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Fruit

1 Jan

On the eve of 2016, I won’t go to a glamorous party.  I am not heading out to a swanky dinner.  No, New Years Eve, for me, is about quiet gratitude, thoughtful prayer, and personal peace.  This post is a couple of years old, but I am posting it again.  It still feels relevant to life.  Thanks for reading it.  Happy New Year!

It is now 2013. I don’t really make New Years Resolutions, but I do make some goals. I also reflect on the past, and think about how to improve my future. My journey to love, loyalty, forgiveness, and appreciation continues, as does the journey to discover myself. A goal for my journey is to make it a joyful one. So as I do that this year, I want to say thank you.

Thank you to those who told me I couldn’t. From you I learned that I can.

Thank you to those who gossiped. From you I learned how to hold my friends dear, and how important it is to keep my mouth shut.

Thank you to those with no faith. From you I learned that God is central in my life, and that my faith runs deep.

Thank you to those who told me that I am weak. From you I learned fierce inner strength and confidence. For you allowed me to dig down and discover that I am stronger than I ever imagined.

Thank you to those that told me I was ugly. From you I found my inner beauty.

Thank you to those that put up barriers in my life. From you, I learned how to tear down walls and fight for what I want.

Thank you to those who told me that I am not a good mother. From you I learned that my commitment to motherhood is beautifully imperfect, and perfectly loving.

Thank you to those that put me second (or more accurately third, fourth or fifth) . From you I learn to put myself first.

Thank you to those who are loud and demand attention. From you I learned to be quiet.

Thank you to those who created drama in my life. From you I am learning to truly appreciate peace.

Thank you to those who have an overpowering sense of entitlement. From you I am learning to appreciate everything that I have.

Thank you to those who told me to quit. From you I am learning perseverance.

Thank you to those who brag. From you I learn humility.

Thank you to those that lied to me. From you I am learning the importance of the truth.

Thank you to those who are false and phony. From you I am learning the importance of being genuine.

Thank you to the people who showed me kindness not because I am needy but because you are good.

Thank you to those who extended generosity, for you have enabled me to more openly give to others.

Thank you for those of you that protected me not because I am weak but because you are loyal.

Thank you to those that shared their strength with me during times when I wavered. For you give me the power to be a pillar of strength to someone else.

I am no different from anyone else. I have been hurt. I have felt pain of deceit, the heart break of divorce, cruel disloyalty, and the sting of failure. From that I rise up. Push forward. Continue on. I give thanks to those by my side, and for those that, it seems, turned against me. From everyone whose life has touched mine, I learn. It is easy to be thankful for the great people in your life and to love them. The challenge lies in loving and learning from every body else.

This blog addresses mostly food. Today it is about fruits. The fruits of the spirit.  So I enter this year with gratitude, an open spirit, and prepared to learn more lessons!  I am grateful to everyone that has touched my life and continues to shape the person I am, and the person I am becoming.  So to you I say thank you!

Beet the Heat

16 Aug

Beets are the best.  Roasted.  Pickled.  Sautéed.  Cold.  Hot.  Beets are great as a side dish with balsamic vinegar and goat cheese.  They are delicious roasted along side other vegetables.  I’ve even eaten them right out of the can.  Being raised in the midwest, vegetables were always on our dinner table, but somehow beets got overlooked. So how did I get hooked?

My love affair with this herbaceous plant began in adulthood.  The first time I tried beets was a happy surprise.  I was tired of my usual repertoire of veggies and decided to try beets.  In the grocery store one day, I impulsively grabbed a fresh bunch of beets with the intention of simply roasting them.

I brought them home, put the beets on the counter, and stared them down.  Hhhmmmm.  This would be an adventure.  I washed them and laid them on paper towels.  Off came the green tops.  I peeled the fresh beets, placed them on a baking sheet, drizzled some olive oil over them, and into the oven they went.  The beets cooked up beautifully.  One taste and I was hooked.

But the thought of those greens going to waste was unthinkable.  Out of curiosity, I pinched off a green and popped it into my mouth expecting it to be tough and woody.  I was delighted to find the greens tender and flavorful.  Oh heck yes!  I would find a way to eat the greens too!  That was many seasons ago…

Now summer is on the horizon. I am beginning to think grilled, chilled and easy.   I do not want my oven on this time of year.  What is the best way to enjoy beets this season?  Piled on a garden fresh crisp salad!

But first, let’s chat for a second about the virtues of beets.  Some would say they are not a desirable or sexy vegetable, or even a popular one.  But since they are packed full of vitamins and minerals, and so versatile, beets cannot be overlooked.

The health benefits of including beets in the diet are numerous.  They are a good source of fiber, have lots of vitamin C, and are high in folate and potassium.  Beets are also a rich source of antioxidants, compounds that prevent disease and the damaging effects of oxidation of cells throughout your body.  They are very low in fat, and certainly don’t need a lot of added fat to make them taste good.

While they come in many varieties, we most often see the “blood turnip”, or red beet. They are a root vegetable, like a carrot or potato and they like to grow in cool weather.  They are available canned all year long, but we see them seasonally featured in the spring and the fall.

And remember how I said it was not considered a sexy vegetable?  Well think again.  Fruits and vegetables, like herbs, were used in ancient times as medicine.  One of the first known medicinal uses for the beet was as an aphrodisiac in ancient Greece.  There.  I said it.

Anywhoooo….beets are very easy to prepare.  If they are fresh, they can simply be peeled, drizzled with olive oil and roasted.  They are also wonderful diced and  sautéed.  Canned beets are fabulous hot or cold.  Simply open the can, rinse the beets, and toss them on a salad.  They can also be heated and enjoyed as a simple side dish.

Back to those green tops for a minute.  If you have fresh beets with the greens, do not throw those away!  The greens are also a nutrient dense food and adaptable to many dishes.  Like beets, the greens can be enjoyed raw, such as mixed with other greens in your summer salad.  They can also be sautéed much like spinach, in a little olive oil.  Season them a bit with salt and pepper, and you’ve got another phenomenal side dish.

If you’ve tried beets and didn’t like them, try them again.  If you’ve never tried them, its time to add some variety to your diet.  The health benefits  of beets are plentiful, they are budget friendly, and just plain delicious.  Let your own impulses go wild, pick up some beets up at the farmers marker or grocer, and begin your own adventure!

Delicious cold beets piled on a fresh summer salad! Yum!

Delicious cold beets piled on a fresh summer salad! Yum!

Breakfast in Scotland

27 Jun

Breakfast.  What does it mean?  When we sleep, we are fasting, meaning we do not eat.  Breaking the fast, or breakfast, is the first meal of the day.  We are often told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  This is a topic of great debate in nutritional circles and beyond.  As for me, well, it’s not a meal that I skip.

There really isn’t uniformity with breakfast.  Depending on lifestyle, culture,  socioeconomic status, and time constrains, breakfast food varies.  If I have a morning workout, a protein packed breakfast is my go to choice.  If it is a lazy weekend morning, a chewy toasted bagel and some fresh fruit can be wonderful.  And, of course, if there are leftovers around, those also work at times.

Since I like to eat regionally, I enjoy all meals that reflect the personality and culture of the surroundings.  Recently I was in Scotland.  The food was spectacular.  And the breakfast was not only filling, but a very interesting combination…and one that I would not have put together.  But I loved it nonetheless.

As my beloved partner Denis and I steeped ourselves in the people, history and food of Scotland, we noticed that this breakfast was pretty much a staple in every region of the country.  The flavors varied slightly, reflecting the region of the food, but when we ordered the “standard” breakfast, it was consistent.

Breakfast consisted of bacon (it looked and tasted like ham to me, but it was called bacon), potatoes, an egg, a roasted tomato, sautéed mushrooms, and a sausage. A basket of breads also accompanied the plate.  Sometimes beans and back pudding were present too.  This meal started us off on the right foot.  Daily breakfast left us with a full belly of warm food on which to set out for the adventures that each day held for us.  Breakfast was sustaining, culturally reflective, and delicious.

So the next time you are off on travels, depart from your comfort zone.  Be open to local culturally rich experiences, including culinary.  Break your fast in the way that is right for you, but notice local flair. Scotland held many delights along our travels, and breakfast each morning started our day off just right.  Go out there and have fun. Let me know what you find.

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Snap

13 Jun

Want dinner in a snap?  I think it is possible to put a healthy dinner on the table in less time than going to the drive thru.  Yes, a healthy dinner can be on the table in about half an hour.  With planning.

Sure it takes planning.  But that can be done while standing in line, waiting for a dentist appointment, or waking up with that morning cup of coffee.  It can be as simple as jotting down notes.  I use my smart phone to make my grocery list, and that advance planning helps me get through the store in a snap.

Sometimes planning is just a simple trip to the freezer to pull something out in the morning to cook in the evening.  Let me tell you how simple planning helped me with a healthy home cooked meal last week.

In the morning, I pulled some chicken out of the freezer and popped in the fridge.  By the time I came home from work, the chicken was thawed.  I fired up the grill, lightly seasoned the chicken, ans tossed it on the grill to cook.  The chicken breasts were thinly cut, so I knew they would cook quickly.

In the meantime, I put a pot of water on the stove for some pasta.  Angel hair pasta cooks quickly, so I pulled that from the pantry. It would be perfect with the leftover pasta sauce in the fridge  I took some frozen asparagus from the freezer, and thought it would round out dinner nicely.

The pasta cooked in about 5 minutes.  I also tossed frozen peas (I warmed them with the sauce) into the pasta for a little color. The chicken was done in about 20 minutes.  I let it rest for a few minutes, then sliced the breasts thin.  (Culinary side note:  meat is more tender when allowed to rest.  I time my proteins to be done 10 minutes before everything else.  I then drizzle olive oil over the meat, cover with foil, and let rest). The asparagus went into the microwave.

With a little planning, I had a healthy dinner on the table on a weeknight in about 30 minutes.  what can you make with little time on a weeknight?

Dinner in a snap.  Grilled chicken, angel hair pasta with cheese pea sauce, and asparagus.  YUM!

Dinner in a snap. Grilled chicken, angel hair pasta with cheese pea sauce, and asparagus. YUM!

Wet and Fresh

23 May

The warm weather is coming.  Thank goodness.  I am tired of the gray rainy spring.  As much as I detest the horror of getting my jiggles and wiggles into a swim suit, I simply adore summer.  The breezy warm nights, a casual vibe,  outdoor evening concerts, dining al fresco.  Yes, the pleasures of summer are many.  But take caution.  The warm weather can increase the threat of dehydration.

If you are thirsty, you are already experiencing mild dehydration.  And did you know that dehydration is the number one cause of daytime fatigue?  Even mild dehydration can decrease endurance, slow cognitive thinking, and cause headaches.  Great reasons to stay hydrated.

Interestingly enough, studies suggest that 70-80% of daily hydration should come from fluids, and 20-30% from the water content in food.  So, it is important to drink water and healthy fluids during the day and limit sugary drinks.  But in addition to that, especially in the warm summer weather, it’s also important to eat foods that are high in water content.  Need a list?  Look no further.  This list contains fruits and vegetables with more than 90% water.

  • cucumbers
  • watermelon
  • grapefruit
  • iceberg lettuce
  • cantaloupe
  • zucchini
  • radish
  • tomato
  • cabbage
  • bell peppers
  • strawberries

Looking at this list I hope you are not thinking of just eating these wonderful fruits and vegetables solo.  Oh no!  Lets have some fun while we eat our water!  How?  So glad you asked.

How ’bout this…a salad.  No, not a lettuce side salad.  A cucumber watermelon salad is the best!  So hydrating and refreshing in the hot summer months, not to mention beautiful.  Simply dice up watermelon and cucumber.   Toss.  Then the fun begins.

Make it more sophisticated with mint.  Or add a savory balsamic glaze.  There are a million ways to customize this fun summer salad, and it will keep you alert and ready to go to the next thing.  So this summer, don’t forget to eat your water!

Watermelon Cucumber Salad.  Delicious and refreshing.  Oh..and so pretty!

Watermelon Cucumber Salad. Delicious and refreshing. Oh..and so pretty!

Naughty-again!

25 Apr

Naughty.  Last Friday night my home cooked meal was off the chain naughty.  Seriously.  The thing is…it started out innocently enough.  It took a turn to the dark side during a water cooler moment chatting with a coworker.

I wanted to make wild mushroom ravioli for dinner.  I like flavor with an earthy profile (some chefs call it a “dirt” flavor) like mushrooms, truffles, and beets.  And I was seriously craving some earth.  Wild mushrooms would be the food that was going to scratch that itch.  What could be the harm in that?  Enter stage left..my coworker Al.

Foodies get all excited when talking food and recipes.  Al is no exception.  He, like me, is a quirky foodie.  I am an amateur, he, as a certified chef, is a professional one.  I told him what I was making and wanted to pick his brain about a good sauce.  A creamy parmesan sauce? I wondered outloud.  Oh no!  Al had something else in mind.

“A brown butter sauce!” he loudly exclaimed.  Yes, that will be perfect for your ravioli, he said.  Brown butter, drizzled over the ravioli, along with fresh basil chopped, and a bit of fresh parmesan romano cheese.  Yes, he proclaimed.  That is the finish for your ravioli.  At this point my mouth was watering and I was mentally preparing for a much longer run on Saturday morning to counteract my naughty Friday night dinner.  That was that.  I couldn’t wait to try it.

Later in the afternoon, Al wandered into my office.  Clearly, as an eccentric foodie, my dinner was still on his mind.  “You need some acid on that dish, and a balsamic reduction glaze would be just the thing”.  Again, foodies are so quirky.  A “food moment” such as Al’s  hits like a flash, and you just gotta run with it.  And I did.

Here is the story, in pictures, of my naughty dinner.

Step 1...start the butter.  But remember to stir.  Burned butter is no fun!

Step 1…start the butter. But remember to stir. Burned butter is no fun!

The butter is getting brown and foamy.  The scent wafting from this dish is mmmmmmmm so creamy and luxurious!

The butter is getting brown and foamy. The scent wafting from this dish is mmmmmmmm so creamy and luxurious!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The butter is getting nutty, browning slowly and oh so rich!  I removed the milk fat  (the foam) making it clarified butter.

The butter is getting nutty, browning slowly and oh so rich! I removed the milk fat (the foam) making it clarified butter.

 

Here it is.  My dinner is all of its naughty gloriousness!   Wild mushroom ravioli with brown butter sauce and balsamic reduction, salad, and, of course, bread. Was it worth it?  Oh heck yes!

Here it is. My dinner is all of its naughty gloriousness! Wild mushroom ravioli with brown butter sauce and balsamic reduction, salad, and, of course, bread. Was it worth it? Oh heck yes!

Zucchini-Grilled

30 Mar

I really like vegetables. Even more than fruit.  Eating seasonally and taking advantage of farm fresh vegetables all year long not only provides great flavor and variety, but eating seasonally is budget friendly. My kids and I are adventurous when it comes to food, so I am challenged to find new ways to cook veggies.

Since it is winter, root vegetables have been the staple lately.  Luckily, my family enjoys carrots, potatoes, squash,beets…all the delicious colorful winter vegetables.  Did I say all?  Um, I meant most.  My kids aren’t crazy about one winter vegetable…brussel sprouts.

My kids tend to delight in normal kid stuff like, well, farts.  Brussel sprouts, closely related to cabbage, are notoriously gas producing.  Shouldn’t that be my number one selling point in adding brussel sprouts to our dinner repertoire?  I mean, what could be more fun than that for my kids….seriously.  With their competitive nature, I see this as a win win food offering, if you catch my drift (waft, hang time…).

And that’s how I tried to sell it to my kids. They know enough to know what a cruciferous vegetable is, and what that produces.  Slow roasted fresh brussel sprouts gently browning in the oven smell, well, cabbage like.  Rats.  That wasn’t going to sell my kids on these delicious sprouts.  Of course my mouth is watering, but the kids are scrunching their nose up.  So in the interest of family peace, I now reserve brussel spouts for when I dine at a restaurant.   So I took the sprouts out of the family dinner rotation, but continue on a quest for a fresh seasonal change.

Still wanting variety, I reverted back to another inexpensive vegetable…zucchini.  I like to roast these with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, with perhaps a few shreds of fresh parmesan.  But on this particular night, I was pinched for time and looking for a quick veggie option.  I still used zucchini, but took it in a super quick and easy direction.

Splitting the zucchini down the middle, I then pulled my cast iron grill pan out and heated it up.  I drizzled with zucchini with olive oil, and onto the grill pan it went.  I seared it much like a piece of meat, not quite knowing how it would end up.   After searing one side, I turned it over and seared the second side.  I then put a bit of fresh parmesan cheese on top.  The result was fantastic.

Grilled zucchini in my (very inexpensive) cast iron grill pan.  It was sizzling and searing.  Yum!

Grilled zucchini in my (very inexpensive) cast iron grill pan. It was sizzling and searing. Yum!

I flipped the fleshy side of the zucchini up and put a little freshly served parmesan on top.  Ooh!  So good!

I flipped the fleshy side of the zucchini up and put a little freshly served parmesan on top. Ooh! So good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a keeper.  It was super quick, hardly any ingredients, and oh so tasty!  It was beautiful on the plate as well.  So look for variety not only in your food, but in ways to prepare them.

Oh, and  you may want to take a page out of my book and order your brussel sprouts out at your favorite place Saturday night!