Thursday, March 25, 2010

Crock Pot Love Affair

I heart my crock pot, I really, really do.

It's hard to remember when my love affair started, but I know that several years ago I found a recipe for crockpot cheesy chicken, or something like that, on RecipeZaar. That has become one of my standbys because it so easy and I don't have to look up a recipe.

boneless skinless chicken breasts - however much you want, I think the recipe was like for 2 lbs, and I ALWAYS use ice glazed chicken breats, the kind you find in the bag at Trader Joe's or the grocery store, but they seem to be cheaper at Trader Joe's
2 cans of cheddar cheese soup
1 can of cream of chicken soup
garlic powder
salt and pepper

So maybe it's 2 cans of cream of chicken and 1 can of cheddar cheese, I can never remember and I've probably done it both ways. But all you do is throw that chicken in the crock pot (when you're using the ice glazed chicken there is no prep involved), and then mix up the other stuff (the salt, pepper, and garlic powder are to taste), and then you dump that over the chicken. Turn your crockpot on low for about 7 hours and you are done. Chop it or shread it and serve it over egg noodles or a baked potato or rice, whatever. You could also jazz it up with other spices. It's just simple, easy comfort food.

Several months ago Super and I went to Sarah's house for dinner. She made us chicken enchiladas. I was like, this chicken is so yummy and flavorful and moist, how'd you cook it? She tells us she just threw chicken in the crock pot and threw a jar of green salsa over it. After 7 hours it's ready to shred.

What the? Who the? How the? No way, it could not be that easy! But sure enough it was. And since then I have made that stuff many, many, many times. I've used green salsa (Herdez is my personal favorite), red salsa, and at various times added jalapenos or green chili or onion. I also throw a little garlic powder on top because I always think some garlic powder's a good idea. Once you shred it up you can use it for tacos, burritos, enchiladas, salad, whatever. Too easy.

Yesterday I did a variation on this and topped the chicken with a jar of spaghetti sauce. I used the Puttanesca sauce from Trader Joe's. Wowza. Just had some over a baked potato topped with some of Vanessa's Homemade Buttermilk Ranch dressing, and dang... that was delicious and filling and fabulous.

It's all about low investment, high reward. I am all about this concept in cooking and in life.

Don't get me wrong, some things are hard work and rightly so, and have amazing results. But some things shouldn't feel hard. For example, if you work hard to hook up with a friend only to find you don't have any fun when you hang out with them, or worse, they annoy you, then I suggest you don't hang out with that friend any longer, or at least not often. Life's too short for that. Look around and see if there are any places you can crockpoterize (that's a new word, yes, I just made that up) your life.

And if you have any crock pot recipe ideas, send them my way!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Fair is Fair

The last few days I've been feeling like a raving bitch.

I had some discord in my life, and I've been feeling like a spoiled-ass brat. Am I really getting so mad about this, I wondered? What the hell is wrong with me?

But now that I have gotten the issue resolved, and it happened to come out the way I wanted, I realized that I wasn't getting mad because I wasn't getting my way. I was getting mad because it wasn't fair.

Stuff not being fair kicks my ass. In the grand scheme of things, I am super lucky. Like, to have my kid, my family, my friends, my job - I should shut the bleep up and never complain.

But there's this whole big lump of "not-fairness" that I have in my life, and I've pretty much resolved myself to knowing, well, shoot, when it comes to this situation, Jen, you kinda got screwed, you'll continue to get screwed, you can't change that, so move on. I get through this situation of unfairness by looking at all I have in the rest of my life and thinking hey, I'm still way ahead of the game.

But when this one little situation came up recently, I was incensed. It was like okay, I've already figured out the rest of that stuff sort of sucks, but now, really, this is too much. And it wasn't a big thing, but the unfairness of it was big. The lack of give and take. That whole human thing of expecting people to give back what they get. Give and take. Fairness. That was huge.

So after finally being able to get this across, I feel much better. And even now I feel like, is it because I got my way? And it's like no, it's because fair is fair. I do for you, you do for me. That's how it should be. When it can't be like that, that's one thing. But when it can be, so help me it had better be that way or deal with my wrath (I am totally picturing that thing that Samuel L. Jackson's character would say in Pulp Fiction before he capped someone... ).

Anyway, tension is flowing away as I type. I hope all of you get some fairness today. You deserve it.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Post About the Phobic Thing

Let's set the scene. Fall of 1982. Math Building, Juan Crespi Junior High, El Sobrante (El Sob, #1), California. The final school bell rings and students are pouring out of the hallway, free to go about their business for the day until they are once again imprisoned within these walls.

A tall, awkward girl with regretfully large '80's hair and big eyebrows is unknowingly suffering from a bit of the stomach flu. She exits the building and pukes her guts out (mostly hamburger and Rice-A-Roni, the previous night's dinner, which will forever become the Meal She Will Not Eat), just outside the building, as several students pass by.

She doesn't at remember if any of the students said anything, but come on, it was junior high. There was probably some pointing and staring and laughing, because let's face it, junior high school students are, by and large, idiots. She does remember a nice teacher named Ms. O'Connor or Ms. O'Conner (or was she a Miss or Mrs?) checking on her to make sure she was okay. She'd never had her for a teacher but she would always remember her kindness.

And this my friends, this seemingly insignificant unfortunate incident would be one that would shape the life of the puker for at least the next 10 plus years. And if you're thinking that the puker is me, well, of course you're right, since this is my blog and all, it only makes sense that this would be my story.

Had this happened to one of my more normal, confident, secure fellow students (some of whom I am today lucky enough to cherish as friends), it would have been embarrassing, sure. But it probably wouldn't have altered their lives. But when it happened to me, not only was I just starting the 7th grade, busting out with hormones, and incredibly shy, it turns out my wiring was such that this made me a little crazy. Well, not crazy exactly (though I totally am not ashamed to say that yes, I am a little nuts, and this is a pretty well-known fact). It made me afraid. I was scared to go to school (yep, that's why I missed so much of junior high and high school) and ultimately to be in any situation in which I felt like I couldn't easily get out. I always hoped for the seat in class next to a door; otherwise I'd be preoccupied about "what if... " What if I get sick? What if I can't make it to the bathroom? What if it all happens again?

And the crazy thing is that I was hardly ever sick. I mean, I'd not feel well, but I hard ever actually vomited as kid or a teenager. So to spend years being afraid of it was pretty ironic.

It got to the point where I refused to go to the mall. Going to the movies I could handle okay, because at least I could say I liked to sit near the back on an aisle and not look like a weirdo. I never shared any of this sort of thing with anyone. I couldn't say, I can't do this or that because I'm afraid I'm going to puke. I don't know that I ever even verbalized it that way to my best friend or to my mom.

My breaking point came in 1992, Easter Sunday. I was at Raley's on San Pablo Dam Road. I filled the shopping cart with items. I went to stand in line and panicked when I saw that all of the lines were long. My cheeks started to feel... puckery. I hadn't been sick or anything, but if my cheeks felt like that, oh boy, maybe that meant something was going to happen. I went over to the far side of the store, parked my full cart, and left.

That was the end.

I went and saw a psychologist at Richmond Kaiser. I was so nervous to go and tell my story. I felt at that time like the craziest person on the planet and so ashamed. I will never forget two things. One, she told me I was not crazy, but I was phobic, and she referred me to a program at Kaiser in Vallejo called Phobease. Number two, I thought she was dumping me after only 10 minutes because I was too crazy and I really couldn't be helped.

I went to this Phobease meeting, run by this guy named Dr. Harold Leibgold. My best friend Kim, who I'm lucky enough to still call my best friend, went with me as my support person. At this meeting were several other people, who like me, were afraid of something. Snakes, planes, bridges, open spaces, closed spaces, you name it. And they were all grown-ups. At the age of 22 and still living at home, I really didn't feel at all like a grown-up.

So Kim and I went for however many weeks... 8? 10? I don't remember, it seems like a lifetime ago. It was all about desensitization. And relaxation. He told us not drink caffeine or watch the news on TV (because that's not good for sensitive folks). It was all about reprogramming our brains, working against the wiring that was in there that made us afraid. It was all about taking little steps. The first assignment I think gave myself was to go to Hilltop Mall, park where the old theaters used to be on the lower level, and walk halfway up that first hallway. That was it. Once I could do that with little to no anxiety, I was able to make it all the way to end of the hall. And so on and so forth.

It was a process. And little by little, day by day, I felt less scared and more "normal." Whatever that means. Essentially, Dr. Leibgold saved my life. And I've never even thanked him, what a rat I am! I think I'll see if I can send him a message and a link to this post...

I think one of the reasons I share this is because I never want anyone to feel ashamed if they need help. I feel like I spent more than 10 years only half-living, and I wouldn't want anyone else to do that. Would I change it? Absolutely not. Those years made me who I am, and maybe they make me appreciate life as much as I do. What if I hadn't wound up dropping out of college at the age of 21? I wouldn't have wound up finishing my degree at Cal State Hayward and having such an awesome college experience filled with amazing teachers and classes that I didn't appreciate when I was 18.

Most importantly, every step we take puts us in the direction we're going... I'm here now because of all the stuff that worked and didn't work, and I wouldn't rather be any other place.

So live and enjoy and love and laugh and entertain and be entertained. And don't be afraid. But if you are, know that you're not alone.