Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tortilla Soup

I used Racheal Ray's wonderful recipe for tortilla soup as a foundation for the recipe below. Here's the link to her original recipe, but I made some changes to it for our taste. (Greg doesn't like pieces of onion or pepper, so I blend these up with the tomatoes. This also saves a little bit of time and chopping.)

This is great one-bowl meal for a cold evening and makes almost a gallon of soup, so would be fabulous for a crowd. Would be terrific as a tail-gate or Super Bowl party main dish.

1 - 1.5 pounds of chicken breast tenders or boneless thighs, seasoned and sauteed in about 2 T. olive oil (or diced/shredded chicken from a store-bought roasted chicken).

In blender or food processor put:
1 seeded red bell pepper
1/2 of 28 ounce can fire roasted crushed tomatoes
1 c. chicken or vegie broth
1/2 red onion
3 cloves garlic
2 t. poultry seasoning
2 t. cumin
1 T. brown sugar
1 to 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (medium to hot heat level), available in small cans in Mexican and Spanish food section of market (I keep the leftovers in a small Ziploc bag in the freezer and break off what I need to add depth of flavor and heat to other Mexican dishes).

Blend well in blender or food processor.

Pour this mixture into big soup pot and add 3 more cups broth and the rest of the can of crushed tomatoes.

To this add:
1 c frozen corn
the cooked chicken
1 zucchini diced

Simmer over medium heat until zucchini is tender and soup is heated through. Season with Steak or Grill Seasoning (or salt and pepper). To make a creamier soup, you can add 1/2 cup of cream at this point.

Vegetarian Version: Use pinto, Ranch or black beans in place of chicken. Vegans omit cheese and cream

To serve:

Put a handful of crush tortilla chips in bottom of each soup blow. Carefully ladle on soup, then top with your choice of:

grated cheese
chopped green onions
diced avocados
sour cream or Greek Yogurt
wedges of fresh lime
Additional crushed corn chips

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Parmesan & Mushroom Stuffed Squash

(This is the basic recipe below but with Italian turkey sausage, walnuts and spinach added to make it a meal instead of a side dish.)
I created this stuffed squash recipe and it turned out so surprisingly tasty that I think I'll make it for my Thanksgiving Turkey stuffing next year! Moist, buttery... just right...

3 smallish to medium yellow and/or zucchini squash (I have found that the smaller ones, with thin skins are the best picks.)

Using a paring knife, cut each squash in half lengthwise, then carefully "carve" out the middle as you would a canoe, saving the "scraps." (You want your "squash canoe" to be about 1/2 inch thick all around.) Put the squash in a microwave proof dish (7 by 9 inch Pyrex works well), cut side down and nuke for about 3 minutes.

In the meantime, make the stuffing:

In a skillet, saute 2 grated garlic cloves and 1/4 red onion chopped fine in about 3 T. olive oil.
Dice 1 large Portabello mushroom, add to the skillet.
Chop the saved inner pieces of squash and toss into the skillet.
Next, toss in 3 slices fresh bread, made into crumbs (I used a multigrain bread in food processor)
Add 2 T. butter
Season with Grill or Steak Seasoning and a sprinkle of Italian herbs to taste
Take skillet off of the burner, add 1/4 fresh grated Parmesan cheese and stir.

Take squash from the microwave, turn right side up, fill with stuffing. Sprinkle with a bit more Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes or until squash is tender. Uncover and broil until the stuffing turns golden and Parmesan cheese has melted.

Serve and enjoy!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Creamy Yellow Pepper Soup

This is my favorite soup ever! I first tasted it at the home of friend, Maxine Bland, in Florida. I adjusted it a bit to my taste and even my husband who doesn't like peppers loves this. A meal with cheesy garlic bread and sliced apples.

4 Roasted & Peeled & Chopped or Sauteed/Chopped Yellow Peppers (you can also toss in a red or orange pepper, the color will just be a bit deeper)

1 cooked (baked, boiled or nuked) sweet potato, peeled and rough-chopped

3 c. broth (vegie or chicken or combo)

1/2 onion

1 clove garlic

1 T. brown sugar

1/4 t. fresh grated nutmeg

Salt and Pepper to taste

1/4 c. cream

Into a blender, toss all the ingredients except salt & pepper, and cream. Blend until as smooth as you can get it and cook over medium, stirring, about 10 to 15 minutes until any raw onion and garlic taste is gone, and it is heated through. Add salt, pepper to taste and last of all, heavy cream. (You can use almond milk or half-and-half... but I must say, it is the real cream that takes this soup from good to divine.)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Pocket Guide to Narcissists

If you are in a relationship with a narcissist, you can feel as though your head is in a blender. Here are some narcissistic traits to help you get clarity and detachment. Print these out and keep them near you if you must deal with an NPD (someone with narcissistic personality disorder) in your life. They can be charming, articulate, convincing... but you MUST watch their behavior and their choices to find the truth.

Their Image is the most important thing. They do not have a true sense of self, only the self that appears when "on stage," receiving new and fresh applause or “narcissistic fixes.” These hits of praise, from increasingly new sources are the food that keeps a narcissist alive.

They lack true empathy. However, they can mimic it when it serves their purposes for a period of time. The smarter they are the better they are at mimicking, however, they will drop the act when they are finished using the person or situation for their purposes.

They often appear as tough-minded or unemotional. They seldom show congruency in their facial expressions and words. They may be saying, “I’m so sorry for what you are going through…” but their body language doesn’t line up. No tears in eyes, no touching, no emotive natural expression of empathy. Their delivery can be oddly detached ….

They value people they perceive as tough-minded winners, successful, detached, or attractive and spend lots of time seeking their approval. They especially value emotionless achievers because it provides a challenge for them. If they can get a self-promoting hard ass to like them or think they are talented or attractive…they hope it will validate their own fragile sense of worth.

NPDs eventually show contempt for people who actually love and show authentic empathy for them. Their unconscious internal dialogue goes something like this, “If you love and accept me and treat me well, you obviously don’t know who I really am. I now despise your lack of true insight.” However, if you do find out who they are and call them on it, they are full of rage and fear for having been “found out” and move on. You cannot win with a narcissist. Love them and they will despise and feel contempt for you. Reveal who they are, and they will retaliate or move on to fresh new sources of narcissistic fixes. They hate it when their “image” is uncovered.

Intimacy is impossible. They only mimic it for a short period of time until they “catch” you as a lover, spouse or friend… then you are either ignored or they feel contempt toward you as they begin seeking new sources and fixes.

They spend large amounts of time fantasizing about their attractiveness, power and success. They construct their world to feed these fantasies

They are always right and fail to recognize how their actions, words and behaviors impact others.

They have trouble keeping close long term healthy relationships.

They are often skilled at communication and very articulate and sound logical…. But when you step away from their conversation you realize that they are not following logic. You must “follow what they DO” and no “what they SAY” or you’ll feel lost in their alligator roll. Your head will feel as though it has been put in a blender.

Narcissists vary in tactics but their underlying core needs are the same. (To have their image constantly propped up.) Often they were abused as kids and got emotionally stuck there…. (known as the narcissistic or pyschic wound). They grew numb. Their internal life is always seeking something to help that sense of numbness go away, and constant praise from new sources helps ease this internal state of pain or worse: no-feeling.

Some narcissists are openly grandiose. Others, usually those who are brighter, may actually know how to put on an act of humility… but watch their actions, not their words and you’ll see they are seek constant praise. Every choice they make is about getting new and fresh sources of admiration in their life so they can feel alive. Loyalty to old friends or present faithful people is disdained, unless they use them for their self-promoting/grandizing purposes.

Being a narcissistic is a true tragedy as their need to be always right makes it impossible for them to step back and do self-evaluation or take an internal inventory. It is simply too agonizing for them. They generally avoid therapy or only go once or twice before deciding they are much smarter than the therapist.

Loving a narcissistic is also a tragedy in that it is so painful. You may get windows, or glimpses of their original wound and feel deep empathy for what you see there, and put up with all manner of neglect or abuse hoping to help or save them. The tragedy is that a narcissist is often called "unfixable" because they cannot be helped or saved by even the most loving, consistent, patient and insightful of people. The pattern is too deeply embedded and even the most skilled psychiatrists admit that these are the most hopeless of cases, psychologically speaking. Relationships with NPDs can be managed, but they cannot be healed.

As a Christian, this has been a hard truth to swallow, but I believe some invisible wounds... to the brain and psyche, like losing a limb, will not be restored until heaven. Loving someone who has NPD, keeping realistic expections of their limitations (psychological handicap) and ability to love back normally, is actually freeing. You can love them, but you have to remember they cannot love you back in return, not in all the true meanings of the word "love."

If you recognize an NPD early and can simply avoid and "Run Forrest Run"... do so. If they are someone you are close to, and can't escape from, expect all of the above and guard yourself. Stay smart with your heart. Minimize time with them if you can and most of all, minimize their influence over you.

Then find a normal person who is able to show real caring and true authentic emotion and ask them for a big hug. If you must be in regular contact with a narcissist be sure to get regular support from a therapist or support group trained in dealing with NPD to help you remain clear, at peace, and out of the alligator roll.

And may I just say, with all the empathy and compassion in my heart: I am so sorry for the hurt and bewilderment you've experienced in this relationship. You did not and you do not deserve this treatment. What you do deserve is lots of self-care as you recover from it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Crunchy Asian Cucumbers

As a prelude to the meal at a fancy Asian restaurant, the waitress brought out a little dish of crunchy marinated cucumbers. To our surprise, they were so tasty -- crunchy, sweet and savory -- that everyone at the table loved them, and we ordered more. Took me some experimenting but I approximated the recipe and I honestly like these even better!

Low cal and nutritious, easy and delicious these make a great little appetizer to bring to any party or covered dish dinner, but I often use them as a super-quick salad to add to meals at home.

Crunchy Asian Cucumbers

6 mini cucumbers (they are much crunchier than the big ones, so good!) unpeeled, sliced 1/4 inch. I found them at Sam's Club this week.


2 T. Lite Soy Sauce

Vinegar 1/4 cup (Rice, white or red wine vinegar all work well)

1 T. olive oil

1 T. sesame oil (essential)

1 - 2 T. sugar (depending on how sweet you like them, I go with 2 T.)

salt and pepper to taste

Toss the cucumbers in the marinade and let them absorb flavors for at least 15 minutes at room temp before serving. Sprinkle 1 T. sesame seed over all.