Who says low-carb has to be boring?

So on a Sunday, I really throw down, in my kitchen. I plan my menu days in advance.  Then round about noon I turn the radio dial to Fame 95 (retro…what else?!), fill a glass with ice cubes, add some rum and COOK!  On any given Sunday I pull from the following items: braised ox-tails, baked chicken, curried shrimp, pot roasts of beef or pork, rice and peas, sitr fried veg, mac and cheese, fried rice, chow mein, baked plantains, garden salad…

But I’ve decided to go low-carb  for a while, to reset my body and mind, so…sigh…gotta find a way to keep the fun in Sundays.  So instead of rum, we do water.  Yup.  Water and a lot of ice.  And I still blast my retro tunes.  And here’s what today’s fare looked like:

I call it “Smothered Chicken with Steamed Veggies”.

The steamed veggies are simply broccoli and cauliflower steamed with garlic, parsley and basil and finished with butter (salted of course).  Yum!

Here’s the main event:

4 chicken breasts
1 onion
2 stalks celery
1 cup coarsely cut button mushrooms
1 medium tomato
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small sweet pepper
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

Flatten the chicken breasts.  Wash with lime juice and season with salt, pepper, jerk-flavoured hot sauce, soya sauce and let marinate overnight.

Heat 2 tbsp veg oil in a non-stick frying pan and quickly sear the chicken on both sides.  It should be just brown and the entire browning process should not take more than 3 min all told.

Remove from frying pan and place the pieces of chicken a flat baking sheet and allow to rest.

Chop all seasonings (onion, celery, tomato, garlic and sweet pepper) and add to the same pan you used to brown the chicken.  Saute for 2 min.  Add the mushooms and a pinch of salt and stir for another minute.

Turn on your broiler.

Spoon equal amounts of this mixture on to each piece of chicken breast already on the baking sheet.

Sprinkle equal amounts of cheese over the dressed chicken pieces and  place the dressed and cheesed chicken breasts on the baking sheet under the broiler.

Broil for approximately 5 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and just turning brown.

Remove and let rest for 3 minutes.

Serve hot with veggies.

Now…who says low-carb has to be boring? 😀

My take on New Year Resolutions

So 2012 is upon us.  I love the idea of a New Year.  I use the opportunity to review the year past and anticipate the year coming.  And yes, I make New Year’s resolutions.  I also make New Year wishes.  I have never gotten everything that I have wished for, neither have I ever kept all my resolutions.  But I have over the years kept some of my resolutions and gotten some of what I have wished for.
I didn’t even need to wait until the end of 2011 to conclude that, all in all, it was a pretty good year for me!  I saw my children mature and do well in school.  I have a passion for teaching, and despite sending my resumes hither thither and yon, I ended up, almost overnight it seemed, teaching for a term at an institution that I hadn’t applied to!  That was a fun and fulfilling experience.  I did pretty well on my nine to five too, hitting pretty much all my targets and seeing my team execute (almost!) flawlessly. And last but certainly not least, I finally ditched some major emotional baggage.  I forgave myself for some wrong moves that I had made in the past and in so doing, freed myself to give and receive forgiveness. I thank God for who I am.
So in starting 2012, I have a few wishes.  Not going to articulate them here…might jinx them!  My resolutions are not dramatic, but significant to me and as I progress, I will add to them and modify them as necessary.  That’s low stress resolution making for you, and I highly recommend it. 
I’ve decided to revert to a low-carb lifestyle.  I know a lot of people get very nervous when they hear low- carb, but I’ve done it before and every single thing about my health improved.  So here we go again.  I will end up losing weight, controlling hormone balances, stabilizing my moods and improving overall well-being.  So far, so good- all seven days of 2012!
I’ve also resolved to review my blessings at the end of each day.  How this became a resolution is a story in and of itself.  Let me back up and start at the beginning of this one.  I had remarked aloud that I was going to start a low-carb diet.  Marcelle, my colleague on the other side of the divide in our workspace, chimed in that she was planning to do likewise.  We began sharing our carb-loving weaknesses, and I confessed that besides rice (oh blessed glorious any kind of rice!) I was fond of munching on salty, crunchy snacks late at night in bed.  She suggested that I replace that habit with an herbal tea habit!  Now I am not a tea drinker, but the way Marcelle suggested it totally intrigued me.  She suggested that I make a ritual of it: get a nice kettle, special mug and create a ceremony of sorts.  I thought: why not? So I went looking for caffeine-free, herbal teas and found a great item!  It’s a sampler box of fruity, herbal teas…great for a beginner like me who has no idea of what she likes.  I started and reported back gleefully to Marcelle.  It really is a very soothing and calming thing, this tea making a drinking last thing at night.  My ex-husband used to enjoy a cup of tea before bed, and used to beg me to make it for him.  I did not. Too much of a production, I thought at the time.  Now I know.  I told Marcelle the irony of the tea making and a few days later, she came to my desk and said: “Let’s talk”.  That was kinda unusual based on our normal type of interaction. I nonetheless replied in surprise: “Sure!  Why not!”  She asked me if I had ever read “Love Languages”.  I replied in the affirmative and said that It is a must read for all people, especially those planning to marry.  Had I read it before I got married, I may still have been married today.  The book teaches you how to understand your spouse and how to make yourself understood.  Great book and I highly recommend it.  That lead to me recommending a related book also written by Gary Chapman: “The Five Languages of Apology”.  That book showed me that I needed to forgive myself and taught me how to.  My colleague seemed genuinely interested in my story of self-forgiveness and she also seemed happy for me.  We concluded our talk and we went our separate ways.
A few days later, Marcelle came to my desk again and said that she had a gift for me if I would accept.  She showed me a book where each day had a tiny space allotted for listing the things that I am grateful for.  She explained that she figured it would be a great addition to my tea ritual.  I slowly saw the sense of what she was recommending. There’s a line in one of my favourite movies, “The Matrix” that speaks about how we as human beings “define ourselves by our misery”.  So true!  I warmed to the idea of ending each day focusing on all that was good in my life.  So this past Thursday, I added articulating my gratitude to my tea ritual at the end of each day.  My children are now in on the tea drinking ritual and the gratitude giving.  To be honest, I had hoped for this to be my thing. But how can I exclude them from something that gives us another opportunity to bond and will hopefully create for them a tradition that they will carry on as they move forward with their own lives?
So there you have it: eating differently, deliberately winding down each night and giving thanks at the end of each day. Like I said, my resolutions this year are not dramatic and I will add and alter as necessary throughout 2012. I think I’m off to a pretty good start.

Winners and Losers from the JLP Dec. 2011 Election Campaign

The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) lost to the People’s National Party (PNP) in the recent National polls here in Jamaica.  The following are who I consider to be the winners and losers in the campaign leading up to the elections.

LOSERS

G2K: Generation 2000, or G2K, the youth affiliate arm of the JLP, lost much of the shock and awe factor they displayed in the 2007 elections.  This time around, their predominant message was about how wrong the leader of the the then opposition was for the role of Prime Minister.  The adverts were cleverly put together, complete with sound effects and made for more than a few laughs, I have to confess (watch one of said adverts here).  Mrs. Simpson-Miller was portrayed as loud, war-like and lacking any ability to speak convincingly in public.  But were they able to garner votes for the JLP?  I don’t think so. Perhaps, the adverts were even seen as insults coming from a group of youngsters who could be her children! Mrs. Simpson-Miller, Mama P to her supporters, has been a public servant and a former Prime Minister in what can be described as a matriarchal society, one where the postion of mother is revered.  It is not inconceivable to me that the JLP probably lost votes in their relentless attack on the lady and the absence of a clear message of what the JLP has accomplished and would accomplish given the chance.

I sincerely hope that the G2K honestly assesses their role in the last election, with the input of objective outsiders. If the present leadership of the organisation has to be changed, so let it be.  It is certainly worth considering.

Daryl Vaz: Mr. Vaz, mere days before the elections, stood on a platform and declared words to the effect that there were a number of civil servants who were holding back the progress of the government and that they would be rooted out once the JLP was returned to power.  I don’t think threats to a huge voting group who were already in fear of losing their jobs under a JLP administration was the best way of garnering support.  It probably also turned off voters who were not even civil servants.

Performers who lost their seats: Christopher Tufton and Bobby Montague come to mind. They demonstrated a can-do approach to their work at the national level.  This obviously was not seen in their constituencies and they lost their seats in Parliament. I hope they remain in politics. It is in Jamaica’s best interest to have a vibrant and functional Opposition, and I believe these two men have more to offer.

Andrew Holness: Mr. Holness, I honestly believe, has a good grasp on the challenges facing Jamaica.  I also am convinced of his sincerity in wanting to address them and see Jamaica prosper. Having said that, the results of the recent election clearly show that Mr. Holness failed to fire up and inspire his own base, and indeed the wider electorate. A great leader is able to articulate a vision and sell that vision to his people and get buy in and participation. He failed to do so. To the extent that his intentions were misaligned with the results (his party was soundly whipped), I have to declare him a loser. In the shadow of his defeat, I really hope that Mr. Holness, regardless of the forces that pushed him to the top of the ladder in the JLP, will now dig deep and find a way to reshape and reposition the party. It will take determination, a vision, focus, wisdom and strength of character to do this. I would like to see more of Mr. Holness in the future. If not as team leader, certainly, a team member.

WINNERS

Kamina Johnson-Smith: This young lady, a former senator, came out of the woodwork and impressed tremendously.  She was part of the JLP manifesto team and therefore secured for herself and her party quite a bit of air-time. As she did the talk-show rounds, she proved that she had a real grasp on the issues. She was an excellent communicator.  She demonstrated a perfect blend of agression and passion without being offensive. I remember seeing her go head to head with bright, young, Julian Robinson of the PNP.  She made him look positively ordinary in that particular interaction! I hope to see way more of Mrs. Johnson-Smith in the future.

The JLP Manifesto: This beautifully produced document clearly outlined successes and plans as per the JLP.  It failed to sell the JLP to the electorate, but the facts therein are indisputable.

These are my opinions. God Bless Jamaica.

Being right isn’t enough

Happy 2012!

Here in Jamaica, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) just lost their bid to remain government for the next 4-5 years.  By all accounts (polls and general sentiment amongst my peerage) the results were going to be close.  But methinks no one saw it coming…the People’s National Party (PNP) won the December 2011 election in fine form, winning 41 seats out of a possible 63; the JLP winning 22. The process itself worked…no one has cried foul with respect to the proceedings on Dec 29. I cast my own vote in under 5 min. So how could so many people have gotten in wrong? Here are my own thoughts on the issue. And as they say, hindsight is always 20/20.

Your decision making platform is directly related to your circumstance.  So someone with adequate resources at their disposal will process options differently from someone scrambling to have their basic needs met.  I believe that the JLP was doing well given the context of the Jamaican and indeed, world economy.  Of course, that was from my personal vantage point. I was able to eat well, pay my bills, take modest vacations on the island, live debt free, school my kids, I was gainfully employed and I was even able to save a little.  So when faced with missteps that the JLP had made during their term like the mishandling of an extradition request for a known JLP strong man and the resultant chaos and loss of life that this mishandling caused…the mishandling of significant funds that were to be used to fix and build out our roads…the innuendo around the integrity of key players of their administration, I was prepared to overlook the deficiencies in the administration for what I termed “the greater good of managing the economy”.
I suppose the JLP was banking on the majority of persons processing in the same way that I was.

Here’s the thing: the number of people living below the poverty line in the island had increased. 

The JLP displayed no empathy for the growing number of people that were finding it increasingly difficult to have their daily needs met.  They set out their equations and the numbers looked right.  But those equations ignored one critical variable: human emotions.  Jamaicans have very clear notions of what disrespect looks like and they reject disrespect very quickly and very definitively. In addition to what the masses perceived as disrespect from the JLP, their ability and willingness to do what I did in overlooking the “missteps” was severely impacted by the awful reality of their lives. They simply did not possess the space to appreciate macro-economic variables being aligned correctly when mounting bills, lack of food, absence of jobs and a rapidly declining standard of living were what they looked at each and every day.

So along came the PNP with declarations of love and promises of jobs in the form of JEEP and clearly articulated understanding of the plight of the people. Love and understanding mean nothing to those of us who are relatively comfortable. But to a drowning man, it appeared a better proposition to the alternative: a regime of suffering and the absence of empathy. Hence, the majority made their decision based on their context and not based on the equations handed out by the JLP or the track record of the PNP for the 18 years they were in power prior to the outgoing JLP administration. The space to make decisions after thorough analysis simply does not exist in Jamaica’s context of poverty, and the JLP ignored, to their downfall, the Jamaican psyche. Thus, they did not frame their communications appropriately. They did not work the communities effectively. Instead of being focused only on what was “right” in terms of managing the economy, they should have placed equal focus on getting buy-in from the Jamaicans who put them there to serve.

Subsequent posts will explore the benefits of a strong Opposition, the JLP’s next steps and hope for Jamaica.