Aunt Jennifer’s Chicken Pot Pie

My Aunt Jennifer is one of the best cooks I know, so when a few years ago when she passed down her old recipe binder to me (I guess she was updating her recipes into a new one), I felt like I inherited a treasure book of secrets.  I always think of Chicken Pot Pie as the quintessential meal that people make to fill up someone’s freezer when they’re going through a rough time and so it was no surprise to me that Jennifer’s recipe was for 2 pies with the directions: “Make one and freeze one to give away.”

Yes ma’am.

This recipe is super easy, but I was really happy with how it tasted.  I put in a few more veggies than it called for, and it made for a very filling meal.

Side bar: I literally cannot eat or make CPP without singing a little diddy to myself of “chicken pot chicken pot chicken pot pie.”  My HS best friend (Hi, Kris!) and I had this as an inside joke, and like most good inside jokes, I had no clue where it originated from.  Enter google.  It took me about 3 minutes to find out it was from an episode of Just Shoot Me, where David Cross pretends to be Slow Donnie in order to get attention. 

It’s at 0:57.  And now, it can be stuck in your head too.  You’re welcome.

Anyways!  Cooking, right?  Yes, cooking.

For most of the recipes I made this week, I had boiled a lot of chicken and then shredded it.  This went into these pies, the tetrazini and the buffalo chicken sandwich. 

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Aunt Jennifer’s Chicken Pot Pie
14 oz frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, peas & green bean mix)
1/3 C butter
1/3 C flour
1/3 C chopped onion
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 3/4 c chicken broth
2/3 c milk
3 c cooked shredded chicken (approx 2-3 chicken breasts)
2 pie crusts*

1. Melt butter
2. Add flour onion, salt and pepper.  Stir quickly to dissolve flour lumps.
3. Add broth and milk, stirring constantly.  Bring to a boil for 1 minute.
4. Add chicken and veggies.  Stir for a minute to thicken.
5. Pour mixture into 2 pie shells.
7. Bake at 425 for 40 minutes.  After the first 15 minutes, put tin foil on the edge of the pie crust to keep it from burning.

*I buy the Pillsbury pie crusts that are in the fridge/dairy section.  Take them out of the fridge before you prep to come to room temp.  Directions are on the box.  You will need a pie dish to make this in, and if you’re giving one away you can usually find a disposable tin one with a lid in the plastics aisle.  You can also buy the frozen pie crusts already in a tin (buy 2) and 1 box of the Pillsbury dough as the top crusts for each of the pies.

I have also seen CPP recipes where, instead of using a top layer of pie crust, you use the Pillsburgy crescent rolls and lay it out in a lattice shape across the top.  This is intended to cut down on how much pastry dough is used in order to make the recipe a little healthier.  I’ve done this in the past, and it does turn out fine.  So if you wanted to healthify this a little bit, you could do that. 

I decided to make it the traditional way this time though.

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Before & After.  The after-after?  An empty pie plate.  Yum!

If you freeze or give-away, include the instructions to reheat in the oven at 350 for 15-20 minutes.  For a truly authentic experience, be sure to add a Well, bless your heart as you deliver it to a friend or neighbor in need.

The next few day’s posts will be featured in one post at the end of the week explaining how I cooked *all* these meals in one day.  Yea, I’m superwoman.  No big deal.

Tomato Soup: I’m Obsessed.

Something fortuitous happened to me this week.  I had been couponing a little too aggressively and as a result, I ended up with 7 cans of crushed or diced tomatoes on my shelf.  I don’t really like stockpiling food, and all these cans of tomatoes were bugging me.  Since I don’t really care for pasta dishes, I wasn’t sure how I was going to use up all the tomatoes.  I went to AllRecipes to do a search by ingredients for crushed tomatoes when I came up on this recipe for Tomato Basil Soup.

It’s no secret I love tomato soup.  But I’ve gotten picky.  I don’t really care for the Campbell’s condensed version (although in a pinch, it will do… especially if there is grilled cheese to dunk in it.)  My craving is best satiated by Panera’s version – slightly creamy, a little hint of basil, and great tomato chunk texture.  This recipe looked like a perfect replica. 

I only made a half batch to see if I liked it, and I made a few tweaks by cutting back some of the butter that seemed extraneous.  It was so good.  I know exactly where the rest of those canned tomatoes are headed. 

Here’s the half-batch recipe (made 4 1 cup servings), with my tweaks.  You can still see the original in the link above:

  • 1 (28 oz) can of crushed tomatoes
  • 8 oz chicken broth
  • 10 basil leaves, minced**
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 T butter

**I didn’t have fresh basil on hand but I had minced, frozen basil on hand.  I get it in the freezer section of Harris Teeter.  This is the brand I use.

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How to:

1. Add the can of crushed tomatoes to the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

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2. Add basil and sugar.  Reduce heat to low and stir in cream and butter.  Stir until butter has melted.

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3. Serve with homemade croutons!  (See below).

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Homemade Croutons

This isn’t really even a recipe… just a quick how to.  Cut up any stale bread into bite sized pieces.  Put in a ziploc bag and add just a drizzle of olive oil.  Add any type of seasoning you want (I like just a pinch of salt and dried basil).  Pour on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 10 minutes.  Flip, and bake for another 10 minutes.  They’ll keep in a tupperware or plastic bag for about a week.

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Enjoy!  I apologize in advance to Panera on Penny Rd.  You will probably see a substantial drop in your tomato soup business now.

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(Oh hey, stats!  In case you’re counting.  Per 1 cup serving: 217 cals, 14.5g fat, 628 mg sodium, 6g fiber, 6g protein.  Croutons will depend on how much bread and OO you use.  I used 3 oz bread + 2 T olive oil.  Per serving (4 svgs): 116 cals.) 

This Little Light of Mine

Last night I gave a talk at a community center for a small group of people – a support group called RAPP (Relatives Acting as Parents Program.)  I had been asked to give the talk a few months ago, back when I was working at my other job and had readily agreed.  All week long I’d been dragging my feet on prepping for it, and was really just not feeling it.  It’d been a hectic week, and I was mentally drained from work and the last thing I wanted to do was put on my happy face and my high heels and talk.

However, as soon as my PowerPoint flashed up I felt it – the little butterflies I get in my stomach whenever I start talking about something I’m passionate about.  In this case, I was giving a talk I’ve given a few other times – about how people who are caretakers often neglect themselves.  It’s a talk I gave about a year ago at the NC Association of Volunteer Coordinators  – that time I was in a ballroom with 50 people behind a podium with a microphone and oh, man I was digging giving that talk.  I was on fire.  But, I felt the same thing last night though – even though I was in a community center with an aluminum table, my PowerPoint flashed on a cement wall with maybe a dozen people, expectantly looking at me. 

When I first started working in wellness, I was really in touch (as my life coach self would say) with the reason why I wanted to do this.  It’s a complex bundle of my past experiences – my own struggle with my weight and eating through high school and college, mixed with the experience of becoming suddenly aware of how easy it is to take health for granted when I was diagnosed with colitis – that provide the kindling for my passion for wellness.  I know that for me, if I’m not healthy, I’m not anything else.  I’m not a good wife, I’m not a good sister, a good friend, a good doggy-momma, a good person when I don’t feel well.  Being healthy, for me, gets the junk out of the way so that I can be my best self. 

There’s a quote – cleanliness is next to Godliness – and whenever I hear that, I think “no, scratch that… healthiness is next to Godliness.” Being clean is lovely, but being healthy – feeling your best, feeling unlimited by your physical state – is so powerful.  I really feel that being healthy allows you to be your best self and to fulfill whatever purpose it is that you’ve been called to. 

Teaching people about wellness feels like something bigger than myself – it feels like I’m giving people a tool to get closer to being their best self, and ultimately, to find their own purpose.  I know that sounds a little lofty, but on the days that I’m “feeling” it, I know it’s because I’m doing something greater than myself.  I consider my understanding of motivation of behavior, my complete lack of competitive nature (which allows me to be a good coach, slowly easing people along to their goals), and my ability to innately hear things that people don’t say out loud to be gifts that I’ve been blessed with.  There’s some days I don’t want to do my job.  Honestly, it’s hard.  It’s hard and it’s exhausting sometimes, to encourage and lift up people who are entrenched in unhealthy patterns.  But every now and then, I get one of those blessed moments when I realize it’s not about me – doing this job is not something I chose to do, it’s something I was chosen to do.

I didn’t feel like going to that talk last night, but sometimes it’s the things that you don’t feel like doing that you need to do.  I left feeling reconnected to my work and grateful that I have a purpose I feel passionate about.

Teriyaki Tailgate Wings

Football season has kicked off, which means … tailgates!  We had our first tailgate for Wake Forest’s season opener last night and I had been really craving chicken wings… so I decided to venture into making them myself.  Now chicken wings certainly don’t make anyone’s list of healthiest foods, but I figured if I could find a recipe with a great sauce and bake them, caramelizing the sauce would give it a little bit of a crispy outside without having to deep-fry them.

I don’t know what I was more excited about: Wake Forest’s 53-13 opening day win or discovering that chicken wings can indeed be very tasty without being deep-fried.  Score!

(Ok, that’s the last of my sports jokes.  They’ll only get me so far.)

Try these wings the next time you’ve got a tailgate or potluck to go, and no one will know that you’ve saved them from deep-fried madness.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

You’ll want to prepare the sauce first.  In a large saucepan (not turned on yet), add together:

1 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
3 T rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 red hot chile pepper, halved (remove seeds if you want it to be as hot)
2″ piece of ginger root, peeled and cut in half (it will be a large chunk)
5 garlic cloves, cut in half
Turn up to a boil, then switch to simmer.  *Keep your eye on this.  If it bubbles over, you have one sticky stove.  Not that I know from experience or anything…*

Sauce Fixins'

Making the Sauce

While it’s simmering….

Cover your cookie sheet with tinfoil.  This sauce makes a sticky mess, and it’s a whole lot easier to clean up this way.  Then take about 2 dozen chicken wings, rinsed and patted dry, and lay them out on your cookie sheet.   Spray with cooking spray or drizzle a little bit of olive oil, and then season with a little bit of salt and pepper.  Bake for 15 minutes, flip and bake for another 15.  (Total cook time: 30 minutes.)

Ready for the oven!

The sauce may take 30 minutes to really thicken, and it may even take a litte bit longer.  Remember, the thicker it is, the easier it will be to have it coat the wings.

Once you feel like the sauce is thick enough, put the wings in a mixing bowl and pour the sauce over.  Toss to coat.  I used tongs to do this.

Saucing the wings

(I also used the tongs to pluck out the ginger root, chile pepper and garlic clove.  Didn’t want someone to bite into one of those!)

Put the wings back on the cookie sheet, and bake for another 10-12 minutes to caramelize the sauce.  Reserve any extra sauce.  If you can, serve when hot.  I actually did make these the night before, and the day of the tailgate I just stuck them in the oven for about 5 minutes before we left to warm them up.  Extra sauce can then be poured over them.

Teriyaki Wings!

Sit back and watch the crowd cheer!

(Oops.  That one snuck in there.)

Pro tip:  Bring napkins, or even better, Wet Wipes with you.  Sticky fingers will abound.

Stats: I wouldn’t claim these as healthy per se, but they certainly are a healthier version than the original.  The sauce is fairly high in sodium, which is tempered by using the low sodium soy sauce but the ketchup and hoisin sauce still contribute to the sodium count.  75 calories per wing, 3.7 g fat, 426 mg sodium.  (Teriyaki wing from BBW: 100 cals per wing, 7g fat, 550 mg of sodium.)

Giveaway! Free Registration to StartUp Princess Touchpoint Conference.

Update: Thanks for your interest…giveaway has closed! 

Go ahead, make me jealous.  Go on and go to this conference and hear some of the most fabulous women in business today.  Network with other incredible women.  Get inspired to make your business pop this year.  Learn, grow, connect, and come home bursting at the seams with inspiration.

Just don’t tell me anything about it because I’ll be too insanely jealous that you’re there.

No wait, tell me everything.

Ok, so here’s the deal.  I registered for this conference a few months ago that I was psyched out of my mind to attend.  And then…. I got this other couldn’t-turn-down opportunity… and now I can’t go.

SO!  Here’s hoping one of you out there will go and enjoy every bit of the conference in my place.

Here’s details for the conference: http://www.startupprincess.com/touchpoint/about.html

Leave a comment if you’d like to go including information on how I can get in touch with you.  If there’s more than one of you interested, I’ll do a random number generator to choose.  I’ll close the comments on Friday September 10th.

Good Enough

When is “good enough” good enough?

The answer: almost all the time.

I don’t know who made up these rules: “No pain, no gain.”  “IF you didn’t’ come to win, you shouldn’t have come at all.”   Listen, giving 150% is awesome.  It really is.  But if the expectation is that you HAVE to give 150% to play at all, then you might be missing out on the game.

Most of us have many things we’d like to start doing or do more of.  Exercise.  Cooking.  Writing.  Meditating.  Blogging. (Ahem, self).  Putting the new website out there.  Starting a business.  Networking.  Updating the resume.  Spending more time with the kids.  Eating healthy.  The list of self-improvement can be long and daunting.  But often there exists the expectation that unless we can’t do something all out, we shouldn’t bother doing it all.  Or, that we should wait until it’s the right time.  Newsflash: it’s never the right time.  Perfectionism breeds procrastination.

When is “good enough” good enough?

Let me give you an example from one of my coaching clients (given with her permission, of course.)  My client and I were talking about exercise, and why she wasn’t feeling excited about exercising right now.  We were going through different scenarios when she mentioned “You know, I don’t mind working out.  I like being at the gym.  It’s just how I feel afterwards – like I need a 2 hour nap – that makes me want to avoid going.”

Well, that shed some light on the subject!  I know I would avoid going too if a 1 hour gym session led to a 2 hour nap… who has time to do that?  All kudos to Jillian Michael – you all know I adore her – but if you feel like you need to work out like you’ve got Jillian screaming at you every time, you just might find your motivation to keep going would wane too.

This persistent idea that “if you’re not going to give it your all, then don’t give it at all” can sometimes do more harm than good.  I fully recognize the value of pushing yourself past the limits you’ve set for yourself – but we can only push past those limits if we show up consistently enough to test them!

My client mentioned that there was a park about a mile away from her house, and she really liked jogging to it.  However, she always felt like that wasn’t enough, so she hadn’t really considered that an option.   Sure, giving 150% is awesome.  But doesn’t 50% still beat 0%?  With this new mindset in place to try out, she could feel her resistance to exercise start to diminish.

You’re always capable of doing more than you realize… but you’ll never get a chance to find out if you don’t create a situation that encourages you to just do in the first place.   Turns out that “good enough” is a perfectly “good enough” place to start.

Making Your Own Vinaigrette

Don’t worry, this just sounds impressive and like it will require a lot of effort.  It won’t.  (But other people will think it did and that’s okay.)

A few weeks ago, I gave you a recipe for homemade balsamic vinaigrette on my post for roasted vegetables.  Then I made a video of how to make it.  And forgot to post it.

So just ignore the part where I said I shared this recipe with you last week, because it was actually a month ago.  Better late than never.  Go make yourself some salad dressing, people.

Texas Caviar

The first time I came across the entry in her food log – “Texas caviar” – I didn’t think too much of it.  After all, as a Northerner transplanted to the South I’m used to coming across things in my clients’ food logs that I’m not entirely familiar with.  Succotash? Butter beans?  Banana pudding, fried okra, and even barbecue – all culinary creations I didn’t know existed until I crossed the Mason-Dixon Line.

Then I saw it everyday on her log for a week.  “Is she eating caviar EVERY DAY?”  I finally asked and she turned over the recipe.

Turns out the very same recipe is one of my best friend’s “go to” dishes for potlucks as well, only she calls it by the slightly less PC-term “Redneck Caviar.”  Whatever you want to call it, it’s easy, it’s delicious and best of all, it’s healthy.

The fixins:

  • 1 can of black-eyed peas (15 oz)
  • 1 can of black beans (15 oz)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 jalapenos, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • salt + pepper
  • 1/2 cup light Italian dressing or Lime dressing

Everything gathered!

Chop the Toms

And the Onions

Give it a stir....

Add dressing, salt + pepper... and chill!

In case you’re not a visual learner:

  1. Chop tomatoes, onions, green onions, jalapenos and green pepper.  Combine.
  2. Add rinsed black-eyed peas and black beans.
  3. Toss lightly.
  4. Add 1/2 cup salad dressing, a pinch of salt and pepper and the minced garlic.
  5. Allow it to chill at least 2 hours, up to overnight, to blend flavors together.

I like this just as “as is” as a side dish and with the beans in it, you could almost have it be a light meal by itself.  You can also use this a dip, which is how it’s mostly common served.  Of course, best served on a patio on a warm summer night with good friends and cold beers!

(When you look up the calorie count for this, you’ll find a range of 20 cals-200 calories per serving.  This depends mainly on two things: how many servings you make out of it and how much dressing you use.  Play around with it to figure out what works for you.  If I’m eating it as a side dish, I get about 20 servings out of my batch at 140 calories, 10 g of protein and 9 g of fiber.)

Enjoy, ya’ll.

Scones

I’ve been on a baking kick lately, which is highly unusual for me as I much prefer the less-precision-required art of cooking to the scientific act of baking.  However, I had a container of blueberries that were getting just past their grab n’ eat stage, and I thought scones were the perfect way to use them. 

This is a recipe from my go-to cookbook, The All New Good Housekeeping Cook Book.  It’s not a fancy cookbook or specific to any type of cuisine or diet or chef, but it’s got all the basics in there as well as good pictures.  I also like that since it was my mom’s copy, it has notes from her written in the margins and inside cover.

If you buy it, yours won’t have these lovely notes until you lend it to my mom for a year or so. 

So, where were we?  Scones!  I didn’t take pictures of the how-to process, because it was a spur of the moment decision to make them.  And in fact, it wasn’t until the FINAL piece was left that I remembered to grab my camera.

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This is the basic scone recipe, you can add whatever fruits or nuts you might desire after you’ve mixed all the other ingredients together.

2 cups all purpose flour
2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold butter (1 stick), cut into pieces
3/4 cup milk
1 large egg, separated

1. Preheat oven to 375.  In a large bowl, combine flour, 2 T of sugar, baking powder and salt.  With pastry blender or knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  (Note: I don’t own a pastry blender and have never been very successful at the two knives thing.  I usually use my hands here, and try not to over mix.)
2. In one-cup measuring cup, mix milk and egg yolk until blended with a fork.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in milk mixture.  Stir until combined.
3. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead 5-6 times, until smooth.  With lightly floured hands, pat into a round cake.  Transfer to ungreased cookie sheet.
4. With a lightly floured knife, cut dough into 8 wedges (do not separate wedges).  In a small cup, lightly beat egg white.  Brush scones with egg white and sprinkle with remaining sugar.  Bake until golden brown, 22 to 25 minutes.  Separate wedges, serve warm or cool on a wire rack.

Stats: 260 cals, 5g protein, 30g carb, 13g fat, 1g fiber, 360mg sodium.

I feel slightly bad that my Mom just emailed me for this recipe….because she would have it if I hadn’t stolen her book.  Sorry, Mom.  Next time I see you… I’ll make you some scones.  xoxo

Lessons From Obedience School

Sitting on the car seat next to me is 3 pages of detailed, hand-written notes.  I keep eye-balling them suspiciously.  They’re coming home with me but I haven’t fully decided what happens after that.  These are notes I took today during a call with a dog behavioral trainer named Karen.  I could tell immediately when talked to Karen that she knew what she was talking about and that the program she was walking me through would work.  You know, your gut will tell you when someone is being a snake charmer and when they are truly passionate and knowledgeable, and Karen was definitely the second.

If you read the “life” section of my blog, then you probably know about my dog Buddy.  We got Buddy as a five year old rescue last year, not fully realizing the extent of his separation anxiety.  It’s been a challenging year – cleaning “bio-hazardous” materials out of many surfaces of my home, putting my sewing skills to the test to repair curtains, filling scratches in dry wall and last but not least, repairing teeth.  (I did not repair the teeth, of course… paying for them to be repaired.)  We’ve tried many different strategies, including both medicinal and multiple behavioral strategies but hadn’t had a great deal of progress in the year we had owned him.  And of course, we had fallen head over paws in love with him so there was no going back – we’re pretty desperate to help our Buds.

I could tell immediately upon talking to Karen that her plan had the potential to be very effective.  So why was I glancing over at my copious pile of notes with something that could only be described as hesitation?

To tell you the truth, Karen’s plan sounded like a lot of work.  Not hours upon hours and not “miss a day and fail” but definitely consistent, daily effort.  It would require a lifestyle change.  And I couldn’t help but wonder, were Matt and I ready to commit to that kind of change?  But wait… didn’t we desperately want this outcome?  Didn’t I say I would do anything to make this happen?  Didn’t I swear if Cesar would come visit me, I would pay for his plane ticket from LA?

It occurred to me that perhaps what I was feeling was similar to what many of my clients might feel when it first dawns on them that the outcome they so desperately want, would do anything for is going to require consistent, daily effort.  A lifestyle change.

Whether it’s weight loss, a career change, creating a less stressful lifestyle or altering an anxious doggy’s behavior, we know intuitively it’s going to take effort.  So how come when we hold a plan in our hot little hands we often balk?

At first glance, it seems a simple cost vs. benefit analysis.  Do I want the outcome (benefit) bad enough to invest the time, money or effort (cost) that it will take to get there?  The urgency of our desire weighs into that equation – if you have 10 pounds to lose, do you want the outcome less than someone who has 80 pounds?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  And some of it depends on the cost: if it took 10 minutes a day, would you be more willing to move forward more readily than if it took 40 minutes a day?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

I’ve seen both of sides of that equation surprise me: I’ve seen people move forward at great cost, and halt at seemingly trivial costs. I’ve seen those with little sense of urgency blaze forward, and the most desperate freeze up.  It leads me to believe there’s more at play than a simple cost vs. benefits.

I think what really determines whether or not we move forward with a plan is our readiness to face something big: the fear of failure.  What if I invest the time and the money and the effort… and it doesn’t work?  What if I fail miserably?  What if I disappoint myself?  What if I disappoint others?  Embarrass myself?  Frustrate myself?  Fear of failure rears it’s ugly voice and says: “It won’t work.  It won’t be enough.  It won’t last.  Don’t try it.”

What holds us back is not our lack of urgency, not the size of the goal and not even the cost, be it time, money or effort.  What holds us back is our fear of failing.  Look deeply into whatever change you’ve been desperately wanting to make.  If you’ve stopped and started, or never started, or started and wavered – peel back some of the layers and look fear right in the eyes.  (It often backs down when you do this.)  Ask yourself, what do I really have to lose?  Maybe some time.  Maybe some money.  Maybe some ego.  But if I succeed, what do I gain?  Not just the outcome you want, but that swagger that comes from moving past the boundary lines you’ve drawn for yourself.

If you don’t try it, then you can always blame being in the same place on that – not making any effort.  You can always hold the thought in your back of your head “well one day, when I’m ready…. But until then, at least I know why I’m here.”  If you try a plan and it doesn’t work, then what?  What if you invest the time and the money and the effort and it’s not the right one?  THEN WHAT?

A week ago, I didn’t know Karen existed.  I thought I had exhausted every behavioral strategy (and medicinal strategy) for treating a dog with separation anxiety.  I felt like I had read every book, every article, every perspective on rehabbing an anxious dog.  I was wrong.

If the approach you try doesn’t work, it’s not your last hope.  It doesn’t mean you are doomed forever to be stuck in the same position you are now.  But do you know what will doom you to stay there?

Doing absolutely nothing at all.

And if you stop to think about it, that’s even scarier than feeling.  Which means you really have nothing to lose if you move forward.

What's this new "plan" you speak of? Hmm?