Thursday, January 27, 2011

Good times around the table.

Sometimes it was fancy.
Mostly, I remember it being "good".
And to a little girl, that simply means I recall the experience as pleasant and secure; my whole family, -mom, dad, and us four kids, gathered around our metal early 70's table with its vinyl-covered chairs, for the family dinner.

Fish sticks.
Hot dogs.
Fried potatoes.
Chicken legs.
Homemade soups.
Cabbage and noodles.

The meals had to feed six mouths on a single income and I must say, my parents did it well.
Well and young (there were four of us kids by the time my mom was 23).

It was a different time back then.
A beautiful, wonderfully different time.
How I lament that my children cannot enjoy the same freedoms and care-free summer days that I was able to. If you've ever seen the show, "The Wonder Years," you will have received a somewhat realistic glimpse into my childhood. So much of what I loved about it is just not possible for my kids today, due in part to a world with less defined boundaries, greater criminal activity, and waaaay less children being made to play outdoors in fresh air and sunshine. Sigh.

But thankfully for my family and I, one thing has not changed.
The family dinner is still a time of gathering us together, a time which I hope my children will someday recall, much like I do, as pleasant and secure.
It's our time of connecting, debating, sharing, laughing and praying. And it's those last two, laughing and praying, that I would like to illuminate for just a moment.

Yesterday, as we all gathered around the family dinner for prayer, my youngest son (age 4) began.
"Dear Lord, thank you for this beautiful day and for our food that mommy made.
And thank you for my man purse."

(enter raised eyebrows from mom and dad before the smack of clasped hands over gaping mouths could be heard, as we both tried, and failed, to hold back the laughter that had begun to rise from within.)

But it wasn't over just yet...
Our older son, age 9, piled on.
"And dear Lord, thank you for my food too, and please don't let there be any staples in it."
That did it.


The whole family broke out in a fit of laughter, right in the middle of prayer time. And I have to believe that God, too, was laughing. You see, it's true. We have been finding staples in the food this past week or so. To be more specific, *I* have been finding staples in my food.
Why?, you ask?
Well, let's just say that I've been known to come up with a half-baked idea on occasion. Apparently, this past week was just such an occasion, where it occurred to me that in the absence of a bag-sealing clamp, I could simply fold and staple freezer bags before placing frozen items back in the freezer. So, I stapled my frozen fruit bag and a corn bag as well.

Brilliant, yes? ;)


And right you are. It's a definite no. Because when I carefully re-opened those stapled bags (and I was careful, honest to goodness), apparently those little metal guys torpedoed into the food and hid out until I found them during my meals (hey, at least it was only me who paid the price for my poor choice).

And did the kids take notice?
Clearly, that would be an affirmative yes, as evidenced by my older son's staple prayer (to be known as just that, THE STAPLE PRAYER, from this day forward).

Can't you just hear him as he and his own family gather for the family dinner someday (and oh, how I pray that they too will have that wonderful privilege).
"Kids, did I ever tell you about the week where your grandmother kept discovering staples in her food? Yeah, she did. I don't recall the details exactly, but I could almost swear it had something to do with a man purse."

Live wise in Him!


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Monday, January 24, 2011

Heart healthy Tuscan soup

Most of my friends and family know that I am vegetarian. By "hard core" terms, I'd actually be known as a flexetarian because I do, on very rare occasion, take a taste of meat. I also cook a Thanksgiving turkey and a New Year's ham, hence the term, flexetarian. But for all intents and purposes, I avoid eating meat.

So, what does this mean for my family, since I am the resident cook? Well, let me answer that by first sharing what it doesn't mean. It doesn't mean we're limited to spaghetti, salads, and variations of potatoes (though we eat those too).

It does mean I make our own lunch "meat".

We also eat colorful, flavorful calico beans over brown rice, incredibly delicious soups like coconut spinach potato and garlic kale. We also eat grilled tofu "egg" salad sandwiches, enchilada casseroles, and sloppy "fauxs". I could go on and on, but fact is, we do not hurt for variety, we supplement with daily vitamins, and our blood pressure, cholesterol, and general health are great. The kids check out just fine on their development as well.

We went sled riding all afternoon yesterday, and something hot sounded "just right". Enter...Tuscan soup.
It's a recipe that I tweaked and changed from its former heart-insulting version. It's fairly quick to prepare (especially if you can cut veggies the evening or morning before), and is a very healthy alternative to other similar dishes. If you love sausage, but love your heart more, this one will help you to care for it without compromising too much on taste. I promise!

-2 tbsp olive oil
-1 large onion, chopped
-1 whole head garlic, peeled and minced (I use the mini food processor for this)
-3 celery stalks, diced
-10 potatoes, peeled and cut into bite size pieces
-1 large bunch kale, washed, stripped from center vein, torn into smaller pieces
(note: you can use the greens of your choice. Collard or mustard would work fine.)
-10 cups water
-5 cubes Edward & Sons vegan boullion cubes (trust me, they're the BEST! I prefer the garden veggie flavor, but any of them will do and there is a low sodium option)
-1 can fat-free evaporated milk
-1 box Boca breakfast links (found in the health food or "meatless" freezer section of your grocery store). Note the wonderfulness of zero trans-fat and 75% less fat than regular sausage. And they really taste good.

1. In a large soup pot, heat olive oil. Saute onions and celery in oil for at least 5 minutes, allowing to soften, before adding garlic and continuing to saute about 2 minutes longer (note: always let chopped onion or garlic sit for 5 minutes before cooking. Why? Go HERE to learn more.)

2. Now add potatoes, water, and boullion. Bring to a boil, then add kale, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are fully cooked (approximately 15 minutes). If you prefer a firmer texture, you can wait to add the kale when potatoes are fully cooked.

3. While soup is simmering, heat Boca breakfast links according to info on package. I use the microwave for this. Next, cut each link into six bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

4. When potatoes fully cooked, stir in the can of evaporated milk and the breakfast link pieces. Test soup and and season to taste with salt and pepper (remember, we're going for heart healthy. There is plenty of flavor from the garlic and broth, so passing on the salt is perfectly fine.)
5. Ladle soup into bowls and serve with whole grain bread. Enjoy!
(this recipe makes enough for our family of 6 to have at least 2 bowls each.)

Live wise in Him!


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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Oh my goodness, I'm so grateful to Courtney over at Women Living Well for sharing this GEM of a video with me.
It is soooooo worth watching.
And the book is definitely on my list of "to be read."
Watch and be inspired!

Live wise in Him!


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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Good (and then good for you)

It's called Oatmeal Cheesecake Banana Split.
Need I say more? Go HERE to get the recipe.
My family absolutely loved it. I used chopped pecans on top, and dh thinks it would have tasted great with blueberries as an alternative. I can see me making this some Sunday morning as our breakfast with a cup of coffee before church.

And now, let's talk about water for a moment.
Like to drink it?
Hate to drink it?
I'm not very tolerant of just plain water.
It actually kind of nauseates me sometimes. But (unless we live in a cave, which honestly, is appealing on occasion) we all know that we should be drinking lots of plain old water. So I decided to dig into the many benefits and this is a list I came across...

  • Lose weight: Drinking water helps you lose weight because it flushes down the by-products of fat breakdown. Drinking water reduces hunger, it’s an effective appetite suppressant so you’ll eat less. Plus, water has zero calories. Here are the further details on how to achieve fat loss by drinking water.

  • Natural Remedy for Headache: Helps to relieve headache and back pains due to dehydration. Although there are many other reasons contribute to headache, dehydration is the common one.

  • Look Younger with Healthier Skin: You’ll look younger when your skin is properly hydrated. Water helps to replenish skin tissues, moisturizes skin and increase skin elasticity.

  • Better Productivity at Work: Your brain is mostly made up of water, thus drinking water helps you think better, be more alert and more concentrate.

  • Better Exercise: Drinking water regulates your body temperature. You’ll feel more energetic when doing exercises and water helps to fuel your muscle.

  • Helps in Digestion and Constipation: Drinking water raises your metabolism because it helps in digestion. Fiber and water goes hand in hand so that you can have your daily bowel movement.

  • Less Cramps and Sprains: Proper hydration helps keep your joints and muscles lubricated, so you’ll less likely get cramps and sprains.

  • Less Likely to Get Sick: Drinking plenty of water helps fight against flu and other ailments like kidney stones and heart attack.

  • Reduce Fatigue: Water is used by the body to help flush out toxins and waste products from the body. If your body lacks of water, your heart, for instance, need to work harder to pump out the oxygenated blood to all cells, so are the rest of the vital organs, your organs will be exhausted and so are you.

  • Reduce the Risk of Cancer: Related to the digestive system, some studies show that drinking a healthy amount of water may reduce the risks of bladder cancer and colon cancer. Water dilutes the concentration of cancer-causing agents in the urine and shortens the time in which they are in contact with bladder lining.

So, what's a water avoider like myself supposed to do?
I recently came up with a solution that has me easily drinking lots of water now, has my husband taking some to work, and has my two boys asking for "the good water" all the time.

It's simple.

Just take a 64 ounce pitcher or container and fill it to 56 ounces with the water of your choice (sure, purified is better but I'm using the stuff straight from the tap for now). Next, add 8 ounces of unsweetened 100% cranberry juice. Watch your brands. Many grocery store brands say "unsweetened" and "100% juice", but when you read the label, they're not 100% CRANBERRY juice (they're a blend of cranberry, apple, etc.) The pure cranberry is good for aiding the body in removing toxins, and our family is finding the water to be MUCH more drinkable (thus we're drinking much more of it).

Live wise in Him!


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Monday, January 3, 2011

Christmas laughs

Before I get to my post, let me tell you something about myself, in case you don't already know this, so you don't reach the wrong conclusion as you read. Fact is, I have a goofy sense of humor and I often find laughable moments in the simplest of things. It's both a gift and a challenge (you knooow,...trying not to laugh when it's really not appropriate to, like when I was a kid and our dad was frustrated with something we kids did, and we tried with all our might, and failed, to keep our giggles under control during a moment of uncomfortable silence at the dinner table.) Got a better sense of my goofy sense of humor? Alrighty then, here we go...

Our Christmas was filled with some great laughs, from 9 year old Reece wanting to put out an empty coffee can in a panic "because you didn't put out enough stockings to be filled", to 4 year old Brandon laughing soooo hard for 10 minutes when he opened this on Christmas morning.

But perhaps the thing that made us laugh most of all was something that happened when we went out to eat with our extended family (back in OH) at a Chinese buffet. My husband, my sister and I were standing at a counter waiting for the khan to stir-fry our Mongolian food. He took our plates of raw items, placed them on the grill, then picked up a little bottle. It was shaped like an Asian old man with its pants down (not obscenely detailed, but pants down none-the-less). It was one of those situations where your mind rapidly begins to wander in a fog of confusion and questioning, as you try to figure out what exactly is happening. Kind of like this video, specifically about 1:30 into it;

Yes, I ended up that surprised. Because before my mind could grasp the meaning or purpose of the ridiculous bottle, the Chinese guy (smiling with the most ornery smile) turned to me.....and squeezed.


If my husband and sister hadn't been standing there with me as my witnesses, I would never share this story (because really, who would believe it?)
Yes, that oh-so-ornery little man squirted me with the water he used to stir-fry vegetables with.

I looked down at my sweater, now covered in droplets of water from the "pants-less man" bottle, and shook my head in total disbelief.
I knew, I just knew that when I looked back at the khan, he would be highly sympathetic for having offended me.


He was laughing. Laughing!


And so was my sister.
And my husband (who tried miserably to contain it, but failed).

I stood there, shocked.
Totally silent for a moment, trying to take it in.
That man just took the liberty of squirting me with a bottle shaped like a little old Asian man without any pants on.
Sheesh, that's a lot to take in, ya know?
I believe I would have remained in my confused stupor, if not for the sounds of a cackling laugh coming from a silly little man behind the counter, a man that was laughing soooo hard that it was literally contagious.

Without realizing it (until I heard it with my own ears), I found myself joining the others in a fit of laughter.
Shocked, yes. A tiny bit perturbed, sure.
But laughing just the same.
I mean, I have to admit. If it had happened to anyone else (say, my sister or my husband, uh hem), I'm sure I would have found it immediately funny as well.

Fact is, life is waaaaay too short and too filled with unexpected moments not to laugh when the opportunity presents itself.
There will be plenty of difficult days, still, where I'll have all I can do to just tie my shoes.
So on this day, when the blessed season of my Savior's birth was in full force, when I was gathered with the people I love most in the world, my family, when my children were healthy, my husband was on vacation, and my mom and dad were alive and well, it was a moment to take in with all the silliness of hearty laughter, a day to receive as precious memories made.

But hear this.

If I ever go back to that restaurant, don't even think I won't come prepared.
Because, believe me when I say it, I most definitely WILL.

Ecclesiastes 3:4
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

Live wise in Him!


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