Recipe for Easy Cooking…and Life

I realize that as I’ve gotten older, reading a recipe is of little interest to me.  In my younger years I collected cookbooks, read them and couldn’t wait to try the recipes.  It was fun, and I now have quite the collection of books…displayed nicely on my book Book caseshelves.  My Southern Living collection still has to be my favorite, even though it is quite out of date compared to the new cookbooks coming out now.  My pies and cakes cookbook stoolare all a variation of something from Southern Living, still the best tasting recipes around.

Now cooking is about how I feel, what my tastes are at that moment and what my body needs.  It can also reflect what is in the fridge or pantry at the moment.   How will it work together to make a great, nourishing, satisfying meal?  Simple is the main ingredient.  After a day at work, or just being out and about for the day, sometimes cooking is the last thing of interest.  But, for me, it’s a better alternative to going out.  So…simple, quick and delicious are my main focus.  That seems to be what life is about for me now too.  Just like cooking, life has gotten less complicated.  I enjoy the small simple things, just taking in this moment.   I realize that all of the prep for a meal, that I used to think was the only way, is just time consuming.  As with decisions and plans in life.  They don’t need to be prepared and contemplated over for hours.   You’ll never get to the meal…the nourishment…the satisfying experiences of living.   

I heard someone say that when roasting an onion, he puts it in the oven skin and all.  Comes out the same and the skin peels right off without the hassle…and tears.  I’ve found the same to be true with most of my vegetables that have a skin.  Spaghetti  and Butternut Squash are perfect examples.  They go straight on the sheet pan, in the oven at 350 degrees for an hour and, once cooled enough to touch, cut open, discard the seed and you have an easy to work with ingredient.  So simple.  root veggies

The ingredients for life, just as simple.   If we don’t explore and take the risk, we sit and do nothing.  There is nothing complicated about that.  Try a new food today, try a new adventure today.  When I turned 60, I made a conscious effort to start doing things I’d never experienced before.  That birthday I went paddle boarding.  Living in Charleston, I saw it everywhere.  Why had I not done that before?  What fun I had been missing.  That year I moved to a place I knew nothing about.  The only things that were certain were that it was time for me to move and I needed a welcome change of scenery.  The mountains were definitely a change from the beach.  Not sure this is forever, but that will make itself clear when necessary.  So simple.  

Sixty one was brought in by a whitewater rafting adventure.  Never tried it, but so much fun.  The decision was easy.  I’m in the mountains, so why wouldn’t I?!  If we take notice of the great things around us, these adventures take shape on their own.  Nothing complicated about it.  Same with the wonderful foods around us.  There are new things to try always.  I never had Brussels Sprouts until I was 55 years old.  Now it is a regular Okrain my meal menus.  And oh, so simple to prepare.  This is one that you let cook itself, whether roasting, sauteing or even caramelizing.  Not even completely necessary to cut, just put on or in a pan, a bit of seasoning, and let it go.  Okra was the same for me.  A late in life find, but easy to prepare in so many ways.  And yes, it is one that can be cooked whole, without any preparation.  Why wouldn’t you try it?!    I have just discovered celeriac, or celery root.  A sweet root vegetable from the celery family, but cultivated mostly for the root.  Again, cook whole and work with it after cooked.  Adds a celery like flavor to your meal, but a bit sweeter.

I’m not sure most culinary experts would agree with my methods of cooking.  I don’t cook from a technical side, but from a savor the moment, and the food approach. Savor life’s moments the same. There are so many easy and flavorful foods to choose from, to explore.  As there are so many wonderful and exciting adventures around us to explore.  Take advantage of both.  When we cook, it is so rewarding to enjoy the meal created.  When we explore, the rewards are endless.  It’s amazing how the simple things in life can be the most rewarding. What makes your life more simple?  What changes have you noticed in your routine, or cooking habits?  Have you tried a new food or adventure lately?  Take care of you.  Enjoy life, as well as a good meal…simply put!

 

Celeriac and Cauliflower Mash

1 Celeriac Root, peeled

1 Head of Cauliflowerceleriac mash

1-2 Cloves of Garlic, peeled

½ t Ginger, ground or fresh

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Place celeriac, cauliflower and garlic on roasting pan.  Roast in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until tender.  Rough chop celeriac and cauliflower and put in food processor, along with garlic.  Add ginger, salt and pepper and process until completely blended.  This is served in a Spaghetti Squash Bowl.

Until next time..

Embrace your age…it’s who you are!

 

Life’s Path…Not Always What We Expect

When I was a little girl, around 5 years old, my neighbor and I played what we called Ed and Honey… my dad’s name was Ed and he called my mom Honey. We were married by his older sister in a ceremony on our adjoining driveways.  I wore a vintage gown of my choosing from all of the boxed savings in his attic.  The ceremony was short, with our neighbor friends in attendance.  We rode off after the “I Do’s” on his faithful Saint Bernard, Heidi -We were the only two Heidi would let ride her.  He had a playhouse in his backyard, and that was our little home.  Ed would go to work and I, Honey, would stay home and do whatever I thought I was suppose to do as a stay at home mom.  It’s a game that lives with me now and has always been such a vivid childhood memory.  Aren’t those wonderful?!  And, while the years were filled with other such memories of a different variety, I always wonder why that is so dear to me.

Could that have been the beginning of the path that I envisioned for my life?  My mom and dad were so important to me…my dad was the love of my life.  I was such a Daddy’s Little Girl.  I wanted to have that for my family.  My mom stayed home and took care of us and the household, while my dad went off to the office everyday.  This must have been the path my mom envisioned for herself.  Living in a small town, wonderful neighbors and family friends.  The kind of town where everyone knows everyone and all of the kids took over the neighborhood until each respective bell rang, which meant it was time to go in for dinner.  She was a generous volunteer, at school, church and in the community.  All of this, until my father died at the early age of 56.  What that truly did to my mother, I may never know.  But, one thing is for sure, it turned her world upside down.  This was an abrupt ending to the only life my mother knew at the time, the only path.   

From since I can remember, my biggest dream was to be a mom and be able to stay home and raise my children.  To experience everything that happened to them.  Be there for the good, the great and the not so great.  Watch them accomplish and let them fall, only to help them get right back up.  What a wonderful and fulfilling job.  There wasn’t anything else that came to mind that meant as much to me.  When it came time in my life to start a family, I was fortunate enough to be able to live out that dream…to follow that path.  

I volunteered at school from the time my oldest was in preschool until they all went off to high school, and then still kept involved as a chaperone or other needed assistant.  One time I figured out that I had volunteered in just elementary school for 14 years!  I loved all of those years.  Not just the involvement in schools and sports activities, but the vacation planning, talking about their day when they got home from school and all those meals I prepared…some well appreciated, some not so much.  The hurt, the joy, the laughter, the simple time we spent as a family.  Not all of it was pretty, but we got through those times too.  This was all part of the job…I will admit that I threatened to quit my job a time or two, but no one would 20170224_144200accept my 2 weeks notice!  And then one day…my world turned upside down.  Not the same way as my mother’s, but leaving me just as helpless.  My path came to a dead end, with no sign of which way to go.  At 50 years old, things started spiraling out of control.  I was heading for a divorce, losing everything I had.  All I could think of at that moment was that I had a family to keep together.  How would I do that?

Asking for help is not one of my strongest skills.  But, what I discovered in those moments was that the ones that come to help, don’t do it because you asked, they do it because you need it, they want to, no strings attached.  Hard as it was to accept, I had no choice.  I had one more left at home and I was determined not to let her down.  Boy had this path taken a sharp turn and I had no idea what direction.  It 20170816_130210was quite curvy and unmarked for some time, but I knew it was there somewhere.  I would kick the stones out of the way, move the branches to discover my new direction.  As much as I wanted to find it right then and there, it took time 20170816_130728to get from that tiny footpath to the paved road ahead.  I was not the only one that had to find a new path, discover a new direction.  My children were faced with it too.  They may have been the angriest for having it all stripped away and not knowing anything about how to get it back.  It was my job to take care of them, not let them down. How would I do that, and how would they forgive me if I couldn’t? The only one I could focus on at the time was the one still at home, the youngest.  She needed food, a place to live and someone to make her feel safe.  How would I do all of that, when I had no idea where to start?20170816_133318

That’s when you do what you gotta do…  After being at home all of those years, I had nothing to bring to the work force. The only thing I had done consistently for over 20 years was cook.  I wouldn’t call myself a chef, but I spent countless hours in the kitchen, and love it as I did, it seemed like the only place to start.  I had a lot to learn about the commercial cooking world, but nothing was going to keep me from learning.  There was no time for formal training, so I had to take what I could get.  I would go from job to job, 2 or three at a time, to learn all I could…and to make ends meet.  I had family that took us in, dog and all, for far longer than anyone should have been expected to do.  But never a complaint.  My main goal at that time was a place of our own.    

I hated the hours spent working, away from my daughter, feeling like I wasn’t always there for her.  She seemed to grow and mature in a way I hadn’t expected.  She never complained, she wanted to help and, as it turned out, I depended on her as much as she did on me.  Her high school years were not what they would have been in our former life, but she may have become a stronger, more independent woman because of all of the bumps.  We had a roof over our heads, still with a little help from family and friends, until one day, I was able to take us out, find a new place to settle and it was all our’s.  No one was helping.  I could provide for us a place to live all on our own.  A place where my older two could come and stay and make it a home…our home.  They were both on the college path when our world changed.  Not sure how to take care of them, I had to let them figure some of it out on their own.  Not easy for a mom.  There were many struggles, many resentful 20170813_134617feelings and many roads that led nowhere for each one.  But, as we have to do if we want to survive, we find that next road.  I admit I know it’s hard at 20, but it can be done.  Their college paths went in all sorts of directions, struggling to find their focus, the funds to make it happen and just where was the best fit.  After many paths, dead ends and uncertainties, they both found their way.  Stronger, more independent and able to understand life’s dips and curves.  They both came away self sufficient and able to work out life’s hard roads and unmarked paths.  Who knew?

I think one of my biggest struggles has been defining success.  I didn’t think I could stop until I was successful. But what is that exactly?  I thought it was reaching the top, making lots of money, always concerned about what others thought of my career.  Maybe a carry over notion from my previous life?  Probably.  But as I have moved along in various directions, whenever I come back to cooking, I find myself in a happy place.  It’s creative, rewarding and I just think it’s fun!  Is that success?  I’m beginning to realize that it is.  Some days I think…”if only people knew how happy I am while doing this”.  Isn’t that where you want to be?  Most definitely. My work is still evolving and I continue to learn new things as I go, but my passion for healthy cooking, a healthy lifestyle and, most of all, spending any time I can with my kids has never faltered. Still sorting things out and trying to find my way, the road is more clearly marked now. I have a purpose and a reason for it all.  I sometimes wonder where the former path would have led, what that life would be like now at this age.  Then I realize I would never have learned as much about myself, my capabilities and the world around me.  

I’ve since moved to a place where I knew no one and nothing about the area.  There are no ties, past memories or anyone that knows my story.  I am me, still winding up and down a path to somewhere great.  I love all of the hills and valleys and know that I am the only one that can change that path.  My children are such wonderful adults, and I’m not sure what their former lives would have made of them.  They even recognize how much they have accomplished.  I will always wish I could have taken better care of them in those moments, there are more things I would like to do for them now as well… a mother’s plight.  One thing is for sure, they will always know how much I love them and that no path, marked or unmarked, is too tough to get through when you believe and know you can.20170813_134627

What are your path changes?  Did they come abruptly or were they planned?  How did it change your life, or is it still evolving?  Every path leads us somewhere new.  Enjoy the journey.

Until next time…

Embrace your age…it’s who you are!

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Cinnamon Apple and Walnut Quinoa Salad

Cooked and Sprouted Quinoa

Sweet Apples, Cored and Diced

Celery, chopped

Walnut halves, toasted

Sweet Potatoes, chopped and baked20150914_124737

Mix all ingredients in a salad bowl.

 Cinnamon Dressing

 Olive Oil

Apple Cider Vinegar

Maple Syrup or Honey

Cinnamon

Lemon

salt & pepper

Whisk ingredients together and mix with salad.

 

 

The Great Salad Quest

To know me is to know that my obsession with salads is borderline absurd.  Ask my family or close friends!  There is nothing better to me than a great, well thought out, memorable salad.  One that is full of healthy, yummy ingredients that make me want to keep eating after every morsel is gone.  Packed with fruits, vegetables, nuts, seasonal options and a variety of greens to nourish every part of my body, and then some!  Where all of the ingredients marry together to make me want to come back again and again.  You see, a salad can be just as satisfying, filling and enjoyable as any other item on the menu, whether cooking at home or dining out.  So…Therein lies my dilemma.IMG_20170630_141324_880

When the subject of going out to eat comes up, the first question is, of course, where do you want to go?  The next 15 or 20 minutes are occupied by extensive due diligence, trying to locate a mouthwatering salad on many menus filled with burgers, pasta, seafood delights and other trendy, although I’m sure, delicious items.  The salad is never thought of as a main dish, never as many choices, and sometimes overlooked all together.  So, again, where do you want to go?  More times than not, the final answer is the grocery store and I’ll cook something at home.  

Likewise, when you read reviews of restaurants or a new restaurant opens in town, the judgement is always on the main meat, pasta or specialty item of the establishment.  There may be a slight mention of a yummy side salad, something to start your meal, but generally focus is on the spectacular entree.  My conclusion…the salad lover is out of luck when it comes to enjoying a night out!

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Well, have no fear, salad lovers!  I am here for you.  My quest is to explore, pursue and taste test salads of all varieties: around town, or around the state, take out, when I travel, or if you have any suggestions!  I know I am not the only one…have you ever explored Pinterest, Instagram or other social media sites?  I find some of the most mouth watering salads in pictures and know that they are out there in the food world to discover.  We should be able to go out to eat and finish our salad with the same full belly as the meat lover – only not as uncomfortable!  Please, don’t misunderstand, I am a meat eater.  I enjoy a great chicken, pork or seafood dinner with the best of them!  When eating out, though, I tend to head straight to the salad section of the menu.  There are several reasons for this.  One of the biggest is that there is always too much food on a the main entrees and usually ingredients that I tend not to eat.  Therefore a salad is the perfect choice.

While this may not be a world changing dilemma, it has caught my attention and curiosity.  Over the next coming weeks, months, or however long it takes, I will be in search of the menus with outstanding, healthy, unique, vibrant, well thought out salads to share with you.  I will be keeping a journal and share my thoughts, critiques and yummy factor for all that I taste.  Sometimes you just want a great salad, and I will let you know where to find just that.  Follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest at Ann E’s Perfect Portions and we will discover what’s out there together.  If you have had a salad you can’t forget, please let me know.  I’d like to add it, and try it.

Stay tuned for a must try…or sometimes maybe not try…directory of unforgettable and nutritious salads.  I am excited about this journey and look forward to sharing my findings.

Eat well, and until next time…

Embrace your age! It’s who you are

Where do You Shop? Do You Have a Favorite, or Shop Around?

I finished up what I wanted to accomplish before work this morning, leaving me with questions about why and where others shop.

Date-Nut Butter was on my to do list.  Needing to pick up some dates for this yesterday, I decided to give Aldi’s a try.  I keep hearing people talk about how much they love it.  I’ve been in a few times and walked out, not really getting the big deal.  The first thing as you walk in the door is an entire aisle of chips, candy and other bagged and processed items.  I also don’t do well with warehouse shopping.  It feels like a Rack Room for food.  The out of date items, the brands that no one can sell, sitting on the shelves for who knows how long.  I’m NOT saying that’s true…just feels that way to me.   But, yesterday I was going to see what I could purchase!  I found some trail mix selections.  Different nut and seed varieties.  I like to buy a couple of different ones and mix them together.  Price wasn’t bad.  Ok…first purchase.  Next, I found spicy mustard.  I needed some, and it looked as good as any.  The produce didn’t look too bad.  I found my dates.  They were Medjool, although the price wasn’t any better than Trader Joe’s.  But freshness is the most important element.  Let’s try them.  That was about all I needed, so that would be my first buying experience with Aldi’s.  As for other warehouse stores, I’ve tried Sam’s with no luck, but never been in Costco.  I know they are loved by many, so call me crazy!

I opened the nuts when I got home.  These were nuts I would use in my Date-Nut Butter as well as make my own trail mix.  They weren’t as fresh tasting as I’ve had, but mixed in with other things, probably wouldn’t make much difference.  This morning I used them for my nut butter.  After processing them in the food processor, it was time to add the dates.  Definitely not as fresh as Trader Joe’s.  Some were hard to cut open in order to remove the pit.  Some were fine.  I added my warm water and turned on the processor.  Gonna need a little more water to get these to break down.  Fresh dates don’t need too much added water, but these were a little harder.  Again, making me wonder how long they had been packaged.  I added the water, got things mixed and processed.  Date-Butter ready.  The taste was good, I can’t complain about that.  Not feeling like I’m eating fresh ingredients, I can question.  It didn’t seem like the price savings was great enough to compromise quality.

Which brings us to the many other choices out there.  I have mostly been a Harris Teeter shopper.  I find their rotisserie chickens to be the best, and I usually feel pretty good about their produce.  Like most places now, you can opt for organic or not.  They have the best deal on kale…large bunch that seems to be fresher than anywhere I’ve shopped and a great price.  I was never a Trader Joe’s shopper until my daughter started working there.  It was nice, of course, for the discount, but I also found out what the fuss was about.   Everything is good quality and usually at a very good price.  I now only buy my meats and eggs there.  And…as you well know…dates!  I also find their nuts to be fresh and reasonably priced and I love their bags of already prepared produce.  If you hate the preparation of vegetables, this is the way to go!  I am such a fan of the cauliflower rice.  It’s so versatile and adds a great texture to any dish.  I use it as a side dish, or add other ingredients and make a meal of it.  So simple and ready in no time.  That’s a great one for  a “too tired to cook” night.  Throw in a few of the already 20170526_184432prepared veggies and you have supper before even thinking about how going out might be a good idea.

I do occasionally try the higher end stores.  Whole Foods has some good choices and sometimes you can find a good price or a sale that will make you glad you came in!  Fresh Market is a beautiful store, but I only shop there when I’m feeling a bit extravagant!  Where is your favorite?  I think we all gravitate to one place as our go to, maybe venturing in another on occasion.  I’ve tried most in my area – oh, I left out Ingles.  Never knew of them until moving to this area.  I do find them expensive and some things are very questionable.  They are a last resort for me, but will go if needed.

I don’t think most people like to shop around, it can be very time consuming.  But, after years of looking for the best deals, watching all of these stores evolve and wanting the freshest quality at a reasonable price, I feel like I know exactly where to go to get what I need.  Funny, but it actually makes shopping easier.  If I know what I’m after, I can go right to that store and I’m done.  No shopping around, wandering through the aisles, or wondering if I got the best deal.  So, although I may travel to different places, it has, for me, become a time saver!  What are you looking for in a store?  Do you shop around, or stick with what’s close?

How about a Cauliflower Rice vegetarian dinner tonight?

Easy Vegetarian Cauliflower Rice

1 Bag Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Rice

1 Bag Snow Peas

1 Pint Heirloom Grape Tomatoes

1 Red Pepper, chopped

1 Red Onion, diced

2 Garlic Cloves, peeled and chopped20170526_190926

1 Can Garbanzo Beans, drained and rinsed

Juice for 1/2 lemon

2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet, heat olive oil and add onions and garlic.  Sprinkle vegetables with a pinch of salt.  Turn heat to medium/low.  When onions are a bit translucent, add tomatoes and red pepper.  Let cook 3-4 minutes and add snow peas, stirring into other vegetables.  Cook 3-4 minutes and stir in garbanzo beans.  Add cauliflower rice last, along with lemon juice and apple cider vinegar. Stir to incorporate all of ingredients.  Let cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally.   Serve with sliced avocado.  It is a meal in itself!  Mix it with chicken or salmon the next night, and you have a completely new meal.  Enjoy!

Until next time –

Embrace your age…it’s who you are!

Self Care Day… Oh My Gosh, Why Was That So Hard!?

A day off!    I hadn’t really planned anything for the day, just knew things would come up and that would be my day.  Lying in bed, I decided to declare it Self-Care Day.  It didn’t matter how late I stayed in bed, I would leisurely enjoy the morning, hot tea on the porch, no worries about cleaning the house or errands or any other chores to be done.  But what would I actually do??  What is a self-care day?  How would I incorporate it into my day?  Now I had to plan my self-care day!  I think that was harder than planning a week long trip for a family of 5.

 

The day started as usual with Kipper’s walk after putting water on for tea.  It wasn’t a great weather day, but not bad either.  After the walk, he ate and I fixed my tea and went to the porch.  I really do enjoy sitting out there.  I finally got my garden of potted plants completed.  Lavender is my favorite, so, of course, it flanks the path.  A few herbs and some other plants that caught my eye at the nursery, and I was all set.  It’s so exciting to plant those first flowers of spring…and hope they make it through summer!

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My little piece of tranquility

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Still the planning of the day…  Haven’t gotten very far with that, but had some ideas.  Definitely an outing with Kipper, maybe someplace we hadn’t been.  Then how about a spa day.  Trouble there, I don’t have a favorite spa here, nor do I know much about any in the area.  I had heard about the Salt Caves and that sounded interesting.  Had to do some research because I actually wasn’t sure what it entailed!  Turns out to be a session in the salt cave in a meditative setting to benefit from all of the negative ions of the surrounding salt.  Why not!?  Signed up for the afternoon session, and now what to do until then with Kipper.  I researched several different trails around the area.  Found the ones that are pet friendly and not too much for my little blind friend.  He loves the walks, but I don’t like to overwhelm him.  There was one close by that looked good, and after I realized how much time it took just to schedule those two activities, we needed to get going if I was to make it to the salt 20170522_13545620170522_14230520170522_13531720170522_142844session.

 

We found the trail.  Kind of obscure, but seemed known to others.  We had had lots of rain the days before, so it was quite the muddy trail.  More of a forest trail than a hike up a mountain.  Great for Forest Bathing -gathering negative ions from the forest.  A short walk from the entrance, the path forked.  Which way to go?  We made the decision and started on our way.  Everything was so green and vibrant, hard not to be in awe of the beautiful foliage.  The sound of the cascading water in the stream below us.  Quite a nice walk.  The path ended and we found we had to turn around.  We headed back and I wanted to get a glimpse of where the other side of the fork would have taken us.  We started up that path and found all sorts of wondrous sights.  The babbling brooks, bridges to other paths and the radiant greenery that surrounded us.  Trouble at that point was that I had to get back for my salt session.  I was looking forward to it, but also really wanted to explore this forest further.  An outing for another day.

 

I got Kipper back home and grabbed my sweater – it is cold in the cave – and headed to my appointment.  This was something I’d never experienced, but thought it would be cool.  The cave was amazing.  Walls made of pink Himalayan salt rocks, the  floor made of white salt from Poland.  There were lounge chairs for relaxing, or you could choose a blanket and pillows on the salt floor.  Blankets also offered to keep you warm.  I chose a blanket on the floor.  We learned the history of the room and salt caves before the lights dimmed and we were left to take in all of the benefits this beautiful cave had to offer.  

 

Both the forest and the salt cave gave me a day of absorbing the negative ions around.  The benefits are suppose to be wonderful for mental health as well as your physical well being.  The negative ions clear the air of bacteria, pollen, mold and other allergens, helping with respiratory inflammation and irritation.  They can also help with sleep, a positive mental outlook and energy levels in the brain.  Now that’s a positive self-care day!  Only I wasn’t really feeling more positive or more energized.  What went wrong?

 

I thought I’d do something simple for supper.  Once again, I had some fresh cherries in the fridge, so I wanted to try a little chocolate with them.  I came up with a sort of candy.  It wasn’t bad, I think cherry and chocolate are good together no matter what.  I enjoyed my a one-pan take on a fajita with my southwest rub, a little glass of wine, the air filled

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One-pan chicken fajita
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And a cherry on top- Chocolate covered Cherry Candy

with lavender from my diffuser.  Seemed like a great ending to the day.

 

Reflecting on my self-care day, I think I was trying too hard.  Do you ever have times like that?  The harder you try to make something happen, the more disappointed you are.  That seemed to be my day.  For me, the best part of the day was sitting on my porch, enjoying the brilliant wonders of nature.  A simple walk with Kipper on our trail behind the neighborhood and maybe see where the day went after that, might have been the best path to a rejuvenating day of taking care of me.  I remember when the kids were young and I would throw in a massage or pedicure here and there, those were the most rewarding moments for my own self-care.  It was either planned in advance -maybe a girls weekend at a spa or an afternoon massage and facial -and something to look forward to, or just a quick trip to a nail salon to freshen up my toes and enjoy a short foot soak and massage.  It never seemed complicated and I always felt like I had had my moment before getting back to the chores at hand.  Now, on my own and feeling like I should do these things, it comes as such a struggle.  Hard to understand, but I think I am heading into loving the simple things in life.  The nature around me, my sweet little companion and the day to day joys that come up spontaneously.  That is my self-care.  It can happen, and it does.  I just don’t have to plan so hard.  I guess life takes us down that path…  not planning so hard.  Just enjoy.  It will happen and when it does, it is something to remember!

 

My one-pan fajita starts with my Southwestern Rub.  I love rubbing it on whatever protein I’ve chosen for the meal, or adding a sprinkle to some vegetables to liven them up a bit.  Try it however you choose and let me know what you think!

 

Southwestern Rub

 

2-3 Tbsp chili powder, depending on your level of heat!20170527_063650

½ Tsp each – crushed red pepper flakes, dried oregano

1 Tsp each – garlic powder, onion powder

2 Tsp paprika

3 Tsp ground cumin

2 Tsp black pepper

 

In a small bowl, mix ingredients together until well blended.  Store in an airtight container.

 

I’m Too Tired to Cook, but I Don’t Want to Go Out…

When I lived in Charleston, the one big question of visitors to the Holy City was “Where should we eat?”  Such a great question in such an incredible foodie town!  There is a charlestonrestaurant on every corner and in each building in between.  Rest assured that if one closes today, there will be one in line and ready to open tomorrow.  It’s almost like the line at Home Goods, each customer waiting for the cashier to yell “Next”!  How could you not find a place?  Problem is, I am the wrong person to answer that kind of question…   Eating out is not my thing, even in a town with so many fabulous choices.

 

Going out to eat is one of the most frustrating activities I seem to encounter.  There are too many decisions involved, and I can’t ever seem to resolve them.  Many a night on my way home from work, I would think grabbing a bite out would be a great idea.  So, I’d call my daughter and start the process.  And it was a process…where should we eat, what do you feel like eating, that’s really expensive, I’m too tired to go back out…the list was endless.  And, after 30 minutes of deliberation, we would always realize that what we felt like eating, what was the least time consuming, what was most cost effective and where we should go, turned out to be a meal at home.  Truth be told, I’d rather eat my own cooking anyway, since I know from whence it came!

 

Much to most people’s disbelief, cooking at home is the easiest solution to that satisfying dinner after a long day.  You know what you are putting in your body, dinner can be made, eaten and cleaned up faster than going out, you certainly don’t have to change or freshen up to eat at home, definitely less expensive, and by far the healthiest choice.  Don’t get me wrong, a nice meal out with good company, when I’m looking forward to it, is a lot of fun.  And a spontaneous night out can wake up a boring week.  That’s what the eating experience should be…fun, enjoyable and savored.  But for the night after a long day, I hear many folks say that it’s too much trouble to cook for one or two.  I do it every night and find it much easier than going out.  My routine is usually to come home, a nice long walk with my little furry friend, maybe water the plants or take care of something

kipper at craggy
Kipper

 else that needs attention around the house and then prepare my meal.  I do, sometimes, think I don’t feel like going through the motions of preparation, but once I have put the day behind me and start the process, I rather enjoy it.  As I  start getting a feel for the direction of the meal, putting it together is very satisfying.  On most occasions I have enough for leftovers and I feel like I’ve treated myself to a wonderful night out if I dine on the patio. If my daughter is home, nothing is more fun than preparing a meal together.  And the benefits of a  meal prepared with love and fun are far greater than any restaurant can offer.

 

I have since moved to Asheville, another foodie town, and nothing has changed.  Although the thought of stopping to get something on the way home, or going out to grab a bite still enters my head, I find myself continuing to enjoy my meals at home.  Many weeks I’ll pick a day and cook some things for that night as well as the week ahead.  My

roasted chicken
Lemon Roasted Chicken cooked in a cast iron skillet

favorite food to cook for the week is a whole roasted chicken.  Cooking meat on the bone is so much more flavorful and excellent for the health of your bones. Wow is it good when it’s fresh out of the oven, but, oh the things you can do with it after that.  And you never feel like you’re eating leftovers!  I can almost eat an entire week on a chicken, at least 4 or 5 days.  With nothing being too complicated or time consuming.  I am all about simple!  Roasted Chicken and Avocado Chicken Salad is an entire meal in one, and great for this time of year.  Chicken vegetable soup is a very quick fix.  Grab some chicken broth and whatever veggies you might like to add, if none at home.  I love the bags of cauliflower rice that you can cook quickly and add anything you want for an entire meal.  Add some cut up chicken to that, with some baby spinach and mushrooms,  or grape tomatoes and you are all set for night 4.  If there is any chicken left for night 5, make it a stir fry.  Onions, snow peas, broccoli and your cut up chicken.  You’ve had lots of good meals, with little fuss.  Don’t forget the bones of the chicken left to cook up some broth for the next chicken soup or a special treat for the pup!!  Mine loves chicken broth in his supper!  Everyone is happy!

 

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Chicken Veggie Soup

 

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Cauliflower Rice
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Chicken Stir Fry

So, go on, live a little…create that great, healthy, inexpensive, time saving meal at home and enjoy all of the love and happiness you’ve put into it!  Let me know your favorite meal to prepare for the week.  How do you mix and match your leftovers?

Try my tasty Roasted Chicken and Avocado Salad and let me know what you added to make it your own!

 

Roasted Chicken and Avocado Saladchicken salad

 

1 Whole Chicken, roasted or 4 Bone-In Chicken Breasts, roasted

1 Small Sweet Onion, diced

1 Pint Grape Tomatoes, cut in half

½ C Pumpkin Seeds

1 Avocado, cut into pieces

Juice from Half Lemon

Juice from Half Lime

Salt and Pepper to taste

 

Pull chicken off of the bone and rough chop.  Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.  Serve over mixed greens or spinach.  One of my favorites is Arugula.  Add Blueberries for a little fruit sweetness, if you like.   Enjoy!

 

Until next time…

Embrace your age…it’s who you are!

 

 

How do you spend Mother’s Day?

Yesterday was Mother’s Day.  I can’t tell you how many posts and pictures there were on all social media of children wishing their mothers love and admiration.  Not that this is a bad thing.  My children posted and called and it was so gratefully appreciated.  They are all off doing whatever it is they are doing, so were not here to be with me for the day.  But, what I realized over the course of the day, is that I was with them all day.  I found myself reflecting on all of the great joy they bring me and the laughter and happiness that I experience when we are together.  I am so thankful for all that they give me and every moment we spend being a family.

This also took me back to the childhood years, who they were then, what they enjoyed, how they spent their time, the friends in their lives.  We certainly had some wonderful times.  We took incredible vacations, I attended anything and everything they were in, chaperoned whatever field trip or overnight trip offered.  I tried to expose them to things I thought would be of benefit to them in their formative years…they didn’t always get, or appreciate, my point!   It was funny all of the experiences I thought they would cherish, they didn’t find as much value in as I did at the time.  We rented a beach house at Pawley’s Island every summer.  They took friends, and I loved the whole week.  There were the elementary years, the middle school years and, of course, the dreaded high school years.  Everyone went through each in his or her own way, some were not so good, some were really wonderful.  

All of this to bring me back to the present and how each one has evolved.  They are still very special in their own rite.  The one I fought with the most, and caused the most worry through high school, is now the sweetest friend a mom could ask for.  She, in fact, graduated in Social Work with a love of helping those in need, built orphanages in

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My girls and childhood friend surprised me for my big 60th birthday

Honduras and still calls her mama when she gets sick.  The one who wouldn’t come out of the basement or pause his video game for a second, much less care about school and the outside world, just graduated from grad school, has explored Europe once already and heading back again soon, with the final destination San Diego for his new career and life.  The youngest and I went through some really tough times together.  The divorce took its toll on her the most and we were left to start over again and make it on our own.  She was uprooted from her friends and thrown into a new school to start high school, with a mom who had to work 2 or 3 jobs just to make sure she could eat.  She is now also making her way through Europe, participating in Farm Work programs along the way, with plans to pursue her dance career upon return and checks on her mom every chance she gets.

Graduation
Grad school graduation just last week

So, does it go back to the things they were taught or experienced while growing up, whether they liked it or not?  Or is it that they feel all of the love a mother can give and it sticks with them throughout.  I don’t know what generates a turnaround or breakthrough, but I know that my Mother’s Day was just as special in thought as others had in person.  They can bring a smile whether with me or not, they can fill my heart with love overflowing and, for me, I spent my Mother’s Day grateful to be the mother that they have made me.  

 

After all of the day’s reminiscing, I felt it only right to enjoy my own Mother’s Day meal.  So, I set off to the grocery store, not knowing exactly what sort of dining experience I wanted, but sure I’d figure it out there.  Low and behold, wonderful red cherries at Trader Joe’s, so of course French Cut Pork chops came to mind.  I have sort of lost my craving for red meat, so when I’m in the mood for something different these pork chops are the best.  If you’ve never had Trader Joe’s French Cut Pork Chops, stop now and go get some.  I won’t buy them anywhere else.  So to go with that, a Savory/Sweet Cherry Sauce and slightly wilted Romaine Lettuce.  One pan, simple, easy…just like I like it…and it feels like a very special meal that my kids would enjoy with me.

pork chop w cherry
French Cut Pork Chop with Slightly Wilted Romaine

 

 

I’ll share my cherry sauce here.  There is one ingredient that I don’t think you’ll see coming, but it’s what makes it so good.  Try it, taste it and see what you might like to add or not.  I’d also like to hear your thoughts on your Mother’s Day.  Whether about your mother, your kids or just what made you smile that day.

 

Until next time…

Embrace your age…it’s who you are

 

Savory-Sweet Cherry Sauce

16oz Fresh Sweet Red Cherries

¼ C Apple Cider Vinegar

¼ tsp Ground Cloves

½ tsp Ground Nutmeg

1 Clove of Garlic minced

Juice from ½ Lemon

Pit cherries and put in small sauce pan on the stove.  Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer on low until cherries break down and sauce has thickened, stirring occasionally.  

 

The Inside Story of a Healthy Outside

Have you ever noticed that when you walk down a path one way you observe what you think is the only view, but when you turn around and go back, it’s like walking a different path.  When I walk on the beach, if I walk south, I’m noticing everything  the beach playocean encompasses, people in it playing or surfing, boats sailing.  When I turn around to go back, I’m drawn to the houses.  I notice the colors, people on the decks, how far from the dunes they are.  It’s the same with a hike up a mountain. trail up The hike up takes in a different path than the hike down, the trees don’t even seem to grow in the same direction.  Driving a narrow road offers the same different viewpoints.  Always a different perspective on the same view.  Quite interesting, and I always notice something different each way, no matter how many times I’ve traveled that road.  

Do you think the same could be said for other views we take in?  What about the people we meet?  Could there be two different views on them?  Are we quick to see only the one outside view?  What if we walked down the path to getting to know them in a different direction.  Would we see something completely different?  The colors of the houses, or the surfers in the ocean?

The same could apply to our health and lifestyle.  We tend to look at ourselves with the outside physical view.  Are we thin enough?  Are we muscular enough?  Do we sag in too many places?  Does our skin glow?  But how about the inside?  Have we looked at that to see what in there is contributing to the things we see on the outside?  Could our skin look dull because we aren’t eating enough green leafy vegetables to bring out its radiance?  Or is it sagging because we aren’t consuming enough vitamins to help build more collagen?  What we put in our bodies is just as important to the outside appearance as exercise, skin care products and sunscreen.   I am all about a great skin care regimen at night and in the morning, but I also think about what I’m putting in my body and how it will affect the outside.  And for me, none of this needs to be complicated.  At my age, simplicity is the spice of life!

Just as important to the gut, our energy level and brain, there are many foods that contribute to the well being of our skin.   I think for today, I’ll start with Kale.  It’s such an

Kale Bunch 1
Kale Bunch – so easy to tear off of the stems

easy food to work with and very versatile, a great source for the many needs of our bodies, as well as our outside glow.  And so easy to incorporate into a meal.  It can go in one-pan-wonders, soups or a fabulous salad.  There are some tricks to using Kale…like don’t forget to massage your kale before eating it raw!  It is definitely a bit tough raw, but if you give it some love and care by gently massaging the leaves after putting them in a bowl, it makes all the difference.  And you will feel the love you’ve given it.  I prefer the whole kale bunches to the prepackaged cut up kale.  It’s easier to work with because you can just tear the leaves off of the big stems and put in the bowl.  With the bagged kale, I always feel like I’m spending way too much time picking out those large stems, only to end up with more in the salad after it’s made.  One of my least favorite things in a salad!

Now the beauty facts about kale…  Each cup contains just 33 calories to your daily intake.  A single serving of kale provides all the vitamin K you need for the day, and eating kale also increases your intake of calcium and iron. It’s anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce puffiness and redness in the face and around the eyes. The omega-3 fatty acids are excellent for a more supple and nourished complexion from within.  Making kale a regular part of your diet not only promotes overall health, it also keeps your skin healthy and strong by increasing your intake of skin-friendly essential nutrients.

kale stirfry
Kale Stir Fry

Kale boosts the health of your skin because of its high content of vitamins and minerals.  Vitamin C helps you make the collagen needed for skin strength. Vitamin C’s antioxidant function also means it might provide natural protection from the sun, preventing skin damage caused by exposure to the sun’s rays.  Vitamin A promotes healthy cell growth, including the cells that make up the dermis and epidermis of your skin.

Kale Chips
Kale Chips

Beautiful hair is another benefit of kale. The vitamin C in kale can increase circulation in the scalp along with the essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to help improve hair elasticity. Kale’s high amount of iron is also essential to healthy hair.

So, when you’re bombarded with all of those anti-aging cream and lotion commercials, remember that what you put inside your body may be even more important than what goes on the outside.

Here’s a great kale salad that you can play with to make it your own.  You may read the recipe and think of some other things you would like to add.  That’s what recipes are for…a starting point for you to create something spectacular of your own.  When I create recipes, I keep in mind that we are usually cooking for one or two at this point, so I keep them simple, and sometimes enough for one more meal to enjoy another day.  One of my favorite recipes for kale is not only delicious, but easy to put together.  The dressing is included in the salad, which cuts one more step out.  Simple, yummy and oh so good for your healthy glow!

 

Beet and Kale Salad

1 Bunch or Combination of a variety of Kale20150914_124758

Off the stem and massaged in the bowl

1 Cup Arugula

1 Red Onion thinly sliced

1 Cup Daikon Radish cut in rounds

1 Cup Sunflower Seeds

1 Avocado

Juice of one Lemon

Juice of one Lime

1 Tbls Grated Fresh Ginger

Sea Salt

2 Cups Roasted Beets diced

Put all ingredients except beets into a large bowl and mix thoroughly with your hands. Add beets and toss.  Incorporate all ingredients well.

Here’s to your healthy glow from the inside out!

Until next time…

Embrace your age…it’s who you are!

 

References:

Wende Rowe: Eat Beautiful

http://www.xojane.com

http://www.livestrong.com

 

 

If 60 is the New 40 and 50 is the New 30…

Age and Glasses of Wine

           Should Never Be Counted – Italian Proverb

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My 60th birthday started the year of doing things I had never done…paddle boarding was day 1

I think I spend far too much time looking at different sites.  I love browsing Pinterest and seeing what my friends and groups are doing on Facebook.  Maybe a little Instagram every now and then.

In looking at all of the social media sites, there are a few things that always stand out to me.  I, of course, have a board on Pinterest for Aging Gracefully, and, as a Health and Wellness Coach, am in several Health Coaching groups on Facebook.  It appears to me that everyone is trying to make aging new and exciting.  I continue to read that 60 is the new 40.  If that’s the case, what is 40?  The new 20?  Is that what 40 year olds want to be?  And then there’s 50…the new 30.  So, yes you got it, 30 is the new 10?  An interesting concept.  Why does everything have to be the new something.  Orange is the new black…you see where I’m going with this.  Can’t we just be what we are.  Yes, we are living longer, but are we living healthier?  There are all kinds of products out there that can lengthen our lives, but how about quality.  That is up to us.  And I’m not so sure I want to be 40 again.  I had a new baby (yes!), chasing the other 2 around, had to have dinner on the table when Dad got home, not to mention laundry, cleaning and never having 5 minutes to myself.  Romance and romantic evenings?!  I’m not sure when or even how I got pregnant with the 3rd child.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids and every moment I was fortunate enough to spend raising them.  I just don’t need to do it again.  The worries now are where is my career going from here, where should I live next, and how long will my hike up the mountain be today.  See the difference?  Leftovers work, cooking all day Sunday is nice, going to bed at 9, or 11, my decision.

In fact, I don’t think we need to relive any chapter of the aging process.  That’s what got us here.  That’s what helped us grow and learn.  Now, it’s just about when I’m going to  see my kids, not how I’m going to entertain them all day.  I actually don’t know the public school system yearly schedule anymore.  My life doesn’t revolve around spring break, Christmas break and that fabulous 3 months every summer relieving boredom for 3 kids.  Now is my time, and I’m alright with that.  I also believe that my kids are alright with that!  My 50s have been challenging, but they have been mine.  I’ve had to find new roads to travel, build a skill into a career that was just a hobby before and learn to take care of me, not everyone else.  That’s still one I’m working on.  All very challenging, but rewarding too.  I’m not at all where I thought I would be at 60, but how many of us are?  I imagined sliding into the empty nest arena with bells on.  I can tell you there are no bells.  Some days there’s nothing at all.  But, getting this far has shown me that feeling sorry for myself won’t really help me achieve anything.  Let’s just say that from 50 to 60 came in a way very unexpected.  I have had to completely rebuild my life from the ground up.  Not being one to ask for or accept help easily, that was the first lesson I had to learn.  There was no way I could do this one alone.  Definitely a story for another time…

All of that aside, I still think this time of life is exciting.  I don’t want to be any other age, let alone 30 or 40.  Let’s face it, whether 60 is the new 40 or not, it still comes with some aches and pains we didn’t have before, lines and wrinkles that 40 never knew and, for most of us, a different hair color (under whatever color you have chosen for yourself).  We are even called Ma’am by most 40 year olds.  I certainly can’t wear the things a 40 year old can wear and I don’t mind that either.  Let me make this clear…I am 60 and life’s doors have never seemed more open.  There is no box, no worry of what my neighbor will think of me and no Joneses to keep up with.   Some days it’s hard enough to keep up with myself, let alone the Joneses I don’t know.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty happy to be the new 60.  No other age necessary.  Where are you in the new revamping of the years?  Do you consider yourself a different age, older or younger?  Or, is wherever you are in life pretty satisfying?  What would you change about the perception of aging?  Would you change anything?

 

Until next time

Embrace your Age…It’s Who You Are!
Continue reading “If 60 is the New 40 and 50 is the New 30…”

Put a Smile on Your Face, Your life is Just Beginning…

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Welcome to the Cafe

I was walking to my car one day and I started thinking about age…my age to be exact…and how people use the phrase “you look great for____ (fill in the blank!)”.  What exactly does that mean?  What exactly does (fill in the blank) look like, or feel like, or anything?  It’s just a number.

At 59 not a day went by that I didn’t wonder what being 60 would be like.  Will it be any different than 59?  Will it be any different than 55?  I think 55 was the year that made me think about my age and where I was heading.  It just seemed like a downhill slope to 60.  Actually, it has been anything but downhill.  With these years I have made a life for myself after a divorce, created a career and gone back to school.  I have started exploring my real feelings about what I want and where I want to go.  Who am I and is any of this different from when I was 25 thinking the same things?  Yes, as a matter of fact, it is.  It’s better.  Think about the experiences, the ups and downs, the knowledge from succeeding and from failing, the loves and the losses.  Yes, much different.  But the feelings are the same, the anxieties are the same, the uncertainties are the same.

If I had known at 25 what I know now, how would my life be different?  Would it be different?   Would I ask for the same things with confidence and assurance?   Would I walk away if my gut said to?  Would I believe in my own self worth?  Would I believe in me at all?  I guess I’m still that 25 year old, with a lot more experience and self assurance.  Kind of an interesting and exciting combination.  My children are just starting their lives, this chapter anyway.  Two of them fresh out of college, securing jobs, moving to new and exciting places. The youngest, still in college, but traveling a different path than originally planned.  Nothing unusual at that age.  But what about at my age?  I have certainly traveled much different paths than I thought I would.  But, isn’t that true at any age?  25, or 55?  Do you see the inconsistencies, and the consistencies?  Life is very strange, yet very intriguing.

So, what does any age mean?  Are you asking the same questions?  Are you ready to explore the whole idea of age and what exactly you do with it?  Sit around and get old, or ignore it and keep on moving?  If you all answered that one question, I dare say I would get as many different answers as people who answered.  Or, would we all see it the same?  We are all faced with age, getting older, aging, etc.  It’s just what we choose to do with it.  How about you?  What are you doing with it?

I would love to hear your thoughts on your aging process.  Do you even think about it at all?  Are you worried about each line that shows up on your face and gray hair on your head?  Do you think about the aches and pains?  Do you sag in places you didn’t before, and wish you didn’t now?  Or are you out there showing the world that you are stronger than ever and your number has nothing to do with how you feel?  Does our health and how we have taken care of ourselves over the years play a role?  Have you had to make some adjustments in your routine or what you can eat and not eat?  Can we straighten up and get healthy now and change the course of time?  How old do you want to be?  How far are you ready to go?  Let’s find out together!

Until next time…

Embrace your age, it’s who you are!