Goodbye 2015 & New Mexico

Well, well, well….here we are on the last day of the year. Today is a day where people generally make a bunch of resolutions that they don’t intend on keeping. (Read: “New year, new me, bull”). None of that here of course because I plan on being pretty much the same as I was in 2015 except that I will be in a new state with new opportunities. Yes, we are quite blessed in that we are moving to Biloxi, MS in a few weeks for Chris to take a ranger job at Gulf Islands National Seashore. We are ecstatic! The whole thing happened really fast (usually, being the government, the process takes FOR-EV-ER). Chris’ EOD (entry on duty) is February 7th and we are hoping they’ll authorize our move for January 22nd so that we will have a few weeks to acclimate.

Looking back on this past year is just insanity. I’ve held three different jobs, made new friends, lost old ones, gained weight, lost weight, seen the births of multiple friends new babies and even learned how to change my first diaper (I’m a freaking pro now – by the way). Becoming a nanny has taught me SO much, honestly. I am definitely glad that God’s plan was for Chris and I to wait to become parents. I experienced so much hurt at first wondering why I wasn’t conceiving right away but now I completely understand. I want to be able to have a healthy pregnancy and lots of energy as new mom; and I’ll only be able to do that if I continue my weight loss journey. I’ve fallen off the wagon the past few weeks with the holidays but Chris and I have gotten back into our healthy dinner routine so that is step one. One of the stipulations of moving to Biloxi is that no matter where we settle there will be a gym membership! (This will not be an issue because Biloxi is a normal city). I am fully capable of this commitment and I am so excited to see where it leads me.

Living in Carlsbad with basically no family or close friends(save my cousin who herself is a new wife), Chris and I really had to learn to be dependent on one another at first. I no longer had my dad 10 minutes away. My mother in law wasn’t an hour up highway 17 anymore. Cortney, Molly, Beth, Amanda…my entire support group was now two days drive from me. It was quite a shock. Chris and I’s marriage was tested. Boy, was it ever. It was stretched, poked, pulled, and even a little bit torn. I was probably tested in every way possible this year and I didn’t pass every time. However, with a new city comes a new beginning and we will be on the beach for our 2nd anniversary. Biloxi won’t solve all of our problems but I would rather cry on the beach than in the desert!

There ARE things I will miss about our time in New Mexico:

  • Green chile everything. It’s crack.
  • My friends that I’ve made (The Doyles, Sarah, my Candlewood ladies, and our friends at CAVE)
  • Hiking in Ruidoso, Cloudcroft and the Guads.
  • No traffic
  • wine country
  • being a nanny to my sweet Doyle babies
  • snow — not ice.

Things I am MAJORLY looking forward to in Mississippi:

  • THE FREAKING BEACH
  • BSF class
  • seafood, Cajun food & soul food
  • bike riding
  • Target, Francescas, Versona, and BELK!
  • I will have places to wear Lilly and not look like a weirdo
  • Southern hospitality
  • Being 10 hours from Mt. P
  • Being 8 hours from Mom and Kylie
  • Being super close to New Orleans
  • Going to Mardi Gras
  • experiencing a new part of the country

So, here’s to you, 2015….you kind of sucked, but you have come to an end and dammit; I am still standing.

 

Healthy Eating: Week Two

I am only going to blog about them as I make them so I may just wait until Sunday from now on (since I often alter recipes).

Monday:

  • Nothing special….we went to Mike and Monica’s for a football game and I made Chicken Kabobs with various peppers, yellow&red grape tomatoes and yellow onion. I used the PPBlackened Seasoning on the chicken. (I’m obsessed). I also made my Cucumber, Tomato and Onion salad to go with. I’ll post that at a later date when I have better measurements

Tuesday: Maple & Cider Vinegar Salmon with Sauteed Spinach and Asparagus

(Note: The only down side to this recipe is the amount of sugar in the syrup. If you plan accordingly then it shouldn’t be an issue aka with My Fitness Pal I have a certain sugar allotment I try to stay under)

Wednesday: Honey Lime Shrimp Tacos with Pinto Beans

  • http://www.tartineandapronstrings.com/2013/07/05/honey-lime-tequila-shrimp-tacos-with-avocado-purple-slaw-and-chipotle-crema/
  • Notes:
  • I used 0% Chobani Greek Yogurt in place of Sour Cream – much less fat and way more protein!
  • I did not use tequila. I did once before use a half cup of Corona beer. It was tasty…but in the interest of calories, I did not this time. I didn’t make much difference.
  •  I used Olive Oil but I am not opposed to grapeseed. I just haven’t tried it.
  • We used corn tortillas – warmed – no oil
  •  I sauteed my shrimp with a trace amount of olive oil in a skillet. We don’t have a big enough grill.
  • I also used cilantro as a garnish because it’s the best thing ever.
  • I used low sodium canned pinto beans. I mixed in lime juice, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin and some of the Adobo sauce and chilis left over from the can. I like spicy food!

So tonight’s was a little more calorie heavy than my previous ones but it’s delicious. You can really make it your own and cut calories wherever you want. However, as far as tacos go it’s really not too bad. Hope y’all enjoy. I’ll post the rest of the week on Sunday.

Healthy Eating: Week One (back logged)

I went to a new GP doc in Roswell on the 25th of August. Chris had been pressing me to find a primary care since we had moved. It’s not as easy in a place like the Pecos valley since towns are spaced out and healthcare is lacking in the town where we currently live. I finally got into the doctor and frankly, I don’t like this guy. He’s creepy and his bedside manner is lacking. But, I know he is right about starting weight loss. I’ve known this for a while. So, he gives me the saddest list of foods ever to eat and a list to not eat. As I proceed to go through the stages of grief on the car ride home, Chris talks me down off of the ledge. He tells me he will support me even if it means he won’t get all of the yummy foods he has become accustomed to.

Fast forward to the following week when I see my new gyno. This guy is amazing. I tell him about other doctor and said food list. Firstly, he does not care for other doctor and finds him creepy also – which Chris and I thought was hilarious. He tells me that the list *is* mostly a good guideline but so are other things in moderation. The conclusion of these visits was:

No refined carbs and sugar (sodas, sweets, white stuff and/or fried), less carbs in general, lean meats and fish (no red meat), less fat (less cheese and dairy). More exercise. Less in, more out. 

I think most of the above is a no-brainer. We all know that eating white carbs is the (tasty & satisfying) devil. Plus, something I learned from Dr. D (the good one) is that sugar will make sure more hungry. Sneaky sneaky. It’s no secret that I am a baker and very good one. Chris has become very spoiled and I’ve become overly indulgent since moving to this dust bowl; partly to fill the time, and partly because baked goods are comforting. The good news is that there are SO many alternative ways to make dessert nowadays with better flours (almond for example) and better sweeteners (stevia, coconut sugar) or just going carb-less in the sense of no crust. There is also gluten free but I’ll need to do more research on that because it’s still carb-y from what I can gather.

I’ve started logging what I eat (to the best of my ability) on MyFitnessPal and have ordered a new Fitbit Flex wrist band to sync with it. It arrives today! (it’s hot pink!!!!) This really helps to show where my calories are going and what percentage of my diet is what. It also helps to track nutrients….which reminds me….I need to take my prenatal. (Dr. D said it can only help at this point with getting pregnant).

My first week of meals (dinners only)

Citrus Tuna served over sauteed spinach and fresh avocados. 

Maple-Dijon Pork Chops with Roasted Asparagus and Cauliflower Bites

  • http://www.firsthomelovelife.com/2014/06/grilled-maple-dijon-pork-chops.html (Note: Use center cut chops or trim the fat. We use PURE maple syrup not that fake crap. Maple syrup is the best kind of sugar you can have. Marinate this as loooong as possible….it’s the most delicious marinade in the world. I am going to try it on salmon soon.) 
  • For my asparagus: Set the oven to 400. Trim ends off of the asparagus and place on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sea salt, minced fresh garlic (powdered works too) and lemon juice. Cook for 8-15 minutes depending on thickness. 
  • http://rasamalaysia.com/parmesan-roasted-cauliflower/ (Note: I halved the butter and cheese on this recipe. Next time I am going to use my Earth Balance non-soy butter alternative. This stuff is like CRACK. Chris hates cauliflower….and he tries to horde this).

Brown Rice Jambalaya with Shrimp and Turkey Sausage (makes a buttload)

  • 3 boxes of Zatarains Brown Rice Jambalaya Mix
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes (low sodium)
  • 1 each of Green, Yellow, Red and Orange Bell Pepper
  • 1 Medium red or yellow onion
  • 1 Lb turkey sausage (I prefer spicy if I can find it)
  • 2 lbs medium shrimp
  • Paul Prodhomme’s Redfish Magic Blackened Seasoning
  • olive oil
  • Tabasco
  1. Make boxes of rice in large pot according to directions
  2. While rice cooks, dice the onion and chop the peppers into small chunks (but not as small as dicing)
  3. Add a little olive oil to a deep, large skillet. Let onions, peppers and tomatoes cook together on simmer for at least 20-30 minutes. Sprinkle with generous amounts of blackened seasoning (Note- You don’t HAVE to use this seasoning. But it’s amazing).
  4. Cook shrimp and sausage separately in a skillet with a little olive oil (if you like). Season to taste. (aka for me a LOT)
  5. Add veggies and meats to the rice when it still has about 15 or so minutes left (and there’s still some broth that hasn’t cooked down.
  6. Serve with Tabasco.

That’s all I really did the first week because I was extremely busy with the baking charity. Now onto this week…..

“I’m ready to suffer and I’m ready to hope…”

~ “Shake It Out” – Florence and the Machine

I’ve been listening to that song a lot lately. I guess it just makes me feel a little better for the 4 minutes and 37 seconds it’s on my iPod. The overall message is pretty great, whether or not it’s a craptastic relationship you’re lamenting over (because that is not my issue).

Anyway.

Life continues on here in the desert. Ohh. I got bangs….and decided to go red….and then to not go red.

10805657_905209018885_3457811695559054509_n

love it

Thanksgiving was better than I thought it would be and I only felt home sick for a little while. I made tons of pies two days before and we brought them over to Mark Joop’s (one of the permanent rangers) where a bunch of other seasonal rangers and Sarah and Sky from the bookstore gathered to do a potluck. Everyone loved the pies and there was really good company to be had. Amanda (Chris’ boss) and her husband Griss came too. I just love them. Chris and I came home that night and put up the tree to try and feel a little more festive.

I’m 100% settled at work. It’s reallllly easy and has been pretty slow this time of year (with the exception of the holidays). It’s really nice to get to see Chris every day and have lunch with him too. ❤ I’ve become pretty good friends with Sarah at work too. She’s a really great person and I think I was supposed to meet her. Most of the rangers are pretty cool too…some more than others but that is typical with any work place. I just do my best to get a long with everyone and keep my mouth shut. Smile and look pretty right?

The whole of December wasn’t really very eventful unless you count more fun ways to struggle with money (which I don’t because it’s depressing). I tried a few new recipes (which I will post) and had Christina over to bake cookies/dinner and also made dinner for Dave and Virginia (all rangers). I love that I can at least cook and have people over for dinner so that we aren’t a bunch of weird hermits with no friends. Chris jokes that I was so adamant about hating everyone and not making any friends and now I get on well with almost everyone. I still have some ups and downs with my emotions. We are trying to figure out a way to work through them that doesn’t require medication since I have been down that road once and don’t wish to go back. Chris has suggested some form of therapy but I have heard nothing but bad reviews of the doctors in town. I think I just need to find time to work out (I have NO idea when….considering I am up at 5am and home at 6pm) but something’s gotta give. But, I digress….

Chris DID have Rock of Ages this month which is a historic program the cave puts on every year. Jeff and Mike (the other two perm rangers who started with him) did it too. It seemed to go pretty well, albeit a little stressful because it was smashed in with the weekend of the Christmas party. Chris played Col.Tom Boles, who was the first superintendent at Carlsbad Caverns. He shaved to do it because “Boles was clean shaven or had a mustache”….and a mustache was so not happening. I am happy to report that the beard is growing back with a vengeance. The Christmas party was fun — not as much fun as it could have been since a lot of us had to work the next day…but I looked pretty damn good and so did the hubs. We were dressed to impress. I hung out a lot with Mike’s wife, Monica. She is awesome. I can’t wait to become better friends with her. I had her and her son Jack over for a casual dinner a week or so ago while the boys explored Spider Cave after hours with Jeff. Jack is so damn cute. I know that Chris thinks so too…and that he is so ready to have a little boy of his own. I hope I can make that happen for him this year — but really it’s up to God! If the timing is right – so be it.

I was lucky enough to have a four day Christmas break from work — Dec 22-25th because of the way my schedule goes and thank goodness. I must have spent 10 total hours in my damn kitchen between Christmas Eve and day. I made two kinds of apple pie (one sugar free), two cheesecakes, roast beef with horseradish cream sauce, mashed potatoes, candied carrots, green beans, cornbread and fruit salad. We originally were supposed to have 9 people over but it ended up being only 6 (Hannah, Mark, Jeff, Dave and then us). We still had (too much) fun…the meal was great and we played a few rounds of Cards Against Humanity which is always entertaining. Dave even gave me a stuffed Olaf (Frozen) that sings and talks. It was so sweet! He got Chris a Civil War figurine (an SC soldier at that). A good time was had by all.

We went back to work Friday and it snowed on Saturday….and I mean SNOWED. There was at least 5 inches at the park! It was just gorgeous.

10891761_918145314445_2707366865760705650_n 10388574_918145064945_1474310453740340243_n 10616027_918144595885_2705232743081539403_n 10559759_918144760555_2759225548120617792_n 10882283_918155479075_59051759741175036_n

I snowed at the park from early morning until about 12:30pm. It made a huge mess for the 3,000 visitors we had that day since they had to close the Natural Entrance to the cave and EVERYONE had to take the elevators until noon. The line around the visitors center was frightening but we made it through and it was great for business. Sunday was just as crazy. By last night, I was ready to crash when we got home from work. This week, Chris and I are off today, tomorrow and then on New Years Day. I am currently wrapping up loose ends for the NYE party at Joop’s (he has the perfect party house) and seeing who’s planning on attending. The only thing I am worried about is the weather — they are calling for freezing cold and sleet/ice. If it gets too bad, the seasonals may not be able to get off of the “hill” and that would be way lame. Fingers crossed that we will be ringing in the New Year with new friends.

tata.

-Katie

Chicken & Proscuitto Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Gouda and Cheddar

10277891_903094606185_6963259127817132706_n

This is a recipe that I’ve been thinking about for a while. There is a great restaurant in Mount Pleasant, SC called Long Point Grille and they serve a mac n cheese with most of the ingredients listed here (minus the prosciutto). I wanted to see if I could re-create the creamy, cheesy deliciousness. I think I did a pretty good job.

You will need:

2 chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch chunks

3 oz of prosciutto, diced

1 box of elbow or penne pasta

1 large yellow onion, diced

1 bag of frozen peas

2 cups of gouda cheese, grated**

2 cups of white cheddar cheese, grated**

1 pint heavy cream

1 stick of butter plus 2 T

1 T olive oil

1/3 C all-purpose flour

1 t sugar

salt and pepper to taste

**You will need more cheese if you choose to bake this casserole style like I did – more on that later**

Chef’s note: I originally used 1/2 C of flour and it made it very thick so I had to use milk to thin it out. I have cut it down here so that it won’t end up to thick. However, you can thicken and thin it as you see fit, by adding either flour or milk, respectively. 

Prepare:

1) Cook pasta according to package directions. Set aside.

2) Melt 1 stick of butter in large sauce pan on medium low heat. Whisk in flour and heavy cream.

3) Add in gouda and cheddar. Whisk until creamy and well blended. (Remember you can thicken or thin out as you like. See above Chef’s note) Drop heat to low to keep warm, stirring occasionally to keep it from thickening too much.

4) Melt butter in large skillet on medium-high heat. Add olive oil to melted butter.

5) Add onions, sugar and salt to taste (Keep in mind prosciutto is salty!) Cook onions until they start to brown.

6) Add prosciutto and let it brown.

7) Add caramelized onions and prosciutto into the cheese sauce. Salt and pepper to taste.

8) Cook chicken thoroughly in skillet, letting it soak up flavor from the onions and prosciutto.

9) While chicken is cooking, steam peas in microwave or on stove. Set aside.

10) Once chicken is cooked through, add cheese sauce mixture to the skillet along with the peas. Mix well and turn the heat down to low. Let simmer for 5-6 minutes.

Now, you can either mix cheese sauce mixture in with pasta and serve immediately OR put it all into a large glass baking dish, top with more shredded cheese and cook in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. I baked it and it tasted really REALLY good; but it was more like a baked mac n cheese and less like a creamy one. I will try it creamy the next time I make it, but trust me — it will be good no matter what way you make it! Happy cooking!

12 Years Until 40

I have tried to write three posts prior to this but they’ve all been just a few lines of whining about how much I hate New Mexico…and since everyone seems to think I am just a whiny brat, why add fuel to the fire? But, now I am gonna spill my guts and if you don’t like it than just stop reading now.

It’s two days before my 28th birthday. I have been in a depressed funk for a few hours….crying and generally miserable. I have a lot on my mind. I have been working at my new job for a few days now and it’s pleasant but the days are long because for Chris and I they start at 5am everyday with a 20-30 minute commute to the park. I have come to the realization that dinner will no longer be ready and eaten before 6pm and it upsets me. I don’t like that I no longer have time to do this. The place where we live has a beautiful gym that I want to start using because I am tired of the way I look and how unhealthy I am but I don’t see when I would have time between my basically 10 hour work day, making dinner, prepping the next night’s dinner and then maybe having some chill time with my husband before we go to bed and have to wake up at 5. It may seem very petty but I am just so unnerved by it.  I long for the routine of my SC life…yes I hated Target most days but it was busy and comfortable to me.  I also cannot stand the fact that I am no longer the main bread winner or at least equal. I hate it. I want my own bank account with my own money (which I can have now that I am employed but it doesn’t feel the same). I feel useless and inadequate because I can’t do anything I feel I need to do. 

I gushed all of these feelings on the ride home from work and Chris tried his best to comfort me as he always does. It continued when we got home with me finally admitting that I feel awkward and out of place. People here are so different. I don’t know anyone very well or feel like I can trust anyone that I’ve met (with a small, microscopic exception of a few). I can’t read people like I used to and I am just so afraid that no one actually likes me here and they’re only nice because I am Chris’ wife. I feel like I only got the bookstore job because I am his wife and that makes me feel like an annoying tagalong. I imagine this is how everyone sees me. Chris tells me I am too paranoid and wants me to talk to a doctor. I just can’t stop the voices from saying “these people will never be like the friends you left.”

When I said this to him, he said something that made me both sad and angry. He said that since we have been here only ONE of his friends has checked up on him (Matt doesn’t count because he is family). One friend…of all the friends he has and even most of his groomsman. It made me think about who I’ve talked to since I have been here. Who has bothered to call or at least send a text or FB message? Who will even call me on my birthday? Why do we care so little about each other anymore? I know Facebook is mostly to blame. It makes us so lazy. (I know I am guilty of being less than a caring friend because FB makes us have a false sense of connection). I guess I’ll know who the friends are that are worth keeping after my bday goes by. Hell, maybe I’ll even suspend my account because honestly…what the hell is the point of it all? It’s ruining friendships and relationships worldwide.

I met someone at work today with an Alabama hat and beautiful southern twang. He was remarking to another customer about how he missed the smell of the pine trees. I eagerly jumped in, telling the two I was from Charleston and how badly I missed it. I told them how I lived 12 minutes from the Atlantic ocean and how I wanted to see it again. I told the man how there was nothing in the world more beautiful to me than a southern drawl. He was so sweet…I guess he could see the longing in my eyes for some connection to my home. As I told Chris about this, I was sobbing. “I want something I know”, I told him, “I want to go somewhere that I know people and am comfortable. I want to sit next to the water and smell the salt and pluff mud.”  I want to eat fresh shrimp and oysters; and feel the damp cold coming off of the water like it does in the fall and winter. I want to meet my girlfriends for coffee or dinner or drinks. I want to get dressed up and pretty and wear one of the 54 dresses in my damn closet that I can’t wear here because I’d be stared at (and also there aren’t any nice places here to dress up for). Hell, I want to go downtown and smell the horse shit from the carriage tours! I’m so desperate for anything like home. I miss it. Every day, hour, minute and second. I miss my friends even if they don’t contact me and I miss my family….

and that’s all I can think of to write. Happy Birthday to me.

Spinach and Sausage Tortellini

This is a recipe inspired by a dish that Linda Kammel made back in 06 or 07. She brought Laura and I some leftovers at work and it was SO good. I asked her what she had done. She said that it was just stuff she had around her house and gave me a general outline. Over the years, I have tweaked it into it’s current format (with meat); which I will now post here. But, I give credit to Linda, because without her it wouldn’t exist! Thanks Linda!!!

Spinach and Sausage Tortellini

(Makes 6-8 servings depending on how much your husband likes to eat!)

2 12oz bags of frozen tortellini

1 12oz pkge of mild Italian sausage (ground)

7 oz baby spinach

2 14.5 oz cans of Italian Style diced tomatoes (Reserve juice from ONE can)

1-2 small cans of chopped or diced black olives (I used one because Chris isn’t a huge fan)

1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped

2 cups grated Asiago cheese, divided

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 T olive oil

1) Put olive oil in large skillet and heat on Medium

2) When oil is to temp, add onion and garlic. Brown. 

3) Add tomatoes and olives. Turn down temp to low and let simmer together for about 10 minutes.

4)While above is cooking, brown sausage and drain. Set aside. 

5)Cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain and then put back into pot. (You will mix everything into the tortellini so you will need a large pasta pot)

6) Start adding spinach to skillet in handfuls and wilting it in. **I used an entire bag of Fresh Express baby spinach and it did NOT look like that much. If you like a ton of spinach, you may want to use 2 bags because once it has wilted down it’s not very much!**

7) Stir in one cup of asiago cheese and let it simmer together 2 minutes more. 

8) Stir in skillet mixture and sausage with the tortellini. Top each bowl with remaining asiago cheese. Serve hot with a side salad. 

Enjoy!