Just for the record, that “OH YEAH” in the title must, I insist MUST, be heard in your head in a deep Barry White, long drawn out, Ohhhhh Yeeeeaaaahhhh!  Because spices are just that good that’s why J

Okay, now for the actual post.  I love to cook.  Yeppers, I really do.  Though I admit I don’t always like what I cook, ha!  I adore cookbooks and have amassed quite a collection.  I cringe when I read/hear a home organization expert recommend “go through and get rid of cookbooks you don’t use”.  ARGH!  NO NO NO, my precious!  Mustn’t get rid of the pretty books, with such interesting recipes and pretty pictures.  Never mind that I haven’t used most of them, never mind that its highly unlikely that I will ever get around to using them, I just love them so that’s final.  No, what I do is browse my cookbooks, decide what looks good and then mentally redo it for my family.  I must eat gluten-free and that is a hard one to accommodate sometimes.  I was given a flour-blend mix that does seem to be working out very well and I am modifying more and more regular recipes and having pretty good successes.  In addition we are a family that loves strong flavors and firmly believe that most dishes can be enhanced with a dash of garlic.  Though I must add here that Apricot Chicken is not one of them! (Apricot Chicken without garlic?  YUMMY! With?  Blech!)

Sometimes I do follow a recipe exactly as it’s written the first time.  Sometimes we like it, other times we don’t.  A few times its been a total disaster (Tarragon chicken comes to mind, too licorice-y for us) and I won’t even bother to try and adapt it.  Most times I try it and then after polling the other very opinionated tasters in my family I make notes on how to “fix” it for the next time. 

At that next time though I rarely even bother to look up the original recipe at all.  I can remember flavors and remember the flavor profile I want and wing it from there.  Many times I nail it and it becomes a regular in our menu plans but I have to admit there are times it’s a dismal failure and I must decide if I want to bother reworking it some more or just give up. 

Many of our meals happen just cause I wander into the kitchen and see what’s available and start tossing stuff around and decide what sounds tasty. Sometimes I go in with an actual “I want this taste” in mind and see what I can do to make it happen.  Its actually very easy if you have a basic knowledge of spices.  (admit it, you were wondering when I was gonna get around to tying in the title of this post to the post weren’t ya!)

By basic knowledge I mean more than just salt, pepper and garlic powder.  And let me digress a moment to say do not use garlic powder except in emergencies.  Find a source of Granulated Garlic instead, much nicer and much tastier.  I have to admit I can only find it in big bottles at Sam’s Club, if you don’t have a Sam’s card then find someone who does and whine and nag until they buy you some.  I suppose you could whine and nag to me, but probably wouldn’t do ya much good unless you came to see me.  J   Oh! And I must tell you that it was my wonderful mom-in-law, Sharon, who turned me onto the stuff.  Great woman, and great garlic too!

If you think about it, all cuisines have their own flavor.  Mexican doesn’t taste Asian, Asian doesn’t taste Italian, Italian doesn’t taste Mexican etc.  German, English, Indian, Thai, all good food, all different flavors, all created by using with the same basic meats, slightly different starches and slightly different veggies. The biggest difference?  The spices used. If you can learn the “flavor base” of cuisines then its very easy to make up a dish of anything you feel like cooking.  Want Mexican food for supper?  Okay, let’s pretend a scenario.

You go to the freezer, find some chicken meat.  Pop open the fridge and root around a bit.  Cheese, tiny bit of sour cream, some tortillas (in my house made from corn).  You probably won’t have fresh cilantro, that’s okay, I rarely manage to have fresh herbs just lying around either.  I only buy them when I intend to use them right away.  And there are some people out there who don’t just love cilantro.  I adore the stuff, yummy!  Take note of the big jar of salsa, (surely you have some of that in there????!!)  Now to the pantry, grab the rice (I use instant, I am soooo bad!!) and head to the counter and grab an onion.  Check the spice cabinet, you’ll want salt, pepper, garlic, cumin, chili powder, oregano (yep, oregano!) and chicken bouillon granules.  You could have grabbed a can/box of chicken stock from the pantry if you prefer.  I like the handiness of the granules, a jar keeps forever and I don’t have to worry about using up the can/box before it sours.  What can you make?  Well, chicken enchiladas with a white sauce flavored with cheese and a bit of bullion.  Or, chicken tacos with grilled onions and I would also dice up some potatoes and fry them with the onion to add.  I know its probably carb overkill but I just have to have fried potatoes with my chicken tacos.  Use the salsa and bullion and a bunch of spices to make Mexican Rice as a side. Mine is so good in fact that my youngest son calls it “Mom’s world famous Mexican rice” though I’ve only spread it across a couple of states.  I have a standing request for it every time I take a trip east to visit some friends out there.   Don’t want/have tortillas? Then cook the rice and chicken and have a Mexican Chicken casserole. 

The whole point is that if you know the basic spices and flavors of a food, in this case Mexican, then you can cook anything you want.  No recipe needed. 

So Mexican is cumin, garlic, chili powder and oregano.  You can add to that, with the flavors of chipotle (dried smoked jalapeno) and onion. 

Asian? Well, first off ginger, either fresh or ground.  Its kinda peppery so be careful how much you add.  Soy sauce, garlic (again with the garlic but trust me, its so good!).  Good quality fish sauce used sparingly is nice, it can be overpowering so add only a few drops at a time and taste.  Though it will “mellow” as it cooks so sometimes you think you’ve added to much and it works out okay. A drop or two of sesame oil added at the end of cooking is a good idea.  Sometimes oyster or hoisen sauce. My eldest is allergic to shellfish so I can’t use these two but they do add a nice richness to the taste if you can.

Italian? Basil, oregano, garlic (!).  Anchovy paste is a nice taste here but an acquired one.  I like it and have only recently started using it so I’m still fiddling with how much but like the fish sauce start small.

Popping back to the recipe example above, say I found chicken and we wanted Asian.  I don’t have fresh ginger but I always keep ground on hand along with fish sauce (store fish sauce in fridge)  I would chop the meat into strips, throw into the skillet with a touch of oil (I prefer coconut oil) and when almost done I would add powdered ginger, garlic, a shake or two of fish sauce and several shakes of soy.  By the way, in this house it is usually tamari sauce since it is gluten-free.  Tastes the same though.   I’d microwave some frozen veggies and add to the meat when hot (yes, I cheat this way, meh!)  A couple drops of sesame oil and it’s done. And I’d cook up some rice, flavored a bit with some chicken bullion granules and set the soy sauce handy for those who’d like a bit more.  Easy peasy and very tasty stir fry.

Italian?  Okay, place the chicken in the bottom of a baking dish, spice up with shakes of basil, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper.  Open a couple cans of diced tomatoes, carefully pour over meat, top with any cheeses ya got handy and bake.  Classically it would call for mozzarella and parmesan but I’ve been known to toss cheddar on top if I’m out of the others.  Not quite as “Italian-y but still tasty J .  Never buy jarred spaghetti sauce if you can, its very easy to make your own and you can make it as spicy or as sweet as your family prefers.  I actually discovered that I prefer to sweeten mine with honey.  You do need a tiny touch of sweetness to mellow the tomatoes and I think honey adds a richer taste and I find I use much less of it than I would sugar.

Thai food is red chilies, lemongrass and coconut.  I don’t often cook Thai food as I have trouble finding fresh lemongrass and I can’t find it at all ground.  Plus a lot of their foods is curry based and I just don’t care for curry.   I have gone to the trouble to make my own Pad Thai and I even went to the very BIG trouble of hunting down tamarind and making my own pad Thai sauce but that is a lot of work and not usually something I keep in my pantry/fridge to easily grab.

Same for Indian food, I like it, well the non-curry based ones anyway.  Tandoori chicken springs to mind but again not something I always have the spices, ingredients on hand. 

Do you see what I’m trying to show here?  You CAN make anything you want if you just know the basic spices needed to get there.  We eat a lot of Tex-mex (I grew up in Texas, it strongly colored my “Mexican” food flavor base and I love love love it!) and Asian style dishes, so I keep most of those spices handy.  Oregano works in both Mexican and Italian and I love basil so that stays in there too.  And sometimes I admit, there is nothing better than a pan of baked chicken flavored simply with salt and pepper.  Side of salad and mashed or fried taters and you’re set.  If you are currently against potatoes (diet anyone??) then add another veggie.  For the Asian style look up a good cauliflower “rice” recipe and do it as fried rice and its pretty tasty.  I’ve done that before and it was pretty much indistinguishable from the real stuff. 

Now how does this all tie into my “great escape”?  Well, I want you to learn to escape from bland food, and tying yourself to restrictive recipes.  And by restrictive I mean the kinds that you decide you can’t make cause you don’t have all the ingredients on hand.  Sure some ingredients can’t be left out and subbed or you lose the whole intended flavor but many times you can just let your knowledge of spices lead you to a whole new way to make the recipe.  And sure, sometimes it will bomb, have the pizza place on speed dial if necessary but the more you learn and the more you “wing it” the better you’ll get and the more success and happy smiles at the dinner table you’ll have. 

Another good thing about this is that the more comfortable you are cooking then the more you will.  We must all face up to the fact that homemade food is so much healthier for you and usually more cost effective.  If you lock yourself into recipes or exotic spices and herbs then it can get quite pricey but if you keep an open mind, a basic stocked spice cabinet and an assortment of meats and veggies in the freezer along with a few fresh ones in the fridge you can have an easy, cheap, fast and very tasty meal.

I might go into more details on various recipes and spices later on, we’ll see.  Until then or the next blog post or whenever, happy cooking and happy spicing! J


Well are you?  And how do you define happiness?  When I was a young girl, happiness was a new Nancy Drew novel, a new dress or shoes (magical shoes that I could run forever in!), easy things.  Still young but married with 2 kidlets it was more along the line of a new car (Jaguar please!!), a huge house with tons of rooms, a maid to clean said rooms, a full closet of clothes and all the toys in the world to entertain my children with. Oh!  And for those clothes in that closet to be a very small size, ha!  Mind you I got more books and shoes when I was young, I still don’t have a new car (just new-to-me) and I live in a very small house.  I and my hubby, my 2 older kidlets and my young-but-old-at-the-same-time 10 year old.  Plus a small pug and a big husky/lab mix (my daughter informs me that he is called a huskador, yeah okay, whatever).  And I’ve never had a maid, I am the maid The clothes in my closet are not many, mainly because I am such a large size and I have the mentality that “I just can’t stand to buy something in this size again, I really must exercise/diet down at least one maybe two before I buy more!” 🙂   And now, at this age (43 thank ya!) how do I define happiness?  Still by things?  I still want a big house and Jaguar but I’m actually quite okay with my little house and van. In a way though, due to what I’ve been through these past few years,  I think I’ve shifted into old people territory.  You know, the kind that when you ask them “what kind of grandbaby are you wishing for? Boy or Girl?” And they have the nerve to reply “just a healthy kind, that’s all I want”.  Der!  everyone wants it to be healthy, its not like I sat around and wished for my children to be unhealthy!  Its a simple question, boy or girl!  My husband used to think it funny to reply “Three, one of each” and I told him to cut that out, such things were not unheard of.  He finally clued in and quit. 

I wasn’t unhappy when I was young and read old books and ran in old shoes. I wasn’t unhappy when I was newly married and mothered and lived in a small apartment and drove a run down car without air conditioner. Well, okay, honesty check here,  I wasn’t exactly happy about the situation, but I wasn’t completely unhappy.  But I did somehow have the thought that if I could just work hard enough, be, oh I don’t know, good enough and acquire those things that I would be happier.  That somehow having more meant more happiness, that my level of happiness was somehow tied into how much I had or could have.   Hubby and I actually spent several years and way too many precious dollars trying to figure out how to achieve that level of “happiness”.  Amway anyone?

Now I truly do want the simple things to be happy.  To have my family healthy and not sick and not injured.  My husband has survived 2 bouts with cancer and if that don’t change yer thinking about happiness not much else can help ya!  He survived blood clots after a surgery and way too many doctors look at him and say “Wow! You should be dead!”  Hubby does NOT at all like cats and I tease him that I don’t know why he doesn’t like them, he certainly shares the trait of “9 lives” with them 🙂  My youngest child was diagnosed with autism when he was almost 4 years old and while I am unhappy he is autistic I find happiness and relief in that it is mild autism and he truly is a joy I am glad I’ve not missed.

I am not happy that my husband is now disabled and is unlikely to work again.  I am happy that he was able to spend many years of his life working at a career that he absolutely loved and has great memories of.  That his working so hard then now allows us to survive financially.  Barely mind you and some months are squeakier than others but I am able to cook cheap but tasty food and we do still have our head above water.  So many in this current climate can’t say that!  I am not always happy that my house is so small, rainy days are rough especially when we are all home and the dogs are restless. But I am happy that I have a house and for right now we make our house payments on time.  I am not happy that I’ve had to return to driving my old van and had to give my cute PT cruiser to my daughter to drive.  But, I am happy that we still had the van to fall back on because the cruiser makes my husband hurt too bad to ride in.  And we take a 3 hour drive to a pain specialist once a month and comfort for hubby is important to me!  And I’m happy that I am able to bless my daughter by letting her drive a very good and safe car!

I am NOT at all happy about how unfit I’ve let myself become and how much I weigh.  (NONE of your business so thanks for not asking!)  I’ve been very very very (and many more verys if I was truthful and had time to type them all!) unhappy in the last few years.  My husband’s health, job situation, money situation, etc all combined to drive me deep into a blue funk and there were far too many days when I climbed out of bed, threw some breakfast at the family and collapsed back into bed or a comfy chair.  Only getting up long enough to fix lunch, then supper, then back to bed.  Not a great situation but oh well,  I do try to look forward and not linger in the past on things that I can’t go back in time and fix.  Now, invent a time machine and take me back to kick some sense into younger self and I am all over that!

I am happy that I realized how bad off I was before it got too bad to fix.  Diabetes runs in my family and I’ve managed to dodge that bullet.  I’ve had to baby my right foot for the past couple years and now my knees are arguing mightily with me about what I ask of them, but I can still walk and I don’t think I’ve damaged anything permanently.  That makes me happy, that just a bit more babying and doing things to make my legs stronger and my body weigh less and I should be almost good as new. 🙂  I try to take/find joy in such things.  Far to easy to beat myself up if I’m not careful.  Ya know, the “oh how could I do this to myself, what was I thinking or not thinking about, I’m hopeless, useless, a lazy slug,etc”  Not healthy so don’t do it!  Do I always listen to such advice? Am I always nice to myself? Ha!  I would be a big fat liar if I said yes!  Some days its easier than others, some days, days when I’m trying to find something to wear thats not plain skirt/tee combo then I moan and groan loudly and everyone runs for cover!  And I’m not a nice person to take clothes shopping.  I usually wind up exhausted, red faced, mad as all get out (stupid clothing manufacturers, don’t they know not all fat women have skinny arms!!) and teary eyed.

But I decided, this time round the weight-loss/exercise path, that I would be okay with it.  That I would be happy in having a day that I ate right and exercised. Even if I need to be happy that I ate one meal healthily and moved some.  Wouldn’t demand that I was perfect all day or it didn’t count.  I won’t look at far I have to go (that stretches too close to “infinity and beyond”!) but rather at how far I’ve come.  Better this week than last, better today than yesterday. And if today is worse than yesterday, well then, tomorrow starts fresh!  I will enjoy the journey and not wait for the destination!  Ha!  I’m sounding perilously close to greeting card territory so probably should close before I hurt myself! 🙂

Anyhoo, ask yourself again, Are you happy?  Why? or Why not?  What can you change to fix your unhappiness?  I’m gonna warn you, its probably your attitude.  I can’t change my husband’s disability and that makes me very unhappy but I CAN choose to be oh-so-very happy that he’s simply alive and I get the pleasure of his company for, I pray, many many more years!!  See? At the risk of soundling far too old for my years, I offer this, “Its all in how you look at it” 

Till next time, be safe, be well, be Happy!


Well, I’m a “wordy” type of person, it takes me many more words to say something than most people. That is if I’m saying anything at all. I tend to be a quiet type, hoarding my words, then spewing them forth in a flood that probably makes most people flinch. I find it difficult to be short and concise and that usually leads me to saying nothing at all. Feast or famine if you will.

I’ve wanted this blog for awhile now but have dithered about it, (am I using that word “dithered” correctly?) (do you scream at people who use parenthesis () and quotation marks “” alot? probably not the blog for you as I use them TONS. You’ve been warned.)

Who is “Cate”? (see, told ya!) Cate is me, well, part of me. I am Catherine. I like Catherine, like her alot actually. Do you like your name? Like yourself? I hope so!  I’ve used Cate as my online name in several forums, mainly because it helped me to feel more hidden.  Hidden behind the internet and my computer.  Free to say what I felt without feeling like it would come back to bite me.  Not that I ever said anything that would come back.  I am a Southern Woman you see and I was raised that if you didn’t have something nice to say you shouldn’t say anything at all.  So while I might think of something that would come back I wouldn’t say it.  At least not out loud, or where you could hear me 😉

So the title? “Cate’s Great Escape”.  Where did I get that and why use Cate instead of my full name, Catherine?  Is it going to be a travel blog?  I love to travel, and hope to do more in my lifetime.  But no, its more about a journey, not an actual “from here to there” kinda thing, except yes it is.  Confused?  That’s okay, its pretty much a common occurance around me.

Awhile ago I was chatting with my daughter about my need for changing my diet and exercise habits.  I am a rather large woman, not ashamed to be fat but rather unhappy about it.  I’ve always been on the bigger side but not always been unhealthy.   The last few years that switched and I am now in strong danger and well on my way to being one of the fat/unhealthy ones.  Not a situation I am happy with at all!!  Hence my conversation with my daughter.  Now, I am a private person, I keep most things to myself, sharing them with just a few people (if any!).  But I had also been toying with the idea of a blog, maybe not one for anyone to read (buuuuut, what’s the point of a blog then????) but keep it up, keep it private and maybe one day be strong enough (mentally) to open it up.  I talked about how it could be a journey about getting fit.  Not necessarily losing weight, just getting back to feeling better.  I would like that, weight loss would also be nice but just feeling better would be good.  And I laughingly said that I could name it “Cate’s great escape” with Cate being my inner thin person finally being let out.  Do you think that’s strange? Do you not have a pet name for your inner person?  I love the author Terry Pratchett and in one of his books, he wrote about a fat person with a thin person inside, Agnes and Perdita.  I loved it and promptly decided I’d name my inner person Cate.

But is this just a blog about weight loss (getting fit!) No, that I felt would be too limiting.  I am in interested person, interestED, not necessarily interestING, ha!  I love learning and I generally love sharing what I’ve learned.  Not just about diet/exercise but also about crafts, books to read, learning about and dealing with autism, homeschooling, writing, and just anything and everything else that grabs my attention.  Oooo, Shiny!!  It will, probably, be mainly about getting fit, that will be my main focus I think.  Mainly because its what in the forefront of my brain right now.  Wow, I use the word “main” a lot!  (Note to self, find thesaurus!!)

If you’ve survived my words this long then hey, thanks!!  Feel free to stick around, come back and read more later.  I warn you that right now I’m probably gonna be posting a lot.  I am like that with a new toy, then after the shiny wears off not so much.  You might find yourself grateful for that J or you might find yourself wishing I’d write more.  Let me know.  I’ll try to figure out how to post links to websites I like, photos, recipes and just anything else I’m currently absorbed in.  I hope to anyway.  Patience is strongly required and requested though,  my brain has a bad habit of freezing when it is first presented with a challenge, it takes me awhile to unfrost it and make it wrap around the problem.

In the meantime, in your own life I wish you well!  Oh and feel free to post comments, I can’t promise I will reply but I’ll try 🙂  And tips, tips would be good (not $$ tips tho that would be okay with me too!) but tips on how to do this blog better or easier or whatever.

michelle lee

with you in health and wellness

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