Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Trading One for Another

I've just come from a week at the beach. I'm both loving and loathing being back in Minnesota. Loving, because I'm home and can get back into my normal rhythm. Loathing, because I have so much less help with my energetic toddler and scooting baby.

Keeping up with these two is sometimes difficult. Especially when I know I need to take care of myself, too. I've shared my struggle with self-care here before. I still struggle but am learning the value. I'm loving the fact that our garden is coming in and we can already enjoy fresher than fresh produce. RADISHES!!! This is the only time I eat them. When our garden is bursting with red orbs hidden in the dirt, and crowned with greens. We used to enjoy these spicy treats then merely put the tops in the compost bin. WHAT A WASTE!!!

This may seem like an extreme reaction but hear me out. Since I've had to cut back on sweets and make better food choices, it's hard to have food treats. But I've discovered a new one and am beyond excited.

Have I hyped this enough? OK, here it is, Radish Top Pesto! No kidding, its...NOM NOM NOM.

In a food processor (Thanks, Mom and Dad for mine at Christmas), blitz 2-3 cups of tops (I used the amount I had from 8-9 radishes), garlic, EVOO, and lemon juice until a paste forms. Add a bit of sugar (the tops can be bitter without it), pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and pulse to combine. So easy, it took me about 10 minutes. I had to stop right then and there and enjoy a piece of toast topped with this wonderfulness. (For full recipe go to this website, I wouldn't change a thing so I don't feel comfortable copying it here, definitely want to give them the credit since I just did what they said.)

So this is where I am. Trading cookies and milk for salad and pesto. Candy for fruit, and binge eating for calling a friend. It's a daily struggle and some days are successes and others are less successful. I'm thankful God loves me no matter what.

God Loves You
Enjoy Life

Friday, April 22, 2016

An Open Letter to Curtis Stone, My "Take Home Chef"

Dear Curtis,

I want to begin by thanking you. Because of you, I have some great memories. I'll explain but I have to set the stage.

I was a sophomore in college in 2007 and had a bad breakup with my first boyfriend. It was spring break, but instead of going somewhere warm with a group of friends, I ventured to Michigan to spend ten days with my grandma. My grandpa had died years earlier so it was just the two of us in her house.

This amazing woman was just who I needed to spend time with. She, without saying "It'll be OK," showed me I would be OK. She took me to get my hair done, took me to restaurants, tended to me I wasn't feeling well, and taught me to cook a few things.

You're probably wondering, what does this have to do with me?

Well, this is when we got hooked on "Take Home Chef." We watched you meet people in the grocery store and make food for them every day I was there. This is when we stopped going out to eat and started cooking together.

We giggled and dreamed about if you somehow would be in our local Meijer and choose us to cook for. We knew this wouldn't happen but it didn't stop us from going to the grocery store for the most mundane items, in in case.

Because of you and that show, my grandma and I shared something that was only us. You were the catalyst to bond us together and heal a young heart.

I went back to school, grew up a bit, found the love of my life and now have my own strong family.

Now you're probably wondering why this memory is coming back almost ten years later. My dear grandma passed away July 2015. Only 12 days after my second son, her third great-grandbaby was born.

Now, 9 months later, I'm to the point in my grief where I'm able to unpack my memories. That's when I looked back and realized you were a thread through the past decade of my memories with my grandma.

These precious memories I'm holding so dear right now in my grief. Thank you for doing "Take Home Chef." Thank you for inspiring us to cook for each other. Thank you for being a string tied to a memory of comfort and caring.

Bless you in your life. Thank you for blessing mine.

Cindy

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Early Morning, Early Spring

I wrote this March 28, 2016 and meant to post it sooner but this has been the first time Ive had a chance.

The quietness of a morning. Something I rarely experience. Today is early spring. One of the first days in the year where the sun streams through my windows noticeably earlier than any other in my recent memory. Frost still bites the shingles of our garage and the grass of our yard, but it losing strength. Delicately strong buts are on every branch in our neighbor's tree in vibrant red and on our lilac in bright green. Sleepy clouds sail past in a periwinkle sky. Birds are chirping and replace my alarm.

Early morning in early spring. Just a small moment, but such a beautiful one.

I could ruin it with focusing on how dirty the windows are, or how our yard looks like the Clammpett's from Beverly Hillbillies in places. I could say snow is probably coming or that this just means allergies are going to get bad.

Not right now. I'm choosing in this rare still and quiet moment, when I'm alone in my kitchen, to breathe in the beauty I used to just pass by. because it's fleeting and fast. If I don't take it in now, I never can.

Be mindful today of the beauty around you.

God Loves You
Enjoy Life

Cindy

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Summer Sun Tea

Summer time is here, or at least I wish.

Whenever we get a few sunny days, I crave summer. I want fresh sun-warmed tomatoes, salads with shaved radish and carrots from our garden. Burgers on the grill that we enjoy at our patio table.

Spring is peeking around the last corner of winter, warming the sun spots in my yard. But here in Minnesota, we're farther than I'd like until summer food and fun becomes a daily reality. SO I have a few coping strategies to help my summer deprived self wait out the weather.

The one I'll tell you about today is Sun Tea. Basically summer captured in a jar. I remember coming home from school late in the year, when we were all itching for school to be over, to a jar set out by my dad. The sun shining through the amber liquid just seemed to whisper...I'm almost here, trust I'm coming ~Summer.

Now you have to have a sunny day to make it, which is why I don't have any pictures of a finished product. The tug-of-war between warm and cold has shifted again with flurries in our forecast.

It's an easy recipe- put water, tea bags, sugar, and lemon in your preferred proportions in a clear jar or clear covered pitcher and let the sun warm the water and brew the tea. (Remember sugar+lemon+water=lemonade so put more sugar and lemon and you're making an Arnold Palmer! Yum!)

You do have to be careful with leaving it out too long if there's sugar in it.** (I'm mainly saying this as a legal disclaimer that if you leave it out for a LONG time, like days, please don't sue me for getting sick off of it :D )** I think you'll be hard pressed to wait out the anticipation for four hours because this is so good you'll want it asap.

I like putting black tea along with a fruity herbal tea so I get the strong color and taste but the lightness of the herbal tea.

Find a sunny spot and let it sit there for a few hours. Four hours normally does quite nicely, on a hot day it may be finished even quicker. I have a stone patio that gets marvelously warm in the sun so I put it there to make the process faster.

Also, add vodka, sparkling wine, or other alcohol after it is finished and you have a fun summer cocktail.

This easy, fun treat will have you pulling up a lounge chair in anticipation of summer as you sip it in delight.
God Love You
Enjoy Life
-----

Summer Sun Tea

1/2 cup sugar
3 tea bags (vary type of tea to create your own blend)
2 Tablespoons lemon juice (I'll use a sliced lemon if I have one)
1/2 gallon water (or enough to fill the container)

Set out in the sun...for a while (4 hours is fine)
After the tea has brewed, the sugar might not have dissolved, but a quick shake or stir should take care of that.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Facing a Change

Taking time for myself has always been hard. When I was younger and lived with my parents and siblings, I didn't feel like I could ask to do things because there were so many of us. I am the middle of five and when I stared being the age when activities ramp up, my older sisters were in college and my youngest brother was a toddler. My parents both worked at the college my sisters attended and we had built a new house. Money wasn't tight, but it wasn't free flowing either. I learned quickly to limit the things I asked for because not everything was going to be funded.

Then, as always, I went to an extreme. I, for some reason, decided to not make my parents spend any money on me. I had only a small scope of the expenses they incurred. I did not account for water, insurance, or electricity to name a few. I did make sure to not to ask for special snacks, gadgets, clothes, or extracurricular activities. If I did have to have them spend money, I got things on clearance and did the minimum activities possible.

This did more to make me dislike sports because of refusing to get the proper equipment or doing things where I would have to buy equipment. I missed out on fun optional field trips because i didn't want to burden them more. None of this was supported by my parents. when they found out what I was doing, they sat me down and let me know it was actually causing burdens, on them and me, by trying not to be a burden (my paraphrase of the conversation).

In college, my school came first. I rarely did things to make me happy. Normally my choices were fueled by either how it impacted my grades or by why I thought others would see and how they would judge me.

I started telling myself the lie that if everyone was happy, I wouldn't need to look after myself.

I'm realizing now as time has flown at breakneck speed, valuing myself and keeping my spiritual, emotional, and physical health a priority are my biggest weaknesses.

I want to change that.

I want, for the sake of all the people I love, to be healthy. Not bowing to what I think people think of me, but working out myself with fear and trembling in the lap of my loving Savior. If he  has valued me, I have to value me. He deserves seeing me , his child, thriving in the life he gave me.

So I choose to run, literally I've started running. I choose to make what I enjoy making without the anxiety of, "will people buy it?" clouding my mind. I choose to eat when my body needs nutrients, an cry and laugh when I need to. I choose to make things I enjoy, because God made me to make. I choose to be who he has made me in the life he has given me.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Beautiful Bread

Our family is a bread family. We just are, there's bread and butter at the table nearly every night. We love great bread.

Even more so, I've come to love baking our bread. I used to shy away from a loaf bread because I could never get it to rise correctly. It would be either flat and dense or too light to stand up to sandwich use. I was ready to throw in the towel, then I stumbled across the Easy French Bread recipe in my More With Less cookbook. I started out making it as written in french loaves but soon realized I could replace our store bought sandwich bread with this easy bread. 

I experimented, never truly failing because we ate all the bread (even though one batch I made into breadcrumbs and croutons). After making a few changes to the recipe, this is what I've come to. Please try my recipe but feel free to make your own substitutions, that's half the fun:

8 cups flour (all purpose is fine but bread flour makes a huge difference in the elasticity of the dough since it has more protein)
1/8 cup (2 Tablespoons) dry yeast (I buy a 2 pound package for $5 at Sam's Club and we use that up in about 2 years. You can also just use two of the square packets of yeast)
1/8 cup (2 Tablespoons) liquid fat (I use olive oil but you can use any liquid fat like melted coconut oil or butter, it will change the taste slightly)
1/8 cup (2 Tablespoons) sugar (I use honey, but all that's important is that there is sugar to feed the yeast and make a nice fluffy bread) 
2 1/2 cups whey drained from making Greek yogurt (Yes, I make my own yogurt. Yes, I will be writing about it later. Yes, I understand almost no one has this lying around the house.)
OR 2 1/2 cups filtered water* (Filtering water removes the chlorine in city water which can kill the yeast)

Combine flour, yeast, oil, and honey in an electric mixer equipped with a dough hook. Turn on to speed setting just above lowest Stir setting (on mine this is #2)

Slowly pour whey (or water) as the mixer is going and let it knead the dough until nothing is sticking to the sides (about 5 min)

Take dough out of bowl and spray bowl with cooking spray. Replace dough and spray the top with cooking oil. 

Cover with a cloth and let rise for 1 1/2 hours in a warm place. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Punch down (really more like a poke is fine) and divide into 2 or 3 sections. 
These sections normally pan out for us (haha, pan pun intentional) perfectly in 2 regular loaves that peek out over the edge of the pan and a pizza crust; or two large loaves that pop up over, sometimes overflowing the pan, if you forget about them...not that I've ever done that.

When oven is preheated, put sections of dough into greased loaf pans. 
Bake for 35 minutes** until golden brown and hollow sounding when you thump the top of the loaf. 
Remove from pan and allow to cool on wire rack

The heel of a fresh baked loaf of bread that has been slathered in butter is ecstasy; so please, take this chance to enjoy this delicacy with gusto. 

God Loves You
Enjoy Life

-Cindy

*adjust baking time to 30 min
** If using water, baking time will be shorter

Thursday, February 25, 2016

My Vault of Memories

My mammaw has been on my mind alot since she passed away almost a year ago.

She comes to mind when I see my sons interacting. She would love to see them, and she would tell us how they remind her of my dad and my uncle. She didn't get to meet my youngest but i know she would tell me to bring him over to her and let her "give him some sugar" (pronounced soo-ga and followed by kisses all over his face.

Oh how I miss her. But I've been realizing I've missed her for longer than the year she's been with her Lord and Savior. Over the past several years, her health had declined and she was different than I remember.

I remember her cooking for us and the laugh that followed something we said. I miss her hands, nimble and quick, playing her guitar or patting her knee in time with the music. I miss going to the thrift store and to yard sales with her. She would pray before we went, adn would find such great things there.

I miss how she was with my pappaw. I miss that they went to church and sat next to each other in teh same spot every sunday. When he died in 1999, she changed - or maybe it was just the first time I remember seeing her sad.

Some days I want to go back to when I was 8, when we lived close to them and visted often. WEhen they took us places and let us eat pizza while watching Cartoon Network. When I didnt' know about death and pain. When my biggest worry was how to decide what to play with after I was done with schoolwork.

I know I cn'at go back and I know the reunion in heaven will be much better than any of my memoris. However, I'm enjoying remembering teh time and carefully folding each one up and tucking it back into my vault.

After all, living in the past would mean wee never rmoved from Washington, DC to Ohio. It would mean I wouldn't have my youngest brother. It would mean I never looked at scholls in Chicago. It would mean all those friends I've made in all teh places I've lived wouldn't be in my life. Lastly, it would mean I wouldn't have my husband or my children.

I would miss out on more than I would gain by living in the past. This is why I treasure my vault of memories that I can go to again and again. I can enjoy my present, adding to my vault. The future is to give me hope of more and better things and for the reunion in Heaven.