Kid Friendly Chili Recipe

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My mom is not one for spicy foods, and whenever we were away from home, chili was always this spicy, inedible stew-like concoction that none of us kids would eat.  But my mom managed to make it so that it was simple, flavorful, and friendly toward kid palates.

My oldest daughter was a bit on the picky side when she ate, and I think for a while, we called this hot dog soup.  Soup she would eat.  The kidney beans looked like hot dogs.  And on appearance alone, she wouldn’t touch it.  But the familiar ingredients and flavors won over even Brighid.

So here is chili, the way my mom taught us.

Ingredients

2-3 Green Bell Peppers, Diced

1 Medium Onion, Diced (we use sweet onions when we can find them)

2 pounds ground beef

1 can tomato soup (plus the one can of water)

1 large can of crushed tomatoes

1 large can of kidney beans

chili powder to taste

salt and pepper to taste

Starting with a small bit of oil in a pan, saute peppers and onions.

You’ll want to keep them going until the onions start to become translucent and the peppers become tender.

Add your meat, salt, pepper, and chili powder.  Because this is for the kids to enjoy, I usually only put about a tablespoon to a tablespoon and a half of chili powder in when I cook it.  If Jim wants it spicier, he can add Tabasco later on.

I find that by enlisting the help of the kids, they are usually more willing to try new flavors and tastes.  You might even sneak a few vegetables into a dish if they’ve helped make it!

Cook meat and vegetables until the meat is brown, then drain everything.

In a large pot, place your tomato soup, can of water, crushed tomatoes, and kidney beans.  Heat on medium until the meat mixture is brown, and then add the meat to the pot.

Simmer on low to medium with a cover on the pot for one hour.  Remove the cover, and simmer uncovered for another hour.  Stir occasionally just to make sure nothing is burning or sticking on the bottom.

We always serve ours with fresh rolls from Del Buono’s Bakery in Haddon Heights, NJ – you can get them hot off out of the oven, grabbed with your very own soon to be blistered fingers!

And the finished product -

This super easy, seasonal favorite is great for freezing, so I usually double the recipe and have some for another “chilly” evening.

And for gastric bypass post – ops – this is an easy to eat food.  I break the meat down as small as I can, so it rarely gets stuck, and I cook everything until it’s nice and tender, so even the veggies won’t give you a hard time.  It’s packed with protein and fiber, and with the mild spices, very pouch friendly!

Medical Alert Bracelets for Gastric Bypass Patients

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So you’ve had your gastric bypass surgery.  Your diabetes is in remission; your high blood pressure is coming down; and some of the other co-morbidities you worried about are no longer a problem.

Why do you need a medical alert ID bracelet now?

As a gastric bypass patient, you are aware that you are surgically altered – at least abdominally speaking.  If you are unable to speak for yourself and medical personnel need to insert an NG tube, there is a chance that if they do this without the benefit of a scope, they could perforate or damage your pouch and cause further medical complications.  You may not always be in a position to alert doctors, nurses, or other medical personnel that you’ve had gastric bypass surgery, and for some of us, this is not only important, it’s crucial.

Another thing you might want medical professionals to know is that as a gastric bypass patient, you should not be treated with NSAIDS.  Prolonged use of NSAIDS isn’t good for anyone, but with someone that has very little stomach acid to dissolve these medications, there is a greater risk of stomach ulcers.

Some gastric bypass patients also include on their medical alert bracelet “No Sugars”.  This helps to prevent medical treatment using sugar from adversely affecting those patients that have severe dumping issues.

You can find a style to suit your personality, so don’t think you’re stuck with a tacky piece of jewelry you wouldn’t have bought on Halloween at a Dollar Store to round out your costume.  You can find a wide variety of colors, metals, crystals – even Pandora style bracelets.  Some, like the one I wear, have an ID plaque that you can remove and put with a different bracelet as you wish.  Stylish, no?

What should the bracelet say?  Something like this:
Jane Doe
Gastric ByPass
No Blind NG Tube
No NSAIDS/ No Sugars
555-555-1212 (Dr.)

Mine has my name on the front, and the other information on the reverse.

So go ahead and get one.  Better to be safe than suffering with a perforated pouch!

You can find an enormous selection of bracelets at www.laurenshope.com

Sakura celebration lunch – WLS review

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Jim wanted to celebrate my A in College Algebra aka pre-calculus aka Why am I in this class again?, so instead of heading home to our usual lunch of whatever I can find that requires the least amount of my energy and time in preparation, he wanted to do something special!

We ended up grabbing a quick lunch from our local favorite Japanese restaurant. Okay, so we only HAVE 2 Japanese restaurants in our area.  One of them is Sagami at the Collingswood Circle, which we drove past all our lives and never knew it was a Japanese restaurant until we were in our late 30′s; and the other is Sakura, which has an awesome soup called Seafood Tofu Soup for Two.

The soup is a delicate broth filled with chunky pieces of vegetables (mostly carrots, celery, onions and whole mushrooms), and then given a generous helping of firm tofu along with shrimp, scallops, and crab leg cut into strips like noodles.  This was one of the first meals out that I ate following gastric bypass surgery, and it continues to be a favorite.  There are days when I have to skip the veggies, because after a soup filled with protein, the chunky vegetables can be a little too much to enjoy.

To go with the soup, Jim picked out two of the sushi specials.  They feature several different sushi rolls each month to encourage diners to try new things.  They discount them by 50%, and we’ve discovered some delicious sushi this way that we might have otherwise overlooked.  For lunch, we picked up a Paradise roll, which is shrimp tempura, wrapped with banana tempura, lobster salad, and topped with tofu and flavored mayonnaise.  Okay, I KNOW they don’t eat this way in Japan, but I am so glad they adapt these things for an American palate.  This was flavorful on many levels, with crunchy, sweet, savory, and a bit of spice in the mayo.  They are certainly flavors I would never think of putting together, but oh my gosh, they were delicious.

Sakura Japanese Restaurant October sushi specials

The other roll we decided to sample was the Pink Lady.  This was chicken tempura, boiled shrimp, and cream cheese, topped with a spicy mayonnaise.  This was a much smaller bite, and while it should have been easier to eat as a result, I have such a hard time with chicken.  The flavors, again, were amazing and multi-layered, but between the two of them, even though the other roll had more rice (which is a no-no for me), the chicken in this one did me in.

Sushi is a hit or miss thing for gastric bypass patients, and while I find I am able to enjoy a few more bites than I once did, I still have to limit myself.  The rice kills me after about three bites, and I’m left with the lovely taste in my mouth and a horrible pain in my stomach.

Sakura is a great place to stop for lunch (they have fabulous Bento boxes), sushi, or a date night dinner.  They have hibachi grills in addition to the sushi bar and the regular tables, so there is something for everyone at this great little spot.

Take out items are available.

Sakura Japanese Restaurant
910 South Black Horse Pike
Blackwood, New Jersey 08012
(856) 374-3088

Mom’s guide to the truth behind fashion models

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As a mom to three daughters, I work really hard at teaching them that you need to be healthy without worrying about looking like the unrealistic expectations we put on ourselves.  I try to teach them what I believe – that while you do have some control over your size and weight, they are genetically born into a family of obese people.  I could blame fast food and processed food or an excessive amount of junk food, but truth be told, growing up, we didn’t go to fast food restaurants.  My mom always had snack foods in the house, but they weren’t liberally dispensed throughout the day – you had them as a bedtime or after school snack.  We didn’t eat a lot of fattening foods, and there were always vegetables and fruit in the house.  My grandmother, who produced five children who all ended up obese and diabetic, cooked every meal from scratch, and rarely had anything other than fruit salad or a homemade cake or fruit pie that she portioned out to last at least a few days so she didn’t have to bake again.  Again, I’m not saying we couldn’t have exercised and eaten smaller portions to affect our weight, but there is some genetics in whether or not you are going to be fat.

We know Barbie is an unrealistic skinny bitch, but we’re grown ups.  Our little girls do not see the irony in the fact that you can buy Barbie kitchens, Barbie food, Barbie couches and TVs so you could have a Barbie couch potato, but you can’t buy a Barbie with a mouth that will open up to enjoy one morsel of the fabulous wedding cake you can purchase for her.  Barbie is like the original anorexic.  But we don’t tell our little girls that as we buy Barbie pants that you have to lay her on the bed to button.  And we should.

Here is an example of a bad photoshop job. The model has thighs. Huge, fat, chunky, my size? Probably not, or she wouldn’t be a model in the first place. But to make the picture look better, they trim down her already super thin thighs.  So why do we have to take a photo of what was probably already a far cry from what many of us will ever be able to attain in terms of a thin body and make it appear even thinner and less attainable?  What message are we sending our girls?  Or even our boys?  Do they grow up wanting real women, or do they grow up seeing flaws in every woman who doesn’t need a size 0 taken in at the waist?

Model thighs trimmed down but Photoshop artist forgets to trim the shadows

Rest assured that all of my pictures are not altered in Photoshop Version 7.0.1.1.1.0.0.1.j to make my butt smaller.  My arse is what it is.  And my girls have all seen it wandering the house naked.  They know that I am not now nor will I ever be a Barbie doll.  Or a Heidi Klum.  We just haven’t been blessed with the genetics or the modeling plastic that allows us to be that thin.  And it’s okay to be what we are and be proud of ourselves.

Show your daughters pictures like the one above.  And videos like this one –

We’re not all going to be a super model, and we can’t all have their bodies.  But we can be proud of the bodies we have.

Make sure your daughter knows that.

Wine and Dine Weekend – Breakfast at Wolfgang Puck Express

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I have to thank my dear friend and Disney Mom Joanne for turning me on to Wolfgang Puck Express.  I have to admit that for all the years we’ve been visiting Walt Disney World, we overlooked this restaurant every time.  We had eaten once at the regular Wolfgang Puck restaurant in Downtown Disney West Side, and it wasn’t so fabulous that we wanted to go back.  So we haven’t.  Which is probably why we never discovered this hidden gem at Downtown Disney.

OMG – two words.  Breakfast pizza.  Yes, pizza for breakfast – and not the way you ate it when you were in college – cold, right out of the box your roommate bought at lunch time the day before, praying e-coli couldn’t have set in over the course of the 16 hours it had been sitting on your dorm room floor.  This is fresh, piping hot, and delicious.

Wolfgang Pucks Downtown Disney breakfast

The thin, crispy crust is topped with scrambled eggs, apple wood smoked bacon, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, plum tomatoes, and then drizzled with ranch dressing.  Oh come on – you haven’t tried it yet!  It makes perfect sense once you’ve had it in your mouth.  This is so delicious, I’d eat it for any of the three (or four, or five) meals a day that I eat.  And as far as gastric bypass patients?  I have no trouble with this at all – and I often do have trouble with scrambled eggs.  I’ve had this pizza in two visits, and both times, the eggs were cooked perfectly, not dried out and prone to sticking in my pouch.

Next on our table was the crispy cornflake French Toast.  They give you a knife and fork to eat this with, but we ended up just picking it up with our hands and dipping it into the syrup.  This is not your Grandmom’s French toast.  This is a sliced bagel, dipped in egg, then liberally treated to a dusting of cinnamon sugar and rolled in cornflakes.  The meal is dense and delicious, but for us gastrically altered folks – not friendly.  If you can handle the sugars and the carbs in this meal without dumping, that bagel will sit like a ton of bricks in your stomach.  Have your husband order it and take a bite – that’s what I did!

Wolfgang Pucks Downtown Disney breakfast

Rounding out our breakfast selections was the breakfast pocket.  First of all, we had way too much food for our family of five, and we ended up leaving that piece of french toast you see above you and half of the breakfast pizza.  But, I thought it was better to get one more thing, and the pocket appealed to Eilis, so we ordered it.  This is essentially the breakfast pizza, except with different toppings and folded over, like a panzarotti.  In addition to the eggs, bacon, and cheese, the pocket also includes ham, mushrooms, peppers and onions.  It’s huge.  Be prepared to share!

It cost right around $40 for the five of us for breakfast, and that included two bottled orange juices and a bottle of water.  This is probably about $25 more than we would have spent if we had run out to McDonald’s to grab breakfast from their dollar menu, but we could have easily eliminated the $9 for the pocket and everyone would have been satisfied with the amount of food they had eaten.  So for just over $30, this would have been a fabulous breakfast.  For $40, it was still pretty darn good.

Slipping out of the Mom Jeans and Looking for a Mom Skirt

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I am not a skirt/dress person.  My view of the fashion kingdom has always been to keep a supply of easy to put on, no muss, no fuss articles of clothing that I could grab, slide on, and run out in.

Enter the husband.  Thanks to my summer tummy tuck, he seems to think I’m looking pretty good, and women who look pretty good have a whole different level of fashion expectations.  He’s like to see me in some casual skirts or dresses to wear this winter while he thinks I have nothing better to do than sit and have him admire the new figure.  Thats his view on the world.  Now for the reality.

I need skirts and dresses that are casual, comfortable, not frumpy, and give me a more polished look.  I don’t want anything sleeveless, because I freeze.  I’m not a huge fan of stockings, because, again, I freeze, so ideally, I’d like to do tights.  And just what kind of shoes am I supposed to wear?  I don’t like boots with short skirts, and you can’t really do heels well with tights.  What time is my appointment to be on What Not To Wear?

In doing extensive skirt/dress research, I did find a few things.

Don’t wear baggy – No kidding?  Did I lose 150 pounds and go through all this surgery to wear baggy?  I think not.

Pleats Please? – Ummm, no, you big fat arse.  I may have lost all that weight, but I still carry about 30 pounds too much, and pleats and gathers on a skirt just add poundage.  Unless you’ve been on the Lara Flynn Boyle diet lately, skip them entirely.  So now I know what I looked like all summer long – enormous, wearing pencil skirts day after day.

Remember the big fat arse comment? – Yeah, I’m talking to me.  No light colors on the bottom – especially if you are wearing dark on top.  Dark on the bottom in slimming; light on the bottom gives you bubble butt.  Nobody looks good in bubble butt.

The length of your skirt should not be determined by how desperately you want to look like Tina Turner.  Face it, sister, you don’t look like Tina Turner.  The woman is smokin’ in her almost 70 year old skin, and she can rock the mini skirt.  The worse your legs look, the longer your skirt should be.  That means I should only wear skirts with a cathedral train.  At least that’s how I interpret this rule.

So which skirts will look okay on me?

A-Line seems to be the skirt for everyone – even my big old butt.  They are fitted at the top, but then they get a bit wider as they go down, to accommodate those areas of my body that have not had the benefit of the work of the fabulous Dr. Veitia.

Wrap skirts are another style that seems like it would flatter every figure.  Are there winter wrap skirts?  And what shoes do you wear with them?

Straight skirts, now that I don’t have that hanging tummy, seem like they might work as well, but I’ve seen longer straight skirts.  I don’t think it’s a look I can carry, and I always think bag lady when I see them.  Seriously.

I still have kind of wide hips, but I’m not sure I know the difference between a pencil skirt and a straight skirt.  Anyone want to enlighten me?

I like the look of a flared skirt, but for some reason, I just always think they’re either for MUCH younger people or dancers.

So, who wants in on the skirt discussion?  Help a sister out, will you?


Via Napoli – A Gastric Bypass Restaurant Review

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On our first night in Orlando, some of the Moms from the Walt Disney World Moms Panel had decided to do a quick meet up at Via Napoli.  It was all 2009 Moms, and we figured with all the events of the weekend that were planned, it would be one of the few times we’d get a chance to catch up with each other.

As you know if you’ve ever made reservations for a large party at Walt Disney World, they do not guarantee you will be seated at the same table.  In our case, they gave us 4 tables, but they separated the tables so that there were 2 tables pushed together, a space, then another 2 tables pushed together.  This made for 2 very distinct parties at dinner, even though we were all one group.  It was virtually impossible for those of us at one table to co-mingle with those people seated at the other table, even though they were right next to each other.

We all placed our orders at the same time – some people ordered pasta dishes, some ordered pizzas to share, and salads and appetizers were ordered.  Then food began coming out in all sorts of weird sequence.  We got our fried calamari appetizer at the same time that the folks at the other table got their salad.  We also ordered salad, but our salad was delivered to the other table, and because it was assumed it came with the meal, the other table enjoyed the salad.  Eventually, a salad was brought to our table, at the same time that some (but not all) of the pasta dishes began to arrive.  Finally, when everyone was finished eating – except for those of us that ordered pizza – we started asking about the pizza.  Eventually, it was brought to the table, but by then, the meal had already gone into it’s second hour, and the part of our party that had already eaten was ready to head out to get some sleep for their big race the next morning.  This was definitely not a meal conducive to enjoyable conversation, nor did it allow us all to eat together.

Okay, so how’s the food?

The fried calamari, as it was on my first visit, is delicious.  You’ll know if you’ve had gastric bypass surgery that some calamari can be overcooked to the point that you can’t swallow it, but this is not the case here.  The calamari is delicately breaded, fried to a crisp outside, not chewy inside perfection, and served with a very good (not great, but very good) marinara sauce in which you can dip these delicious morsels.

The salad is good, not overly dressed, but again, nothing special.  If you want the family style salad, it adds $4 per person to your bill, but it does make a nice complement to the pizza.

And the pizza!  That’s what you’ll come here for, after all!  You will find other pasta dishes, but if you want a true taste of Italy, it is here, in the pizza.

The wood fired pizza ovens are a sight to behold, and you might want to run in even if you don’t have a reservation just to view them – they are wonderful!  But they pale in comparison to the expertly prepared, authentically Italian pizza that comes from them.

The pizza margherita, which we ordered specifically for the kids, has a thin crust, not chewy and dense, so it makes it a very easy crust for many gastric bypass patients to enjoy.  The sauce is so fresh, it absolutely pops – you can smell the tomatoes almost as if you were chopping them at home yourself.  The mozzarella cheese isn’t shredded, so each bite offers a nice mouthful of fresh mozzarella.  And the added bonus of fresh basil just makes this one of the best pizzas I’ve had since I was in Naples (Italy, not Florida).  To paraphrase Paula Deen, this pizza is so good, it will make you want to slap your Mama Mia!

The other pizza we tried was the Pizza Piccante.  I worried a little about this pizza, because sausage can be a tough item to get into a gastrically altered tummy, but this was perfect!  It wasn’t terribly fatty, and I found no hard, gristly pieces in the sausage.  It was spicy, but not too spicy, and in small enough chunks that it didn’t overpower the freshness of the other ingredients.  The broccoli rabe on top of the pizza was well cooked, although I think I would have liked to see a little less of the bitter green on top of the pizza.  It was a delicious addition, but the bottoms of the stalks are a bit denser and were not as tender to eat, so more than a bite of them on the pizza made it hard for me to enjoy.  I’d recommend the pizza whole heartedly, but for the gastric bypass patient, I’d ask them to go light on the broccoli rabe.

Thank you, Zannaland for this photo, and check out her review at http://zannaland.com/via-napoli-revisted-more-than-just-pizza/

Overall, this is an excellent dining option if you are going just for the food.  There is plenty for you to eat whether or not you’ve had surgery, and everything is fresh and delicious.

However, I just can’t see my family going here on many Walt Disney World vacations.  It eats up way too much time during a theme park day, and having our meal with friends end up so scattered and disjointed didn’t make for an enjoyable evening.

This place gets an A+ for food, but definitely takes a hit on service with a D.

Don’t forget – check out my friend Suzannah’s blog on Via Napoli to get another opinion!

http://zannaland.com/via-napoli-revisted-more-than-just-pizza/

Good Things Come in Threes! Will I hit the lottery next?

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For those of you following the saga of my plastic surgery, today was a huge milestone!  My surgeon, the fabulous Dr. Nestor Veitia, spent as much time talking life and religion today as he did my wound.  Oh my gosh, it was awesome!  He has told me he no longer wakes up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat worrying about me, and I don’t have to see him again for a month!!  Not that I don’t love him, but I have to admit there was a different skip in my step headed out to the car than there has been.  I feel great!

Not that you need a photo of my surgeon to highlight this huge milestone, but he is a cutie, so you might as well enjoy the eye candy as I regale you with my happy day story!

As you know, a piece of my luggage went missing yesterday.  The only piece that came home with us was the piece with the laundry and the shoes.  That may seem like a blessing – no one will be sneaker-less or underwear-less this week.  But the bag that went missing was filled with critical, life sustaining items that no one should be forced to live without.  The missing bag contained the Halloween candy collected from Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.  I know, right?  Can you imagine the devastation at the thought of a big old sugar rush behind closed doors at the TSA while my children were forced to eat the crummy candy corn I bought because it looks pretty and fall-ish in my candy jars?  I doubt the family would have survived.

But even more tragic was the traumatic loss of my beloved makeup case.  Gone was the lip liner and eye brow tweezers.  Lost was the perfect shade of eye shadow and the incredible mascara.  My brand new, just bought with birthday money set of professional brushes?  Disappeared.  Visions of the reincarnated Tammy Faye Baker roaming the streets of Philadelphia wearing all of my favorite colors, scents, and conditioners.  I was crushed.

Then on our way home from the uplifting Dr. Veitia appointment we got the phone call that Frank had just delivered our missing bag!  He wrapped it lovingly in a garbage bag, then under risk of a busy body neighbor calling the police on him, he wandered around the outside of our house, looking for a dry enough spot to place the bag in case we weren’t home until later during the deluge of rain we have here.  And there it was when we got back, carefully placed on the picnic table out back, under the canopy of the girl’s elevated fort.

Makeup crisis averted.  Rest easy, NJ, the hideousness that is me without my Lancome products has been transformed.  I have gone from Oh My Gosh What Is That? back to my normal She Cleans Up Okay.  My faith in US Airways and Disney’s Magical Express has been restored.

There is only one thing that could make this day better.  But I’d have to invest a buck to win the lottery.  I’m not pushing my luck today.

Maggiano’s Little Italy – Review Wrap Up

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Overall, the family dining menu at Maggiano’s Little Italy turned out to be a great value and a delicious meal.  We ended up with enough left over items to put two additional meals together, and with tax and tip, our bill was about $140.  Three restaurant meals for a family of four for $140 is big bank for our dining buck.  We certainly could have pigged out more on salad and bread, and they more than encourage you to order refills, so we could have probably eaten for several more meals if we had wanted to take advantage.

The food is not the best Italian food you’ll find anywhere, but it’s good Italian food.  The menu combines enough familiar standbys (lasagna and ravioli) with chef’s specialty items to keep it interesting to come back time and again.

We were the ONLY people in the restaurant when we arrived for our early dinner at 4:30, but the tables around us had begun to fill up by the time we left at just over an hour later.

The Cherry Hill Mall location is very convenient, not only for Mall shoppers, but for people going home from work to stop in for a bite to eat.  It’s also a central and well known meeting place to have family dinners or reunions.  They do have separate banquet rooms.

From a gastric bypass standpoint, you’re going to have to rely on your pouch to determine what is safe her.  I can only eat a minimum amount of pasta, but fortunately, you’ll find a variety of non-pasta dishes, including my usually pouch safe lobster tails, salmon, and crab cakes.  There are also several items on the appetizer menu that I could have easily turned into my main meal had we opted out of the family style menu.

They only serve the family style menu to parties of four or more, and again, from a gastric bypass standpoint, this is a good thing.  You’ll have plenty of options to share with your friends.  I love how they give you four entree choices with two of the family style menu options, because it really does allow for everyone to get what they love and to share it with the table.  This is perfect for post-ops.

Definitely try this restaurant out – preferably before the busy holiday season, when you won’t be able to get a table!