Thursday, March 29, 2012

Jazz: The Miracle Dog

Today marks the 4-year anniversary of our family's adoption of my favorite dog in the whole wide world:

I never thought that we would be able to own a dog because My Man is terribly allergic to animals.  He had childhood asthma which was often made worse by exposure to animal dander.  I told my kids that they wouldn't be able to have any pets with fur on them.

Hairless cat = YIKES!
When my daughter was in third grade, she started to beg for a dog.  We had been through the wringer as a family around that time with Hurricane Katrina and all that entailed: leaving the only home my kids had ever known, living in an apartment for almost a year (my son and daughter had to share a room for the first time), and changing schools and towns a few times.  We were looking for a way to break the sadness that we all felt and establish a sense of normalcy again.

Once we bought a house, My Man started to investigate hypo-allergic dog breeds.  I didn't hold out much hope that it would work for him, because once when we were single and I was house-sitting for a friend, he came to visit.  Within a half hour he had hives all over his face and arms, and he was wheezing badly.  I knew that his allergies were very real and nothing to mess with.

But My Man wanted to make his little girl happy.  He suggested a Bichon Frisee or a Poodle.  My old college roommate has a Bichon, so I sent her one of my husband's t-shirts so that her dog could lie on it for several weeks.  When we got it back, my husband wore it for several hours to see if it would bother him.  Miraculously, it didn't seem to cause any issues!

So he scoped out PetFinders, and one day he found an adult Bichon Frisee that needed to be adopted.  On that Saturday four years ago, my daughter and I drove to an animal shelter about 20 miles away to inquire about the Bichon, but I feared that he might already be taken by the time we got there.  I remember praying on the way down that if it was God's will, we would love to have a dog but not at the expense of my husband's health.

Jazz was in a cage with lots of other dogs when we got there.

I remember him jumping on me, and I was a little concerned about that habit.  My daughter, Jessica, though, was already smitten.  Another thing that concerned me was that the shelter couldn't guarantee that Jazz was a purebred.  I called my husband, and he said that we should go for it.

The rest is history.  We took this little dog home.  The first thing we did was give him a name, and we all decided we wanted a name with a New Orleans' connection.  Biscuit?  Saint?  Beignet?  Finally someone shouted, "Jazz!"  Music to our ears!

Jazz Band in New Orleans' French Quarter

And so it was.   And it has turned out to be a very apt name for our lively, spirited and personable little furball.

Jazz around the time of his adoption in early 2008
Jazz was so thin and dirty when we got him.  We suspect that he was on the streets for awhile, but it was clear that he had been someone's pet in the past.  Unfortunately, when I brought him to the vet a few days after we adopted him, he was diagnosed with heartworm.  Great.  More sadness and strife?

I called the animal shelter and questioned why they didn't share this huge bit of information with us, and they claimed to have run out of the testing kits and didn't know.  Yeah, right.  They told us that we could bring him back (and they would probably put him down) but they wouldn't help us to pay for the expensive (and dangerous) treatment (we're talking $700 and 6 weeks of peace and quiet in a household with 2 kids who had never had a dog!).  How could I tear Jazz away from my kids?!  He was already a part of our family!

All ended up well, and our Jazz's presence has been priceless.  He has added so much laughter and joy to our lives.

Jazz after playing with the kids in the snow
He is expressive and lovable and cuddly.

 He is part of our family.  Our kids sometimes accuse us of loving the dog more than them!  Ha ha!

My Man and Jazz--No sniffles, just smiles!
Me and the Best Dog Ever

Thanks for the unconditional love, Jazz!  Back at ya, buddy!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Late afternoon is my weakest time of day when I'm trying to stay away from sweet treats.  I'm usually hungry and tired, but dinner won't be ready for over an hour.  I need something to take the edge off while keeping me on course with my diet.

These little orb-bits are sweet, salty, crunchy, and packed with protein.  They use pantry ingredients, are quick and easy to make, and keep in the refrigerator for days.

Peanut Butter Protein Balls
(click here to print)

1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/3 cup instant nonfat dry milk powder
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup granola, very finely crushed (I use GoLean Crunch, for additional protein and fiber)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (optional)

Coating:  wheat germ, graham cracker crumbs, flax seeds, finely ground peanuts, and/or cocoa powder

Combine the first 5 ingredients and stir until well combined.

Use a small cookie scoop (1 inch diameter) to portion out the balls onto waxed paper.  Chill for about 20 minutes.

Roll each portion into a ball, then roll each ball in your desired coating.

Store in covered container in refrigerator.  Makes about 22 balls at 90 calories each.  Click here for full nutritional breakdown.

Mmmm, these are satisfying on so many levels.

Linking to:

Cast Party Wednesday

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Dark Side

When we had chicken for dinner when I was growing up, there was always a little tussle over who would get the coveted white meat.  Back then, chickens weren't bred to be as freakishly large as they are now, so there was less white meat to be had.  Drumsticks were always the last to go in my house.

Old habits die hard: I still favor the white meat.  But I've recently ventured to the dark side.  I've discovered that chicken thighs are pretty darn tasty, too.  They stay moist and don't have as gamey a taste as I remember from my childhood days.  Or maybe my tastebuds have changed.  Anyway, I have found boneless, skinless thighs for the same price as the breasts lately and decided to use them in this delicious, one-pot meal.  The original recipe is for a slow cooker, but I cooked it on the stove top.

Latin Chicken
(click here to print)

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 (15.5 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (14 ounce) can yellow corn
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup salsa (heat level to your liking--I used medium)
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • lime wedges, for garnish

  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle 1/4 cup cilantro over the chicken thighs; brown the chicken in the frying pan, 3 to 5 minutes each side.

Add the sweet potato chunks, red bell peppers, and garlic.

Combine the chicken stock, remaining cilantro, salsa, and spices and add to the chicken and vegetables, stirring gently.

Cover the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low.  Simmer for about 45 minutes or until the vegetables and chicken are tender.  Add the black beans and corn last and stir to incorporate.

I served this over quinoa for a healthy, colorful, and delightfully different meal.  A squeeze of fresh lime really adds brightness to the overall dish.

Linking to:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Drink Your Vegetables!

I have been MIA lately, partly because I am struggling with my weight loss (it's not going as well as I would like).  I feel like I've been eating pretty healthy and doing the same things I did a few years ago when I lost 30 lbs., but it's just not coming off.  Ugh.  I also met with a Personal Trainer today at the gym, and let's just say that my body fat analysis was less than stellar.

Not my number, unfortunately

Just goes to show that the "charts" can have you as normal weight and BMI (body mass index), but you can still be unhealthy and technically fat.

My Man and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary this year, and I was really hoping to fit into my wedding dress again, just for kicks.  I could have done that 2 years ago!  Sometimes I wonder if posting about food thwarts my efforts.  I mean, I love to cook, and I admittedly like to eat!  Maybe if I just post healthy foods, but what fun is that?  I have tried to balance posts so that I don't always bake goodies and have them around where I can't resist them.

So the other day, I tried something new that was posted by Lady With the Red Rocker on a blog hop I frequent:

A green smoothie made with spinach! 

It might sound less than appetizing, but it really was quite good because the original recipe contains both banana and peanut butter, which helps to disguise the somewhat earthy taste of the spinach. It was healthy and surprisingly refreshing.   And the emerald green color is perfect for St. Patty's Day!

The one thing I would change next time is that I would add less milk.  It was a little thinner than I prefer.  Wow, I wish I could say the same about myself!