Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tortilla Soup

I used Racheal Ray's wonderful recipe for tortilla soup as a foundation for the recipe below. Here's the link to her original recipe, but I made some changes to it for our taste. (Greg doesn't like pieces of onion or pepper, so I blend these up with the tomatoes. This also saves a little bit of time and chopping.)

This is great one-bowl meal for a cold evening and makes almost a gallon of soup, so would be fabulous for a crowd. Would be terrific as a tail-gate or Super Bowl party main dish.

1 - 1.5 pounds of chicken breast tenders or boneless thighs, seasoned and sauteed in about 2 T. olive oil (or diced/shredded chicken from a store-bought roasted chicken).

In blender or food processor put:
1 seeded red bell pepper
1/2 of 28 ounce can fire roasted crushed tomatoes
1 c. chicken or vegie broth
1/2 red onion
3 cloves garlic
2 t. poultry seasoning
2 t. cumin
1 T. brown sugar
1 to 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (medium to hot heat level), available in small cans in Mexican and Spanish food section of market (I keep the leftovers in a small Ziploc bag in the freezer and break off what I need to add depth of flavor and heat to other Mexican dishes).

Blend well in blender or food processor.

Pour this mixture into big soup pot and add 3 more cups broth and the rest of the can of crushed tomatoes.

To this add:
1 c frozen corn
the cooked chicken
1 zucchini diced

Simmer over medium heat until zucchini is tender and soup is heated through. Season with Steak or Grill Seasoning (or salt and pepper). To make a creamier soup, you can add 1/2 cup of cream at this point.

Vegetarian Version: Use pinto, Ranch or black beans in place of chicken. Vegans omit cheese and cream

To serve:

Put a handful of crush tortilla chips in bottom of each soup blow. Carefully ladle on soup, then top with your choice of:

grated cheese
chopped green onions
diced avocados
sour cream or Greek Yogurt
wedges of fresh lime
Additional crushed corn chips

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Parmesan & Mushroom Stuffed Squash

(This is the basic recipe below but with Italian turkey sausage, walnuts and spinach added to make it a meal instead of a side dish.)
I created this stuffed squash recipe and it turned out so surprisingly tasty that I think I'll make it for my Thanksgiving Turkey stuffing next year! Moist, buttery... just right...

3 smallish to medium yellow and/or zucchini squash (I have found that the smaller ones, with thin skins are the best picks.)

Using a paring knife, cut each squash in half lengthwise, then carefully "carve" out the middle as you would a canoe, saving the "scraps." (You want your "squash canoe" to be about 1/2 inch thick all around.) Put the squash in a microwave proof dish (7 by 9 inch Pyrex works well), cut side down and nuke for about 3 minutes.

In the meantime, make the stuffing:

In a skillet, saute 2 grated garlic cloves and 1/4 red onion chopped fine in about 3 T. olive oil.
Dice 1 large Portabello mushroom, add to the skillet.
Chop the saved inner pieces of squash and toss into the skillet.
Next, toss in 3 slices fresh bread, made into crumbs (I used a multigrain bread in food processor)
Add 2 T. butter
Season with Grill or Steak Seasoning and a sprinkle of Italian herbs to taste
Take skillet off of the burner, add 1/4 fresh grated Parmesan cheese and stir.

Take squash from the microwave, turn right side up, fill with stuffing. Sprinkle with a bit more Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes or until squash is tender. Uncover and broil until the stuffing turns golden and Parmesan cheese has melted.

Serve and enjoy!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Creamy Yellow Pepper Soup

This is my favorite soup ever! I first tasted it at the home of friend, Maxine Bland, in Florida. I adjusted it a bit to my taste and even my husband who doesn't like peppers loves this. A meal with cheesy garlic bread and sliced apples.

4 Roasted & Peeled & Chopped or Sauteed/Chopped Yellow Peppers (you can also toss in a red or orange pepper, the color will just be a bit deeper)

1 cooked (baked, boiled or nuked) sweet potato, peeled and rough-chopped

3 c. broth (vegie or chicken or combo)

1/2 onion

1 clove garlic

1 T. brown sugar

1/4 t. fresh grated nutmeg

Salt and Pepper to taste

1/4 c. cream

Into a blender, toss all the ingredients except salt & pepper, and cream. Blend until as smooth as you can get it and cook over medium, stirring, about 10 to 15 minutes until any raw onion and garlic taste is gone, and it is heated through. Add salt, pepper to taste and last of all, heavy cream. (You can use almond milk or half-and-half... but I must say, it is the real cream that takes this soup from good to divine.)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Pocket Guide to Narcissists

If you are in a relationship with a narcissist, you can feel as though your head is in a blender. Here are some narcissistic traits to help you get clarity and detachment. Print these out and keep them near you if you must deal with an NPD (someone with narcissistic personality disorder) in your life. They can be charming, articulate, convincing... but you MUST watch their behavior and their choices to find the truth.

Their Image is the most important thing. They do not have a true sense of self, only the self that appears when "on stage," receiving new and fresh applause or “narcissistic fixes.” These hits of praise, from increasingly new sources are the food that keeps a narcissist alive.

They lack true empathy. However, they can mimic it when it serves their purposes for a period of time. The smarter they are the better they are at mimicking, however, they will drop the act when they are finished using the person or situation for their purposes.

They often appear as tough-minded or unemotional. They seldom show congruency in their facial expressions and words. They may be saying, “I’m so sorry for what you are going through…” but their body language doesn’t line up. No tears in eyes, no touching, no emotive natural expression of empathy. Their delivery can be oddly detached ….

They value people they perceive as tough-minded winners, successful, detached, or attractive and spend lots of time seeking their approval. They especially value emotionless achievers because it provides a challenge for them. If they can get a self-promoting hard ass to like them or think they are talented or attractive…they hope it will validate their own fragile sense of worth.

NPDs eventually show contempt for people who actually love and show authentic empathy for them. Their unconscious internal dialogue goes something like this, “If you love and accept me and treat me well, you obviously don’t know who I really am. I now despise your lack of true insight.” However, if you do find out who they are and call them on it, they are full of rage and fear for having been “found out” and move on. You cannot win with a narcissist. Love them and they will despise and feel contempt for you. Reveal who they are, and they will retaliate or move on to fresh new sources of narcissistic fixes. They hate it when their “image” is uncovered.

Intimacy is impossible. They only mimic it for a short period of time until they “catch” you as a lover, spouse or friend… then you are either ignored or they feel contempt toward you as they begin seeking new sources and fixes.

They spend large amounts of time fantasizing about their attractiveness, power and success. They construct their world to feed these fantasies

They are always right and fail to recognize how their actions, words and behaviors impact others.

They have trouble keeping close long term healthy relationships.

They are often skilled at communication and very articulate and sound logical…. But when you step away from their conversation you realize that they are not following logic. You must “follow what they DO” and no “what they SAY” or you’ll feel lost in their alligator roll. Your head will feel as though it has been put in a blender.

Narcissists vary in tactics but their underlying core needs are the same. (To have their image constantly propped up.) Often they were abused as kids and got emotionally stuck there…. (known as the narcissistic or pyschic wound). They grew numb. Their internal life is always seeking something to help that sense of numbness go away, and constant praise from new sources helps ease this internal state of pain or worse: no-feeling.

Some narcissists are openly grandiose. Others, usually those who are brighter, may actually know how to put on an act of humility… but watch their actions, not their words and you’ll see they are seek constant praise. Every choice they make is about getting new and fresh sources of admiration in their life so they can feel alive. Loyalty to old friends or present faithful people is disdained, unless they use them for their self-promoting/grandizing purposes.

Being a narcissistic is a true tragedy as their need to be always right makes it impossible for them to step back and do self-evaluation or take an internal inventory. It is simply too agonizing for them. They generally avoid therapy or only go once or twice before deciding they are much smarter than the therapist.

Loving a narcissistic is also a tragedy in that it is so painful. You may get windows, or glimpses of their original wound and feel deep empathy for what you see there, and put up with all manner of neglect or abuse hoping to help or save them. The tragedy is that a narcissist is often called "unfixable" because they cannot be helped or saved by even the most loving, consistent, patient and insightful of people. The pattern is too deeply embedded and even the most skilled psychiatrists admit that these are the most hopeless of cases, psychologically speaking. Relationships with NPDs can be managed, but they cannot be healed.

As a Christian, this has been a hard truth to swallow, but I believe some invisible wounds... to the brain and psyche, like losing a limb, will not be restored until heaven. Loving someone who has NPD, keeping realistic expections of their limitations (psychological handicap) and ability to love back normally, is actually freeing. You can love them, but you have to remember they cannot love you back in return, not in all the true meanings of the word "love."

If you recognize an NPD early and can simply avoid and "Run Forrest Run"... do so. If they are someone you are close to, and can't escape from, expect all of the above and guard yourself. Stay smart with your heart. Minimize time with them if you can and most of all, minimize their influence over you.

Then find a normal person who is able to show real caring and true authentic emotion and ask them for a big hug. If you must be in regular contact with a narcissist be sure to get regular support from a therapist or support group trained in dealing with NPD to help you remain clear, at peace, and out of the alligator roll.

And may I just say, with all the empathy and compassion in my heart: I am so sorry for the hurt and bewilderment you've experienced in this relationship. You did not and you do not deserve this treatment. What you do deserve is lots of self-care as you recover from it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Crunchy Asian Cucumbers

As a prelude to the meal at a fancy Asian restaurant, the waitress brought out a little dish of crunchy marinated cucumbers. To our surprise, they were so tasty -- crunchy, sweet and savory -- that everyone at the table loved them, and we ordered more. Took me some experimenting but I approximated the recipe and I honestly like these even better!

Low cal and nutritious, easy and delicious these make a great little appetizer to bring to any party or covered dish dinner, but I often use them as a super-quick salad to add to meals at home.

Crunchy Asian Cucumbers

6 mini cucumbers (they are much crunchier than the big ones, so good!) unpeeled, sliced 1/4 inch. I found them at Sam's Club this week.


2 T. Lite Soy Sauce

Vinegar 1/4 cup (Rice, white or red wine vinegar all work well)

1 T. olive oil

1 T. sesame oil (essential)

1 - 2 T. sugar (depending on how sweet you like them, I go with 2 T.)

salt and pepper to taste

Toss the cucumbers in the marinade and let them absorb flavors for at least 15 minutes at room temp before serving. Sprinkle 1 T. sesame seed over all.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Vegie Puttanesca Over Spaghetti Squash

Since my daughter became a vegan, I've been able to experiment with vegetables in whole new ways. I love this complex-tasting puttanesca sauce which can be served with or without the addition of ground beef or sausage (I use roasted chick peas in this recipe instead of meat) and served over high protein/fiber pasta (I used spaghetti squash here instead of pasta).

A puttanesca sauce can be adjusted according to your taste, but it needs something a bit salty and briney (capers, olives, anchovies, artichoke hearts, and or pepperocinis) to give it the wonderful "twang." I also like to balance that with something sweet (sundried tomatoes, raisins and/or brown sugar).

This is what I put in my puttenesca, but don't be intimidated by the ingredient list: it is what I had on hand in the fridge. Just pull out whatever you have in your fridge or pantry -- and as long as you have something salty & briney, and something sweet, to balance the basic marinara, you'll probably love the results.

Vegie Puttanesca Over Spaghetti Squash

Into a medium high skillet (I love my cast iron for this) saute 2 cloves minced garlic and 1/2 chopped onion in olive oil. Throw in any mixture of the following that you have on hand, stirring after each addition. (I do highly recommend that you use the chopped artichoke hearts, to me they are the most essential ingredient!)

1/3 - 1/2 c. chopped marinated artichoke heart
1/2 c. to 1 cup, any roasted vegies, diced. (eggplant, squash, peppers are wonderful, as are carrots, Brussel sprouts, butternut squash and broccoli)
1 T. capers
2 T. olives, chopped, any kind
2 T. pesto sauce (if you have it on hand... no worries if not)
2 T. chopped pepperocini peppers
2 T. chopped sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil, preferably)
1 - 2 T. brown sugar (this will depend on your taste and also how many "sour" ingredients that you put in your sauce that will need balanced by sweet)
1 T. chopped raisins, if you like raisins
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (I like the ones with basil and garlic)

Simmer until sauce is thick and chunky, then season with salt, pepper, and Italian spices to taste. Serve with meat or beans over pasta or spaghetti squash

Roasted Garbanzo Beans ( Chick-peas )
Drain, rinse and pat dry a can of garbanzo beans. Pour them evenly on a cookie sheet that has been sprinkled with olive oil, then roll them around. Sprinkle with salt or your favorite spiced salt. Roast at 350 for 10 to 15 minutes or until they are browned and crisped. (Shake them once or twice while baking so they can brown on two sides.)

Spaghetti Squash
Take a spaghetti squash and cut it in half length wise. Scoop out seeds. Put 1/2 cup water in the bottom of a big microwave proof bowl. Put one of the squash halves in the bowl, hole side up. (If it wobbles, trim a thin piece of the squash off the bottom so that it sits more level in the bowl.) Put the other squash half on top of the squash in the bowl. Don't cover it. Just put in microwave for 10 minutes. Test doneness by squeezing the top squash with a pot holder. If it squeezes easily, it is done. Take a fork and scrape "strings" of squash in spaghetti-like fashion.
Lightly salt, then top with sauce and roasted garbanzo beans. (You can also serve this with butter and pepper and nutmeg for a side dish.)

If you aren't vegan, you can sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mama Becky's Best Salsa

As a Texan who adores Mexican food, I have been practicing making the "perfect salsa" for many years and I think this is about as close as it comes, at least for my taste. People love it, as it has great depth of flavor (from so many ingredients) and is a nice balance of fresh ingredients alongside the richness of the canned fire roasted tomatoes. It makes more than a quart, and can be frozen in small containers with good results.

There are a lot of ingredients so you may want to take this recipe to grocery store and produce aisle with you. But the results will be worth it!

Mama Becky's Best Salsa

1 28 oz can organic crushed fire roasted tomatoes, divided in half

Into a food processor or blender put:

1/2 red onion

1 fresh tomato, quartered

2 garlic cloves

3 tomatillos or one large green tomato

1 small can green chilies or 2 roasted hatch chilis

handful cilantro (if you like it)

2 large fresh jalepanos, seeded (1 if you prefer milder)

2 chipolte peppers in adobe sauce (1 if you prefer milder)

(You can find these small cans of chipoltes-in-adobe-sauce in most grocery stores now, on the Mexican food aisle)

2 T. white vinegar

2 t. sugar

sea salt to taste

1/2 fresh lime, squeezed

Process until mixtures has the consistency you like for salsa. Then stir in the rest of the crushed tomatoes which will give it a nice chunky texture.

Grab a bag of chips, and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Spicy Butter Bean, Kale & Hominy Bowl

Dish of Vegie Deliciousness, with Corn Chip Topping

Mixture simmering in pot.

A week ago, my daughter Rachel and her baby, Jackson, met us for a few days of vacation in Scottsdale. (Sun, daughter, grandbaby, pool, hubby, time to reeeelax. What more could one ask for?)

Rachel is a vegan, and so I threw together this concoction, thinking to myself, "At least it will give her some protein and vegies." And then I tasted it, and loved it! (As did she.) I actually packed it up, along with some tortilla chips to take to the pool for our lunch the next day.

Back home in Denver today, I realized, to my shock and surprise, "I'm craving butter beans, and kale... and hominy." I will eat this for dinner and snack on it through the week, knowing I'm eating something that not only satisfies, but is super nutritious as well.

Spicy Butter Bean, Kale and Hominy Bowl

Saute 1 chopped onion and 2 cloves minced garlic

To this add:

1 can butter beans (NOT lima beans), with juice from can

1 can kidney beans, with juice from can

1/2 large tomato, chopped

1 big bunch kale, ribs trimmed away and chopped in about 1 inch pieces

1 can hominy, drained

1 roasted green chili chopped (or a small can green chilis)

Season with:

1/2 to 1 t. grill or steak seasoning (taste first... as the beans and juice have some saltiness to them) Or salt & pepper to taste

1 T. brown sugar or maple syrup

1 t. smoked paprika (very key as it gives this dish a bacony flavor without the bacon)

Tabasco or buffalo sauce to taste

1 t. cumin

Let simmer until kale is soft and not too chewy, I like most of the liquid absorbed until it is nice and thick. However if you prefer it as a soup, you can simmer for a shorter time or add a can of diced tomatoes with juice.

Serve with crushed corn chips or cornbread.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Honey Lime Ahi Tuna

I bought a beautiful piece of Ahi tuna on sale this week. This recipe is my new Go-To tuna recipe... so good. Sweet and sour, tender and moist.


2 limes, juiced

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tbsp rice vinegar

2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (I keep pieces of ginger in the freezer in a baggie and grate in the frozen state as needed.)

2 large Ahi tuna fillets (I cut these into 4 pieces because I like more of the sauce to surround the steaks. I'm "all about the sauce.")

salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

1/4 cup honey

toasted sesame seeds

    In a bowl, whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, rice vinegar, garlic, and ginger. Lay the tuna fillets on a plate, season both sides with salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste, and spoon some of the glaze over the tuna, turn to coat evenly. Let marinate for 15 to 20 minutes. Add the honey to the remaining half of the glaze and mix well.

    Heat a grill pan on high, after swiping it with just enough olive to keep the steaks from sticking. Pace tuna fillets on pan. Cook for about 2 minutes, and turn over, brushing the glaze over the cooked side. Grill 2 minutes more for medium-rare to medium (more if you like your fish cooked through.) Pour rest of the glaze over the fish, letting the glaze thicken around the fish just a bit before serving. Remove from heat.

    Serve tuna steaks, drizzling a little of the pan glazed sauce over the top. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. I served this fish over orzo, the rice-shaped pasta Alfredo style, with grated Parmesan and a splash of cream and about 1/2 cup peas, with sliced fresh tomatoes.

    Sunday, October 9, 2011

    Pear-Gorgonzola Salad with Pesto-Tomato-Artichoke-Bruschetta

    Sunday night and looking for a quick meal to serve my football watching man. I came up with a pear-gorgonzola chicken salad and pesto-tomato-artichoke bruschetta bread. Pretty, tasty and delightfully easy. Greg was all grins!

    Pear-Gorgonzola Chicken Salad

    Mixed greens -- 1 cup per salad Gorgonzola or blue cheese -- about a one inch square , per bowl, crumbled 5 toasted pecan halves 1/2 diced crisp apple-pear (I get these at Sam's... but if you can't find them, use a crisp pear) Toss above and dress with your favorite Ranch dressing Top with slices of roast chicken

    Pesto-Tomato-Artichoke Bruschetta Bread

    1 small loaf French bread
    About 1 T of olive oil and 2 T. soft butter

    -made Pesto (I love the Artisan brand at Sams) about 1/4 -1/3 cup

    Garlic clove, cut in half
    1 ripe tomato, small dice
    3 marinated artichoke hearts, small dice
    pinch sea salt and sugar

    Cut a small loaf of French bread in half length wise. Place on a large cooking sheet. Sprinkle cut sides with olive oil and smear with a little butter. Put under broiler until butter is melted and edges are golden brown. While warm, rub the raw garlic half over the bread. Then spread with pesto. In a small bowl mix the diced tomato and artichoke heart, sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and sugar. Serve!

    Thursday, October 6, 2011

    Easy Baked Lemon Asparagus Risotto

    I love the creamy texture of risotto as a side dish but lack the patience and focus required to babysit as you stand at the stove and add in liquid and stir every few minutes.

    Ina Garten shared the basics of this easy recipe in her cookbook, How Easy is That? and I've modified it by leaving out the peas, subbing asparagus and adding lemon accents with limoncello and fresh lemon. Oh my, I love this recipe and so does everyone who has tried it. Super easy to serve as a side-dish for company or bring to a covered dish supper.

    Easy Baked Lemon Asparagus Risotto

    • 1.5 cups Arborio rice
    • 5 cups simmering vegie or chicken stock, divided

    • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I use 1/4 c. wine, 1/4 c limoncello)
    • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
    • 2 teaspoons kosher salt (or 1 t. regular sea salt)
    • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 cup blanched fresh asparagus, diced into one inch pieces
    1 lemon, squeezed, with zest

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
    Place the rice and 4 cups of the chicken stock in a Dutch oven or casserole dish that you can cover with a lid of its on or with foil.
    Cover and bake for 45 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente.
    Remove from the oven, add the remaining cup of chicken stock, the Parmesan, wine, limoncello, butter, salt and pepper, juice of lemon and a zest. stir vigorously for two to three minutes, until the rice is thick and creamy. Add the asparagus and fold in gently.

    Serves four to six

    Tuesday, September 27, 2011

    White Butter Bean-Kale Chili

    I was serving a classic chili to my family, but wanted to make one for my vegan daughter, Rachel. To my surprise, she wasn't the only one who loved this. Many had a bowl of each and enjoyed them both equally. I, personally, preferred it over the meaty version! Butter beans add that bigger, chunkier texture, helping to replace the meat and they are, as their name implies... buttery tasting. Kale gives it that nice chewy quality as well.

    2. T. olive oil
    1 onion, chopped
    1 carrot (chopped in 1/4 inch pieces with food processor)
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1 hatch chili, roasted, seeded and chopped (or small can green chilis instead)
    1 chipolte pepper in adobe sauce, minced (save the other peppers in the sauce in a baggie in the freezer to use in future recipes that need a little smokey heat). Use two peppers if you like your chili extra spicy

    1 16 oz. can butter beans, with liquid
    1 can Northern white beans with liquid
    2 cups vegie broth
    1 16 oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes, with liquid
    1 bunch kale, with stems removed, chopped
    1 T. cumin powder
    1 t. each, salt and pepper
    1 T. sweet Thai chili sauce
    1 t. chili powder
    1 t. smoked paprika

    (If you like a sweeter chili to cut the heat and the acid of the tomatoes, add a little brown sugar to taste, 1 teaspoon at a time. Also I had a few little new potatoes that I had in the fridge that I added to this chili. Feel free to raid your fridge and toss in whatever looks good to the pot, too! )

    Adjust seasonings, especially salt, to taste.

    Saute together the first four ingredients, until onions are soft and carrots are crisp-tender. Then one by one, add the rest of the ingredients. Turn up heat until chili comes to a boil, then down until it simmers until kale is limp, but still a little chewy, about 20 minutes.

    Friday, September 16, 2011

    Crunchy-Toasty Asian Slaw

    There are many different version of this wonderful slaw, which means you should feel free to tweak it to your liking! Warning: it is extremely addicting. The basics are:

    1 package of Ramen Noodle Soup, your favorite flavor
    1 16 package of pre-shredded cabbage for slaw
    1/2 c. slivered almonds
    1/4 c. sesame seeds or sunflower seeds
    1/4 c. olive oil
    1 T. Sesame oil
    1/4 c. vinegar (rice or white)
    2-3 T. sugar (depending on desired sweetness)

    Optional: 3 green onions diced.

    Soy sauce if more saltiness needed.

    Begin by breaking up package of uncooked Ramen Noodles. I like to do this in a food processor to really get them broken apart really well. You could also put them in a Ziplock bag and whack them with a hammer, or roll them with a rolling pin if you have some aggression that needs venting.

    Saute or toast almonds, sesame or sunflowers seeds and crushed uncooked Ramen noodles. (You can do this in an oven or in a big skillet with a little butter and olive oil.)

    Pour toasted nuts and noodles over the cabbage in a big bowl. .

    Make dressing by mixing flavor packet from Ramen soup, vinegar, sugar and oils. Whisk and pour over nuts, noodles and cabbage. Toss gently.

    Check for seasonings and tweak it to taste. Use soy sauce instead of salt should it need a little more saltiness. Some people even add crushed pineapple to this slaw, which I imagine would be delicious.

    This is best served within an hour of making, or mix ahead but reserve the crushed toasted noodles for adding last minute, or they tend to get soggy.

    Thursday, September 15, 2011

    Jicama, Mango & Black Bean Salad

    Made this fresh, crunchy, sweet-salty-sour side dish tonight, and went back for seconds!

    1 small jicama, peeled and diced

    1 can black beans, drained

    1 large mango peeled and diced

    1/4 of a medium red onion, minced

    Good handful of cilantro (or flat leaf parsley) minced

    Gently toss the above together with the following dressing:

    Juice of one large lime (also add a little of the lime peel, grated)

    2 teaspoons your favorite vinegar

    1 T. honey

    1/4 c. good olive oil

    1/4 t. salt

    (Whisk all together)

    Finally, sprinkle all with Tajin Mexican seasoning (combo of chili, salt and lime -- see picture below) or Tony's Cajun seasoning to taste.

    (I love this Tajin seasoning on fruits and vegies!)

    Fabulous as a side dish, and would be a wonderful picnic or potluck salad. Also would be yummy on top of fish or shredded chicken tacos or carnitas.

    Wednesday, August 24, 2011

    Balsamic-Marmalade Glazed Chicken & Lemon Drop Salad

    Saw Rachel Ray cooking this up on Food Network today and my taste buds went, "Mmmmm, I bet that is delish." And it was. I modified her recipe for our family's tastes, but it is a winner I will turn to again and again. The glaze is so good, I practically licked my plate clean.

    Orange-Balsamic Glazed Chicken

    6 boneless chicken thighs
    2 boneless chicken breasts (cut in half to equal size of thighs)
    olive oil
    grill or steak seasoning (or your favorite seasoned salt)

    1/2 c. chicken broth
    3 T. aged balsamic vinegar
    1/3 c. sweet orange marmalade

    Chopped green onions for garnish

    Lightly season both sides of chicken pieces with your favorite seasoned salt. In a hot large skillet with about 2 T. olive oil, saute and brown boneless chicken pieces on high heat until both sides are golden brown. Remove pieces at this stage on to a platter to keep warm. (Don't worry if they are not done all the way through, you'll be simmering in the sauce to finish cooking in a minute.)

    In skillet, pour in chicken broth, balsamic vinegar and orange marmalade, stir and loosen all the good bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to medium. Add chicken pieces in, coating both sides as you lay them in the sauce. Simmer until the sauce thickens to a syrupy glaze.

    I served this over a lemon risotto (any risotto recipe you like, just add grated lemon peel and squeeze of lemon to it) and my favorite summer salad, below.

    (The glaze, above, would be fabulous drizzled over a dish of roasted butternut squash and walnuts, for my vegan and vegetarian friends. Just sub vegetable broth for the chicken broth.)

    Lemon Drop Salad (for two)

    Mixed lettuce, whatever you like-- enough for two
    One half avocado, diced
    1 T. slivered toasted almonds
    1/2 fresh lemon
    1 T. olive oil
    1 T. organic sugar
    sea salt to taste

    Toss the lettuce with sea salt, a good squeeze of lemon, sugar, olive oil. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. It should be sweet and sour -- like lemonade.
    Add diced avocado and almonds and serve. So refreshing and light. I love this salad.

    Monday, August 22, 2011

    Fall-Off-the-Bone Oven BBQ Ribs

    Few things as tasty to most Texans as BBQ ribs. I love this super easy recipe for cooking savory-sweet tender ribs in your oven. I made these over the weekend and wish I could describe the amazing smell in my kitchen... like maple and bacon!

    1 Rack Pork or Beef Ribs
    Smoked Paprika (has to be the smoked variety)
    Tony's Cajun Seasoning
    Liquid Smoke
    Brown Sugar
    1/2 c. water
    Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce

    Rinse, pat dry (with paper towels), then plop rack of ribs in your largest rectangle pan. (You can tuck under the ends if it is a wee bit too long for your pan.)

    Sprinkle top of the ribs with smoked paprika and Tony's Cajun seasoning. Splash about 2 T. of liquid smoke over the ribs next, followed by a generous sprinkling of brown sugar (about 1/3 cup). Pour 1/2 cup water around the edges of the pan. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 6 hours at 280 degrees.

    When ribs are tender and done, remove foil, douse with Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce (or your favorite brand) and then right before serving, run it under the broiler until sauce is thickened and bubbly on top.

    Serve with a large wet napkin, because these are finger lickin' messy!

    Because ribs are so heavy and rich, I like to serve them with fresh vegies and fruit only. (No starchy beans,potatoes, bread or corn). A light crunchy cold broccili or cabbage slaw, with slices of pineapple and watermelon makes the perfect side dish to balance the warm, rich ribs.

    Tuesday, August 16, 2011

    Sweet Smokey Talapia

    This is a super fast meal, and easy to serve a bunch. Great with a nice crusty bread to sop up yummy pan juices! If you've not yet tried smoked paprika, do yourself a favor and add it to your spice collection. The smell is amazing, the taste delicious. You'll find yourself using it often!

    Sweet Smokey Talapia

    8 small to medium sized pieces talapia, lightly rinsed and patted dry.
    1 T. olive oil
    2 T. butter
    Smoked Paprika (must be the smoked variety for the best flavor) (about 4 teaspoons)
    Salt & Pepper
    Juice of one lemon
    Brown Sugar (about 4 teaspoons)
    4 fresh garlic cloves, pressed or mashed to paste

    Heat oven to 350. In a large oven-proof pan (I used the broiler pan bottom) Melt the butter and olive oil. Coat fish in oil/butter mixture on both sides, and lay side by side in same pan. Sprinkle each slice with about 1/2 teaspoon of paprika and brown sugar, then lightly salt and pepper. Top each slice of fish with a small smear of garlic paste. Squeeze juice of one lemon over all.

    Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes or until fish is white and flakey. Then turn your oven to broil and broil until the spices and brown sugar on top darken a bit.

    Nice served with crusty bread, a green salad with avocado, and a fresh ear of corn.

    Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    Blueberry Pie for Lunch

    Tis the season for fresh blueberries and I bought 13 pints of organic blueberries last week at $1.99, which for those of you who shop for produce --especially organic produce - know is a steal. Greg loves blueberry pie, and so I made two of them in honor of Father's Day -- and the fact that I can afford to make a fresh blueberry pie this week, without having to get a second job.

    It was so good, and the day so gorgeous here in Colorado, that I had the pie pictured above for lunch today, with spoon of Blue Bell ice cream, savoring every bite in my back yard full of flowers.

    There are days when nothing but pie will do for lunch, and this perfect day was one of them.

    Here's the recipe, which turned out, like this day, absolutely perfect! Not too runny, not too thick, not too sweet, not too tart.

    Becky's Blueberry "Lunch" Pie

    For a 9 inch pie (clear, plain Pyrex pans with a nice "lip" are my favorites...)

    4 c. fresh blueberries

    1 c. sugar

    1 T. fresh lemon juice (add a little zest if you like the lemon flavor) OR 1/2 t. cinnamon, which ever flavoring you prefer. I like lemon, Greg likes cinnamon. So I had no choice but to make a pie for each of us.

    4 T. corn starch

    (If your pan is a deep dish: add 1 more c. of blueberries and 1 more T. cornstarch, and 1/4 c. more sugar)

    Toss together in a big bowl, gently, then pour into an unbaked pie shell. Cover with another pie crust with decorative "holes" cut into it, any shape you like. Or make a lattice top if you prefer. Bake at 400 for about 45 minutes or until golden brown.

    Recipe below is for Homemade Pie Crust if you decide to make your own. It had been so long since I made my own pie crust (since Pillsbury refrigerated ones appeared in the stores!) that I really enjoyed getting my hands on pie dough and rolling it out again. Very Betty Crocker.

    Pie Crust for Double Crust Pie (or two shells)

    2 c. unbleached flour

    2/3 c. Crisco shortening (Best if this is chilled. I just store shortening in the fridge. I seldom use it, because too much shortening in your diet will "shorten" your life -- but as I said, there are days when you have to have pie. Preferably for lunch. And Crisco makes great tasting crusts. I like the butter flavor. )

    1 t. salt

    7 T. ice water

    In a food processor pulse flour and salt with shortening until shortening looks like little peas. Add the ice water and pulse again just until it begins to stick together like dough. Secret to good pie crust: keep every thing cold and don't handle it any more than you have to.

    Dampen your kitchen counter and put a big rectangle of wax or parchment paper on top of this... it will keep the paper in place. Sprinkle with about a T. of flour and put the lump of dough in the middle. Divide it in half, put one half in the fridge to keep it chilled. Create a ball with the other half, and then flatten with your hand. Sprinkle dough with a light dusting of flour and roll out with a rolling pin, radiating from the middle of the lump until you have a rustic looking circle. Fold pie dough (without creasing) into fourths. (You can lift it with the edges of the waxed paper to fold, to make it easier.) Then put the point of the "dough triangle"in the middle of the pan and unfold, then press to the sides. Fill with berry mixture.

    Repeat the process with the second half of the dough to the "rustic circle stage." Lay on top of berries, press the sides of the dough together and flute.

    (I got this cute little retro dessert plate at a Dollar Store.... in Holland!)

    Sunday, June 12, 2011

    Hotel Survivor "Trail Mix Toast"

    I was in a hotel room this week without a car or restaurant nearby. And I was hungry. Thankfully, I could forage from the snacks I astutely brought in my suitcase (The Johnson Family Creed is "Always Bring Snacks.") It was like being on Survivor, The Hotel Version. I felt like McGyver, as I took out a thin bagel, peanut butter, sunflower seeds and dried cherries and cranberries.

    Carefully cleaning the iron in the hotel room, I then "ironed" the bagel to a toasty crunch.

    Next, I rather awkwardly smeared the bagel with peanut butter, using a plastic coffee stirrer, and sprinkled on the remaining ingredients.

    Ta-dum! Trail Mix Toast was born.

    To my surprise, I really loved it.

    Now that I'm home I toast the thin bagel or Ezekiel bread cut side down in a little butter and olive oil on a hot skillet and leave the iron to... well, sit on the top shelf in the laundry room. Because at home I don't even iron clothes, much less bagels.

    And I've also taken to sprinkling my trail mix toast with flax or hemp seeds or wheatgerm. I sometimes use almond butter.

    It's fun, it's easy, it's healthy and a great snack breakfast to make on the run for yourself or the kiddos.

    Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. And it looks like I've given birth to what I can must humbly admit is destined to become ... a whole new breakfast classic. :)

    Saturday, June 4, 2011

    Energy Green "Shots"

    I was telling a friend today about the "energy shots" I serve to myself and Greg, my husband every day. She asked me to share the recipe, so I thought I'd use my blog to do that visually, in case others might be interested as well!

    My homemade "green energy shots" provide a quick boost of energy and when you use l-carnitine and fish oil in liquid form, you got a lot of milligrams for your money. (You'd have to take several expensive pills to equal what these liquid forms give you.) And the good news is that both this brand of l-carnitine (Now Brand, 1000 mg., citrus flavor) and fish oil (Barleans, citrus) actually taste great. (No fishy taste or aftertaste at all.)

    KyoGreen Brand green food mixes really well, as opposed to some of the "green powders" I've tried that glop up when you try to stir them into liquids. Superfood powders like this keep your body more alkaline than acidic, which helps prevent cancer. It also has anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties, alongside providing natural energy. In addition it is great for skin, hair and nails and is great blood purifier.

    L-Carnitine provides natural energy at a cellular level and is excellent for heart health and blood pressure.

    Fish oil helps with mood, brain nourishment, heart health and is a source of balanced energy.

    I mix 1 T. of the Now brand L-carnitine, with 1 t. of the Barleans fish oil and 1 T. of Kyo green powder. Stir well. Then add 1/4 to 1/3 c. juice -- we like orange juice.

    Then bottoms up! You'll be surprised that it tastes pleasant. Follow this shot with a drink of water or green tea and you should feel great soon. My son Gabe and his girlfriend Aleks love these "green shots" and ask for one whenever they come over because it gives them nice, calm energy for their busy days.

    I take one "shot" in the morning and one in the afternoon when my energy begins to dip again.


    Saturday, May 21, 2011

    Balsamic Roasted Carrots, Potatoes and Garlic Bulbs

    It is getting sad in my fridge at the end of the groceries. Still, I managed to find some carrots and a few small golden potatoes and a several bulbs of garlic. Cha-ching! Roasted balsamic vegies are one of my favorite side dishes. The balsamic vinegar and olive oil mingles with the vegies to form a sweet-savory crispy coating. Transforms the lowly carrot and potato into something to "ooh and ahh" about, and with almost no effort and very little time.

    Preheat oven to 400.

    First peel about 6 carrots and then cut them into sticks or think slices. Then quarter several about 6 new,red or golden potatoes. You will use 2 full garlic need for any prep.

    On a big thick sheet pan, squiggle a generous amount of olive oil. (About 1/8 cup.) Plop carrots and potatoes and garlic bulbs on the sheet and spread apart into one even layer. Sprinkle all, lightly, with Steak or Grill Seasoning (or salt and pepper and cayenne and garlic). Then generously sprinkle with Balsamic Vinegar. Toss or roll the vegies around until coated with oil, vinegar and seasonings.

    (You can also add herbs or other vegies,for a variation on this basic technique.)

    Roast for 10 -15 minutes until the bottoms of the vegies are golden and caramelized. Then turn with a spatula, turn heat down to 350 and roast another 10-15 minutes until done. Carefully lift garlic bulbs off of the pan (I use a paper towel) and cut off the ends, then squeeze the sweet roasted cloves into and among the carrots and potatoes.

    These vegies are fabulous as they are, but you can also serve with a little Ranch Dressing or sour cream or onion dip to make them even more delectable.

    Friday, May 20, 2011

    Chicken Lime-Coconut Rice Bowls

    I love the combination of fresh lime, coconut milk and spice! Hope you enjoy this creamy, easy one-bowl wonder. It can easily be doubled or tripled for a group.

    I begin by making jasmine rice (1 3/4 cups of rice, 3 cups water, dash salt). If you have a rice maker, all the better as it takes less than 15 minutes. ($13.00 at Walmart.:) When it is done, stir in 1/2 can of coconut milk, reserve the rest for the chicken and sauce. (I like the organic lite coconut milk, Whole Foods brand. You want a little fat in there for creaminess and this one is perfect.)

    In a large skillet, saute 2 cloves of fresh minced garlic in a T. of coconut or olive oil and a T. of sesame oil.

    To this add any vegies you like and stir fry until tender crisp. (I use whatever I have on hand --- onions, mushrooms, sliced asparagus, frozen green peas, edemame, fresh pineapple, chunks of cooked sweet potato or carrots, sugar snap peas, water chestnuts and on and on! I had some fresh brussel sprouts left over so I removed the outer leaves and threw them in the pot,then sliced the little "cabbage core" in "coins" and stir fried them. They were amazing! Fresh grated ginger is also nice. )

    Toss in about 1 to 2 cups of diced or shredded cooked chicken, depending on how many you are serving, allowing 1/2 c. per person. (I love rotisserie chicken for this.)

    Over the hot chicken and vegies pour about 1/4 c. good teriyaki sauce, 1/8. c. sweet thai chili sauce, and the other 1/2 can coconut milk. Lightly stir. for seasoning and add soy sauce if it needs more saltiness. Squeeze juice of one fresh lime over all.

    Let guests serve themselves a portion of hot jasmine coconut rice, and chicken vegie sauce.

    Then let everyone add condiments as they like, such as:

    Chopped nuts, sesame seeds, crisp fried Chinese noodles, fresh chopped cilantro or basil; extra Oriental sauces such as soy, teriyaki, hoison, thai red sweet chili sauce (I buy this in large bottles at World Market), Sriracha HOT chili sauce (pictured above), grated coconut and fresh lime slices.

    Serves 3-4

    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

    Halibut with Lemon & Capers

    I must confess that I borrowed this picture of someone else's halibut, because we ate ours up so fast tonight and I was too hungry to search for my camera! (I promise to replace it with my own picture next time I make this recipe, which I hope will be soon. In all honesty, it looked even better:)

    However, the fish turned out so great that I wanted to write down the recipe before I forgot what I did!

    First I began with a thick piece (about 1/2 lb each person) of fresh halibut from Whole Foods. It is in season right now and the catch is so mild and fresh!

    I sprinkled each side of the halibut with a light sprinkling of salt, pepper, and fresh grated lemon peel. Then I pan grilled (in a screamin' hot pan) the two pieces in about 2. T olive oil, 1 t. of butter and a couple of smashed garlic cloves.

    After both sides had a nice golden caramel color, I poured in about 1/2 cup water (I was out of white wine, or I would have used that), the juice of one lemon, and about 1 T. of agave nectar (you could also use organic brown sugar) and 2 T. capers. Covered this with a lid and steamed just until fish was flaky and done.

    Served the fish over brown and wild rice, pouring pan juices with capers evenly over both pieces.

    Fish, Deelish!

    Saturday, April 23, 2011

    Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

    With a sore throat and cold, nothing tastes better to me than soup. Tonight I had a hankering for tomato basil soup and decided to have a go at making it myself. I can't believe I've not done this before, as often as I order a cup of this yummy tangy creamy soup when I eat out.

    It's a cinch and better than any I've had anywhere! I'll never open a can of Campbell's again:)

    In a big pot, saute:

    1/2 an onion (I prefer red onions) and 2 fresh cloves garlic in 1 T. olive oil.

    As these are simmering coarsely chop 3 fresh, medium sized tomatoes and toss into pot as well, cooking until they release their juices and turn soft, a couple of minutes. At last minute toss in a handful of fresh basil leaves, stir, remove from heat. (I was out of basil and so used a handful of spinach tonight. If you have leftover cooked vegetables in the fridge, toss in up to a cup full!) Add one 16 oz can of diced organic tomatoes, preferably organic.

    Using a blender, food processor or immersion blender -- carefully blend the contents of the pot until desired consistency. Stir in anywhere from 1/4 to 3/4 cup half n half, depending on your taste. Add 2 t. sugar (or any sweetener you prefer, I like organic brown sugar) then salt and pepper to taste.

    Serve with croutons or grilled cheese sandwiches, garnished with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    Maple-Sea Salt Sweet Potato Fries

    I've been experimenting for awhile, trying to find the perfect, baked, sweet potato "fry." I think I hit the mark tonight, pairing it with fresh grilled salmon topped with a dollop of homemade pesto, a few chopped tomatoes and a squeeze of lime. The salad is spinach, strawberries, a few chopped cashews, a bit of crumbled goat cheese and a balsamic-raspberry dressing.

    Maple-Sea Salt Sweet Potato "Fries"

    1 small sweet potato per person

    maple syrup (1 t. per serving)

    butter (as desired)

    coarse sea salt or kosher salt

    1 T. coconut oil or olive oil

    Heat oven to 350. On a baking sheet put one tablespoon of coconut oil and stick in oven briefly just until it is melted. (Or skip this step and use a T. of olive oil instead.)

    Peel one small sweet potato per person. Slice into "french fry" shapes. Put the potato sticks on the baking pan and roll around until all are coated with oil.

    Bake from 10 to 15 minutes or until sweet potatoes are just tender, but still hold their shape. Squeeze about 1 t. (per potato) of real maple syrup and a small pat of butter on top of warm potato sticks while still on hot pan. Toss gently with tongs. Sprinkle lightly with coarse sea salt and serve.


    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    Kiss Me! I Just Found Out I'm Irish!

    Only two weeks ago did I find out that I am, in fact, a wee bit Irish! My great-grandmother who died when my grandfather was just sixteen years old, was named Mary Kathryn McNally. He loved her fiercely and though he seldom, if ever, cried; he wept the day she died, one of the saddest in his life, so he told my Aunt Ann.

    So today is the first St. Patrick's Day I can say with the rest of the Irish folk in the world: "Kiss me, I'm Irish!"

    We often tease that our highest holy day at our church is St. Patrick's Day. Our pastor, Hugh Halter (author of The Tangible Kingdom) has read and modeled much of his life upon this beloved saint and has spent more than one St. Patty's Day in a real pub (sometimes by invitation), sharing the original meaning of this day and the man for whom it is named. He tells me that there are often tears in the green beer upon hearing the story of a man who loved life, God, and his fellow man so deeply.

    You'll enjoy reading up on St. Patrick today, if you've never read about his life. You can "google" him anywhere.

    There are so many great Irish sayings, greetings and blessings. But I've chosen this one to share with my friends today, as it contains a great truth. In fact, those who manage to do this are probably the happiest people on the planet, Irish or no.

    Happy St. Patricks Day to One & All!

    Always remember to forget
    The things that made you sad.
    But never forget to remember
    The things that made you glad.

    Always remember to forget
    The friends that proved untrue.
    But never forget to remember
    Those that have stuck by you.

    Always remember to forget
    The troubles that passed away.
    But never forget to remember
    The blessings that come each day

    Saturday, March 5, 2011

    Chocolate Chip Banana Walnut Bread

    I had lots of peeled ripe frozen bananas that needed to be used up this week, and also needed a good "transportable" treat to take to a family battling a week of illness. (There's nothing like chocolate, nuts and bananas to cure anything that ails you, says this Dr. Mom.)

    Happened upon a recipe from Bon Appetit magazine with over 200 rave reviews. I now know why. It's a wonderful just-right banana bread recipe with or without the chocolate chips. I made a few tweaks to the original Bon Appetit recipe to allow for more bananas, cutting some sugar, adding a bit more flour. I think this makes for a more moist bread. I doubled the recipe below and it made 3 plenty generous loaves of bread. N

    Tip: If I am in a hurry, I will often bake banana bread in 2 square Pyrex pans.... this speeds up cooking time, makes smaller slices and cooks evenly in a shorter time. (The reason for "layering" the batter with the flour coated chocolate-nut mixture is that if you don't, the chocolate chips tend to all sink to the bottom. This helps keep the chips and nuts equally distributed.)

    1 1/2 cups plus 2 T. all purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
    3/4 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped
    1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
    3/4 cup sugar
    2 large eggs
    1 1/2 cup mashed ripe bananas
    2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

    Preheat oven to 350°F.

    Butter and flour 9x5x2 1/2-inch metal loaf pan. Whisk first 4 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Combine chocolate chips and walnuts in small bowl; add 1 tablespoon flour mixture and toss to coat.

    Beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually add sugar, beating until well blended. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in mashed bananas, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Beat in flour mixture. Spoon 1/3 of batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with half of nut mixture. Spoon 1/3 of batter over. Sprinkle with remaining nut mixture. Cover with remaining batter. Run knife through batter in zigzag pattern.

    Bake bread until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 5 minutes. Turn out onto rack and cool.

    Friday, March 4, 2011

    Fresh Strawberry Pie

    There is nothing better than a perfect Fresh Strawberry Pie, the only hitch being ... it really does need to be perfect. Crust flaky and crisp, or it will get soggy from filling. Strawberries juicy, ripe and red. (Organic strawberries always seem to taste better to me.) The glaze: neither too thick or runny. Whipped cream.... made fresh from whipping cream (not heavy cream) just lightly sweetened, and I prefer no vanilla. I love the pure taste of unadulterated cream on this heavenly light pie.

    Since moving to Colorado, I've had to play with and adjust recipes to find one that works well with the altitude. This glaze works beautifully at high altitude, although I've not made it at lower altitude so I cannot guarantee the results will be as good.

    Prepare one pie crust (or two if you double this recipe, which I highly suggest if there are more than 4 people who will be eating it.... people tend to want a second slice!) I like the Pillsbury refrigerated brand that you roll out and press into your own pie pan, following directions on the box.

    I also put dried beans in a piece of foil or waxed or parchment paper into the pie shell for about 1/2 the baking time to insure it doesn't puff up with air holes. (I keep the beans in a Ziploc bag with my cooking utensils to be re-used. I think I've recycled these "pie beans" for about 5 years now!)

    Bake the pie shells until deep golden brown and they'll stand up much better and longer to the strawberry filling without getting soggy. Still, it is best to serve this pie within 2 hours of putting it all together. You can make everything ahead and then assemble just before company arrives, however.

    For the glaze (for one pie)

    Boil 3/4 c. water
    Make a slurry of 2T. cornstarch and 1/4 c. water, and slowly add to boiling water, while stirring with a whisk.
    Whisk in 3/4 c. sugar. Remove from heat.
    Sprinkle 1/2 a 3 oz. package of strawberry Jello over this mixture, whisk in.
    Add 1 T. fresh lemon juice, 1 T. butter, pinch salt. Whisk and set aside to cool.

    When pie crust has cooled, fill it with about 2 pints of fresh strawberries, left whole. Cut the green tops off and put them cut-side down in the pie, starting with the biggest berries, and filling in with smaller berries (or you can cut some berries in half to tuck into open spots).

    Finally pour cooled glaze of the top of the berries and put in the fridge to cool and set.

    Just before serving, top with fresh made whipping cream (I prefer this over heavy whipping cream) that has been whipped until fluffy and sweetened with powdered sugar. (Powdered sugar works better than granulated to help whipping cream hold its shape.) I like to cut the pie pieces first, and then just top each with a big dollop of whipping cream, individually.

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    Ruminators Anonymous: Help for Over-Thinkers

    (Picture I took of Crater Lake on a trip to Oregon. The deepest, clearest lake in the U.S. and an image of rest, beauty and deep calm that I aspire to have in my head!)

    Ruminating over past,current, or possible future relational problems with just about anyone I've ever known, know or could know is a tiny problem of mine.

    However, unhooking my brain from the never ending loop of rumination is a challenge I'm determined to conquer. I was relieved to discover I am not alone, particularly in my gender group. Many of you have been there, too, I am sure. You wake at 3:00 A.M. and your mind goes straight to the The Problem, and while you'd really like to go back to sleep, your Inner Lawyer is preparing a defense or a case against your attacker (or shunner), or your Inner Fixer is searching for something you've not yet tried, some rock that hasn't been turned over. And there you are, an exhausted helpless victim to the ruminations of your own mind. You lose sleep; those you love only have about half of you fully present; you are missing your life -- 98% of which may be fabulous! -- letting one sticky issue rob your joy.

    Time to take your mind by the scruff of its neck and re-direct it to more helpful places.

    Here's a few VERY HELPFUL thoughts and ideas gleaned from the book Women Who Think Too Much by Susan Nolenn- Hoeksema, Phd. with a few of my own discoveries as well. Perhaps they'll help you, too.

    1. Understand that Over-thinking is NOT your friend. It is not giving you insight, it is clouding your vision.

    2. Give it a Rest. Especially at night, say to yourself, "Nothing is ever solved after midnight that makes any sense in the light of day. I'll deal with this at a set day and time when I'm fully rested."

    3. Do Something that is Fully Engrossing, and if possible, takes creative thought. I personally found that deciding to finally start writing a chapter in a food memoir I'd been toying with, gave me hours of "time off" from ruminating. In fact, it felt so good, I decided to postpone ruminating for another day.

    4. Get Up and Get Moving. Physical activity helps disengage the brain and gives it fresh oxygen and fresh perspective. If there something you CAN do to help the problem, it is more likely to come to you after a good walk than by staring at the ceiling and thinking in endless negative loops.

    5. Just say NO to your brain. It's an interesting moment when you realizing you do not have to obey or believe your thoughts. Who knew? The best image is a big red stop sign. Mentally hold it up to Ruminating Mind and say, in your best Buzz Lightyear voice, "Not TODAY, SIR!" and just don't go there. Don't let even one thought in the door or like the Cat in the House it will bring friends and make a wreck of your mind, and you'll realize you've lost precious hours in your day. Stop the thought train at the threshold of your mind's front door.

    6. Don't Rent Space in Your Head to Negativity... it only lets the other guy win. In cases where you've been unjustly wronged, tell yourself that you will not allow your continued internal upset to rob you of the joy and the life you still have to live. Life is hard enough without further punishing yourself with painful thoughts. Enough is enough.

    7. Schedule a Ruminating Hour. If you really need to think a problem through, pray about it and perhaps take some action: schedule a set aside time to do this. Bring a journal, a Bible and your undivided focus. But only ruminate at the schedule ruminating hour, and if your mind wanders there before the set appointment, gently remind it that this is not the time.

    8. Hand it Over. You know the commercials where somebody slaps their hand to their head and says, "I shoulda had a V-8!" Well, that's how I feel when I remember, REALLY remember all the times that I've finally let go of an issue or a person I could not figure out, and God has intervened and done marvelous things without my help or manipulation. "I shoulda given this over to God!" I remember, and eventually, when I do, peace begins to descend.

    9. Talk with Someone. A caution here...just venting to multiple people multiple times doesn't help much, and in fact, it can heighten and widen the Highway to Rumination in your brain. But talking with a wise person or setting an appointment with a life coach or therapist who will give you honest feedback can be very helpful.

    10. Write it out. Thoughts written down seem to help them escape the confines of your mind and stop the endless ping-ponging. Journaling, for many, provides much relief.

    11. Find Pleasure and Pursue It. Make a list of all the things that give you pleasure from great music, to sunshine, to books, to getting out in nature or watching a funny movie, making a fabulous meal..... In times of stress you really do need to proactively "double your pleasure, double your fun" as it feeds and protects a mind that is going through crisis, however small or large.

    12. Instead of putting all your focus on the one issue or relationship that is draining your life, think about doubling your efforts to nourish the good relationships you enjoy. Sometimes a "challenge child" or a difficult family member becomes a vortex into which all the emotional energy is poured... until you wake up one day and realize that those who have been there all along have been neglected and may even been suffering from that neglect. I remember a poignant news story about a "normal sister" with two schizophrenic sisters. The parents naturally poured all their emotional energy into the mentally ill sisters and the normal sister, feeling guilty about having a healthy brain, played the part of the brave, quiet, good, and faithful supporting sister. But the camera caught this "normal sister" crying, pulling out her hair strand by strand, suffering quietly but suffering, all the same. Do not let one Problem Person rob you or the rest of the family of mental health, joy and great memories.

    If you're stuck on a negative feeling, make something: a poem, a pie, a blog. Creativity pulls your brain into a happy place.—Martha Beck

    My favorite passage, put to memory, and pulled out more often than any other scripture:

    Philippians 4: 6, 7

    Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

    And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

    Sunday, February 27, 2011

    Blue Cheese Buffalo Dip for Vegies

    This is such a great, quick dip for vegies... full of flavor and easy to throw together.

    1/2 cup prepared Ranch Dressing (any kind you like)
    1/2 cup Greek yogurt (I like 2%) or sour cream
    Few shakes (depending on your taste) Frank's Red Hot Buffalo Sauce
    1/4 c. blue cheese or gorgonzola crumbles (or to your taste).

    That's it. Perfect snack or side dish to a soup and sandwich night. I really love these mini peppers (popping up in grocery stores near you) for dipping. They are mild and super crisp, a nice contrast to the spicy-salty of the dip. You can also cut them in half to make mini "boats" for the dip as well. Jicama, celery and carrot sticks round out the vegie tray.

    Thursday, February 3, 2011

    The Roasted Veggie "Messy Wonder" Sandwich

    Necessity being the mother of invention, I was snowed in and hungry for a warm, roasted, messy Greekish sandwich. So I began lining up ingredients I had on hand out of the fridge, beginning with:

    Eggplant (peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thin... about 4-5 slices per sandwich)

    Red Pepper (roasted on top of gas burner, put in plastic wrap until steamy, peeled and sliced.. a couple of nice 2 inch by 4 inch slices per sandwich. Or use some from a jar.)

    Red or Yellow Onions (sliced... about 1/4 of a big onion per sandwich)

    Into a large skillet with a generous pour of olive oil, toss in a smashed garlic clove and stir to flavor the oil. Then add the veggies above, sprinkle lightly with sea salt and pepper, and saute until they are golden brown on all sides. Remove from skillet, put on a plate, sprinkle with a good Italian dressing (I like balsamic) and toss the veggies until coated. Then cover plate to keep warm.

    Ingredients for 2nd Part of Recipe:

    Good sliced bread, 2 slices

    1 -2 T. crumbled feta

    1 T. sliced pepperoncinis or banana peppers (little light green pickled peppers)

    1- 2 T. of mayo or Ranch Dressing for spreading

    Few thin slices avocado

    Sprigs cilantro or parsley or fresh basil tucked in if you like

    In the meantime: put 2 slices of your favorite sandwich bread (I like a good light, white sliced French boule from Whole Foods bakery for this) in the pan, allowing it to soak up some of the garlic oil until it is also browned and crisp on one side (or grill both sides if you like).

    Next, spread one side of the two slices with your choice of mayonnaise or Ranch Dressing. Sprinkle one slice with crumbled feta and pepperoncini peppers. Top this with sliced avocado.

    On the other slice layer the roasted veggies that have been lightly marinating. Put these two bad boys together anyway you can. It WILL be messy, but aren't the best things in life?

    Slice sandwich at a diagonal.... go some place private with a large cloth napkin and enjoy, eyes occasionally raised toward heaven in gratitude.

    Sunday, January 23, 2011

    Savory Ramen-Almond Cabbage Slaw

    This crunchy salad is so good that it is hard to eat just one serving. There are a variety of recipes on the internet for it, but this is one I like the best for both taste and ease of preparation.

    If you bring this dish to a potlock (and it is perfect for that) wait until about 5 min. before serving to toss the dressing with the slaw or the noodles lose their nice crunch.


    1 package of pre-shredded coleslaw cut cabbage (you can also use finely shredded Napa cabbage for a more tender, less crunchy slaw)

    1/2 c. sliced almonds

    1/4 c. sesame seeds

    2 T. butter plus 1. T olive oil

    4 green onion stalks,chopped (optional)

    1 package DRY noodles from a Ramen Soup package, well crushed (I use food processor or blender to do this so you don't end up with "hunks" of stuck-together-noodles in the salad)


    6 T. white vinegar (rice vinegar is nice)

    4 T. olive or canola oil

    4 T. sugar

    2 t. steak or grill seasoning (or 1 t. salt and 1 t. pepper)

    Dry flavor packet from Ramen noodle soup

    Place cabbage and crushed Ramen noodles and chopped green onions (if you like them) in a large mixing bowl. Then saute almonds and sesame until golden brown in butter-olive oil mixture; add to cabbage. Finally thoroughly whisk, shake or blend the ingredients for the dressing. Pour over cabbage and almond mixture about 5 minutes before ready to serve and eat. Though this makes a big bowl, it is amazing how fast it disappears!