Monday, April 30, 2012

Chicken Tortilla Soup in the Slow Cooker

Monday's are my hardest cooking days.  My daughter has ballet until 5:30 so I try to cook ahead so that by the time we get home there is just reheating or last minute preparations.  Today was no exception and after a very sunny weekend we are covered with a chilly, gloomy marine layer.  My son is home from school with a cold and I am a bit rough around the edges myself.  In other words, the perfect day for soup.
I've tried a variety of Chicken Tortilla soup recipes but none in the slow cooker. The slow cooker did the work for me and this is hands down the tastiest Chicken Tortilla soup I have ever made.  Everyone in my family LOVED it and it could not have been easier.  I literally threw all the ingredients in and just left it alone.  This recipe is taking it's place in our top ten.  It is that good!

Chicken Tortilla Soup in the slow cooker

1 lb shredded, cooked chicken (I boiled chicken breasts in water and let them cool before shredding)
15 oz. peeled tomatoes, mashed (I prefer to use tomatoes from boxes like this to avoid the BPA found in cans.)
16 oz. enchilada sauce (I use sauce from a jar, not a can)
4 oz. chopped green chili peppers (these are from a can, if you know of an alternative to canned, let me know!)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups water
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon each cumin, chili powder, salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 bay leaf (make sure to remove when soup is done)
12 ounces packaged frozen corn
1 Tablespoon chopped cilantro + more for garnish

7 corn tortillas to make baked tortilla chips for garnish
sliced avocado for garnish
light sour cream for garnish
juice from a fresh lime

Put all ingredients (chicken through to cilantro) in slow cooker and cook covered for 6-8 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high.

When the soup is nearly done prepare the tortillas by lightly spraying with vegetable or olive oil spray (I prefer olive oil.)  Cut into thin strips and spread on lightly sprayed cooked sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees until crisp, about 15 minutes.

Serve soup garnished with tortilla strips, sliced avocado, a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of chopped cilantro.  Add a squeeze of lime juice.

My sweet little girl wants to be just like her mommy. She styled and photographed her own bowl and asked me to put it on her blog. So cute!!

Sharing this recipe:

Started a new painting today and love the way paint contrasts with my nails.  Stay tuned...

More Color in the Garden

It was a beautiful weekend. I took these pictures in my garden.

Click here to see more garden colors.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Illustration Friday - Jump

This horse likes to jump, not sure how I ended up with a colorful watercolor horse but here we are.  Not even sure I like it at all but it only took me a few hours and I wanted to post early this week...
Watercolor on paper

The earlier version, which didn't feel finished

My sketchbook, I was originally going to go classic with the version in the top right with rider...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Starting my day out right

Started my day out with another longer "barefoot" run.  Just over 5 miles with a few walking breaks and several stops to stretch out my calves and ankles.  There is a lot of leg fatigue running in the barefoot shoes.  I know (hope!) this will go away over time, for now it helps to stretch and loosen things up.

The view never gets old

My new kicks.  I don't normally run on grass but I stepped in dog poop and was trying to get it off.  Yuck.

My post run breakfast, about 260 calroes.  Maybe too much protein but it was what I was hungry for.

Why does Bikram Yoga need to be hot and Snow on the Mountains

Snow over Lake Cachuma, acrylic on cavas.  My very first painting from years ago.

Brrrr...that is how I felt in my Bikram Yoga class yesterday.  Not quite as cold as this painting of snow on the mountains overlooking Lake Cachuma but pretty darn cold, at least by Bikram Yoga standards.  As soon as I walked into the studio yesterday it hit me...or rather that hot wall of air DIDN'T hit me.  Turns out the main heater was broken.  The only source of heat in the room were two wall heaters, a humidifier and our bodies.  I was surprised by how many people left when they heard the room wasn't 105 degrees.  As some ladies were leaving I heard an instructor who was taking the class say "but what if you get stronger today?"  Well said.  I stayed.

Here is Bikram's official stance on the heat in the room:

Why 105 degrees? Yoga changes the construction of the body from the inside out, from bones to skin and from fingertips to toes. So before you change it, you have to heat it up to soften it, because a warm body is a flexible body. Then you can reshape the body any way you want.

Hatha Yoga flushes away the waste products, the toxins of all the glands and organs of your body. It provides a natural irrigation of the body through the circulatory system, with the help of the respiratory system. It brings nourishments to every cell of your body so that each one can perform its function and keep your body healthy. Bikram Yoga also employs heat to further that cleaning process: When you sweat, impurities are flushed out of the body through the skin

Here's what I learned:

You burn WAY less calories in a not-hot hot room!  As you know I've been counting calories lately and wearing my hear rate monitor in class I have learned I can burn up to 500 calories in 90 minutes.  (You can read more about it here.)  Today I only burned 209.  Everything the same but the heat.  So the heat not only flushes away impurities, I say it flushes away fat!  Bring on the heat!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Barefoot Running and a view from the Douglas Preserve

The Douglas Preserve, aka the Wilcox Property. 
This is an open space overlooking the ocean where I like to run. 
It's about 2 1/2 miles from my house. 
Acrylic on canvas.
I recently bought these barefoot style running shoes from Merrell. Over the last year as I have tried to heal from Achilles Tendinitis I have tried 3 or 4 pairs of running shoes (and you know how this can add up!) all with disappointing results. Before injuries I was an Asics Gel Kayano girl, then I ran in Brooks and although there was some improvement with the less technical Brooks, the heal pain kept coming back.
A friend kept insisting I should try barefoot (or nearly barefoot) running but it just sounds terrifying. No support? No cushion? Yes, I read Born to Run but I wasn't convinced.

I ended up with the Merrells more as a walking shoe. I walk my children to school often and like a fun, bright shoe that is more cute then a clunky running shoe. I was surprised by how instantly comfortable they were. After walking in them for a week or so I decided to try a short run.

It was...uncomfortable. I felt like a duck trying to run on floppy, flat feet. There was an audible slapping sound with each stride as I lumbered along. My calves hurt and the shin pain wasn't far behind. After the run was even worse, I felt sore and stiff as if I was totally new to running. I mentioned this to my barefoot running friend who suggested I needed to adjust my gait to barefoot running.

There are lots of videos out there to refer to, including some on the Merrrell website. I ended up on You Tube watching this video that was actually made by the Terra Plana company (who boast the first barefoot running shoe.) The basic changes I am trying to make when I run are:

1. Better posture
I'm a "head chaser," I tend to lean forward. I am trying to run as if I had a book on top of my head and an orange between my shoulder blades.

2. Shorter, faster stride
This one is hard for me but if I can master it I'm hoping it will make me faster, too.

3. Lighter, springier step
I tend to plod along like a tired horse, so I'm trying to add a bit more bounce to my step.

Yesterday was my first longer run in my barefoot shoes, just about 5 miles. So far, so good. If you've read my older running posts you'll know that I'm always afraid of over doing it so I'll give me legs a few days to recover before trying again but I am really excited by the prospect of creating a regular running schedule again.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Spring Wildflowers

Acrylic on canvas
I love spring wildflowers.  This is a view of a flowery path at the Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Illustration Friday - Heights

Acrylic on canvas

This time of year it's at the greater heights in our local mountains that you will find the most wildflowers.  I'm not sure if there are more cheerful flowers than California Poppies.  This painting was done several years ago and hangs on our wall, this was a good week to share. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Color in the Garden

Colorful pictures taken in my garden recently.  Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Illustraion Friday - Puzzle

Puzzle.  Watercolor & marker on paper.
In my sketchbook with original colored pencil doodle.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hungarian Embroidery

For years I have had this big book of beautiful Hungarian embroidery patterns.  I have kept them for art inspiration, although my mother and grandmother are very talented with every type of needlework you can imagine, I have never had the talent nor the patience.  These are just a few of the more than 50 patterns.


Today I decided to try "embroidering" with my colored pencils.  I love the way it looks and have that excited I'm-on-to-something feeling.

What do you think?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Bikram Yoga Calorie Count

Whenever I want to lose a few lbs or just get my eating habits on track I count calores.  I use the iPhone app called Lose It!  I credit this app for helping me lose about 15 lbs a couple of years ago and helping me keep it off (even though it keeps wanting to creep back up!)

I track all my calories in and any I burn with exercise, so I wear a heart rate monitor while exercising.  For a long time after I started doing Bikram I just estimated my calorie burn because I didn't want to wear the monitor in class.  It seemed too sweaty and just wrong.  Yoga shouldn't be about burning calories.  It should be about meditation and balance, right?

So I googled and I found estimations that you can burn up to 1000 calories!  I knew this was unlikely since I have a pretty good feel for what I burn during any given workout but I also knew that Bikram was HARD, so I estimated 600 calories.  I let myself have those 600 calories for months before I hit the dreaded weight loss plateau.  Since I was religiously counting calories and weight loss is simply less calories in than calories out, I knew there was a snafu in my counting.  I wondered if the 600 I was giving myself at Bikram was too much.

When I finally wore a heart rate monitor to Bikram I was dismayed to learn I only burned 350 calories!  But so be it, I readjusted my Bikram entry on Lose It! and reminded myself that I was not at Bikram to only burn calories.  I was there to stretch and strengthen, to meditate and find balance.

I have now worn my heart rate monitor a handful of times and I have found that the average burn is between 350-400 but yesterday I burned 500!  I have no idea why, I didn't feel like I was working any harder than normal but it was darn hot in there.

So long story short.  I burn a decent amount of calories in 90 minutes while meditating and finding balance, stretching and strengthening.  I love Bikram Yoga.

Do you track calories burned in your Bikram Yoga class?  I'd love to hear what your experience is.

1, 2, 3

1. Crazy weather today. 
Top - 8:30 am, pouring rain, thunder and lightning
Middle - 2 pm, beautiful and sunny
Bottom - 3 pm, pouring rain again
(and in the time it's taken me to write this post we've gone through the sunny/rainy cycle a couple more time)

2. On my art desk today, more flowers based on Hungarian folk art
3. Close up

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Hummingbird and random ramblings

I originally started this hummingbird for this week's Illustration Friday word which was "vocal."  (I used a picture of a peacock instead.)  We have a Cape Honeysuckle outside our bedroom window and it attracts an unbelievably vocal crowd of birds, including hummingbirds who are incredibly loud when you consider their size.  This is an Anna's Hummingbird.  Watercolor on paper.  See it in progress here. 
Today marked my return to exercise, vacation and illness have sidelined me for the last 3 weeks.  I did intend to work out on our vacation but in the end Sangrias by the pool won out.  It made such a difference to my mood over the last week or 10 days.  I've been irritable, very impatient, quick to anger.  I always knew how important exercise is in my life and this is just another reminder.  I NEED to exercise.  My family NEEDS me to exercise! 
Considering we are recently returned from spring break in Palm Springs it is kind of incredible to realize we leave for Hawaii in two months!  This year of travelling is definitely not our norm, at least not so far...but hoping that it will be in the future!
I haven't written about my gluten issues lately...I think I have found a good place with my gluten avoidence. I am gluten free most days but when we eat out or are at friend's I let it go a bit. I've found I can tolerate some gluten in my diet but not every day.
So speaking of Hawaii and my diet I am making a renewed effort to eat well, even on weekends!  I am usually very disciplined Monday through Friday lunchtime and then on weekends it all goes out the window.  It seems crazy that I can ruin 5 days of low calorie meals in just two days.  It makes me wonder how many calories am I really consuming over the course of one weekend?  I probably don't want to know but two months seems like a reasonable time to get myself ready for a tropical vacation.  Hoping that mentioning my desire to lose some weight here on the blog will make me stick with it a little better.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter

After dyeing eggs
Peeps on a stick, saw this on Pinterest and had to try it!
Enjoyed a fantastic day with friends, family, lots of yummy food and champagne!  Hope your day was as lovely as mine.  Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Illustration Friday - Vocal

Acrylic on Canvas

Normally for Illustration Friday I like to create something new based on the word each week and I was doing just that (see below) when I looked at this peacock painting I did a while back.  It's my imagining of Kauai with peacocks instead of roosters.  This is a peacock enjoying the sunset of the Na Pali coast.  Have you lived near peacocks?  They are very loud and very vocal.
Work in progress
 On the opposite end of the bird size spectrum is the hummingbird, perhaps not as loud but no less vocal.  These guys love the Cape Honeysuckle growing outside my bedroom window and it never ceases to amaze me that such tiny creatures can create such a loud sound.

Friday, April 6, 2012

1, 2, 3

1. On my art desk
2. Today's view
3. Work in progress

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hungarian Flowers

I love drawing flowers based on Hungarian folk art.  Pencil, watercolors, acrylics, I've tried them all with very different results but I always longed for deep, saturated colors that I couldn't achieve with the previous media.  I have wanted markers for this purpose for a long time but didn't want to invest just for experimenting. 
I finally took advantage of a 50% off coupon to buy a 24 set of Prismacolor Premier Double-Ended Art Markers.  It's definitely fun to use markers and it's taken me a bit to learn how the colors actually appear on paper.   And by the way, the photo's don't do it justice, the top pic is quite dark, the bottom quite light.  In reality the colors are somewhere in between.
I did this piece freehand, no pencil sketch or plan...just where the markers took me and I'm happy with the results but I'm not sure I love these markers.  For now they serve the purpose.   Some day when I make money with my art (!?) I would like to invest in something better.  Do you use markers?  Curious to hear feedback.