#Friday Feeling

I’ve come to a realization, as many of you already have, that people love Friday. All across social media there’s all sorts of excitement for Friday; thank goodness the weekend is here. Even though I agree with the excitement and catch myself sending out TGIF texts, I try to keep myself grounded and grateful for my week.

Did everything go well this week? Absolutely not. I could list and complain about  numerous issues I faced this week, from health, to work, to children; but I won’t. Why not complain? Simple. Complaining makes me re-live the problems I faced.  Complaining makes me feel those emotions I already overcame. It churns in my stomach when I complain, makes me feel I’ll thinking about problems out of my control that are causing me further, unnecessary distress. So I don’t. I choose not to. I choose to be happy. Why complain about something that’s already happened and I’ve already faced. I faced my week, I overcame my problems, did the best I could (even though at times it’s easy to say to ourselves we would’ve done better).

We all have obstacles we face daily; sometimes it’s voices in our heads telling us we could’ve done better, questioning our own actions, bringing harsh judgment upon ourselves. But do we not just do the best we can? We do. Everyday. We all do the best we can to our ability because if we didn’t then we wouldn’t exist. My best may be someone else’s worst. So reflecting back on the week know you did your best. You may have not met all of your goals, you may have not accomplished all your to do’s, but if you tried then you did the best you could for you.

As the week closes, and Friday is here, I will not celebrate the fact that it’s the weekend and forget my hard week; instead I will reflect on my best that I did all week. And anyway, tomorrow may not come, today is today; we will never be the same, every minute passes by, so enjoy the day, and as everyone says, happy Friday 🙂

Train of Thoughts

The mind is a powerful, beautiful, scary thing. Scary because people underestimate the mind and it can run away with your thoughts if you allow it to. It’s very easy to attach ourselves to thoughts and emotions that can torture us; making us re-live unpleasant life experiences, negative possibilities, and fall into a deep depression all brought on from our own thoughts. Thoughts that keep us from excelling, thoughts that hold us back because of fear and as a result we miss out on life experiences and advancing ourselves.

You always hear and read motivational statements that you should push yourself; face your fears and you will succeed. That’s not easy, at all, and if someone says it’s easy then they’re not being honest.  It’s very hard to push, it’s very hard to face our fears. For me I can’t take a statement such as be positive or face my fears and be successful without going through a cleansing process of my mind.  I need to feel it; I need to filter the negative thoughts from my head, and it all comes from repetition and patience.

When a negative thought comes into my head I acknowledge it. After acknowledging it I say this thought is not wanted in my head and I let it pass by.  You think that simply saying “stop being negative” is an easy answer, but it’s not. You have to get down to the nitty gritty; when negative thoughts come to your mind acknowledge them, say you’re not going to give these thoughts the time of day, and let them go.  Visualizing a train of thoughts stopping and going helps me feel the negative thoughts driving away into the far distance. This visualization helps me stay more positive and not give any more attention to negativity. Once I’ve felt these emotions come and go, I can refocus my energy on positive thoughts and happiness and continue my everyday life.

This mindset takes months if not years to shape you into a positive, happy person, but it starts from within and it starts with facing your negative thoughts and training your mind to let them go. Expectations are also a big component of becoming a positive, happy person – expect the change to occur at a gradual pace.  It takes patience, time, understanding of yourself and forgiveness from within. We are human,we are not perfect, nor will we ever be. We are not born negative; it takes to time to re-program our minds as it took time to become negative – this is a learned behavior. You can not rely on someone else to make the change for you, if it be your partner, parent, or friend; it starts from you. Their influence may push you in the right direction, but ultimately you will be left alone with your thoughts and need to take responsibilty over them. 

It’s ok to have a negative thought, a worry, but you don’t have to let it take over; instead, acknowledge it, see it pass, and move on. Do this at quiet times of the day; I practice cleansing my mind on my commute to work or in the shower when it’s quiet. This doesn’t happen over night, but if you start the process one day it will click, and you’ll feel it and it will become second nature. You will become the person who recognizes other negative people because you remember how awful it was to feel like that and you’ve made a shift. Be patient with yourself, forgive yourself, and love yourself because you deserve it. You also deserve to be happy and that starts with a positive mind. 💜

Roasted Veggies & Butternut Squash Soup

Do you ever make something to eat and don’t realize how delicious it actually will turn out? Well this happened to me while making my roasted veggies with butternut squash soup. I’ve always just roasted butternut squash and simmered all the other veggies, but this time I roasted everything together… And I didn’t roast enough of them! As I transferred my veggies into the soup pot I taste tested a carrot here, a piece of celery there, and had to stop once I realized I was consuming all my roasted veggies and there would be nothing left for soup!

Delicious and nutritious, everything from carrots to onion, these veggies tasted amazing after being roasted. I told myself next time I’ll make just roasted veggies and devour them and put the rest of what I hadn’t consumed into my soup pot. Guess it’s better to be a little short on my veggies for the soup instead of them coming out bad!

The recipe below is a perfect cold weather meal loaded with vitamins and goodness. Butternut squash steals the show – lots of vitamins and antioxidants in this nutty squash, delivering almost half a daily dose of vitamin C in a serving (great for immune support and healthier skin) to an abundance of vitamin A (great for eye health) –  not to mention a good source of fiber and potassium. With the addition of garlic, onions, potatoes, celery, and carrots this roasted veggies and butternut squash soup is a fantastic meal for an immune boost and also sure to warm you up during chilly weather. Enjoy and stay warm!

Roasted Veggies & Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients

  • One whole butternut squash, skin on, seeds removed and squash chopped into large pieces
  • 1 cup chopped carrot, peeled
  • 1/2 of an onion, chopped (I prefer red onion for the sweet flavor)
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 4 large, whole garlic cloves with skin on
  • 1 russet potato, scrubbed, skin on, chopped into large pieces
  • 32 ounce container of chicken or vegetable broth (or homemade if you’ve got it!) – if using unsalted, may need to add salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoons EVOO
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Dash of ginger

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F. Place aluminum foil over large cookie sheet/pan. Grease with oil. Place veggies onto sheet, trying not to layer too much if possible. Generously drizzle with EVOO. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until veggies are soft and starting to brown a little.
  2. Once roasted, remove from pan and let cool. Peel skin off squash, potatoes and remove garlic from skin. Add everything into soup pot along with chicken broth. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add salt, pepper and cinnamon – mix well. Remove from heat.
  3. Use either a submerged blender or regular blender to puree the soup. I like the Cuisinart Hand Blender as it’s less messy and saves time.
  4. Sprinkle cinnamon for garnish and serve with salty crackers or crusty bread. My favorite gluten free salty cracker is Lance’s Gluten Free Baked Crackers, as seen above – they remind me of Ritz crackers and compliment the sweet soup perfectly!

Smacnego!

Tomato & Green Onion Sandwich

Life is so busy! The holidays are almost here and so is the busy holiday season.  All of a sudden traffic gets worse, work gets busier, stores are packed morning to night, and life feels just a little more hectic.  Not only is it important for our minds to escape to simple places such as reading a book or going for a walk on a chilly Fall day, but sometimes we need to let our bellies escape to simple eats as well; to me one of the best escapes is a simple tomato sandwich. Udi’s Gluten-Free bread spread with unsalted, creamy butter, layered with juicy tomato slices, fresh green onion, salt and pepper are all I need to escape for a few minutes and give my body and mind a break from the busy holiday season. Healthy and light, tomato sandwiches are not only a nutritious part of my diet, but also bring back childhood memories when life was just a little simpler.

Fun facts about green onions (aka scallions or spring onions):

  • Green onions are high in antioxidants, fiber, vitamins K & A
  • Allicin in green onions helps prevent stroke and other coronary diseases
  • You can easily have an endless supply of green onions – simply put the remainder of your green onion root in a mason jar of water, sit it in a sunny spot, and you’ll have new green onion in a few days (change water out every couple days so it stays fresh)

Delicious Memories

Just came back from beautiful New Orleans with a taste in my mouth I’ve been craving for years! Few years ago I visited NOLA for the first time and had the pleasure of eating at Meals From the Heart in the French Market. Since that first visit I recall the memory of my first bite into this delicious crab cake I was fortunate enough to experience again (and again because I ordered two on this trip! 🙂 ). Gluten free and full of goodness, I was able to relive my memory, savoring each and every bite. If you’re gluten free and have a chance, you must visit the French Market and experience these amazing, fresh crab cakes – you won’t regret it! I also had a fresh bowl of gumbo served with a side of delicious gluten free bread.

Another highlight from my trip was dinner and entertainment at Arnaud’s Jazz Bistro on Bienville. I enjoyed their live jazz while being served gluten free shrimp and grits; dinner combined with old time jazz left me feeling satisfied both mentally and physically. I found myself swaying back and forth to the sound of jazz still playing back in my head as I strolled back to Hotel Monteleone, full and satisfied, remembering each and every delicious bite.

For a different type of dinner and show, Royal House on Royal Street won my taste buds over with chargrilled oysters with parmesean butter cheese, which were fantastic. I sat on the first floor with a perfect wide open view into the street, where only in NOLA do you get to eat and see a wedding parade dance their way down just a few feet in front of you, the band beating their drums and tooting their trumpets, the wedding party dancing to the tune – pulling me in to want to join their celebration and dance. People watching plus a delicious meal is quite entertaining on the streets of NOLA.

The most memorable part of my trip was a visit to The Preservation Jazz Hall for an unbelievable, goose bump making, tears in your eyes live jazz show. I’ve never been in such an intimate setting where my soul danced to the beautiful music that was being created. The Preservation Jazz Hall was established in 1961 to honor traditional New Orleans Jazz and it sure did deliver.

From the street performers to the live jazz; from the food and relaxed vibe, New Orleans really has a lot to offer to just about anybody. I will miss you my beautiful NOLA, your flavors, your energy, your people and your heart – I hope we will get to meet soon, once again.

Honey & Sesame Seed Sticky Wings

Ain’t no thing but a chicken wing! It’s a beautiful Monday morning and another day to be thankful for. I am happy to be alive, grateful for the day, and licking the sticky, yummy sauce off my fingers as I pack my lunch for work today. Sticky wings with a fresh salad makes an amazing, healthy lunch – I’ll be looking forward to this meal all morning.

Wanted to share a finger-licking, gluten free, sticky wing recipe that’s sure to be having you lick your fingers when all is said and done. The recipe below is for wings on the grill, but you can also bake them in the oven for a just-as-tasty result. Hope everyone’s day is amazing and delicious!

Honey & Sesame Seed Sticky Wings

Ingredients

Directions

  1. For a crispy grilled wing, prepare your wings ahead of time: preheat oven to 275 fahrenheit. Rinse wings under cold water and pat dry. Rub wings with baking powder and place on broiler pan. Bake for for 1 hour, turning wings over halfway.
  2. While wings bake, prepare sauce. In large bowl mix remainder ingredients – set aside about 3 tablespoons of sauce.
  3. After wings have baked for 1 hour, remove from oven and let cool a few minutes, then put wings in bowl of sauce and mix well, coating wings generously in sauce.
  4. Cook on grill – add additional sauce while grilling for extra flavor. If using oven, bake wings as above, remove and sauce wings, then return to oven on low broil and continue broiling (flipping wings every 5 minutes or so) until crisp, about 10 minutes.
  5. Once finished, drizzle with remainder sauce and sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on wings.

Enjoy!

Fear of Failure 

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure – in cooking you have to have a what-the-hell attitude.” – Julia Child

So true…You really have to be aggressive with cooking and aggressive with life. If you let fear spook you and keep you from trying, then success is hard to find. 

So many things I’ve experienced in life has started off as fear; some I’ve overcome, some I haven’t. Fear of moving to America, making friends, starting new jobs, going gluten free; fear of having a baby, becoming a step-mother, fear to blog, expose myself to the world… Fear to cook and try new versions of recipes that have inspired me. I’ve given fear a what-the-hell attitude and overcome challenges; because on the other side of fear is success and happiness. 

If you don’t struggle in life, if you don’t feel the fear and overcome it, then satisfaction and happiness is hard to find. Give life the what-the-hell attitude and face fear in the eyes; there’s nothing to lose and happiness to gain. And sometimes fear will lead you to delicious creations that you never thought were possible. What fear have you given a what-the-hell attitude that came out a delicious success? 

Simple Salad

Life is all about balance, and for me it starts with food. Even though I’m gluten free, I still enjoy my carbs, sweets, and other indulgences, but in moderation. Too much of a good thing will easily disrupt your balance, and in order to lead a healthy, happy life there has to be a good balance of nutrients (and treats) in your diet.

The salad below is a healthy pick-me-up after indulging in some Halloween candy; the right combination of greens and veggies to balance out all that sweet sugar I snacked on last night.

It doesn’t take long to make, and packed with nutrients to feed your gut flora, salad is a great choice to get your body back in check. If you think about it, gut flora is like the oil in a car – if you haven’t been taking care and changing the oil, then your car won’t run well. Same thing goes with gut flora. Gut flora is the complex community of microorganisms that live in your digestive tract. It is responsible for neutralizing some of the toxins brought on by digestion and at the same time discouraging growth of bad bacteria. It also aids in digestion and absorption of nutrients as well as produces vitamins such as B and K. In order to keep your body running well, you need to feed and maintenance your gut flora.

Here’s one of my go-to salads that feeds and makes my gut flora healthy and my community of microorganisms happy 🙂

  • Organic raw baby spinach leaves which are loaded with vitamins and antioxidants that provide numerous benefits for health, such as vitamin C for immune support, vitamin K for eye, skin and hair benefits, bone support, digestive support from fiber, and it’s also a great source of iron
  • Red, raw onion which contains vitamin C for immune support, flavonoids, phytochemicals and sulphuric compounds – phytonutrients are naturally occurring compounds that are able to react with the human body to trigger healthy reactions
  • Avocado that improves digestion, decreases risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, gives your immune system a boost along with a boost to your mood and energy from all the B vitamins avocados provide
  • Tomatoes which are loaded with vitamin C, K and A for more immune support and helping fight inflammation
  • Apple cider vinegar and oil for a little dressing – just a sprinkle of each for flavor. I prefer Bragg USDA Gluten Free Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar because it’s organic and raw, giving me the benefits of enzymes and potassium for a boost to my immune system as well as aid in digestion, and first cold pressed olive oil for flavor (first cold pressed oil has not been heated to a high temperature during processing that causes the oil to loose flavor and nutrients)
  • Green leaf lettuce leaves which are low in calories and still provide numerous nutrients such as vitamins A and K
  • For an extra health boost, I substitute toasted sesame seeds for croutons without sacrificing the crunch that croutons provide (as well as adding nutritious oils, vitamins and minerals that sesame seeds provide)
  • Bacon, because bacon belongs in just about everything and gives me a little protein and a salty delicious flavor

What do you like to eat when you’ve indulged a little too much?

Mom’s Halloween

This year is Gray’s first Halloween…a.k.a. mom’s Halloween. The first Halloween, at an early age of 6 months old, where I get to dress up my little guy as what I’d like him to be… Cute, cuddly and sweet.

As I venture even deeper into this amazing adventure of motherhood, I have to pinch myself for having a healthy, happy baby, who warms my heart after a long day of work; who makes life worth living; who has made me realize how much love the human heart is capable of feeling, and who I never want to be without. Feeling blessed this day and everyday to have such a blessing and miracle in my life.

Chili on a Chilly Day

Ah, chili. I don’t know what’s better…. The aroma of onions, tomato, and spices cooking and filling my home all day or that amazing first bite of homemade, gluten free beanless chili. It’s rainy today, chilly, and Sunday funday….the perfect setup for a hot bowl of deliciousness.

I have a confession, I’ve never made chili before. After much research and reading, I’ve come to the conclusion a good chili has a lot of depth to it; a taste that starts off sweet and finishes spicy, testing your taste buds, making you crave more.  The recipe below has just that – sweet, spicy, and keeping you coming back for more. There are so many variations for chili – what do you add as your secret ingredient?

Gluten Free Beanless Chili

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ground meat (combination of ground pork, beef and steak pieces adds extra flavor; I like about 1 3/4 pounds ground beef and 1/4 pound ground pork)
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup chili powder
  • 3 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 can 15 ounces tomato sauce
  • 1 4 ounce can green chile peppers, drained
  • 1 12 ounce gluten free hard cider
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 2 teaspoons gluten free soy sauce – Kikkoman Soy Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar – Bragg Organic Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Cheddar cheese to garnish

Directions

  1. In 5.5 or so quart pot, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until soft and lightly browned.
  2. Add chilli powder, cumin, basil, oregano. Saute few minutes to toast spices.
  3. While onion, garlic and spices are toasting, cook meat. Heat pan to medium-medium high heat and brown meat – the higher heat allows for a nice dark sear to form on the outside of the meat which adds amazing flavor to your chili (drain fat from ground beef).
  4. Once meat is browned, add to pot of onion, garlic and spices. Pour in diced tomato (with juice), tomato sauce, chile’s (drained), salt, pepper, cider, soy sauce, honey and vinegar. Coat the pan you used to brown your meat with sauce or cider and scrape up whatever was left over on the pan (use wooden spoon). Add to pot of ingredients.
  5. Cover and simmer for 3 hours mixing a few times every hour.
  6. Top with freshly shredded cheddar cheese and serve with gluten free crackers – for chili I found Lance Gluten Free Baked Crackers to be the most complimentary. Salty, crunchy, and delicious.

Enjoy!

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