Tag Archives: flowers

Inspiration and the Waffle Iron

26 Mar

Inspiration. It comes from many places. A sweet smile from your child. The scents wafting out of a bakery. An impassioned speech from a respected figure. A plate with artfully arranged food.  Walking through a museum. Beautifully arranged flowers brightening a room. Inspiration, when it comes, affects us all differently.

Admittedly, I am a bit quirky, so when I get inspired it usually sends me into the kitchen. My kitchen represents an ideal arena for self expression, and allows creativity to be channeled in wonderful ways. Take, for example, a recent weekend morning. Inspiration came in the form of wonderful weather, the promise of a great bike ride, and a powerful hunger.

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The morning was a lovely temperature and getting outside to enjoy the budding day was in order. So Denis and I decided to take a long trail ride on our bikes. But first we needed to power up with a breakfast that would provide much needed energy for our ride. Eggs, Canadian bacon, and hash browns sounded delicious.

The thing is, I am not a big potato fan-unless it is breakfast. I just adore hash browns. They are crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and just plain yummy. But they can be a pain to make, and take a bit of talent to make well.

I’ve tried pulling out my cast iron skillet, oiling it up, shredding potatoes, seasoning them, they frying the heck out of ’em. That was my best attempt at delicious home made hash browns. And they were just so so. Then inspiration hit in the form of my trusty old waffle iron. And I made the Best.Hash.Browns. Ever.

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This is how I started-my waffle iron, potatoes, and some cooking spray. I also had salt and pepper on hand as well. I plugged my waffle iron in and set it to preheat at a medium temperature. While that was heating up I pulled the preshredded potatoes out of the freezer and quickly defrosted them. I squeezed out the excess water.

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When the waffle iron was good and hot I sprayed it with a generous amount of cooking spray. I then placed roughly 2 handfuls of shredded potatoes on the bottom plate of the waffle iron. I sprinkled salt and pepper on top, then placed the top plate over the potatoes.

The potatoes started sizzling away. Denis was busy working on the eggs and Canadian bacon while I fussed over the hash browns. Since this was an experiment with no recipe, I was not sure how long to let the potatoes cook. I watched them closely. After about 6 minutes I gently lifted the top of the waffle iron to take a peek at breakfast project. What did I find?

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Perfection. Absolute deliciousness. I used a spatula to remove the “potato waffle” from the iron. It slid off the iron and onto a plate with ease. The waffle iron made amazing breakfast potatoes. This paired with our eggs and bacon very well. The trail ride, with inspiration from the breakfast, was a rousing success.

Will I try this again? You bet! But next time I will mix in some diced bell peppers and maybe even some cheese. I can’t wait for my next inspiration!

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Stress-Its a Killer!

27 Apr

Stress, it has been proven, is a killer in the long run.  And it can really knock a person’s good health down a notch or two in the mean time.  Someone can have the best diet and a phenomenal activity level, but stress can come in and zap all of those good efforts.  Stress is subjective though, and can be a silent attacker.  What stresses one person out may not be a big deal to someone else.  What can roll off one person’s back can certainly raise blood pressure and decrease health in another.

Stress is not really a useful term for scientists studying it because it is so subjective.  Ask 10 people what their stressors are and you will get 10 different answers.  Stress is more of a pop culture term, but we all know what it means and how it feels.   While stress can be positive, mostly it is referred to as a negative.  Stress can cause the “flight or fight” response that dumps adrenaline into our bloodstream, altering body chemistry.  This can be used in a good way, for example, if we are trying to get out of a burning building or avoiding a car wreck.  Problem is, some of us can feel that  “flight or fight” response daily from other more routine stressors, causing our hormones to swing out of whack if we are not careful.  But we all know our own triggers.  Time to recognize them, turn away, take a deep breath, and focus on the Zen Zone.

Relax.  I know.  Easier said than done.  Finding time to relax in a busy life is challenging, Frankly, taking some “me time” can feel frivolous at times. Selfish.  But nothing is farther from the truth!  You can do it.  I had 3 babies in 4 years.  With children so young and so close in age, finding time to relax is a joke.  But I tried.

When my children were preschool aged, I sat them down and had a talk with them.  I told them mommy needed mommy time.  I needed a few minutes of peace and quiet to make me a better mommy.  Every busy mommy needs to rejuvenate.  They did not know how to tell time yet, but I taught them how to read a digital timer.  Or at least to recognize that when it was running and not yet to zero, it was mommy time.  Time to give mommy her space.   I asked the children not to talk to me for a few minutes.  I interacted, and still do, with my children all day long and loved and cherished every minute of it. My kids are the most important component of my happy world.  But a few minutes of peace and quiet is golden. And refreshing!

I think it is very healthy to teach our children that every one needs personal time.  When I was having mommy time, i did little more than lay on the couch for 30 minutes and read the paper.  But it felt good!  And I felt it was a very good lesson for my children to learn to put others first.  This was a way they could watch me put me first, even if it was only for 30 minutes.  They always respected the time that I took for myself.

Reducing stress sounds very cliché these days.  And ways to do it are everywhere you look.  Websites, magazine covers, pamphlets in our doctors office.  I will bypass the obvious, like increasing sleep, eating healthier, and slowing down.  I will break it down to adding beauty to your life.  That can reduce stress!  And it can be simple.  There are a million simple ways to do it.  Here are a few simple things that I focused on.

  • Flowers in a vase
  • De-cluttering a cluttered area, like a closet.
  • Taking a bath
  • Taking a walk, noticing and appreciating nature
  • Calling a friend and chatting/venting/listening/laughing for a few minutes
  • Using china or a pretty and festive table cloth for a meal

Simply surrounding yourself with beauty, and not “waiting” for a special occasion, is very rejuvenating to me.   My absolute favorite scent is from the flower Lillies of the Valley.  A few whiffs of that scent relaxes me.  Perhaps because I force myself to breathe the lovely scent in deeply, close my eyes, and really transport myself to a place of beauty.  It works for me.  What works for you?

Eat seasonally!

18 Apr

Try something new. Make a commitment to eat seasonally available foods. Eating seasonally means eating food, but mainly produce, that is in season. With our world wide market place, working farms, and food engineering, many foods are readily available all year long, such as apples, potatoes, and bananas. There are other items though, that are seasonal as well as regional. And they are worth waiting for.

Tomatoes, for example, are a summer fruit. We see them all year in the grocery, glossy and red. But they aren’t always the naturally ripe tomatoes of summer. When tomatoes ripen on the vine, the starch changes to sugar, the color changes from green to red, and the flavor peaks. Unfortunately, many tomatoes are now picked green and “gassed” or “sprayed” with a colorless gas to force ripening on their way to the grocery store. The gas stimulates the enzymes in a tomato to begin the ripening process. The cost of this process as far as flavor goes is huge in my opinion. The tomato is red, but the flavor, for me, falls a bit flat. So I usually wait to enjoy fresh tomatoes only in the summer months.

Variety, as you know, is an important part of healthy eating. And variation in the diet certainly contributes to food enjoyment as well. We all get in a rut and tend to get stuck once in a while. That is when it is time to open a cookbook, buy a new food magazine to flip through, and stroll through a local farmers market for inspiration.

Heading to a local farmers market will help you eat more seasonally,t thus enjoying a more flavorful product. The quality of food available in a farmers market or at a farm stand is fantastic. And the variety is fresh, crisp, and imperfectly lovely. It is also wonderful to get to know local growers.

I have enjoyed local honey, locally made cheese, local meats, and of course, local produce. All from my local farmers market, fresh, in season, and a wonderful way to enjoy the bounty of the season. The variety is outstanding, and it is a great way to get inspired to try something new.  It is also important to support your local community members.  Visiting and purchasing items from a local market puts money back into the local economy.  So important!  And strolling through a local farmers market, coffee in hand, is a great way to spend an early Saturday morning!

Flowers are also great at farmers markets and local farm stands. There is just something happy about a pretty vase with flowers gracing a table. Don’t wait for a special occasion to treat yourself to blooms and blossoms. Surround yourself with beautiful fresh produce and some lovely flowers. Spring is the perfect time to get into a new habit of hitting a couple of farmers markets on a regular basis. You will love the new freshness it will bring!