Family Tradition Continues On

Ever since I can remember, my dad’s family has gotten together prior to Mardi Gras Day (aka Fat Tuesday) to carry out a family tradition.  My grandparents’ home is right along the parade route in Metairie just west of downtown New Orleans, so we’ve always celebrated the carnival season at there house.  I will tell you that last year we did not stick to tradition because my grandparents were feeling tired and overwhelmed with the whole situation.  But this year tradition continues. 

On Sunday, several of my family members got together at the grandparents’ house to roll hot tamales.  Long ago, when I was just a kid, I remember my very Italian Great Uncle Leo who led the tamale making process.  It was his recipe after all.  He had a strong personality and was not the most appealing to watch mix the meat by hand in his white, ribbed tank of an undershirt.  Mom always reminds me of the way he tasted the raw seasoned meat mixture to ensure it was correct prior to beginning the rolling process.  Yuck!  Unfortunately,  he is deceased, but through the hot tamales he lives on.

Yesterday we had eight people helping to roll the two large pots full of tamales.  There are several important jobs that are done throughout the process.  There is the squeezer who uses an icing bag with a wide tip to squeeze the meat into long skinny tubes.

 IMG_0446 IMG_0442 Then there is the person who cuts the longer strips into about 2 inch bite sized pieces and tosses them into cornmeal.IMG_0443 Another important job is the paper wetters.  They dip the tamale papers into a bowl of water so that they can be manipulated and rolled.  Above you can see my two cousins—one is putting the rolled tamale into one of the pots that will be filled and the other partially seen cousin in the background is separating the papers.

Here I am; I have been rolling these bad boys since before I was a pre-teen.

IMG_0444  IMG_0447 First the tamale is lightly coated in cornmeal.


Next, it is placed on the corner of the pre-soaked tamale paper.


Then the tamale is rolled halfway, the excess paper is folded over on top of the tamale.  And then it is rolled the rest of the way.  I don’t have pictures of the exact technique but there is one.  Below is my attempt at showing you.

tamale process

Then the tamale is put into the pot that will be heated on the stovetop with the addition of a tomato spiced sauce.

IMG_0441 So that is how I spent my Sunday–along with pizza and fried chicken and brownies courtesy of my aunts for helping out.  My husband tagged along to help out as well and he without me knowing snapped all of the above pictures, so to him I am grateful.

Now, the feast is ready all for Mardi Gras Day!  Just in case you don’t know, Mardi Gras is a celebration of feasting and partying the day before the start of the Lenten Season leading up to Easter.  The celebration actually starts two weeks prior to Fat Tuesday with parades and king cakes well before just after the New Year.

Today I went and purchased two king cakes for tomorrow.


King Cakes are cinnamon twisted doughy cakes covered in purple, green, and gold sugar in honor of the three kings who found their way to baby Jesus.  So inside the cake you will find a tiny plastic baby representing bay Jesus.  Tradition has it that the person who gets the baby will have luck and they must also bring the next king cake to the next social event.  As for the colors, purple represents justice, green faith, and gold power.

I leave you with a video of a parade we went to on Friday night out in Metairie.  The guy with the jacket is a good friend of ours who had one too many drinks as you might be able to see.


Walking and Barking

Have I mentioned how much I really, really loooove weekends? :)  They just seem to always go by super duper fast. :(  This weekend was no exception. 

Well, Friday evening was pretty lackadaisical since my day was spent on a field trip to the Aquarium of the Americas and IMAX 3D Theatre. 

The clip is not completely clear, but there are some massive turtles, sharks, and stingrays in the aquarium.

DSC00537DSC00541 DSC00561 DSC00568  Other than fish, you can see birds, penguins, otters, and white alligators.  The IMAX Deep in the Sea was also fascinating and my 9-11 year old students loved it.

Saturday started with a visit to the park with the dogs.  While Chris played with the dogs, I did my own cardio circuit.  It consisted of lots of jogging, jumping jacks, lunges, high knees running in place, planks, side planks, basic crunches, and girly push-ups.  I did two sets of the circuits and then jogged around the field for a bit.  It was about twenty-five to thirty minutes of exercising and the lunges left me in some serious pain in the rear.  Chris actually joined me on one set of lunges and he is still whining about the pain claiming he will never do lunges again. LOL!

Sunday was a fun filled day which began at church.  Shortly after, hub and I met some friends downtown for a Mardi Gras parade.  We went to the Krewe of Barkus.  It was our first time attending and it was like no other parade I’ve ever been to. 

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As you can see it is not an ordinary float parade with riders that I am accustomed to. It is animals on large floats, homemade floats, grocery baskets as floats with the pet owners walking along side pushing the floats.  It is animals dressed up as people, animals dressed up as animals, people dressed up as animals, and people dressed up as other people.  In the end, this parade in particular is for a good cause in support of helping animals in need of homes.

And here is a few other sites as we were walking through the quarter.


Mardi Gras Decor on the historic buildings.


While walking around downtown, you will see street performers standing on streets trying to make a buck.  Here is one of the mimes, but there are also magicians, artists, singers, tappers, and more.


Crowded streets awaiting the Krewe of Barkus!


We walked around for about 3 and a half hours downtown and then I headed over to my sister’s house to babysit until 10 o’clock last night.  Needless to say, I am a bit exhausted today.

Well, I did do a small amount of cooking this weekend, but for the most part I ate on the go from fast food type restaurants for dinner both Saturday and Sunday night which was not optimal, but hey I’m not perfect.

If you prefer to bake cakes using a boxed mix, I highly recommend doing what hungry-girl suggests.  I mixed one box of cake mix with one 6 oz. container of greek yogurt and a cup of water.  I then baked the mini-cupcakes according to what the box stated.  The cupcakes came out so moist and satisfied my sweet tooth cutting out much of the fat and calories and adding some protein from the greek yogurt.  I went with a lemon cake mix and used the peach chobani yogurt.  Hungry-girl states that her favorite is devil’s food cake mix with plain greek yogurt, but use what you have or prefer.  She does have some other 2 ingredient cake recipes which can be seen here.


I sprinkled some powdered sugar on top and they were great—much like a lemon poundcake.  I would probably make a whole cake rather than the mini-cakes next time, but either way would work.

Have a good night!  Have you ever been to Mardi Gras here in New Orleans?

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Aaaahhh! Finally the gorgeous 70* weather has arrived.  The weather allowed for plenty of outdoor activities.

Lunch with Mom on Saturday al fresco…

lemon tart Best part was the mini lemon tart at La Madeleine’s and Mom eating hers.

mom Isn’t she cute? 😉

And feeding some birdies while we enjoyed the weather.

birds After eating, we also went on a small adventure—a car chase hunt in search of the 15 cop cars that were chasing one speeding black truck, but we never found them. 

Saturday night Chris and I met some friends out at StepBrothers Bar and Grill to celebrate my friend Chantel’s 30th birthday.

chantel Somehow I keep forgetting my camera for important events.  For instance, Chris and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary this past Thursday on February 17.  We did go out to dinner to celebrate, but I managed to leave home without my camera and my phone.  Maybe that wasn’t a bad thing though.

Cooking was also involved in my weekend.  I made these oatmeal chocolate chip muffins with some changes that I may post at a later date.  I am still deciding if I like them enough to share the recipe.


Check out the Halloween muffin cups since I was short a couple and that’s all that was left in the cabinet.

On Sunday, with the beautiful weather Chris decided to grill up some chicken for dinner and I made a rice-veggie-cashew side dish.  It was a delicious meal.

DSC00454 The chicken was marinated in red pepper flakes, orange pineapple juice, and salt and pepper.DSC00456

As for today–

I had a muffin and greek yogurt with blueberries and honey.


Simple lunch–


I managed to eat too much of my favorite hummus and chips after work.


And bean and chicken enchiladas were made for dinner using some of last night’s chicken.


I made the enchilada sauce following this recipe, but it was definitely not as tomato-y as I prefer since it required no tomato ingredient. 

DSC00473 The consistency was good, but flavor-wise it was just okay.  It was worth a shot, but I am still on the hunt for a better one.

Until next time…good night!

Cows in a Pot

There is a small joke between me, my mom, and my sister that I think they will never let me live down.  It revolves around coming up with a title.  Many moons ago when I was in middle school, Mom, Sis, and I were sitting around our kitchen table trying to come up with a winning title for our annual elementary school fair/fundraiser.  The fair is a “Cochon de Lait” where whole pigs are roasted hanging above a fire pit.  Each year students were given the opportunity to come up with a theme  that would be put on t-shirts, signs, etc.  Mom and Sis were spewing out titles left and right.  Past titles included “The Times Pigayune,” which is a play off of the local newspaper, The Times Picayune and “Squeal of Fortune” to name a couple.  My very intelligent self got really excited and shouted out “Pigs in a Pot.”  Needless to say, they and I still laugh about my dry, uncreative title revolving around pigs being cooked in a pot although the pigs are actually roasted.

On another note, I actually did cook my cow err beef roast in a pot on Sunday night for the first time.  I never knew pot roast on the stovetop was so simple.  I have always opted for the slow cooker or oven when cooking roasts in the past.  Atop the roast was the directions for browning the roast and simmering it in a small amount of liquid until tender.  Below is what I did.

Pot Roast

2.5 pounds beef chuck roast

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder to taste

1 can beef broth (reduced sodium)

1 can of french onion soup (reduced sodium)

Directions:  Heat oil over medium heat.  Meanwhile, season roast with salt, pepper, etc.  Place roast in pot to brown on all sides about 4-5 minutes per side.  Drain any oil from pot before continuing.  Next pour in broth and soup.  Cover, lower heat to medium-low and simmer for 2.5-3 hours until tender.  Baste with liquid periodically during cooking.

The super simple pot roast turned out fantastic served over brown rice and peas.  Chris and I ate the roast for dinner Sunday and I just had some for dinner tonight.

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For my other meals today I enjoyed a whole wheat english muffin with banana, peanut butter and cinnamon + chai.


Lunch included some Sante Fe Ravioletti Soup defrosted from frozen.  I also had a satsuma from Sis’s tree.

On my way to the gym I tried out a new Larabar I purchased at Academy Sports and Outdoors this past Saturday.  I found the chocolate chip cookie dough Larabar and it tasted much like cookie dough.  And I love the short, natural ingredient list.


My cardio workout included 30 minutes on the hard Precor elliptical, 5 minutes on the bike, and 5 minutes on the stairmaster.  I concluded with some stretching and abdominal floor work.  Now I am going to chill and perhaps read some of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that I just picked up at Wal-Mart along with some prizes for our 100th student through the halls on the 100th Day of School.  Phew!! I made it through another hundred school days.  Only 80 more to go!

Do you have any funny anecdotes to share?

Something to Smile About

Hi ya’ll!  Sorry I have been away for a while.  There are some personal and work related stressors happening in my life that have made me feel overly stressed the past few days and I honestly have not been very excited about food.  So for now I won’t be posting about my daily eats unless I have a good recipe to share; and that may change later in the week.  We’ll see.

When in need of a smile all I need to do is look at a picture of my miracle of a nephew, Jett.  He celebrated his 3rd birthday yesterday, but the party was on Saturday.

He enjoyed bouncing and sliding away at the BooKoo Bounce with friends and family.

And because she is also something to smile about with her cute giraffe printed outfit and headband…

My 4 month old niece, Breelyn.

They just brighten my day. 🙂

Husband Turns 32

Yesterday was Chris’s 32nd birthday.  After work I asked him if he wanted to do anything to celebrate and he just wanted to stay home and get some pizza.  So I went to Come Back Inn to pick up a pizza with Italian sausage, onions, green pepper, jalapeños, mushroom, and black olives.  The pizza crust was thin and crispy just the way we like it.


We also had a large Italian salad on the side which was full of mozzarella cheese, olive salad over iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, sliced egg, and salami.


I had a slice and a half of pizza with some of the salad.


Then I had some of the cake I bought for two.

DSC01604 It was not all that great because it was more chocolate candy than actual cake, but still a sweet treat nonetheless.  Rather than blog last night I decided to spend some QT with Chris since after all it was his birthday.

Yesterday morning I just wasn’t feeling my hot oatmeal so this morning I went with another favorite—peanut butter, yogurt, banana, and sweet potato pecan topped whole wheat toasted English muffin.

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Plus some hot chai tea.

For lunch I started with a bed of spring mix.


Topped with some of the Italian salad from last night.


I also had an apple for some sweetness.

After work I headed straight over to the gym.  I grabbed a Ultramet Lite Vanilla Smoothie at the cafe since my stomach was talking to me.  Then I proceeded to do 15 minutes on the elliptical, 40 minutes of weights, and 7 minutes on the stair climber to finish.

Dinner had to incorporate some of the broccoli from the husband’s garden. 


I picked up some flank steak the other day with intentions on making fajitas, but I nixed that idea two nights ago to make bean enchiladas and saved the beef for tonight’s beef and broccoli.

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I used a recipe I found online that used a marinade of dry sherry, soy sauce, and cornstarch (used flour instead).  It was a good thing I didn’t salt the dish because the lite soy sauce made it super salty.  The beef and broccoli was served over brown rice.

Finally, I had a small handful of granola and 2 dates since I was feeling snacky.  I also took a bite of last night’s cake too.

Now it’s time to hit the hay; only one more work day ’til the weekend! Yay!

What Would You Do for the HH Bar?

Wheeewwww!!! It has been a busy past few days as I’m sure it’s been the same for you.  I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas! 

I’ve been running around like a crazy person since this past Wednesday trying to get shopping done, presents wrapped, and helping my husband put together a very large wooden swing set with literally over a thousand parts including screws, nuts & bolts, and wood for my nephew over at my sister’s house. 


Speaking of my sister–she was super excited about giving me my Christmas gift this year.  She had it custom made and ordered it online through a website she found through some navigating the world wide web.  To my surprise, she had a nutrition bar customized for The Healthified Haven in me and based the ingredients off of my three-times-attempted failure of a cookie recipe.

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Do you see the name of those nutrition bars?  That is the very first box of Healthified Haven Bars.


The real test was in the taste.  Well, the truth is they taste much like my cookies.  ;)  Slightly chocolaty, crumbly, dry—wait, much like a protein bar.  However, I’m not sure they could go for a “protein bar” since they only contain 7 protein grams.  Though the stats would suffice in my book for a snack bar with 198 calories, 20 grams of carbs. (4 of which are fiber), and 11 fat grams (from the cashew butter); I am not sure I will be lapping them down any time soon nor trying to make a profit. 

On the other hand I do love the concept of having my own personalized bar and think it is hilariously awesome that my sister was so thoughtful in her gift giving.  She also gave me some mismatch bowls and placemats which will soon be making an appearance on The Healthified Haven.  Thank you sis!  Truthfully, I loved all of the gifts. 🙂

On a cold, rainy morning–


Christmas Day, Chris and I made three different family visits.  The first stop was at my sister-in-law’s house to exchange gifts with hub’s family and also have lunch.


Twin Nieces posing for the camera.


Nephew opening gifts.


Chris’s grandmother opening her pelican (LA state bird) pendant.


The husband and his uncle—not quite sure what was happening there.

Just a tasting plate of all the food because we still had two more stops.


Cornbread casserole, sweet potato casserole, smothered green beans, and ham. 

On to the next place—we went to my paternal grandparent’s house.  I chose to skip the meal which included mac-n-cheese, turkey, salad, casseroles of all kinds and lots of desserts.  I did enjoy some of my pawpaw’s fruit salad.


My grandpa has made this as long as I can remember.  I think it is a mix of fresh fruit with Hawaiian Punch poured on top.  It is so tasty and refreshing with the mix of apples, oranges, grapes, cherries, peaches, and maybe some other fruits.

I only took a couple of pictures of my niece, but their were a ton of people jammed packed in the grandparent’s small house including aunts, uncles, cousins, and second cousins—about fifty people.  Here is one of the pictures of my niece because it is too cute not to share.


She did have a pretty Christmas dress on to match her bow, but she had a little accident all over herself and one of my aunts.  So she got to don her warm and cozy Christmas PJs.

The last stop was to see my mom along with my sister and her family.  Mom made chicken and sausage file’ gumbo, potato salad, and baked ham.  I had some of each.


I’ve recently been informed that some people in this area actually mix their potato salad with the gumbo.  So I gave it a try; not really my thing, but it was worth a try.


Baked ham on a pistolette with mustard on a new placemat from sis.  I did also eat some more potato salad.  And for dessert—an Italian crème cake.


We also opened presents.


My nephew listening to his Frosty the Snowman song book.


Mom playing Santa Mom to me and Chris, my brother-in-law, and sister!


Nephew so excited to try out his truck potty he just sat right on the box. 🙂


Me getting some final smooches from my niece just as we all said good night!

It was a wonderful day spent with the ones I love!  And I’m grateful for all of the presents I received—perfumes, scarf and glove set, gift cards, boots, bowls, and of course The Healthified Haven Bars.

What gift were you most excited to give or receive this Christmas?