Easter 2011

“9″ Things I Loved About This Year’s Easter

1. Nicole’s creativity, dispersed into the cutest place settings that I have ever seen.

(Nicole is the up and coming Martha Stewart, in case you didn’t know.)

2. Quiet time spent with family and friends.

3. The food.  (of course!)

Nicole made a large batch of sweet potato and rosemary soup.  For a moment, I completely lost my senses and found myself wishing that I was one of mom’s homemade butter rolls being dunked into the rich, orange broth.

Did I just say that out loud?

Heavenly.

I honestly could have made a meal out of the bread and soup, but the main meal was pretty scrumptious too.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Summer Squash w/ Dill Saute

Ham and Turkey

Broccoli Casserole

Brown Sugar Glazed Carrots

Green Beans

I hated the meal.  All of it.  Obviously. ;)

4. Seeing my bestie: Nicole @ Loving Simple Moments

5. Dessert. (because this is a completely different reason than the #3!)

Nicole went all out with the entirety of the meal.  And then she ended it with a loud, lemony, coconut bang.

Kelsey brought a trio of yummy vegan desserts for the table to share as well.

Delish!

6. End of meal conversations.

This is always my favorite part of every holiday.  Empty plates.  Quiet chatter.  Candles glowing.  People laughing.  Bellies feeling full and content.

7. Goodie bags! :mrgreen:

Thanks, Nicole!

8. Cuddling with a cat named Stitch.

Because he never ceases to make me laugh.

9. Remembering all of the good things in life.

Sometimes I forget to thank God for the simple moments.  Which is funny, because these are the moments that I continue to remember, long after the day has passed.  The moments that mean the most.  I love that Easter reminds me of all these things. 

Happy Easter!!!

QUESTION: What is your favorite part of Easter?

Healthy Living.

Healthy living means never eating fast food.  Never!  Not even subways.

Healthy living means skipping a meal now and then.  Especially if you “overdid it” the day before.

Healthy living means never eating fatty foods like olive oil.  Or avocado…

…or nut butters, for that matter.  Fat = fattening.  Avoid it!

Healthy living means learning how to take control of yourself and never—ever!—eating your favorite foods, ever again.  Just say no.

Healthy living means choking down a ton of tasteless, colorless veggies.

Healthy living means never taking another bite of anything with carbohydrates.  They’re bad for you.  Horrible.  In fact, they will instantly add weight to your thighs and butt, making you feel tired and sluggish.

You need to also look out for things like apples, carrots, and sugar beets.  Keep an eye out for these top three danger foods, which are sometimes seen at your local farmers market.

Healthy living means exercising for hours and hours…

…and hating every second of it.

Obviously.

Oh, and since we’re on the topic?

No.

Walking around and exploring a new city does not count as exercise.  I’m surprised you even asked.

Healthy living means never being satisfied with your body.  There’s always something that could use improving, and it’s your job to figure out what that something is!

Healthy living means packing yourself boring lunches that taste like cardboard.  Because it’s healthy and that’s what healthy people do.

As you can see, healthy living is pretty miserable stuff.  But a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do. ;)

TODAY’s CHALLENGE: Find a way to be more active aside from “exercising.”  Take two 10 minute walking breaks during the day.  Park your car in the furthest parking spot.  Take the stairs.  Walk around the mall two times before actually shopping.  Walk to the furthest bathroom at work.  Most importantly, have FUN with it! :D

dancing the night away.

What pulled me through yesterday’s 12 mile run:

  • Your comments!  Talk about some serious motivation.
  • Mind tricks.  I pretended that I had a rope tied around my waist and that my dad was pulling me.  This didn’t work so well when he disappeared from view, but the visual cue was still there.  It worked!
  • Bottling some energy for the last 2-mile stretch.  Another mind trick.  I didn’t “open” that bottle of energy until I needed it the most.
  • Praying!  Random people popped into my head during the run.  Twelve miles offers a lot of time to think and pray. :D
Everything ached by the end of the run, but I was incredibly ecstatic all at the same time.  I’ve never run this far before and I never thought I could do this.  THANK YOU for all of the motivation and inspiration! :D
And then I partied the night away at my cousin’s wedding. :D
AJ and Stacey’s Wedding: A Photo Montage

(p.s. The secret to wearing heels when you’ve never been a “heel wearer” is to invest in a pair of comfortable wedges.  The front of these shoes was a good 1 inch or so off the ground, so even though it was giving me height, there were no weird angles!)

There’s never a normal picture with my brother and I.  Somehow we always feel the need to make funny faces. ;)

Reusable place setting tags…LOVE it!

Love.

I. Heart. Wedding. Cake.  :mrgreen:

Congratulations, Stacey and AJ!!  The wedding was absolutely beautiful and everyone had such a blast!

QUESTION: What is your favorite thing about weddings (besides the food! ;) )

fire up the grill.

Sometimes, it’s important to encourage summer along.  Coax it out of hibernation. Give it a little pep talk…a little one-on-one.

And since cookouts scream summer to me—especially when they involve burgers—dinner became an obvious choice.

The sun was out all weekend long, well into today.  It reached 75.  Seventy-five! That is shorts and t-shirt weather at its finest.  And I like to think that I played my part by firing up the grill.

Yes.  I fired up the grill.

Well.  Dad did all of the cooking, after I initially pushed that little green button.  But still.  This must count for something.  Right?

My Pepere, my parents and I didn’t talk much during dinner.

I think this had something to do with the juicy grass fed burgers, the warm weather and the sunshine.  Lovely.

Summer Squash and Zucchini Saute; on the grill

For health and wellness reasons, it’s a good idea to strive for at least 1-2 vegetarian meals a week.  However, don’t stop there!  And don’t feel that you need to exclude meat in order to reap all of those colorful benefits.  Try including more vegetables with each meal, regardless of whether meat is being served or not.  And then have fun sampling your way through all different kinds, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, turnips, spaghetti squash, kohlrabi, tomatoes, etc.   What you end up loving may surprise you! :D

This is a simple way to include some extra veggies whenever you fire up the grill.  Cook up some extra, then layer it on top of your favorite pizza for the following night.  Enjoy! :D

  • 1 whole, medium summer squash, cut or sliced
  • 1 whole, medium zucchini, cut or sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Mrs. Dash Onion and Herb blend…OR…garlic powder and sea salt…OR…italian seasoning
  • Pepper
  1. Preheat grill to medium.
  2. Place squash, zucchini and onion on a large, doubled sheet of foil.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with seasonings.  Stir gently.
  3. Fold edges of foil in and tightly seal the bundle.  Place on grill over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Cook until soft and tender, about 15 minutes.  Enjoy! :D

QUESTION: What foods “scream” summer to you?

 

Yes, I love birthdays.

Happy Birthday, Dad! :D

Know what I love most about family birthday parties?  Well—I mean—aside from the food, of course.  I love the quiet excitement before the party actually even starts.  The table being set just so.  A candle or two being lit for a warm ambiance.  That first car that pulls into the driveway and the sounds of voices that are about to fill an empty, silent house.

This is what I love most about family birthdays.

Of course, in addition to all of that, it sure felt good to fire up the oven tonight.  This past week has left me craving a complete, full day of non-stop cooking.

Today: craving satisfied.

portabella mushrooms cooked in a balsamic reduction sauce

Everyone took part in making something.  I stood watch over the veggies and dad focused his attention on the meats.  Honestly, we all felt kind of bad having dad cook on his birthday, but he didn’t seem to really mind.  It would have felt just plain wrong to have someone else cooking the steaks and burgers, when we all know full and well that dad is the grill master in the family.

(p.s. I’m still using up the last of my garden cress…this stuff lasts and lasts, and I’ve been using it on everything from sandwiches to soups to hummus to burgers.  Quite delicious. )

Nicole @ Loving Simple Moments

Meanwhile, my mom was busy cooking the main dessert, which is her own top-secret homemade apple pie.  I’m not even a pie person, and yet I find myself falling in love with this pie time and time again.

The crust is what gets me.  Its tender and flaky, but not overly so (i.e., it doesn’t crumble into dust on your plate!)  And it avoids being dense and boring like some of those beautiful (but sadly poor-tasting) store bought pies can be.  It is, in one word, perfect.  Absolutely perfect.

I guess we all know who the star of the show was tonight. ;)

Yes.  I love birthdays.

I love the excitement, the laughing, the silliness, the games and the elaborate stories.  The feeling of warmth, of home, of happiness.  I love the cooking, the variety of foods and most of all, the sharing.  I love that it’s more than okay to spend 2 hrs at the dinner table.

I love how relaxed and unraveled the dinner table seems, after everyone has finished eating.  Crumbs.  Empty plates and half empty glasses.  That quiet, comforting feeling of being fully content with life.

Yes.  I love birthdays.

Happy Birthday, Dad!  We love you! :D

QUESTION: What is your most memorable birthday?

embracing spring

In all honesty, I almost didn’t make it to the computer today.  I almost lost myself with spring and sunshine and having nothing really to do but to go for a nature walk.  It was really, really lovely.

Everything looked just as it should on the first day of spring.  Exciting.  Fresh.  Rich and clean.  With promises of warmer weather to come.

In order to fully embrace spring—and all of the brilliant excitement that comes along with—the few green, plastic chairs sitting inside our shed were pulled out from hibernation, and the charcoal grill was fired up.  A fun, spring inspired meal was planned.  The deck was turned into our own private cafe.

Spring deserves such a bright, cheery welcoming, wouldn’t you say?

And then I overcame one of my most ultimate fears (aside from public speaking and roller coasters, of course) which was dunking my hands into a bowl of cold, raw turkey meat, squishing and squeezing the burger mixture together into one cohesive mess.  Shudder.

It didn’t kill me.  I didn’t grimace or groan or make (too) many faces.

But I certainly didn’t enjoy it half as much as hand-stirring a batch of vegan cookies, in which I can wholeheartedly lick my fingers afterwards.  Just being honest.

Dad took over as soon as the patties hit the grill, which is when I finished up with the sweet potato fries and threw together a warm kale salad.

The kale could not have been simpler:  Chop an onion.  Throw it in about 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large pot.  Heat over medium until browned; add 1 bunch of chopped kale, 1 can of diced tomatoes, garlic powder and lemon juice. It’s as delicious as it is simple and goes well with most anything.

The burgers were spectacular.  Well worth the occasion of having to hand stir (wow, I am such a wimp when it comes to raw meat!)

They’re moist and juicy, thanks to the red bell pepper, and they’re spiked with rich flavor throughout.  I sandwiched mine in between a whole wheat hamburger bun, topping it all off with swiss cheese, chopped garden cress, tomato and ketchup.

The main highlight was that, despite the 40 degree temperatures, we ate outside on the deck for the first time this year.  It felt like the right thing to do.  It was as if we were welcoming spring home, after its been gone away somewhere for a long, long while.

Really, I love each new season for its own unique reason.  But I tend to think that spring is one of the most delicious.

Ultimate Turkey Burgers—as seen in Clean Eating Magazine, with slight modifications

This is such a delightful recipe.  Don’t let its simplicity fool you!  The bell peppers lend the burgers a moist, rich flavor, and the garlic offers just enough pizazz to really excite things.  Serve with your favorite garnishes and sides for a fun, spring-inspired meal. :D

  • 1 lb. ground lean ground turkey
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. parsley, finely minced
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.  Divide into four balls and place each in between wax paper, flattening to about 1/2 inch thick.  Chill in freezer for 30 minutes before grilling time.
  2. Place patties carefully on grill over medium-high heat.  Grill 3-4 minutes and flip.  Grill for another 3-4 minutes or until burgers are golden brown and firm in the middle.  Enjoy!

QUESTION: What is a warm weather activity that you’re most looking forward to this year?

enjoying the journey

I can’t even begin to tell you how frightened I was of this morning’s long run.

For starters, I was flying completely solo.  Dad had to go into work (therefore, running his mileage later in the day.)  And as much as I love running by myself, it scared me silly to think that I wouldn’t have our usual conversations to distract me when I needed it the most.  Somehow, talking to myself never feels quite the same. ;)

Secondly, I haven’t run 9.5 miles in over a year.  A year!  And the last time I did, I had some major knee issues.  Speaking of knee issues, my third reason for being scared out of my mind was that my knee has been acting up over this past week.  Needless to say, my inner runner’s confidence was feeling a little shaky.

It was morning.  It was 7:30.  It was now or never.  (Never was never an option.)  I grabbed my water, a clif shot (which I had picked up for free from last week’s 5k,) and began my fearful trot.

Mile one and two were the toughest.  But from that point on, I sort of just melded into this lovely groove.  “Settle down, Sarah.  You’re fine.  Relax.  One step at a time.  Enjoy this run.”

(See?  I do talk to myself. )

Once my mind quieted down, I found myself quite enjoying the sounds of crunchy sand beneath my feet.  I enjoyed the sounds of morning doves cooing to each other.  I enjoyed the smells of muffins and coffee whirling up to my nose as I passed by the local bakery.  I even enjoyed the raspberry clif shot and being scared half to death by one quite large, almost unrealistically over-sized goat.

Running wise, I haven’t felt this good in a long, long time.  Probably going back to my pre-injury days!  It was such a delicious feeling. :D

As always, I immediately refueled (and rehydrated!) myself post-run.

Sweet and Salty Garden Salad
Serve with homemade bread ‘n’ butter, crackers with cheese, or whatever suits your fancy.

  • Mesculin Greens
  • Cucumber and tomatoes
  • Avocado
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Snap peas
  • Green bell pepper
  • Raisins
  • dressing: sprinkle of sea salt, olive oil and a drizzle of honey

There was a little more refueling later on after dad completed his 9.5 miles.  We both found ourselves in the mood for something cold, creamy and delicious.  The choice was Ben & Jerry’s.  Obviously.

Chunky Monkey = my favorite

Time to relax and unwind with a good book.  It’s been forever since I read last, and tonight it just feels like the right thing to do.  Hope you’re all having a happy Saturday! :D

Sarah’s “Official” Half Marathon Training Plan

Week 1: Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—4 miles

Week 2: Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—5 miles

Week 3: Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—2.5 miles

Week 4: Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—6.5 miles (YIPPEE!)

Week 5: Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—3 miles

Week 6: Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—8 miles (We. Did. It! :D )

Week 7:
Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—3 miles

Week 8: Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—9.5 miles (Feelin’ Good!!)

Week 9:
Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—4 miles

Week 10: Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—11 miles

Week 11: Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—4 miles

Week 12: Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—12.5 miles

Week 13: Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—4 miles

Week 14: Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—14 miles

Week 15: Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—5 miles

Week 16: Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—HALF MARATHON RACE DAY

QUESTION: Favorite ice-cream flavor?

a sweet, sweet potato

Just in case you didn’t think dinner was going to be on the table in 45 minutes or less tonight…

Just in case you didn’t think it was possible to turn your humble sweet potato into a meal…

Just in case you wanted a comforting, non-fussy sort of meal…

You know. Just in case.

This recipe is for you.

Broccoli-Feta Stuffed Sweet Potatoes—as seen in Moosewood Cookbook and on this website

Serves 4

Salty feta cheese and sweet, sweet potatoes; what an irresistible combination.  This luxurious (but simple!) dinner carries with it a faint reminder of my mom’s famous broccoli pie that she serves every Christmas.

Serve this creamy dish with a fresh, crunchy side salad.  Save any leftovers for a quick and easy lunch the next day.  Enjoy! :D

  • 4 medium-large sweet potatoes, with skins
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 4 cups finely chopped broccoli
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  1. Pierce sweet potatoes and rub with olive oil. Bake at 450 degrees until soft-about 45 minutes. Or microwave.
  2. In a large skillet on high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until the garlic is golden, about 1 minute. Add the broccoli and stir-fry for a couple of minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until most of the water has evaporated and the broccoli is tender, 8-10 minutes. Add the salt and pepper and set aside until the sweet potatoes are baked.
  3. When the sweet potatoes have baked, cut them in half lengthwise and scoop out the pulp, leaving a shell at least 1/4 inch thick. Set the shells aside. Mash the pulp a bit and stir it into the broccoli mixture along with the feta cheese. If the stuffing has cooled, turn on the heat under the skillet and rewarm. Add water, if too crumbly.
  4. Fill the shells with the stuffing. Serve each half separately or push back together with stuffing showing between the two shells.  ENJOY!

QUESTION: How long does it usually take you to get dinner on the table on a week night? 30-45  minutes is average for me.  Unless I’m feeling lazy and decide to go the omelette route (i.e., 10 minutes. ;) )

a taste of home

Oops.

(source)

My motto this week has (very fittingly) been “don’t cry over spilled milk.”  From poster mishaps to broken glass to flat tires.  I’ve convinced myself that none of these things really matter.

What matters is Pepere coming to the rescue, and having him tell me to call him anytime in such “emergencies.”  What matters is sitting down to a bowl of split pea soup at the end of a long day, with the family and the muffled sounds of country music playing over the radio.  Yes.  What matters is family.  What matters is laughing and being silly and embracing each moment as it comes, day by day.  Moment by moment.

What matters is having fun in the kitchen, cooking for the people I love the most.  That is what matters.

And so, tonight I decided to make a big batch of split pea soup.

Split pea soup has long been a favorite of mine.  It all started on a chilly winter’s night over my sister’s house.  Nicole had just moved into her new place and called me over for dinner, dessert and a movie.

She whisked around the kitchen—talking with her usual enthusiasm and spice—serving her husband and I big round bowls of the soup with hunks of warm foccaccia bread.  “Wait!”  I stammered, my mouth still full with soup.  Nicole paused mid-sentence before asking, “is it okay?”  “Oh my word,” I stammered.  “This is amazing!”  She smiled.  She popped dessert in the oven.  And then we kept on chattering, as we always do when there’s dinner, dessert and shopping involved.

Ever since, I have had quite the little love affair with split pea soup.  I don’t admit this to many people.  Split pea soup, as you know, has horrible connotations.

“This weather is as thick as pea soup!”

“The color looks like pea soup!” <—and this is really not a good thing, in case you were ever wondering

And yet, when I want to taste “home,” I want to taste split pea soup.  I find the texture to be absolutely irresistible, and I find the flavors to be so simple but grand all at the same time.  It’s not at all a show off like some of those other soups out there.  It carries a level of quiet confidence.

Split pea soup is humble and mellow and really quite simple.  I like that about split pea soup.

Split Pea Soup—as seen in Moosewood Cookbook and on this website

There are all kinds of split pea soups out there.  Many call for ham.  Some call for bacon.  I’ve even seen some include such ingredients as sweet potatoes, raisins, and parsnips.  But when it comes right down to it, I like to keep things pure and simple.

There’s nothing fancy about this recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook, but that’s what makes it so special.  You can cook a batch any time you please.  It freezes well, makes an ideal sandwich companion at lunch, and is super healthy to boot.  What’s not to love?

  • 3 cups dry split peas
  • 7 cups water or veggie stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 cups minced onion
  • 4-5 medium cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced thin
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced or diced
  • 1 small potato, cut in half lengthwise and sliced thinly
  • 1 tsp salt
  • lots of fresh-ground black pepper
  • 3-4 Tbls red wine vinegar
  1. Place split peas, water or stock, bay leaf and dry mustard in a large soup kettle.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to lowest setting, and simmer for about 20 minutes, partially covered.
  2. Add onion, garlic, celery, carrots, and potato. Partially cover and simmer for an additional 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add pepper, vinegar, and salt if desired. Serve topped with fresh tomato and/or minced parsley.  Enjoy!

QUESTION: What is your favorite kind of soup?

 

 

a bowl of comfort

Comfort comes in many shapes and sizes.

A warm hug.  A friendly hello.  A new book on a rainy day.  A phone call from a close friend.  A smile, a laugh, an ‘I love you.’

On the health front, the idea of comfort food has quickly gone out of style.  Replaced with the idea that food should not carry such emotion.  It should not have feeling.

Food and comfort do not belong in the same sentence.  So they say.

But you know what?  I say piddly wish-wash to all of that!!  I find the idea of sitting down to dinner with my parents every night, comforting.  I find the idea of eating lunch with friends, comforting.  And, obviously, the holidays are filled with warmth, good food, and comfort.

And—absolutely!—I find that sitting down to a warm bowl of summer squash and white bean saute to be absolutely comforting.

It’s okay to enjoy your food.  To enjoy your friends and family.  To enjoy the process from kitchen to table.  To find comfort in the simple preparation of a meal and to find comfort in eating until…well…comfortably full.

(It’s also okay to find comfort in downward dogs and tree poses. )

Yes.  Comfort comes in many shapes and sizes.

Summer Squash and White Bean Saute—courtesy of Eating Well Magazine

I like to serve this saute over brown rice, letting it soak up all of the delicious sauce.  But it also tastes delicious served in a wrap, if you don’t mind getting a little messy.  Enjoy! :D

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, halved and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 medium yellow summer squash, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 15- or 19-ounce can cannellini or great northern beans, rinsed (see Tip)
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add zucchini, summer squash, oregano, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook, stirring once, until the vegetables are tender-crisp, 3 to 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in beans, tomatoes and vinegar; increase heat to medium and cook, stirring, until heated through, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in Parmesan.

QUESTION: What does the word “comfort” mean to you?