Saturday, November 8, 2008
-My Chief Recipe Namer-
We all have memories of the type of food our parents used to prepare for us. Classic dishes, family favorites, even good ol' mac and cheese or cereal dinners when there was not a lot of time to make dinner. These prepared foods were at the center of what brought our family together at the end of a busy day. A time to reflect on the day's events and share in thanksgiving to God for all the blessings we had received. I am thankful for the fact that I was raised to appreciate this opportunity of being together, and that it is a tradition that has now carried into my own family. As a food lover, dinnertime is an event that I usually spend all day thinking about. In my mind I pull out virtual recipe cards and think about what I could create that would be satisfying to my family. I have to admit my main goal is a "clear plate" and begging for "second servings". Oh and I should mention that there is a group of preparations that I hail to at least once a week that includes all the classics from my mother.
So on Wednesday night I found myself between picking up the kids and having about 45 minutes to prepare dinner before I had to head off to study land. That didn't leave me much time for being elaborate or trying out anything new- I had to go with something that was time tested and fail-proof. So very quickly I put on a pot of hot water and started thawing out some venison burger in the microwave. Next I scrubbed up about 8 medium sized potatoes and cut them into pieces so they would cook faster in the boiling water. Thankfully I didn't start crying when I chopped up my onion, I have had some real tear jerkers lately. Within 10 minutes I had everything going towards my dinnertime goal and sure enough my "Shepard's Pie" was hot and ready when my hard working husband walked in the door.
The fun part of this story happened when I overheard the kids talking about dinner in the living room. They always make me feel good when they travel into the kitchen, noses high in the air with an exclamation of "What smells so good?" They were both talking about dinner and Riley said to Lauren, "We are having Sheffer's Pie for dinner" which was followed with "No Riley, its called Shepard's Pie" from Lauren. All the way through dinner, and second helpings, Riley continued to call it "Sheffer's Pie" which sounded kind of catchy to me, and so from here on out "Sheffer's Pie"will be the new name of my Mom's old classic dish.
I would love to share the recipe with you all, but I have to admit I don't have a precisely measured one to follow. I will do my best to come close, and maybe I should tell you that the beauty of this recipe is that it really doesn't need precise measurements only an adventurous cooking spirit to make it your own! (Please write me and ask for this recipe if you are interested)
Its pretty quick and easy, especially if you know how to multi task. This meal is very easy to make healthily, and also as a vegetarian meal with tofu or beans instead of burger. Its all in the ingredients that you choose! The possibilities are endless, which is the beauty of it, and we don't mind if you decide to name it your own name. My Mom thought the name Riley came up with was great!
Friday, October 17, 2008
All I have to say is that I get it now- No really I do! It all came to me while sitting in the veterinarian exam room with Libby our cat. The same room, ( I am sure they didn't realize it, they are all so nice there) that Sydney my precious Dog passed away in 4 months ago. I was fighting the urge to feel sad when I looked up at the wall behind me for something to read. I was searching for some Heartguard chewable poster or an animal pharmacy company ad with all the reasons I should protect my pet from fleas and ticks. What I found was a sweet story about a family who had lost their dog as told by Dr. Seuss. The story was inspiring, but what really got me was the final quote:
"Do what you say, and say what you mean, because the people that mind don't matter and the people who matter don't mind."
Plain and simple words to live by, truth and honesty and no fear of what people will think. I just wanted to share this little tidbit with you all, that had such an amazing impact on my way of thinking :)
BY the way CSA Farms ROCK!
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Me and my Beautiful Mom!
With My Mom and Dad Mike
My Dad and Step Mom Dawn with the kids last summer 07 in New York
Dad and Mom Dawn in New York, we were together at a Bluegrass Wine Picnic.
There was something wonderful that happened to me yesterday that really touched my heart and soul. It involved two separate events, that when put together, or back to back as it happened, it really had an effect on my heart. Just to give you an idea where I was coming from yesterday leading up to this moment in time, I will tell you a little bit about the earlier part of my day.....
I had spent the first half of my waking hours focused on Organic Chemistry and the big exam that would be required for me to complete. The exam was pretty important since it is one of four tests that will add up to be 40 percent of my overall grade in the class. I really wanted to do well on this test and coming out of it 2 and a half hours later it is safe to say that i think I did alright. I have already learned the important lesson of patience that is required immediately following a test like that because it would be a waste of energy for me to worry all weekend about how I did on that test. The grade will be what it will be, and it won't change now that I have turned in my answers. So I can accept whatever grade I end up with. After class I had to go straight to work, which I will admit I was not very excited about. All I really wanted to do was be outside and enjoy the beautiful Autumn day that was unfolding already. A sense of responsibility put me in my car and pushed me to drive toward what needed to be accomplished.
My work is cleaning homes, and the first one that I went to was the Matson's in the Homestead Resort. They have a beautiful home overlooking Lake Michigan and the Manitou Islands, which really tends to make my work just a little bit easier. I was listening to some different podcast shows while I worked that had a lot to do with being aware of your daily life and beliefs. I think that these shows were a precursor to my later realizations, or at least contributed and very likely prepared me. Once I had finished cleaning at the Matsons I got into the car and noticed that I had a few missed calls so I retrieved my voice mail messages just like I always do, while on my way to the next house to clean. Here is where that special moment and realization occurred. The first message was my Dad, who lives out in New Hampshire. The second message immediately following him was my Mom.
Now to most of you reading this that might not seem like a very big deal to have both of your parents call and leave messages. Well here is the thing, it is a very big deal for me to hear from both of them like that. My biological parents were divorced when I was 8 years old, and since that time I have never really thought about them in a way that they were "my parents." Let me explain that a little further... Yes, I have a Mom, and yes I have a Dad, but I have never had the traditional family experience. I don't know anything different, so I can't say that I am at all disappointed in how my life has developed without the having the two together. God surely enriched my life with family and friends and special people along the way that fulfilled the needs that would have been filled by having two parents. My Mom did an amazing job with me and Jen, there is not one doubt about that. My Dad, well, he unfortunately chose to live farther away, and our relationship was always something that seemed to me to be in need of more. It hasn't been until more recently that I have ever really felt that Father/Daughter connection. Please don't misunderstand, I have always had a great relationship with my dad, but as an adult I finally feel like we have the relationship I always prayed for.
The amazing part about their phone calls is that with in each call they told me they loved me, they were thinking about me and that they hoped everything was going well for me on that day. I pressed the call "end" button, sat my cell phone down and said aloud "I am loved!" I have never felt such a pure emotion in regard to my identity in all of my life, and to know that my parents love me so very much and that they are proud, and they are there for me. Even though they are not together and married, together, the two people who were apart of making me and bringing me into the world, share a love for their daughter that is honest and true. It is a realization I have never before recognized or known was possible.
I have to admit I have always believed in God's will, and even though my parents did not end up together the people who they are married have also been extreme blessings in my life and I have never doubted their love either. My parents are happy in their separate marriages, and I am happy for the lives they have built in their new marriages. Really if you think about it I have parents times two which equates to double the love. Wow, I really am blessed!
I have never doubted my Mom and Dad's love, I just never had the thought "My Parents love me"- meaning together they love me! (Even though not technically together) I think about Lauren and Riley and how blessed they are to have Tod and I together, so in love with them. They don't know any other way and I am so thankful for the family that we are. I arrived home a couple hours later and my smile was mirrored back to me through Tod and the kids. The love I have in my heart, the gift that both my parents shared with me has opened up an entire new way of thinking for me and I will be an even stronger Mama and wife because of it. We are called to love one another, it is a gift we can freely share. Let us not forget to tell the people in our lives we love them, we appreciate them, we believe in them. There is power in proclaiming love, it is the gift that gives so much more than we can ever imagine!
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Beautiful bounty from the Sheffer garden
The awesome peach canning duo!
Carrots from the garden
Apple Picking at Buchan's Orchard
Tomato from Midnight Harvest (there was a freeze warning that night)
More Midnight Harvest
Willow Vineyard Grapes
Just thought I would share some pictures of all the yummy harvest foods we have been enjoying lately. It is a food lover's paradise here in Northern Michigan- and we love supporting all of our local farmers and enjoying the fruits of our own labor in our backyard garden!
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Sunrise over West Grand Traverse Bay
I want to share with you all an invitation to the most amazing and brilliant show I have ever seen. It doesn't cost any money to attend, and you decide how long you would like to be apart of the audience- arriving and departing within what is convenient for you. I can't guarantee that the content of the show will be consistent, since it is unrehearsed and there are many factors that play a role in the outcome of the display you will be witnessing. Perhaps I should tell you there is a role that you will be required to play too. There are some interactive elements to the show, but don't worry because it is only your perception and attendance that matter the most, especially if the show happens to offer a more solemn version on a particular morning or evening. There are only two showings offered on a daily basis. Plan to get up early if you are one who usually sleeps past daybreak. You can also try to catch the evening display, soon to be a matinee in the next few months (as we approach the depths of Autumn) if that works better for your schedule. Whatever the show provides on the day you decide to attend, keep an open mind and try to see the beauty of its design and creation. Applaud, whether in the form of a smile, a standing ovation, or even just an acknowledgement that you see the creativity and unique way everything has been organized. Please understand that the final act arrives when you choose.
So here is your invitation to take the time to watch the sun rise, or the sun set sometime soon. I pray that you will be able to watch this gift of warmth and light in the morning- or if you decide to catch the evening show, then finality and closure of a day, with a mind that has appreciation for God's ultimate design in the effects of our daily and earthly existence. If we can be certain of one thing on this earth it is that the sun will rise and set with each new day. This show has unlimited performances! Sometimes the morning show is filled with a collage of colors and sometimes there are clouds, but the light of the sun will surely shine. The lights will most definitely dim during the evening show, but there is a good chance you will witness a fiery glow, with a sprinkling of early stars peeking though the atmospheres layers. Take the time to sit and enjoy the quiet beauty of the earth awakening or saying good night- and just realize how amazing it truly is that our earth steadily revolves on its axis, never wavering and always constant. Providing a place for us to exist, to love, and to appreciate the blessings in our lives. A brand new day is always upon us, and a new chapter to our lives starts with each sunrise. May we be thankful for the opportunity to experience all that God graciously provides!
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Something to Savor
Sunset over the Sheffer Household in Autumn
Nothing in the entire wide world of edible possibilities could possibly compare to the golden treasure I retrieved from my oven this evening. In all its simply naked glory, with only a dusting of cinnamon and a drizzle of sweet honey, my treasure from the downtown farmers market, an acorn squash about the size of a football delivered a sensation of happiness I had been in need of desperately all day, maybe even all week long! I actually flirted with this beautiful miracle of earth's bounty during last Saturday morning's stroll through the market. I walked by the squash, picked it up and asked the farmer how much, and then set it down and walked away thinking I still needed to see what everyone else had to offer first. Maybe I would find something at a better price.... 10 minutes later I was on a mission to get back to that first stand as fast as I could, hoping someone else hadn't discovered my jewel. The farmer smiled upon my return, and even mentioned that he knew I would be back. Apparently he had sensed our connection before I had been able to finally comprehend it myself. So I picked up my prize and took it home, and for an entire week it sat on my counter top, the sight of it reminding me daily how eager I was to taste the golden flesh it had concealed underneath its velvety green and orange skin.
And then tonight I walked in my house, turned up the oven to 375 and prepared that lovely orb to be my dinner. My locally grown and harvested, beautiful creation from sun, soil and water quite easily fulfilled all my fantasies of what I wanted to savor and enjoy. My week has had a lot of ups and downs and somehow just taking this one thing, this thing that was all mine and taking the time to enjoy it was exactly what I needed to reset my mood, my emotions, my outlook for the days ahead. Keeping it simple, is once again all I need to do. Everything is what it is, the world doesn't stop producing for what we need- it is recognizing this and then quietly being appreciative for what God has allowed me to have and finding peace it this truth. I am thankful for my jewel of the earth, so yummy and perfect food for the soul!
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Look Out- Spiders are coming inside for the winter!
This was actually one of the smaller ones- still big though
Coming to get me!
Cool Toad! He was squeeking and purring like a cat
An earth worm of many along the asphalt
I really hate to admit this truth about myself. It is a weakness that is a little embarrassing, but nonetheless it is a real fear that I have. I have discovered that this fear has continued to grow with each experience I endure with these creatures and I think it is safe to say I am truly Arachniphobic! I really don't care for this particular group of God's creatures. While they are fascinating with their abilities to create magnificent works of art in the complexities of their webs, and also their abilities as predators, the characteristic that I simply dread about these creatures is that they seem sneaky. It seems like they are masters at hiding, which is probably why they are successful predators. I just can't stand the thought of a spider hiding in the vicinity of myself, and the worse part is when they accidentally reveal their presence to me or I uncover one unexpectedly!
I had gone to one of my office cleaning jobs in the evening instead of the usual time scheduled for the mornings. Automatically I am a little more cautious within the building because it is dark and shadowy this time of day and some objects an be had to identify on the floor. What I mean is what may seem like an innocent piece of cardboard lying on the floor, just inside a shadow, can metamorphasize into a giant, 8 legged monster instantly. I was already on alert because I had gone through the mental process of imagining what possible outcomes should arise if I decided to clean the office in bare feet. Why would I do that you ask? Well I had gone out to dinner with some girlfriends before going to clean and had worn my heels- thinking that I had remembered my tennis shoes to change into afterwards, but apparently I forgot them this time and so I had to make the choice to walk around for three hours in heels cleaning or go barefoot. (Both scenarios in my opinion very unhealthy for my feet) So I chose heels because heaven forbid, what if I stepped on a SPIDER! Thank goodness I had this foresight because as the night went on I ran into not just one but a whole troop of the most monstrously horrific spiders I have ever experienced and they were all little stealth bodies darting out with warnings to leave them be- well they didn't have to worry about that since I was clearly going to stay as far away as possible! One of these monsters was the size of my palm! I still have goosebumps just thinking about it now! As the night went on the spiders weren't the only creep crawlers I ran into- but the others don't bother me at all and the toad was especially cool.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
12/28/95 - 7/9/08
"A gentle soul overflowing with love"
I pull in to my driveway and I no longer have a greeter, that friendly smile that was a constant for such a large part of my life. I open the door to walk into my house and there is no longer this large moving obstacle to walk over. I no longer can sense the feeling of a soft nudge into the side of my thigh, a touch that is flooded with unconditional love and devotion and also communicating to me "I'm here." Together forever on earth was something that was not meant to be, but I never really realized that type of reality until the time came to say goodbye.
She was my confidant, she never complained and was always grateful just to be acknowledged. She was a brave girl who traveled near and far with us, and taught me the real rules about responsibility for someone other than myself. She was a gentle spirit, always content to just be apart of whatever the family was doing. When she was young, she knew how to be a sassy little thing, and yet she grew up to be a very enjoyable presence. Sydney, my sweet girl, sometimes pain in the neck girl, but always reliable and patient girl. Saying goodbye to you this summer was quite simply the hardest thing I have ever experienced in my life. You never complained once and you let us know when you had to move on from this world- we just didn't ever realize how hard that goodbye was going to be. Riley still wonders when God is going to let you come back home, and we remind him that you are in heaven now with an important job to be looking out for us from up there now.
I know I complained a lot about the hair you would leave all over the place, but now that you are gone I have come to learn just how messy Lauren and Riley really are- there are food crumbs all over this house and no one to clean them up! I'm going to miss Autumn nature hikes in the woods with you running way ahead of me on the path, and seeing your foot prints all over the fresh snow covered yard. I might not miss Spring yard clean-up and all your evidence of not taking the time to go out into the woods to do your duty through the cold winter months. I will miss muddy paws, and wet doggie hugs after a swim in the lake. The slider door hardly opens anymore, I have no one to share my left over cookies and pizza crusts with. I didn't realize how much food I tossed to you until I have caught myself now repeatedly standing in the kitchen with the urge to toss pieces of random food up in the air... you are not there waiting eagerly to catch them.
For over a third of my life you were a large part of my happiness. I miss you so much Syd, but I am not going to be sad- instead I am going to be grateful for the time we had together. You were a blessing to our family and we will always have a special place in our hearts for you. Thank you for your love and doggie hugs. Thank you for the e-mail too- it truly helped me especially to grasp the ability to move on, I know that is what you wanted. I love you Sydney, you have left pawprints on my heart and the memory of your unconditional love will always be to me my first experience of the truest form of affection I have ever known.
A letter that I received from Sydney by e-mail the day after she passed away:
I just wanted to send you a quick note to let you know that I am doing good and to not worry about me. I woke up this morning feeling just great! My belly does not hurt anymore, I lost all of my gray and I have so much energy! I do miss you though. Momma, remember when we stayed at Mimi and Papa's house by ourselves? I was so scared but I wanted to be brave for you. Those were the good ol' days. We had so much fun together. I am sorry for being difficult at times. Chewing up picture frames, eating your car visor, running away on sundays just to make you late for church and most of all, all of the hair, poop and pee I left for you to pick up. You gave me the best life a dog could ask for. Even when I caused trouble you loved me unconditionally. I am a bit worried about you though. Who are you going to confide in? Who is going to give you hugs when you are sad? Not that darn cat!! She is much to selfish! I know, Daddy can do it! I know you can count on him! Lauren and Riley should be able to help too. I feel comfortable that I have left you in good hands. Do you remember when you told Daddy that you were pregnant with Lauren? I did not know what was going on at the time but I knew from Daddy's face that it was something big. And then before I knew it you came home with Lauren. If that was not enough, not long after came Riley. Our pack crew by 2 in less than 2 years. I am going to miss those two kids. They got into more trouble than me!! They gave me good loving though and I will miss that. Well I better wrap this up. I have some squirrels to chase. Plus I have to go potty. There is a nice stream just outside my house that will be perfect to take care of that. I am not sure I will have time to write you again but I will be watching over you. Remember, do not be sad that I am gone. Be happy that we were fortunate enough to have the time we did. You are the best momma in the whole world!! I love you.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Back to The
It seems like lately I have been taking an inventory of "Stephanie" details. I guess what I mean is I have been redefining what are my priorities, responsibilities, major personality traits, and ambitions truly are. Get used to seeing the word "Ambitions" with me from now on because that is the word that was gifted to me most recently right from scripture. What it all comes down to is that I am a person who is usually an optimist, and I try my best to find the bright side in every situation I encounter. There are so many things I have to be thankful for in my life to this point. Daily I am learning to appreciate the beauty that surrounds me and my family. I am constantly looking for ways to simplify everything- even walking to my car in the rain today- I stopped myself from thinking about being cold and wet and instead tried to watch individual raindrops fall from the heavens to a explosive splash onto the surface of the planet- ok, I mean the parking lot- anyways why I am sharing this moment is because this is one of my details I am working on. The detail is to slow it down whenever possible. I tend to get going in my day, and before too long I am going 110 miles per hour and surely missing some of the beautiful scenery because that speed does not always allow time to focus on the surroundings. That speed is sometimes a portal to irritability, memory loss, exhaustion and an empty feeling that I am disappointed upon recognizing when it happens. Generally the picture I painted in the last sentence is a place I seldom experience, because fortunately I have adapted ways to handle that faster pace when it happens. So when I do hit it, I am usually able to catch myself before spiraling down too deep. Oh, but when I slow it down and take my time to organize where I am going and what I am doing, there is a peace in my mind body and soul that is so delicious. It is these times that I see and hear and have even experienced some of the most precious moments of my life. Watching my children's curiousity carry them, everything that is still new in their young world, they find it all purely fascinating! Hearing leaves rustle in applause at the lovely songs of evening crickets and frogs is one of my favorite songs that beats any tune on my Ipod, hands down! Experiencing the beauty of friendship. Just listening, and being quiet, when being quiet is the anecdote for too much of whatever is just too much at that exact moment. These are the details that I want my life to made up of. If I make it my ambition to be quiet and be more aware of this world I live in, then maybe I will be fulfilling my life's purposes that God has hoped for me. That is all I can truly hope for in the end. Details- so many- I feel like I have only scratched the surface of trying to capture these thoughts that reside inside of me. Patience and persistence, making sure I take the time to preserve these details is something I will be striving to do- so that once I have identified all these details I can defend them and keep them healthy. In the end all I am trying to accomplish is a personal definition of myself that is honest, and true with no question of what is important to me and where my love and priorities are. So I am putting on the brakes and enjoying the view, smiling and praising God for all the blessings in my life!
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
I'm Back Baby!!! And Better than Ever!!!
Why don't I just state the obvious- I have been on another planet for the past few months and it was apparently a planet that did not involve any access to writing on my blog. Otherwise I would have been able to share so many stories, insights and moments from this past summer that have been nothing short of amazing! To sum it all up within one post would be unjustifiable, goodness I have so many things to share, I don't even know where to begin. You may have to bear with me as I recount certain moments that are pivotal to pointing in the direction I am now currently traveling in- some of the most important things that have happened are actually discoveries about myself and the meaning of my life here on earth. (Those will be some of the deeper sessions, but I know they are meant to be shared) Some of these moments that I want to recount are as simple and sweet as my children discovering baby snails one evening after dinner in the little jar terrarium we made for "one" snail. The snail Riley had found on a walk one morning with our dear friend Rachael earlier in the summer. We learned snails can make babies without the need of another snail, and now "Slimy" the snail will be let go this coming weekend. :)
All in All I hope you are prepared to join me in my journey. I just turned 30 years old only 2 weeks ago and I finally feel like I understand my purpose- not completely- I still have so much to learn, but it sure is nice to have a direction, a goal, an ambition to fulfill daily, weekly, yearly, eternally! I guess I will wrap up my short preview for tonight now- I have to be mindful of my sleep now more than ever! I am extremely thankful at this moment- even though things can be tough, as it has been lately. It is in those moments that I have learned more about myself and God's plans for me than any other time in my life. One step at a time, thankfully never alone...
See you again shortly from today! xoxo- Stephie
P.S. I am still a major food-a-holic so you plan on hearing the conclusion to my four part series, along with more recipes, ideas, and eating experiences, each with deliciously satisfying details communicated from my heart and soul!
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Well I challenged you all to think about our winter squash lasagna creation an help us name it- Lauren has come up with the one we think fits best:
Basically make your traditional lasagna, but instead of adding any kind of cheese at all- substitute winter squash for your ricotta cheese and bake like normal. I find it easiest to use the frozen packages of squash and thaw them in the fridge overnite. If you try it, let us know what you think. We all loved it, especially the leftovers!
For those of you out there who know me, this proclamation will come as no surprise. I am so in love with food, I can hardly stand it! I actually got all dressed up this week for our monthly "Big Grocery Shop" and felt like a giddy child all day long thinking about spending an entire evening strolling through the stores. Even before we walked through the automatic doors of Oryana I was already anticipating the cooling sensation of a shiny fresh apple cradled inside the palm of my hand. As I made my first steps into this haven of edibles, I instantly was aware of the life giving energy of the beautiful arrangement of produce before me. This passion, this obsession of mine makes me feel like I am an explorer, anxiously discovering new treasures as I gain more and more knowledge of how to interpret the layout of options available to me. What is actually even more exciting though is learning and experimenting how to incorporating my "treasures" into my family's daily intake. There are endless possibilities and it is so much fun to see the smiles on all of their faces when I have created something they enjoy. I am so thankful for these realizations in my life- to know that I am on the right path for myself, my family and hopefully all the people I will be able to help someday when it comes to simplifying the mysteries of "what to eat" and "How to eat it." I know my job will not be to tell people what to do, but to help them make the same discoveries I have made and provide them with the tools to keep it: Smart and Simple, and Happy and Healthy.
Summertime is here in Northern Michigan, and its a perfect time to enjoy all the fresh, vibrant and delicious fruits and vegetables available from our local farms. Take time to visit the farmers markets, and roadside stands. Pick up and hold in your hand these beautiful earthly creations and use all your senses to discover all of their qualities that equal nothing but wholesome goodness. Your body will surely thank you for giving it the type of sustenance that has not been manipulated are otherwise been bombarded with additional junk that you don't need. Smart, Simple, Happy, Healthy- I'll explain the meaning behind each of these words and why I think they signify all you need to know when taking your own step into purchasing, cooking and creating your own foods for a efficient healthy life. (It will be a four part series so stay tuned for more.) I believe that if you embrace these ideas, you too might enjoy shopping at the grocery store just as much as I do. I do offer a word of caution that you might become discouraged with many different roadblocks which may include: deciphering false marketing claims, "Fake foods", habitual items you might gravitate to without realizing their harmful effects, and making a choice to choose quality over quantity.
Smart- Be aware of what exactly you are eating. Can you pronounce the ingredients? If not, leave it on the shelf. Has the food item in question been processed in any way? Where did it come from? What went in to it to assure it would make it to the grocery store still having an appealing appearance? If it is in a box or can or packaged in any way, are the claims on the packaging truthful, certified, meaningful? (I tend to believe if your food has to sell itself with claims on its packaging, its trying too hard. The voice of fresh food is basically non-existant in the English language as we know it. It doesn't have all the fancy big words to each out and speak to us about what it contains inside, but if you use your senses and listen, look, touch, smell and eventually taste once you have purchased it- there is no denying that fresh food is abundant with everything that is essential to our survival. So go into your shopping experience prepared to ask yourself some of these questions and remember that truly "You are what you eat." So which would you rather be, a radiantly fresh, richly crisp and juicy golden apple, or a preserved, chemically enriched, unrecognizable, saturated with sugar, and God know what else, piece of fruit cocktail in a can. I know what I want to be and it is the purest form of food that God intended us to enjoy in his abundant creativity of creation. Why do we think we always have to mess with stuff to make it better, when it was created perfect?
Next: Simple, or as I like to say- Keep It Simple, Silly!
Monday, May 26, 2008
So I made a new creation for my family this evening. Once again inspired by my sweet boy Riley. We are having a hard time naming it though. So maybe you can help me out....
My family really likes pasta dishes, and especially Lasagna. Typically Lasagna is known for the rich cheeses it incorporates. Since Riley can't have dairy and we are not all that impressed with soy and imitation cheeses, I am always trying to come up with variations to make for all the family to enjoy at dinner. It started with Humsagna and now we have a Lasagna that is made with Winter Squash in place of cheese. We all agreed that we like this even better than the one with Hummus. It was a squash, mushroom (morels this time made it extra special) and spinach lasagna. We were trying to be creative but came up with nothing yet. All we know is it will be made again, especially since Riley had two servings! The coolest part for me is that I did not rely on any recipe, which made me feel very cool that it actually turned out! When we have a name for it, then I will add the recipe to my blog, hopefully soon.
We also were able to plant our veggie garden this weekend. It was so much fun planting all the seedlings and seeds. The kids took turns digging the holes and placing the seedings or seeds in the ground. I would show them where to dig and take the seedlings out of their containers. The sun was shining and the weather was beautiful. It ended up being a wonderful weekend all in all. We accomplished so much- I even ran my butt off in the Bayshore 10K! Oh and I have to give a shout out to my girl Rachael for finishing her first marathon with a strong finish!
Monday, May 19, 2008
Two silly gals having fun!
*Just a little side note to acknowledge that the idea for this little tidbit of thinking came from the early morning refreshing conversation between myself and a very dear friend of mine, Rachael. We have found our conversations to cover quite a bit of ground- sometimes deep, sometimes silly, sometimes reminiscent, always leaving us feeling thankful for the ability to share and learn about each other as we grow in our friendship. She is a special blessing in my life!
I have come to enjoy many new aspects of my most recent days and months I have lived. Most of the enjoyment has been the product of realizing my ability to be very much in control of the decisions I make, the attitudes I display and the words that I choose to express myself. One of the most important realizations though is that I am a product of the ingredients I choose to incorporate into my daily recipe called life. There are so many delicious ingredients I can mix in every day and the best ones seem to create the most wonderful memories and really affect the people around me in a positive way too. There are other ingredients that I can choose that can be very detrimental to the overall taste of my day. Sometimes just one lousy ingredient can ruin the entire batch, making me either grumpy or once again affecting those around me in a very bitter way.
Adding alcohol? Well sometimes that can be fun, but if too much gets dumped in, well it is a guarantee that I will feel sick and depressed later on, and you would think I would be more careful the next time. That is one of my newest realizations though and even though I have never been one to overindulge with alcohol too much- I have learned that this ingredient more times than not really is one I could do without. Watch out for gossiping, judging, assuming, interrupting, and lying too- these can really mess up a recipe in a hurry!
Now adding prayer, love, friendship, smiles, encouragements, hugs, kisses, good manners and sometimes just listening instead of talking have all been wonderful ingredients to add each day. My favorite ingredient most of all is smiling. It is hard for people who look at me smiling, not to smile back and that small gift can be worth more than anything else in a day. A smile is something to savor, and enjoy, its flavor can last for quite a long time.
So what ingredients do you use for your recipe of daily life? Think about it and then be creative. Don't be afraid to try new things, and if something you put together in a day doesn't quite taste right, then please make sure you figure out which ingredient it was and if you plan to try it again, use it sparingly if at all. Now when you find an ingredient that works, well by all means use it everyday! Enjoy! xoxo
Friday, May 16, 2008
Have you ever been one of those people who went to a restaurant for dinner and when looking at the menu to decide what to order, you looked for the biggest entree for the cheapest price? Maybe you have no idea what I am talking about, but if you relate I am so sorry for you. I used to be one of these people who had it all completely backwards when it came to eating. Truthfully I have always enjoyed food and eating, but not until recently have I learned to really enjoy the food choices I make and embrace the idea that "Quality" not "Quantity" is the better criteria for eating. I used to go to a restaurant and approach it the same as I would going on a bargain shopping spree. Sick I know. I would think "what can I order that won't cost me an arm and a leg and that will leave me so stuffed, they will have to roll me out the door." Again, sick I know. It was not until more recent years (which seem to coincide with me learning more about cooking for myself and my family and nutrition) that I have begun to approach my eating out at a restaurant experience much differently. I have also been enlightened to the fact that restaurants do not necessarily have our best interests in mind all the time, so we have to be a little more careful about the choices we make. First, portions are usually out of this world gigantic and usually plates are heaped with enough food for two to share, or leftovers enough for a whole extra meal. Keeping that in mind is extremely important for me now, because it is very easy to mindlessly eat everything on my plate. This practice is a habit that was generated from the "Clear your plate days growing up, or you eat what you take and don't waste!" I appreciate restaurants that offer Tapas (small plates) or a wide range of appetizers and ala carte, so much more than I ever used to. Secondly, the quality of food and its preparation is extremely important if you are going to believe in the saying "You are what you eat." I have found it is good to question food sources, or what they are cooking my food in. If I am not preparing it myself, then I am trusting that the people who are making my meal are doing what they say they are doing. I haven't seen too many restaurant kitchens and I don't think I want to, since from what I understand I will not be too impressed. (With that said I know of a lot of restaurants that have very reputably clean and safe kitchen practices.) Lastly, I am a believer that one must choose their battles. If I am going to make the decision to go out for a meal I have to also realize that they most likely are not going to prepare my food exactly the way I would myself. The choices I make, I am responsible for, which means it is my responsibility to ask my server for special orders or to ask where my food is coming from if that matters. If I am sharing a meal with other people I think it is important to not draw too much attention to myself or any thought I am having if I am unsatisfied with my choices. Especially if I am a guest, it would be very rude of me to voice any complaint or displeasure. Planning ahead, doing my homework, knowing what to expect are all ways I can go out and have a good dining experience, and hopefully a tasteful one without feeling to overly full when I have finished. I don't stuff my face at home so why would I do it anywhere else. (Now every so often I may indulge, but I will not feel guilty for that if I make a conscious decision to do so.) So cheers to everyone- enjoy the life giving energy of your meals and try not to overdo it, and if it cost a little extra to get the good stuff, I think it is worth every penny!
Monday, April 28, 2008
(a cup of green tea at Serenity Tea House)
You are so good to me
Your flavor is delicious and mild
The caffeine you contain naturally does not make me wild
When I need my tummy to settle
I brew green tea in my kettle
I wish everyone could enjoy your flavor
Your aroma, taste and warmth is easy to savor
You always help me relax
And here is one true fact
I will drink Green Tea morning, noon, and night
Because you are always Just Right!
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Grandma Rose and Her children- Linda, Michele, Laura and Michael
The whole family!
*These pictures are from my Grandma Rose's 80th birthday party in June 2007.*
For as long as I can remember, there is one dish that is especially unique to my family and that my mom would prepare very often. Whenever my Grandma would visit in the summer we would almost always eat outside at the picnic table and my mom would get the grill going. We had a charcoal grill that always took awhile to come up to temp. While we waited, it was the job of my sister and I to assemble the shish-kabobs, which usually included peppers, onions, mushrooms, chicken or steak. Our hands would be all slippery from the marinade and the ingredients were cold, so our fingers would go numb, making it difficult towards the end to skewer the pieces, but we made do. Whoever had the job of taking the dishes back into the house would be greeted by a very yummy aroma of a special Armenian dish cooking on the stove. This special dish is known as "Rice Pilaf". We all know that when the rice is steaming, the lid must stay of tightly, for the end result is well worth the wait!
"eem tah-TEEK"- Armenian word for "My Grandma"
My Grandma Rose is a full blooded Armenian, which makes me a quarter-blooded gal. She used to come up to visit from downstate every summer. We always looked forward to her coming because she usually picked the hotels with a big pool to play in, and that was a real treat. We always planned our days around "Jash" Armenian word for dinner, and at least one of those meals always included Rice pilaf. Some research has found Armenian history extends back to the stone ages. Armenia is located between Europe and Asia, where Turkey lies to the West and Iran to the South. We are a proud group of people, who are very driven to succeed in all we set out to do. A famous Armenian some of you might know is the singer/actor Cher. Rice pilaf is well known as an Armenian dish that is meant to complement the meal. The base is rice, but you can add whatever you want to it. My family always liked to take Shish-kabobs and assemble them on top of a mountain of pilaf. My mom would usually warm-up canned corn with regular weekday meals that included pilaf, and then my sister and I would mix the corn right in with the pilaf and lots of salt and pepper. Nowadays, my own kids have claimed that pilaf is one of their favorites! I don't make pilaf as much as they would like, but when I do make it, there are no leftovers.
I hope you get a chance to enjoy our family favorite. You can try out the recipe yourself, and let me know what you think. Or you can come over to our house for dinner sometime and I'll prepare a big pot of it so you can make your own pilaf mountain.
"mehr-Cee" (Armenian word for Thank-you!)
-1/8-1/4 cup of butter/magarine/(I use 1/8c soy margarine and it works fine)
-1/2 crushed vermicelli
-1 cup long grain rice (brown rice is OK but it might need to steam a little longer)
-2 cup chicken broth (I use organic vegetable broth and it comes out great, but the chicken broth is what Grandma and my mom usually used)
-1 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper to taste
In heavy saucepan with tight fitting lid, melt butter over medium heat. Add vermicelli and stir constantly until lightly browned. Add the rice and stir grains until they are coated with butter. Add hot broth, salt and pepper. Stir thoroughly and cover- turn heat to low and steam 30 minutes. Do not remove lid until cooked. When done stir to fluff. Recover and let sit about 10 minutes more.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
All I have to say is that I have certainly learned my lesson when it comes to drinking coffee. Most likely since I haven't had any coffee in two months is the reason why I am feeling like a looney toon at the moment- I am normally a tea drinker, so when I do have coffee it usually sends me into a tail spin. It might be fun if I didn't have to buckle down and study tonight. I am going to do my best to channel my frazzled energy high into quality chemistry knowledge retainability- (Is retainability a word?) It seems crazy to me how something so simple as a small cup of coffee can affect my body is such a wild way! All I can do is wait for it to metabolize out and hope it doesn't leave a headache in its tracks on my brain! I think this gives me an interest to research the effects of caffeine to the human body. I'll let you know what I learn, but it won't be until after I ace my Chemistry finals, so be patient with me. Back to the Books!!! xoxo
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Lately there have been some pretty significant changes in my lifestyle, and I feel that I have become a giant sponge- eager to absorb all the knew information and knowledge that will help me along my path to becoming a resource for nutrition seekers of all walks and ages. My goal of obtaining a PhD in the field of Nutrition is becoming more and more real with each day that I step out into the world. By attending school, reading books and articles, watching Food Network-(I really love that channel, especially the show Good Eats) and exploring the culinary world by creating and practicing all types of techniques with grilling, baking, and mixing foods of all kinds, I have made leaps and bounds over the past year. I feel like I can't learn fast enough and I am always interested in talking about anything that has to do with FOOD, nutrition, fitness and overall health and healthy lifestyles. Not many people know this about me, but one of the most significant changes I have made (and I truly don't want to make a big deal about this, please realize it is a choice I have made for myself and I am very happy with this decision for my own reasons) is becoming what most people would consider a vegetarian. I'm not going to go into all the specifics except to say that since I have made this switch I have felt better than I could have ever imagined both physically and mentally. It wasn't a change that seemed that drastic since the majority of what I was eating did not involve what I am not eating now. Whew- that was a big confession for today and I think that is where I will leave it for now. Basically what it all comes down to is this- the the more I know, I have learned I must be responsible with that knowledge and follow my heart, if for anyone, most of all for myself. Much of my passion I must admit does come from the satisfaction of knowing I am creating a healthy environment for my family too. It is their decision to eat and enjoy what they want, but I will always make it a point to offer them the healthiest choices I can come up with.
First a short update: Riley, who didn't get to try the Humsagna I made especially for him the night before, ate two whopping helpings for dinner the next night and said it was the best Lasagna he had ever had- That's my boy, who always knows how to make his Mama feel special!
Last night dinner at the Sheffer's involved an introduction to a new food. I knew that I had to really make it good or I would lose them on the first try. It could possibly solidify Tod's ideas that "Tofu" just didn't look that good, so why would it taste good. I had been reassuring him for the past week that this white lump sitting in our fridge was going to be really yummy as long as it is prepared the right way. He would usually respond with a raised eyebrow and them smile at me in that way that tells me "Alright I'll let you try." So in the days preceding this big unveiling of a new food to my family, I spent time on line and in my cookbooks, trying to find a recipe that would do justice to the white lump in the fridge. I finally settled on a recipe that involved marinating the tofu and then baking it in the oven. The marinade was super simple to put together and the whole ordeal took maybe 10 minutes to prepare. While it was cooking my two kiddos both came out to the kitchen with their noses high in the air, telling me that "something smells really good Mama." I decided not to tell them what it was and let them guess.
30 minutes later I pulled out my baked tofu and put it on top of salads for my family. The kids thought it was chicken and didn't make any comment that would suggest they thought it could be anything different. Tod got home late that evening so his tofu bites had cooled but he seemed to like them in his salad and also commented that they would be good in a wrap. His summary of Tofu is that it basically must take on the taste of whatever you pair it. For the most part I think he is right. So I have made the assumption now that we can integrate Tofu into our regular family food fare and my family will not raise any objections. Mission accomplished, successfully! I am so happy! :)
You can find the recipe I used at this address:
Sunday, April 20, 2008
I am in love and I want everyone to know about it. I can't keep this love affair secret anymore. It is all I ever think about, dream about, fantasize about... I am always coming up with reasons to spend time with my love. My love gives me energy, I feel strong and happy when we are together. My love completes me and helps me be the best I can be. When we are together I feel very creative and I feel like I can do anything I want to do. There are no limits when we are together. My mouth waters when we are near one another and I can hardly control myself. My love comforts me, satisfies me and fulfills what I hunger for in every way. I would like to introduce you all to my secret love.... my love is FOOD!
I started to realize this passion rising up in me a few years ago. I have always loved food, but I never really took the time to get to know it, understand what it was capable of doing for me and my life. I always used to eat just because that is what I knew to do instinctively. It wasn't until I started to embrace my passion and take the time to look inside my feelings that I discovered how in love I really was. It was kind of like being friends with someone for a long time but never really getting to know them. Until one day I found myself asking more questions, and wondering more about how food effected my life. Now I can't learn enough fast enough and I find immense joy in spending time creating my own dishes and cooking for my family and friends. Truthfully, one of the only reasons I stay so active in my job and fitness is so that I can eat as much food as possible. And there is always the taste testing (my favorite part) Here was my time spent with my love this weekend: We made homemade split pea soup, "Steph's Banana Bread", Tomato Basil salsa, homemade hummus and Sundried Tomato Basil Pesto, Fruit salad with honey dressing, and a new creation I came up with all on my own "Spinach Mushroom Humsagna."
I went to make a lasagna today with a few challenges. My son Riley can't eat dairy right now and after I already started boiling the lasagna noodles I realized I didn't have any easy access tomato sauce (pasta sauce in a jar) I am actually glad this happened because it forced me to think outside of the box or jar in this case and make my own homemade sauce. Also I substituted cheese with hummus. I wasn't sure what it would end up like but the family feedback was very positive and I myself loved it. (But I am always biased with my own babies) So here is the recipe. I am starting to learn to write these things down as I create or otherwise they are hard to duplicate. It does take a little time to set-up but there are ways to simplify the recipe for the sake of available ingredients. (You can use store bought hummus, and sauce) Its my second creation now that is also completely vegetarian which is kind of exciting for me too.
Spinach Mushroom Humsagna:
-10 oz pkg of Frozen Spinach
-2 cups of Sundried tomato Hummus- Homemade or store bought is fine- the more garlic taste the -better in my opinion
-1 small onion chopped
-1 oz of dried porchini mushrooms (blanched in boiling water for 5 minutes and chopped)
-1 portobello mushroom cap
-3-4 minced garlic cloves
-3 cans of diced tomatoes- Fresh is better about 5 cups chopped
-1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp black pepper
-1/2 tsp oregano- small handful of fresh chopped is better
-1 tsp dried basil- 1/4 c of fresh chopped is better
-1 tbsp of organic turbinado sugar to taste (add more of less to cut the acidity of the tomatoes)
-12-14 Whole wheat lasagna noodles cooked and patted dry before using to layer in pan
Preheat over to 350 degrees
Thaw frozen spinach, drain all the water out of it and mix it together with the hummus and set aside for the moment
Satay the portobello mushroom minced garlic and chopped onion until they are tender
Combine diced tomato, basil, oregano, prepared pochini mushrooms, onion and portobello, sugar, salt, pepper, garlic salt in a sauce pan and cook on med-high heat for 20 minutes or until tomatoes are cooked down.
While sauce is cooking down boil the noodles and get the pan ready for assembling the lasagna.
Spray the pan with a little cooking spray or brush with olive oil. Lay out 4 noodles on the bottom of pan. Spread half the spinach and hummus mixture on noodles and then spread a layer of 1/3 of tomato sauce. Start another layer of 4 noodles, hummus mix, 1/3 sauce and 4 noodles again. Add remaining 1/3 of tomato sauce, cover with foil and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Pull out of the oven and let stand for 10-15 minutes before cutting. This is completely vegetarian but you can add cheese to the layers if you want (mozzarella or parmesian would be best)- My family added a Romano blend to the top of it and said it tasted great! A yummy salad and loaf of loaf of crusty bread round out the meal wonderfully.
Friday, April 18, 2008
This was a cute thing that happened this morning that involves my wonderful husband, Tod..... I made banana bread last night and it was a creation almost all my own. I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised when I pulled it out of the oven, since it was a beautiful golden brown and cooked to perfection all the way through. (Basically it wasn't a dried out brick)Sometimes when I wing it, my creations end up being trashed. Well Tod absolutely loved the bread, he actually exclaimed this morning that this was "my best creation banana bread yet, the best banana bread he ever had in his whole life!" Wow, I felt so special and my cooking confidence just went up 10 points! So I decided I should try my own little wonder, and I personally love the end piece. Since Tod had already cut that off the one side- I went for the other side. Within minutes I was reprimanded for doing this awful deed. I mean how could I cut from the other side, didn't I know that it would "dry the whole loaf out now!" I personally don't think this will happen, but Tod is convinced I ruined it! I guess we will see later today if it will dry out- or maybe by tomorrow if the bread lasts even that long. If I know my family it will be gobbled up before that happens, so I'm not worried. I just thought it was funny that "How dare I cut from the other side of the loaf" I guess I should have known better. :)
Steph's Banana Bread Recipe:
2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp agave nectar
2-3 tbsp honey
1/2 c organic sugar
1/2 c applesauce
2-3 mushy bananas (the older the better)
1/2 cup organic yogurt (soy yogurt is best)
1-2 tbsp water (if the batter seems a little too dry add as needed)
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup Walnuts (optional, but we like them)
Combine dry ingredients with a wisk and set aside
Combine first 4 wet ingredients until blended, add bananas yogurt, and vanilla and blend very well until almost smooth
Add dry ingredients just until all are moist (don't over blend) Add water if it seems too dry.
Put batter into a greased loaf pan
Add walnuts to top of batter in pan and push them in a little with spatula
Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour and 350 degrees until toothpick come out clean
Enjoy with your family or friends for an easy breakfast or snack!
Monday, April 14, 2008
Well this morning was a little sad in our home, for a truth about the world came to light for our little Riley and he was crushed. I was talking to the kids about the fact that I would love to have chickens so that we could have our own supply of fresh eggs, and I just thought it would be fun to have chickens! Riley loved the idea and added "if we have chickens then we will have baby chicks from the eggs and then we can eat the eggs in our fridge from the store instead." We told him that we would not be raising babies but that we would be eating the eggs from our chickens if we had them, and that these eggs would not be able to ever become baby chicks. Riley thought a moment and then said "we kill the baby chicks and eat them?" And then he started to cry and ran back to Lauren's room. As he ran away, Lauren starts yelling, "what do you think burger and chicken nuggets are Riley!" This certainly did not help. Tod and I went back to talk to him and to reassure him that the eggs we would get from our own chickens would not be killing, and that the only animals we kill are the ones we would eat. Especially since recently this has become a huge awareness for me, and the whole world of meat and where it comes from and how it is processed and my leaning towards vegetarianism, it broke my heart that Riley had made this realization and had so much empathy for animals. I realize the importance of certain proteins and that my children still need this type of nourishment, which makes the integrity of the meats we choose extremely important to me now. I will not make the decision for my kids to become vegetarians, that is for them to decide when they are older, but I will always provide food that is the highest quality I can find, and that includes meat choices too. And I will make sure that I keep my promise to Riley that we will only eat the animals that we know come from a clean source. They will not come from places that are cruel and awful. So today we made a call to the farm next to my mom's and are planning to pick up our organic eggs on Wednesday, a positive step towards making smarter, and healthier choices. Riley is OK now but his reaction today reminds me how children look at our world and how sometimes it can be very confusing. We say killing is bad, but then we kill animals for food. What makes it OK? That answer is the personal opinion we all arrive at in some point in our life, and it can change the more knowledge we gain. The most important thing is to always be responsible for the things we know and do our best to follow our hearts in what we believe to be the right direction to follow.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
I'm just a girl, a girl who tries to live her life to the fullest everyday. I hate to miss out on anything, and I live for being challenged and trying new things, going outside my comfort zone and spending time with my family and friends. Meeting new people and making friends energizes me like nothing else, except for maybe food and fitness. And don't even get me started on anything that has to do with Food, Nutrition, cooking, eating, recipes, dinner parties, desserts, Food Network, unless you are ready to hear all about it. For this is my passion, where I exert all my creative energy currently and for my future. I have always wanted to help others, and I have explored many different routes of how I can do this very thing, and every route always pulls me toward the world of nutrition. I say almost daily that this career path will always give me an opportunity to help others because if there is one fundamental thing about our species and life it is this fact: We all need food for energy, for life, to exist, and most of us have no clue how it all works. Knowledge is power. With knowledge comes responsibility. With responsibility we have a choice to make, because in the end we choose who we want to be. Its all about choices in the end, and I choose to be the best I can be everyday. Its a choice I make every morning when I start my day. It's what lies behind my smile, and its knowing I have the control- its a very powerful thing to be aware of. So that's where I will begin- now you know one of my big secrets (which really wasn't a secret at all) I can't wait to share all these thoughts in my head- to organize them and give them a place to rest here until I have an opportunity to savor them on a deeper level. Good night for now and sweet dreams ya'll!