When I tell you my creative juices have been flowing (pun intended😁), I mean it. Two things I’ve been into this summer are 1) propagating my plants (I’ll take a deeper dive in another post) and 2) pickling. I was inspired to try my hand at pickling cucumbers while doing one of my favorite past times: watching YouTube videos. The set of videos I was watching was either on meal prepping, vegan recipe ideas, frugal shopping tips, high protein meals, or all of the above.
I’m not sure why I’ve never thought to pickle anything especially when I learned how easy and inexpensive it is. All you need are common household items like vinegar (your choice on what kind), basic spices like pepper, herbs (if you have on hand), and the produce. I collect jars to store foods in (homemade smoothies, juices, broth), so I had a few to spare. I researched some recipes online to determine what appealed to me the most. I generally use recipes as guides and to give me ideas. When I’m baking, I’ll follow the recipe precisely because it’s backed by science.
I used the same liquid for the pickled cucumbers and red onions. I combined a recipe that called for vinegar, water, sugar, garlic, and peppercorns. I didn’t use as much sugar as the recipe indicated. The only difference is I added dried dill to the cucumber jars.
The liquid requires heating in a sauce pan over the stove until the sugar dissolves. I placed the vegetables in the jars and poured enough liquid to cover them. I let them cool down on the counter before sealing with the lids and placing in the refrigerator. I began enjoying the pickled onions the next day on my veggie burgers. I let the cucumbers marinate for 2 weeks and WHOILA, I had delicious pickles.
The Pikliz liquid didn’t require heating and only comprised of vinegar. An addition I made was added garlic to the jars. I used black pepper and thyme. I made a whopping 5 jars of that good stuff. I placed 4 in the refrigerater and one in the cabinet as a test. Some recipes didn’t require refrigeration. It’s been a week and I haven’t tried it yet. I’m looking forward to tasting.
Two wonderful things about pickling vetables are: the options are endless, from the vegetables, herbs, and spices; and you’re preserving vegetables which reduces food waste. It also presents a new way to eat them with the added probiotic benefits. This pickled carrot recipe was in the cookbook my son bought me for Christmas called Thug Kitchen… This recipe was particularly recommened for burritos and tacos.
I hope you’re inspired to try some delicious pickling recipes this summer. They will add an undeniable elevated flavor profile to your dishes.
Where has the time gone? It feels like a distant memory I had a hysterectomy on January 26th. And I actually started typing this post for a 4-month update, but I’ve finally gotten around to completing it. It’s been a very long 2 months since my last post because I’ve been so busy with life. Without fail, I’ve been consistently exercising, meditating, and eating healthy. My therapist calls these my ADLs (activities of daily living). If you’ve spent any time working with, or know people of the older generation, then you might appreciate the comparison.
I’ve provided several post-surgery updates in previous posts such as Day 1: Post Surgery, How it started vs how it’s going: 2 weeks post surgery , and 4 Week Post Surgery Update, to mention a few. In this post, I’ll provide some updates on what I’ve been up to and my recovery progress. In my very last post in April, I shared we had to put down our beloved kittie, Beignet. It was sudden and traumatic. His death occurred within days of me having to navigate through a difficult work situation that together put be in a high anxiety and depressing head space.
One thing about me and what I hope my readers glean is I ALWAYS turn the situation around to a “light lesson” that will not only propel me forward, but will hopefully help others. It’s simply changing my attitude about the situation. I do have a pattern of retreating to myself and not blogging when I’m embroiled in life challenges. It’s difficult for me to share when I don’t see the way out just yet. However, I’ve ALWAYS returned to blogging because it’s an integral part of my self-care. It’s an outlet for me to express myself.
The grieving process was difficult as you can imagine. I’ve never grieved so hard with losing a pet. My husband, Bryan, and our kids had a difficult time. We’ve since become more at peace and are thankful Beignet is no longer in pain. Beignet loved us with his whole little heart and we loved him with all of ours.
I’m not going to share the work situation because I’ve been actively working on a resolution. I may choose to reveal what it is once it’s settled. I can tell you it didn’t help my recovery one bit. I spiraled into a pattern of poor sleeping habits and eventually getting sick AGAIN. I saw a doctor in early June and this time, the diagnosis is along the lines of asthma likely brought on by allergies. I do live in the ‘Allergy Capitol’ of the United States.
There were some BRIGHTER moments in May such as celebrating Mother’s Day with my family and my birthday. I was initially sad on my birthday because I always think of my mummy who’s passed away almost 5 years ago. I cheered up eventually, especially after thinking about how blessed I am to make it to 49 years old.
For my mental and emotional health, I journal occassionally, practice mindfulness, am being intentionally self-compassionate, and do all the homework my therapist assigns. Homework usually pertains to exploring a thought through journaling, practicing a technique, completing some research, or following through on something that’ll make me feel better…it just depends.
Spiritually, I’ve doubled down on reading and meditating on the scriptures daily. I pray a lot more too. This year is the first year I’ve been consistent with meditation. I thank my FITBIT app for the variety of options on my phone which make it easy. I do a guided meditation at least five days a week, usually before bed. Bryan has gotten used to it too and now asks me to start it when he’s ready for bed.
For nutrition, I’ve gone back to eating meat though I still mostly eat plant-based. Some meals, or days, I don’t eat meat. I enjoy eating meat and realized after over 6 months of solely eating vegan and plant-based, that my body does so well without dairy. I was even eating plant-based cheese, but since I do not like the taste of most of these alternative cheese products, I decided to stop eating cheese altogether.
I named this post “Feeding my soul” because I feel like I’ve been attempting to bring myself back to myself, and a major way I do this, is through nourishing foods. In the cover photo, I enjoyed a plate of pinto beans and rice, smoked chicken, and collard greens. It was so yummy. I believe the foods I choose to eat keep menopausal symptoms at bay.
One day I even made an old school, delicious version of pot roast. Old school because I used a box of Lipton Noodle Soup mix….a recipe I learned from my mummy years ago.
As I’ve noted earlier in terms of my mental, emotional, and spiritual health, I’ve been nourishing by mind, body, and spirit with activities that help me feel good, relaxed, calm, and hopeful. I’ve incorporated more stretching into my exercise routines (I’ve done more downward facing dogs this year, then I ever have.) Through life’s normal challenges, such as helping Bryan navigate his mom’s and brother’s declining health and family situations, I attend to ADLs because they keep me grounded and sane.
In terms of recovery post hysterectomy, I’m doing well. I’ve educated myself to the nth degree on all things hysterectomy and menopause. Education is another line of defense I use to demystify a topic that can feel overwhelming, especially when it’s personal. Below are some highlights of what I’ve experienced with the disclaimer some of the information may be TMI or for mature audiences.
Surgical Recovery. The four scars on my abdomen are healed although sometimes I can feel a tug on any one, or all of them, when I do too much activity like gardening. I had a follow up appointment with my gynecologist at 8 weeks, and after her exam, she said I was doing very well. She encouraged me to not delay having sex with my husband. I’ve been nervous about it. We tried shortly after and the first time was uncomfortable for both of us. For me because my body had gone through a traumatic experience and was out of practice in that regard. For him because I was jumpy, which made him jumpy. Initially, it was a bit painful. After a couple of times, we were back at it like riding a bike. I’m so delighted I can still orgasm with no problem. I’m relieved we get to continue to enjoy each other in this way.
Menopause Symptoms. There are many symptoms of menopause, but the hallmark symptoms mostly discussed are hot flashes, night sweats, cloudy thinking, weight gain, mood swings, and irritability. I’ve not had much of the symptoms noted except cloudy thinking, weight gain, and slight shifts in mood. The tricky thing about the cloudy thinking is that I’ve had that for years as I’m sure it’s a symptom of perimenopause too. What I’m not happy about, but am living with is weight gain. I know my body is a different body in postvmenopause because I’ve done nothing to put on weight. This is an act of my body not having any estrogen, which is a major hormone that regulates so much in the body. In the big scheme of things, it’s not a lot of weight, but it definitely landed in my already large stomach area and a little bit in my hips. Not only is the scale a bit higher, but some of my clothes fit tighter. I’m glad I still have many options of clothes to wear. I’ve been practicing more self-compassion while continuing to double down on nutrition, weight training, and reducing stress. Sleep is another area I’m working on.
General Health. I met with my oncologist earlier in June for my routine 6-month visit and he always makes me feel like I’m doing something right. It’s been 5 years since my breast cancer diagnosis and I’m still in treatment (oral medications). The doc said my bloodwork was on target (although I thought my glucose was slightly higher than my normal). He said I was doing great and looked great. We discussed a different medication regimen since I’m now post-menopausal. He’s going to run some tests on my old tumor to determine if I even need to continue with treatment since it’s been 5 years. I’ll return to his office in early August for the results. This is exciting news. And I mentioned earlier, a doctor told me I have asthma likely as a result of allergies. He did refer me to a pulmonologist (who I see this week) because of my history of experiencing pneumonia out of the blue last year and bronchitis the year before that.
What’s next. I have so many blog posts topics in my mind. In fact, that’s how they all start…in my mind. My plan is to share them. I will work on getting on a more regular schedule with my blogging. Bare with me because I don’t know what it will look like yet. In the meantime, I have so much existing content on my blog. I appreciate all the new viewers to my page. Feel free to peruse at your leisure and I hope you learn something new or get inspired along the way.
March was a busy month. I returned to work after 5 weeks of recovery from my hysterectomy in January. 2022 definitely seems to be another year of firsts for me. Never have I EVER thought someone would think of a CHA-LUNGE that involved salads! REALLY? If you’ve been following me, then you know that eating healthy is my ultimate form of self-care and this blog is all about self-care. I decided to eat about 90% vegan/plant-based from July 2021-Janauary 2022 in an effort to prepare my body for menopause and to just generally eat more plants and clean. I’ve slowly been incorporating more fish and meats because I like them, but it’s still mostly (70/30) a plant-based lifestyle for me.
Back to the salads. My favorite people at Simple Green Smoothies had the audacity to come up with a 10-Day Salad Challenge and it was absolutely FREE. Spring is in full swing here in Texas and I’m more than happy to get ready for lighter eating. I signed up for this CHA-LUNGE on the spot. I received the recipes, including the shopping lists in an email. Initially, I had planned to just use what ingredients I had and modify the recipes as needed. Experienced home cooks like me know that recipes serve as guides. I was mostly ready, but then something happened….My niece visited from Chicago on Day 1 of the CHA-LUNGE. She blessed us for 6 days straight and we blessed her mostly every day with the Austin, Texas food faves.
That didn’t stop me though because I made 6 of the salads and am still going. Of course, I captured every salad in my own personal photos. I also attached the actual recipes/pictures from the CHA-LUNGE. And the salads are out of sequence because I made them when I could. I hope this post gets your mouth watering. LET’S GO!
We all have our obsessions and something I learned about my husband, Bryan, over the last couple of months is he LOVES egg rolls. I typed “love” when I jokingly think it’s bordering on obsession. It tickles me every time we, or he, makes a trip to the HEB Plus supermarket, he feels compelled to go to the sushi counter to pick up a pack of egg rolls. In fact, whatever supermarket we go to, he’s checking out to see if there are egg rolls. If we’re eating out, he will order egg rolls at any Asian or non-Asian establishment that sells them.
We may not be able to financially afford this emerging obsession, so over the holidays, I decided to purchase the ingredients to make them myself. After all, it’s more cost effective to cook at home and it will also be healthier depending on the ingredients you choose. Cooking allows me to be creative and since I’m a seasoned home cook, I let my taste buds help me visualize in my head what ingredients I wanted to incorporate. I didn’t use any particular recipe, but I did follow the instructions on the wrapper package for folding the egg rolls. Spoiler ALERT: They were delicious!
Our love for egg rolls started when we were growing up in Chicago, Illinois where there are many authentic Chinese restaurants around town. In fact, there is an actual China Town in Chicago and the food is amazing. There are also more authentic Chinese restaurants in Houston, Texas. The Asian restaurants in Austin, Texas aren’t necessarily Chinese, which makes a huge difference.
There is an authentic Chinese restaurant in Midlothian, Illinois Bryan introduced me to while we were dating over twenty years ago. We’ve eaten there many times before we moved to Austin, Texas. The owner visits China several times a year and would tell us about it. Upon a visit to his restaurant after we had already moved to Texas, we described to him the difference in the foods. He told us the reason for the difference is because Chinese people aren’t operating the restaurants. There are people from other areas of the world, with different cultures and influences, operating Asian restaurants, which is why it’s more lumped together as “Asian” cuisine.
I’ve made egg rolls several times over the holiday break and since the new year because they’re delicious and easy to make. With each time, I’ve been perfecting the recipe. This post has got my mouth watering and stomach growling to the point I’m comptemplating making another batch for dinner tonight. I like to STAY READY so I have all the ingredients on hand. I don’t think it will take much for me to talk Bryan into shredding the vegetables on the mandolin. That’s the hardest part.
We are living in strange times indeed. The COVID-19 pandemic is one for the history books. The silver lining to me is we’re being forced as a human race to collectively slow down and rethink how we go about our lives, which I hope allows for lots of self-care.
My type of self-care is nourishing myself with nutritious foods. Three of the four people in my household are high risk if we somehow catch this virus. I’m focusing on our health.
The epitome of comfort in my book is a bowl of soup. As I’ve written many times, the activity of cooking is soothing to me. Here are two nutritious and delicious soups I’ve made often for my family: chicken tortilla and black bean soup. I used to make chicken bone broth every weekend but I’ve switched to vegetable broth since nowadays I eat mostly vegan/plant-based. My pantry and freezer staples always help me rise to the occassion.
I hope you make time for self-care and whatever that means for you. I’ll continue to cook and share, hoping you get inspired by my recipes and even share some of your self-care ideas with me.
I’m not sure where the 10 days of the 10-Day Green Smoothie CHA-LUNGE went but the Creamy Blueberry Smoothie was just as scrumptuous as the first smoothie and every other one in between. This was truly a varied mixed of smoothie recipes, some with and without greens. Can you tell I highly recommend Simple Green Smoothies? I’m so glad I prioritized putting my blender on overdrive because the smoothies definitely provided the fuel to help me get through my busy days. Yup, I’d do this again! Cheers!
Today’s smoothie is a healthy, immune boosting concoction. NEVER have I EVER blended a smoothie with such a beautiful hue. I have to say, the people at Simple Green Smoothies created a fantastic batch of recipes for this winter challenge. I’m surprised that many of the recipes didn’t include greens. I just added them out of habit.
Day 9 of the 10 Day Green Smoothie CHA-LUNGE included the magnificent mango, my favorite fruit.
You can’t tell me my insides weren’t glowing after drinking this.
The only change I made was substituting oat milk for cashew milk. It was delicious! And don’t ask me how I got my blouse to match my drink. It was meant to be.😜
What I love most about this 10 Day Green Smoothie CHA-LUNGE is that the recipes are already put together. All I have to do is read, gather the ingredients, blend, and enjoy the fruits of my labor. I’ve been impressed with the great variety of flavor combinations. Today’s was the Creamy Banana Smoothie and I almost titled this post the “creamy dream” or “dreamy and creamy” then I came to my senses. Yes, my mind went straight to the gutter. Whatever the case, this smoothie definitely lives up to its name.
I improvised because not only did I not have cashew yogurt, I didn’t have cashew milk. Sooooooooo I substituted with almond milk and added raw cashews and mixed greens (can’t help myself). Then, I added this one last addition that might make me change the name to the EPIC Creamy Banana Smoothie. I added a dash of high quality cinnamon powder. It was so good.
As in life, my friends, be willing and flexible enough to improvise. You might end up liking the outcome much better.
Ok. I have words 😜 for Day 7 of the 10 Day Green Smoothie CHA-LUNGE. It’s called the Pre-Workout smoothie and it was DELICIOUS!!! I don’t normally fuel up with food or drink prior to exercise because I mostly work out in the mornings, prior to my work day, which is early. However, today is Sunday, I slept in, and after attending church online and tidying up the house, I didn’t exercise until much later in the morning. So I gulped this beauty down prior to my dance session.
I definitely had more pep in my step while working out. The coconut water makes the smoothie very hydrating. This will be part of my normal smoothie rotation. Another winner!
I’ve made it to Day 6 of the 10-Day Green Smoothie CHA-LUNGE and the smoothie combinations keep getting better. The Peanut Butter Chocolate Smoothie was a treat for breakfast. I paired it with a plant-based egg and vegetable sandwich and ended up with a protein packed meal after a cold morning running errands.
I have to say I didn’t like the taste of the Smart Balance peanut butter. I bought it on clearance but never again. However, the taste was mostly masked when I blended it with the other ingredients. This was still a delicious smoothie. Can’t wait to share Day 7 with you!