Category Archives: Food

Abby’s Three Sure-Fire Ways To Get Yourself Out Of A Funk (Or, Drink A Lot of Sake)

I mentioned a few days ago that I’ve been having a bad case of the blues. There are several contributing factors to my funk…ranging from work woes to familial fracas (fracii?) to persistent worry over friends. Quite frankly, there have been a few days in the past month that I’ve just wanted to either A) pack a bag and catch the next flight outta here, preferably to a tropical climate where there is always copious amounts of rum or B) crawl back into bed, pull the covers over my head, and sleep my life away.


As it often goes, life doesn’t work that way. As much as I deeply desire to have my ass in the sand and a beer in my hand, I just can’t get away right now. (Isn’t that a country music song? If not, it should be.) And so, I’ve found other ways to cope with this unsolicited depression. Some things have worked, others have not. Today, I’m sharing with you the list of things that worked…the good, the bad, and the sake.

Abby’s DIY Funk-Removal Program
 
Get thine arse off the couch and get outside.
When it’s sunny, and 65, and absolutely gorgeous, you shouldn’t stay inside watching reruns of Friends on TBS. That’s what I’d been telling myself for about a week when I finally took my own advice. On Wednesday, I got up at 5:30, put on my shoes, and went for a jog. Then, invigorated, I hopped in my car and drove myself to Lowe’s, where I spent a large chunk of my paycheck on living green things.
 
A few pots, a couple of bags of potting soil, and my iPod plugged in, I spent the better part of the morning planting my annual container garden. There’s something therapeutic about having your hands in the soil. My pretty little petunias agree.
 
This year, I’m growing tomatoes, basil, cilantro, dill, and strawberries. I’m already looking forward to harvesting their bounty. There is nothing in the world as wonderful as my favorite Springtime Pasta, especially when the tomatoes and basil come from my very own garden.

I also took the opportunity to fill my new cheery bird feeders. I’ve already been thoroughly thanked by the local bird population. I’ve woken up the past two mornings greeted with birdsong—cardinals, blue jays, mourning doves, purple finches, house wrens, grackles….and I’m holding my breath that I’ll see a Carolina Wren before too much longer. 


My plants, my birds, my sunshine….better than Prozac. I’m tellin’ ya.
 
Get thine arse dressed up and go on a double date with friends.
After scrubbing all the dirt out from underneath my fingernails, I donned a pretty spring dress and headed out for a double date with our friends, Steven and Arielle. We went to an amazing Thai-fusion restaurant called Bambu (which just so happens to be run by our dear friend, Sam.)
 
Let me remind you that we live in the sticks. And all the cool stuff to do is in Charleston. And because we live in the sticks, and Charleston is almost an hour away, we don’t always get to do all the same cool stuff that all the cool Charleston kids do. Well, Wednesday was my day to be cool. 
 
I drank sake. I engaged in witty and intelligent conversation. I ate sushi (for the first time, ever.)
 

Did I mention that I drank sake? Not just your run-of-the-mill sake, but apple-infused sake. It tasted like little shots of apple pie. So. Stinkin’. Good.
 
I will mention here that sake makes me a little silly. Case in point: I was absolutely fascinated with the sinks in the ladies’ bathroom at Bambu. So much so, that I took a video. Don’t believe me? Here it is:

 

 
It’s ok. You can laugh at me. It’s laugh-worthy.
 
So, after 3 (or was it 4?) shots of sake, a couple glasses of wine, the most delicious food I’ve eaten in months, and the kind of gut-busting laughter that only comes with the company of really great friends, life was good again. It was like getting a big ol’ shot of happy, right in my arm. 
 
I’m totally ready to do it all over again. (Especially the sake. Did I mention the sake? Oh my lord, the sake…)
 
Get thine arse in your pajamas and spend the day doing absolutely nothing special with your spouse or significant other.
What can I say about this one other than it works?? Our day went like this:
 
*Cereal. 
*Pointless conversation. 
*Headline News. 
*Sports Center. 
*Skyrim time. (Yes, we play together. One drives, the other navigates. What? It’s adorable.)
*Pause for Abby to make lunch (curry chicken salad sandwiches with fresh pineapple).
*Lunch with a movie (Comic-Con: Episode IV, created by the esteemed and adored Joss Whedon. It was the best stinkin’ documentary, ever. If you have any love for nerdism, watch it!)
*Brian builds a new Transformer’s shelf and rearranges his collection. Abby takes pictures and tries not to laugh at her husband.

My living room looks like Hasbro puked all over it.

*More Skyrim time.
*<edited for content>
*Pause for Abby to cook dinner (gorgeous steaks with collard greens and corn on the cob–Brian’s favorite meal.)
*Eat dinner with another movie (We Bought a Zoo–really great, feel-good movie. Loved it.)
*Early bedtime for reading, snuggling, and talking about how awesome our day just was. Vow to do it again next Thursday.

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Are you down and out? Feeling moody? More interested in moping than moving? If so, try these three fail proof methods of lifting your mood. They will work every single time. I swear. 
 
I just managed to make this whole blog sound like a Hairclub for Men commercial. Because I’m just that awesome.
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Also, thanks to those of you who have visited Sunshine for Everett since my post on Tuesday. I’m thrilled and beyond-excited to announce that we’ve already had a few donations come through, both here and on SforE!!! Everett continues his battle with HUS, and for daily updates, you can visit his new blog. Thanks for all your support and continued prayers!!

Things I’m Loving: The Weight Loss Edition

I swore I wasn’t going to make this blog all about weight loss. In truth, I don’t intend to. But this week, my focus seems to be on hand weights and skater’s squats and calorie intake. It’s stunting my creativity.


BUT, it’s also shrinking my arse. So that’s a good thing.

I had two thoughts while in the shower this morning. One–I really need to stop being a slacker and write a blog today. And Two–What my readers REALLY need is a LIST blog. So, I’m sharing with you my five favorite things that are keeping me on my toes on this weight loss journey.

Abby’s Top Five Weight Loss Tools 
(Including a Few That Might Surprise You)
 
Number one: My Sportline Heart Rate Monitor
I normally put the most important item at the bottom of the list. But, in the event that you get bored with my weight loss blog, I wanted to get this one in first. This little beauty has made exercise fun again:
 
Ah, the magic of technology. You see, as I’m working out, the black band (which secures around your chest) keeps track of my heart rate. It sends the information to the adorable little watch on my wrist, so I can keep track of a whole slew of different bits of information. For instance: it will tell me how many calories I’m burning. It will tell me if I’m in the “zone” that I want to be with my heart rate. There’s even a handy-dandy stop watch feature that’s great for drills. (PS: The watch tells time, too. Ya know…it’s all “watch” like that way.)
Now, my particular HAM was purchased at our local Dick’s Sporting Goods, and happened to be on sale for around $50. There’s a myriad of different products out there that do the same thing, varying in price range from $25 to $250. I say, look for the item that has the features you’ll use most. Mine is very simple, easy to use, and tells me everything I need to know without getting all….mathematical or scientifical.
And let me tell you, readers. There is nothing more satisfying than lying in a pool of your own sweat at the end of a workout, and seeing a HUGE number of calories burned. It makes the throbbing in your hamstrings so worth the pain and suffering.

Number two: Spark People–the awesomest website EVER (Except mine.)

If you haven’t heard about SparkPeople.com yet, I’m thrilled to be able to share it with you. Spark is a website dedicated to fitness and healthy living. Here you’ll find countless tools to help you with your weight loss program. My favorite features? The Trackers.
Before I talk about the Nutrition Tracker, let me tell you a bit about the others first. With the Fitness Tracker, I can keep up with what workouts I do every day. My favorite part—I can create my OWN workouts and, using my handy dandy heart rate monitor, tell my tracker just how many calories I burned during that workout. The Weight Tracker is pretty self-explanatory–you keep track of your weight and measurements here. Each time you do, Spark generates a series of graphs to show you how much you’ve progressed since joining. (For those of us who are visual learners, this feature will make you dance in your computer chair.)
Now, the Nutrition Tracker. It. Is. Awesome. You can either allow Spark to create a meal plan for you, OR you can just track what you eat each day on your own. Spark will give you an “allowance” based on your height, weight, and activity level, but it’s up to you to keep track of what you eat in a day.

 

It’s SO easy to use it’s practically idiot proof. Which is good for me. Because I suck at tracking calories. And here’s even MORE good news—there’s an app for your phone, too! So now you can track your calories when you’re away from your computer, too! Praise Smart Phones!

Oh, and one more awesome thing about Spark….SparkRecipes.com. In a nutshell, here you’ll find a gazillion and one recipes–some entered by dieters, others by Spark’s dietitians–to keep your meal plan delicious. You can also upload your favorite recipes to find out the nutritional values. Yes. Yes, I say.

Number three: My Crockpot
Sound like a weird weight loss tool to you? It’s not. See, I workout with Dana at least three times in a week. Due to our work schedules, we usually don’t get done before seven p.m. And believe me when I say, the LAST thing I want to do after burning 750 calories running sprints on the elliptical is COOK. Enter my handy dandy crock pot.

These things are so versatile, people. Seriously. I can make a hearty beef stew, an easy Asian pork tenderloin, or a delicious chicken and black bean filling for tacos. And most of these recipes are simply mix, dump, set it and forget it. (And yes, all those recipes are from my SparkRecipes cookbook.)

It’s just another awesome thing to finish a workout and know that I’ll have a hot, yummy meal waiting for me when I get home. All without having to cook it, and clean up, when my muscles are screaming “MOMMY!”

Number four: My Cute And Very Pink Water Bottle
It may not be a struggle for you, but for me, remembering to drink enough water in a day is a challenge. I tend to only drink when I’m thirsty, and I’m learning quickly that not staying hydrated throughout the day makes staying hydrated during a workout that much harder. So, I picked up a few different water bottles at my local sports store, and it seems to be helping.

Especially since it’s Rainbow Brite pink.

I mean…that’s kind of hard to miss sitting on your desk. Am I right?

Number five: Multicolored Tabbies
I can hear you saying, “WHAAAA??” How can an organizational tool found at Staples make losing weight any easier? I’ll tell you how, readers. It allows me to keep reading all my favorite foodie magazines AND keep track of the recipes I want to keep. Behold.

Now, I can drool over Rachael Ray’s slightly scandalous stuffed cheeseburgers, but only mark her super-light minestrone stoup. That way, when I’m flipping back through after that initial read, I’m reminded of the healthy recipes I want to try, while avoiding those full fat pitfalls that await me hidden in the pages of the magazine. I don’t have to cancel my subscription to Food Network Magazine–I just have to put a cute orange tabbie on the pages I want to peruse later.

Never underestimate the power of color coordinating, people. Seriously.

Bon Voyage, Brian!

When Brian and I first started dating ten years ago, he was flipping burgers at a popular college cafe. He knew everything there was to know about Tucker’s, and could run that place blindfolded, with one hand behind his back, hopping on one leg. (No, really…I’ve seen him do it.) Brian was one of those people that made the food service industry look like fun. He always showed up to work with a smile on his face. Lunch and dinner rush were his favorite times of the day. He flourished under the pressure of picky eaters, enormous take-out orders, and hungry hordes of people.

Source
He was so good at it that, when we decided to move to Charleston after graduation, Brian immediately thought he’d like to break into the food and bev biz here, too—possibly even enroll in culinary school.

In the spring before I graduated, we traveled to the Holy City to find an apartment. We’d saved and pinched and scraped together enough money to treat ourselves to a nice meal out while we were in town. (Not a small feat for a college student. Many a quarter was snatched from the depths of the couch cushions.) (Sorry, Mom. I know they were for your Walmart jar.) We wandered into the hotel lobby after an afternoon of apartment hunting, a little lost, but excited by the prospect of our new city. Unsure where we wanted to have our fancy date-night dinner, we turned to the colorful brochures in the hotel lobby.

“Hey, this place looks kind of cool,” Brian said, and handed me a flier with a pirate’s treasure chest emblazoned on the front.

Queen Anne’s Revenge promised an abundance of choices, from succulent seafood to the most tender prime rib in Charleston. It boasted an extensive collection of authentic pirate artifacts, from pieces of eight and cutlasses to canons and flags. It seemed like the perfect, quirky fit for us. And so we decided to walk the plank. (Yes, I really went there.)

Arrrrrr Matey.

Needless to say, the restaurant made quite an impression on us. Six months later, after moving to Charleston, Brian went back to Queen Anne’s Revenge. But this time, he went in search of employment.

In 2004, Brian started at QAR as the salad guy. Since then, he’s worked on the line, as a server, a bartender, a host, and as the bar manager. Once again, he was in the position to run that place, hopping on one leg and all. (Anyone else just picture Brian with a peg leg and an eye patch, hopping around behind the bar? No? Okay. Just me then…)

Two things happen when you work in the same establishment for 7 years. The first: you create an extended family with the people you work with.

Brian’s ‘family’ supported us on more than one occasion–none so important as when he was diagnosed with cancer last year. Not only did they rally together to cover Brian’s shifts, they showed up for impromptu visits, offering everything from dinner to drives in convertible Mustangs. There was even a top-secret fundraiser at the restaurant–all proceeds went directly into our pockets, to help pay for Brian’s medical expenses.

These are the kinds of things that you can never pay back, no matter how you try.

The second thing that happens when you work somewhere for 7 years is the discovery that maybe, just maybe, the restaurant industry isn’t where you want to be when you’re 40 years old. Brian came to that conclusion near the end of 2008. The economy had tanked, people weren’t eating out as much, and our income began to shrink. Brian decided he’d grown weary of living off of other people’s generosity (because that’s what living off of tips really is) and enrolled in nursing school.

Here we are, almost 4 years later, and Brian has reached the end of his time aboard the good ship Queen Anne’s Revenge. Today is his last official day as a member of the food and beverage industry. Today, he changes his last keg, pours his last beer, and slings his last drink.

We’ll be forever grateful to the people at QAR–those who celebrated birthdays and weddings and Superbowls with us. We’ll always have a soft spot in our hearts and memories to make us chuckle.

But avast, ye mateys! The time has come to bring about, weigh anchor, and fly the Jolly Roger. Yo ho, me hearties, yo ho.

But never fear, ye scallywags. We’ll always come back for the prime rib.

(No, seriously. The prime rib is AWEsome.)

Congratulations, Brian!!

Be Enough Me: By Learning To Be Less Of Me (No Wait, Let Me Explain)

By eight o’clock last night, I was absolutely exhausted. I could barely hold my eyes open, my knees and hips were aching, and my back felt like I’d been lifting heavy furniture all day. My head was pounding, my mouth felt dry, and every joint in my body was creaking.

No, I did not run a marathon yesterday.

The truth is, I spent my day watching football, cooking dinner, and playing with the family dogs.

So why was I so tired and in so much pain?

Because, after 8 years of carrying all this excess weight, my body is starting to give out on me. Each pound I pack on is sapping another hour of energy I might otherwise have. I’m 30 years old, but I feel like I’m 50.

I’ll tell you one thing I know for sure. If I want to stand tall and be enough for myself, I need to lose some of myself first. (As in, some of my belly, and some of my thighs, some of my rumpus….)

Moment of truth: THIS is what I’ve been eating lately:

FYI: This is NOT what healthy eating looks like.

Oh, wait. That makes me look like a fat girl with a death wish. I do have *some* healthy foods in my stash. Let me fluff it up just a bit.

The only veggies I had to add: 3 overripe tomatoes and some wilty parsley. Epic.

Moment of clarity: THIS is what I want my daily diet to look like:

I don’t even know what that green thing is in the upper right-hand corner. Cabbage? Kale? Audrey II?

My body is sending me a clear S.O.S. signal, and has been for some time. And now, I’m ready to do something about it.

Not just for a trimmer waistline, smaller jeans, and a cuter figure. Vanity isn’t driving this weight loss bus.

Nope, it’s ALL me.

I’m sitting in the driver’s seat this time. And I’m doing it for my health.

I want to sleep better, feel better, have more energy. I want to be in a better mood, feel better about myself, accomplish something great.

I want to be a better me. I want to stand tall and proud, carrying my accomplishments on my shoulders rather than the shame and guilt of my weight.

I want to learn what that cabbage-y this is in that picture, and learn to love it.

There’s “more than Enough” me to go around. And I’m ready to change that today.

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Holiday Weekend

This coming Monday is Independence Day.

(You know…fireworks, cookouts, terrible traffic and insufferable heat?)

Weekends like this are reserved for only the most special circumstances.

Cookouts in the back yard while the dogs chase each other and the kids play in the sprinkler.

Festive cakes.

Recipe HERE.

Waiting patiently for the fire department to arrive when your neighbor, who thinks himself a pyrotechnic engineer, sets his yard on fire. (Yes, that has actually happened to us.)

Most importantly, weekends like this are reserved for family.

So, I’m gonna go spend my weekend with my most favorite people in the world.

And I promise to take a camera, a notepad, and my brain along with me so that, if inspiration for AbbyGabs strikes, I’ll be prepared.

Happy Fourth of July everyone! See ya on Tuesday!

A Poem. By Abby.

There’s one thing – one thing only- that can battle waves of heat.
It comes in many flavors, it’s my favorite summer treat.
Nay, I speak not of melon nor tomatoes from the vine.
This treat of which I speak of can be yours as it is mine.
From cool and friendly Vermont does this treat originate.
It comes on trucks of happiness to all the other states.
In little tubs of goodness, this delightful dish is found
(But if I had my way I’d rather buy it buy the pound.)
So if you haven’t guessed by now my ideal meal of choice,
Then I will simply tell you in my most excited voice.
It’s ice cream, silly reader! Do not act like you’re surprised!
But it’s not just any ice cream that can win this lofty prize.
You see, there are these fellows who love ice cream, just like me.
There’s one who’s known as Benjamin; his friend is named Jerry.
They got the bright idea one day to add some yummy things
Like cookie dough and brownie bits right into their ice cream.
Their names are always funny, these boys seem to have the knack:
“Chubby Hubby,” “Chunky Monkey,” and the yummy “Late Night Snack.
Do you have a pen and paper? Are you jotting these names down?
For the next time you go shopping, or make a quick jaunt into town?
If you’re looking for a summer treat to rival all the rest,
Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is the super-dooper best.
Yes, there are a hundred flavors, each one special on it’s own.
But each and everyone one is great–in a bowl or in a cone.
**Abby takes a bow.**

A Blog About Food

I like food. A lot. I like food like a fat kid likes cake.

Oh, wait. I like cake.

So, let’s try a classic SAT analogy.

Abby is to Tacos as Lion is to Zebra Meat.

 


(I dare you to watch this and then walk around NOT singing it for 2 weeks. Good luck.)

I often give the Food Network credit for my ability to create delicious, beautiful dishes (that I often take pictures of with my Droid. And yes, I’m about to share those pictures here.)

 

 

Asparagus and sweet pea pasta with crispy chicken and bacon-seared Brussels sprouts.

Every Sunday, my Dad and I put our heads together and strive to create a dish worthy of my Mom’s approval. We peruse cook books, we talk about what we saw on the Food Network that week, and we discuss dishes we’ve been inspired to try or create. We drive gleefully to the grocery store, choose just the right ingredients–squeezing tomatoes, thumping melons, smelling herbs–until our cart is filled with our bounty. And then we tie our apron strings, bring out our chef knives, and get to work.

 

 

 

Grilled herb pork loin with roasted asparagus and garlic and herb new potatoes.

 

My husband often jokes that, on holidays, he’s full before we sit down to dinner because either Dad or I are constantly searching him out, spoon in hand, “taste this gravy,” “taste this sauce,” “taste the turkey.” My Dad and I are nothing if not passionate about food. We groan over perfectly seasoned potatoes, swoon over the smell of basil, and celebrate when we pair dinner with the perfect bottle of wine.

 

 

Salami and smoked gouda crostinis with peach bellinis.

Only recently have I started taking pictures of our Sunday creations. But it has become such a habit that, just this last weekend, as we sat down to dinner and I started plowing into my perfectly-prepared food, my Dad looked at me and asked, “Aren’t you going to take a picture first?” He likes for me to post them to Facebook so he can go back and comment on the meal we put together.

 

 

Shepherd’s Pie with Guinness Gravy and summer salad.

What it boils down to is this: we love food so much, we don’t just like to eat it. We like to talk about it, dissect it down to its purest form, take pictures of it, and share it with our friends.

Also, don’t think I missed the food cliche. It was done with purpose.

The Evolution of My Chef-Like Self

The year: 2001. The place: my first apartment. The occasion: my first “dinner party.”

The telephone conversation went something like this:
Dad: “Hello?”
Abby: “Hi Daddy! Whatcha doin?”
Dad: “Oh, just sitting here watching the game. State’s down by 8. What’s my little girl doing today?”
Abby: “Well, I’m having some people over to see the apartment, and I’m going to fix them dinner.”
Dad: Silence.
Abby: “What? I can totally do it.”
Dad: Silence.
Abby: “Dad, c’mon. I’m a smart kid. I can do it. I just need your help.”
Dad: “I don’t think I can be there before your guests arrive.”
Abby: “I don’t want to you to come cook! I want you to answer some basic cooking questions for me.”
Dad: “Ok, shoot.”
Abby: “Ok. So, I’m making spaghetti. My first question is, how do I cook the noodles?”
I’m hoping that this conversation will illustrate to you, dear reader, just how inadequate I was in the kitchen. I could slap together a PBJ with the best of them. And I made a mean Pop-Tart. But other than that—no knowledge at ALL.
That first pot of spaghetti was probably horrible. I honestly don’t remember. I was so proud of my accomplishment, of having my first dinner party, that it could’ve tasted horrible and I just wouldn’t remember.
Fast forward a few months, when I started dating my husband. Now here was a man who was self-sufficient. Earlier in our friendship, when we were all still living in the dormitories at Appalachian State University, B had made an entire lasagna dinner for his friends. Lasagna–from scratch. Big tossed salad with fresh veggies. Garlic bread that was to-die-for. Shortly after we began courting, B started teaching me a thing or two in the kitchen. Methods of cooking, a few fail proof recipes, how to grill a steak. It was like a light switch went off in my head.
By the time we moved into together, my curiosity about cooking increased. We now had the Food Network, and I would watch Emeril, Rachael Ray, Paula Deen, and Bobby Flay for HOURS. I started buying cook books, and experimenting in the kitchen.
By the time we moved to Charleston, I had most of the basics down. I could follow a recipe easily enough, and most of the time, they would turn out how I expected. Certainly, there were mishaps (please don’t ever ask about the peach pie incident, unless you want to make me cry), but I felt that I was making progress.
I got my first real chef’s knife as a wedding gift in 2004. After that, the sky was the limit.
I can saute, grill, pan-sear and roast with the best of them. I can see a recipe that sounds sort of interesting and make it my own. I can wow the taste buds of my husband, my family, and my friends. I can bake cupcakes, birthday cakes, and the best damn Christmas cookies you ever put in your face.
Abby–Official Foodie and Apron-Wearer
And I honestly, truly love it.
I spend every Sunday with my Mom and Dad. And it’s my favorite day of the week. Dad and I start planning dinner while we’re still eating breakfast. We shop together, carefully choosing the perfect ingredients, squeezing tomatoes and smelling basil and buying only the choicest fish. We chop together, season together, inhale the wonderful aromas together, taste sauces together. And revel in our success when the dish makes my Mom say, “Yum.”
And I owe it all to my hubby, and my teachers at the Food Network. Because truly, I learned everything from knife skills to cooking techniques from that channel. It was like culinary school, from the comfort of my own home.
Thanks to the best teachers, ever.
My next step in taking over the world of food—growing my own garden. And making gazpacho from my own veggies. Move over, Barefoot Contessa, Abby’s moving in.