Random Tips

Life Lessons – 22 years in the making

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For those expecting a recipe at the end of this, apologies but not this time.

While initially I started off with a plan for a new recipe post, something unexpected happened. As I opened my computer I looked at the desktop background, as always a wonderfully happy image capturing the moment my new husband and I entered into our reception greeted me. However, behind the smiling images of us now stands a shadow, this is also an image that captured someone who is sadly no longer with us. He was a close family friend, and like most people react after a sudden and tragic passing, we did not see it coming. While I have seen this image daily, for some reason today of all days it struck me in an odd and moving way. For the first time in my life I felt compelled to talk about something I hardly ever dared to admit aloud to people or even think about too much to myself. To those that know me well this may come as a bit of a surprise, my heart is racing and I am crying as I write this, but with each word I feel an incredible peace and lightness coming over me. There is in fact a reason why this man’s passing struck me so hard. As we all soon found out, he struggled for years with something many people, including myself struggled with silently. Depression.

There has been a strong push in the past few years to bring more attention to mental health issues and the silent struggle so many people go through to one degree or another and even now I find it difficult to put down in words. While I do not know if many people will read this, it is something I feel compelled to write about in the hope that perhaps it may help someone. This is something I have never really talked about so please bare with me. I will not be reliving the past here. Happily and thankfully I was able to overcome depression in my own way. What I would like to focus on is how I got through it because maybe, just maybe, someone will find some part of this useful to them or someone they love.

The title of this post gives you a date. 22 years ago on the second day of Grade 1, in a brand new school where everyone spoke English and all I knew was Polish and Spanish is where all this began. The teacher asked me a question which to this day I have no idea what she wanted and I answered with the only word a fellow student was kind enough to teach me the day before, ” F*** “. I did not understand why the entire class was laughing at me, nor why the teacher was yelling at me but when I look back now, I know that it was this particular moment that started years of self doubt, self consciousness and feelings of being alone because in my mind “they just don’t understand me”. While I was bullied in elementary school, after hearing stories and seeing for myself what some others went through and go through, I can’t say my experience was very bad. It did all still play a role in feeling unwanted and worthless, making me doubt myself and my purpose here at every step. 22 years is not how long I battled with this silent struggle, it is a length of time that includes a process and journey I took to get past the feelings of sadness, self doubt and worthlessness. While I know I have gotten past all this many years ago and can say I am very happy and healthy now, I know that this will always be a part of me and something I continually learn from. Once in awhile something will happen or I remember something that makes me go back to that mind set, but now it is only for a slight moment, and it does not take me long to get back to myself and my current state of happiness.

It is in no way easy to push away and jump over those feelings depression brings with it. But something I learned towards the end of high school is that if we take the time to look way down deep inside of ourselves, there is ALWAYS at least one thing that brings joy and happiness into our lives. You just have to be willing to find it and more importantly, use it. This is not something that can be forced onto anyone, it is a journey each person must make, and for people dealing with depression this can be something hard to see or feel until we dig deep enough. What I have learned however, is that this is the key. Do your very best to not focus on the bad things or negativity around you, find at least one thing then go from there. Within time, more and more things will make you happy and soon they begin to outweigh the negative feelings and the bad around you.

For me, it is a bunch of simple little things and it is because of these things that pretty much everything I do today in my adult life has a reason and purpose behind it. These little things, that to most will seem mundane and ordinary all serve the purpose to make me happy and I love them all. They are all part of what makes me who I am and I refuse to not embrace them. Here are just some of the many things….I often buy fresh flowers for the house, for the simple reason that I think they are beautiful and they make me happy. When I am feeling crafty I make something for the home, for myself or for a friend. Even if it does not turn out, the simple fact of doing something creative has always made me happy. Finally, here is how all this relates to this entire blog and my cooking….I cook because simply put, I love it and seeing a smile on someone’s face after eating something I have made makes me happy ๐Ÿ™‚

Many, many years ago, during a time I felt the worst about myself, I decided to make a list. A list of all the things I thought were wrong with me and reasons why I felt alone. That night I cried staring at that list and feeling ashamed I stuffed it in a box filled with little notes that my friends and I passed to each other in class. It was a sad and hopeless note among carefree, happy notes from friends and it stayed there in that box for a few years. While I do not remember the exact time this happened I know it was in the Spring and it was early on in high school. On a day like any other as I walked to class, I stopped in the central courtyard between the annex and the main building of our school. In the middle of the courtyard was a religious statue (I went to Catholic School) it is not the statue that made me stop as I am not a religious person despite my schooling. That day it was the newly arriving Spring flowers that stopped me and by stopped, I truly mean STOPPED. I have no recollection of whether or not someone was walking with me that day, all I remember distinctly as the barely warm sun hit my back are those flowers and how in that instant, I felt truly happy for the first time since I could remember. I had found my first thing that made me happy!. That night, I dug out that list I had made a few years before and on the other side I added flowers and sunshine to the crumpled paper. It was a start.

This is just my own personal experience of how I started my journey of finding happiness, each person must find there own. I wish I could offer more help and insight on how to start but the only thing I know for certain is that there is ALWAYS something in each of us that makes us happy even in the slightest way and that is where you need to start.

While this may not work for everyone, perhaps just one person out there may find the following useful to some degree. It is a lesson and a process I live by now, something that has made me happy and makes me who I am.

Find Beauty in the Everyday because believe it or not, it is always there.

In the Winter:

If you are lucky enough to experience a snowfall, catch a snowflake on your mitten or sleeve. Take joy in the thought that like that snowflake, you are unique and there is nobody else out there like you. Without that single snowflake, the snowfall would not be complete, just like the world would not be complete without you.

In the Spring:

Fill your home with flowers or buy flowers for someone you care about to simply brighten their day. Give a stranger a flower and see how that unexpected gesture will bring a smile to their face. Plant something, nurture it and watch it grow knowing that without you, that plant would not exist.

In the Summer:

Stop to feel the warm summer sun on your face and let it bring a smile to your face. Let it melt away any worry and sadness you may feel and as the days grow warmer let yourself grow with them in their warm embrace.

In the Fall:

Do not let a rainfall make you think of sadness. Instead, think of rain as washing away the sadness and find beauty in the rhythm the drops make on your window or path. Then when you are ready, step out into the rain and let go. Walk, skip, spin and even dance knowing that once the rain stops eventually there will be sun again.

At least once in your life watch a sunset. Not for a romantic reason (even though that is nice too) but for the simple reason that with that setting sun, so too can those sad feelings slip away from you making room for happiness and a beautiful life.

More importantly, watch a sunrise. Let the slowly brightening sky fill you with hope and wonder for what is to come. Let the soft rays embrace you because it is a brand new day, a day where you can start to find that one thing that brings you joy. If you already have that one thing, use that day to live to the fullest.

If all else fails, stop. Stop to take in your surroundings and truly be still, for in that moment, perhaps you as well will see something in a different perspective that was there all along, simply hidden from view.

This is what I have learned and I love living my life to the fullest using all these simple little things. They have brought me joy, laughter and happiness. I am able to laugh at myself, be a goof ball, love and be loved and most importantly I have been able to constantly learn about myself and be the unique person that I am. I am surrounded by so many wonderful and loving people in my life and looking back on everything, it is hard to comprehend why I felt the way I did those many years ago.

If any part of this helps just one person start a journey to their happiness I will be forever thankful. If it doesn’t, well I guess I am glad to finally write this all down and continue on this amazing journey that is life with my amazing husband, my fantastic family, all my amazing friends and our pup who has an innate way of cheering up anyone.

Thank you for taking the time to read this now very long story and thank you to everyone who has helped me and been with me along the way, making me who I am. I am forever grateful and filled with love. XO

P.S: A new recipe will be coming soon ๐Ÿ™‚

Sage Butter Yams

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Sage Butter Yams

Looking around at some other blogs it looks like I am not the only one who has either not posted as frequently or is behind on stuff this month. Between decorating, doing all the Christmas shopping, wrapping gifts and most recently taking care of our injured dog who took a stick in the throat, punctured it and almost severed his tonsils, I have been M.I.A from blogging. For those that follow me, I do apologize for this but on a good note our pup is expected to make a slow but full recovery :). Until then, he has taken up residence on our bed and since we do not have the heart to tell him to leave, we now have an 80 pound snoring dog in between us on a queen sized bed. Basically my husband and myself have spent the last week clinging to the edges of the bed, getting great sleeps of course…I can’t imagine how this will play out once we decide to have kids lol.

On to the food…to try and make up for this lack of posting I am posting a Christmas related dish. By this I mean something you can quickly and easily whip up as a side dish for your spectacular Christmas feast. There are so many classic dishes to choose from around the holidays and for each of those dishes there are endless variations. At our house yams are always a must and generally do not last long. Typically, I prepare them with just butter and a bit of salt and they have always been great, but last year I wanted to add a bit of panache to them. I bought a bunch of fresh sage for our turkey and since there was so much left over I did not want it to go to waste. Staring at all the food on our island I had a light bulb moment, I would infuse the butter I needed to use with sage to add a subtle rich flavor to our yams.

Sage Butter

For the Sage Butter…

Ingredients:

  • 6 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • 10 – 15 Fresh Sage Leaves (finely chopped)

How To:

  1. Melt your butter in a small pan on medium heat.
  2. Once your butter is melted and bubbling, add in your sage.
  3. Stirring constantly, allow the sage to crisp up a bit in the butter (approx. 2-5 minutes)
  4. The golden butter should turn a light green color from the fresh herbs, once you see the leaves are crisped up remove from the heat.

For the Yams...

Ingredients:

  • 4 Medium Yams (Peeled)
  • 2 Tsp Sea Salt

How To:

  1. Cut your yams into cubes (mine were about 2 inches) Helpful tip: if you are in a rush, cut the yams smaller so they boil faster.
  2. Put your yams into a medium pot and add enough water to just cover the yams and add your salt.
  3. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. Once it is boiling reduce the heat to medium.
  4. Cook the yams until they are soft. (approx. 15 – 20 minutes depending on how big the cubes area) Helpful Tip: Use a fork or small pairing knife to check the doneness of your yams, if they are soft and fall off the utensil easily they are ready.
  5. Strain your yams and placeย  back into the pot.
  6. Add in your sage butter and mash the yams.

Rustic Stuffed Bell Peppers

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One of my favorite dishes made by my mom is stuffed bell peppers. She usually stuffs them with a combination of ground turkey, pork, rice and an array of spices. Last night I set out to make a similar meal. As much as I would have loved to stuff some rice into these cute little peppers, our Paleo diet was there in the back of my mind shaking its finger at me. Insert *sigh* here. It has been a bit of a rough week so some comfort carbs would have tasted amazingly. At least the rice would have been better for us than the pizza and beer combo my hubby kept dreaming about. I am happy to announce that we did not give into any of those amazing sounding food temptations. Instead we ate these cute little peppers filled with all kinds of Paleo goodness.

Ingredients:

  • 8 Medium – Small Bell Peppers
  • 4 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 400 grams Ground Lean Turkey
  • 400 grams Ground Pork
  • 6 Tbsp White Onion (chopped)
  • 1/4 Cup Celery (chopped finely)
  • 8 Brown Mushrooms (chopped)
  • 1 Can Diced Tomatoes (I used a 796ml can and strained it)
  • 6 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
  • 1 Garlic Clove (minced)
  • 1 Tsp Cayenne
  • 1 1/2 Tsp Paprika
  • 1 1/2 Tsp Seasoning Salt
  • 1 Tsp Fresh Ground Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 cup Beef Broth
  • 8 Tsp Almond Flour (for topping)
  • Almond Slices (for topping)

How To:

  1. Wash your peppers, cut off the tops and remove the seeds.
  2. Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees.
  3. Place your peppers cut side up on a lightly greased pan and fill the bottom with water.
  4. Bake them in the oven for about 15 minutes. Once the time expires remove them and let them cool.
  5. While the peppers are baking make your filling. In a large pan, brown your onions with the olive oil.
  6. Add in the meat along with the beef broth and stir constantly to break up the meat. (the broth with water will help break down the meat into small bits)
  7. When the meat is no longer pink, add in your celery, mushrooms, tomatoes, spices, thyme and garlic.
  8. Stir everything together for about 7 minutes to allow some of the liquid to evaporate.
  9. Remove from the heat and let it cool a few minutes.
  10. Stuff your peppers generously but be careful not to tear the peppers.
  11. Top each pepper with a bit of almond flour followed by the almond slices.
  12. Pour whatever liquid is left in the pan into the bottom of the baking dish. If nothing is left pour some water into the bottom just to make sure it is covered. This will prevent the bottoms of the peppers from burning and sticking.
  13. Place the peppers back in your baking dish and bake for 20 minutes.

Let them cool a bit before eating as the stuffing will be very hot.

Enjoy ๐Ÿ™‚

Paleo No Mayo Coleslaw

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As promised here is my recipe for a No Mayo Coleslaw.

I started making this when we were eating Paleo and I have continued to make it this way. As opposed to a heavy mayo dressing, this offers a nice lighter and fresher tasting alternative that is great especially now during the warmer months.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Small White Cabbage (chopped)
  • 1/2 Small Red Cabbage (chopped)
  • 1 Handful Italian Parsley (chopped)
  • 1/2 Medium Leek (chopped)
  • Juice from 1/2 Lemon
  • 2 Tsp White Wine Vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Spicy Brown Mustard
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Large Garlic Clove (minced)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

How To:

  1. In a large bowl combine your chopped cabbages and add a little bit of salt over it.
  2. *Optional Tip* Using your hands squeeze the cabbage. This will make it softer.
  3. Add in your parsley and leeks.
  4. In a small bowl combine the lemon, vinegar, mustard, oil, garlic and some pepper. Mix it up until it is smooth.
  5. Pour onto your cabbage and mix.

 

Coconut Breaded Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce

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This perfectly simple and delicious breaded chicken recipe has been altered from my moms original. The sauce on the other hand is something I whipped up to compliment the chicken.

The trick to not having dry and burnt chicken is cooking it slowly. Meaning, do not do the typical “fried” food and cook it on high heat. All you need is a bit more time on a lower temperature.

I make this when I am looking for a bit of comfort food. Hope you enjoy it as well.

Ingredients for the Chicken:

  • 4 Chicken Breasts (thinly cut and tenderized a bit)
  • 1/2 Cup Fresh Bread Crumbs
  • 1 Cup Unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 Tbsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/2 Tbsp Paprika
  • 2 Eggs (beaten)
  • 2 Tbsp Coconut Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil

How To:

  1. Tenderize your chicken slices and set them aside.
  2. In a shallow bowl combine the bread crumbs, coconut and spices and mix.
  3. In another shallow bowl beat your eggs.
  4. Bread your chicken by dredging it through the egg followed by the breading and set aside.
  5. In a large frying pan heat up your coconut and olive oil on high heat. (make sure the bottom of the pan is covered with at least a millimeter of oil, you may need to add more of each oil depending on the pan size)
  6. Once the oil is hot gently place your chicken into the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Cook the first side until you see it turn white around the edges. Turn to the other side using a fork and cook until each side is nicely golden. (approximately 3 mins per side depending how thick your chicken is)
  7. Take the chicken off the heat and place on a paper towel lined plate.
  8. Repeat the frying process for as many batches as you need. Mine usually takes 2-3 batches.

* TIP: Only flip the chicken once. This way it doesn’t dry out. If you are unsure of when to flip lift an edge to see if it is golden. If it is golden with white around the edges it is ready to be flipped.

Ingredients for the Sauce:

  • 5 Tbsp Finely chopped Leeks
  • 1 Small finely chopped Shallot
  • 3 Tbsp chopped Chives
  • 2 Large cloves Garlic (minced)
  • 4 Tbsp Spicy Brown Mustard
  • 6 Tbsp Cream
  • 3 Tbsp Water
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil

How To:

  1. In a small sauce pan heat up your olive oil.
  2. Toss in your leeks and shallots and cook for about 3 minutes or until they become soft.
  3. Deglaze the pot with the water and add in the mustard. Stir well to combine everything. Reduce heat to low.
  4. Add in your garlic followed by the cream and stir.
  5. Bring everything to a boil and reduce heat again to simmer.
  6. Cook for about 3 minutes allowing everything to combine.
  7. Toss in your chives and stir.
  8. Serve over your chicken.

 

The No Mayo Coleslaw I paired this chicken with will be be my post tomorrow so check back ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Ginger, Lemon Tea and other Home Remedies

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Feeling under the weather?

Sometimes during the winter and even early spring months it is not uncommon. With cold and flu season in full swing chances are you will come down with a cold at least once during this time. Spending the majority of my time in an office setting in close proximity to people coughing, sneezing, blowing their noses and refusing to stay home when they are sick I often find myself in fear of catching a cold or whatever is ailing them. Besides the hand sanitizer and box of Lysol wipes I have at my desk to wipe my desk, computers, phone and mice, I have a pretty awesome tea collection going in my drawer as well.

I am not a big fan of the traditional medicine used these days by people who have colds, from pills and syrup to lozenges. I do not even remember the last time I bought a bottle of cough syrup for that matter. While my husband at first was skeptical of my natural alternatives and all gung-ho for his Dayquil and Halls slowly he has come around and I find himself making himself Ginger tea and taking a few drops of Oregano Oil when he feels a cold coming on.

I am not going to discount the traditional medicines out there, to each his own. I have used them myself but if and when I can, I try to stick to something more natural rather than pumping my body that is trying to fight off a bug with chemicals and things I can’t pronounce. Here are my favorite home remedies and natural alternatives to some common problems we find ourselves faced with during cold and flu season. Remember, these are my opinion only and since I am not a doctor do not take this as a cure all and always talk to your doctor before trying something new if you are unsure of how you may react. Wow I totally sounded like a commercial for a new drug haha. Anyways without further adieu…

For the overall “I think I am coming down with something” feeling:

I always take a Vitamin C followed by 2-3 drops of Oregano Oil under my tongue and wash it down with some juice. (Do not put the oil ON your tongue, you will not like your experience)

I usually replace my store bought tea with a natural one when I feel under the weather and below is the recipe:

Ginger, Lemon & Honey Tea (pictured above)

  • 3-4 Slices of Fresh Ginger
  • Juice from 1/4 Lemon
  • 1 Tsp Honey (I tend to use Organic)
  • Hot Water

Combine all the above in your favorite mug and let it brew for a few minutes then drink. (PJ’s and a cozy blanket are highly recommended as well)

For the “I have a cactus stuck in my throat” sore throat feeling:

Salt Water Gargle

  • 1 Tbsp Sea Salt
  • 1/2 cup Warm water

Combine the above in a cup and let the salt dissolve. Let the water cool a bit then gargle a few times. Do NOT swallow the water. Do this at least 2 times a day.

For the “I may need a vacuum to unplug my nose” feeling:

When I was young I would get chronic sinus infections. Dealing with facial pain is very debilitating and pair it with a stuffed nose and you will definitely not be a happy camper. When I was younger I absolute hated doing these steam inhalations but now both myself and my hubby do them to help ease a stuffed nose and facial pain.

ย Steam Inhalation

  • Fresh Mint (or a mint tea bag if no fresh mint is available)
  • Pot of Boiling Water

Bring a medium sized pot half way filled with water to a boil and throw in the mint. Take it off the stove and place it on your table. Sit in front of it and place your face over it then cover your head with a towel. Take deep breathes in to inhale the steam.

*Do not put your face too low so you do not burn yourself with the steam and always have a box of tissues handy.

And finally for the “I should not have eaten that” upset tummy feeling:

Pepper Vodka Shot

Now, this one always gets a good tease from my husband followed by “wow you are so Polish” lol

It may sound funny but if something is upsetting your tummy and you are feeling queezy… try a shot of straight vodka with fresh ground pepper. It will either cause you to throw up whatever is making you queezy or settle your stomach.

Hope some of these help ๐Ÿ™‚

 

No More Store Bought Salsa

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Not that you can’t find a good one in a store, but nothing can beat a great homemade salsa!

I haven’t made this in while but it is always a crowd pleaser especially in the hot summer months. 

I believe my husband at one point hid the bowl of salsa in the kitchen in an attempt to save some while periodically paying it a visit with a handful of sweet potato chips. I don’t blame him, in fact I gave him props for a valiant effort. The bowl was soon uncovered by one of our friends and the salsa was gone soon after that.

Ingredients:

All the below are diced finely (or place into a food processor)

  • 5 Ripe Vine Tomatoes
  • 1 Medium Red Pepper
  • 1 Ripe Avocado *optional (make sure it isn’t too ripe so it isn’t mushy, hand dice)
  • 1 Jalapeno (seeds removed if you do not want it too spicy)
  • 1/2 Medium White Onion
  • Generous handful of Fresh Cilantro
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic
  • Juice from 1 Lime
  • Seasoning salt and pepper to taste. 
  1. Dice tomatoes or place into food processor and chop finely. 
  2. Remove and strain tomatoes so your salsa isn’t too watery. 
  3. Place the rest of your ingredients except salt, pepper and avocado into food processor and chop finely.
  4. Combine everything into large bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. 
  5. If adding avocado, dice finely and add as well. 

Enjoy โ˜บ