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10/19/14

(Non-Dairy) "Cheesy" Potato Soup

It's mid-October and finally starting to feel like Fall! The temperatures have been well into the 90's for as long as I can remember and I wouldn't be such a complainer about this, as I don't really mind the heat too much, if all the water parks and swimming holes weren't closed or dried by Labor Day (first weekend in September)! This leaves at us at least a month -- the way this year has been, a month and a half! -- of sweltering, mostly-100 degree temperatures with no way of relieving it. Granted, in the worst of times, we can always run through the sprinklers but for a fish family like ours, there's nothing like being fully submerged to really inspire ultimate relaxation!
That being said, as much as I love my hot summers and living in the nearest natural or manufactured body of water, I am an October baby through and through so when Fall finally decided to show, away went the thoughts of Tropicália and in came soups, stews, and everything Pumpkin Spice!
As many of those who know me are already aware, our household cannot tolerate milk so everything we make must have a base in milk-free items or we must find alternatives. It doesn't seem to go as far as an allergy as once in a while a little cheddar cheese is ok but we run and hide when hearing words like "cream". There's a-many Fall soups that have milk bases (like butternuts and potatoes) so I really like to post the recipes, like the one you see below, for other families who want to enjoy these same type of recipes (the type that have already been TRIED by children too) and get the gold star of approval! It was so good, I didn't even get a picture, as my 1 1/2-year-old scarfed this soup down!


(Non-dairy) "Cheesy" Potato Soup
  • 8-10 small/medium Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 2 cups chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy Cheddar cheese alternative (like Daiya Cheddar Shreds or Follow Your Heart Vegan Cheddar Shreds)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Chef Paul Magic Seasoning Blend (or similar seasoning to taste)
  • 1 TBSP extra virgin coconut oil
  1. In a large sauce pot, sauté the celery, carrots, and onions on medium in the coconut oil until slightly softened. Add the potatoes to the pot and pour in the stock and water in with the other ingredients.
  2. Boil all ingredients for approximately 15-20 minutes until potatoes are tender but not falling apart.
  3. Reduce heat to low and remove half of the soup (equal ingredients and liquid) to a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth.
  4. Carefully add blended soup back into pot and stir together until fully incorporated.
  5. Add salt, pepper, and seasoning blend, and taste!
  6. Turn off heat and add cheese, stirring slowly until fully melted.
  7. Let slightly cool and enjoy!

10/6/14

Learning to Run

Correction: I know HOW to run, I just don't do it very gracefully, efficiently, or without a lot of heavy breathing. But recently I've been focused on my health and the desire to relabel myself as something other than 'sedentary' on random surveys I receive and have taken up running (more like jogging/walking intervals) because nothing pushes my comfort levels more than the very exercise that I loath.

So I did the "hey I'm getting fit and running" thing and got up before the sun, and took the bigger dog for a jog. (She can keep up and makes me look less kidnappy... yes, kidnappy...)

It was certainly more like a sputtering jog.

Have you ever seen an old car that is running out of gas or has some sort of engine problem, and it surges forward at an alarmingly quick speed (shouldn't be going that quicl for what ails it) then immediately begins to putter out and crawl along slowly again? That was me. This morning. I realize now why beginning runners like the early morning runs because they can putter out without looking like a total spaz in front of passing vehicles.
My feet and legs ached because I have crappy $10 Walmart shoes but I REFUSE to let that be my crutch for not doing this. In the end, despite the fact that my runs don't equal much of a caloric burn, I feel a sense of pride, like I've done something EPIC, something worth celebrating for! And I have slowly began to overcome the urge to celebrate with cake. Celebrating with chili cheese dogs? Now that totally happened.

But, like any beachcomber who suddenly decides to join the triathlon they're witnessing, I was fatigued. I dutifully drank my water but I needed rest, after all..... FIVE THIRTY IN THE MORNING.

(Did I mention that's when I woke up? Am I crazy? Do I like chili cheese dogs? Answer at your own risk.)

After Damien was picked up by the school bus and Evelyn went back down for her mid-morning infantile/toddler necessity nap, I decided to myself, "I guess it wouldn't be a bad idea to take a little rest myself... I have so much studying and other important domestic things I need to do that it would be an absolute shame to feel exhausted & cranky whilst doing them all."
(I, personally, needed no convincing. One might say, "I had me at hello." Once the baby was down for a nap I gravitated to my own bed like those alien abduction movies you see when the dude is getting lifted from the ground into the spaceship. Yep, that was me, except my comforter and pillow abducted me. They do that often.)

And this nap felt great. It was exactly what I needed. I may have had a stress dream or two about the state of my living room and kitchen (two of the items on the domestic 'to-do' list) but I woke feeling really rested. But do you ever wake up and KNOW you're in a different part of the day, like, completely? It must be that innate circadian rhythm because when I woke up, it didn't even feel like MORNING anymore.

I looked over at my phone, clicked the power button..... ONE THIRTY IN THE AFTERNOON!

Honestly... I just... how did this... I blame the growth spurting baby, as she's still asleep as well. As for me? I have no excuse. I haven't grown since I ate that Philly Cheese Steak two weeks ago but that's not the same type of growth. That thing was delicious too but I know it was a "live it up" type sandwich, one I had rarely eaten before and one I would probably never see again unless I ever travel to Philadelphia. Or go on a cruise. (NOW I understand why people use the cruise's gym. Floating buffets require a way to burn off the massive caloric intake, gotcha.)

Needless to say, I am quarreling with this productive/unproductive feeling. On one hand: 5:30am. On the other hand: 1:30pm.
Even as I type this, I can feel my body sinking into that tell-tale "aren't you feeling sleeeepyyyy" mode of relaxation.
Yes, ladies & perhaps the one gentlemen that may read this from time to time, I want to sleep MORE.

Tell me, new fangled fitness friends, is this always a side effect of strenuous exercise?

8/8/14

My Disapproval of 'Fifty Shades of Grey', and Why I'm Not A Prude

The movie trailer for 'Fifty Shades of Grey' (featured below this post) was recently released and fans of the book, including the likes of Oprah, were excited about the film arriving in theaters on Valentine's Day 2015. Some of us, though, were less than thrilled this film and its accompanying book trilogy became popular, due to the nature of the content.

Let me start off by saying that I'm certainly no prude. Yes, I have been open about my upbringing in a Mormon community and I'm sure this still has an effect on my opinion of sex, though I haven't been involved in religion since I was about 20 years old. I'm not going to get into the reasons why or the misunderstandings people have about secular individuals (that's for a different post altogether!), but I mention this to prove that it's not just the conservative groups who find 'Fifty Shades of Grey' distasteful. I will also point out, lest I be criticized for being judgemental, that I, in no way, think that what goes on in my bedroom should be the norm for others.

What I don't like about 'Fifty Shades of Grey' is how it normalizes, and subconsciously encourages, sexual abuse and controlling behavior. Sex between adults (whether in a marriage or other type of relationship) should be completely consensual, mutual, and empowering. While I don't particularly care for BDSM -- an acronym for "bondage & discipline, sadism & masochism" -- I do recognize that for some individuals, they enjoy such acts. As Amir Afkhami, a psychiatrist for the Center for Sexual Health at George Washington University, summed up regarding sexual practices like BDSM, stating, "Consensual relationships, where fantasies are allowed to be played out in a safe environment, are healthy."

Clearly, 'Fifty Shades of Grey' is anything but that. In the story, the main male character, Christian Grey, explains to his love interest, Ana Steele, his own reasoning for wanting to engage in such sexual practices is due to his abuse as a child and seduction into the BDSM world at the age of 15 by a much older woman.
So, you mean to tell me that when an adult seduces and engages in sexual acts with a minor, in real life, we persecute the individual but as long as it happens in a book we, as a society, embrace it? As a parent, this is disturbing. Teenagers are on their way to adulthood but they do not yet have the cognitive understanding, knowledge, and maturity to completely separate fact from fiction. They still need us to teach and be a positive role model for them, so when I hear about a 15-year-old being taken advantage of (whether in a story or not) I am disgusted. At that age, parents should be guiding their child and channelling their surging hormones by empowering them about their bodies and sexuality, not allowing it to be exploited. While I definitely think it's important the human body and sexuality should not be a shameful or hidden topic, as doing so only perpetuates body shaming which has been proven to lead to an increase in rape, we should be teaching it appropriate to age.

Our children, young and old, learn from us and seeing their guardian openly seeking this type of taboo can make them curious about what is contained in the pages. If a child is able to read or witness the kind of content 'Fifty Shades of Grey' contains, they do not have the ability to know that such a story is not a normal example of a romantic/sexual relationship. The character of Christian Grey is not privately exploring a new sexual topic with his significant other, he is requiring his newly acquired partner to sign contracts regarding their sex life and even goes so far as to require Ana to only eat from his "approved" list. That level of controlling behavior does not fall into the category of an open, mutual discussion with a spouse. This is the type of behavior that victims of domestic violence describe their abuser having exhibited.

Ultimately, sex should be a private matter between a couple and children should be raised that, once they are an adult, healthy explorations with their significant other (assuming the other has also been taught accordingly) is not necessarily wrong, but by embracing a culture that openly accepts public displays of abuse, we are actually telling them that causing your partner pain or needing a "safe word" (because apparently "no" still isn't good enough) is normal. We, as parents, will make mistakes and no one can be perfect, and children should also not be raised in a bubble either, instead giving them the necessary emotional tools to be confident and successful as an adult. But when they are essentially being taught that the type of relationship in 'Fifty Shades of Grey' is normal, they grow up with a skewed understanding of what a relationship actually should be. For this reason, for the sake of my children's future relationships, I refuse to bring 'Fifty Shades of Grey' into our household.


The 'Fifty Shades of Grey' trailer... watch at your own discretion:

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