September 17, 2012

Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup Recipe

We had a very nice weekend with family in town to visit. I ate myself silly. Mmmmm. And that means that I'll be starting my diet again today tomorrow. First, I *have to* eat all the rest of the junk food that's still here so it won't be around to tempt me on my diet. :)
 I've noticed that A LOT of people are getting sick around here. Including us. My little guy is only just well enough today to return to school again. So I decided that I'd post a recipe of my favorite thing to make during cold and flu season.
Seriously this is the BEST thing in the world when  you're sick. Move over chicken noodle! 
Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup
6-8 red bell peppers
4 TBS sesame/olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 TBS thyme
2 TBS basil
1/2 tsp cayenne (or to taste, I always use at least twice this much)
2 tsp salt
1 can coconut milk  (NOTE: Must be the kind in a can, not a carton. And don't get the lite/low fat version, it's nasty and this is just freakin coconut milk for heaven's sake.)

OR you can use some heavy cream instead of the coconut milk, about 1 cup to 1 pint of that. Whatever.

2- 32oz cartons of broth (vegetable or chicken)
Cut peppers in half, remove seeds and stem. Score the inside with a fork (helps to cook faster).

Place peppers skin side up.

Broil on high for 10-15 minutes, until most of the outer skin is black.
Remove from oven and allow to cool. (If you cover them while they cool, they sort of steam and the skins are SO much easier to get off!) Remove (and discard) as much skin as you can, but don't be too fussy.
While peppers are broiling, in a large soup pot, heat oil, onion, celery, thyme, basil, and salt. Cook until veggies are tender (10-12 minutes) stirring often. Add the garlic and cayenne for the last couple minutes of that. Then add the broth and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.
Add the roasted/peeled peppers to the soup. Then you can either use an immersion blender to make it all smooth, OR you can do what I do, and just stick it in your upright blender. If you do it in your blender, it will fill it twice, so you'll need an "in between" pan so that unblended soup doesn't meet blended soup... because all of it needs to be nicely pureed.
After all of it is blended, return it to your pot over low to medium heat and stir in the coconut milk (or cream). Simmer for 10 minutes.

I make TONS of this in the summer when I have lots of bell peppers growing in my garden, and when the store has halfway decent prices on them. Then I freeze it in pint sized freezer bags. It gets us through cold and flu season every year. Seriously, I can NOT survive a bad cold without this.

July 12, 2012

Fairy Tales and Special Effects

This month's "assignment" for PAIL is to talk about our plans for the future, and whether or not to continue to try and have more children, and why we choose what we choose, and all that stuff. And honestly, in my mind, thinking about TTC is like watching a My.ster.y Sci.en.ce 3.00.0 episode. 

The whole world of prospective parents is watching this "amazing" film. Fairy tales like being able to time your pregnancy, spacing children, and live happily ever after are flashing on the screen... and surely somewhere, someone is buying the special effects?
But not me. Not IFers.
We sit in the back of the theater making pejorative and sarcastic comments... occassionally throwing popcorn at the screen, and talking about how naive and gullible the rest of the audience is for not seeing through the special effects.... and knowing that for them, it isn't special effects and fairy tales, it's reality.
Laughing at the show, because crying sucks.

So, having said that, what do I think about the movie and how seriously am I taking it?
Well dang. I take it pretty seriously. And despite all my best efforts, I still believe it "could be true." I still want the happily ever after. I still want to think that it could be possible for me to have as many children as I desire. But alas, I've been in the theater too long and my, popcorn... has gone stale.

So, my stats.... I have PCOS and repeated miscarriages/high risk pregnancy and Hashimoto's and who knows what else... seriously, they can't decide or figure it out. I am 36, so officially "advanced maternal age" and I have been MIRACULOUSLY blessed with 2 children already. But I hear the clock ticking.

I'm from a family with 6 kids. My mom's family had... crap I can't remember... 11? I think? Maybe 10? I guess I could try to count them, but I'd surely forget one of them anyway, so why bother. And each of her siblings had a billion kids too. So when we had family reunions, we were a crazy spectacle. Think of it... 10ish uncles/aunts with their spouse, and 10-13 kids per family, all of the older ones already married and popping out babies like they were skittles, and even some third generation babies running around. Literally hundreds of cousins. (No, there is NO polygamy. LOL.) I haven't even met all of them, and I'm certainly not close to any of them. My dad's side of the family averages 6 kids per family... which is smaller, but still not a small family.

Growing up, and in early adulthood, I had absolutely NO DOUBT that I would have as many kids as my body was willing to pop out. I was thinking in the area of 8.
*throws popcorn at the screen*
And spacing? I figured they'd be about 2 years apart BECAUSE that would give me time to breastfeed all of them for a full year, and then immediately get pregnant again and start over.
Wait! What? My body can't make babies OR breastmilk?

So here I am at 36, in my last few years of even being able to pretend that it could still be possible to have more children.... and what do I dream of???
Four kids.
Two more... just two more.
Maybe twins, because then it's only hoping for one more successful pregnancy and that seems more realistic than expecting to survive 2 more rounds of TTC.
And if I somehow got my 2 more kids, what then?... I'd still want more. I'm sure of it. I would continue to try and try until my ovaries dried up and my uterus fell out... just plop, right there on the floor. That would be about the only thing that would stop me from hoping.
But honestly, I think 2 more is all I can even hope for... and even that is really wishing for a lot... but it's still my "goal" or my "vision" or whatever term you want to use.

Because of all my health problems and the extremes I have taken to trying fix them... I won't be doing anymore fertility treatments. My body really does NOT handle those well, and I've spent literally thousands of dollars just trying to get my health back to where it was before starting all of that. And I can't go backward, because I have 2 amazing children who need a healthy mommy to take care of them. So if I'm going to have more children (please please please) it will be up to the old fairy tale of "you can have a baby just by having sex at the right time."
I know! Can you believe that?

So right now I'm back to charting and temping... not that my chart makes ANY SENSE. Nobody can discern any type of a pattern, and almost daily my charting service changes when it thinks I ovulated. So it's pretty useless. For instance, right now I'm on CD62, and it thinks I'm 10dpo, but the ovulation date will undoubtedly change again tomorrow. BUT it does keep me from spending a gazillion dollars on HPTs. When I get pregnant, my temps normalize. They go up and stay up. So as long as my body is freaking out and weird, and my temps are all over the place... I know I'm not pregnant. I may not know when/if I ovulated, or when/if AFV is coming... but I do know not to POAS. And that saves me a little money and peace of mind.

So, making a long story even longer... Yes I am TTC. Yes, I am charting and temping... and BD often. (Yay! A silver lining!) No, I don't have the luxury of worrying about "spacing" the kids for optimal whatever. No, I don't have the luxury of waiting until I think I'm emotionally ready to face all this again. Truth is, I'm out of time. If it's going to happen at all, it needs to happen soon. And I don't have any time to waste. So I'm going through the motions (hump hump hump. LOL. did I just say that?) but my heart isn't really in it. I am TTC in denial. Meaning, I'm doing everything that I can/should be doing to TTC... but I'm ignoring the fact that I'm doing it. I'm pretending to myself that I'm not really TTC. That way I'm hoping to not go crazy. To not get hurt. So that maybe I'll just wake up one morning, POAS, and have a happy ending... and wonder how I got there.

Popcorn anyone?

June 9, 2012

The BEST Whole Chicken in a Crockpot... and Broth

Okay seriously, this is FREAKING AMAZING. I usually make whole chickens in the oven, but I saw this recipe HERE and decided to give it a try... SO GLAD I DID!!! So easy and so good!

Of course, I had to change the recipe a little, but nowhere near what I usually do.
So here you go:

In a large crockpot:

#1- Roughly chop 1 large white onion and place on the bottom of crockpot.
#2- Take a 3-4 pound whole chicken... remove all the yucky crap from inside (giblets, neck, liver, etc)... rinse it, pat it dry with a paper towel...
#3- Rub the seasoning mix (below) all over it... inside and out, on top of the skin and under the skin.
#4- Place chicken on top of the onion.
#5- Cook in slow cooker... 5 hours on high, or 8 hours on low.
#6- Eat.
#7- Reserve all bones, skins, etc... leave them in the crockpot until after dinner.

The spice/rub mixture is pretty straight forward... I kind of "heaped" all the measurements cause I like flavor. :)
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp majoram
1 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp sage
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp black pepper
The ingredients are pretty flexible... whatever spices you have on hand, or that you know you like. I added a few things that I LOVE with chicken, but that she didn't have listed. But it's a good basic starting point. And SERIOUSLY, you don't need to add any liquid at all. I got nervous about 3 hours in and added some water, and I totally didn't need to!!!

I don't have any pictures of nicely sliced chicken because it can't be sliced. It just falls right off the bone. I do, however, have one picture of the left over chicken in tupperware, which I only barely remembered to take. I was too hungry to remember to take any pretty "on plate" pictures.
If you're looking for a good side dish to go with this dinner. Check out my Rosemary Roasted Root Vegetables. It's my go to... filling and yummy, and just a little different so it doesn't get boring. 
And after you're done eating your fabulous and MOIST chicken dinner... it's SUPER EASY to make THE BEST CHICKEN BROTH you've ever had. Seriously, the chicken was good, but the broth is TO DIE FOR.

So you have all the bones and skin and fat and junk in the crockpot. Now just fill it with water, and leave it cooking on "low" all night.

That's it. You can add a couple carrots or some celery if  you want. And I got too busy the next day and just left it on all day again, until I needed it to make dinner (chicken soup with the extra chicken from the day before).... just strain it through a very fine strainer to get out all the bones and crap.

 But it was AMAZING. It definitely needed some salt, but it was dark and rich and so freaking yummy.

You can't find broth like this in the store. It looks more like beef broth, and it is so amazing!

It made so much broth that I was able to make a GIANT pot of chicken soup (which is already gone, thank you) and still had almost 2 cups of broth left over, which I froze for later use. I usually get about 4 quarts of broth every time I do this, but I think that is just because of the size of my crockpot. I'm sure it varies with the size of your crockpot.

It needs some serious amounts of salt added to it, but you can just do that to taste. 

My whole chicken came in a 2-pack, and I was going to freeze the other bird... and now I can't wait to make it again... so we'll be having this dinner again this week!
Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!!! :)

May 20, 2012

Sunday Edition: Faith, Hope, and Charity

I've already written a little bit about this, particularly about HOPE. Then a few weeks ago at church we had a lesson all about hope. I said a few things that were straight from that post... but I also realized a few things I hadn't ever quite figured out before. So you can read that link first, if you want, to know where I'm coming from here... or you can just plunge ahead... or even click off my blog. LOL.
It was while we were talking in church about faith and charity that I realized something new about hope. I've always known that faith means that you believe in God, and you believe He can do what He says. And charity is about having love for others. But hope is more difficult to define. I've always just thought of it as the ability to keep going, that forward thrust and soft resilience to push through difficulties.The proverbial "light at the end of the tunnel." But then someone commented that real hope is based in a knowledge of who you are as a child of God, who you are in relation to God.
 "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." -Romans 8:16-17
And when I heard that, something clicked into place for me. Faith is toward God... belief in Him, believing Him, trusting Him. Charity is toward our "fellow men" ... loving them, helping them, forgiving them. And Hope... Hope is toward ourselves. Believing, not just that God "can" do it, but that he "will" do it... FOR YOU.  Hope is toward yourself... loving yourself, believing that your best is good enough, forgiving yourself when you fall, and holding onto the understanding that God will work miracles in YOUR behalf. That all the promises He has given, that they apply to YOU.
That YOU are precious to HIM.
Even when things are hard. Even when things go wrong. Because "we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.... What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?" -Romans 8:28, 31
Faith, Hope, and Charity are commonly seen together. They strengthen and build each other, and it is difficult to have one without the other two. All three are about relationships... your relationships with God, with yourself, and with others. I think that we, or perhaps just I, tend to focus outward. Charity and Faith are focused on others, they are outward. But we also have need to clean the "inner vessel."

I guess that's how I feel about Hope. I put a much higher priority on Faith and Charity... my relationships with God and with other people... than I do on Hope. I just figure that if I do my best, then Hope will magically appear one day. But if I neglect hope, then hope will neglect me. Most of the time, my missing ingredient is Hope.
I'm still struggling a bit to "define" Hope. It is definitely about your relationship with yourself... but it is also about God's relationship with you. Perhaps Faith is how you feel about God, and Hope is how He feels about you... or how you think He feels about you???
And for me, I think that Hope centers a lot on Grace. Accepting His Grace and Mercy. Allowing Him to take my burdens. Believing in Him (faith), and doing good works (charity), and then feeling a quiet confidence that my best... while far from perfect... will be perfected in His perfection... and my best will somehow be enough. That's hope. That's grace... Believing that I, not just anyone and everyone, but I...
 "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." -Philippians 4:13 

February 27, 2012

The Gift of Infertility

I've been thinking lately. Infertility and pregnancy loss are hard. So hard. But looking back, they have also been a blessing. I know that is so strange, and possibly offensive, but let me explain.

I hope I can find the right words to tell you what I'm feeling in my heart.

Infertility and loss (IF for short) are difficult in a million ways that no one would ever expect... unless they've been through it. It touches every part of your life, your soul, your identity as a woman. It puts a barrier between you and your "normal" fertile friends/family, largely because they UNKNOWINGLY say/do things that are SO hurtful, invalidating, and just plain make you feel like  you've been slapped in the face. I know that they don't mean to, I know that they are only trying to help... but the effect is still that IF is isolating.

But the thing is, I've been thinking. And IF has really and truly blessed me so much. It has made me strong. It has made me be aware of the pain that others feel. It has given me compassion on a level that I had never believed possible. I feel such a sense of connection with almost anyone who struggles with IF. I have sat in front of my computer and sobbed over a stranger's pregnancy loss, and prayed with all my might that they would *somehow* find some peace and healing. Most recently Mo and BIBC. Oh how my heart aches for you both.

But it's more than that. IF has blessed me in ways that I never thought possible. In fact, some of the things that are the MOST difficult about IF have impossibly become strengths in my life. Isn't it funny... But it's just like they say, God can turn any weakness into strength if  you let Him. And "rock bottom is the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life." (JK Rowling)

One of the most PAINFUL things about IF is the perma-hope that it takes to keep going. Every month you try, and you believe, and you hope... and you hurt... and you get back up and do it again the next month. How was I "stupid" enough to believe EVERY month that THIS time was going to be different? It gets to be so painful that I used to wish that I could just stop hoping, because then I thought it might not hurt so much.

It's so hard to put into words. But I think I started to realize it while I was taking care of my dad last year... in the final days of his struggle with cancer. I knew he was going to die. I knew he was. There was no hope. Lung and liver failure coupled with esophageal cancer. It was a very dark time. And do you know what kept me going? That same blasted perma-hope that had been SO painful during IF. I knew that dad was dying. But I also knew that I could still find light at the end of the tunnel. I knew that I would always have "next month" to look forward to. Something to hope for. A goal to reach for. A constant forward thrust deep inside me that has been so strengthened by years of IF that I knew I would never be able to give up. IF has taught me how to push forward and hold my head up and to HOPE.

Hope and faith are my good friends, and they have very little to do with getting what you want. They are quiet and steady companions, constantly whispering that everything will be all right even if... especially if... things go wrong.

And the strength to carry on alone, to pursue my own path regardless of what anyone else says or feels about it. To follow my heart. There are many people who try to "help" an IFer by telling them things like "just relax and it will happen" or "maybe you should just give up now" or "why don't you try x,y,or z?" It becomes so painful. It makes you feel so alone and misunderstood. BUT it makes you strong. It makes you stand on your own feet, and follow your own heart. You can't survive for long in the world of IF when you're doing what other people expect of you. This has definitely become a strength for me, possibly a bit too strong in this area now, ha! But I'm realizing that I really need this strength right now in my life.

I'm about to start an "alternative" treatment for my "incurable" disease. It's expensive. The program is long and difficult to complete. There is no guarantee that it will work. And many, many people have tried... in every way possible... to dissuade me... to convince me that it's a huge mistake. And really, it might be... but just like my path through IF, it's a path that I have to take, and I have to do what I feel is best. It will be a long, hard, lonely road. But I hope at the end of it, it will be worth it. And I know that if I hadn't struggled for years with IF, with the lonliness and isolation that is IF, I might not have had the strength needed to push through this next path alone.

There are many other things which IF has taught me. Because it does affect every area of your life, it also teaches you something in every area of your life. I hate IF. I hate wondering if I'll have more children, or how many more miscarriages I'll have to suffer through. I hate knowing that because I STILL want more children that there WILL be more pain ahead. Immense pain. But I am coming to realize that IF isn't my enemy. God didn't send me to earth to have an easy go of it, He sent me here to learn and grow and stretch. I no longer think of IF as the enemy, but as the very strict teacher... possibly whacking your fingers with a ruler.... possibly it's Severus Snape.  I don't like the class, I'm a bit afraid of the teacher, I'd much rather be out playing on the monkey bars... but the things I learn in that classroom change my life. I wouldn't wish infertility/loss on anyone... besides, I'm sure that everyone has their very own class with Snape, and all of them suck... but I have come to realize how very grateful I am for IF and the lessons it has taught me...
and the strength it has given me.
I wouldn't be who I am if I hadn't had to struggle with IF.
For that, I am grateful.