Monday, September 27, 2010

Zucchini & Yellow Squash

This is about the time of year when you run out of ideas of what to do with the bumper crop of squash you have raked in. There's the ever faithful Zucchini Bread recipe (I'm a huge fan) and I've even heard of Chocolate Zucchini Muffins. But at our house, we like yellow squash too and the two seem to go hand in hand.

This is a fast and easy way to make a healthy side dish that is full of flavor. Do you have one of these? It's called a mandolin. It makes quick work of items that need sliced thinly. If you don't have one, a sharp knife will do the job.

I use the mandolin to slice the zucchini right into my sauté pan. Discard the bottom and use the stem to hold on to while you are slicing.

Do the same with the yellow squash. However, you will notice that this one started to get a little big because there are seeds developing. It really is true that you want to pick the smaller squashes than larger. It still tastes good, but they just don't look as nice when they cook up.

Depending on how well you like garlic, put in as much as you like. But it is best to use fresh when doing a dish like this. Just give it a good whack to get the shell off and then either mince or press it right into the pan with the squash.

Depending on how much heat you want, add some red pepper flake. Even if you think you don't want it spicy, just add some to give it a little life. And then drizzle with olive oil.

Now this is the point where you put the lid on and let it steam on medium high. But if you're me, your biggest sauté pan did not come with a lid. So I cover it with foil and let it vent out the back. Take the lid/foil off every once in awhile to stir things up. I'm a fan of tongs. They are great for grabbing and flipping things. Think of them like extended hands that won't get burned. A very useful tool.

Once the squash gets transparent, they are pretty much done. You can serve this with fresh sliced tomato and a little freshly shredded Parmesan cheese. This is best piping hot, so make sure it is the last thing you finish before you plate your dinner.

It really is low maintenance and a fast way to use up your surplus garden stock. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

All Natural Peanut Butter

I know what you may be thinking...

"Nasty paste. I'd rather take my chances with the hydrogenated oils and chemical preservatives."

But when done properly, the all natural, organic peanut butter is really good. Stay tuned for some quick helpful tips on how to keep your PB smooth and spreadable.

There it is. Can you see the beautiful golden layer on top. That my friend is peanut oil. Without that, you will have "nasty paste".

Use a spatula and transfer all the contents of the jar (organic roasted peanuts and a smidgen of salt) into a large bowl. The peanut butter will sit in a puddle of peanut oil. If you'll notice, on the left side of the picture the PB looks dry and hard. That's what was at the bottom of the jar and if you don't mix it with the oil, it will stay that hard.

Using an electric mixer, start to blend the PB with the peanut oil slowly until fully incorporated. Then turn that baby on high and whip it for a little bit. This will make it a little more light in texture. It should be real smooth too.

Once your done whipping the PB, use your spatula to guide the PB back into the jar. This takes a little finesse, but shouldn't be too tough. You can see the volume of the PB is more now than it was when you took the lid off.

By whipping the PB before you put it in the refrigerator you eliminate the oil separating from the PB while it is stored. It also spreads much easier than if it is just stirred inside the jar with a knife. Once the jar is open it has to be stored in the refrigerator to prevent the natural oils from going rancid. If you find that it is still to firm to spread on really soft bread, take the metal lid off and microwave the jar for about 30 seconds on high. Stir the PB. If it is still too firm, give it another 30 seconds.

I promise your family will grow accustomed to the natural taste and texture over time and they will never miss the sugar and chemical laden version that lasts indefinitely in your cupboard.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Stop Children

I snapped this picture on my way to pick my daughter up from school.
I am not for defacing public property, but this made me chuckle and remember a song that I loved long ago.

Random Weirdness

This week has been a collection of some of the most bizarre happenings. Please allow me a few moments to relate to you three curious situations I found myself in the last few days.

The Pumpkin Snatcher

It wasn't a normal Sunday morning for my husband and I. The kids had spent the night at my parents and we had gone to church without them. Feeling exhausted from my previous work week, I asked my husband if he would mind if we left early. But, I had one stop we needed to make before we went home. We arrived at the warehouse membership club 10 minutes before they opened so we decided to look at the mums while waiting for the doors to open. Within the next five minutes, there was a crowd of about 15 of us milling around, carrying on brief conversations with each other. I happened to turn around as a red Lexus pulled up in front of the store. I figured the occupant was checking out the hours that were posted on the wall above an enormous box of pumpkins. I didn't pay much attention when he got out, walked around his car and started examining the pumpkins. However, several of us noticed when he picked one up and started walking to his car. His 13-14 year old daughter got out of the car, took the pumpkin from him and put it in the backseat. That's when the mumbling started amongst everyone around us. I kept thinking, certainly he was just loading them in his car so he wouldn't have to push them all over the store in a cart. But he kept loading and loading and loading.  The people around us were starting to get antsy watching this happen. He then walked back around,  got into his car and proceeded to pull away. Inside myself I kept thinking he was going to pull into a parking space. Surely he would walk in and pay for them. People are just not that bold that they would steal 7 pumpkins in broad daylight, in front of a crowd of people and involve his teenage daughter as well. But he kept on driving and never looked back.

Why didn't we say anything? Why didn't we do anything? Number one, he was HUGE. Number two, he looked like he ate cigarettes for breakfast and would shoot anyone who dared say "boo" to him. I'm not willing to risk my life over a few gourds. We gave the Service Desk his license number, make & model of the car and his description. They have cameras everywhere as well. Chances are nothing will be done. It costs these companies more money to track down and prosecute someone like him than to take the loss of the pumpkins. I walked through the store sad and shaking my head at what I had just witnessed.

The Great Apple Caper

Later on that evening we were meeting friends and family at a local orchard to pick apples and then head back to our house for dinner and fun. We have loved doing this for the past 3 years and were really looking forward to sharing this experience with our friends. When we pulled into the orchard there were roughly 20 cars in the lot that we have never seen more than 4 cars in at a time before. And as we looked around it was obvious that a particular ethnic group had descended on this place of history, peace and wonder. And they were loudly disturbing the history, peace and wonder in their native language and treating the owners of the orchard with great disrespect. One family group in particular had stuffed to overflowing 2 orchard bags with the apples they had picked and were arguing with the proprietor that they were only going to pay for 2 bags because that's what they had. After he explained to them the size issue (with great patience) he gave them an empty third bag and said they needed to pay for three bags because that was the amount of apples they picked. With a grin & a giggle they agreed, paid the man and left.

After collecting our picking bags and hearing where we were allowed to collect apples, we headed out. We weren't going to let that scene disrupt our time of connecting with this tradition. However, as we made our way further back down the rows, we saw this same couple laughing and picking more apples. They were placing them in the empty bag they had paid for. They didn't transfer the overstuffed apples into that bag, they were stealing more and loudly laughing the whole time. And as I looked around in disbelief, I saw more couples that had paid for their apples and supposedly left, but had parked on the side of the road at the back edge of the orchard. They were reentering the orchard and picking more apples as well.

What in the heck happened today? Why do these people feel in any way, shape or form that what they were doing was OK? And if they knew it wasn't OK, why did they do it anyway? I truly don't understand that mentality. There is no logic, no moral fiber, no conscience. We were in an orchard... where trees blossom, bees hum and fruit miraculously grows... and so did poison ivy - lots of it. I hope they were mercilessly stricken with oozing sores.


As I drive to work each morning, I pass through a school zone. School zones in Ohio require you to drive 20 miles per hour or less while you are in the zone that is clearly marked with blinking and non-blinking signs. You can't miss them. But as I was driving to work this morning, I spied something that made me laugh at the irony. A "School Transportation" van had been pulled over by a police officer for speeding in the school zone.

So there you have it. Some happenings that were not connected, but made for some moments when all I could do was shake my head.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Basil and Tomatoes for Dinner

Some pictures don't need heavy words.

Huge, heirloom tomatoes, freshly torn basil from my home, coarse sea salt, olive oil & fresh cracked pepper.

Oh and just a bit of buffalo mozzarella.

Dinner was glorious this evening. 
Enjoyed from our 3-Season room with the crickets, squirrels and lots of laughter.

My family's favorite joke of the evening:

Why did they invited the mushroom to the party?
Because he was a fungi.

Why did they ask him to leave?
Because he took up too mushroom.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Reality Check

Reality check--noun
a corrective confronting of reality, in order to counteract one's expectations, prejudices, or the like. (

A reality check is something I need to perform regularly in the blog world. There are so many things I would love to do and try and partake in. And sometimes I get frustrated that I can't. And so I have to sit back and realistically look at my daily life and see that all these blogs aren't doing all these things at once.

I really am a busy person, I do make time to invest in my children and that takes a lot of time if I am to do it well. I work outside the home and soon will be involved in 2 classes, one during the day and one in the evening each week. I coach cheer leading and provide taxi service to my family. These are all things I love, but they consume time.

My expectations of myself are always so high of what I want to accomplish and do, not only for myself, but my family as well. I read a select few blogs and I see these things I want to do and try... right now! But the reality check pops up and I have to step back and see what I can change in our lives one step at a time. I need to add one thing, master that and be comfortable with it before I move on to the next. Then add the next one and be comfortable with that addition and so on.

I am finding this is more doable now that I have pretty much turned the TV off completely except for 4 shows that I DVR and watch when I have time. I am also having to institute a menu plan again so that my week is less stressful and I can make time to add in those things I really desire.

So here is my list of desires. I will be adding to this I'm sure, as I continue to educate myself on moving our family into a more "whole food, pro-biotic" diet and as I explore my world of creativity and what that looks like.

Personal Desires:

Desires for Family:

These are all desires, wants, goals. My reality check.

Reality Check Mantra
I will allow myself the latitude to not be perfect. I will not be able to do all of these things every week. I will do my best with the time and energy I have left after I have given my work 100% and my family 150%. I will make my studies a priority because that is investing in me. I will realize that what I do for my family is more than what the average family is accustomed to. I will take time to be still in my busyness to breathe. I will not be all things to all people, or they will not become all they are to be. I will say the same things to myself that I say to my children when I let them know they are deeply valued and loved. I will rest.

I feel better already.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Young Like

I  have wondered about this day, off and on for 12 years. My son is in the very early stages of having a girlfriend and this is all new territory for me.

You see, when I was growing up I was different than he is. I was backward, shy, quiet, disheveled. I was the kid that wore cast off clothes and wreaked of my dad's cigarette smoke. I had a few people that I spoke to at school, but no close friends. Things started to change a little when I hit middle school. I started to take a more vested interest in my appearance . But feelings of inferiority run deep, so I kept quiet all the way through graduation. I had my first boyfriend/relationship when I was 19 years old.

It wasn't that I didn't want a boyfriend, boys just didn't look at me that way. And you know what, I missed all the drama the other girls went through. I didn't have the back stabbing, the tears, the "I can't walk down this hallway during 6th period because he'll be there" junk. My ideas of what it would be like to have a boyfriend were way better than real life anyway.

So there is a young lady at school that has been waving at my son at lunch for the past 2 weeks. We'll call her "J". Last Friday my little guy attended his first 6th grade dance. It was all very innocent, after school from 3-5pm. No time for kids to go home, change, put make-up on or get into mischief after dark. They simply left their last class, threw stuff in their lockers and paraded to the gym. In short order "J" had sent "the messenger" to see if he liked her. He responded in the affirmative and from what I understand, for the rest of the dance he would walk past her and wave and she would walk past him and wave. It's now Monday and according to his friends and her friends, she's his girlfriend.

Really... that's how it works?

At this point, he is still asking a lot of questions. Which is hilarious, because I have no idea how middle school relationship are done. But, I'm staying calm, telling him to treat "J" like he would want a boy to treat his little sister, and if they want to talk outside of school he has to be the one to call her. No girls calling the house. And it has to be their home phone, not her cell phone. I want her mom knowing that her daughter is being phoned by a young man. Oh... and hands off. No public display of affection permitted. They have strict rules at school and he could end up in detention for holding her hand. Which works really well to my benefit because he's petrified of detention. I'm going to ride that train as far as it will go :)

I need to prepare myself that my "little romantic" could get his heart broken. But, I'm glad at this point, that he is keeping a level head and not mentioning the word, love. He likes "J". And I can live with young like.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Baby Grand Convicts

There is a Baby Grand Piano in the foyer where I work. It sits quiet most of the week with it's ivories only being tickled by a consummate professional on Sundays. He delights the people sitting in the cafe adjacent to the nook where it sits. This piano holds a very unique place where I work. The professional which I mentioned prior is a developmentally disabled adult with an uncanny ability to play this piano beautifully. He has a style all his own and the rings to match. It is so fun to watch him play because he knows he is really good.

But there is another group of men that play during the week, that catch me off guard from time to time. You will hear them play at random hours. Some are truly gifted, others plunk along. The plunkers playlist typically consists of Chopsticks, Heart & Soul, Jingle Bells, etc. Those always bring a smile to my face. I believe everyone has some kind of music in them that they need to share. 

But there are times when I leave the main office suite on my way to another part of the building and I hear songs I've never heard before, beautiful songs. They are played with passion and feeling. I'm drawn to the mezzanine to watch and soak in the melodies if only for a moment. I can see in the way they move that it is a release. They have taken themselves somewhere else if only for a time, to escape the reality of their situation. They are Community Service Workers.

These men with amazing abilities have done time. I don't know what crime they have committed, but I work at a place that is willing to give them a second chance at a new beginning. I feel intimidated sometimes when I pass them in the hall as they go about their day washing windows and running vacuum cleaners. But I will never pass up an opportunity to smile and say hello. The problem is, they hardly ever look up. If I could let them know one thing, it would be that I get that they were somebody different before they were a criminal. And the fact that they want to make their lives better has earned my respect. I would ask them not to hang their heads, but have the same hope in themselves that I have for them.

My wish for all people is that they would see these men as more than just convicts. That they could possibly see them at the place they were before things went wrong somehow.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

It Was A Very Good Day

I have just come off a couple tough weeks. And the old adage of "if you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all" was put into full effect. Work was stressful, changing my schedule around to accommodate the back-to-school switch, work was stressful, a family member by marriage died at a young age in a motorcycle accident, work was stressful, I had 2 migraines in close proximity, did I mention work was stressful.

So sometimes you just have to post something because it was good. It has no value to anyone but me, it is not a recipe, it is not something about my kids, it is not a restaurant critique, it has nothing to do with health & wellness. This is simply the log of a very good day with some commentary. A very good day that was needed in so many ways.

  1. I got up on time. (I got up on time because I went to bed early. Maybe this should be a regular practice for me.)
  2. I got my son to school early. (He forgot something he needed a signature on in his locker. I refused to drive him back to school to get it and told him to come up with another plan. His plan= go all "MacGyver" on JMMS, sneak upstairs, quietly open his locker, sneak back downstairs and out the side door where the get-away van would be waiting so I could sign the paper before it self-destructed. Sweet.)
  3. I got home with enough time to fix & eat breakfast with my daughter. Yum.
  4. Got my daughter to school on time.
  5. Met a sweet friend for "Coffee Talk." (We talked about everything and nothing. Those are the best.)
  6. Came home and did some laundry.
  7. Went and got my haircut. (This was wonderful. I had to cancel my previous appointment due to a scheduling conflict and I was more than a week and a half overdo. It felt great to be pampered by someone who is an artist and loves her craft.)
  8. Came home, made broccoli salad to go with dinner, did more laundry, washed the inside of my van windows (we had puppy sat for my in-laws back in June and I had never taken the time to clean off the doggy nose prints. I felt like a new woman!)
  9. Picked up my son from school, and spent time going over spelling words in the van waiting for my daughter to come out from her school.
  10. Picked up my daughter from school.
  11. Fed my family a healthy dinner.
  12. Dropped my son off at football practice.
  13. Took my daughter to cheer practice.
  14. Coached my squad in a new cheer and they participated in the choreography. (They have such creative minds, excitement and good ideas. Adults should really take the time to listen more.)
  15. Came home, did more laundry.
  16. Kissed my husband.
  17. Prayed with and put my freshly showered children to bed.
  18. Checked the happenings of facebook.
  19. Blogged.

There wasn't any one thing that was spectacular. But is was a day off work, time with a friend, chores accomplished, pampering, seeing my cheer squad, loving my family.