We shall see.  If anyone can screw it up, it will be me.  When it comes to cooking, nothing is dummy proof.

We start with 1 lb of ground beef.  I really hate touching raw meat.  I tried to be a vegetarian (even a vegan) for a while, but apparently, I don’t hate touching meat bad enough.  I missed my meat.  Just not touching it.

IMG_0975Of course, I spend a few moments making fun of the packaging promises.  Not only is this meat “natural” but it’s been vegetarian fed.  I mean, I’m happy my cow has been fed no additional hormones and no preservatives have been added to my beef, the last thing I want is for man-child to get man boobs.  Correct me if I’m wrong but aren’t cows herbivores?  So claiming my cow was vegetarian fed is redundant, right?  These questions are rhetorical, please don’t corrupt my carnivorous nature with horror stories of animal cruelty and vile feeding practices.  I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s book “Eating Animals”, as I mentioned above, I was a vegan for about 6 months.  I’m also a quitter, and I grew up with those “Where’s the Beef?” commercials.  Once I’m done reading the packaging and wishing I had gone into Marketing, I dump it into a pan.

IMG_0976My dog smells bloody red meat, and throws herself at my feet in what I can only interpret to mean she is literally starving and will die if I don’t feed her this raw and delicious beef.  I know some people believe in feeding dogs these raw, natural diets, but my dog gets kibble.  It’s expensive kibble, but kibble nonetheless.  Our dog likes to let us know, frequently, what complete failures we are as doggy parents, little does she know, We’ve plenty of experience with human children, so we are immune to her cries and pleas.

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Still…I have to admit this is pretty pitiful, so I get her a treat.  Well played dog…well played.

So, I push the meat around with a spatula and eventually it looks like this:

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Are you looking at my dirty stove top burners and silently judging me?  Well, don’t expect an invite to dinner anytime soon then!

I drain the meat, and place it back in the skillet/pan or whatever you call it and put it on the back-burner for now.  Now, I fill up the BIG pot with water, which I never measure, just fill up about half-way and hope for the best, and set to boil.

IMG_0980Yes, that is two cans of Pam you see back there.  We like to open new stuff before the old stuff is completely finished.  It’s how we roll.  The other stuff is just there so it looks like I’m a master chef.  Pretty sure most of it has crystallized at this point.  Actually, I really shouldn’t have those bottles near an open flame…probably.  Anyway, back to my riveting cooking tale…

The water is boiled and it’s time to add the Jumbo Shells.

IMG_0981Target brand.  Oh yeah.  And look!  There are stuffed shells on the front of the packaging.  Mine won’t look like that though, so don’t get excited.  I boiled the shells for about 5 minutes, so they’d still be kinda hard.  The pinner suggested it was easier to stuff them that way, boil them any longer and they might be too malleable.

While the shells were boiling, I combined a container of ricotta cheese and a package of mozzarella cheese.

IMG_0982IMG_0983IMG_0984I usually buy the Philadelphia infused shredded cheese by Kraft, but I sent my husband to the store, and he came back with the regular, boring kind.  If this recipe is a fail, I’m blaming the sub-standard cheese product.

Oh and I almost forgot to pour the sauce in with the beef!  No, I don’t make my own sauce.  How cute that you would think so.  We use Newman’s Own, it’s the only kind my kids will eat, and believe me I’ve tried every kind.  It’s not too chunky or tomatoey.

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The directions called to place the meat mixture on the bottom of my baking dish, but I put half on the bottom and then the saved the other half for the tops of the shells.  I worried if it was on the bottom only, then you wouldn’t get a meat filled bite every time.  Of course, because it was meaty sauce, it didn’t really spread over the top that well.  I sort of felt like my shells were getting meat bombed, and some of them did kinda break, so maybe next time I’ll remember not to improvise and just follow the frickin’ instructions.

Anyway, now it’s time to stuff my shells.

IMG_0987I had to dig around and find the opened ones.  It was hard to pry some of those suckers apart without breaking them.  By the time I was done, I felt like I’d violated my food, and maybe I should have a cigarette or a stiff drink.  Poor shells.  Is cooking always this sexual?  Or has my pining for Adam colored my every thought and deed?  My husband chooses that moment to walk in the kitchen, takes one look at me, and immediately gets defensive…”What?” he says.

I shake my head, and go back to stuffing my shells…muttering under my breath.  Husband decided to come around the kitchen island and hump my leg.  And you wonder about my Adam fixation?  I’m thinking of making hubs watch Magic Mike as punishment.  If you’re going to hump me, at least look like  Channing Tatum while doing it.

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But I digress…where was I?  Oh right, stuffing my shells.

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Not bad right?  I’m thinking about patting myself on the back.  Maybe this dinner won’t completely suck.  Then I lob on my meat torpedoes and some more cheese, because you can’t have too much cheese right?

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I bake it at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.  In the meantime, I put the leftover shells back into boiling water, and serve those with plain sauce for those kids of mine that won’t eat food that’s been “mixed.”  Freaks.

Here is my finished Pinterest “Stuffed Shells” recipe:

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I served with Garlic Bread and Salad.

Hubs said it was “good, so good.”  He gushed and made ridiculous mmmmm mmmm noises, so much that I was forced to doubt his sincerity.  Bastard.  Why can’t he just give me honest criticism or feedback!  I’ll just fix it again if I think he likes it, so it serves no purpose to pretend.  There is enough leftover to feed him all week, so if it’s still in the fridge by Friday, I’ll have my answer, and then he’ll pay.  Oh, he will pay.

I liked it, but it’s that time of month, so if it’s not moving, I’m eating it lately.  Run, kids, run.

Happy Funday Sunday!

 

Let’s Chow…der!

I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite moments occurs when I pull up to my house and I see that Amazon box sitting outside my doorstep.  Every other plan for the evening flies out the window because I am now going to do nothing but sit on the couch and peruse my new purchases.  Well, last week I received several of my new vegan cookbooks.  One of them was The Conscious Cook by Tal Ronnen.  The first recipe in the Soup chapter is Corn Chowder.  I love corn.  I don’t care if it exits looking much the same way it did on my plate before I ate it, I love it.  I was very upset to learn it’s not technically considered a vegetable.  I’m excited to make it!  I break out my “Mealboard” grocery store app on my iPhone and record the recipes, create my shopping list and off to Whole Foods I go.

Ingredients that made me struggle:

Vidalia onions (say what?  I spent FOR-ever in the produce aisle looking for these blasted special onions and could find them nowhere!  So, naturally I phone a friend, my one and only lifeline, my mother and I ask her what the heck a Vidalia onion is and where I might find it.  After reassuring me that I was indeed looking in the right place and that maybe it wasn’t the season for them (onions have seasons?), she told me I could substitute with a short squatty purple one, so I did)

A dried chipotle pepper (this looked like a giant prune and I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t want to touch it and it did make me gag a little)

Cut vegetables into 1/4-inch dice (I eyeballed the dice, no way was I breaking out the ruler)

De-rib a bell pepper?  bell peppers have ribs? Oh good grief…

Don’t EVER confuse “organic” chicken stock with “faux” chicken stock.  I had all the ingredients diced, sliced and prepped and I was ready to get a-cookin’ when I pulled out what was supposed to be the “faux” chicken stock and instead discovered that somehow when reading the label I mistook the Organic to mean Fake or Vegan.  Whole foods isn’t close enough to my house to run out and get the correct stock, so I briefly entertained the idea of just using the chicken stock, but you won’t believe the guilt I felt.  I know if you aren’t vegan, you’ll probably think I’m being stupid and silly, but if just felt like a give-up or a failure, so I ran to Wal-Mart to see what I could find.  Of course, they didn’t care fake chicken stock, so again I “phone a friend”.

“Mooooooooooooooooooooooooom” I whine.  I had to explain my dilemma many times.  I think I was so flustered and upset by my quest to quickly find fake chicken stock that my explanations came out disjointed and incoherent.  Naturally, it was her fault, I mean she did birth me, why couldn’t she read my mind!!!!!!!  Anyway, she assured me that vegetable broth would work just as well.  Whew, crisis averted.

I get back home and now I’m ready to make the magic happen.  Would you like to see a picture of the finished product?  Okay, okay you twisted my arm.  Voila!  Here it is:

Corn Chowder

It does look yummy don’t you think?  It was delicious, and even better the second day!  This might be my favorite recipe so far.

Here is a pic of my son about to try it….  That’s not excitement on his face, that’s him begging for PB&J instead.  Oh well, can’t win ’em all.

Now I must leave…I am on a new mission to find yellow Miso paste!