Monday, April 24, 2017

What to do with leftover chicken breasts? Make Coconut Chicken Salad, of course!





I cook for a small family. There's just three of us, and my daughter would rather eat uncooked veggies and fruits rather than have them added to something. So, basically, I'm cooking for two adults, and that is why my recipe doesn't feed a lot of people. 

I've come to the conclusion that making large batches of anything will inevitably result in some of it being thrown out because we all forget about it in the fridge. And that creates waste. Waste that we really can't afford. So, I decided to cook in smaller batches with leftovers enough for just one day and that's it. 

This recipe is one of those. It was a happy surprise, to be honest. I'd baked a batch of chicken breasts and didn't like how they'd turned out. I must have overcooked them because they felt a bit rubbery. So, I spent a few days avoiding them, knowing if I didn't do something, they'd spoil. Being on a budget, I didn't want that to happen. 


The delicious chicken salad. You can follow me on Instagram HERE















I reluctantly came up with the idea of a chicken salad. Reluctantly because I've never really liked it, never tasted a variation that I could eat beyond a couple nibbles. I can't explain it, but the chicken combined with the other ingredients just turned me off. 

But yesterday I created a recipe that changed my mind.

It uses the cream of coconut milk. The cream is the part of the milk that floats to the top, kind of like what happens with actual cream and milk. And I just so happened to have some after making my own coconut milk the other day. It has more of an oily feel to it, and it tastes delicious. And since it's basically coconut oil, it's also good for you. 

I looked up some recipes for chicken and found a few, but nothing I really thought I'd like. Then I remembered the time I made a chicken tarragon recipe and it hit me. Use the tarragon, use the coconut cream, and create a tropical, mildly sweet salad that I could enjoy. 

Here's what I came up with: 

Coconut Chicken Salad

 3 small breasts, or 1.5 cups of shredded chicken (190 grams)
1/2 to 1 cup red seedless grapes
8 ounces of carrots (I used the rest of the baby carrots that were languishing in the bag.)
2 tablespoons onions (I used yellow, but purple onion would be great, too)
1 to 2 tablespoons coconut cream 
1/4 cup Miracle Whip salad dressing (or generic brand)
1/4 cup chopped pecans
pinch of salt
couple shakes of black pepper
1 tablespoon dried chives 
1 tablespoon dried tarragon
shake of paprika

Directions

Cut the breasts enough to fit into a food processor. Turn on the processor until the chicken is shredded well. Put in a bowl and set aside. 

Put carrots in food processor and turn it on. Blend until they're nearly shredded. Add the grapes and onions and turn it on again. Blend until everything is well shredded. I don't like big chunks in my chicken salad. 

Dump the mixture in with the chicken. 

Add the salad dressing and the coconut cream and blend with a spoon. Add the spices and blend it all into the mixture well.  

Let the chicken salad chill in the refrigerator for a couple hours until you're ready to use it. 


***

At first I thought this might be three servings, but it turns out it was easily about five or six servings. Here are the nutrition facts based the on My Fitness Pal app. 

Nutrition Facts

Calories Total: 858 for entire dish, so if you divide it up into five portions, it equals ~172 calories per serving, which is not bad at all. 

Info Based on Five Servings: 

Carbs: 15g
Fat:  11.34g
Saturated: 1.14g
Polyunsaturated: 3.3
Monounsaturated: 3.18g
Protein: 14g
Cholesterol: 5mg
Dietary fiber: 2.34g
Sugars: 5.1g
Sodium: 198mg
Potassium: 500mg
Vitamin A: 97%
Vitamin C: 15.8%
Calcium: 15.7%
Iron: 23.2%

My husband loves this recipe, and I watched him pile it on his plate with toasted bread for dinner last night, and I just polished off the last of it for lunch today. I cut two slices of bread (I make my own), toasted them, and then put about two tablespoons of the salad on the toast and it was delicious.

The onion gives the salad a nice kick, but the coconut cream is what makes it, in my opinion. After sitting in the fridge for a while, the tarragon blended nicely with it and made it a pleasing snack or even a meal on a warm spring day. We toasted some bread and slathered the chicken salad on it for a couple open-faced sandwiches. 



Try it out and tell me what you think! 

You can also follow me on Instagram.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Common Sense Dating Advice for Women



I nearly named this piece “Dating Rules for Women,” but I don’t like the sound of the word “rules.” It seems so arbitrary, so dictatorial. I’m not trying to force anyone to abide by these points. It’s simply good advice I think a lot of women could use today. Young women, middle aged women,  older women. We all make the mistake of ignoring red flags, doing things we logically know we shouldn’t do, all in the name of finding “The One.” I did it. I dated men I knew weren’t good for me in the hopes that my pure and loving soul would make him change his ways. I don’t have to tell you how that all worked out. 

Suffice it to say, many years and countless relationships later, I finally got smart and married a good one. The One. A man I can envision growing old with. A man who’s a good father and a good husband. A man who treats me the way I deserve to be treated. My life would’ve been a whole lot easier, though, if I’d taken some of the advice I’m about to throw out here. Because, let’s face it. We all know what we’re supposed to do. It’s actually doing it that’s the problem. So, without any further idle banter, I impart to you, dear reader, the advice and knowledge I’ve gained in my life.

Always meet him on the first few dates. Unless you’ve known him for a while and can trust him, take your own transportation on the first several dates. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security, even if you have a good feeling about him. He shouldn’t know where you live or your address. I had a friend who dated a man for nearly a year before she brought him into her home. She made it clear that she needed to build trust get to know him on her terms before she agreed to do that. He respected that, and now they are happily married. 

Meet your date in a neutral place. This is common sense. Don’t meet a new date at a bar or a disco. Instead, meet at a coffee shop, or even a book store. I once met a new date at a Barnes & Noble. I had met him online and wanted to keep it light. It didn’t work out, and I never had to worry about him stalking me at home. Parks are great if they’re full of people, but don’t let a new date lure you into a secluded area. Even if the chemistry is out of this world. 

Have a friend call and check in on you. Better yet, have two friends call to check on you. One hour after the time you’re supposed to meet your date, have one of your friends call you to make sure everything is going smoothly. 

Call a friend to let them know you’re on your way home. And after you arrive home, stay on the phone for a few minutes. I know this sounds creepy and scary, but if the guy followed you home and is staking out your house, you’ll already be on the phone with someone you trust. 
Don’t ignore red flags. Seriously, just don’t. Red flags can be as innocuous as a guy comparing you favorably against his ex, or as creepy as the guy who can’t stop touching you. 

Do not let the man pay for your dinner.
I know this sounds super feminist, but it’s good advice. I once met a guy for a first date after getting to know him online. I pulled out my wallet to pay for my half and he was actually offended and insisted on paying. I didn’t hold my ground and let him pay. He turned out to be a creep who expected me to be ready for sex at his beck and call. So, if a man is offended and gets angry with you for wanting to pay your share of the meal, simply explain to him that it’s your policy for first dates and he will be welcome to make it up some other way if you both agree to another date. The man who is butt hurt by a woman paying her own way raises some big red control-freak flags in my book. Be aware of it, and stand your ground. 

Never, and I mean NEVER ignore red flags. Oh, did I already mention that?  Yes I did. But it bears repeating. I ignored many red flags in my life and ended up getting burned to a crisp. I’ll give you an example of someone who really, really hurt me. I met a guy at the convenience store where I worked. He was a frequent customer and I knew he had a thing for me. My gut (and this is something you need to listen to, as well) told me to stay far, far away from him. There was something about him that made me uneasy, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. He was sweet for the first couple of months, and then after he had reeled me in, turned on me. Every little thing I did was wrong. It was one year of pure, unadulterated hell. But I thought I loved him because, frankly, the sex was amazing. But I should have listened to my gut and not ignored the red flags he was sending up. I could have saved myself a lot of pain and anger if I’d just listened to my intuition.

Never get drunk on the first few dates. Ever. Alcohol and other mind-altering substances loosen your inhibitions and could cause you to do things you wouldn’t have done otherwise. If you decided prior to the date that you weren’t going to sleep with the guy, alcohol could change your mind for you and you’ll wake up the next day regretting it. 

Don’t let your guard down. Some of the worst relationships I’ve had were with men I let my guard down with prematurely. Letting your guard down and not being alert to your surroundings can also spell “date rape” if the guy spikes your drink. Don’t let the guy bring you the drinks. Get your own, or have a wait person bring them out. And never take your eyes off your drink. 

Pay attention to his actions. Remember the phrase, “actions speak louder than words?” When you’re going on a first or second date with a guy, this is doubly true. How does he treat the homeless person on the street? Does he give them a bit of change, or does he curl his lip up with disgust and avoid them? I knew my husband was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with when he treated homeless people and buskers on the street like human beings who deserved respect. A young shoe-shine man stopped and asked if he could shine his shoes. My future husband agreed and let the kid do it, chatting amicably with him the whole time. He wasn’t repulsed and didn’t act like he was doing the kid a favor, either. Eight years later, we’re still happily married. 

Don’t play games. You’re a mature, fully grown adult, so I’m assuming you’re beyond the petty mind games and tests. There’s really no need to play jealousy games. And drop any guy who “tests” your loyalty and fidelity. 

Never let him control you. I once dated a man who was so jealous, he monitored my activity even when he wasn’t with me. One night, I had a male friend over at my place. I’d known the guy for years, and he was like a brother to me. He and I stood out on the balcony of my apartment to chat, and below on the street, I saw my boyfriend’s friend, standing next to his car, watching me. The next day my boyfriend accused me of cheating on him and began reciting Bible verses about adultery. I dumped him because, frankly, I don’t need someone who is so insecure that he can’t tolerate the fact that I have a life outside of him…and horror of horrors, I actually had male friends! 





Do NOT let him pressure you into having sex. And for the love of all that is good and holy, don’t let him guilt trip you into having unprotected sex. You don’t owe him anything. Your body is not his for the taking. He does not own you, and no matter how much money he’s spent on you, he is not entitled to put his penis anywhere near your body unless you wholeheartedly agree to it, also. I cannot stress this enough. If he insists on having unprotected sex with you and you are not on birth control, tell him point blank that if you get pregnant, the resulting child will be his responsibility, too. And it’s always a good idea to get tested for STDs before you get down and dirty with him. 

Do not give up your life to be with him. One of the things men love about strong women is the fact that they don’t give up who they were before they started dating. The women didn’t completely change their lives to revolve around their men, but instead, maintained their friendships, their hobbies, and their freedom. The right man will love that you don’t need to see him every single day, and he’ll appreciate that you’re not glued to his side every minute of every hour of every day. If your man wants you to devote your life to him as if he were some kind of demigod, it’s a huge red flag that you should say, “Sayonara,” to him and let him become someone else’s problem. 


One of the things I hate about romance is the clich├ęd phrase, “You complete me.” 

I prefer the phrase, “You complement me.” 

It means something more to me than the first one. The first phrase assumes that you’re not a whole person, that you’re only half a person that depends on the love of someone else to be a whole, functioning human being. The second phrase makes me happy because it means “We go well together.” 

It doesn’t assume that the other person is one-half of a whole person. It recognizes that the two people are separate human beings, with separate needs and desires, even after they enter into an intimate relationship. My husband and I have only been together for eight years, but I’d never say he completes me. 

We do complement each other, though, and he makes me tremendously happy. And that’s my final piece of advice. Be with someone who makes you happy. Because if you’re not happy in your relationship, what’s the point of having one? 



Learn to Let Go: When a Friendship Ends, You Don't Need Closure to Move On





Many years ago I lost a very good friend. We had been friends for nearly two decades until she stopped talking to me. It was a slow process. Our contact began to dwindle, and I found that I was the only one keeping the friendship alive. One day, she stopped returning my calls. She stopped responding to my emails. 

She just stopped, and it drove me insane. Why? Why did my best friend stop talking to me? I couldn’t figure it out, and eventually, I looked her up, found out where she was currently living, and went to see her. I hoped to get some answers. She was like a sister to me, and losing her friendship was like a death. 

When she saw who was at the door, her eyes got big and she backed up as though I had the plague. She let me talk to her for about 30 minutes. And when I asked why she no longer wanted to speak to me, she said, “As time went on, I noticed your behavior had become increasingly inappropriate.” 

“Why didn’t you talk to me about it?”

“I tried. You didn’t listen to me.” 



After I left, I thought about it. Had she tried to tell me? I could only think of one or two times she might have mentioned something I’d done that she wasn’t happy with. But I honestly could not recall her sitting down with me and saying, “Hey, Lil. I’m concerned about some things. Let’s talk about it.” 

The more I thought about it, the madder I got. I went home and cried for days, teetering between absolute catatonia and raving anger in which I yelled at my family for no reason. I was inconsolable. I felt betrayed. I’d seen her through hell and high water. 

Twenty years from junior high to adulthood, I’d remained by her side as she chased after men, crying about how the one-night-stands wouldn’t call her back, holding her hair back as she vomited into the toilet after drinking too much. I even drove her several hundred miles just to see her “soul mate” so she could try to convince him not to marry a woman she hated. She failed, and the man she pined for got married and had several children with her. 

And yet, I’d been deemed not good enough for her. The irony! 

Ten years went by and the pain and anger faded. I no longer felt like I needed a better answer than “increasingly inappropriate.” And I came to realize something one day when I found an old picture of us together: I didn’t need a reason. I’d moved on. She’d moved on. My life was happy and I didn’t need her in it to make it better. 




It was like looking back on a breakup with an ex-boyfriend, in a way. She was never obligated to give me a reason to stop being friends with me. All she owed me was a “Hey, I think this friendship isn’t working out anymore. I’ve outgrown it.” And she gave me that, in a sense, but it took me a long time to accept it. 

The same holds true with intimate relationships. If someone decides they no longer want to be with you, they really don’t owe you any reason other than, “I want to break up.” 


Don’t they owe you something

Nope. 

Having my former friend tell me I was “inappropriate” didn’t help me at all. I looked at my past behavior through the filter of my own experience and couldn't see what she saw. Likewise, if your ex told you that he or she thought you were too excitable, you might not understand how they came to that conclusion. Asking for specific examples wouldn’t help, either because, let’s face it. If you get excited easily, it’s just part of who you are. 

Do you really want to have a relationship (platonic OR intimate) with someone who can’t accept you for who you are? If only you could fix the things that are “wrong” with you, would it make you truly happy? Or would you feel like you’d had to change the very core of your being just to make one person happy? 

Everyone has their flaws. Obviously, though, if you find yourself losing friends left and right, then it’s probably time to take inventory into your actions and find out why your friends are dumping you. And if that’s the case, it might be worthwhile to work on making yourself a better person, but NOT if it means you have to change your whole personality. 

I know a guy who can be very annoying. He didn’t have many friends in school, and always seemed to blame others for his problems. He has a sense of humor that most people just don’t get. He’s good-hearted, and I know he means well, but I can only take him in small doses. Almost everyone I know feels the same way about him. 

But guess what? He’s been happily married to a woman who adores him for more than a decade. She’s a strong woman, and knows how to handle him. And he adores her right back. 

My point here is, that even if every one of your friends finds you annoying, there is someone out there who will love you no matter what. 

So, stop worrying about why your ex-lover or ex-friend won’t tell you why they don’t want to be with you anymore. It’s not important. Cry, mourn, and go through the grieving process. Maybe try to view the relationship's end from their perspective. 

Eventually, you’ll get back up and move on. You’ll find friends and lovers who will accept you wholeheartedly…people who will love and cherish you no matter what. 



Go out and find those people. 





Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Got PMS? Here's a Great Article to Fight it With Food

If you're anything like me, you get pms pretty bad every month. This is almost always compounded by cramping, weird food cravings, and headaches, and bloating. 

Since I was teenager, I've always heard the mantra, "Keep active during your period. It helps reduce cramps!" 


Bah! For me, it's always been the opposite. Anything beyond being huddled in my bed under the covers has always made me quiver in pain. 


Others have always said, "Sex and orgasm will help your cramps!" Oh, yeah? You mean it'll help the cramps get WORSE, right? 


I'm just one of those people who has always been extremely susceptible to pain, cramps, and all the yucky stuff associated with being a woman. 


But when I moved to Chicago six years ago, I started eating a little more healthy. My cramps and my pms weren't so bad. I was intrigued, so I kept eating more healthy. 


I lost 20 pounds in two months (I rode my bike everywhere, too) and even though I still suffered from the monthly monster, it wasn't as bad. With this in mind, I decided to do some research. And what I came up with was interesting: a healthy diet with more fresh foods and less red meat actually could help reduce the pain and irritability associated with premenstrual syndrome. 


Here's a great piece I found that will give you some information about how these foods work to make your monthly visitor less invasive and a little more tolerable. I hope this helps you as much as it did me! 


Got PMS? Kill The Monthly Monster With Healthy Food

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ever Read Through Old Emails From Your Exes?






I finally escaped the toxic relationships of my past! 
I was looking at my old email inbox -- the one I haven't used in about 2 years -- because I felt it was time to clean it out and see if there was anything there worth saving. I came across a folder where I held all of the emails I'd gotten from an ex-boyfriend (let's call him "Bob") I dated many years ago.

Reading through them was hard, especially those where the relationship was clearly over and I was stubbornly hanging on. Even though several years have passed and I am happily married now, I felt physically stressed and upset after reading through them. I had to stop and find something fun to do just to get my mind off of it all.

It made me wonder why people continue on in toxic co-dependent relationships. It was clear from about 3 months into our relationship that "Bob" didn't know what he wanted and began to say things that made me question myself. I'll admit, I'm not the most tidy person in the world, but my fear of his disapproval had me frantically looking for tiny scraps on the floor just in case I'd missed something. One time, he complained that I left store tags on the floor, but then the next day he left his socks on the stairs. When I brought that to his attention, he'd say, "They're on the stairs because they're on the way to the washing machine. I'm doing laundry soon." And then he'd say my mess had no purpose and that I just dropped things wherever.

He may have been right about it, but looking back, it still didn't excuse his own behavior.

Everything became my fault. "If only you'd do _____, then I might love you more."

It was a classic case of me trying to jump through hoops and he was secretly enjoying every minute of it. When this behavior first started, it was subtle, and apologetic. I remember distinctly one day he couldn't bear to kiss me because I hadn't waxed my upper lip and some of the hair had grown back. He acted embarrassed about it, and said it was just distracting, so I ran out immediately and bought a facial wax kit. I wanted to look perfect for him!

It was really pathetic, and too many women fall for this, even the smart ones. Some women fall for this over and over again, and never find a man who really loves them for who they are because they're so focused on pleasing someone who will never be pleased!

During the latter part of our relationship, he'd send me copies of his resume and cover letter to look over. Being an employment specialist, I'd look them over and give him my opinion. Here's a typical exchange:

Click photo to enlarge




After we'd broken up, Bob continued to string me along for a while, making me think we'd get back together by spending time with me and inviting me over for the night. He always ignored me the next morning, as if I didn't exist, so I knew I had to break free from this cycle. I finally did, and opened myself up to being alone when I accidentally found my soulmate -- a man I'd gone to high school with.

When Bob discoveed that I was getting married a few months later, he didn't believe it. He was convinced that I could never let him go. What he didn't know was that by that time, I'd already let him go and moved on. I was only with him for 7 months, but he strung me along for another 5, and I'd grown tired of it. Bob knew through a mutual friend that James had spent some time living in a religious community, which is a communal environment where people live, work, and serve the poor. Bob continued to text me and email me, trying to convince me not to go through with it. When I made it clear to Bob that I was, indeed, marrying this man, he said, "FINE! Have fun with your Jesus freak!"


Funny thing is, James isn't what you'd call a "Jesus freak." He's just a guy who believes in God and thinks Jesus should be followed, not worshiped. There's a big difference in that line of thinking and I agree with it. Neither James nor I are overly religious, which made Bob's outburst all the more ridiculous. We don't even attend church, although I've visited a Unitarian Universalist congregation here, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

After reading all of these emails and saved IMs (I knew I was saving them for a reason!), I realized how lucky I am to have gotten away from the toxic sludge of that relationship. I realized how truly gifted I am to have a husband who isn't above serving others selflessly. I realize how childish I was to cling to something that clearly wasn't working, and how the overall relationship was built on nothing more than flattery and sex.

My husband doesn't call me princess. He rarely buys me flowers (he's bought them once, on my birthday this year after I told him I'd really love some). He doesn't manipulate me. He doesn't play mind games, and he certainly doesn't compare me (favorably or unfavorably) to other women. He doesn't care if I forget to shave my armpits every now and then, and he isn't repelled by the fact that I've obviously gained a few pounds since Stella's birth.

He still sees me as the woman he fell in love with -- a chaotic, messy woman who couldn't balance a checkbook to save her life!