Friday, March 29, 2013

Super Kale

I've always been a picky eater, especially when I was a little girl. I've gotten a little better as I've aged, and I eat things now that I wouldn't have touched as a child. That being said, there are still a lot of things that I don't care for… like vegetables. I'm just not a fan of most vegetables, especially if they are of the green variety! :) The worst of all is green beans. I've always detested them and can't even stand the smell of them. Peas are pretty bad, too, although they're slightly less offensive than green beans.

Broccoli… I like it raw and I really like broccoli salad (which is made with raw broccoli) but the only way I like cooked broccoli is if it's smothered in cheese sauce. But this isn't really very healthy, so I rarely eat broccoli this way.

A few months ago I decided to give cooked broccoli another try. My mom seriously loves* vegetables, so one day when she was fixing broccoli for her dinner I asked her to make a little extra for me. I was pretty skeptical as to if I would like it or not, but I figured it was worth a shot. Surprisingly, I actually liked it fairly well (except for the smell). Eating broccoli hasn't been just a one-time thing, either, and I've had a modest-sized portion of it several times since then. (*I really wish I could love vegetables even a fraction as much as my mom does, but it's just so hard for me to eat something that doesn't taste good!)

Earlier this week I tried another green vegetable for the first time… kale. (If you aren't familiar with kale, it's a cross between spinach and broccoli, and has a flavor similar to broccoli.) Before I tell you how trying kale for the first time went, I'll start by telling you about my first ever experience with kale. When I was in rehab after my accident, food trays were always garnished with a leaf of kale. I admit that kale IS visually pleasing, but I always hated my meals being garnished with kale. The food was always put on a hot plate and then covered to keep everything warm. The raw kale would start steaming under the cover which would give a mild kale flavor to everything else on the plate. When my mom would help me fill out my daily menus I started having her write, "no kale, please!" on them. Sometimes they remembered and sometimes they didn't, but I was always grateful when my food trays came without kale!

A few months ago my sister Annette tried making a new soup… sausage and kale. She loved it, so she gave the recipe to our mom. I was leery of the soup because it didn't really sound like something I would like, but I told Annette I would try it. I suspiciously took a bite, and it wasn't too bad. It's not a soup I would probably ever request, but if that's what my mom fixed for dinner, I would eat it. Since making that soup, Annette has been on a kale kick and sometimes fixes a big plate of cooked kale for her lunch. (Her kids even love it and try to "mooch" it off her plate.)

Back to trying kale for the first time… I can't believe I'm saying this, but I liked it and thought it was pretty good. (Keep in mind when I say I "liked" it, I mean that in a "this is palatable enough to not cause me to gag like green beans do" sort of way.)  I definitely don't love kale like my mom and Annette do, but it's really much better than I thought it would be. The best thing about eating kale is that I feel noble eating it since it's so good for you. Kale is a super food/super vegetable that is extremely good for you (even better for you than spinach). Kale is packed full of good things, like vitamin A, vitamin C and calcium.

My mom found a bag of kale greens at the store, so it was nice to be able to buy a bag of pre-washed, pre-cut pieces of kale instead of the big leaves. My mom just steamed/sautéed the kale in a pan and then sprayed butter flavored Pam on it after it was cooked. (Using Pam might sound strange, but it tastes just like butter, without all of the fat/calories that real butter has). As a finishing touch she sprinkled some garlic and Tony's Creole seasoning on for a little extra flavor. Here are some pictures:

Thursday, March 28, 2013

For the Benefit of All

I can't believe that Easter is a mere three days away; it really crept up on me this year! Granted, it is earlier this year than usual, but still… time goes so quickly! (Do you know why Easter is when it is? I recently learned that it's determined like this: As a general rule, Easter falls on the first Sunday, following the first full moon after the first day of spring. Now you know!)

I recently used this quote when teaching Sunday school to my class and I thought it was brilliant. It's from David A. Bednar, and I think it points out some valuable things about the Atonement that some people might not understand or may overlook. 

[I know when I read peoples' blogs I usually tend to quickly skim through quotes they use in their posts, especially if they're long, but this one is so good that I definitely  think it's worth taking the time to read.]

The journey of mortality is to go from bad to good to better and to have our very natures changed. Most of us know that when we do wrong things, we need help to overcome the effects of sin in our lives. The Savior has paid the price and made it possible for us to become clean through His redeeming power. Most of us clearly understand that the Atonement is for sinners. I am not so sure, however, that we know and understand that the Atonement is also for saints–for good men and women who are obedient, worthy and conscientious and who are striving to become better and serve more faithfully. We may mistakenly believe that we must make the journey from good to better and become a saint all by ourselves, through sheer grit, willpower and discipline, and with our obviously limited capacities, but that is not the case.

The Savior has suffered not just for our iniquities but also for the inequality, the unfairness, the pain, the anguish and the emotional distresses that so frequently beset us. There is no physical pain, no anguish of soul, no suffering spirit, no infirmity or weakness that you or I ever experience during our mortal journey that the Savior did not experience first. You and I in a moment of weakness may cry out, “No one understands. No one knows.” No human being, perhaps, knows. But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He felt and bore our burdens before we ever did. And because He paid the ultimate price and bore that burden, He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of mercy in so many phases of our lives. He can reach out, touch, succor – literally run to us – and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do through relying on upon only our own power.

I think most people that are familiar with the Atonement know the part about Jesus paying the price for our sins. This part of the Atonement is vital for all of us since we all make mistakes. If there were no way for us to repent and be forgiven, we would all be lost.

There is another side to the Atonement that I don't think is as widely realized or understood. When Jesus suffered for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane, He also experienced the pains, anguishes and afflictions that people experience in mortality.

I think this is an invaluable piece of knowledge that everyone in the world would benefit from knowing and understanding. I personally find it easier to face adversity and go through trials knowing that I can "lean on Jesus' arm" and receive Strength from Him when I'm sad, discouraged, in pain or when I feel like no one else understands what I'm going through. Just like the quote said, even if no one else understands what you go through, Jesus does, because He "felt and bore our burdens."

I hope everyone has a wonderful Easter as they remember Christ and His selfless sacrifice on our behalf. Have a blessed day!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Lion of a March

March… in like a lion and out like a lamb, right? I'm sure we've all heard this expression to describe the sometimes turbulent weather in March. March in St. Louis has been rather lion-ish this year, which is in stark contrast to the lamb of a March we had last year when we set SIX new record high temps… not to mention the 10 days that were either at or above the 80°! (We definitely haven't even gotten close to competing with the temperatures we had last March!)
Although this painting symbolizes peace, I chose it to illustrate this blog post because it reminds me of my childhood. (We had a framed print of this painting hanging in our family room when I was a kid. My mom has since taken it down since it got quite faded after years of getting direct sunlight in the afternoons.)
I thought this comic was apropos for our Midwest weather that we have here in St. Louis! :)
March has been downright cold this year! We've had lots of cold days and lots of snow showers. A couple weeks ago it snowed all day, several days in a row [but the temperatures  were above freezing so there wasn't any accumulation).

We had a big snowstorm yesterday and set a new record for the most snow to accumulate   in a 24-hour period in the month of March in St. Louis (an impressive 12.4 inches). The all-time record for the most accumulating snow in a 24-hour period is 12.8 inches (set back in February 1906), so we were very close to breaking that record, but just missed it by less than a half inch.

St. Louis' official tallies for temperature and precipitation are always recorded at Lambert International Airport in St. Louis. Even though the snowfall recorded at Lambert yesterday was 12.4 inches, we didn't get quite as much down where I live. The darn temperature was above freezing, so a lot of what fell melted pretty quickly (but I estimate that we still got eight or nine inches).

At the risk of sounding like a heathen, I have to admit that I was ecstatic that church was canceled yesterday. (Can I get an "amen?!") That's probably sacrilegious, but there's just something to be said for an impromptu snow  day! It was just was so peaceful to watch the snow fall from the comfort of my home and to not have to go out in it.

Here are a few pictures of the snow as it was falling (the  camera doesn't capture the size of the flakes which at this point were coming down like big, fluffy cotton balls): 
Pictures from this morning: (first looking out my bedroom window and then looking out the back door).
I don't care how old I get; I'm always going to love snow days! :)

Monday, March 18, 2013

"Oz: The Great and Powerful"

Last Saturday Chandra and I went to the movies and saw Oz: The Great and Powerful. I've been expectantly looking forward to seeing this movie ever since I saw the previews for it several months ago. I don't know why it is, but I've been having such a terrible time staying awake during movies lately! I fell asleep for a little while, but I stayed awake through enough of it to know that I liked it (although I DO want to see it again!). Heather's rating: 9/10 stars

Friday, March 15, 2013

Pi Party 2.0

Yesterday was March 14, so it was time for our second annual pi party that my friend Kellie and I had the bright idea to start doing last year. A bunch of us from church met at our building and ate pie for lunch. It was perfectly unhealthy, but all I have for dinner was a tangerine and some milk, so hopefully it evened out a little bit!

There were so many yummy different pies to choose from and I tried to try all of them, but there were too many good ones to choose from and I sadly didn't get to them all! My mom made a rocky road tart, which technically isn't a pie, but it's round, so it works. It's one of my favorite desserts of all time and I haven't had it in a few years, so I'm glad that that's what my mom wanted to make. I'm also glad that there was some of the tart left over because I'm looking forward to having another piece tonight!

I kicked myself for forgetting my camera, but fortunately someone else brought their camera, so I do have a few pictures for my blog. The first picture is of my mom's tart:

Good Times

When my mom was gone last weekend, Sharon, Chandra and I spent lots of time watching movies. We watched 10 movies total, including two movies on TV (those sneaky Lifetime  movies just suck you right it!).

As embarrassing as it is to admit, I'll also own up to watching all five Twilight  movies. Chandra's recently been wanting to watch all of the movies from start to finish, so we thought it would be fun to do when Sharon was here with us. The movies are so incredibly cheesy, but the best thing about watching them with Sharon and Chandra was listening to the two of them laugh and giggle at all of the cheesy parts. (Those girls have the best laughs!)

Sharon and I like to give each other little gifts when we see each other. This time I gave her this pretty necklace with seafoam colored jewels. She gave me these pretzel bites. I love pretzels, chocolate and peanut butter, so it was a perfect gift for me. I tried the fudge dipped ones they other day and they were really good.
It was fun spending time with Sharon's kids, Rachel, Matt and Emily. They are so sweet and so cute and make me laugh. I love hearing them say my name in their sweet little voices.

Good Eats

My oldest sister Miriam lives in Texas and my mom has been wanting to go visit her and her family for the past several years, but it's never worked out. Mom is my main caregiver and it's not easy for her to get away for extended periods of time since she is the one that does the lion's share of my care. I know it's important for Mom to have time to herself so that she doesn't get caregiver fatigue, so it was important for me that she be able to go. I rely on Mom for so much, so I don't want her getting burnt out!

In January I got the bright idea to ask my sister Sharon to come stay with me for a few days so that she could help our sister Chandra care for me so that Mom could get away for a few days. It was a win-win situation all around; Mom could go to Texas and visit Miriam's family and Sharon, Chandra and I could have a fun girls weekend.

Mom went to Texas last Friday and came back on Monday evening. Sharon and her three youngest kids came last Wednesday and stayed for a week. We had so much fun talking, eating yummy food, watching movies, visiting and laughing. Although I always miss Sharon when she leaves, it's always the best thing for my waistline!

The day Sharon arrived we had orange chicken for dinner (a copycat recipe of Panda Express' orange chicken) and frozen samoa cake for dessert (I found the recipes for both of these on Pinterest.) Both were so good! I've had homemade orange chicken before and it wasn't all that great, but I really liked this recipe. I still prefer the orange chicken from Panda Express' restaurant, but this was really good for homemade. The frozen samoa cake was absolutely amazing! It had the same flavor of samoa Girl Scout cookies, except it was way better!
On Friday Chandra made club quesadillas. This was a recipe from a cookbook that Chandra got for her birthday a few months ago called Hungry Girl to the Max. It has recipes that are healthier variations of normal meals. These quesadillas were amazing! They tasted like something you would get from a restaurant like Applebee's or Chili's. That evening we had raspberry flavored brownies for dessert .
(A few weeks ago we got some snow and my mom helped my neighbor shovel his driveway since he's in his 70's and has had a quadruple bypass. A few days later his wife made some delicious brownies for us. They were so good and so moist and we knew we had to get the recipe. We left a note in the neighbor's mailbox saying that we would love the brownie recipe as long as it wasn't a family secret. A few days later my neighbor came over with a huge box of Ghirardelli brownie mix and a bottle of raspberry syrup (that you can use to flavor different things, like coffee). She said to just make the brownies as usual, but to use the raspberry syrup in place of the water.) There are tons of these different flavored syrups at the store, so we knew we would have fun trying different kinds of flavored brownies!
On Saturday we got Imo's pizza for dinner. Imo's is flat crust pizza that is unique to St. Louis. Even though Sharon grew up here she's never had Imo's pizza before, so we decided to get it so that she could try it. The pizza also came with toasted ravioli, which is also something that is unique to St. Louis. (I've always assumed that everyone knows what toasted ravioli is, but I guess not!) Sharon liked the pizza and her kids especially liked the toasted ravioli. For that evening's dessert we tried another small batch of brownies, but this time we used caramel flavored syrup in them. These brownies were really good, too, although I think I prefer the raspberry.
Sunday's dinner was veggie pizza. This is an appetizer that I recently tried for the first time and I loved it, so I thought it would be fun to have it again and it was just as good as I remembered! I've never had gooey butter cake before and I've always wondered what it's like, so I asked Sharon to make it since she has a GBC recipe that she really likes. I know I sound like a broken record, but this was also really good! The recipe calls for a yellow cake mix, but Sharon said you can make the recipe with any cake mix. I'm a chocolate lover, so I think trying a chocolate gooey butter cake would be youmy.
I love soft pretzels and have always thought it would be fun to try and make homemade pretzels, so I found a soft pretzel recipe on Pinterest that I thought looked promising. I was a little skeptical at how the pretzels would turn out since I thought it might be hard to make a soft pretzel that compares to the ones that you get at places like the movie theater, but I thought they were worth a try. They were so good! The recipe makes eight pretzels, so we made half of them with salt and half of them with cinnamon. I really liked both of them and can't say which one I liked better.
Tuesday afternoon Sharon made sugar dipped butter cookies which were so good. I had one a few minutes after it came out of the oven and it just melted in my mouth! They were little buttery drops of goodness! They actually tasted very similar to the gooey butter cake, so I think you could call them gooey butter cookies. That night my mom made a new hot sandwich made with Kings Hawaiian sweet rolls. Those little sandwiches were so good, but horrible for you; pretty much like most of the things we made while Mom was away! :) Now that she's home I'm back to eating more healthily!

In my next post I'll write more about my fun weekend with my sisters.
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