Chicken Penne With Blue Cheese and Walnuts

by Monday, December 09, 2013
2 cups penne pasta
1/4 cup walnuts
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (1lb) sliced thin
3/4 cup cream
2 cloves garlic, minced
Blue cheese to taste

Boil water and cook penne to preferred doneness. Meanwhile...

Place large saucepan over medium heat. Toast walnuts slowly until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove to bowl.

Pour oil into pan. Season chicken with salt and pepper, put in pan and brown lightly.

Pour cream over chicken, turn heat to medium low and reduce until thickened, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally to coat chicken. About halfway through toss in minced garlic and stir thoroughly.

Drain pasta and set back on stove, heat off, to let the moisture evaporate off a bit.

Stir most of the blue cheese into the sauce, reserving a few tablespoons back, and stir to incorporate. Divide pasta into bowls, pour sauce and chicken over the top. Dribble remaining blue cheese over the top followed by the toasted walnuts.






Gretchen and Eastern (Veterinary) Medicine

by Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Been feeling hopeless about Gretchen's health lately. She has been in a lot of pain and we haven't had a lot in the way of directives from our Banfield vets as to how to proceed other than managing pain with drugs. (See some rants about that here) We had been very happy with Banfield up until now, I want you to know. But this latest rash of issues with Gretchen, and their inability to be on the same page with her treatment, left us a bit less confident of their ability to care for Gretchen as she is aging.

So Gretchen (and Chris and I) met a new vet today. We sought an integrative vet thanks to friend-of-a-friend Nahara Ruskin. Turned out there was one basically right across the street from our current vet(s) which had excellent Yelp reviews. Chris expressed trepidation about seeking a vet who might prescribe acupuncture or chiropractic treatment for our dog (which I understand), but I asked him to have an open mind since I had such positive experiences with it. We thought today would just be a check up, but it ended up being much more.

The office is unassuming. It sits in a strip mall next to an Ethiopian restaurant. Small, not very polished decor, but clean and friendly enough. We filled out the paperwork and were taken to a small exam room. The tech came in and asked us lots of questions about her current issue. I am so used to the Banfield "check heart rate, take the temp, etc etc" that it was surprising not to run through the usual drill--a drill which usually has very little to do with what issue we came in for, but seemed like the "Way We Do Things At The Vet". Gretchen normally backs her butt into a corner and pants until she drools, as she can be very anxious in unfamiliar surroundings. She was panting, but was walking around the room exploring like I almost never see her do at the vet. She only once backed her butt into the wall, but immediately moved away from it again to explore. Good sign.

The doctor, Ulrike Rudolf, came in shortly after; and it was one of those times when you immediately feel at ease. Her energy was great, she clearly wasn't rushing in from four other appointments or rushing off to four more, and was so gentle with Gretchen that the pup clearly felt safe. She endured every poke and prod without fuss. We talked more about symptoms and the progress of her treatment so far and the doc listened attentively. After some more examination and reviewing the records that Banfield faxed over, the first suggestion? Accupuncture.

I could feel Chris bristling behind his stoic facade, but he didn't protest, God bless him. The vet talked us through all the places she was putting the needles and what those locations were meant to improve. I appreciated being talked through it all so completely. There was one zinger of a spot Gretchen protested briefly, but other than that it was like she didn't feel a thing. Just sat there calmly. I was amazed.

I liked even more that they did everything in the room with us. At Banfield they always take Gretchen into some back room for most everything they do. Here they checked to make sure we were okay with them performing all the procedures in the room with us and we enthusiastically said yes, by all means. So she got her accupuncture, and then had to wait 20 minutes with the needles in. There she was, walking around the room with needles sticking out all over her like she didn't even notice they were there. I found that hilarious.

Then when the needles were removed, guess what came next? Yep. A small chiropractic adjustment. The vet wants to do a more comprehensive one in a few weeks once her present issues have relaxed a little from the acupuncture (can you feel Chris steaming right now?), but she did a minor adjustment there and then.  Chris was a silent saint.

What else occurred blew me away though...

So Gretchen has a fairly new lump on the front of her chest/neck that is painful. They poked it today to get some cells to look under a microscope, and Gretchen barely even reacted. She was SO CALM! They did it all in front of us (again, with our permission). Two big needles in a painful lump and she has no reaction? Just let the tech hold her. That was miraculous.

But THEN they needed to take blood for a blood panel on her liver issues. So two vet techs come in and get down on a towel with Gretchen. Together they wrap their arms around her and gently roll her onto her side. I was poised for a struggle. She doesn't squeal or resist--neither in pain from the back issues she has been having nor in panic she usually displays with vets handling her like this--and just lays down and CHILLS OUT. Like...lays there like she is just being pet (which she is by one of the techs, but still!). Even when the loud hair trimmer comes on (loud noises usually upset her)--nothing. Lays there, not even panting. Not when the big needle goes into her leg. Not when they have to move the needle around a little when the blood didn't flow for a second. I am sitting there marveling at how calm and happy my dog looks while she is undergoing something that normally freaks her the hell out and the tech kinda shrugs gently and says, "She is probably just really relaxed from her acupuncture." My mind? Blown.

Anyway, that was a very very positive experience. Sadly, the down side to the testing thus far is that she has to have the lump biopsied and possibly removed. So Monday she goes in and goes under anesthesia to get a biopsy, and to see the extent of the lump, how deep it goes, etc. She will also get an x-ray at the same time (I can see the $ signs swimming in front of my eyes and it makes me choke), so we can get a better look at her spinal health. Better to have it done while she is restfully sedated than to wait until later and have her feel stressed anew.

So it's a scary surgery scenario with an uncertain outcome, and a bunch more money we don't have to spend, though on a dog who is worth every penny. We both really REALLY liked the vet, personally/professionally very much our kind of energy. I recognize sounds crazy to entrust your dog to surgery with a vet you only met once; but Chris and I both agreed we really liked the vet and felt good about the decision, so that's saying a lot. Please keep our pup in your prayers!

Spinach Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast

by Saturday, March 23, 2013
We had too much cream. A leftover half-log of Laura Chenel goat cheese. A whole container of baby spinach I knew I couldn't use before it went bad. So it was time to come up with a recipe to use them! Chris kept saying "DAMN Shay." So I guess this improvised recipe was a win, and here it is:

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast
2-3 oz goat cheese
1 cup packed spinach, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp flour
1 medium shallot, chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Olive oil
Salt to taste

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Throw garlic and spinach in and heat until spinach wilts a bit. Remove to a bowl, add goat cheese and mix together.

Slice a 2" opening horizontally through thickest part of chicken breast; work paring knife in to open up a cavity. You can use your fingers to help open up the breast gently without breaking through other side. Stuff cavity with cheese mixture and massage through to fill it evenly.

Put flour and a dash of salt in shallow dish. Toss chicken breast in flour and salt until coated.
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees while you...

Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil in original pan, add shallots and cook 2-3 minutes. Remove to a small dish and reserve for later, keeping any shallot-infused oil you can in the pan.

Add chicken to shallot-infused oil and brown both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Meanwhile...

Line baking pan with foil. When chicken is browned, place in pan and put in oven. Cook 20 minutes or so until cooked through (cooking thermometer is helpful, as different chicken breast thicknesses will take different times).

About 10 minutes before chicken is done, add reserved shallots back into original pan along with cream, lemon juice, and a dash of salt. Reduce by half over medium-low heat. Keep warm until chicken is cooked through.

Slice chicken into medallions, arrange on plate, drizzle cream sauce over the top. Serve with favorite veg (we just crisp, sweet snap peas!)

Pasta with Sausage in Vodka Sauce

by Monday, March 04, 2013
Adapted from an Emerial Lagasse recipe, based on our tastes and what we had on hand.
 
Pasta with Sausage in Vodka Sauce
Shay Moore's adaptation
Ingredients
2 servings penne, farfalle or preferred pasta
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 pound Italian sausage (ground, or removed from the casing and crumbled)
1/2 large yellow onion 1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
2 large cloves minced garlic
3 Tbsp tomato paste + 1/2 Cup warm water** OR 3/4 cup tomato sauce
3 Tbsp vodka
2 Tbsp heavy cream
1 Tbsp dried basil leaves
Grated parmesan, for garnish

Directions

Prepare pasta according to directions, drain, return to pan and set aside.
 
**If using tomato paste: Whisk tomato paste and water together to create a tomato sauce, set aside.

In large skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up and stirring, until browned and all pink has disappeared ~5 minutes.

Add onions, salt, and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring, until the onions are softened and translucent,  ~5 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute.

Add tomato sauce and simmer to thicken, ~2-3 minutes.

Add vodka and reduce for a 2-3 minutes, then stir in the cream and cook until the sauce thickens, ~2 minutes.

Toss the pasta in the sauce to coat evenly and transfer to a pasta bowl for serving. Top with basil and cheese, serve with pride!

Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Cookie

by Tuesday, February 19, 2013
I am not a big breakfast person. Wait...check that. I love bacon and eggs and big weekend breakfasts. But regular daily breakfasts I often feel at a loss. I prefer salty breakfasts, and if I have sweet I prefer it be fast and not too sweet. So it is strange that I have been eating a s'mores Luna Bar each morning for the most part. It's fast, easy, has some sugars and protein to get me through until lunch. But it is SO SWEET. Ugh. And it just doesn't feel healthy...it's not really.

I have been searching for a simple recipe for some breakfast bars or cookies I can make ahead of time, limits the refined sugars, satisfies the morning tummy grumbles, and gives a little energy boost. I have found a LOT of recipes with similar ingredients, but I improvised my own based on what I wanted (no added sugar), and what I had on hand.

I very happily had home-made applesauce in the fridge (no sugar added, so sweet and delicious!), but sadly only had sweetened coconut. I would prefer not sweetened myself. You could easily add more peanut butter if you wanted more of that flavor, and/or could replace it with any nut butter of your choice! Vegans: you can skip the egg. Many recipes do! It does bind the cookies a little better, which is why I chose to use one for my recipe.

INGREDIENTS
2 ripe bananas mashed
1.5 cup quick oats
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 Tbsp peanut butter (nor nut butter of choice)
2 Tbsp coconut (sweet or unsweetened, as you like)
1 egg

OPTIONAL
IF I had them, I would add raisins or dried cranberries, and/or some crushed nuts. I have also seen this done with some protein powder, which sounds like a good idea but I don't have such things on hand.

INSTRUCTIONS
Pre-heat oven to 350.

Mash banana up well, add oats, apple sauce and cinnamon and blend. Add peanut butter and blend. Finally add coconut and egg and blend one last time. (I did the blending in a few steps as it felt easier to get a good consistent distribution of the ingredients).

Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Spoon scoops of the mixture onto sheet--you can make small cookies or large. If spooning large scoops, flatten a bit to make sure the center gets cooked well.

Bake for 25 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack. Store in airtight container in the fridge.

Southwest Chicken Chili

by Monday, February 11, 2013
Shay's Southwest Chicken Chili  
I created this recipe on the fly for dinner tonight when I needed to use up some chicken breasts we had on hand. I tend to always have onion, garlic, sour cream, and canned white beans around. The avocado I had leftover from another meal we had recently which I was happy to use up, and for me was real icing on the cake. A really delicious addition.

Ingredients
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large white onion diced*
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder (I am a spice wimp, add more if you like it hot!)
1 tsp oregano or marjoram
3 minced garlic cloves
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1" pieces
1/3 cup salsa of choice (I like medium heat Chunky Newman's Own)
2 cans white beans/Navy beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup chicken or veg. broth sour cream cheddar or other favorite cheese(s), shredded

*optional:
divide out 1/4 of onion, mince
1 tsp dried cilantro
1 avocado diced
 Mix together above three ingredients in bowl and set aside  

Directions
Heat olive oil over medium heat, add onion, cumin, and chili powder to pan and cook for 3 minutes
Add garlic and chicken, cook 5-7 minutes until chicken is no longer pink
Meanwhile, take 1/2 cup of the white beans and chicken or veg broth and blend together with immersion blender, blender, or food processor
Add blended beans and salsa to pan with chicken, onion, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Simmer 8 minutes until chicken is done cooking.
Add rest of the beans, simmer, to heat through for 2-3 minutes
Spoon into bowls, add a dollop of sour cream, top with cheese.
Add avocado mix if you like.

Coconut Oil Continues to Rock

by Thursday, February 07, 2013
Hey CocoNUTS, here's my brief update:
Been using coconut oil as a cleanser and moisturizer for about three weeks now. It is the ONLY thing I have been using. As in I do not use any other cleanser, moisturizer, toner, makeup remover, NOTHING. Just coconut oil before I go to bed or when I shower.

I massage a nickel-sized dollop into my skin on my face and neck, including eyes and lashes to remove waterproof mascara, eyeliner, shadow, etc.  I use a hot towel pressed to my face for about 15 seconds, then use the towel to thoroughly but gently wipe my entire face, taking special care to get around my nose and hairline, where the oil could easily accumulate if I am not diligent. All my makeup comes off, face feels clean and soft. Sometimes I have a little bit of eyeliner still right in my lashes, but an extra swipe or two of the towel removes it. I have had no breakouts and the ones I had have cleared up without any dark spots. Wait, not fully true. I got a little pimple near my left temple in the first week, but it went away and I have had none since.

I don't moisturize before putting on makeup. One day my face felt a little "muddy" so I did a quick "wash" with my coconut oil and it was fine. But that was one day in three weeks. I also did one day with my foundation primer, which I had not been using so I had a "controlled experiment", but found it didn't make much difference so I didn't use it again. As in my makeup looked great and lasted great without it. Sidenote: my makeup has SPF properties. If it did not, I would still moisturize with an oil-free SPF product, but I can skip that step.

I have also been using it as a cleanser/moisturizer for my upper arms, where I get breakouts and red bumps. To be clear, I did my left arm for two weeks with it, and used my usual soap on my right arm, to compare the results. My left arm started clearing up and having less spottiness within a week. Finally this week I am using it on both arms because it seems to be working and I want my right arm improving as my left has.

One more week and my skin will have gone through a nearly two complete cycles and one complete hormonal cycle. Assuming it continues as it has for the past few weeks, I will throw out the last of my Proactiv once and for all.

Anyone else been experimenting? How is it going for you?

Reversal of a Policy - Men in Class

by Wednesday, February 06, 2013
So I recently made an announcement regarding the change in my "no men" policy for my bellydance classes. The announcement was thus:

"I am finally opening my regular classes officially to all genders next session. If you want to know the story of why I made my classes women only in my early years of teaching until now, I am more than willing to tell you why. But even given very good reason, it has never sat entirely well with me to exclude men from my classes. 
I decided the day that our beloved John Compton passed that it was time to let the past be the past and move forward with my heart. I have had many male dancers who have inspired me during my dance life, and it has become impossible to imagine that I could continue to keep eager, willing, and potentially wicked-talented men--perhaps a future John Compton!--from coming to my classes and share in the joy that is bellydance.

To any men who may have been hurt or offended by my policy in the past, I apologize for ever making you feel unwelcome or under-valued in the dance world. As I said, I am willing to explain why it is that the policy came to be--it wasn't always my policy, but one that grew out of specific experiences in my early years teaching and was a choice that was right for me at the time. But as of now, that policy is overturned.

I welcome your thoughts or questions should you have any. As always, my door is open. 

When the Roots run Deep, the tree grows mighty."
I did get some initial queries as to why my policy was put in place in the first place, and I am happy to share my experience for those who are curious.

I initially did not limit my classes to women only. I was very pleased and even proud that I was opening my doors to all genders--something which at the time most studios I knew of did not do, and was nearly unheard of in tribal/ATS studios, a style which was considered the domain of "female empowerment".  So I was a bit of an odd-one-out with my open door policy (another outlier was my mentor Paulette Rees-Denis of Gypsy Caravan, from whom I took my largest dose of inspiration in my formative dance years). Within my first couple of years teaching, however,  I had two incidents with male students who made me ultimately decide to limit my classes to women only.

What a Spaz - Shay's Back Spasm Adventure

by Wednesday, January 30, 2013
In the past week, I have been experiencing the most excruciating back pain I have ever experienced. Now I have had some doozies in my past, due to a disk issue I have had for years. At its worst, I had to crawl to the bathroom now and again during bad flare ups. This past week? I couldn't even crawl.

How I felt on Saturday
(not quite how I looked)
I had been having my regular disk issues last week, and without properly addressing the pain on the right side, my left side started compensating and WHAMMO. It started in earnest on Friday and I was icing and heating and ibuprofening all day. On Saturday I had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I had been sleeping in all kinds of nutty ways, with pillows to prop up my head, under my knees, behind my neck, in a desperate attempt to relax my body enough to stop spasming and get some rest. But it had not helped because when I tried to get out of bed, I couldn't even push myself up to a sitting position. So I kind of let myself agonizingly slide onto the floor figuring I would do the ol' crawl trick. I got to the floor and struggled to push myself onto my hands and knees. I managed, though barely, and waited, panting in pain. I tried to put one knee in front of the other and I was frozen. I knew I was in trouble then. So I figured I better just get back into bed. I got myself swiveled around back toward the edge of the bed and managed to use my arms to pull myself up until my torso was flopped unceremoniously onto the mattress, and I could go no further. Defeated, I knew it was time to wake the hubby.

"Chris," I croaked. "Chris," I tried louder. He stirred, rolled over and looked for me on my pillow, where I wasn't. "I'm down here. I tried to go to the bathroom and I can't move."

My hero, he leapt from the bed and immediately went to work trying to lift and leverage me up. We got my butt on the edge of the bed and from there he physically lifted me to standing. All the while I am moaning and gasping like he is beating me. He walked me all the way to the bathroom, helped me sit down, stand up, and get back to bed. Like I said, my hero. This is glamorous marriage, my friends. Lifting your wife onto a toilet in the middle of the night when her back goes out.

Needless to say I was still in misery the next day. I knew part of the problem was our mattress. We had a TempurPedic we had bought years ago which had sagged, and in the process of getting a warranty exchange had paid another several grand on "upgrading" to one of their higher-end models--the Rhapsody.  We had negotiated hard between this mattress, which was partly paid for by our warranty exchange, and switching out to a custom local-made latex mattress, which boasts many of the same benefits as memory foam, minus the heat and the price tag. I immediately loved/hated our Rhapsody.  It was much more "plush" feeling than our original Tempurpedic, which while great for our backs, kind of felt like a hospital bed--theraputic indeed, but not very luxurious to lay on. Unfortunately, that plushness was causing me pain. Nothing severe, nothing that wouldn't work itself out in the course of a morning, but enough that I knew I wasn't getting the support I needed to help my back when it was at its worst. Like now.

The next day, I begged Chris to buy me the latex mattress. ANYTHING to try and get my back to chill out. So we dug into our savings, and Chris ordered me the bed I wanted those months ago. Did I mention: hero! The gods smiled on us and they had a budget option on the mattress, saving us over $1000 on that portion of the purchase, and it was available for pick up today. The topper would be available mid-week. Chris called up a friend of ours with a long-bed truck, and they fetched me the mattress. Sadly, it had been misordered and it was the wrong length! I thought I would cry.  But my hero put on his cape yet again and went about his hero work. He called the mattress company and while they couldn't get me the right length for another 2-3 weeks, they would do so without charging us a penny more; AND if I kept the mattress protector on it they would let me sleep on the shorter mattress in the interim. Then in a few weeks, we can just swap it back when the new mattress and topper is completed. Now THAT is customer service!!

That night was better, and on Monday morning my back wasn't in full angry spasm now, but I was still hobbling around. Chris worked from home that day to keep an eye on me (HERO!). My friend Mel is a massage therapist, and she took me for an appointment and worked me over. During the course of our session, she told me about community acupuncture. This was a new concept to me, but intriguing in its flexibility and affordability. I tucked that away for reference.

Now Mel is normally just the ticket for my stiffness and pain, but this day I left feeling stiffer than when I came in and I was ready to cry with frustration. I immediately contacted my advanced students and lined them up to assist me in my classes all week. In the back of my mind was the idea of trying acupuncture. Back when I was an office manager, my boss had terrible back problems and her relief came in the form of acupuncture. Very similar to where I had been at just days before, she wouldn't be able to move unassisted. But would be fairly pain free after an acupuncture treatment. I always thought that sounded more mental than a physical reality, but this memory combined with Mel's endorsement nudged me to look up a nearby community acupuncture clinic on Tuesday morning...

which brings us to Shay's First Acupuncture Visit Adventure, coming soon!

Coconut Oil-Sugar Body Scrub

by Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Julie Klover commented with this little home recipe on Facebook. I want to note it for later, so am putting it here! Here's her post:
"...you may want to take "before pictures" it's a great way to see the changes in your skin. I have used coconut oil to shave with as well. I'm liking it so far. I've also made a sugar scrub for my body, not face. Legs feel great after! 2.5 cups sugar, 1 cup oil (i uses coconut) and 5 tbs citrus juice."

Thanks Julie!

Coconut Oil Experiments - shaving and moisturizing

by Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Coconut Oil Experiment Report: I have been using coconut oil to wash my face the past few days, and so far so good. (If you want to read more about other experiences with this, check the links at the bottom of this post) Too soon to really say what the true results will be as my face needs to adjust to the change, which will take a couple weeks; and I want to get through a full monthly cycle to see how it does during different natural hormonal shifts as well.

But so far, face feels soft and clean, the "glow" everyone speaks up is absolutely real, and it smells fantastic without making me smell like a coconut pie.

In the shower this morning I extended the experiment to shaving. And to make for a real "test" I did one leg with the coconut oil and the other with my usual aloe/Vitamin E shaving foam. I also used the oil on one arm as a cleanser/moisturizer. Worked easily as a shave lotion. A little less convenient just because I have to emulsify it with my hands more and it doesn't spread as fast or easily as the shaving foam. But I was pleasantly surprised to see how smoothly and easily the razor ran over my skin. I had no razor burn, and my skin came out very smooth and automatically moisturized. In fact, wherever I put it, I felt very soft...but kind of "waterproof", since water beaded up and ran off wherever I put the oil. But it didn't feel heavy or look oily, and my skin still feels fine hours later.

I also used the coconut oil on my fingers and cuticles, which is lovely. I have used almond oil for this in the past, but it did leave my fingers feeling oily. The coconut oil, likely because it is not liquid at room temperature and this doesn't stay as slippy as other oils might, just leaves my skin looking happy and moisturized without being slick or shiny. Nice!

QUESTION for those who are following along and have been using coconut oil for their cleansing routines, do you continue to use a moisturizer? I wear a mineral makeup which has SPF protection so I don't need my moisturizer for the SPF properties like some people might. And I wonder if as my face acclimates to this if I won't need to have a moisturizer step? I did my makeup today without moisturizer and it went on great over my face washed with the coconut oil in the shower and nothing else (no moisturizer, no primer).

10 Amazing Beauty Tricks with Coconut Oil
How to Clean Your Face Naturally
The Nitty Gritty on the Oil Cleansing Method
and lots lots more links out there...go read some more!




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