I tried Gardein’s Mandarin Orange Crispy Chick’n

My Gardein’s Mandarin Orange Crispy Chick’n on steamed rice

I’m always a little curious about vegetarian replacements for meat, especially since vegetarian options have proved to be much easier for my digestion.  I have had pretty good luck with Gardein in the past so when I saw this Mandarin Orange Crispy Chick’n I was fully on board.  Full disclosure, I’m not a big fan of chicken find it to be basically flavorless.  Although, I do enjoy chicken nuggets.  Because of this I was fairly certain I wouldn’t be disappointed if this didn’t taste like chicken.  So here’s what I thought.


Be sure to read the packaging!  As you can see in the picture, 140 calories is highlighted in a beautiful, encouraging, green.  Sounds great, right?  Below that, not highlighted, it states “per serving without sauce”.  If you are buying this you want the sauce, otherwise it’s not Mandarin Orange.  I did not read the packaging.  Luckily, I was not worried about the calories today.  Besides, this review isn’t about healthiness or calories, just taste.

There were a few different cooking options listed on the back.  The front of the package says it takes 8 minutes and that is probably accurate if you cook it on the stove.  Keep in mind that the rice is not included so factor that into your cooking time.  I have a rice steamer so I started the rice just before starting the oven preheating.  I chose the bake option for my “Chick’n” and this takes about 16 minutes once the oven is ready.  I line my pans with foil and then spray an olive oil cooking spray on the foil.  Next step, spread out the nuggets and placed in the oven for 8 minutes.  After 8 minutes, I turned the pieces over and cooked for 8 more minutes.  The sauce packet needs placed in hot water for at least 3 minutes to warm up.  Once the pieces are cooked, place them in a bowl, pour the sauce in and stir the pieces in the sauce.

Once I put the pieces on the bed of rice and tossed on some green onion, I was ready to enjoy!  The flavor of the sauce was pretty tasty.  A sweet taste with a hint of citrus.  It had the consistency of syrup and I would prefer it a little thicker, but it covered the pieces well.  The nuggets themselves seemed to taste a lot like chicken nuggets to me.  The breading was pretty good and the texture was very much like a chicken nugget.  I thought the sauce was going to make the pieces soggy or soft, but they remained crispy.  I’ve tried other frozen chicken nuggets, that had meat and I thought these were pretty comparable 

The overall result is that I was pleasantly surprised and would recommend giving it a try.  I will be buying it again and I hope you like it too.

Encourage Passion

In the fall of 2017, I will start classes for a degree in science.  Of course I am not certain what I will get a degree in, but I know it will be science.  For the people that actually know me, this will not be a surprise, but for the many, many people I have come across in the past, they will probably think this is a waste of time.  After all, I will be turning 44 years old in a couple weeks and, to them, I should just do what everyone else in the world does, such as, hate my job, but continue working at it because that’s what responsible people do.  I can’t even count how many times I have been told, “everybody hates their job” and “no one likes going to work”.  Well, why is that?  I know that each person is different and I tend to think differently than the majority, but that doesn’t mean I should conform to the cookie cutter mold of the traditional woman.  I am not the traditional woman of the past and I am proud of my uniqueness.  Maybe I am just being selfish and blind to my own faults, but I don’t see that the problem is in me, but instead believe the problem is that the people telling me to conform have not been paying attention to who I actually am.   Or they don’t care.  Here are several examples of moments from my childhood, the moments from my adult life are far too many to list, that should have been a clue that I didn’t think like the average girl.

When I was a child, I did play with dolls, but not always in a traditional way.  When you think about a little girl playing with dolls you may picture a nurturing child that is pretending to be the mom and caring for a family.  Probably with a bow in her hair and maybe even a dress. What you probably do not picture, is a quiet little girl with long brown hair, sometimes with a bow, dressed in denim jeans, strategically placing army men around the doll house, waiting for the signal to attack.  That girl was me.  Maybe it was because I had brothers or maybe it’s just who I am because I still love playing strategy war games.  I could have been encouraged to have a military future.  Of course, when I played with my friends I would be more traditional with my dolls.  I did also like to crochet clothing and fashion accessories for them, so there was a wide range of interests being shown.

I loved miniatures of every kind.  I wanted to build villages, roads, farms.  I would spend all day at my grandma’s farm making roads in the hillside for my toy cars to drive around. Toy Cuda My favorite was to build on a slope so I could watch the car drive down the winding road on its own.  I loved to use Lincoln Logs and Lego to build houses and towers.  These are all engineering skills that could have been noticed and encouraged. 

There was a lot of time spent hanging around my dad and later, my brother, while they were working on cars or even a lawn mower.  I think most people thought I just wanted to hang around them, but I genuinely enjoyed engines being taken apart and put together.  The excitement of an engine first starting up will always be a thrill for me.  I love tools of every kind to this day!  Here I could have been encouraged to be a mechanical engineer.

Feminine things still had some fascination for me.  I did, and still do, enjoy putting on makeup and styling hair with my friends.  One of my lifelong best friends is a hair stylist and another studied makeup artistry.  Both are very well suited for those careers.  I am not a daily makeup user, but when I was little I would mix perfume together to make a new fragrance.  This usually ended badly, but an enjoyable experience, none the less.  I would pour out the liquid lip gloss and add eye shadow or blush powder to design new colors.  Maybe chemistry could have been encouraged there.

Not everyone was oblivious to my interests.  I believe my grandpa knew I would be a very independent woman and was paying attention to the clues.  At the time he would say things like, “you might not always have a man around to do these things for you so you should learn”.  At first that sounds extremely sexist, but I think his heart was in the right place.  He knew I was interested in learning.  There were other granddaughters, but I don’t think he bothered teaching the others how to change a tire or change the oil in a car.  Maybe he did and I didn’t see it, but he spent a lot of time teaching me things one on one and I will always love him dearly for that.  Even though he has been gone for 20 years, I still get tears in my eyes (I actually had to stop writing this for a bit so I could regain my composure after a good cry) just thinking about him and how he treated us as individuals and not just children.  Of course he never said “Jeanette, you could do this for a career”, but he did say “you can do this”.

Now, don’t get me wrong, my parents told me that I was smart and seemed proud of me, but I don’t know that they had any ideas for suitable career paths.  I was born in 1973, so they are still pretty traditional by nature, and my parents both seemed to have the idea that you just get a job, any job that will pay the bills, and you keep working your ass off every day.  That’s commendable and I have great respect for people with strong work ethics.  I always put my all into my jobs and I’m usually really good at whatever job I do, but that does not mean it’s a good fit for me.  Also, my family are not the reason I have not gone to college until now.  I did try briefly when I was 20 years old, but poor decisions, made by me, got in the way.  Now, I feel I have good, supportive, people around me and the time is right.  Furthering my education has always been very important to me and there is no reason not to work at bettering myself.

I think the main point I would like to get across is this, before telling someone what you think they should be doing, ask yourself if it’s really what you feel they should do based on you and society, or if you were paying attention to who they really are and if it’s the right choice for them.   I believe peoples passions should be encourage, not overlooked.

No more sugar, please!


It has now been 3 1/2 months since I began my sugar free journey.  Of course I still have a small amount of sugar, as I’ve mentioned in my previous post.  I even had a piece of the coconut cream pie, pictured above, at Christmas time.  The joy of that piece of pie was short lived, however.  After eating something with a lot of sugar I start to feel a little jittery as if I’ve had too much caffeine or a mild panic attack.  I believe this is because the pie has processed sugar and causes a blood sugar spike.  This adverse reaction helps discourage any further “cheat” snacks so I’m glad it happens.  It’s actually been pretty easy to stay away from sugary snacks and desserts though.

Over 3 months of eating minimal sugar, I lost 12 pounds.  I wasn’t trying to lose weight so this was just an added bonus.  Losing a pound each week with zero exercise is a pretty great bonus, if you ask me.  In the last two weeks I have started exercising regularly, for heart health, and I feel great!  

The greatest and most surprising benefit that I have experienced is sleep quality.  I still sleep the same amount, sometimes a little less, but I’m well rested and don’t feel the need for caffeine at all.  It’s a little difficult to wake up at times because I’m in such a deep sleep.  My answer to this has been to exercise first thing.  At least in the last couple weeks, anyway.  Showering first thing would work as well, but I feel cold as soon as I leave the covers so heating up the body with a good workout is perfect for me.  My sleep quality was always an issue before.  It took a long time to fall asleep and then I would wake up every couple hours and be tired all day.  Now I can fall asleep quickly and maybe wake up once a night.  Sleep alone is reason enough for me to continue a sugar free life.

To sum up my experience, I feel healthy, I look healthy, and that makes me happy.  With results like these, I plan on being happily sugar free for the rest of my life.  

A fried rice Thanksgiving

My husband and I are not overly traditional.  We believe you should celebrate, or not celebrate, holidays the way you want and not what tradition tells you.  If it were up to us, we wouldn’t celebrate holidays at all, but family has other plans.  However, those plans are not until later so we got to have our version of thanksgiving this year.  What is our version of Thanksgiving?  A regular, ordinary, day off.  Ahh, so nice.  So for lunch I made something fast and easy.  Fried rice.

My kitchen and the dishes I cook, are fairly minimalist.  I have plenty of cabinets for storage, but most of them are almost empty.  I don’t buy a lot of cookery or seasonings.  I keep the basics and that’s pretty much it.  There are a couple things that I like about this.  

1.  Easy preparation and therefore, easy cleanup.

2.  Fewer supplies means you have to get creative sometimes.

One of the things I do have is a rice cooker.  I love this thing and highly recommend having one.  So here is my simple way of making delicious fried rice. 

  • First, steam the amount of rice you are wanting to make.  I recommend going by what the instructions on the bag of rice says.  I kind of eyeball it and the amount never comes out the same twice.  We like the whole grain rice, but you can’t choose a different kind.  This is the part that takes the most time.  For two people I think it takes my cooker about 20 minutes.
  • When the rice is steamed, in a large skillet or wok, heat up about two tablespoons of olive oil on medium high heat.
  • Scramble one egg and a chopped vegetable of your choice.  I prefer snow peas or sugar snap peas.  Some people like to add carrots.  The beautiful thing about fried rice is that it’s very easy to customize.
  • Once the egg is fried and scrambled up, add the steamed rice to the skillet. 
  • Stir until mixed well.
  • I like to add my soy sauce into the skillet and cook it into the fried rice.  You can add your soy sauce later if you prefer.
  • Add a serving to the plate and you’re ready to enjoy!

I apologize that I don’t put specific measurements in my recipes, but that’s just not how I cook.  I want to give people the freedom to choose what they want in their dish.  If you love vegetables, feel free to add more!  Maybe you like a lot of egg in your fried rice.  The important thing is to find out what works for you and go with it.  Happy eating!

Can we go back to simple dining, please?

Maybe things have always been this way, but it seems to me that we are trying to play everything up to the most extreme version possible. More atmosphere, more flavor, more expense. If it’s not hip no one wants to go there and it’s not hip unless its overpriced and has a long line to enter. Two things I can’t abide, paying more than something is worth and lines. I don’t find the hipster atmosphere and over priced food a fair trade for the portion of my life spent wraiting in your line.

That being said, I am perfectly aware that a lot of people really enjoy these places and would love to find more of them. I am just not one of them.  My two favorite places to eat in Denver are iconic Colfax locations, but simple and inexpensive.

Tom’s Diner.  Tom’s looks like it hasn’t changed its decor since the 1960’s.  Not in the way a hipster restaurant had a designer scour the earth for the perfect retro style, but like everything was purchased in the 60’s and well cared for ever since.  I’m certain my mother had those exact plates when I was a child.  Granted, I wasn’t born until 1973, but she didn’t buy new dishes until the 80’s.  Walking into Tom’s is like stepping back in time.  A beautiful time machine that makes me feel at home.  The food at a diner was never meant to be “amazing”, but is meant to be comfort food like your mom, or you, would make at home.  Tom’s provides good food, and lots of it, at a good price with great service.  In fact, the staff has always been one of the things I love most.   Every person working there has a unique character all their own and are enjoyable to be around.  From my experience, this is just the Colfax way and Tom’s Diner is definitely a part of Colfax.

Steve’s Snappin’ Dogs.  Another Colfax staple that has perfected simple dining.  As you would expect from a place that specializes in hot dogs, you order at the counter and wait for your number to be called.  You can sit at a counter inside or have a picnic in the patio.  The patio area has tables and a pet station so Fido can hang with the family.  One of the great things about Denver is that it’s pretty pet friendly.  With about 300 days of sun a year and fairly mild weather, we are outside a lot and like to bring our furry family members along.  Decorating the patio area walls is the history of Steve’s for your light reading pleasure.  The food is quite tasty with lots of options to choose from, but of course, I always go for chili dogs.  Even though it’s small and there are always people there, it never feels over crowded.  Just cozy.

The first customization of my Fiat 500 Abarth.

The Fiat 500 Abarth is a fantastically fun car for multiple reasons.  Aside from being fun to drive, they are relatively cheap and easy to customize.  There are endless possibilities and for once, I am looking forward to customizing my car.  Normally I leave my cars exactly as purchased.  Don’t ask me why, I don’t have an answer.

500-abarth-lowered

This picture was taken the day I brought my little cherry tomato home.  The previous owner had the car lowered and although I had some reservations about buying a car that was modified, Fiat assured me that it was a Fiat technician that had installed the kit.  There are plenty of people that prefer their Abarth lowered and it is pretty great in the corners, but I’m certain those people have another car as their daily driver.  Or they live in a smooth, flat, perfect world with no railroad tracks.  Unfortunately, I do not and this car is meant to be my daily driver.  Yes I can slow way down for anything that is an inch above the ground, but there are always sudden surprises that pop up.  My biggest concern wasn’t speed bumps, railroad tracks or my driveway.  My biggest concern was winter driving.  My husband has had an Abarth for a couple years and it’s really pretty great in the snow.  However, the snow gets packed in the wheel wells of a regular Abarth so I was certain it would be even worse when there is less space.   Despite my concerns, the car was a good price and there really are not a lot of Abarths to chose from in my area.  Used or new.   So I bought the car knowing that I would have to pay to raise it back to normal pretty soon.

The dealership was going to charge about $1,800.00 to replace the springs, but we decided to go a bit cheaper, because we can.  My husband found the same springs he has on his for about $160.00 and his dad was able to help install them.  I normally would not agree to do it ourselves, but his dad is experienced and has the proper equipment to complete the job safely and correctly.  It was completed today and here is what it looks like now.


It doesn’t look like a big difference, but it is a huge difference driving over the train tracks near our house.  I had to drive about 6 mph over the tracks when it was lowered and it was still risky.  Now I can fly over them at 25 or 30 mph if I so chose.  I no longer have to remember to take a different route with tracks that are smoother.  I will be sad that corners will not be quite as snug, but the car is still fun and it’s personalized to my taste.  I’m not sure what changes I will make in the future.  Most likely a gear shift knob at least, but there are endless possibilities and miles of fun to be had!

Hold the sugar, please.

In continuing my efforts to become a better me, I have chosen to stop eating sugar.  I don’t mean that I can’t have any sugar because that’s not really practical.  I have stopped eating added sugars.  For 5 weeks now, I have been eating less than 45 grams of sugar a day.  It’s usually between 20 and 25 grams per day.  From what I have read, 4.2 grams of granulated sugar equals one teaspoon.  So I am averaging 4 or 5 teaspoons a day which is what the American Heart Association recommends for a woman. It doesn’t seem like that’s a difficult request but they do not distinguish between natural and added sugars.  It all counts toward the same total grams of sugar.

How did this start?  This was not something I planned on doing.  In fact, I was certain I would never give up my candy, soda or cupcakes.  Man do I love a good cupcake!  It started one weekend when I ran out of candy and was too lazy to go to the store.  I realized on Sunday that I had already gone two days without candy so I thought, this is a good time to stop eating sugar.

In the first week I was astonished by how much sugar was in EVERYTHING.  What can I eat that doesn’t have sugar?  Pizza?  No.  Cereal?  Only occasionally and yes, it tastes no different than eating the box.  “Healthy” granola bars?  Are you freakin’ kidding me?  No!  Juice, of any kind?  Absolutely not.  I realized quickly that it was pretty much impossible to eat no sugar and be healthy.  I’m sure there will be people that argue with me about that, but I think you should still have fruit once in a while and fruit has quite a bit of sugar naturally.  Also, I do not want to ingest to many artificial sweeteners.  I doubt that is healthy.  So in this first week, I resigned myself to the idea that I will never again eat candy, dessert or drink soda.  No pizza either but, as you will read later, that changes.  The good news is that you no longer crave those things.  You may want it when you see it, but for the most part, you realize that is a want, not a need and you don’t have to indulge.

During week two, I noticed that I wasn’t as tired during the day.  Probably because my sleep is deeper and better quality.  I don’t toss and turn as often or wake up every two hours like I used to.  In fact, during the 3rd week, I slept straight through the night sometimes.  This may not be amazing to some, but I have never slept through the night unless I was sick or something.  I was a bit perky and hyper during this time period as well.

I think it was week three that I thought I was sweating more than normal and some people do a 21 day sugar detox so maybe I was sweating things out.  I also noticed that I would just keep working and forget to take my lunch because I wasn’t actually hungry yet.  One word of caution here.  When you are not eating sugar and your tank runs out, you are out and need to find food fast.  The alternative is one cranky individual that can no longer function properly.  I was pretty sure I was going to faint in the middle of the Halloween store because I didn’t stop to eat before going in and it was larger than expected.  It was my own fault.  I knew it was past lunch time and that I needed to eat, but wasn’t feeling the hunger pangs yet.  Lesson learned.

Week four and five have been smooth sailing.  No side affects and I’ve discovered that I can make homemade pizza that has much less sugar, but still tastes pretty good.  In the future I may try to make the dough and sauce myself, but for now, I look for marinara with the fewest grams of sugar per serving and pre-made pizza dough from the store.  Also with the lowest grams of sugar, per serving, that I can find.  It’s not ideal, but it’s a nice treat.

If you have tried to stop eating so much sugar or know a great, low sugar recipe for barbecue sauce, feel free to share in the comments.  I would love to hear all about it.