Living, Learning & Loving La Vida Nueva

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Anita's Yummy Mexican Stuff

Four years ago this week Jonathan and I moved from Mexico back to the US.  It really is ridiculous how much Jonathan and I like Mexican food.  We eat it about once a week, homemade tortillas and all.  This stuff is easier than making homemade tortillas and it's my go-to for a fantastic weekend lunch.

Some time ago our Unit Leader's wife served this to our Lesotho team at prayer day.  Wow.  It was so good!  I'm not positive I do it quite like she did it.... but here is my version of her fantastic dish.  I've made it on so many occasions, I can whip it up in no time.  I usually only make one portion at a time because it's just that quick.  But if you are cooking for a family or crowd, obviously you just use more of everything.  No real measurements here.  Easy.

Start by dicing red, yellow and green peppers, onion and boneless chicken breasts.  Throw them in a skillet with some olive oil and a shake of cajun seasoning.  I use the cajun seasoning my grandmother gave me plus a sprinkle of chipotle powder.  I love chipotle anything.  A year in Mexico did that to me.

When your veggies are tender and your meat is cooked, transfer to an oven proof dish.  I use a bread pan.  Add diced fresh tomatoes and some grated cheddar cheese.  Throw it under the broiler for a couple of minutes until the cheese is melted.

While that is doing its happy thing in the oven (don't forget about it!), chop up half an avocado.  I used to make a mashed guacamole but decided it was an added bowl to wash and I was happy to just dice some avo and continue on.

Crush a few Doritos on a plate.  Jonathan tells me these are "Cool Ranch" flavor in the US but here they are called Sweet Chili.  Pile on the warm combo out of the oven.  Sprinkle with the avo.  Add a dollop of cottage cheese.  And the final component --- Sweet chili sauce.  Sorry friends and fam in the US, don't think you're gonna find it there.  You could use.... some salsa!  Sweet chili sauce is, from what I've gathered, a staple South African condiment and it's delish.  I've looked up how to make it from scratch but haven't tried it myself.  Anyway, throw some salsa or sweet chili sauce or whatever on top and dig in!

Anita's Yummy Mexican Stuff:

Begin by dicing chicken, red, green, yellow peppers and onion.  Sprinkle with cajun spice and sauté in olive oil until tender.  Transfer to a baking dish and top with diced tomato and grated cheddar cheese.  Broil for 2-3 minutes until cheese is melted.  Layer crushed Doritos, warm veggies and meat from the oven then top with chopped avocado, cottage cheese and sauce of your choice....


Saturday, August 23, 2014


Nobody likes to talk about weight unless they’ve lost some, right?  That is, in our culture at least.  I find it amusing that the women where I live now desire to gain weight.  It baffles me, the very thought of trying to gain weight, and I chuckle at the idea.  My friend and neighbor says she is trying to gain weight so her old clothes fit; apparently she has lost some weight accidentally and she doesn’t desire to buy new, smaller clothes.  I belly laugh and shake my head.  She has keenly taken the concept of Fatter Day and run with it.  Except for her, the idea of Fatter Day is just that…. She is trying to get fatter.  She knows on Saturdays she will find some baked goodies at my house and I often deliver a cupcake or bag of cookies to her on the weekend.  

Over the past 5 years, I have attempted to lose and/or maintain weight in a sustainable and healthy way.  After we got married, I packed on some serious lbs working at Cracker Barrel, no thanks to the free biscuits and unlimited, very sweet, sweet tea.  By the time we were moving to Mexico, I was ready to lose those lbs and found it to be pretty easy.  I cut soft drinks, quit eating anything after supper, and limited my sugar intake significantly.  We ate McDonalds and Chili’s and I made lots of blackened chicken pasta and meatloaf and potatoes, but that didn’t seem to matter.  It was hot, for sure, and I probably sweated off a couple lbs as well.  But losing weight before I had a baby was a piece of cake, literally, instead of two.  

Then I got pregnant with Kyle.  I was determined to not gain too much weight during my pregnancy.  However, my determination wore thin the last two months, and I found myself very, very, very hungry.  Kyle was born and I knew I had a good 15 pounds to lose before I would be back into my old clothes.  I was breastfeeding and I knew that was supposed to help me drop some pounds easily.  I also started eating more light meals.  It’s hard to remember how my sugar intake was, I have a sweet tooth like a lion I can barely control.  About 9 or 10 months after Kyle was born, when I sort of felt like I had life figured out again while trying to deal with a needy infant, I started trying to work out.  I tried running, I tried working out to exercise videos 3X a week, I tried push ups and crunches…. I tried everything.  The weight went no where.  Just before I found out I was pregnant with Ellee, I decided I would run the mile around my parents’ hilly neighborhood 5 days a week for 5 weeks and then weigh in.  I only made it about 4 weeks before I got so sick with my pregnancy and couldn’t really do much of anything.  But the weight?  It hadn’t moved.  I breastfed Kyle for the 19 months between his birth and discovering my pregnancy with Ellee, and it didn’t do a thing for my weight loss, or lack thereof.

Through the three months that I was so sick with Ellee, I lost a total of 17 pounds.  It wasn’t a good way to drop weight and I decided then I’d rather be squishy and happy than thin and miserable.  Between the time I got better at 19 weeks and the day Ellee was born, I managed to get back up to just above where I had started.  After Ellee was born, I was at an ideal weight, I thought.  But my body had other plans.  Certainly it decided to pack on any and everything I gave it over the course of Ellee’s first year.  Breast feeding again lent no assistance, despite the fact that Ellee wouldn’t take a bite of solid food for a full eight months.  I tried to start P90X the beginning of the year but quickly found out that my body wasn’t having that, either.  My milk supply vanished and I had to give up P90X on week two.  

So there you have it, a very frustrated me for the past nearly four years where weight was concerned.  It has been my goal to not allow myself to put on weight with each baby and find myself with the seemingly impossible task of losing any significant poundage years down the road.  So, upon our return from the US in April, I knew I had to get serious about my food intake.  Working out wasn’t the solution, apparently, so dieting would have to be instead.  But I don’t like the idea of dieting because when the diet is over, I figure the weight will just come back.  Life changes had to be made and I knew that meant cutting sugar.  I know myself very well, however, and I know I can’t and won’t cut sugar for the rest of my life.  Thus I started Fatter Day.  Serious, healthy, tons of veggies during the week and one day, Saturdays, where I allow myself a cupcake, a piece bacon and a biscuit, a coke and a Reese’s peanut butter cup.  Yes, all of the above.  And it is working, slowly but surely, it’s working.

The concept behind this new plan was that the longer I “dieted”, the more my body would settle into a new calorie intake and thus reduce my metabolism.  However, by dumping in a load of calories one day a week, not only does it help me keep my resolve, it sort of tricks my body into continuing to burn calories even though I’m eating healthily during the week.  It takes discipline and it has been slow going, but there has been progress.  And it is encouraging to make progress after years of feeling like all my efforts weren’t helping.  I like that I feel good about what I am eating all week, but I also don’t regret eating chocolate cake with chocolate icing on Saturdays.  And most of all, it feels good to have control over my sweet addiction, to know I’m giving my body what it really needs, and helping my kids see that there is a decent way to maintain a healthy weight.

I am not posting this to hear, “you look great!” in the comments.  People will say that to someone because it’s the nice thing to say, regardless of if it is true or not.  I’m posting it because I know how frustrating it is to try and try and get no where.  I’ve found something that works for me and if you are where I was, maybe it’ll work for you, too.  Eight pounds down… a couple more to go, hopefully.  Here’s to Fatter Day!

This cupcake with this icing. Fabulous!


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Christmas in August

Every once in a while, Christmas comes early .  Last week that is just what happened in Mokhotlong.  After lots of finagling with DHL between the US and Lesotho, our giant box of goodies from the States arrived safe and sound.  Full of surprises, things we had requested and a few things we’d forgotten while in the US, this package was exciting for all the St.Clairs.  

Dusty jammies and motorcycles for Kyle

Horse jammies for Ellee 

Inside we found a new baby doll for our little Baby Doll.  Superman and Planes jammies for Kyle.  Super hero undies for Jonathan… just kidding, those were for Kyle, too.  Chili powder, Reese’s, a thermometer and Arm & Hammer toothpaste for Mama.  And a giant box of shells and cheese, a new iPad case and head phones, and marshmallows for Sunday Night Sleepovers for Jonathan.  There were other things, too, like new jammies for Ellee, motorcycles for Kyle, a piano toy for Ellee, and a Liberty reading light for Jono.  His and hers coffee creamers.  Oh, and two pounds of pepperonis.  Ahhhh.... the taste of home.

So excited about pepperonis, I had to deviate from our normal leftovers-for-supper on Wednesday night and make some pizza.  Oh man, delicious!  These Americans think they are Italian with as much pizza and pasta and stromboli as we eat!

So this is how Kyle tells us what he wants to wear to bed now....

Thanks, Uncle Ric and contributing parties for getting our package to us!  


Sunday, August 10, 2014

If You Can't Beat 'Em.....

....join 'em!!

Blanketed men walking along the road...

Blanketed woman in town.

Before we moved here, we were told it was tradition for the women to wear blankets wrapped around their waists for modesty and extra warmth.  I distinctly remember thinking that sounded like the most unfashionable thing I had ever heard.  Seriously?  Blankets as clothes?  I would never.

But, let’s be honest.  Who wants to get out of the blankets in the morning when it is cold and you have no heat?  And who wants to walk to town and back with the wind blasting your legs through your jeans?  Wearing long-johns isn’t the most comfortable way to layer up the bottom half.  I am here to tell you that wearing a thick, warm blanket is!  You never have to get out of you blanket (except to use the loo) and it keeps you warm all day long.  It is practical, relatively cheap and comfortable.  I’m sold.

My blanket cost about $10 and my gigantic safety pin10 cents.

Do I still think it looks funny?  A little.  I’ve really gotten used to seeing everyone walking around with blankets draped over the shoulders, pinned around their waists and tied around their backs holding babies.  Sometimes I shake my head at the very realization of how normal it all looks to me now.  But does practicality win when the temp is hovering around freezing, snow is beckoning and you just can’t get warm in your own house?  Absolutely.

So, I joined ‘em.  And I think I’ll live with this style through winter for the rest of my life.


Friday, August 8, 2014

Kart Wheels

In the past couple of months, Kyle has decided he thoroughly enjoys helping me in the kitchen whenever possible.  Admittedly, there are times when I try to sneak into the kitchen to accomplish something before he realizes I'm in there.... only to hear, "Mommy what are you doing in there?" as he rounds the corner into the dining room, grabs a chair to stand on, and comes trotting into the kitchen ready to help, chair in tow.  I am constantly reminding myself that these years fly by; I need to take advantage of my time with him even when I'd rather just get the job done.  So he helps me measure flour, stir batter, get milk from the fridge, eggs from the counter..... And I smile because he is just the little buddy I prayed for.

While in South Africa earlier this week for an AIM prayer day, we found Kyle an adorable little baking set for kids.  I couldn't pass it up, complete with an apron and tiny cooking utensils.  He has been giddy about cooking something with his new toys.  So yesterday we pulled out the Alpha-Bakery cookbook my Aunt gave us and flipped through the pages until we settled on something quick, easy and consisting of ingredients I had on hand.

Photo credit : Kyle

Then we started making Kart Wheels.  We complied the components and got to work.  First, measure the butter and get it softened in the micro because it's still rock solid on the kitchen counter.  Then, measure the flour, baking powder, powdered sugar and milk.  Mix all the ingredients together until a nice ball of pastry has formed.  We halved the recipe because I was only looking for a tiny treat.  Divide into equal pieces and shape into balls.  Situate them on a baking sheet like so, flattened slightly and mash a hole in the middle with your finger for the jam.   We did two apricot and one strawberry.  Fill with about a tablespoon of jam and bake at 350 for 20 minutes, until edges are slightly browned.

"See, Daddy, this is what we are making!"

You never know who is watching you lick the spoon.  Photo credit : Kyle 

(See the hairless spot in the back of Kyle's head?  That was the fight he got into with the gravel road in front of our house 6 months ago.  Quite the fright, with blood everywhere we anticipated an emergency trip out of the mountains.  But after some evaluation and careful cleaning by Dad, we decided to just baby it and try to avoid stitches...)

The proud baker!

A pretty delicious snack for not much work....

Kart Wheels (full recipe)

1 1/2 flour
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons milk
About 1 cup pie filling or jam (any flavor)

1.  Heat oven to 375*
1.  Mix flour, butter, powdered sugar, baking powder and just enough milk until dough forms.  (If dough seems dry, mix in more milk, 1 teaspoon at a time.)
3. Divide the dough into 6 equal parts.  Shape each part into a ball.  Place on an ungreased cookie sheet; flatten slightly.  Make an indentation in center of each flattened ball.  Fill each indentation with about 2 tablespoons pie filling or jam.  Bake until the edges begin to brown, 20-25 minutes.  Makes 6 Kart Wheels.