Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tolerating Green Beans (with pork chops)

My dear sweet hubs is a picky eater.  To the extreme.  He does not eat casseroles, pasta, rice, whipped cream, nuts, anything mixed together, or any vegetables other than corn & potatoes (which are starches of course...).  Typical meals for him consist of some kind of meat, 3 rolls, and maybe corn or potato if we're being "fancy."  With my love of all types & varieties of food, I tend to make him his favorites (all time favorite is chicken cordon bleu) and make something more healthy or interesting for me.  For the first several years of our marriage, he would eat chicken cordon bleu around 3 times a week with some kind of sandwich the other days.  I always told him "if you are going to be picky, you have no right to have variety!"

Well, something crazy has happened in the past several months as I have been couponing and buying different kinds of meat as it is on sale--he has started branching out!  He realized that with some of the new recipes I make that we would both eat the same thing for dinner, and for some reason he feels like that is better than us eating different things...even if we're still eating together.  So we have started regularly doing pork loin, flank steak sandwiches (salad for me), pioneer woman's filet au poivre, pork chops, and parmesan crusted chicken.  I've been excited to try new recipes, and I love seeing him try new things and enjoy it!  Still, his willingness to try new things has been mostly confined to new meat dishes or sauces that he knows are "safe" and that he will really like.

Well, as I was planning out our meals for this week I informed him that Wednesday night we would be having pork chops w/mashed potatoes.  A few hours later he shocked me.  He came into the kitchen and said "I would like you to make some green beans for dinner Wednesday night.  I think I should try 'your take' on them."  I almost fell off my chair!  Now for years (10 to be exact) hubs has told me that he can "tolerate green beans", yet I have never in any of those years seen him once "tolerate a green bean."  His excuse has always been, "why would I eat something I don't love if I don't have to?"  So this was a big deal.  However, let's just be honest, I did not have high hopes for him to actually like my green beans.  I saute them in garlic & olive oil w/a sprinkling of kosher salt & pepper--which is delicious--but I pretty much knew that they would still taste too much like actual green beans for him to get over his aversion. 

So last night I made our dinner: pork chops with an apple sauce (not applesauce), garlic mashed potatoes, green beans, and rolls.  Quick to put together and quite yummy if I do say so myself...though you have three pans on the stove at the same time so that can get crazy. 

Then it was time for the big test--would he like the beans?

trying them...
don't know if you can tell...but that is not a happy face :(
can you see butch peeking her head at him?  she is willing to try any of his food at all!

So...they weren't exactly a hit.  No real surprise there.  I think you just like green beans or you don't!  But I was proud of him.  He ate several bites of the portion that I gave him (making sad faces between each bite).  And then he said the thing that warmed my heart so much!  He looked at me and said "When we have kids, and you make green beans, I will eat them too."  Now that may seem like a silly little insignificant thing to some people but to me it's huge.  For a long time we have talked about how I worry about handling mealtimes.  I want to raise my future children to try new things and be open to new experiences--food, culture, travel, etc...  While I adore my husband, we are limited in where we go to eat and even options to travel by his picky palate.  How can we instill good eating habits when that is not modeled?  He has always stubbornly stuck to him right to be picky: "I can do what I want if I'm the Dad."  But for him to willingly eat something that he doesn't like--to me it shows so much growth!  He is more concerned with doing the best thing and making me happy than he is about not liking the food in front of him.  My man is growing up :).

Now my mashed potatoes & green beans are pretty basic recipes--some garlic in each, season to taste, etc...but I really enjoy & want to share this pork chop recipe.  Hope you enjoy it with your picky eater!

Pork Chops with Apple Sauce
adapted from Food Network Magazine

1/4 or 1/2 inch bone-in pork chops
ground sage
kosher salt & pepper to taste
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
approx. 1 tbsp finely diced onion (you can leave it bigger but hubs does NOT like onion)
3 small granny smith or golden delicious apples, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3/4 cup apple juice or apple cider
approx 1/2 tsp cornstarch

Rub both side of pork chops w/sage, salt, & pepper to taste.  Heat a large cast-iron skillet over med-high heat, then add approx one tsp. olive oil & sear chops until golden on both sides, about 4 minutes total.  Transfer chops to a plate.  Add remaining 2 tsp olive oil, then add apple & onion & cook until softened, about 5 min.  Season w/salt & pepper and stir in apple juice.

Return chops to the skillet.  Cook (can cover) turning once, until cooked through, 4-5 min.  Remove chops to a plate, whisk corn starch into apple sauce, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and cook until slightly thickened, about 2 min.  Pour sauce over chops or put on the side for dipping.

Monday, July 11, 2011


I woke up this morning in tears with the Gershwin song "They Can't Take That Away from Me" in my head.  I had been dreaming about my Grandpaw, and in the dream was telling people some of my favorite memories about him.

If you knew my Grandpaw, when you thought of him you thought of music.  He was a high school band director for many years and loved teaching music.  Grandpaw was also an amazing jazz pianist and had several jazz bands that he was involved with--some were hilariously titled: Short Stuff (as he was the tallest in the group at around not much over 5 feet tall) and Grumpy Old Men.  As a wedding gift to me, he had his trio "Jazzin" do music at my reception and my dad & I danced while he played a song that he wrote for me when I was born.  He also introduced me to a lot of wonderful music--I learned about Gershwin from him as well as Jose & Astrud Gilberto, Blossom Dearie, and Karyn Allison (most people may not know bout the last ones but they are wonderful!).  He really instilled a love for music in my mother and us.

Here is a video my brother took at Grandpaw's apartment when he & my sister visited w/my mom.  He was really amazing!

Grandpaw also greatly influenced our love of reading.  As my mom & her sister are going through his apartment they have really seen what was important to him.  He lived in a small little place--most of which was taken up by his baby grand piano in the living room--and he didn't have a lot of stuff, but he had hundreds of books & jazz CDs.  I remember as a child he was always a member of book clubs and loved to buy us new books for our birthdays & holidays. 

He also had a wonderful sense of humor.  As children we loved looking through his Far Side books and as an adult I was really able to appreciated his stories & laughter.  He loved to go on cruises & he always told animated stories about the people  he was there with.  He had the best laugh too--I hope I never forget it.

He loved fishing as well and before he got his trach he really enjoyed deep sea fishing.  He had several of his best catches mounted and I remember as a child reaching up to touch the fish on the walls--their teeth & gills were so sharp!  He also had a sailfish that he had caught mounted and every Christmas he would decorate it with colored lights instead of having a Christmas tree.

pictures from a Grumpy Old Men performance last summer:

 Grandpaw with my mom & her sister--his two daughters

with my sister, brother, and myself--his grandkids
 the whole family:

Grandpaw's death was somewhat expected--in fact, it's a bit of a miracle that he made it as long as he did! In the last 10 or so years he has had multiple heart surgeries, survived throat cancer and multiple surgeries for that (resulting in a tracheotomy to help him communicate), and a few years ago (right around the time of my Granny's passing--Granny was dad's mom, Grandpaw was mom's dad) he was diagnosed with an aortic aneurism and congestive heart failure. We were told that basically he could drop dead at any moment.

The weekend before he passed was Father's day & he had been in the hospital for his heart but was doing much better.  My mom & Dad & I drove to Paducah to spend the afternoon with him, and I'm so glad we did!  He was in great spirits and was feeling well--we had lunch together & he joked around and we all laughed as if everything was normal. In fact, he was doing so well that he was released the next day to go home.  Then on the morning of June 23 my mom called at about 2:45am b/c Grandpaw was back in the hospital and they said he probably wouldn't make it.  My dad was in Colorado, sister in Japan, and brother in New York.  Mom is still unable to drive long distances due to her ankle break so I rushed to her house to drive her to say goodbye to her father.  Sadly, as she was locking the door to her house to get in my car she got the call from her sister that he had passed.  It was a tough drive, but I am so thankful that I was able to be there for my mom during that time.  We made it to Paducah shortly after 5 am and sat with his body in his hospital room with my Aunt Kelly and eventually Grandpaw's sister & her husband. He wanted to be cremated so we have been able to take time with the arrangements & it will allow for my brother to be back f/m New York and for many of Grandpaw's friends to come in for the Memorial service.

I don't know if this is weird to say, but I'm somewhat excited about the service. The service will reflect his love of music, life, & friends.  His bandmates and friends from back to college will be there and many will play music there.  It should be a wonderful celebration of his life.

 I am so thankful to have been blessed to have him in my life.  There are so many wonderful memories as we reflect on our time with him and I will miss him a lot.  It is a sad feeling to have no more grandparents.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My bodygaurd

We are dog-sitting for my parent's golden retriever Autumn while they spend a few days in Paducah going through Grandpa's things and handling the details that come with the passing of a loved one. 

Butch is always super excited about visits from Autumn--they are bffs and both get excited by the mere mention of the other's name.  

enjoying the finer things in life...aka licking the baking bowls

partner's in crime

Kitty & Autumn hate each other.  Since we have had Kitty, visits from Autumn have meant that he hides in a room or leaves the house and refuses to come home b/c she is so big and scary to him.
 this is the typical reaction
 kitty is NOT a fan.

Until today that is.

Lately Kitty has been especially lovey and attached to me, which can be annoying when he wants to follow me into the bathroom, but is mostly just sweet.  So today when Autumn showed up and was jumping around with joy and greeting me I expected Kitty to bolt.  Instead, he went into full-on attack, hissing and brandishing those scary claws.  I scooped him up and took him into the bedroom w/me for a nap since I had woken up at 3:30.  He had cuddled up next to me but we could hear Autumn whining to get into the room which I had blocked off with a laundry basket.  Next thing I know, I hear all these animal feet scrambling around on the floor and Autumn screaming in pain.  I separated the pets and thought nothing of it.  

I put Kitty on top of the kitchen table, then sat down on an ottoman to pet Butch & Autumn & check for scratches.  Autumn started to get excited and try to put her paws on my shoulders, and the next thing I know, Kitty has bolted across the room and attacked Autumn again!  Then Butch jumps up next to me and he goes after her too!

I spent about 30 minutes trying to sit calmly petting Autumn and Butch and telling Kitty that they are "good dogs" and "friends" and showing him that I was fine.  I have to speak very calmly and quietly or he thinks they are a threat to me and goes into attack mode.  I feel really bad for Autumn, she is slinking behind me or hiding out of Kitty's view, and he has taken to sitting on any nearby table so that he has the upper hand, giving Autumn the stink eye if she starts to get too hyper.  It's quite the change of attitude between the pets, but I gotta say that I'm feeling pretty loved by my little Kitty friend.  Just gotta make sure to protect the pups.
I've been silent over here for a bit, but things in life have been very active.  Quick update:
  • I saw my doctor about the sleep problems.  It was a fiasco that ended up w/me on a ridiculous psychosomatic drug which really messed w/my head, then I found out that most of my problems could have been caused by side-effects of other medication my doctor had me on.  I quit taking all the crazy drugs and have been taking melatonin & vitamins only and am now sleeping pretty darn well!  Have another appt. w/the doctor to discuss the fiasco aspect b/c I am not happy.
  • My dear sweet grandpa died.  For several years we've known that it could be coming at any moment (he had an aortic aneurism & congestive heart failure).  Thankfully it came quickly and without suffering, and a few days after we had gone to visit him for Father's day.  Very thankful for that last time with him when he was feeling well & in good spirits.  I plan to write more on this later.
  • My dear sweet friend Lacey is back from Africa!  I never expected to get so much time with her when she came back and it has warmed my heart and revived my soul :)  Kindred spirits are the best :)
  • I am co-leading a summer Bible study for students who are in town and it has been almost always primarily college boys.  And they are so precious!  There is nothing to make you feel appreciated as a cook like feeding a group of college boys :)
  • Butch & Kitty seem to be getting  fatter...
  • I am hoping to get skinnier.  I have worked hard all summer to NO PROGRESS (except for newly-developed calf muscles) but after learning about the crazy meds I've seen that they all cause weight gain, and since stopping my appetite has severely decreased. (Yay!) Hoping this kicks things into the right spot.
  • Hubs challenged our 14 year old niece to a "foot race" on the 4th of July to see who was faster.  He was faster...until he fell.  Racing a group of kiddos.  And skinned his hand and knee.  *facepalm*  Surprisingly, this is one of those few things that he is not too embarrassed about to have me put on the internets.  He says "all that matters is that I am fastest...I may not be able to run as long, but I'm fastest".  I never know if I am married to an 80 year old man or a 9 year old boy.  Definitely doesn't ever act his real age (27).

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Well that makes sense....

So in my last post I lamented the fact that despite a month of consistent exercise and calorie-reduction I've only lost one pound.  I also posted about how I have been dealing with severe insomnia and other sleep problems.  Well, apparently the lack of sleep can impact my weight loss.  Click here for the article.  I guess I may have to see my doctor about this for real!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

sleepless nights and a s'mores cheesecake

I have been so inconsistent with blogging lately, and to be honest, I just haven't felt like it.  I know we all go through that slump occasionally but I am there a lot these days.  Life is pretty great though--I'm on a slowed-down summer schedule now that the students are on summer break, so mostly I have been focusing on some at-home and personal projects to occupy my time.  I'm also leading a summer Bible study for students who are interested, and that has been a great way to meet some of the underclassmen and guys involved with CRU at WKU

I have also been cutting back on the baking and upping the exercise in an attempt to develop better habits and get back on track with the weight-loss goals.  Honestly, I'm pretty frustrated in this area b/c I am just not seeing anything happen.  I know I'm not making all-the-time great food choices, but I am eating much better than I was and exercising 3-5 days every week doing cardio and strength training, and after nearly a month I've only lost 1 pound.  But I do have calf muscles again, so I'm clinging desperately to the hope that it's just working slowly!  Drives me crazy though.

On to the title of this post though, I have been having some serious issues with sleep for honestly the better part of 2011.  I remember asking for prayer a lot about it from my co-workers throughout last semester, and the summer has not been better.  I have also been trying to sleep without any "help" (benadryl, sleeping pills, Tylenol pm, etc..) for a while and the results have not been good.  The past few weeks have actually been much worse despite increasing the healthy habits.  I've written about it several times before (just click on the "dreams" category if you want to read details) but I have very vivid dreams and since childhood have had numerous occasions in which I would wake up and feel like someone was standing beside my bed--sometimes seeing shadows, sometimes feeling things.  Since hubs and I moved into our house and especially since I got sick in 2007 those dreams/hallucinations have increased and regularly involve spiders--and he has started having them too, often it happens to us both in the same last week.

On either Monday or Tuesday night I bolted out of bed and into the middle of the floor because I "saw" thousands of spiders pouring down the walls behind the head of our bed and on my side of the room.  I heard myself yelling "we have to get out of this room!" before I realized that, once again, I was dreaming/hallucinating and started to calm myself back down and finally went back to sleep.  Then on Wednesday I was lying awake reading when all of the sudden hubs yelled "What the **** is that?!?!?" and sat up pointing into the corner.  I turned on the light, of course nothing there and he said he had seen a huge tarantula in the lampshade next to his side of the bed.  We actually became so bothered by the whole situation that we started looking up things online about hallucinating about spiders to try to figure out what in the world is wrong with our minds!  Apparently the phenomena is called a hypnopompic hallucination but knowing that doesn't make it stop!  Friday night was the worst.  First I lay awake for 2 hours unable to fall asleep, then I would wake up about once an hour hearing people in the room and feeling something poke me in the back though I was sleeping with my face towards hubs and back towards the side of the bed.  I kept waking up standing in the middle of the room or sitting straight up in bed dripping with sweat because I was so afraid!  At one point hubs saw me sitting up and grabbed my arm to try to calm me down and check on me and of course I screamed and freaked out and asked him if he was really touching me or if I was imagining it.  Needless to say, it's been rough!  I also very commonly seem to be half-asleep and am aware that I'm dreaming, but I'm dreaming very real situations (like hubs getting ready for work in the morning) but though my brain is conscious that I am asleep I cannot open my eyes or talk or move or make myself "wake up".  I think I'm going to have to talk to my doctor about this because it seems to be increasing.  The weirdest part is that it happens with hubs around the same times and often about spiders as well--he has never had sleep issues before.  But I got my sleeping pills refilled and took one and a benadryl last night and had the most wonderful deep sleep without getting up at all!  All that to say, please pray for my sleep if you think about it!  I really hate dealing with this and end up so exhausted and sometimes literally sick afterwards. that you think that I"m crazy and as a thank you for bearing with me, here is a wonderful recipe that is perfect for comforting you after a sleepless night of spider hallucinations!  You could probably cut this down by a third.  When I made it (which was a while ago as you can see by the Christmas tree in the background...) I got a very full 9 or 10-in springform pan plus a full 6-in springform out of this recipe.

S'mores Cheesecake
By Marcy Goldman
1 1/3 graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup ground milk chocolate
¼ cup sugar

Cheesecake Filling:
1 ¼ cups sugar
2 pounds cream cheese (4 8oz boxes), softened
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 large eggs at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
½ cup whipping cream
1 cup coarsely chopped milk chocolate bar
2 cups miniature marshmallows
2 cups coarsely chopped graham crackers
¾ cup coarsely chopped milk chocolate, melted & cooled

Milk Chocolate Ganache topping:
1/3 cup whipping cream
¾ cup chopoped milk chocolate

Finishing Touches:
Ground graham cracker crumbs, for sides of cake
½ cup, approximately, marshmallow crème, warmed

Preheat oven to 325°F  Ling a baking sheet w/parchment paper.
For S’mores Crust: toss, graham cracker crumbs, butter, milk chocolate, and suagr together in bottom of 10 inch springform pan, and press to fit pan bottom.  Place pan on prepared baking sheet.

For Cheesecake Filling: in a mixer bowl, blend sugar, cream cheese, and flour, beating until smooth.  Add eggs, 1 at a time.  Then add vanilla, condensed milk, and cream  and blend well.  By hand, fold in coarsely chopped milk chocolate., marshmallows, and coarsely chopped graham crackers.  Pour into pan and swirl in melted milk chocolate.  If you have less than ½ inch from top of pan to filling, your pan is too full.  Remove excess batter and bake separately in a smaller pan. 

Bake 50-55 minutes or until center is set.  Cool well.  Chill at least 8 hours.

Meanwhile, make Milk Chocolate Ganache Topping.  Heat cream in a small saucepan until just simmering.  Whisk in chopped milk chocolate, turn off heat, and whisk to blend.  Cool completely.  Cover until ready to use. 

To finish cheesecake, use some Milk Chocolate Ganache Topping to coat sides of cheesecake. Gently pat on graham cracker crumbs.  Warm marshmallow cram & drizzle puddles of marshmallow & remaining ganache over top of cheesecake.  Chill cheesecake slightly and serve.