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The Heart of Life

The Heart of Life: November 2012

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Mystery in the Restroom

Tonight we stopped at an In-N-Out for dinner. After we ordered I excused myself to go to the bathroom to wash my hands. On my way over I decided to go ahead and use the toilet while I was in there.

All seemed normal at first. Someone was already in the large stall, and I happened to choose the one next to it. Just as I sat down a strange noise occurred. We're not talking traditional "bathroom" noise. It was difficult to tell, but I think it was either a weird giggle or a suppressed sob.

Immediately the need to pee vanished. I didn't know what was going on in the stall next to mine, and I didn't want to know. I seriously considered simply exiting the stall without using the toilet. However, the bathroom was once again all quiet. I couldn't just leave the stall without making any "bathroom" noise. That's almost as weird as making weird non-bathroom noises.

I didn't feel like adding to the weirdness of an already weird situation, so I forced myself to go as quickly as possible. As I was finishing up, another strange noise sounded. This time it was either roaring laughter or hysterical sobbing. I'm not sure which. The weirdness was escalating. When the noise stopped, I heard some quiet muttering. It occurred to me that there might be two people in the stall.

I frantically cranked open the lock, which happened to be an unusually stubborn one, and walked to the nearest sink to wash up. I soaped up and waved my hand under the faucet to set off the motion sensor. Nothing. Of all times for the water to not work! I moved to the next sink, praying that one of them would work so I could get out of there. Thankfully it worked. As I rinsed off the soap I glanced at the occupied stall through the mirror and saw a pair of fuzzy, pink slippered feet standing near the door of the stall. I couldn't tell if there was another pair of feet further back, as the stalls were fairly deep.

I inwardly breathed a sigh of relief when I saw paper towels instead of an air dryer. I don't think I could have endured another 20 seconds in that room.

After escaping the bathroom, I realized that it might have been someone with special needs. That would explain the odd noises and the possibility of two people in one stall. However, if it was two people, it seems weird that the one was being so quiet. If it were me helping a person with special needs I would have spoken to her at a normal volume mostly so that other people could hear that things were under control. That taken into consideration, I'm still not sure what was going on.

After I sat back down at our table I watched the bathroom door for several minutes, looking for some kind of closure to my strange bathroom experience. Nothing. Once our food arrived I stopped watching, but as we were leaving I scanned the feet of as many fellow customers as possible, looking for the fuzzy, pink slippers. Nothing.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas

As I was preparing for my weekly grocery shopping trip last week, I was brainstorming a few meal ideas.  I asked my husband for ideas, and Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas were his first request.  Thus, I got on Pinterest to check on ingredients I needed to get and although my pin was still there, it no longer led to the recipe.  Apparently the blogger jumped ship and deleted her blog.  Who does that?

Fortunately I first discovered this recipe during the era in which we didn't have internet at our house, so I had copied the recipe down and put it in my recipe box.  Now that the source of my recipe is gone, I kind of feel obligated to share the recipe.  Naturally, I didn't think to take a picture of them until we'd eaten most of the pan, and that's not super visually appealing, so just envision some delicious enchiladas.

Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas

1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Other Ingredients:
1 lb cooked and shredded chicken (about 2 large breasts)
12 corn tortillas (or about 6 flour tortillas)
2 cups shredded cheese
1-14 oz. can green enchilada sauce
1/2 cup heavy cream

1.  Combine marinade ingredients and add to chicken.  Allow cooked/shredded chicken to marinate in the marinade for 30-60 minutes in the fridge.
2.  (I skip this step when I use flour tortillas) Heat large griddle until drop of water skitters across (about 350 degrees).  Spray with cooking spray and heat tortillas about 20 seconds on each side until warm and flexible.  Keep warmed tortillas between paper towels until ready to proceed to next step.
3.  Spray 9x13 inch pan with cooking spray and heat oven to 350 degrees.
4.  Combine cream and enchilada sauce, then pour half the cream sauce into the greased pan.
5.  Fill each tortilla with some marinaded chicken and a few pinches of cheese, then roll and arrange in pan.
6.  Combine any remaining marinade with the cream sauce, then pour over top of enchiladas.  Top with shredded cheese.
7.  Bake for 30-35 minutes


Saturday, November 10, 2012


A while ago an MSW intern (I'll call her Melanie) at my old job gave a presentation to us during a staff meeting about empowering girls, and a couple things she talked about really stuck with me.  I've been thinking about them lately, so I decided to share.

One of the things she talked about was encouraging a healthy body image, and I think this applies girls and boys of all ages.  Part of having a healthy body image is having a healthy perception of food.  We have to view food as a good thing--we have to embrace that we need it.  And yet, food tends to get a bad reputation.  Food makes you fat, and thus food is bad.
Melanie pointed out that we see advertisements for "guilt-free" food everywhere.  While these marketing campaigns are mostly just a cute way of saying, "Hey, this is actually fairly healthy," it also implies that we should feel guilty about eating any food that isn't fat free, sugar free, and totally healthy.  This thinking has infiltrated our society.  I can't tell you how many times I've seen Pinterest pins that label a dessert as "sinful" or an easy treat as "dangerous."  We have a habit of telling ourselves that if we eat something that isn't exactly healthy, we should always feel bad about eating it.

Melanie explained to us that labeling foods as good and bad--whether just in our heads or out loud to kids-- can be a very dangerous thing.  It's this kind of thinking that leads to eating disorders.  Melanie told that once her daughter came home from kindergarten and told Melanie that they aren't supposed to eat hamburgers and fries because they're bad foods.  Melanie worked at an eating disorder treatment center and knew first hand that this label can end up completely consuming a person.  After all, many of the factors behind bulimia and anorexia are based on feeling guilty for eating "bad" food.  So she emphasized to her daughter that hamburgers and fries are sometimes foods.  They are ok to have sometimes, but not something to eat a lot of.  She then drove her to McDonald's and bought them both burgers to further show her there is nothing wrong with eating greasy food occasionally.

Something Melanie suggested to us was intuitive eating.  Mostly this means using moderation and common sense as you eat.  Only eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full.  Eat a variety of things and if you know intuitively that you're eating more treats, greasy food, etc. than is good for your body, cut back.  For example, if I start to crave Coke or Dr. Pepper, I know I've been drinking it too often.

Eating intuitively also takes away the temptation to binge.  Binging is never a good thing, whether it's unhealthy food or otherwise.  So called "guilt-free" foods often claim that you can eat as much as you want without negative consequences, but we all know this isn't true.  You wouldn't feel awesome eating a whole pan of brownies in one sitting, but you wouldn't feel great eating a 5 lb bag of carrots in one sitting either.  Too much of anything isn't good for your body.  Your intuition would never nudge you to down way too many carrots, and it also wouldn't tell you to eat too many brownies.  Listening to your body and having the self control to stop is the best thing we can do for our bodies.
But I digress a bit.  Ever since Melanie's presentation I've been very aware of how food is portrayed to both adults and kids. Special K (especially the strawberry kind) has been one of my favorite cereals for years, but I always felt weird admitting it.  The commercials portray it as a diet cereal and that you should eat it if you want to lose weight.  However, that's not why I eat it.  It tastes good, has a nice texture, and don't even get me started on those yummy foamy strawberries.  But for a long time I worried someone would start up that awkward Napoleon-esque conversation and say, "I see you're eating Special K.  Is it 'cause you think you're fat?  'Cause you're not.  You could be eating Fruity Pebbles if you wanted to."  I shouldn't feel awkward eating a cereal I like.  But media tells me I should have issues with how my body looks in order to want to eat this cereal.

I've seen several commercials that discreetly portray women in general as having an innate weakness for sweet foods.  The moral of the story commonly seems to be that women don't have the strength to resist unhealthy cravings, so they need some sort of replacement food to help them out--low-fat yogurt, a high-fiber granola bar, or a sugar-free brownie.  I'm not saying those products are bad, but I dislike this message it sends to women: You are weak when it comes to food.  I don't really consider myself to be a feminist, but this is a little demeaning.  If I know I shouldn't eat that brownie, I just say no.  I don't have to replace it with a low-calorie snack so that I don't turn into The Incredible Menstruating Hulk.

Men aren't exempt from these subtle food messages.  Men are told to eat "like a man" by having a thick and meaty soup or a man-sized TV dinner.  Here and there you get commercials with guys eating salad, but even then sometimes they make such a big deal about him eating that salad that the message is still, "It's abnormal for men to eat salad, but make this one exception and come eat this salad."

I guess the point I'm trying to get to is be aware of how media influences your view of food and your body.  Don't feel guilty, stupid, or weak.  You have the power to make good decisions about your body and you have the strength to be healthy.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tomato Soup

I haven't always been a tomato soup fan.  In fact, I tried tomato soup for the very first time about two years ago.  Seriously.  But in my defense I only acquired a taste for tomatoes in the past five years or so, had I tried tomato soup earlier I probably wouldn't have liked it.

Over the past year I've tried a couple of different recipes for tomato soup.  I liked some more than others, but honestly I always preferred good old Campbell's made with milk.  My husband scoffed at me.  I'm a child in the tomato soup world.

But yesterday I found a winner.  The texture is nice.  The flavor is nice.  And, most importantly, it's pretty easy and quick.  The original recipe came from this blog, but I made some changes.
(Once again, I apologize for the poor picture quality.  
I was so excited to eat that I only gave myself a moment to snap a shot with my Ipod.)
Tomato Soup

3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
2-14 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
1-14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1-14 oz. can chicken broth
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp pepper
3 oz. cream (3/8 cup)
basil to taste
Parmesan cheese (optional)

Saute garlic in oil over medium heat for about 1 minute.  Be careful not to let it burn!  Add tomatoes, broth, salt, sugar, and pepper.  Bring it to a simmer, then simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Next throw it in the blender (about a third of the soup at a time) until it's fairly smooth.  Stir in the cream and basil, then serve topped with some Parmesan cheese.

  • You can use 3/8 tsp of garlic powder if you don't have garlic on hand.
  •  I used the 28 oz. can of Kroger Value crushed tomatoes and it turned out awesome, so don't feel like you have to get fancy with the canned tomatoes.
  • The original recipe called for a can of whole tomatoes instead of diced, but I decided to try diced instead.  You might could use whole or just more crushed tomatoes instead, but I'm not sure what it does to the texture.  I'll experiment and report back.
  • I read somewhere that simmer is when it bubbles only every couple of seconds.  If it starts to bubble too much (boil), turn down the heat.
  • When I blended the soup I ladled about a third of the soup in the blender, and the rest in a big bowl.  After I blended, I poured the soup back in the pot.
  • The original called for 1/4 cup of cream, but I wanted it to be a little extra creamy so I increased it to 3 oz.
  • We all know grilled cheese is the only thing to eat with tomato soup.