Any Day Can Be Mardi Gras

Our family Wednesday night theme dinner last week was Mardi Gras.  We were late.  Mardi Gras this year was celebrated 8 days earlier, Fat Tuesday.  But, who cares?  Why can’t any day can be Mardi Gras?

James R. Creecy in his book Scenes in the South, and Other Miscellaneous Pieces describes New
Orleans Mardi Gras in 1835:

Shrove Tuesday is a day to be remembered by strangers in New Orleans, for that is the day for fun, frolic, and comic masquerading. All of the mischief of the city is alive and wide awake in active operation.

Fun and frolic is certainly one way to get your kids engaged in enjoying a family dinner together.  Usually celebrated on fat Tuesday, to prepare for lent I feel that you can use this at home to celebrate fun and celebrate being goofy.  Unintentionally, we celebrated it just in time to kick off our beach body readiness. Just about 30 days before spring break this was our last binge before bikini season.  In a way, it was our own Fat Tuesday.

Our menu:
-bayou shrimp
-lobster bisque with crusty bread
-healthier chicken and Andouille jambalaya

To set the stage for a “party” instead of dinner we had the Dirty Dozen Brass Band station on Pandora and fancy kid cocktails.

Healthier Chicken and Andouille Jambalaya

Printable Version


  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 cups chopped onions
  • 1 cup chopped bell peppers
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons cayenne
  • 1 pound chicken andouille, sausage, cut crosswise into slices
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 cups brown rice
  • 7 cups water
  • 1 cup chopped green onions
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  • Heat the oil in a large cast-iron Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, bell peppers, 2 teaspoons of the salt, and 1 teaspoon of the cayenne. Stirring often, brown the vegetables for about 20 minutes, or until they are caramelized and dark brown in color. Scrape the bottom and sides of the pot. Add the sausage and cook, stirring often for 10 to 15 minutes, scraping the bottom and sides of the pot to loosen any browned particles.
  • Season the chicken with the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon cayenne. Add the chicken and the bay leaves to the pot. Brown the chicken for 8 to 10 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pot.
  • Add the rice and stir for 2 to 3 minutes to coat evenly. Add the water, stir to combine, and cover. Cook over medium heat for 45 to 60 minutes, without stirring, or until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed. Remove the pot from the heat and let stand, covered, for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the bay leaves.
  • Stir in the green onions and serve.
  • Notes: resist the temptation to add additional seasonings. There is something magical about the bay and cayenne combination.
  • This recipe is adapted from

Hurricane Punch


  • 1 6oz can pineapple juice
  • 2 oranges peeled
  • 1 lime peeled
  • maraschino cherries and juice
  • 1 cup ice
  • Place juice, oranges, lime and ice in blender and blend until smooth. Add to cocktail glass and top with cherries and cherry juice.

Wednesday Night is Family Dinner Party Night

Parents, you know how hard it is to get the entire family seated in the same room, at the same time, to enjoy a “real” meal together.  The 9 year old boy just wants to play xbox.  15 year old girls just want to text.  Frankly, you’re too tired to get it all done, so you give up before you even begin.

Last week I invented  the family themed dinner party.  It was Mexican night.  We had fish tacos (we made a cheese quesadilla for the 9 year old), beans and rice, homemade guacamole, fancy frozen drinks and we found a Spanish mix on Pandora.  It worked.  30 minutes of togetherness.

The next week, Italian.  I found this fantastic recipe from Bon Appetit.  It is super easy and looks like something you would get at a fine dining restaurant.  I served it with pasta, white bean salad, and kale chips.  We rolled out white craft paper on the table, added a few crayons, put the kids drinks in wine glasses and Pavarotti on Pandora (the boy hated the music).

“Strange to see how a good dinner and feasting reconciles everybody.”
― Samuel Pepys, The Diary of Samuel Pepys    

Salmon with fennel and blood oranges

Printable Version


  • 1 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 blood orange, very thinly sliced, seeds removed
  • 1 Meyer or regular lemon, very thinly sliced, seeds removed
  • 1 red Fresno chile or jalapeño, with seeds, thinly sliced
  • 4 sprigs dill, plus more for serving
  • Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 2-lb. skinless salmon fillet, preferably center-cut
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • Sea salt


  • Preheat oven to 275°. Toss fennel, orange slices, lemon slices, chile, and 4 dill sprigs in a shallow 3-qt. baking dish; season with kosher salt and pepper. Season salmon with kosher salt and place on top of fennel mixture. Pour oil over.
  • Roast until salmon is just cooked through (the tip of a knife will slide through easily and flesh will be slightly opaque), 30–40 minutes for medium-rare.
  • Transfer salmon to a platter, breaking it into large pieces as you go. Spoon fennel mixture and oil from baking dish over; discard dill sprigs. Season with sea salt and pepper and top with fresh dill sprigs.
  • From
How do you get everyone together to share a meal?

It’s Friday, Be Happy

It’s Friday, be happy for no reason today, just because you can.  Channel your inner child and smile and giggle and laugh for no reason.  Enjoy your day!

The Difference Between Won’t and Can’t; Raising Kids Today

“The scholars who research happiness suggest that more money stops making people happier at a family income of around seventy-five thousand dollars a year. After that, what economists call “diminishing marginal returns” sets in. If your family makes seventy-five thousand and your neighbor makes a hundred thousand, that extra twenty-five thousand a year means that your neighbor can drive a nicer car and go out to eat slightly more often. But it doesn’t make your neighbor happier than you, or better equipped to do the thousands of small and large things that make for being a good parent.”  ~    Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

I find that as a leader I am more often wanting growth and development for people more than they want it themselves.  For instance, I want so badly for them to want more, be more, do more, and to have more. What I have found is, when I run into an individual that is working on self development I get a little overboard with excitement.  Like the case with the 4 Hour Body.  When a friend was excited about reading it I bought it and read it in one day.  So, when a colleague mentioned he was reading David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell I downloaded it immediately on Audible.  Reading the reviews and doing a little research on the book I found that it was a perfect fit for discussing in a reading group on LinkedIn. If you would like to join in on the discussion click here Art Van Reading Group.  The group is open to everybody.  We only ask that you don’t just visit; you participate!

The Laws of Attraction

The Laws of Attraction (you draw to you what you think about) were at work when I listened to Malcolm discuss how happiness can increase when income increases, but only to a certain point.  At that point any additional income is meaningless to your overall happiness and in fact can make matters more difficult for you.  In the case of parenting the difficulty comes in having to explain to your children why we won’t do something versus why we can’t do something.

Can’t is Easier.

Can’t is easy for both parties.  The deliverer of the message simply cannot do what is requested and is not faced with having to make a decision at all.  They only have to explain that it can’t be done.  The receiver just has to understand that can’t is can’t.  Disappointing, but there is no bad guy.

Won’t Travels a Much Slipperier Slope.

Won’t involves decision making and influence.  The requested party must decide and then be able to defend the decision.  It also requires the discipline necessary to stick to your guns.  The requester must be open minded and able to accept no for an answer.  Not so easy for young ears who want what they want when they want it.

Here’s an example from my own experience.

I was confronted with this on Sunday night.  We were shopping for school pants for my son.  He has blown through the knees in all of his and while struggling to get him into anything but athletic wear my daughter asked for a pair of Converse.  If we couldn’t purchase the shoes I could have explained to her that we simply can’t buy the shoes.  It would have been honest and easily understood.  Disappointing, but end of story. Instead, I was faced with having to explain to her why we won’t buy the Converse.  Not as easy to do and not as easily understood.  In fact, I must have blown it because the Converse matter came up the next day.

How do you balance working parent guilt with not spoiling your children?  Comment below.

Day 3 – Losing 6 Pounds in 2 Weeks

We are never so much disposed to quarrel with others as when we are dissatisfied with ourselves.”  ~ William Hazlitt

We are always our toughest critics.  When starting any weightloss endeavor you must have a goal and a timeline that are reasonable and you must cut yourself some slack in the middle.  Day 3 has not been my best day, but I am not going to sweat it.  I was thrown off of my game by a snow day – the 7th snow day this season – and I had a fun day with the kids and got to try out a new recipe.  Not the best day for moving me towards my goal, but still a fantastic day.

Here are my measurements using the 4 Keys to Successful Weight Management

Day 3

Sustenance – fuel

Breakfast -2 pecan waffles
Snack       -6 dried apricots
Lunch      -Starbuck’s reduced fat coffee cake
                  Grande non-fat latte
Snack      -CT’s spicy V8
Dinner     –Chicken Thighs with Harissa Chick Peas
                  Couscous (1/2 cup)
                 Roasted asparagus (6 stalks)  

Sweat – exercise

mall walking

Sip – hydration

16 ounces water
16 ounces coffee (bad)

Slumber – sleep

8 hours, well rested

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