Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Fear and Hope

Hey guys! Remember how 10 years ago we all used to have blogs? And we'd post ideas, or recipes, or get up on our soapboxes and stuff. And we weren't all self quarantining because of a massive pandemic? We didn't know it then, but those were the days, huh?

After coming up with a list of things my kids should do and work on while we are social distancing, I started thinking maybe I should work on some stuff too. Maybe with the extra time I could work out more, or write again, or cook again, or be a person again.  And then I decided to do the least hard thing on my list and write a blog! So here I am blogging like it's 2010!

In the storm of covid-19 I've had a lot on my mind (as I'm sure everyone has).  The many changes to daily life have had me reeling and the fact that things change drastically from hour to hour leaves me feeling like I'll never catch up.  In addition to a massive influx of statistics, news stories, and directives from various levels of government across my social media, I've also been reading a large number of posts from people responding to said statistics, news and directives.

Many of these responses are reminders for us that we need not fear or that we must have hope. While messages of hope are important, we need to remember that there are many steps to finding hope. Hope and faith are not just things we can turn on and off like a lightswitch. Before we can come up with constructive ways of promoting the positive, we need to take the step of acknowleding that fear is present in most of us and that it is an emotion that must be felt and accepted before we can move past it.  Just willing ourselves to be less afraid isn't enough. Fear has to be processed before it can be removed, and it must be acknowledged before it is processed.

When we skip this step of acknoweledgement we miss out on understanding ourselves better and on empathic connection. When we are disconnected from each other and the world it's hard to spread feelings of hope. If we don't let people know it's okay to feel afraid it attaches shame to that feeling.  Shame isn't the way to make us feel less fearful.  If anything it makes us less inclined to discuss our fears with others which, in turn, magnifies them. Our reaction to the feeling is just as important as the feeling itself.  Telling someone fear is wrong and bad leads to greater fear.  Telling someone fear is okay and something we can face together leads to hope.

This can especially be true in our religious communities.  We have to be careful that we remember to acknowledge that this is an extremely difficult time and empathize with others before reminding people to "fear not". Otherwise we leave them thinking now I'm afraid, ashamed, and letting God down. Empathy is a central theme to not only counseling theory, but to many philosphies and religions throughout history.  From a Christian standpoint we can see it in Romans 12 where Paul is explaining how to use our spiritual gifts to be unified with our neighbors.  In 12:15 he says "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep".  I attended an amazing conference where a  speaker highlighted this verse and reminded us that it doesn't say cheer up the weepers. It doesn't say tell them to stop weeping. It says weep with them.  Empathy is meeting them in that moment of mourning and connecting with them.  Only then can we move- together- into a place of hope.

Another step is acknoweleging our blindspots.  We all have areas of struggle and privelege.  When we are priveleged in one area it can be hard for us to see that it is a struggle for others.  When we're healthy and not likely to die from a virus it may be harder to see it from the perspective of a person who is in a more vulnerable demographic than ourselves. Priveleges of being healthy, or young, or wealthy may make it tempting for us to say this virus is no big deal. When we don't acknowledge that others may be experiencing hardships that are different from our own, our words fall flat.  Messages of "why are you all so worried" or "people are just overreacting" aren't going to promote hope or connectedness and clearly reflect that the author has not taken time to acknowledge their priveleged blindspots. Same with messages of "this thing worked for me so it will definitely work the exact same way for you".  Kind of like those advertisements where an already fit woman tells me that she can eat a donut every day and still lose weight and if I just download their app I can too.  Sure I can lady, sure I can.

It's also important to remember that although we are all going through the same pandemic together it effects us all in different ways. In addition to the trauma that comes from a virus that spreads quickly and has the ability to hospitalize and kill people, there are also many other traumas people are facing as a result of this virus. Some are vulnerable to the virus. Some have family members who are vulnerable to the virus. Some work in the medical field and because of their exposure at work now have to isolate from other family members and support systems. Some have had very needed and anticipated surgeries put on hold. Some have had to close small businesses or drastically adjust their business plans and don't know how they will stay afloat. Some have had important life events altered or cancelled such as weddings, funerals, graduations and more. Some have worried about giving birth alone because birth partners weren't being allowed in hospitals under new essential procedures. Some are children who have just found out they won't be going back to school this year. Just to name a few trials people may be going through right now.  And just so no one thinks these are overly-exaggerated hypothetical situations this entire list is comprised of things that are actually happening within my family around the country right now.  Imagine how long the list would be if each of you wrote out what was going on with your families too. That is a lot of different trauma going on around the world.

I recently had a conversation with someone who said that she had been doing fine with everything until she went into the store for milk last week. She was able to get a small carton for her kids but she said she would rather have gone without than see the store in that condition. Seeing all the shelves bare and people frantic made her realize how much we depend on things like grocery stores, and utilities departments, and hospitals for the essentials that make up normal life. We are starting to see how fragile our "normal" life is and that can be traumatizing.  And that's for those of us who were lucky enough to have a pretty cushy "normal" way of life. Now consider those who were already struggling to have enough to eat or who don't have safe home environments and the pain this situation is adding to their already painful "normal". And no matter how big or small our traumas are they need to be addressed with more than statements of "everything will be fine".

Here's where I so badly want to talk forever about empathy but instead I'm just going to really recommend that you read some Brene Brown!  If I could I'd just insert an entire book of hers and call it a day but instead I will just stick with this quote: "Empathy doesn't require that we have the exact same experiences as the person sharing their story with us...Empathy is connecting with the emotion that someone is experiencing, not the event or the circumstance". -Brene Brown  Even though I've read this quote countless times this pandemic makes me gain even new perspective from it.  Because here we find ourselves going through the same event at the same time but even in this we are all having different experiences and find ourselves in different circumstances. So we have to start connecting on an emotional level if we are ever going to have enough empathy to collectively get through this trauma.

Granted this connectedness is hard to do online where so much of this discussion is happening.  But I think that if we consider these ideas it can make a difference in the articles we choose to share, the voices we choose to listen to and the way we respond to others.  I do have hope that we will see better days.  I also have a lot of immediate concerns for my family members, friends and community.  I'm also grieving losses of normalcy like being with friends, my kids enjoying school (they really miss teachers that aren't mom!), spending time at a park, and casually buying milk.  And I'm telling you it's okay to feel those things too. It is okay if you are afraid and overwhelmed right now. You're not hopeless or wrong for feeling that way and it's not because you're not working or praying hard enough.  Fears are part of life. Write them down. Share them with a friend. Meditate. Pray. Finally make that therapy appointment you've been wanting to make (sorry that it's going to be virtual sessions for awhile! I miss seeing my therapist face to face) But do something to acknowledge and validate your feelings. Don't keep them hidden and don't let them fester.

Empathy and unity are the ground true hope is built on. Connection creates the soil where respectful dialogue can take place and new ideas can grow.  And honestly our world could use some help in those areas right now. If it takes awhile to figure out your part that's okay.  If you have to take a little longer to decide which articles pass the test of empathy that's fine too.  Lets use this as a time to gain greater empathy for the constant struggles and joys that others experience every day. Let people know you are there.  Let people know you care about their opinions and feelings (regardless of whether you agree with them). Let people know it's okay to feel hurt right now.

Maybe the good tastes that much sweeter after we've experienced the bitter together. Maybe the good that will come from this is that we can all be a little more comfortable with the fact that there is bitter and sweet in every lifetime.  I'm learning so much from those around me even though we are seperated right now. Maybe our time of isolation will lead us to deeper connection. That's something that keeps me smiling even in these overwhelming times. That and memes about home-haircuts. Those things are comedy gold!










Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Chili Con Carne


This chili is super fast and great to use in a variety of way! You can make it on the stove top, in the crock pot or freeze it for later!  We love to use it in frito pies and on chili dogs! My kids all love it too and it's a great recipe to sneak vegetables into if you have any picky eaters.  Give it a try!

Chili Con Carne

1 lb. ground turkey (or ground beef)

1 green bell pepper (chopped)
1 tsp. cumin (or to taste)
1 tsp. garlic powder (or to taste)
1 tsp. onion powder (or to taste)
1 tsp. dried minced onion
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 cup flour
chili powder (to taste...honestly I use about 1/3 of a cup)
3-4 cups water
2 cans pinto beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can diced tomatoes
a dash of  Tabasco sauce

Brown turkey slightly.  Add bell pepper and spices and continue cooking until turkey is cooked through and bell pepper is softened.  Add flour and chili powder.  Add water slowly and stir well to get rid of all lumps of flour.  Add beans and tomatoes.  Bring to a boil and cook until thickened.  Add Tabasco if desired and reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 30-40 minutes.

OR:

Freezer Meal Instructions-
Brown turkey or beef.  In a gallon sized freezer bag add cooked meat, chopped bell pepper and onion.  In a small bowl combine spices, flour and water until incorporated and no lumps.  Pour over meat and veggies.  Add beans and tomatoes.  Add a dash or two of tabasco if desired.

When ready to use your freezer meal- Add contents of bag and 2 cups of water to a large slow cooker.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours or until heated through and vegetables are tender.  Add extra chili powder or water to reach desired consistency and spiciness!



Tuesday, March 13, 2018

New York Cheesecake




 You know how doctors have been telling us for years that we need to have more sugar and cream cheese in our diets? Well this recipe has it all :) This is seriously, hands down, the best recipe for cheesecake I've ever made! I've been using it for a couple of years now and it always turns out beautifully.  It's easy to adapt up or down to make different size cakes but this recipe makes a standard 9 in. round cheesecake.

When it comes to cheesecake the actual baking is the tricky part.  The ingredients are pretty standard but the instructions are especially important.  You'll want to get ingredients to room temp, not over beat the eggs, and take a lot of care setting up your water bath to bake it in. The other tip is that I think it's best if you make it a day or two before you want to eat it.  The recipe says to let it sit 4-6 hours but really 24 hours is the best.  I usually make the cheesecake two days before I want to eat it and then put the topping on a day before. But that's just my own recommendation. It might sound daunting but after a few times it becomes a pretty simple process.

Although this recipe always turns out beautifully it usually does still have a little crack or two in the top that I cover up with the sour cream topping but this was the first time that the top came out PERFECT! Not even one little crack.  My husband was pretty amused with how excited I was about it! But look at that smooth perfection...bam...


Gorgeous right!!?? It's the little things in life I guess. Give this recipe a try and make your own special treat for you next birthday/holiday/date night/long weekend/just because day!!

New York Cheesecake:

Supplies:
9 in. spring form pan
18 in. aluminum foil
large roasting pan or 12 in. round cake pan
boiling water

Ingredients:
Crust:
1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (I used about 1/2 a box)
3 T. sugar
1/3 cup butter
pinch salt

Filling:
4 (8 oz.) bricks of cream cheese (splurge and use Philadelphia brand!) (room temp)
1 T. vanilla
pinch salt
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs (room temp)
2/3 cup sour cream (room temp)
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream (room temp)

Topping:
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Instructions:
Set out your cream cheese, eggs, sour cream and whipping cream about 30 min. prior to starting to make your cheesecake to bring them to room temperature.

Using the large aluminum foil completely cover the bottom and sides of your spring form pan.  I usually do 2 or 3 layers.  This is to keep the water out during the baking process.

In a food processor combine graham crackers, sugar, butter and salt until course crumbs are formed. Press crust into the bottom of your spring form pan and about half way up the sides.  A cup with a flat bottom can help press your crust into a more uniform thickness (about 1/4 in.) and get it in the corners of the pan.

Bake crust for 12 minutes at 350 degrees or until golden brown.  Set aside.

While crust is baking put 6-8 cups of water on to boil.

In a large stand mixture, beat cream cheese, vanilla and salt on high for 5 minutes until light and fluffy.  Turn speed to low and slowly add sugar.  Scrape sides of bowl and beat on high for 1 more minute.

Return speed to low and add eggs one at a time, beat just until incorporated.  Don't over beat once the eggs are in or you'll end up with cracks! Scrape sides of bowl and add sour cream and whipping cream and return to high for one more minute.

Place the spring form pan inside the larger roasting or baking pan. I use a 12 round cake pan that works perfectly.  Pour the filling inside of the crust and smooth with a spatula.  Move the rack in your oven to the bottom third of the oven and turn the temperature down to 325.

Place the pan on the rack and carefully fill the outer/larger pan with boiling water (taking care not to get any water on the actual cheesecake itself.

Bake at 325 for 2 hours.  When cheesecake is done baking, turn off the oven, slightly open the oven door and leave cheesecake in the oven for another hour.

Remove cheesecake from oven and leave on counter for 30 minutes to continue cooling.  Cover with foil and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours (I recommend overnight or longer!)

Use a knife to make sure your crust is completely seperated from the sides of the pan and remove the pan. Top cheesecake with sour cream topping and allow to set another 4 hours before serving.  Top with fresh fruit, chocolate or caramel drizzle, etc if desired!



Beef and Broccoli


Here's another delicious meal I found and adapted for freezer meal night.  My kids were big fans even with the giant pieces of broccoli staring them down. We served it over rice and added some extra stir fry veggies as a side and it fed the 7 of us no problem.  If your kids are older or you are serving all adults I'd say you might want to double this recipe.  It's a pretty quick one to throw in a crock pot fresh but it also freezes beautifully if you want to make it ahead and save it.

Beef and Broccoli
Recipe adapted from lecremedelacrumb.com

Ingredients:
1.5 lbs. flank steak, thinly sliced and cut into 2 inch strips
1 cup beef broth
2/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 T. sesame oil
1 T. minced garlic
¼ tsp. red chili flakes (optional…but worth it!)
4 cups broccoli florets
2 T. cornstarch+ 4 T. cold water (added during cooking)

Instructions:
Slice and chop flank steak and place in a large crock pot.  In a small bowl combine beef broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, minced garlic, and chili flakes.  Pour mixture over beef. Cover crock pot and cook on low for 4-5 hours or until beef is cooked through.

Combine cornstarch and water and pour into crock pot along with the broccoli.  Stir all ingredients together. Recover and continue cooking 30 minutes or until broccoli is tender and sauce is thickened. Serve over rice.

OR...

Freezer Meal Prep Instructions:
Slice and chop the flank steak and place in a gallon sized freezer bag.  Add beef broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, minced garlic and chili flakes.  Close bag and knead until meat is well covered and sauce is combined.

Place broccoli in a separate gallon sized freezer bag.  Place broccoli bag and beef bag in another gallon sized freezer bag.  Label and freeze.

Freezer Meal Cooking Instructions:
Place contents of meat bag in a large crock pot and cook on low 5-6 hours. 

Combine 2 T. cornstarch and 4 T. cold water and pour into crock pot.  Add the broccoli and stir all ingredients together.  Continue cooking for another 30 minutes or until broccoli is tender and sauce is thickened. Serve over rice.





Friday, March 2, 2018

Breakfast Scrambles


Meet one of our favorite dinners: Breakfast! My kids love breakfast for dinner and so do I! It's usually pretty fast and people can adjust it how ever they want.  One of our favorite dinners is the breakfast scramble.  Potatoes, veggies, sausage cheese and eggs all in one delicious dish!  Alex and I are trying to cut carbs so ours are usually light on the potatoes and heavy on the veggies, the girls think veggies suck a part of their souls away so they prefer more potatoes.  It all evens out! Give it a try!

Breakfast Scrambles
Ingredients:
3-4 T. butter
3 large baking potatoes, diced thinly (or frozen diced hashbrowns)
1 tsp. seasoned salt
pepper to taste
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 red onion,diced
1 cup cheddar cheese
cooked meat of your choice (sausage links, bacon, or diced ham)
1 dozen eggs (fried or scrambled)
Ketchup or hotsauce (optional)

Cooking Instructions:
Melt butter in a large frying pan.  Add potatoes and toss well to coat in butter.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cover and let cook until softened and browned, flipping every 5 minutes or so. The whole process should take about 15 min. If pan is beginning to stick you can add more butter. Add diced peppers and onion and continue cooking until veggies are tender (3-4 minutes more).  

Meanwhile cook meat and eggs to your liking.  Place potato/pepper hash on plate and top  with cheese, cooked meat and eggs.  Serve with ketchup or hot sauce and enjoy!








How To Fry An Egg

So before I post about one of my family's favorite meals...breakfast scrambles...I wanted to take some time to talk about fried eggs.  Eggs are something I eat almost daily! Fried or scrambled. With cheese, or avocado, or salsa, or toast. So many yummy ways to eat them!

There's also a lot of ways to cook an egg and people like them in various states of liquid/solid.  I like as much of the golden gooey yolk as possible but with my egg whites cooked.  A lot of people accomplish this by flipping the egg over (over easy) but my Grandma taught me a quick and easy way to get perfect eggs every time without flipping so I thought I'd pass that on to you! 

The secret ingredient is...water! This helps the egg steam from the top and cooks the white through evenly without having to flip it.  It's kind of a cross between poaching and frying really but it comes out delicious each time! yay!

Fried Eggs

Supplies:
small frying pan with lid

Ingredients:
1/2 T. butter
2 large eggs
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 tsp. of water

Cooking Instructions:
Melt butter in frying pan (just until melted and pan is coated). Turn temp down to medium. Crack both eggs in pan and season with salt and pepper. Cook 1-2 minutes until edges of egg whites are just starting to turn opaque and solid. Pour water evenly around the edges of the egg white. Cover immediately with lid and continue cooking another 2-3 minutes or until egg whites are completely cooked and yolk has turned slightly pink on top. Keep a close eye on it so that you don't overcook that delicious golden yolk. Remove from pan immediately. Enjoy!










Thursday, March 1, 2018

Ham and Bean Soup


I seriously forgot how delicious ham is! This soup smells amazing cooking and tastes great too. Growing up we used to have bean with bacon soup all the time and this reminded me of that!  My kids gave it mixed reviews (as they do most meals other than pizza) but they all ate it gone anyway.  It was very filling and great for a cold day. 

If you have a ham bone or a little bit of fat left over from your ham throw that in the pot too for flavor and just remove it before you serve. 

You can make it in the crock pot, on your stove top or freezer meal. I recently adapted it for a freezer meal workshop so make it ahead and put in your freezer for a day you don't feel like cooking! 

Ham and Bean Soup
(adapted from dinnerthendessert.com)

Ingredients:
3 cups cooked diced ham*
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 yellow onion, diced
4 large carrots, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, diced
3 cans great northern beans or white cannellini beans, drained
1 tsp. thyme
½ tsp. rosemary
1 tsp. parsley
1/2 tsp. sage
1/2 tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
4 tsp. chicken or vegetable bouillion
4 cups water (divided- if making freezer meal)
*If you have some pork fat or bone left from your ham throw that in for flavor while it cooks and remove it before you serve

Crock Pot Cooking Instructions:
Combine all ingredients in a large crock pot.  Cook together on low for 5-6 hours or until veggies are tender.

or...

Stove Top Cooking Instructions:
Heat 2 T. olive oil in a large stock pot.  Add onion, carrots and celery and cook until veggies are softened.  Add garlic and ham to pan and saute for 1-2 minutes.  Add beans, spices, bouillion and water and stir to combine.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and let simmer for at least 30 minutes.  (I let mine simmer about an hour and half to let the flavors really mix).

or...


Freezer Meal Prep Instructions:
Dice and chop ham and veggies. Combine all ingredients (except for water) in a gallon sized freezer bag.  Add 1 cup of water. Knead bag to combine. Label and freeze.

Freezer Meal cooking Instructions:
Add contents of bag and 3 cups water to a large crock pot.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours until soup is heated through and veggies are tender.