Thursday, March 24, 2011

Food: The best sandwich in the entire world

I am not a huge fan of the sandwich. I have issues. I don't like wet bread. I don't like to chew things for a long time. Bread has to be toasted or really hearty for me to even consider it for a sandwich. The ingredients need to be "special" not just your usual ham and cheese.

Basically, I am high maintenance. (My sisters are mentally high five-ing each other and my husband right now.)

However, I do love a grouper sandwich. I ALWAYS get one when we go to the beach. They come on nice po' boy bread and I eat the first half of the sandwich with bread, the second half without.I love them and have had them in every beach town I have visited as an adult. The very best are at The Seagrove Market in Seagrove, FL. I love them so much, I bought a vanity plate from the market and have it on my car. That is love, my friends.

Saturday, we were wandering around The Earthfare trying to decide what we wanted to eat and my genius husband said, "How about some kind of fish sandwich with some slaw?" Grouper is nowhere to be found these days since the ban on fishing them was enacted a year ago, so we got salmon instead. Now, I would be remiss if I didn't tell you that if you have never tried salmon tacos, you are missing out!!! But I digress.

So, we got home and I made the best slaw ever (vinegar, no mayo). We ate about a pound of lobster dip, drank a bottle of wine and decided we were too full for dinner.

SUNDAY- We finally got around to addressing the salmon. My husband is a genius with marinades and so he fancied up that salmon with some Alchemy  "The Jerk" seasoning and BBQ sauce. Let it wallow around for awhile and then grilled it to medium rare perfection.

That fish  along with some lovely, hearty buns that we picked up, sliced avocado, 40 Spice hummus, and my fabulous slaw was the best sandwich we had ever, ever, ever had. Seriously. So good, that I went to the store and bought more salmon and we ate them for dinner last night. We toasted our genius in putting together such a fabulous combination of flavors and decided we need to invite our most special "foodie" friends over to have this wonderful sandwich.

Of course, we then had to decide who would be worthy of such an excellent sandwich. If you get the invite, you will know we hold you  and your palate in the highest regard.

However, we may also decide that we don't want to share (we are greedy after all).  We might just make burgers.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Exercising: A new pain

My husband politely told me yesterday that I am getting a hump.

No... he did not use the word "HUMP". 

He said " You have got to do those exercises that I told you to do,your posture is getting bad."
Which I heard as, " You are going to be the old lady bent at a 90 degree angle going to get communion,but you are going to be 40, instead of 90".

So, I got up this morning and  ignored him did the exercises (or what I think he told me to do, I actually don't remember what he told me to do). But since he is an expert (Chiropractor) and since I am vain (at least about looking old), I listened. 

What is it about "old" that makes us get up off our duffs and move/run/bike/eat better? I am not afraid of aging, but I DO NOT want to look "old" .  I know what I have to do to keep my youthfulness. Eat right (no sugar, no dairy, no beer). Exercise. Take my vitamins. Use sunscreen. And for the most part I do these things....

Who am I kidding!? 

I love SUGAR!!! I love CHEESE!!! I am in an exercise rut, I remember my vitamins about every third week, I wear sunscreen at the pool, not when I am outside in general. And I apparently, am growing a hump.Nice.

I blame the computer for my hump. I have horrible posture in general and the computer turns me into a mouth breather. But my life line  business is 50% on the computer and I recently built a website.  I don't watch tv, but read blogs instead.  I need to get a life. 

My life is one thing after another of  "can't do that anymore" and "no more fun!"

 Already, I have already:
  • relegated cheese to the weekend  
  • cut back on the sugar in the house
  • stopped drinking beer
  • have been wearing sunscreen on my face in the morning 
  • tried to always have a goal I am exercising for, be it a race, a skill, etc.
Now I need to reduce my risk of humpback. So, I am setting the timer and practicing what I preach (to my children and husband) about limited technology use. I am not one bit excited about it. I love my digital drug.

But it is nice to have a new threat to use against my children. Instead of "You'll go blind sitting that close" it's now "You'll have a nice hump, Quasimodo!"


Monday, March 21, 2011

Dirt: Peace and Lent

Well, this is a circuitous thought process...please bear with me.

I was sitting in church yesterday, listening to the homily about the Transfiguration of Jesus. The priest said something really, really profound. We are to be shining lights (God through us). That is not so profound, as we have heard this our entire church going lives.  But he also said that because Lent it is a time of growth, and  we will NEVER be the congregation that "burns the paint of the walls" with our lights, we can do the following. LISTEN more attentively, ACT more thoughtfully, SPEAK more carefully.  I squirmed a bit because these are all the things that I struggle with and feel inadequate about in my daily life.

As I sat and took that in, I indulged my ADD and looked around at our beautiful church. Like every other Catholic church, there are statues everywhere and Jesus on the Cross above the alter. This lead me to my usual free association thought process and I thought of all the the names that Jesus is called. Son of Man, Son of God, Prince of Peace, Messiah. We follow Christ and so we are Christians. That makes us followers of the Messiah, Son of Man, Son of God and...Prince of Peace.

As a nation that professes from every t.v. show, news station, newspaper, talking head and pulpit to be a "Christian" nation, we must therefore also be followers of Christ and the Prince of Peace. I love that. Peace should be our goal. Peace in our country, peace in our schools, peace in our communities and peace in our homes.

Listen or read anything today and you don't see a lot of peace. We bombed Libya yesterday, the equivalent of stirring an insane hornet's nest. We fight two wars. We have gang violence in every city. Our political candidates hate us (they hate certain demographics of us) and our president.

I am fairly certain that with my little blog, I will not change the world, or anyone's political views. But I hope that I will put an acorn of a thought in  your mind. Maybe you will talk about it with someone else, even in jest. Here it is:

If we are followers of Christ, we must also be advocates of peace.
Peace not just in our homes, but in the communities we live in.
LISTEN more attentively, ACT more thoughtfully, SPEAK more carefully.
Apply it to your life. Encourage it in others.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Food: Proud of my little Jalapenos!

We are eaters here at Casa Swann. And the reason we are CASA Swann instead of Chez, Hause, or even House of Swann is we love Mexican food. Love is not a strong enough word, actually, we are more like addicts looking for a fix. Every single time we can't decide what we want to eat, we ALWAYS eat Mexican. My daughter will come home from school and eat chips and salsa. When we travel, we seek it out, even in New York City (Rosa Mexicano is the best, by the way). For Christmas dinner,  the most traditional and sacred of all the tradition meals,we eat enchiladas.

So, yesterday as the better half  and I  were working up an appetite from working in the yard yesterday and the kids from biking and hiking around the neighborhood, we pondered on what we wanted for dinner. Something easy, good...of course, Mexican! Nachos to be exact.

We baked up a batch of yum-oh nachos with chicken and cheese for the kiddos, beans and cheese for the adult and it was go time. My favorite part of eating nachos, other than the cheese, is pickled jalepenos. I love, love, love them. And  last night, my mini-me made me so proud by putting them on her nachos. I honestly could not have been more excited, had she brought home a straight A report card. (Which, she better be doing next week.)

The reason I am so proud is this...She tried something new. Don't get me wrong, my kids are pretty adventurous. They have eaten eel, squid, and everything in between. But spicy is tough. The younger one will not eat anything spicier than a sprite. So,when the mini-me ate the jalapeno, I was ecstatic. There are so many "spicy"  and intimidating things in life and I hope both my kids get the nerve to try them from the confidence they learn sitting around the dinner table and trying new things. I am not  a bit worried about the "spice hater", she is just like her daddy, Fearless. And just like me, Sassy. The combination is a smack talking show off who does not need jalapenos to fire her up. Classic.

This week the adventure continues with the following menu:

 Garlic Shrimp Greek Salad
Brunswick Stew
Vegetarian Shepherds pie and Irish soda bread (Happy St. Paddy's Day!)
Taco night at Casa Swann!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Whatever: Lent

I love Lent. As the QBI, I always am looking for something to over commit to, over think, over something.
Lent is perfect for this. 

I used to give up french fries. That's right. Fries. I love french fries like nothing else. So, I would give them up for Lent. Then I got older than 20.
YUM! (credit)

In my mid-twenties, I was not a big "church goer". I went when I was at home with my parents. I went with my girlfriend Karrie Parla during Lent when I lived in St. Louis. 
She was a fellow catholic and we bonded over Palm Sunday. I lived across the street from a church and occassionally would go, but usually just went to brunch at the art museum.

 Then, I got pregnant. Life changed. I was now responsible for a soul other than mine. I found a church, got involved and that was that. Back in the saddle. Or pew.

My parents are divorced and of two different denominations. So, Catholic one week and Church of Christ the next was my childhood. I have sat through what feels like millions of sermons, homilies, Bible studies, youth rallies, prayer meetings, etc. to have a general idea of what I am supposed to do.

The biggest impact anyone has ever had on me, and my philosophy of Lent was an older priest who guest spoke at my church about 8 years ago. It was either during or just before Lent. His message was basically this. "Giving up a luxury  during Lent is wrong. Going to church is not going to get you into Heaven. DO  SOMETHING!"

It hit me like a ton of bricks. DO SOMETHING. God put us here to live our lives. To love others and to DO SOMETHING. Not just  focus on saving our own souls (although we do need to focus on that too) but to do something to make a difference to someone else. After all, Christ was in the desert praying for strength to do something epic for others.  Sacrificing himself, his comfort and his life for the human race. He wasn't fasting to lose a few pounds or make a good impression on his friends with his "sacrifice".

So, this Lenten season, I challenge everyone including myself to 
instead of giving up something. Make it matter.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Reading: Throw me a bone...

"Oh, Soap Box, you are the bane of my existence. Why, oh why do I climb on you and rant like a loon?"

I digress...
Reading is so much  a part of my daily routine that when I don't have a book, I panic. Last night was one of those nights. 

I remembered too late in the evening that I was not loving the book I have been reading and really did not want to finish it. However, it was  9 pm and I was not going out on such a goofy errand on a Sunday when I had celebrated Mardi Gras like it is meant to be celebrated. Meaning, I ate my weight in Creole soup, red beans, corn muffins and King Cake (I actually ate about 1/4 of one by myself). I also had two glasses of wine AND...wait for it...cheese. Truly, I will pay for it this week, but it was so good.

So, reluctantly, I finished the terrible book I was reading. It was really not THAT bad, but I hated doing it. It is almost like eating mediocre food you overpaid for. Not terrible, but definitely  not pleasant.

So, I am looking for new books. ANY recommendations are accepted and I read everything, but especially historical fiction, historical non-fiction, books about food, travel  and/or  humor. Not a huge fan of murder mystery since I scared the you know what out of myself in my 20's reading Kiss The Girls. I mean really, those books should come with a warning.

My favorite book that I have read recently is  Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris. She must be a foodie, there is no way around it. For those of you who like Johnny Depp, she also wrote Chocolat. Five Quarters of the Orange has it all, Nazis, food, travel and a secret. Loved it! 

So, throw me a bone...

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Food: Why I buy organic

The debate of organic versus conventional is ongoing in our country. As a mom and a generally health conscious person, it is a debate to which I pay attention. I became interested in organic foods when I had my first baby and realized that "healthy"  wasn't necessarily enough. Pesticides and GMO foods were not something I wanted to put into my newly grown work of art.

So I opened Pandora's box. Seriously. Everything I thought was safe, was not. Food became scary and dangerous. Then my hormones quieted down and I was able to be rational. I made the decision through much reading of labels, studies and books that we would eat as organic and hormone free as possible.

Here are the  main three reasons why we started and continue to eat as organically as possible:

#1 Pesticides. My biggest reason was that babies ingest more pesticides than adults because of the nature of their foods (cereal, fruit and veggies). Their bodies are not equipped to handle the stress, hence childhood allergies and illness. Cheerios are the biggest culprit in toddlers. They have TSP in them which is also used as a household cleaner.

#2 Hormones. As the mother of two girls, it scares me how many more hormones are in milk and animal protein than when I was a kid. I drank milk like it was going out of style, yet did not start puberty until later than most of my peers. Eight year olds with breasts (boys and girls), 4th graders starting menstruation, and 14 year old girls with DD's should alarm EVERYONE. Conventionally produced beef cannot be sold in Europe and it has been that way since 1989. Seriously.

#3GMO. Corn is king in the USA. It is in everything from the beef and chicken we eat to the soda we drink. Corn syrup has replaced sugar in almost all of our sweetened foods. Wonder why everyone has a big fat tire around their middles? Corn. We drank soda, we drank milk, we ate burgers from the store. Why weren't we fat as kids? Corn wasn't the biggest crop. And the company that "owns the patent" on the corn grown in America wasn't the biggest lobby. They own the crop and the pesticide that keeps the weeds from taking over. Genetically modified people scare us, but not genetically modified food? What happened to you are what you eat?

We are not perfect. We love Cheezits and Gold Fish. However, I never buy conventional meat. We eat at least one vegetarian meal a week for that reason. I look for local  grown as I have spoken to some of the farmers that sell locally and while many farm organically and responsibly, they are not certified due to the cost of being so.

The baby is now almost 12. Her sister will be 10 in a few weeks. Neither has ever been on an antibiotic. We have had no ear infections,  no sore throats, no asthma. One had seasonal allergies (watery eyes and a runny nose in the spring) which she outgrew by four. The other had intense reactions (crying and huge fits) to red dye and sugar in the drinks served  at school parties. Other than a few stomach viruses, and this year, the flu, they have been freakishly healthy. They drink the occasional soda, love to eat candy and rarely drink water unless coerced by their mother.  I don't keep "crap foods" in our house. No "fruit snacks" or colored applesauce.  But the proof is in my kids.

Eating this way  is expensive. Food costs are rising due to gas prices and reductions of subsidies with the ever growing deficit. However, so are health care costs. At which end would you rather pay? 

Soap box is now vacant...Next!

Friday, March 4, 2011

March came in like a lion...

Well, actually February went out like a lion, but who is gonna be technical. After being scared like never before for about 15 minutes on Monday and not having power for two days, we are back on track. I am doing laundry and running the dishwasher (not hot water meant no dishes done for two and a half days). I dodged a tornado and was super happy that I drive the big car even though it cost me $92 to fill it up yesterday.

I was a busy girl the last two weeks running the consignment business that I own with my business partner and dear friend, Dominique. We are machines during those two weeks and I spent a lot of time driving my car to and from our sale site. Lots of things fell to the wayside, like clean floors and working out. My husband is THE GREATEST and picked up so much slack that I am sure he is exhausted. So, I have not progressed as well as I would like on some of my list, but I still have kept it up.

As the first day of the is time to take stock.


#1 Eat less sugar (Much better! Keeping it out of the house is the best plan. However, it is Mardi Gras and King Cake will be ingested!)
#2 Cook a new ethnicity once a week (This is actually the easiest and should not even be on the list. Last night we had Tortilla Miso Shrimp Soup. How ethnic can you get?)
#3 Paint the doors and trim in my house (Paint cans have been decorated around!)
#4 Read 100 books (Currently at 10 or 11...dong well with this one.)
#5 Find inner peace (HA HA HA!)
#6 Learn 60 Bible verses (Four. I am so embarrassed.)
#8 Reduce my carbon foot print  (Still not buying anything NEW. Did buy consigned clothing for kids and a Lilly skirt for myself at my sale. It has actually be easy to NOT drive due to gas prices and we had no electricity for two and a half days. That counts, right?)

#9 Reduce my spending (Money is flying out, but I did cut our cable/phone/internet bill from $155 to $$65. Cut Netflix to two movies instead of three.  Grocery bill is hovering at the $250 range. If only I could make my own wine...)
#10 love more
#11 Train for a half marathon (Seven weeks and I am stuck at 6 miles...whatever...!)
#12 learn to swim (Not even gonna go there!)

# 13 Embrace my inner craftiness ( I am looking for a vintage frame to make my cork board...have been working on "collecting" wine corks for this project. It has been rough.)
All in all, I feel like I am on track. The verses are a challenge, but I knew they would be.  Swimming is about overcoming my fear, both of water and of putting on a swimsuit in the dead of winter (SO pale. SO not pretty in the fluorescent lights. SO needed to stop eating sugar 6 months earlier.) However, I am determined to get over it. So...lime green suit, here I come!

I am moving along in my journey and I like where I am heading...