Tag Archives: family

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!

The Big Banjo

22 Feb

Eating in restaurants is a much larger part of the american lifestyle in 2015 than when I was young.  Being one of five kids in a big catholic family, it was a feat to not only get us all out, but surely it was a budget buster too.  Good thing we had the Big Banjo just a short car ride away.  When I was little, going out to the Big Banjo for pizza was a big treat.  Families lined up on picnic bench seating while old black and white films showed on the back wall.

When the movies stopped, words to sing-a-long songs appeared on the screen, and we would sing old favorites like Take Me Out to the Ball Game.  Big Banjo was a blast.  The kids got pizza and soda pop, a big treat, and the parents got a pitcher of beer with all of the other parents because, after all, it was Friday night.  The restaurant was always packed.

The Big Banjo.  A Friday night favorite for my family when I was a kid.  This picture does NOT include my parents huge evergreen colored Oldsmobile Delta 88 parked out front...

The Big Banjo. A Friday night favorite for my family when I was a kid. This picture does NOT include my parents huge evergreen colored Oldsmobile Delta 88 parked out front…

(photo Courtesy of Jean Turley)

Family restaurants are a little more sophisticated these days, and it just isn’t the big family event to dine out like it was 15 or twenty years ago.  A generation ago about 25% of the family food budget went toward eating out, and now that number has more than doubled.  Since families dine out more, it isn’t the “splurge” it was years ago.  Today when a family dines out, healthier options are available.   How do we eat healthier when we eat out?  Lets talk about that.

Healthy choices now abound at restaurants.  Here are a few tips to remember when dining out:

  • Order your protein steamed or baked instead of fried.
  • Make water your beverage of choice.
  • Ask for salad dressing on the side.  You tend to use less dressing when you dip.
  • Have tomato sauce over cream sauce.
  • Eat slowly.  Set your fork down between bites and sip your water.
  • Order veggies as a side dish with your meal.  If you are getting pizza, leave the meat off of it.

Even a small change can make a big difference toward healthy lower calorie dining options.  Do it for yourself, and be a good example to others.  At Big Banjo, we splurged with our food.  Now, eating out as a family happens more frequently, so choosing more nutrient dense food is important and getting easier at restaurants.  .

My beloved Big Banjo is long gone.  You can still find restaurants that are a splurge with the food.  But for a family, dining out is a regular event these days.  So make good choices.  What changes can you make with your family?

 

 

Toddlers in the Kitchen!

21 Jul

Having a toddler around is a blessing, but can be a challenge at times too. Especially at meal time. It can be stressful to get meals onto the table while juggling parental responsibilities. Ease parental duties a bit by getting your toddler involved! Getting children involved in meal preparation is important for a couple of reasons. It can decrease work load and increase confidence of the child. It also provides a wonderful time to interact, chat about the day, and plan for future meals.

When working in the kitchen with your child, always begin with hand washing. Encourage your child to sing the ABC song or the Happy Birthday song while lathering up to assure proper hand washing time. This is an excellent habit to get into, not only for yourself, but for your child as well.

Start slowly when engaging your child in the kitchen, and be patient. If your child is young, you can begin by having them:

  • Wipe a table top.
  • Measure and pour dry ingredients.
  • Take salt and pepper shakers to the table for a meal.
  • Put toast into the toaster and pop it down.
  • Take forks to the table for meals.
  • Place cups on the table for meals.
  • Clear items off the table following a meal.

Remember that children need instruction. Resist the urge though, to hover or to micromanage the child when they are trying to help. Praise their efforts. Doing something well takes practice, and it is important to remember that no one does something well the first time. Only practice improves performance! Try to give the child a rough time limit, but remember that they work on their own time.

Mealtime is a great opportunity to interact with your child. It is also a good opportunity to talk about nutrition and portion size with your child. Expect spills, and then teach your child how to clean them up! Keep the television off and the distractions to a minimum. Enjoy your child, the time together, and the experience of teaching.

As parents, it is our job to raise our children up to be self sufficient. This can start early. Toddler hood is not too early to begin teaching your child about how to prepare a meal, appropriate serving sizes, and nutrition. And it can be a lot of fun if you let it!

P.S.  This post also applies to teenagers.  Replace the word toddler with teenager.  I’ve had both, so this is the voice of experience talking.  Just saying…

 

 

 

 

Layers

21 May

Walls. They are a good thing. They are there to hold something up. A ceiling. A roof. Precious pictures. They provide a comfortable boundary, a form of protection. If we were plunked down into a place that was pitch black, our instinct would be to reach out. Find the walls. That would be an indication of where we might be. How large is the black space we are in? Reaching out and finding a wall would begin to provide comfort, answers, direction. So walls are a good thing.

As a parent, I want to be a wall for my children. I want to hold them up.  I want to provide solid boundaries. When they are uncertain or in the dark, I want them to reach for me and find comfort in knowing that I am there, standing firm. Providing direction. Answers. That is what a good parent aspires to achieve. Even as an adult, I still look to my parents to be my wall. We all have weak moments, trying times, and it is comforting to be able to still count on not only my parents, but my whole family, to hold me up.

Good friends do the same thing. I have learned over the years that biology does not necessarily make a family and that friends can also be counted as family. A favorite Richard Bach quote comes to mind to sum up my definition of family: “The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.” I love that!  So we can depend on our friends to be our wall. And we should be theirs. Lift them up. Allow them to hold us up. These become the layers of our wall.

How do the layers get applied to a wall? Slowly, allowing each layer to become a firm foundation to the next, is a good way to build a solid wall. A base upon which a new layer could be applied, accepted, hardened. Ready to accept the next layer. So its safe to say that a trusted wall can be built over a long period of time. It can’t be rushed. Time, patience, trust…the tools of good construction some might say. So walls are a good thing. Or are they?

There can be a flip side. They can also be a barrier. Walls can seal or entomb. Shut off and divide. Hold back. Unfortunately some folks better fit this metaphorical description of a wall. Which is sad. These are the walls, the people, that we need to keep at arms length. They divide, and that is the last thing anyone should want. We have all run into people and relationships that have been this type of wall. And sometimes it takes us some time to realize what type of wall a person or relationship provides. We might think that a person is there to lift us up. Support us. Only to find out later that they are the “other” type of wall.  That is not good for overall wellness and a healthy spirit.   So what do you do then?

I have had both types of walls in my life over the years, and who can’t say that? I have learned to cherish, value, and take care of my good walls. That is my firm foundation.  And I have made it a priority in my life to be a good wall to my family (a.k.a. friends!). That takes time, experience, patience. But when we run into a bad wall, and we all do, is it time to turn and run? Well, that might be the first instinct, but I say no. Let it become another layer to the wall.

The old saying “You can’t go around it, you can’t go under it, so you must go over it” comes to mind. Going over a “bad” wall becomes another firm layer if we let it. We overcome it. We conquer it. And we allow it to become another layer to the foundation. And as a parent, we can teach our children how to use adversity to build a layer. Learning comes in many forms. Going over the wall also means to learn how to put more good walls in our life. Get over the bad ones, build more, layer more, with good ones. Become a better wall ourselves. We strengthen. We learn. We use the good the bad and the ugly. And we move on. Stronger. Better. Another layer for our wall. I know what kind of wall I am, what kind of wall I strive to be.  My foundation is very strong, and that contributes to my wholeness.  My wellness.  My vitality.  What kind of wall are you?

 

This and That Pasta

9 Mar

What’s for dinner on a Friday night when everyone is a bit low on energy from the long week?   Something easy for sure! Here is what I did on a Friday when the family was just worn out.  It is important to eat healthy in our family.  Sure we cheat every now and again, but for the most part we all make an effort to eat food that is natural and wholesome.  So how to solve this Friday night conundrum?  We did it in a snap.

I roasted some vegetables, Denis put a pot of water on to boil, and then pulled out a loaf of crusty bread.  There were salad fixings in the fridge, but the veggies with the pasta seemed sufficient, so that was left for another meal.   Dinner in a snap was the goal du jour.  It was so easy to get ready, and dinner was on the table quickly.  Let me share it with you.

I call this recipe Amy’s This and That Pasta.  It’s a little of this, a little of that.  Whatever you have on hand will do.   Here is what I did.  I pulled out a glass oblong pan.  Into it went:

  • 1 bunch of asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 packages of fresh assorted mushrooms (I have also used canned mushrooms.  Drained, these work just fine.)
  • 1 large jar pimento drained (or a jar of roasted red peppers, drained and chopped, will do just fine too)
  •  A few handfuls of fresh spinach
  • 1  28 ounce can diced tomatoes in sauce

I mixed these veggies together with a rubber spatula.  I drizzled olive oil over the top and sprinkled on:

  • 1 T. dried basil
  • 1 T. dried parsley
  • 1 t. dried oregano
  • salt, pepper and dried red pepper flakes to taste.

Again I mixed this up and placed it in an oven that was preheated to 400 degrees.  The timer was set to 30 minutes.  On went a pot of water for the pasta.  Then I changed out of my work clothes, and sat down for a few minutes to chat with the family.

When the vegetables were nearly done, frozen tortellini went into the boiling water for about 4 minutes.  The children set the table for dinner.  The sliced loaf of crusty bread was taken to the table.  After draining the pasta and putting it in a large shallow bowl, I poured the hot roasted vegetables over it.  Lastly, I grated some fresh parmesan cheese over it and on to the table it went.

It was a simple meal, and so easy to toss together.  The vegetables imparted what I call “vegetable liquor”, meaning they juiced up a bit while roasting.  The roasted pasta sauce was a snap to make with the oven doing all of the work.  It was a nutritious dinner for a Friday night. Most vegetables work in this recipe except starchy ones (like potatoes), so use this recipe as a base and substitute with what you have in your kitchen.

Toss your favorite veggies together, let them roast in the oven, have a seat and wait for dinner to practically make itself.  Easy, quick, nutritious.  Perfect for a family meal.  Weeknight meals do not have to be grand, time consuming, or fussy.  Remember the true focus of family meals.   Connecting.  Conversation.  Togetherness. Meals can be easy, yummy and nutritious, but more important, a happy social time to reconnect.  Bon appetite!

Dinnertime…with leftovers

12 Feb

My last post outlined the challenge of making a quick dinner with items out of my fridge and pantry.  I was too tired to fuss, and ended up with a big batch of tomato roasted red pepper soup.  It was belly warming and delicious.  After dinner I tossed the leftover soup into the fridge.  That was a lucky move!

The next day, I dashed out to a class at my local gym after work.  Walking in the door at home, I was greeted by an equally busy but hungry family.  It was 6:00. I was pinched for time.  I had to think fast.  So I pulled the leftover tomato soup from the fridge and then foraged through my kitchen for the rest of dinner.  In addition to the leftover soup I had:

  • Frozen tortellini
  • Frozen broccoli cauliflower mixture
  • Refrigerated biscuits
  • Canned tomato paste
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Butter

This became dinner.  I put a big pot of water on to boil.  Next, I took the leftover soup, put it in a saucepan and added some tomato paste (to thicken the soup), oregano, parsley, and basil.  After a big stir over medium heat, that began simmering  into a nice sauce.  The frozen veggies went into the microwave.  The bread went into a 350 degree oven for 13 minutes.

The pasta water boiled, so in went the tortellini and cooked in a quick 5 minutes.  By then the vegetables were cooked, and the bread was ready.  As the pasta drained, I pulled the bread out of the oven, split and buttered the biscuits.  The veggies went into an oven safe bowl with a little butter and parmesan cheese.  I put it back in the microwave for a minute.  Dinner was on the table in a snap.

You can’t hit it out of the ballpark every night.  It wasn’t a perfectly healthy dinner, but much more nutrient dense and economical than any drive thru meal.  Not bad for a home made family meal tossed together in about 30 minutes.

The best part, and you may use this if you like,  is the “dinner rule” in my house.  The person or people who make dinner don’t do the dishes or clean up the kitchen.  At first this was a hot button issue with whining teenagers arguing their point of why they should not have to do the  dishes.  I turned a deaf ear to it, so the whining did not last long.  But this rule, held tightly from the get go,  changed the thinking in my household.  Others wanted to cook dinner.  And who am I to argue?

leftovers from anywhere

31 Dec

With a humble and grateful heart, I am returning from time at a beautiful mountain home of friends.  There were 22 of us staying together, and it was a lovely harmonious bunch.  The house was bursting with adults trying to hold down the fort and kids from 8-21 years of age being, as they should, kids.    There were a lot of personalities present, all meshing beautifully.

Meals were certainly an event.  4 tables fit all of us in one room, so we ate together.  The cacophony of spirited meal conversations happily resonated throughout the house.  With such an array of food and folks, there was no avoiding some “foodie” talk.  This is a topic I dearly love!

We talked about food, budgets, meals, food allergies, and, with a busy family, the challenges of putting together a nutritious and cohesive meal.   Varied information and opinions gently led these conversations.  Low and behold, lingering at the table over some hot cider after dinner one evening, talk turned to what to do with the leftovers.  Anyone who know me know that I am a big fan of leftovers.  They are a great “second act” if you will.

Leftover spinach kale artichoke cheese dip!  Yummier the second day!

Leftover spinach kale artichoke cheese dip! Yummier the second day!

Some of the folks had assembled an amazing appetizer.  It was a hot dip including cream cheese, garlic, mozzarella cheese, artichoke hearts, spinach and kale.  It was fantastic to munch on with chips and veggies as we made dinner.  It was a pretty big batch, so there was some left over.  We also had some cauliflower left, albeit not much.  These were the leftovers that got our creative juices flowing.

leftover cauliflower-so inspiring!

leftover cauliflower-so inspiring!

Both would have made a fabulous omelet the next morning.  The minds and culinary talent present would not be wasted with just one option though.  We forged ahead thinking of more creations with dip and cauliflower.  I credit Robin, one of the sisters (sibling, not nun!!) there with a brilliant thought.  Pizza.  It sounded amazing, but executing this wasn’t clear.  So when I got home, I researched.

What I found with my digging is that you can made a pizza crust with cauliflower.  It needs to be put into a food processor or blender and pulsed to powder form.  About a head of cauliflower will make about 3 cups of cauliflower powder, which is enough for one pizza.  The leftover dip would have been dynamite as the topping!  Voila!  A really cool way to use these leftovers!

I have not tried this yet, but am gearing up to give it a whirl.  See?  You can take leftovers from anywhere and move way beyond just heating them up for another meal.  Make something new.  Let the creative spirit take you in a new exciting direction!  I will keep you posted on this latest culinary adventure and you let me know where your leftovers take you!