July 31, 2012

Happy Bup-day!

It's his birthday today! :-) I'm so happy to be celebrating another year of his life!

We started the celebrations early by taking a trip to the cabin for the weekend. The weather was gorgeous (pics coming soon!) & we hiked, played games, ate, & relaxed. All the usual things.

For his b-day dinner with my parents, we made pizzas on the grill. Mom made a whole wheat & semolina flour crust. I sauteed some onions, mushrooms & garlic, plus chopped tomatoes, peppers, & basil. We didn't have any mozerella, so we used provolone. It was delicious! Provolone has a lot more flavor than mozerella while still melting well.

My pizza...half garlic/olive oil & half bbq sauce.


The Bup's pizza...all bbq sauce.

Mom's...half & half.

Dad's...half & half. His looked the tastiest to me. I think it was beause it was so colorful. He had a lot of green on there!

While the rest of us used knives & forks to cut ours before eating it, he just dove right in.

Perspective: the pizza was almost bigger than his head!

For dessert: Dark chocolate cake with dark chocolate peanut butter icing. It's his new favorite. Thank goodness, because for awhile it was red velvet & that's not nearly as good. I used about 2 tablespoons of jet black cocoa powder for the icing. It makes it super chocolatey!

Here's to many more years! Happy birthday to my love!

July 25, 2012

Grilled Caprese Tomatoes

I have more bug bites than I can even count. Every time I go outside to garden or grill or check the mail, one gets me! Now that we're having some cooler days, I'd really like to sit on the patio & read, but I'm not willing to get eaten even more.

All the bugs haven't curbed our grilling, though. It's summer & we're going to grill no matter what!

Mom gave us these tomatoes & as soon as she offered them to us, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them. It's simple & delicious.

I'm slowly warming up to tomatoes. I don't pick them out of my sandwiches anymore, but I still don't like to eat them raw. Even though this dish is mostly tomato, I love it! The juices start to carmelize in the tomato, giving it a delicious flavor. That flavor along with the basil & cheese makes for a perfect combination.

Soon I will share the recipe for the grilled butternut squash you see in the pics, but it's not quite there yet. We let the squash marinade over night in what should have been a delicious combination, but it just didn't go as well with the squash as I had hoped. I'm going to tweak it & then I'll share!

Our dinner on the patio. What you don't see: the bugs under the table eating our legs. Dinner for all!

Grilled Caprese Tomatoes
Serves 2-4

5 small, ripe tomatoes (a little bigger than golf ball sized)
10 fresh basil leaves
10 chunks (1/2"x1/4") of smoky cheddar or mozerella cheese

Slice tomatoes in half & remove the hard white part by the stem. Lay a basil leave on the cut side of the tomato. Top with a chunk of cheese. Grill for 5-8 minutes on the top shelf of a grill (medium to medium-high heat). Tomatoes are done when the bottom skin starts to shrivel up and the cheese is melted.

July 23, 2012

Dinner with my parents

We ate at my parents a last week & Mom made a delicious dinner for us! It's always nice to have dinner with them, especially in the summer. During the fall, winter & spring, we're always rushing because we eat with them on Thursdays before choir practice. This time of year, we can eat more leisurely & have then have coffee, dessert, & play a game.

It was a Grilled Caponata Salad with Grilled Flatbreads from Cooking Light magazine. She made a few alterations based on what she had around - no capers or green olives, jalapeno peppers instead of bell (They gave it a nice kick!) & feta cheese instead of mozerella.

She also used her own dough, which is a combo of semolina & whole wheat flours. Dad gets credit, too, for his great grilling!

We loved it! Thanks for all the time you spent prepping!

July 21, 2012

Headstand Update

In light of an article I recently came across, 10 Reasons to Do a Headstand Every Day, I thought I should update you on my goal to do a headstand from a few months ago.

Some days I can move into a headstand without any help from the wall. Other days, I need that little tap with my toe to kick into position. I'm not quite comfortable moving into one without the wall yet, but I'm almost there. Once I'm in position, though, I can hold it for over a minute with no help! I'm working up to longer & think that physically I could hold it. It's the mental part that's slacking. I get bored, or worried that I might fall down soon, or just over think the balance.

I love the way I feel after I've done a headstand, so I've been trying to continue to practice every day. There have been a few days where it made my head pound, so I just stopped & tried again the next day. I'm hoping to soon not need my safety net & be able to move away from the wall.
I've also been having fun practicing different leg positions. This one is my favorite!

Check out the article on headstand! Maybe it'll motivate you to try it out! (They're fun, I promise!) 

July 19, 2012

July Garden Update

As you're probably aware, it's been a very hot, very dry summer. Our garden is holding up pretty well, considering. The Bup has been watering it a few evenings each week, so things are still green.

The dry heat doesn't seem to be affecting our jalapenos! They're bursting with peppers.

The tomato plants are loaded with green tomatoes, but the only ones ripening so far are the little cherry & pear tomatoes.

Tuesday's harvest! Even though our cucumber vines seem to be half-dead, they're still producing.

Our eggplant has some blossoms. I'm hoping it produces lots of eggplant. We love it.

Last year's kale. This year's kale. Apparently kale doesn't care whether it's 100 or 20 degrees out. It just likes to live.

Sweet potatoes & random squash. I'm debating how much squash to let grow. It all came up on it's own & I already pulled at least a dozen plants. I'm waiting to see what it is before I pull to many more. If it's butternut, I'm keeping them all!

This was our first year to plant brussels sprouts. The bugs love the leaves, but the plants are still thriving. I can't wait to see the stalks form.

Our bell pepper plants are looking a bit wilty in the heat, but there are some blossoms, so I think with just a hint of rain we should get some nice peppers.

I'm really sad about the zucchini. I devoted a whole bed to them, but the plants just aren't producing. We had a lot of trouble with bugs in the past & the marigolds really seem to be helping ward them off, but it's just too hot for them.

Also, please note in the zucchini pic that the fence isn't finished. Maybe that's how we have these cute little friends living in our cucumber/tomato patch!

I took several pics before realizing there were 2 of them cuddled up there. We named them Amy & Jo. :-) I'm happy that we can provide them some shade from all of this heat.

Is anyone else having any garden ups & downs due to the lack of rain?

July 17, 2012

Black Bean & Cucumber Salsa Dip

When I eat dip, I like to use a small/broken chip (or other dipper) & pile it with a lot of dip. The Bup is the opposite; he likes to use a full chip & put a little dip on it. Except with this dip. He was using a spoon to pile it onto his chips!

We both loved this. It's healthy & perfect for summer weather. The cool cucumbers take some of the edge off the spice from the salsa & jalapeno. The beans provide protein & some substance to the dip. We paired this with lots of watermelon for a light lunch.

I do have to tell you about these chips. We stock up when we go to Trader Joe's because they are amazing. They're the Veggie & Flax Seed Tortilla Chips. I can't decide which color I like best, but I think it's the green. The flavors aren't that much different, & maybe it's all mental, but they are really made from different veggies, so who knows. Either way, they're delicious.

Any chips would go well with this dip. I think it would also be good on some toasted baguette rounds, as a black bean bruschetta.


Black Bean & Cucumber Salsa Dip
Serves 4-6

1 1/2 c cooked black beans (or 1 can, drained & rinsed)
1 jalapeno, seeds removed, diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1/2 small cucumber, diced
2/3 c salsa*
1 tsp. lime juice
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt

Combine all ingredients & mix well. Chill for about 30 minutes before eating to allow flavors to meld. Serve with tortilla chips!

*I used Trader Joe's Double Roasted Salsa, but any kind will do. Use your favorite! You can also choose how hot you'd like your dip to be by the heat of the salsa. I thought the mild salsa with the jalapeno was just spicy enough, but you may prefer more kick!

July 14, 2012

Apples That Never Turn Brown?

I recently read a NY Times article entitled "That Fresh Look, Genetically Buffed." A new genetically engineered apple is being marketed. This apple is made so that it won't turn brown when sliced or bruised.


Isn't that a huge component of a fresh apple? Maybe I'd actually like to know if my apple has been sitting around for awhile.

One of their top reasons for this developement is this: "A whole apple is 'for many people too big a commitment,' he said. 'If you had a bowl of apples at a meeting, people wouldn’t take an apple out of the bowl. But if you had a plate of apple slices, everyone would take a slice.' "

I'm all for getting people to eat more fresh fruit, but I don't think this is the best answer. Genetically engineered food, no matter whether it's fresh or packaged, all has the same problem. It hasn't been around long enough to test the ramifications it may have on our bodies & on our earth.

As a Christian, I believe the God created everything in His perfect image. This includes apples. He wanted them to turn brown when exposed to air. He wanted us to know whether they were bruised. Why are we messing around with nature?

One of the problems that they are concerned about is that "the Arctic technology might not keep the apples from turning brown for the required 16 to 21 days." Why would we want to eat an apple that has been exposed to air for 16-21 days? That sounds dangerous to me. Apples come in their very own perfect packaging - the skin. Do they bruise if not handled with care? Yes. But the skin protects the apple & the nutrients it contains. As soon as we start cutting it up, packaging it in plastic, & giving it a long shelf life, we lose nutrients, add extra costs, & waste valuable resources.

An advocate of the genetically engineered apple said "the nonbrowning trait would help growers and packers. 'We discard an awful lot of fruit for even minor bruising,' he said."  In that case, why are they discarding the fruit? There are a lot of hungry people in this country/world who would happily eat a bruised apple. Cut away the bruised part, & you still have plenty of fruit to eat. It's a shame that so much food goes to waste simply because American consumers demand perfection.

Next time you have a bruised apple, don't throw it away! Make applesauce, or Apple Pumpkin Beer Bread. Throw the good parts into pancakes or oatmeal. Or just dip the slices in peanut butter! There are many options.

We don't need our apples to never brown. We just need to be willing to accept a few imperfections. In that respect, apples aren't much different than humans. Just because they aren't perfect doesn't mean we don't love them!

July 11, 2012

Peach, Walnut & Roasted Beet Salad

I'm going to be the master of the obvious here & tell you that it's been hot lately. Super hot. That means I'm less motivated to make heavy dinners & really into anything I don't have to actually cook.

Of course, I have turned the oven on a few times. I had to roast the beets for this salad, for example. But I made it worthwhile by making Hot Chocolate Cookies at the same time! It was a win-win situation. Then I stored the beets in the fridge so they were ready for me to put on salads throughout the week.

I was super excited to pull my beets. We thinned them a few weeks ago & I got just enough to have for one meal. Last weekend we pulled the rest (I was sweating like crazy out there!). There were 4 that had some surface damage, so I cleaned those right away & roasted the good parts.

I wasn't sure whether we'd just toss them on salads or if I'd do something special with them, but I came across a recipe on the Whole Foods site that was just begging to have them on it. We ate outside for the first time in weeks, happy to enjoy the fresh air & the crisp flavors.

I hope you're staying cool. We usually go for a nice bike ride on Saturday mornings, but this week we cut it short to 4 miles. It was too hot! We stopped at the producers-only farm market on the way home & got lettuce, peaches, corn on the cob, & zucchini. I can't wait to see what they have to offer next weekend!

Peach, Walnut & Roasted Beet Salad
Inspired & Adapted from Whole Foods
Serves 2 as the main course or 4 as side salads

1/4 c walnuts, toasted
1 large peach, chopped
2 T lime juice (or more to taste)

1/2 head green leaf lettuce, washed & torn into pieces
1/2 head red leaf lettuce, washed & torn into pieces
1 peach, sliced
2 radishes, thinly sliced
1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
2 beets, roasted - follow these instructions, just use only red beets - can be done ahead of time
Blend dressing ingredients in a food processor or high-powered blender until smooth. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Divide lettuces evenly between bowls/plates. Top with remaining ingredients, divided evenly. Drizzle with dressing & serve immediately. Alternatively, serve with dressing on the side & allow each person to add their own, to taste. (We didn't use all of the dressing for our 2 salads. There was enough left for at least 1 more salad.)
- Beets can be roasted a day or two before making the salad. Store in the refrigerator.
- Dressing will keep for about 4 days. You can make it ahead of time & store in the refrigerator. This is good to do if you like your dressing cold because if you make it fresh it will be warm or room temperature.
1/4 c walnuts, toasted

July 7, 2012

Dessert Plantains

A few weeks ago, we bought a plantain at Whole Foods. I wasn't really sure what to do with it, but I'd read about them a little & wanted to try one.

Plantains are a relative of bananas. They're bigger & are often used in savory dishes, similarly to potatoes. I wanted to try them grilled, but by the time we got around to using it, that wasn't possible. It was black & very ripe, making it more like a banana.

Once cooked, our very ripe plantain tasted similar to a banana but with a firmer consistency. We really liked it as a dessert! Next time, I won't let it sit on the counter for so long & we can try a savory version.

Dessert Plantains
Serves 2

1 plantain, peeled
1 tsp coconut oil
2 T toasted marshmallow vodka
1/2 T cinnamon sugar
3 T chocolate chips

Cut the peeled plantain in half. Slice each half lengthwise into 3-4 slices, depending on the size of your plantain. Heat coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add plantain slices once coconut oil is melted. Allow to cook for about 2 minutes, then flip. Pour vodka over plantains & cook until it boils off. Remove from heat & divide evenly onto 2 plates. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar & chocolate chips. Serve immediately.

July 6, 2012

Happy Marriage!

Introducing La & Andy, the bride & groom!

I was honored to be part of their wedding. Everything was very laid-back & organized, in typical La fashion. All of the girls in the wedding party felt like we weren't doing our part because everything was already taken care of!

We had a fun time decorating the church with these tissue paper puffs.

The flowers were gorgeous! I have my bouquet sitting at home on the counter & they're still alive almost a week later.

One of the other bridesmaids made La this personalized hanger. Apparently you can buy them on Etsy, but she took some wire & twisted it herself. She was also the one to do most of our hair. I did a little curling & pinning along the way, but she did the bulk of it.

We caught a peek of the groomsmen & groom (note: he's the one in shorts!) as they arrived at the church. They looked very official.

What bride doesn't want to do her wedding day prep in the men's bathroom right next to a urinal? She wasn't fazed at all!

It was super hot on Saturday, so after the ceremony, the men were given permission to change into cooler clothes. Luckily, the Bup brought a polo that matched my dress!

Andy brewed the beer for the wedding. This was the Honeymoooon Brew, a honey & basil beer. Sounds a little strange, but it's amazing! He also made a "Love is in the ale" wheat beer. We got to take some of the leftovers home. :-D

The favors were the tin pictured. Inside were dice & instruction for one of their favorite games, Farkle. They taught us to play on one of our weekend cabin trips & it's really fun.

Fans for the crowd to stay cool!

Mom & Dad celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary on 7/1. I'm so proud to be their daughter! Here's to 35 more years for them!

Dad & daughter: matching cheesy grins.

Father daughter dance to Frank Sinatra. Who else? As kids, our dads always listened to Frank & we'd complain.

Congrats! I'm so happy for the two of you!

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