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Daily Prompt V.7 – Fruits?

List your top 5 favorite fruits.

My top 5:

  1. Mangos
  2. Strawberries
  3. Blueberries
  4. Oranges
  5. Bananas

Last night, I made a quick meal of smoked chicken enchiladas, black beans, and simple salad. My husband, Bryan, smoked a chicken a few days ago and after considering several options, I decided to make enchiladas. I used drained, canned black beans but amped up the flavor with onions, fresh garlic, and spices.

My smoked chicken enchiladas with butter flour tortillas. These were deliciously spicey.

I decided to treat my family to some fresh fruit parfaits. I cut half of a small angel food cake into cubes and toasted them in a pan on the stove with a little butter. Then, layered whipped cream, toasted angel food cake, two of my favorite fruits (sliced strawberries and blueberries) in small glasses. Mine had chia seeds and cashew cream. It was a lovely scrumptuous treat.

One for myself, daughter, and husband.
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Food Chronicles: Crab legs times two

A couple of weeks ago, I was craving a crab leg boil, so I dethawed the frozen crab legs from my freezer I bought about a month prior. Now, my Haitian mom would not approve of me buying frozen seafood, but it is what it is. I bought some local specialty sausage from the grocery store the day before, like it was a special occasion. It was Easter weekend.

Some dishes I’d rather the experts prepare, but I felt bold and creative this particular weekend. While in the grocery store, I was also going to buy the crab leg boil seasoning, but when I red all the processed ingredients in the packet, I declined and decided to create my own seasoning blend with my spice collection at home.

You hear me talking in this video

My delicious crab leg boil: onions, potato, corn on the cobb, local sausage, shrimp, crab legs, and lots of spices.

The broth was so rich with flavorful.

My husband, Bryan and I, were the only two who partook of the deliciousness. Bryan ate some of everything except the crab legs. He said he’s not that big of a crab leg fan. I thought to myself, “more leftovers for me.” However, our daughter, Elise, had other ideas.  She asked me to make a seafood alfredo for Sunday’s dinner, which would be Easter dinner. Hmmm??? I hadn’t thought of that. CHA-LUNGE accepted!

This was an impromtu request. On Saturday evening, I checked to ensure I had all the ingredients, and I did. I’ve been removing dairy from my diet for health reasons, so I was disappointed this wouldn’t be a dairy free version. On Sunday, with my hands, I pulled as much crab meat as I could from the crab legs, and I chopped the shrimp into tiny pieces.

I planned to repurpose the corn, sausage, and potatoes from the crab boil for another dish like a soup, but that didn’t happen. Bryan and I added the sausage to some meals for a couple of days. Then, my week got busy, and I forgot to at least freeze the other ingredients. I was disappointed with wasting food. Sigh…

Creamy seafood (crab and shrimp) alfredo with tricolor gigli pasta
You hear me talking in this video. You’ve got to see me pouring the beautiful and light pasta into the roux.

My son, Caleb, enjoyed the pasta so much that he asked me for the recipe, which he rarely does. He’s a great cook himself and works at a fancy restaurant.

In one weekend, I created two delicious meals with a star ingredient – CRAB LEGS. 🦀 I’m happy I satisfied my finicky eaters. I’m inspired to make a dairy free version of the seafood pasta one day. I’ll keep you posted.

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Food Chronicles: Quick and Healthy

If it’s one thing I know how to do, it’s whip up a quick and healthy meal. I have the privilege of maintaining a well stocked pantry (and fridge and freezer) with nutritious options. I’ve been working from home for 3 years, so I’ve amped up my quick meal prep in this time. Cooking soothes my mind, and filling my body with nutritious foods is my favorite act of self-care.

Here are some ideas from real meals I cooked, ate, and photographed during the week.

Lunch one day, jeans and all, was a simple baked potato with vegan butter, nutritional yeast, vegan cheese, some green onions, & seasonings. The photo doesn’t do it justice, but it was delicious.
This is a fun way to eat tuna salad…I halved mini peppers & filled them with the tuna salad with a little extra seasoning on top.
Salmon croquette over rice with a salad. Yum!

That’s it for this post. Who knows what quick and healthy options I’ll be creating this week!

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Food chronicles: Salads!

Last April, my favorite people at Simple Green Smoothies had the audacity to come up with a 10-Day Salad Challenge and it was absolutely FREE. It’s a great time to start thinking about lighter eating. 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 challenge. She blessed us for 6 days straight and we blessed her every day with the Austin, Texas food faves.

That didn’t stop me though because I made 6 of the salads while she was in town. It took me longer than 10 days. Of course, I captured every salad in my personal photos. I also attached the actual recipes/pictures from the challenge. And the salads are out of sequence according to my taste. I hope this post gets your mouth watering. LET’S GO!

My version of Strawberry Mixed Greens: Two plates because one was for my niece. I omitted the green apple because I didn’t have one and used a herb salad blend. Fun and scrumptious.
The Sweet and Crunchy Salad: My version did not have pepitas and I used the herb mix again. The dressing on this one was my FAVE!
Bright Berry Salad: This was REFRESHING! I hadn’t eaten grapefruit in years due to my medications, but I thought what the heck, I’m going to commit to this CHA-LUNGE. I’m so glad I did. I missed grapefruit.
Vegan Potato Salad: This version surprised me! I omitted the black olives because I didn’t have any. I probably would not have added them anyway. I served with a side of homemade fried shrimp.
Healthy Pasta Salad: This was the leftovers I served with half a leftover fish wrap. I used leftover garbanzo beans, red pepper, cucumber, and carrots from the Sweet and Crunchy salad recipe. I’m not wasting any food around here. I subbed green olives for black and red onions for green onions and vegan parm for feta. I completed forgot to add the herbs! It was still DELICIOUS and quick to assemble. I made it on my lunch break.
Kale Caesar: Made with no kale in sight. I had romaine lettuce that I didn’t want to go back plus traditional caesar salads are made with romaine, right? I had some produce I didn’t want to waste, so the only thing I followed in this recipe is the dressing ingredients and the addition of garbanzo beans. It was yummy!
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Food chronicles: Sandwiches

Growing up on the south side of Chicago, we didn’t have much. The sandwich was an inexpensive and quick meal, usually made for lunch or a snack. Oscar Meyer had several options: salami, ham, and bologna….in order of my preference. A few slices fried made it special. White bread was cheap and readily available. Melted American or “government” cheese made it complete. And mayonnaise and mustard were the icing.

For variety, there was the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I always enjoyed more peanut butter than jelly. Some people think there is a science to the ratio. It’s really about your preference. I recall when I was younger, an older cousin pitted my same-age cousin and me in a battle of who could make the best PB&J. She took a bite out of each of our sandwiches. My cousin won. It hurt my feelings that I didn’t win.

I had so many sandwiches growing up, cold and hot, that I could NOT stand them anymore in adulthood. At some point, well after we moved to Texas, someone from work recommended a submarine sandwich shop, native to Austin and I quickly became hooked.

Although we lived in South Austin, I worked on the Northwest side for several years. I would go there on my lunch breaks a couple of times a week, trying different sandwiches, but I had my favorites.

As I had my own kids, I experimented with different meals and made sandwiches on occasion. By this time, I had expanded my repertoire of sandwich combinations and learned it was all in the type of bread and accoutrements (condiments and toppings).

The sandwich thing didn’t take off with my kids. Their taste buds were constantly changing. Also, my son, Caleb, was allergic to many foods including peanuts, so PB&J’s were not for him. There was that one Christmas when preteen Caleb asked for a panini press and a panini press is what he got. He was obsessed for a while, but then the obsession faded. I still have the panini press in a cabinet. I’ll give it to him when he moves out.

The next few photos I took are of decadent sandwiches I’ve made and enjoyed over the last few months. I share my food to inspire healthy and nutritious meals, not necessarily to share recipes (although sometimes I do).

I hope you enjoy my creations.

Another smoked salmon sandwich but this time on wheat bread loaded with veggies and pickles.
A little bacon sandwich on wheat with some veggies and avocado.
Leftover Christmas smoked turkey breast with avocado and tomatoes on sourdough bread. Looks like there is a piece of bacon on there too but I don’t remember 🤔.

What sandwiches do you love to make?

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Food favorites

Bloganuary Day 18’s prompt is right up my alley: what’s your favorite food to cook or eat? My blog is about self-care, and cooking healthy, nutritious meals is one of my favorite expressions of self-care. My Haitian mom instilled the love of cooking in me, and I’ve run far and away with it. I don’t cook traditional Haitian meals often, but my Haitian roots and methods allow me to cook a variety of delicious food with a Haitian flare.

I have a wide palate, but as of late, my favorite foods to cook and eat are soups and stews. Yes, it’s the winter season, though here in Texas, the high will be 77 degrees today, but I eat soups year round. I’ve blogged about soups I’ve made in Soups On: Fall Favorites and Bring on the soups. All photos are taken by me.

In this post, I will share some of my most recent delicacies through my photos. I also blog about cooking as self-care to inspire others to prepare healthy meals at home. I’ve gone through periods of being vegan, but now I consider my preferences to be mostly plant-based and dairy free (mostly). To ensure I’m getting the proper protein and iron, I’m back to eating meat, which is OH SO good.

The act of cooking is soothing, allows me to be creative, and gives me something to look forward to because I know what I prepare will do my body good.

In the crock pot…Mushrooms, carrots, celery, onion,, and probably a hot pepper knowing me.
This Turkey and Gnocchi soup is a knock-off of an Olive Garden (restaurant) recipe. I used leftover smoked Christmas turkey, and it was absolutely DELICIOUS!
I rarely eat ramen, but I bought a case of it for my kids. After a busy day, I wanted something quick, so I pulled these together and OH MANNN!
This all veggie ramen hit the spot. I added sauteed peppers & onion, green onions, and finished with a dash of sesame oil. I threw the seasoning packet away.
This beef chili was amazing. I loved the salad too.
Sausage & shrimp gumbo with rice.
Not a soup, but a quick beef stew. I found a bag of frozen pearl onions at the bottom of my freezer so I added.
Beef stew with egg noodles. YUM YUM YUM!!!
I just wanted to share these delicious mushrooms I made as a side dish. 😋😄
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Giving Thanks

My Thanksgiving plate: smoked turkey, green beans, macaroni and cheese, mashed sweet potatoes, dressing, mixed greens (collard, mustard, turnip), potato salad, and cranberry sauce. I made all the sides, except for the greens beans (made by our friends). My husband smoked the turkey and a pork butt. Everything was delicious!

Last week we celebrated Thanksgiving in the U.S. and I’m carrying the gratitude with me into this week. It’s true there is something to be thankful for every single day, even every moment, no matter how small. The Thanksgiving holiday reminds me to slow down and count my blessings. Thanksgiving kicks off my favorite holiday season.

Last year we drove to Chicago and spent the time with our family. That was so special because our time together is precious especially after my mom passed away. I think we all sense our time on this earth is limited and so we’re more intentional about making the time for each other. I like to say that I’ve been fueled up (with love) after those visits.

My nieces, siblings, and kids. Thanksgiving 2021
My daughter, Elise, and I Thanksgiving Day 2022

This year, we celebrated the holiday with friends. So many people have moved to Texas from other places so it’s not uncommon to not have family near. I was excited about cooking for friends. And it dawned on me this would actually be the first Thanksgiving in our new home. Being in a new home is and of itself something to be thankful for. We moved into our freshly built home about a year and 8 months ago so I’m not sure how long I can call it new. Whatever the case, since the pandemic we haven’t really had people over.

I made things easier on myself by keeping the menu simple. My husband, Bryan, decided to smoke the meats (turkey breast, turkey legs, and pork butt), which means I was responsible for cooking the sides.

The PREP

We began prepping the weekend before Thanksgiving by taking the meats out of the freezer to defrost in the fridge. On Tuesday, Bryan seasoned the pork and brined the turkey parts. I chopped up all my vegetables for each dish and put them in baggies that I labeled. I also made a big pot of liquid gold aka turkey broth. I also roasted about 10 sweet potatoes for my mashed sweet potatoes and sweet potato pies. In my grocery shopping, I purchased some time saving items like preboiled eggs, herb croutons for the dressing, and cornbread mix. And something I’ve never done for previous Thanksgivings most likely because I didn’t have the space was use my CROCK POT. I had her set up on the island.

This Ninja cooked up my greens and smoked turkey like a charm.

It was certainly a blessing to serve a bounty of food and be surrounded with loved ones and friends. Growing up in poverty, I’m reminded of how far my family has come to make a better life for ourselves and our children. What we didn’t have in financial means, we were rich in faith, hope, and love. The part of Thanksgiving that I will take with me everyday is to often show appreciation to the people who love and show up for me, to extend extra care and grace to others, to be encouraging, to demonstrate compassion to myself (first) and others, to help where I can, and to reflect more on what I do have rather than what I don’t.

What are you thankful for?

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Soup’s up

You know I love a good food challenge and it’s the perfect time to bring in the fall season with soups filled with bountiful ingredients. Last month, my friends at Simple Green Smoothies sent me an email with an invitation to participate in a free 10-day soup challenge.

I had so much fun last fall, I decided to do it again. Plus, it will be a great reset after a long weekend of visiting with family out of state. Since I’m on the road traveling back from Chicago to Austin, I might be a day behind, but I’ll be posting my luscious soups once I get set up.

In the mean time, you can read about all 10 delicious soups I prepared from the previous soup challenge Here.

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Food chronicles: Summer obsessions

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.

Pickled red onions and cucumbers

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.

Prepped vegetables for Pikliz, a Haitian condiment you eat with most anything, especially rice. Vegetables: habanero peppers (a substitute for the traditional scotch bonnet), mini red, yellow, & orange peppers, shallot, and cabbage.

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.

Pickled carrots

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.

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Feeding my soul: 6 months post surgery

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.

We had a beautiful Mother’s Day service at church. I chose to wear my big, barely cream colored hat with the black bow along with my striped maxi dress. Bryan took us out for breakfast afterwards.
Enjoying the sun at the Lazy River on my birthday.
Birthday dinner!

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, than 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 post menopause because I’ve done nothing out of my normal 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.