Thursday, January 28, 2016

spinach pesto quinoa

Last week a recipe popped up on my bariatric surgeon's Facebook page, so I decided to try it.  It was a perfect way to use up the pesto I bought for my department's holiday potluck, as well as some quinoa and Parmesan cheese I had hanging around.  The only thing I needed to buy was some spinach. 

I went to the store Friday night after work to get the spinach and a few other things, which was the eve of the big East coast blizzard.  I expected the store to be mobbed, but it wasn't; however, the salad isle looked as though there had been a run on salad.  In my experience, customer usually buy all the milk, bread, and junk food prior to a big storm.  Not salad.  (I now know it was likely due to the Dole recall.) Even the salad bar had been completely emptied.  There were spinach leaves, but they looked like something the cat dragged in. So, I was stuck buying a giant container of spinach. I now need to figure out what to make with that.

I made the recipe over the weekend. It was very easy.  Just cook the quinoa according to the package directions.  When it's done, stir in the salt, pesto, spinach and cheese.  That's it.  I only made half a recipe, since this is something Bob isn't likely to eat.  He tried it without the spinach and liked it, but I don't think he would sit down and have a big serving of it.

It tasted pretty good, but I wasn't happy that it kind of formed this big mass of quinoa and spinach.  I'm guessing it's because of the cheese, which, of course, melts when you put it into a pot of hot quinoa.  Next time I might save the cheese for topping, rather than mixing it in. Or maybe I can have it as a cold salad and mix the cheese in once it's cold. 

Here's the recipe if you're interested in making it:  Spinach Pesto Quinoa.

Monday, January 25, 2016

another update on leo

Leo went back to the vet last week for his checkup.  Last time he was there the doctor saw some residual redness and swelling, and decided we should give it another month.  This time he said it's looking a lot better, but still sees some redness.  He's thinking of trying a new drug on Leo, but he wants to research it first.  He said he will call us and then we can bring him in for another checkup and possibly get this new drug (the name escapes me).

Overall, Leo is doing great.  No more gnawing or drooling and he doesn't seem to be in any pain at all.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

homemade strawberry chia jam

I had last Monday off from work because of MLK Day.  I was feeling motivated, so I did a lot of cooking.  I used up the leftover ham and ham bone from the family dinner I had the previous weekend.  With the leftover ham I made ham hash for Bob; his dinner that night was hash and fried eggs.  I also made crustless quiches with ham and some sharp cheddar cheese that was left over; those are for me.  I used the ham bone to make pea soup for a friend.  I defrosted some cooked wheat berries and cooked chicken breast, and made Cranberry, Chicken and Wheat Berry salad.  And finally, I made strawberry chia jam.

I love jam, but it's loaded with sugar so I tend to stay away from it.  I've been looking for a good no-sugar-added jam, and I just can't find one that I would care to buy again. I was reading a weight loss blog and found a recipe for homemade jam with chia seeds and thought I'd give it a try.  All I needed was berries of my choosing--either frozen or fresh--, Torani sugar-free syrup, and some chia seeds.  I went to Whole Foods over the weekend to browse and saw they had chia seeds in the bulk bin.  With this recipe in mind, I decided to buy them. I also bought some frozen strawberries, since they were the least expensive.

This jam was so easy to make and didn't take long at all, about 15 minutes from start to finish. It tasted good, too.  Much better than the store-bought no-sugar-added stuff. I had been worried about the texture of the jam with the addition of chia seeds, but it was fine.  The texture reminded me a bit of tapioca. Chia seeds absorb a lot of liquid, so they soften and swell a little, which is what thickens the jam.

So far I've only used the jam on some toast, but you could use it anywhere you would normally use jam.

Here's the finished product.  It's not super pretty due to the chia seeds, but it tastes great.  You can find the original recipe here:  Chia Jam.  All I did was use frozen strawberries instead of a berry mix, and strawberry Torani Sugar-Free Syrup instead of Raspberry.  Next time I'm going to try blueberry!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

update on max

Max seems to be doing well.  He's not in the litter box every 10 minutes anymore and seems to be himself.  I'm not thrilled with the fact that he's still not peeing very much, but he might just be drinking less water than usual, or he's doing it when we're not around to check.  I kept him quarantined in our bedroom most of the weekend until it seemed he wasn't in the litter box as much.  He definitely wasn't thrilled with that.  At all. There was lots of meowing and playing with the door handle.
Feeding him the prescription cat food separate from the other cats was difficult, so we're giving it to all of them.  They don't have known urinary problems, but because almost all of them are male, senior cats, I figure this might help prevent any problems down the road, or help to alleviate any problems that might be brewing right now. Max decided very early on that he doesn't like the pate style of this food (loved it the first time...then wouldn't go near it), so I had to go back to the vet and get the morsels with gravy, which comes in the little 3 ounce cans.  $33.00 for a case of 24.  Since I have 10 cats, there's no way that case will last me three weeks. Bob is picking up more tonight, since Leo is going back for a checkup on his teeth and gums.
Max will be going back to the vet in a few weeks, so hopefully he says that Max can go on another urinary diet that's less expensive. And I'm hoping the urinalysis comes back showing that the crystals have decreased or gone away completely.  I'll post an update then.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

max is under the weather

Max just got diagnosed with urine crystals.

He started acting weird in the litter box Wednesday night. I noticed that he was in there for quite awhile, and when he finally came out, he would continue squatting in front of the litter box.  There were a few drops on the floor after he walked away.  Thursday he seemed OK, but Friday morning he visited three litter boxes in a row and didn't urinate at all. That's when I knew he likely had a urinary tract infection or a blockage due to crystals. I'm very lucky to have caught him in the act, so to speak, because it can be difficult to spot such things when you have multiple cats.

Off we went to see Dr. Rob.  Max howled all the way there.  I actually had a headache when we arrived. The front desk person told me she could hear me coming up the walkway, he was so loud! (Max is a bit of a baby.) Luckily, they allow drop-offs, so that's what I did; I had to get back to work. I picked him up later in the day.  Very convenient!

Dr. Rob was able to get a urine sample before I left, which is a good thing.  It means that Max wasn't suffering from a blockage, which is very uncomfortable. Can you imagine having to pee and you can't because your urethra is basically blocked shut?  Painful, to say the least!

Dr. Rob talked to me later in the day and told me that Max may have a UTI, but he's unsure because of the testing they do for the crystals; it can sometimes obscure the results for bacteria.  He found white blood cells, which usually indicates infection, so he thinks Max does have a UTI.  Max got an antibiotic injection, which should take care of it.  The doctor also found calcium oxalate crystals, which can eventually cause stones or a blockage if left untreated.  (Here's a little information about it: Calcium Oxalate Crystals)

Unfortunately, this diagnosis means he has to be on special food for the rest of his life in order to prevent the development of crystals in the urine, which could lead to blockages.  Dr. Rob prescribed Royal Canin SO for the next three weeks ($38.00 for a 7.7 lb bag of dry and $11.00 for five cats on wet food).  It's supposed to dissolve the crystals, dilute the urine, and lower the urine's PH in order to prevent crystals from forming in the future.  Dr. Rob mentioned that I should stop buying seafood flavored cat food, as it has a much higher potential of causing the formation of struvite crystals in the urine. He said not to feed seafood flavors to any of my cats. I told him I had been buying it lately, because the store I usually buy from didn't have the poultry flavors in stock as they usually do.  He said that could be part of Max's problem.

So, once we're done with three weeks of Royal Canin SO, Max will have another urinalysis to determine if the crystals dissolved.  If so, then he can be moved to a urinary health maintenance food.  I will need to find an affordable one, though. The reason I say "affordable" is because I have nine other cats and it's impossible to feed one cat separately; I'll need to feed it to them all.  Well, wet food isn't difficult, but dry food is, since I have two cats that eat dry food only.  They don't eat at the same time the others eat their breakfast and dinner, so I leave the dry food out all the time so they can graze.

I may try the separate feeding, though, so if anyone has any suggestions for doing this when there are multiple cats in the house, I'd love to hear them.  Please!

Friday, January 15, 2016

my two-year follow-up appointment

Yesterday was my two-year follow-up with the bariatric surgeon.  I was dreading going, because I've gained back a few pounds and didn't want to face him.  All the old feelings came back:  dread, shame, guilt.  Before I went I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what sorts of excuses I could make about why I'd gained some weight:  I fell into the "snack trap". I took the wrong job in 2014 and spent all year snacking for distraction.  I feel I look better with a few extra pounds (that's actually true; I don't feel as though I have that "gastric bypass look" about me in the face anymore). I've been worrying about it for weeks.  But did that spur me into action to stop snacking and get on track?  Nope.

It's funny the kinds of things overweight people do to shave off any extra weight before a weigh-in. I drank tons of water yesterday and the day before.  I was hoping for a bowel movement (yes, TMI, but that's reality).  I ate very light yesterday.  And I wore to work what I felt were my lightest clothes.  Not in terms of color, but actual weight.  I was going to dinner with a friend afterwards, so I also had to decide if I wanted to change into my jeans and sweater before the appointment; I was told last time that they may take an "after" picture of me (they didn't).  I ended up bringing my casual clothes to my appointment and then changing the bathroom afterwards.

So, I got weighed in by the nurse and I was 223.  I was about 203 at the last appointment six months ago, so that's a 20 pound gain. I was embarrassed, but she just brushed it off, saying that we just had the holidays and don't worry about it, it happens.  That made me less nervous and more relaxed.  I thought, "That wasn't so bad.  The doctor won't be upset."  What a setup!

My doctor came in and asked me some questions:  how was I doing, any issues, etc.  He mentioned the weight gain and I told him I feel I look healthier (it's not a lie), just like I'd rehearsed.  And....basically he called B.S. on me.  Although, he didn't use "B.S." He said "bullshit."  He then proceeded to tell me, in these exact words, "Stop fucking up!"  He talked about studies of WLS patients and his own experiences over the past 15 years with patients.  He doesn't want me to be one of the patients that totally goes off the rails and squanders the tool I've paid good money for and went through a lot of hard work for.  So, the message he repeated the whole time he was with me is, in these words,  "Don't fuck up!"  He's a no-nonsense guy and that's what I love about him.  He's not mean or condescending about it.  He's also very caring and he listens.  He recommended strongly that I either see the dietitian, or the psychologist.  I opted for the dietitian, since I feel like I've gotten away from the basics. (And, to be perfectly honest, I didn't get much nutritional counseling.  The dietitian that was there before my surgery wasn't very informative at all.  Most of what I know I learned by Googling.)  I don't feel I need the psychologist...yet.  I know now what makes me eat:  boredom and procrastination.

Even though I got a smack-down, I felt good when I left.  (But I'll admit my eyes were welling up when I was sitting in his office.) It was exactly what I needed to hear from him, exactly when I needed to hear it.  He actually struck a bit of fear in me, to be honest.

My appointment with the dietitian is on February 23, so I'll be sure to report on it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

homemade onion dip: round 2

For my family Christmas dinner I was looking to make something different.  We always have the old stand-bys, like mashed potatoes and corn. There's nothing wrong with that. In fact, I usually look forward to those things. But since dinner was at my house, I took the opportunity to try some new recipes.  It's my house, my rules.  And it's my prerogative to ditch the mashed potatoes if I want to.  ;) I made Ree Drummond's au gratin potatoes, glazed carrots, and had my brother and sister-in-law bring sweet potato and apple casserole (it tastes like apple pie and it's delicious!).

Since I was making some new recipes, I figured why not make onion dip from scratch?  Last February I made homemade onion dip for the first time. It was good, but it didn't taste anything like what we buy in the store.  Sure, the store stuff is salty, but I like it and so do most other people I know. I went in search of a better recipe and found one on Alton Brown's website.  (I LOVE Alton Brown, so I'm willing to try just about anything he makes.)  This recipe uses mayo and sour cream, rather than Greek yogurt.  That right there told me this dip would taste more like the dip I grew up with.

The recipe calls for a pound of diced onions.  Anytime I use a recipe that wants diced onions or minced garlic, I pull out the food processor or my mini chopper.  Even though I know how to dice and mince those items, they're just messy and stinky to deal with, especially the onions. I didn't want to deal with sticky fingers and runny eyes.  So, I tossed the peeled and trimmed onions in the food processor and in about 10 seconds I had diced onions.  The longest part of the process was frying the onions, which took about 20 minutes--I was frying a double batch, so it took longer for the onions to cook through.  While the onions cooled I mixed together all the other ingredients.  I let the onions cook for a total of about 30 minutes, then mixed it all together.  I then let the dip sit for two days in the fridge.

The results were delicious! Very close to the store-bought onion dip.  Not the crappy stuff that doesn't need refrigeration (scary!), but the stuff in the dairy isle, like Helluva Good.  I liked it much better than the recipe I tried last year and would definitely make it again.  It wasn't difficult or time-consuming to make.  Everyone who tried it loved it. Except my husband.  He didn't seem all that thrilled with it, but that's OK.

Here's the recipe link if you want to try it yourself:  Alton Brown's Onion Dip from Scratch  The key to making this simple is to chop the onions in a food processor.  Otherwise, you're not likely to want to make this.  You'll be crying a river by the time you chop a pound of onions and will want to race for a box of tissues.

(Yes, I had some chips and dip.  Just in case anyone is wondering.  No, I didn't go overboard.)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

the holidays are finally over

Tree in the living room.

It's January 10 and it's finally time to take down all the Christmas decorations. Normally I would do this the weekend after New Year's, but I had the family down for our Christmas dinner this weekend. I cooked for a total of 17 people, eight of which stayed with me for the weekend.  Some drove down from New Hampshire and some up from New York. We had a grab bag gift game, which is always fun.  I ended up getting ear buds, plastic storage containers for food, a plush throw blanket, a tea light holder, and some candles. All useful stuff. Dinner was ham, au gratin potatoes (I used The Pioneer Woman's recipe and they were delicious!), sweet potato and apple casserole, glazed carrots, stuffed mushrooms, stuffed shells, corn, and bourbon meatballs.  Dessert was tiramisu cake, apple knobby cake (my sister made them with my apples), brownies and cookies. Oh, and vanilla ice cream.  Yes, we were stuffed!  This morning for breakfast I made a french toast casserole and my sausage and hash brown casserole--I didn't want to make 10 different breakfasts.

My niece and I took a trip to Best Buy this morning in the pouring rain.  She's gets an awesome employee discount and I needed a few items. I got a power bank so I don't have to worry about finding a place to plug in a phone or tablet charger.  Bob got a bluetooth keyboard case for his little Microsoft tablet.  I got one for the iPad.  And I got a 10-foot USB charger.  I would have bought two, but another niece has one that she doesn't want.  I just tried out the iPad case with the keyboard a few minutes ago.  I like it, but it's going to take some getting used to.  It was a little awkward, but that might be because I was trying to use it like a laptop.  In other words, I had it on my lap. (I LOVE that laptops and tablets fit FLAT on my lap now!!  My stomach isn't in the way anymore.)

Everyone left by 12:30 pm today.  Once everyone left we did some quick cleanup and then went out for a bit. We really just wanted to get out of the house for a bit.  I captured the kitties taking some well-needed Zzzzzs; the kids kept them busy.

Bailey, Louise, and Oscar.

Leia. She's next to the wood stove.  I think she's hoping for another fire.  
It's way too warm today, though.

Now that everyone is gone, it's time to take down all the decorations. Finally! I left everything up so it would still feel like Christmas, but I'm pretty tired of looking at it now. And the Christmas tree is just about petrified.  It seems like so much work goes into the holidays, and then they're over in the blink of an eye.  It's the one holiday that we put a ton of money and effort into.  At least we get to enjoy the festivities for a month or so before we have to un-decorate (is that even a word??). I'm always a little sad when Christmas is over, but there does come a point when I can't stand looking at the tree anymore.

Tree in the family room. This thing is DRY!

And this just about sums up how I feel now that all the hoopla is over with and the house is once again very quiet.  Laundry and dishes are done, and the house is cleaned up.

Thelma, sleeping like a champ. Go, Thelma! Go!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

glazed carrots

I was looking for a side dish to bring to my sister's house for Christmas, and had a ton of carrots in my fridge, so I decided to make this recipe.  I also wanted something a little different; I get tired of the same old holiday food.  (My family isn't overly adventurous in the food arena, so we don't typically deviate much from the standard holiday foods. I remember one year I made homemade cranberry sauce--we are strictly a canned, jellied cranberry sauce family-- and no one touched it, except my mother.  I'm not sure if she was just being supportive or if she really liked it, but I'm happy someone tried it. )

I Googled "glazed carrots" and I got many, many hits.  I found one that calls for whiskey, some with honey, some with orange juice or maple syrup, some with brown sugar only or white sugar only or some combination thereof, etc.  The Internet is great, but it can often be overwhelming to have so many choices and different variations of the same dish. I settled on this recipe from BakeSpace, which is pretty simple and doesn't call for any special ingredients other than fresh lemon juice.  (To me, a "special ingredient" is one I wouldn't typically have on hand, like lemons.  Other people might keep lemons on hand, but I don't.)

I found this recipe to be easy, but it was a little tricky to judge when the liquid was reduced enough before adding the lemon juice.  It wasn't difficult by any means.  I just wasn't sure what the right consistency should be.  But that will come with practice.  And, really, there's no way to ruin this dish unless you burn the sauce or way overcook the carrots.

I really enjoyed the end product.  The carrots were tender and sweet, but not overly so, and I could taste a small hint of the lemon juice. 

I made this for my in-laws last weekend, and the cause came out even better.  I plan to make this again next weekend.

The only change I made to the recipe was that I used pre-cut baby carrots.  I already had them on hand. Recipe below.

Perfect Glazed Carrots 
(Recipe found here:  Perfect Glazed Carrots, which is originally from Cooks Illustrated magazine)


1 lb carrots (about 6 medium), peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick on the diagonal (I used pre-cut baby carrots)
1/2 tsp salt
3 TB sugar
1/2 cup chicken broth 
1 TB unsalted butter cut into 4 pieces (I think salted would be fine)
2 tsp lemon juice (I used fresh)
Ground black pepper to taste


  1. Bring carrots, salt, 1 tablespoon sugar, and chicken broth to boil, covered in 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until carrots are almost tender when poked with tip of paring knife, about 5 minutes.
  2. Uncover, increase heat to high, and simmer rapidly, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced to about 2 tablespoons, 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Add butter and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar to skillet, toss carrots to coat and cook, stirring frequently, until carrots are completely tender and glaze is light gold, about 3 minutes.
  4. Take the pan off the heat and add the lemon juice. Toss to coat. Transfer carrots to serving dish, scraping glaze from pan. Season to taste with pepper and serve immediately.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

last night's dinner: baked chicken breasts with stuffing

OK, it's not exactly last night's dinner, but I did make it for dinner last week.  I'm just late in getting to this post.

I made something I haven't made in a long time:  chicken breasts baked with stuffing and corn.  I wanted something easy:  you just bake the raw breasts in a casserole pan, which is covered for most of the cooking time, along with 5-minute stove top stuffing mix and some corn.  (It's also good way to use up the leftover corn and stuffing from Thanksgiving, which makes it even easier; you don't have to prepare a box of stuffing mix.) It's also an old standby I use when I don't know what else to make and nothing calls to me.

I've been on a boneless chicken breast buying kick lately; there have been some sales and one place, Price Rite, sells it really cheap most of the time.  Like $1.69-a-pound cheap!  And beef has been so expensive this past year, so I buy what's cheaper nowadays.  (Although, I've discovered that I can get it for half price, or less, by going early on a Saturday or Sunday morning and buying the meat that's dated to sell by the following day or the day after.  I got ribeye steaks for 60% off last week!) Plus, you can do so many things with chicken.

Anyway, I decided to crack open a pack of boneless chicken breasts.  The breasts were huge so I trimmed them of fat and then cut them into smaller pieces.  I then sprinkled them with salt and pepper, and partially sauteed them in a pan sprayed with cooking spray, so as to reduce the cooking time further (you can just use raw breasts if you don't want to do this extra step); I had just got home from work and I knew it would take at least an hour from start to finish to make this dish.  While the breasts were frying, I prepared the stuffing.  I sprayed the casserole pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Then I mixed the corn in with the finished stuffing and then put it all in the pan.  I then put the breasts on top, covered it, and baked it at 350 for about 40 minutes, until the breasts were cooked through.  It all depends on how thick the breasts are as to how long it takes to cook.

Here's the finished product.

And here's my portion.  I couldn't finish it, so Bob got the last bite.