The rock in a turbulent sea

There are weeks that start out bad and redeem themselves eventually. Then there are weeks like the one I’m experiencing. The ones that start out bad and grow to such proportions of terrible I feel like I’m being punked. I would welcome some celebrity jumping out from a classroom with a camera assuring me this has all just been a poorly planned practical joke. Sadly…I don’t think that’s coming.

But one thing I have come to appreciate is the fact that there is generally one thing I can always count on to make it better…food. I used to stress eat, which was a big part of my problem. In it’s place I have learned the art of skinny comfort food. It is a magical thing, food that tastes so amazing you’re sure it has to be at least a thousand calories but in fact, it is a reasonably healthy meal. That sneaky combination is the only thing I can count on to create a beacon of hope in an otherwise stormy week. Last night I made one of my best skinny comfort dishes yet.

I have always wanted to be one of those people that was proficient with the crock pot. You may chuckle, as I have often heard it is one of the easiest cooking tools available. However, the ease and appeal of the crock pot has eluded me for many years. Sometimes I wonder if it’s a control issue. I find myself thinking “I’m supposed to leave that in there all day…and not touch it? What if something goes wrong?!? What if it needs to be stirred? I’m not sure I can handle this.” Other times I think it’s the ghost of bad crock pot meals haunting my confidence. In my early days of adulthood, when cooking was new, I had my fair share of crock pot disasters. Luckily I’ve always been surrounded by hungry men who are none too picky about the look or texture of their food. This “stew” turned out way too dry? No problem! They’ll slap it on some bread and make sandwiches out of it. I may have been dismayed over the outcome but they were happy enough with something flavorful to fill their stomachs. (I really can’t say enough about having non discriminating men around to devour even the worst food when you’re learning to cook.)

However, being the stubborn person I am, I keep coming back to the crock pot, again and again, in hopes of mastering these elusively easy meals it taunts me with. I found this recipe on pintrest: Cheesy Chicken and Rice. It offered that skinny comfort food I was looking for this week, with the promise of not only being an easy crock pot meal, but also requiring no chopping, peeling, mixing or an abundance of ingredients. I was very much looking forward to seeing how this one would turn out (and secretly hoping for a respite in my chronically crabby mood this week).

I’m happy to say it turned out to be as wonderful as promised. I didn’t mess anything up, and it was the most delicious, filling, beautiful meal my crock pot has ever seen! Curiously, the sides of my crock pot did end up with a bit of burnt sauce sticking to it, but considering my track record I’m going to ignore that, (Stephen chalks it up to a lower quality crock pot) and pretend like it was flawless. My week can’t handle anything less. It is a comfort to know that when the world is trying to drown me, I have a rock to cling to, even if that rock is nothing more than a well executed comfort meal.

All it takes is a little perspective.

I had one of those days. You know the ones. I woke up feeling like I could sleep another 8 or 9 or 10 hours. My first time back on the treadmill after 11 days off felt like I was back at day 1. I was late all morning. Every kid in my groups talked back, had a bad attitude, or was simply incapable of following directions today. I was tired and cold all day. A parent was 20 minutes late picking their child up from after school tutoring and I (always!) get stuck with the kids who are waiting on late parents. I got to the high school to get my flu shot only to find (after searching the place high and low for 20 minutes) they apparently just packed up and left before my appointment. It went on and on like this until the moment I pulled through Dairy Queen’s beautiful, promising drive through and saw that glorious cup of deliciousness glide toward my hand ensuring a mood swing for the better and sweet relief from a terrible day.

I love that all it takes is a cup full of ice cream and reese’s peanut butter cups to make all that stress and irritation melt away to oblivion. But when it’s all gone, when I’m back to feeling like a rational human being I always feel a little bit ashamed.

Stephen has taught me something no one else has managed to bang into my stubborn little head: perspective. See Stephen gets enough perspective in one day dispatching for 911 than most of us get in a month. He generally has something that can snap me out of even the worst moods (even if it is riddled with a healthy dose of guilt). Today even perspective didn’t sink in until the ice cream had done it’s work, but when it did, I felt ashamed.

All I could think was, here I was, playing my fiddle, feeling sorry for myself all day long over something that was easily fixed by a Dairy Queen blizzard. There are people who’s best days look bleaker than my day today. There are people who’s only hope is to make it to tomorrow, to the day after, to next week. People who spend all their time and energy simply fighting for existence, for the ability to say their day was good or bad. Who am I to feel sorry for myself? I need to remember, especially on these dark days, to count my blessings. I have so many I probably couldn’t name them all.

Compared to the bleak outlook of a cancer patient my day was just fine. At least it ended with some ice cream. See that wasn’t so hard…all it takes is a little perspective.

My newest obsession

I’m the type of person that gets completely and fully involved in something. I live for my new hobby/activity. It’s all I can think about for days, even months, on end. And then as suddenly as it appeared in my mind…it’s gone. Some of these obsessions last longer than others. Some of them even manage to hold a special place in my heart after the heat of my passion has passed. Others of them are gone, never to be thought of again. Or become one of those memories I think back on fondly and chuckle about.

One of those obsessions that burned a quick, hot flame, never to be thought of again was crocheting. My sister-in-law taught me to crochet one cold winter’s day when the idea of making a blanket seemed the most appealing thing I’d ever heard of. Oh I loved the busy way my hands were occupied by that little needle and the soft silky yarn. All I could think about was crocheting. Whenever my hands were free and my ADHD was kicking in I would long for my lopsided, poorly planned, oddly shaped little blanket. That lasted for about a month before I became frustrated with my ineptitude and shoved that tiny, impractical little blanket in the end table in the living room where it still resides today. I vowed to choose my hobbies more wisely from that day forward. And to some extent I have. However, to make a long story short (yeah right!) my newest obsession is cooking.

It amuses me somewhat that my current love is cooking. I’m currently in the middle of losing a fairly significant amount of weight. But as I quickly realized, it’s no fun trying to lose weight if you can’t find tasty things to eat along the way. Sometimes my new recipes are healthy…sometimes they aren’t. Either way I have learned to love, love, LOVE cooking.

My favorite thing about cooking is making it my own. Anyone can find a recipe and follow the directions. I like to read 20 different recipes for the same dish, compare them, tweak them and come up with my own version including a little from several of them and a little bit of me mixed in there too.

Last night was no exception. I’d been craving some delicious mexican food and decided with my lazy Sunday I would attempt something I had never thought to try before…ENCHILADAS! But here was the thing…I don’t really love enchiladas. The tomato sauce isn’t my favorite thing in the world. But I was bound and determined to try something new. In my research I found a wonderful, amazing thing! WHITE enchiladas! No tomato sauce! Only creamy dairy filled deliciousness. Oh my, my day was looking good. So after about 3 hours more of research, 20 recipes and a pinch of my own craziness I created the following masterpiece:

White Shredded Chicken Enchiladas
Ingredients:

3 -4 chicken breasts
1 small onion
1 bay leaf
Fresh or dried oregano
3 cups chicken broth
16 – 20 tortilla shells (I used white corn)
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (or Mexican blend)
3 Tbsp. flour
3 Tbsp. butter
Chili powder
Cumin powder
1 cup light sour cream
1 (4oz) can diced green chilies
Directions:
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.
1. Wrap corn tortillas in foil and warm in the oven.
2. Bring broth to a boil in a saute pan.
3. Set chicken into broth with bay and oregano and half the onion (quartered). Return to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer. Poach chicken in broth 10 minutes (or until no longer pink in middle – do not over cook!).
4. Remove chicken breasts to a bowl and shred with 2 forks.
5. Dice the other half of the onion
Turn oven up to 425
6. Mix chicken and 1 cup cheese, the diced onion and some chili powder and cumin (to taste)
7. Roll up in tortillas and place in pan. (I lightly sprayed the bottom of the pan so they wouldn’t stick at all)
8. In a sauce pan, melt butter, stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Add broth (2 cups left over from cooking the chicken) and whisk until smooth. Heat over medium heat until thick and bubbly.
9. Stir in sour cream and chilies. Do not bring to boil, you don’t want curdled sour cream.
10. Pour over enchiladas and top with remaining cheese.
11. Bake 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden brown.

It was a huge success!!

Finding an outlet

I am one of those people that feels an itch to write all the time. I have all these ideas and thoughts bouncing around in my head all the time, begging to be let out. I don’t like to journal – I mean I already know everything that happens to me! But I yearn to write about something, anything. So this is my feeble attempt to find an outlet. I suppose I’ll write about anything that comes to mind: my crazy ideas, latest obsessions, etc, etc. I hope you find something that amuses you, or helps you, or interests you…but if you don’t…oh well! This is for me anyway 🙂