Friday, February 3, 2017

NEW RECIPE - Chicken soup that's low carb, easy and delicious!

I came down with the flu on New Year's Eve - fever for four days, joints and muscles hurt, couldn't stand to have my skin touched. That was the worst of it, but it was another week or 10 days before I felt well again.

There was no gastro-intestinal distress, but nevertheless, I lost 10 pounds in eight days. I think it is because the only thing that tasted good was turkey broth from the freezer. I managed to wipe out my whole store of it. Darn!

Anyway, even though I'm feeling almost 100% again, I got in the habit of having broth. Canned broth - not so good. So last night I devised this quick soup with lots of broth, lots of flavor and some big chunks of chicken.


I started with Swanson's chicken stock, rated best by American Test Kitchen. But let's face it, it's not like that turkey broth I was enjoying. I "souped up" my soup this way.

Mise en place:
Dice the onion and celery and set aside.
In your spice prep dish, put your bay leaves, salt, pepper of choice and star anise (if using).
Wipe and slice the mushrooms. I like them in pretty thin slices. Put in bowl and set aside.

1 - 2 lb. box of Swanson's chicken stock
3 - chicken legs with skin and bone (you need both for flavor and for gelatin)
1 - slice of onion from a medium onion, chopped fine
2 - stalks of celery, chopped fine
2 whole bay leaves
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper or a pinch of red pepper flakes
If you have them on hand, one whole star anise
7 or 8  white button or cremini mushrooms

Put stock and chicken legs into a medium pot over high heat just until the stock begins to boil. Then add spices turn heat to lowest setting, put lid on pot and set timer for 35 minutes. Don't overcook. An occasional bubble should rise to the top as it simmers. If you let it continue to boil or leave it over heat too long, the chicken will be dry.

At 35 minutes, add the prepared mushrooms to the pot. Put the lid back on and set timer for 10 minutes. No need to bring back to boil. There should be plenty of residual heat to cook the mushrooms.

Remove the star anise and the bay leaves. Remove chicken legs with tongs and put on plate to cool slightly. Throw away skin and bone and put large chunks of meat back into the pot. Serve immediately.

That's about three meals for me. If you reheat, don't boil, just bring to eating temperature. It is a common mistake to overcook chicken. What makes this so good is that the chicken still remains very juicy, even when reheated.


Oh, for low carbers, a third of the recipe is 3 carbs. :)

This was in the fridge - see the jelled stock. Good stuff!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Why do we do it??

I'm watching a show, an Amazon show called Goliath, in which all of the women are wearing high heels - VERY high heels. Why? I had my share of them and I ask myself the same question - why? My feet hurt when I wore them. I definitely couldn't run while wearing them. I remember reading about Japanese girls having their feet bound so that they wouldn't grow, and I thought, why? And then years later, I could hardly wait to buy my first pair of spike heels. Do they even call them that anymore?

I love getting past all of that, and I'm so happy that I didn't mess up my feet by wearing them too often. I must have had a shred of common sense.

Now I almost always wear Finn Comfort shoes. And they are - comfortable, that is. When I was on the farm and money was very tight indeed, I even bought a used pair on eBay, only $65 for a pair of $275 shoes. When they arrived, they didn't have insoles in them, a fact left out of the listing, but no problem. I had a pair of old sandals, and the thing about Finn Comfort shoes is that the insoles are removable - and interchangeable. And they never wear out. So I took the old sandals and pitched them (they were long overdue for the bin), and used the insoles out of them in the $65 shoes. Perfect fit! I'm still wearing them. (They are top right in the picture below.)

My daughter laughs at my shoes, especially the red sandals, bottom right in the picture. Okay they are not stylish. However, who cares? My feet never hurt. At 75 years of age, a podiatrist is not on my list of doctors.

Hail to flat shoes, good arch supports and feet that never hurt!

My shoe wardrobe

Saturday, January 7, 2017

NEW RECIPE - Steak and blue cheese

Need to kick-start your ketogenic diet? I know I need to, after one too many cheats during the holidays.

Someone gave me a gift certificate to DC meats, and I bought a beautiful New York strip steak. Any good steak will do, or even good quality hamburger. The topping is where it's at. And by the way, it's ZERO carbs.

Take a 4 oz. container of crumbled blue cheese. There is an Amish brand that is very reasonable. Turn it out into a bowl. Add 3 tbsp. soft butter and a rounded tbsp. of fresh grated horseradish. A couple of vendors at the South Bend farmers market have good horseradish. Mix them together with a spoon - should still be a bit lumpy. Then sprinkle a tsp. of good Italian seasoning mix over it. (Ceres & Co. at the farmers market has a really good one, reasonably priced,  and it's organic.)

Liberally salt and pepper your meat. I like to use smoked salt and smoked pepper, especially in the wintertime. Fry your steak or hamburger in a screaming hot cast iron grill pan or skillet - or if the weather is good, on your grill. I like it 5 minutes per side. Meat should still feel springy when you press your finger into the meat. Then put on heated plate to rest for five minutes. While it is resting, spread a fourth to a third of a cup of the blue cheese / horseradish / butter topping evenly over the meat.

Now this is a "get back on track" meal, so tuck in! Only side should be a shot of good bourbon or whiskey. You will definitely be full, and you will be back on track!

Happy New Year! And bon apetit.

Blue cheese topped steak

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Out with the old, in with the new.

So another year has bit the dust. Lots of stress for me. I am like the proverbial ostrich with head in sand. I refuse to think about where this country might be going. I can only hope the shakeup works, and not in the way the far Right thinks it will. It has been a wake-up call for everyone, I think.

Some things are going right for me. Finally got rid of the tenant from hell who was basically squatting in my rental unit in Illinois. She is gone - house is empty, keys are back in my hands. Thanks to an improving housing market (and rising interest rates that will push some people into the decision to buy now, before they get any higher), I am going to do a little to the outside of the house to make it more attractive from the street and put it on the market.

My VW diesel Jetta, which is being bought back by VW, has been sitting in storage for a couple of months. Two weeks from today at 9 am, it will go to the VW dealer, I will get a nice deposit in my checking account, and that knotty problem will be behind me.

Tashi is doing great! She has had two bad days since I put her on a strictly grain free diet - one because I foolishly gave her some ends of sweet rolls from the market (Susan, there is grain in a sweet roll!), and another bad day after I fed her a can of Science Diet, which was supposed to be grain free. But either they are using a filler that is not listed on the ingredient list, or there is cross contamination in their factory, because it was a reminder of how bad she was. She is past it. All is good.

I fell on the ice, jammed my thumb and bruised a rib. All pain gone, and I can do Crossfit once again!

Came down with the flu on New Year's Eve. As of today, except for a lingering cough, all is well Temperature back down to normal, body aches gone, sneezing done. I found some prescription cough syrup that keeps the cough at bay for a couple of hours, so I am going to hit the Crossfit box this afternoon. I'll take a slug of cough syrup and go for it!

It's a beautiful winter day! Cold, lake effect snow floating down. The Yule tree is coming down today, all of the decorations too. My house looked really nice this year. But it will be good to clear the deck for the New Year.

I hope that you have a Happy New Year.

Friday, December 30, 2016

My new car - and my other new car

I drove my Prius for nearly 200,000 miles, longest I have ever driven any car. It was very useful on the farm. I hauled hay and straw in it, during greenhouse season I could squeeze 17 flats of plants in it. More than one newborn calf took a ride in that car. I got it stuck in fields, had to pull it out of the mud more than once with the tractor. And I hauled milk to the farmers market, where the shareholders picked it up. Occasionally there was a spill. But it soldiered on.

I finally traded it in after moving to town. The guy at the garage told me gently that the car had some odor issues. Oh, really? LOL

I had done my research, and I bought a VW Jetta, diesel, SEL, which was the top of the line. I loved it. On the highway, it got 57 mpg on one trip to Rockford to visit my grandson and his family. It loved to go fast, and the faster I drove, the better the gas mileage!

I had owned it about six weeks when the news hit. VW had deliberately programmed their diesel cars so that they sensed when they were in a testing station, and emissions all met standards. Once the car was on the road, the computer sensed that they were NOT in a test station and reprogrammed the car to run like a deer and get great mileage. They were also producing between 10 and 40 times the allowable amount of nitrogen oxides. That's smog, and that's what irritates lungs.

In Indiana, where we can boast having the worst air in the nation, there are no emission tests for automobiles, of course, so I could have kept driving my car. But being a tree hugging progressive, and remembering a granddaughter with asthma when she was a baby, how could I keep the car, no matter how much I loved it? So I opted to sell my car back to VW.

The local dealer didn't have much choice on the lot for a replacement car, but there was one I fell in love with. I could have waited until I got my refund and bought a different make of car, but I had driven a dog (let's face it, you don't buy a Prius for a power trip) for six years, and my Jetta was fun to drive. So I bought a 2016 Jetta GLI, 2.0 liter engine, drove even better than the 2015 diesel! It sat in my garage, in storage, to keep the insurance down, until the VW dealer pointed out to me that if I wrecked the 2015, which I was continuing to drive, it would no longer be eligible for the buyback program, and even if I was not at fault in the event such an accident should occur, the car would be valued at book, which ain't much, thanks to VW's chicanery. So the diesel went into the garage in storage, and the new 2016 GLI came out. The VW buyback program accounted for the loss in value, and we are being compensated quite well for that difference.

My appointment to return the 2015 diesel Jetta is January 18. I will finally be able to put the new car in the garage. I never dreamed I would own two brand new cars within 15 months of one another. But as of January 18, this single person household will finally be a single car household again.

GLI waiting for its turn in the garage

Friday, December 16, 2016

My dear, dear Tashi - have I found the solution?

Tashi has had a rough couple of years. Shortly before we left the farm, she developed small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), which went undetected for months. Her weight dropped from 63 to 44. I complained, took her to the vet, but answer was she needed to lose weight anyway. But I hadn't changed her food, she had no physical symptoms such as diarrhea or vomiting and still ate with gusto. She was down to about 55 when we moved from the farm. So I did attribute the continued weight loss to her depression. She HATED city living. Her depression was obvious, nearly palpable.

Weight continued to drop. I finally asked to see the head vet at the clinic I went to, and he was alarmed. A 15% loss of weight is cause for concern, and she had reached 30%. Dr. Hoeffert is a great diagnostician, and he immediately thought of SIBO. Tests confirmed it was most likely the problem. Meds didn't help much. I started feeding her kefir. I think that helped as much as anything. It helped to get good bacteria into her system to combat the bad guys. I started making her food so that she got a low carb diet, since SIBO loves carbs. And since she had become a very picky eater, she ate better if the meal was chicken gizzards, liver and turkey that mom made just for her.

Little by little, she gained weight. Then I went on vacation. The person whom I hired to watch her had specific instructions on how to feed her - it took a lot of coaxing. Against my specific instructions, he put food on the floor and left the house for his sister's most days, leaving her alone. She had finally gotten up to 48 pounds when I left her, but in two weeks was back down to 44. Poor thing.

Feeding her was a big deal. Spoon feeding the first few bites was helpful, but then I had to stand beside her. If I left, she left the bowl. If I stayed there, I could watch her, and if she quit eating I would spoon feed a couple more bites. Gradually we got her weight back up to 54, which is the maximum optimum weight for her. I was delighted.

Eating? Well, it had to be home cooked. That worked for a bit, and it did help her to gain weight. But her BUN numbers weren't looking good because I didn't have enough carbs in it, so Dr. Rock suggested adding sweet potatoes and rice or oatmeal, which I did. He also thought she might be having stomach aches, so she got Pepcid twice a day. Nothing really helped.

Through all of this, her behavior was becoming what can only be described as aberrant. In the midst of all this, she lost her lifelong companion, Ayn Chee, to cancer. We got another dog, and while they got along okay, it was not the same for her, and I knew she missed Ayn Chee even more than I did. The behavior got worse. There was much clawing at me, pushing my hands off the computer keys, and nights were hell. The vet prescribed Xanax for her, and it seemed to help for a bit, but then it made no difference at all. She would circle around in the bed, panting pitifully. She would scratch at me, sometimes right across my face. There was no locking her out of the room; she would claw at the door to get back with me. I seriously considered putting her down. I was also sure she was suffering from dementia. based on all of the crazy behavior. Many trips to the vet, many tests run, nothing apparently physically wrong with her led me to that conclusion. It was time to suck it up and accept my old dog was in her final days, and they weren't going to be pretty.

There would be a good day or two now and then. Cooking for her was time consuming, and didn't seem to be all that effective anyway. I started buying grain free soft food, salmon and sweet potatoes being her favorite. I also bought grain free dry dog food with freeze dried wild game bits in it, and mixed the two with the last of her homemade food. She would eat a little of both with coaxing. Gradually all of the homemade dog food was eaten up.

She seemed to be doing better. In fact, we went six days without the crazy behavior, and mealtimes, while a little slow, were better. She would even occasionally eat some of the dry dog food with nothing on it. It was good to hear her crunching away.

Last Saturday, I had some leftover sweet rolls from the market. She loves, loves, LOVES bread! I gave her some ends, which of course she scarfed right down. That night, we had another very bad night. In the morning she was trying to crawl in my lap as I sat at the computer, and she clawed at my arms to get my hands off the computer keys.

Duh! My dog is allergic to grain. In the ensuing week, I have not given her so much as a bite of bread. I am checking her treats for grain - no grain for Tashi. Life is good.

What kind of distress has she been going through? I kept saying to her, "Tashi, I wish you could tell me what is wrong, what hurts, what you are feeling." She is asleep at my feet right now. No more trying to pull my hands off the computer keys. No more panting and circling in the bed. No more lying on top of my body or scratching at my face at night. My dog is just fine, thank you! Dementia? I don't think so. Tashi and I are both at peace again.

Tashi enjoying her food - without coaxing.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

First U Service Auction fundamentals

The First Unitarian Church of South Bend has a fund raiser each fall. We offer things, and other members and friends bid on them. We provide the work or the food or whatever, and the church gets the funds. It is our biggest fund raiser. Everyone has a great time, and since we all pretty much like each other, we know we are going to enjoy sharing a meal or a game night or a croquet match with people whom we like.

Everybody wins.

I buy gardening help every year from one of our members. Well worth it! Kathy is great, knows her stuff, pointed out last night that I had sweet woodruff in my rose garden and made sure it stayed. I've never cleaned up what obviously was the rose garden. This place sat empty for seven years, all gardens untended. One by one, I have recovered them (with Kathy's help) or taken them out and put grass seed in. Only the rose garden remained, wild and unattractive. This year, I got two lovely tea roses. I'm sure they were Mr. Lincoln - deep red, velvety petals and that lovely scent. I had a rose garden in Chicago. If the rose didn't have a pronounced scent, it didn't make the cut in my garden. Peace Rose, no scent, no dice. Chicago Peace rose, wonderful scent, made room.

My rose garden was a mess. Yesterday Kathy attacked it with her usual vigor. By the time she left, with our early darkness creeping in, it was cleaned out, edged, three rose bushes discovered and pruned, and all was right with the world!

Kathy at work

Lotsa rocks!



I am imagining sitting on the bench next summer, with tea roses scenting the air around me.