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A Dearth of Italian

Mamma mia!  This must be withdrawal.  Tuesday mornings are bringing a sense of purposelessness.  I find myself wandering aimlessly on Tuesday AM’s without direction.  No Italian lessons for a month now and two more weeks to go!  To say nothing of missing the stops, post lesson, at Alterra for a latte and a scone.  With “la nostra insegnante” (our teacher) and family in Italia for a vacation, I fear I am becoming a little rusty.  That actually would be an understatement. Vocabulary seems to have leaked out to who knows where.  Either that or they are in an unmarked folder somewhere, lost in my cranium, because I can’t recall even well-known “le parole” (words).  There’s nothing like weekly lessons to stay on top of it.  Who am I kidding?  I’m never “on top of it”, but still I love learning this language.  Today I put the Italian bag with dictionary, notes, flash cards and homework on the porch, front and center, where it can’t be forgotten or ignored.  This strategy seemed to work because today we took out our homework and completed a decent amount.  That’s the tricky part.  Remembering it!  Vieni a casa, Carmela.  Abbiamo bisogno di te.  Come home, Carmela.  We are in need of you!

AARP magazine says, “Learning is like Rogaine for the brain.”  Catchy, but true.  Keith L. Black, M.D., chair of neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in L.A., says, “When you challenge the brain, you increase the number of brain cells and the number of connections between those cells.”  He’s referring to new things, not something already in the repertoire.  A foreign language is probably one of the more difficult choices one can make.  Taking music lessons, especially piano lessons, is an amazingly brain-healthy activity, requiring the brain to do several tasks all at once.  Try knitting or quilting something for a grandchild.  Have a grandchild teach you some computer skills.  Kids are usually way more proficient.  There are so many possibilities and opportunities to delve into.

Get back to me.  What have you chosen and how is it going?  Your foray into something new will be a shining beacon for the rest of us.  LOLing!

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A Perfect Salad for Those Hot Nights

Perfect in two ways. This salad with an Asian flavor says summer nights. The slightly sweet and tangy dressing is yummy combined with the noodles, crisp sugar snaps and grilled chicken. Reason #2. Prepare this salad early before the heat of the day arrives. Refrigerate and all that will be left to do at the last minute is to slice some fresh fruit as a side and voila’… supper is on the table.

Grilled chicken is a healthy choice, of course. And then there is olive oil. Olives have been around for five to seven thousand years and are one of the world’s oldest foods. We all have heard that extra-virgin olive oil is a better choice than other oils. But why? It is a mainstay of the Mediterranean diet and is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease. It supports the blood vessels and helps to keep them strong, seeming to help prevent platelets from clotting. The main fat in olive oil is monounsaturated, the highest percentage of all other oils. It seems to lower your total cholesterol and your LDL cholesterol (Remember “L” for lousy). There also appears to be a mechanism that lowers blood pressure. Recent studies have shown that extra-virgin olive oil reduces the risk of certain types of cancer, like breast, upper respiratory, and digestive. In addition, it has anti-inflammatory benefits; as little as one to two tablespoons a day of extra-virgin olive oil will have significant health benefits. Newer studies are pointing to better bone health and better cognitive functioning also.

Tips

  •  Extra-virgin olive oil contains far more healthy ingredients than other olive oils.   However, in the U.S.A. extra-virgin is not necessarily extra-virgin. Look for the initials COOC, AOC, or DOP on the label; then it will truly be extra-virgin.
  • Look for cold-pressed because little heat is used in processing.
  •  Buy it in tinted bottles because it will help prevent oxidation caused by exposure to light.
  •  Store it in a dark cupboard, away from heat sources.
  • Avoid pure olive oil because it is a blend of refined and unrefined oils.

Asian Noodle Salad

(serves 4 – 6)

• 12 ounces sugar snap peas or snow peas
• 4 ounces dried Japanese udon noodles
• 1 tablespoon sesame oil
• 3 green onions, white and pale green parts only
• 2 grilled chicken breasts, cut into strips
• 1/2 – 1 cup mango dressing
• 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Mango-Chutney Dressing

• 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 1/2 cup Major Grey’s mango chutney
• 1 1/2 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
• 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
• 1 tablespoon honey

1. Steam sugar snaps for a few minutes till bright green and crisp tender. Refresh in a bowl of ice water and drain.
2. Slice green onions thinly.
3. Cook udon according to package directions. Drain and mix with 1 tablespoon sesame oil. Set aside.
4. For dressing, whisk all ingredients together.
5. Add onions, sugar snaps, and chicken to noodles. Add dressing to salad and toss, reserving some dressing for drizzling on top.
6. Sprinkle on sesame seeds and serve.

 

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Yikes!

Up here in the Northwoods and my laptop seems to have died!  An hour away from the nearest Best Buy!  Writing at any great length on my I Phone will be interesting.  I have a great salad to tell you about. A Japanese noodle salad with mango-chutney dressing. Oh, here comes my techie guy. Of course! A simple solution. He performed a hard shut down, rebooted it, and here I am. Whew! I am back on line.

Wednesdays are Reserved

Wednesday is sacrosanct, untouchable, and reserved! I make no other plans or appointments on Wednesdays.  When the dentist’s office asks which days are good for me, my first response is” Never on a Wednesday.”  (Mmm…sounds like a movie, but that was “Never on a Sunday”.  Just my corny humor.)  That is my day for quilting, but not just quilting.  Laughter (lots of it), sharing photos (mostly of grandchildren), telling jokes (many not repeatable here), having lunch together (usually ordering something delicious from Panera’s), and generally having a fab day!  At 8:30 AM, I pack my car with assorted fabrics, patterns, and sewing paraphernalia and then head out to a sweet little quilt shop in the country, just 15 quick minutes from home.  Our class of 17 fills every inch of table space.  Who would think quilting, which, in some minds, evokes thoughts of elderly women bent over a quilt frame, would bring such pleasure?  Our leader, grand pooh bah, and holder of all quilting knowledge is our teacher, Kathy D., who pretty much can answer any question thrown at her with aplomb and a smile.  Kathy D. because there are four of them – Kathy’s, not teachers.  That was a BIG name way back when.  Wednesdays do bring joy into my life.

In the photo below, it’s break time on the screen porch at the cottage. What a perfect spot to quilt, overlooking Green Bay.

Find a group doing something that you enjoy.  It’s a “two fer” – make new friends while you are at it!  The very word “quilting” sounds like a post for women.  Not so!  There are well-known men in the world of quilting making a great living at it.   Form and math – both elements of quilting.   Engineers and architects have turned to quilting as a creative outlet for their skill sets.  Men in the art world have used fabric as a medium for ages.  Quilting is not rated “For Women Only”.

I love responses to my posts. Don’t be shy! You will need to click on an individual post to find the reply box for that post. Looking forward to hearing from you. ( Your email address will be requested, but will not be made public to anyone.

Roasted Sweet Peppers with Spiced Quinoa

A savory recipe for quinoa as promised.  Although we are not vegetarians, we did dine as such last night.  No meat in sight but quite satisfying all the same.  Stuffed peppers, roasted cauliflower steaks (see recipe in my blog), and a crisp, green romaine salad.  It made for a beautiful plate with opposing reds and greens and was quite easy to put together.  I did tweak the recipe a bit with healthy eats in mind and made a few changes.  There will definitely be a next time for this recipe, with experimentation using other seasonings. This is another recipe from This French Farmhouse and here is the link.  http://thisfrenchfarmhouse.com/2012/05/31/roasted-sweet-peppers-stuffed-with-spiced-quinoa/

Visit my post “Goldilocks Had the Right Idea” for the health benefits of quinoa.  It is a better choice over rice because it is way more nutritious and has a slightly nutty flavor to boot.

Roasted Sweet Peppers with Spiced Quinoa

Ingredients

Serves 4

  • 3 sweet red, yellow or orange bell peppers. Cut into halves the long way, leaving stem attached.  Remove seeds and piths.
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water or broth
  • 3/4 cup corn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onion (white and light green parts)
  • 3/4 cup black beans
  • 1/2 cup goat cheese
  • 3 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400°.  Sprinkle a bit of salt into each half pepper.  Roast peppers for 10 minutes on a cookie sheet.  Remove from oven.
  2. While peppers roast, bring broth or water to a boil and add quinoa.  (Broth lends more flavor to the quinoa.)  Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes until moisture is absorbed and quinoa is translucent.
  3. During the final minutes of cooking the quinoa, add taco seasoning and mix well. Remove from heat and toss with cheese, corn, black beans, green onion, olive oil, and salt and pepper (if needed.) in a large bowl.
  4. Stuff pepper halves generously and return to cookie sheet.  Bake another half hour.

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It’s Green and It’s Good for You

Yes, it is truly green – a rather  dubious green.  Sort of army green.  Honestly, it  does not look appetizing at all!  Have I convinced you yet?  Seriously, try this drink.  Would you drink it if  it contains half of the daily requirement of fruits and vegetables, gives an energy boost in the morning, detoxifies and seems to reduce acne?  And it actually tastes good?  That last one was the hardest to swallow – pardon the pun.  My daughter, champion of its many merits,  shared this recipe.

It does seem to include at least half of the fresh fruits and vegetables needed in a day.  This will be obvious once you see the ingredients.  Bananas, apples, pears, spinach, romaine lettuce, celery, lemon juice,  and water.  I know; it sounds awful when one thinks about drinking it.  We hesitantly gave it a go.  Surprisingly, it actually tasted good.   One benefit of this drink is getting so many servings of fruits and vegetables in one go.  It can be tricky to have the five to eight  recommended servings everyday.  I knew romaine was way healthier than iceberg lettuce, but I was surprised by how healthy it is.  It is an excellent source of vitamins K, A, and C, beta-carotene, potassium, folic acid, omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, and other vitamins and minerals.  Vitamin C and beta-carotene, in particular, are heart-healthy.

Actually, the word detoxify brings to mind crazy diets.   This isn’t meant to replace healthy eating with a fad diet.   It is rather filling and could replace breakfast, but not necessarily so.  Your usual healthy eating should not change.  The energy boost is supposed to come from the body absorbing all of those good foods quickly in somewhat liquid form.  It does give a get-up-and-go feeling.  I hesitate to even think this, but it could take the place of a cup of coffee as the way to start out the day.

Truly, it does taste good.  I expected it to taste like lettuce, but it does not.  The fruits give it a slightly sweet flavor.  Good enough to have everyday, if one is organized to make that happen.  That is the difficult part for me.  This drink can be made every other day and then refrigerate half of it.  That requires keeping those fruits and veggies in the house … which requires organized grocery shopping.   So, we go in spurts.  When we remember to shop, we make it in the morning.  We started with just 8 ounces and then graduated to 12 ounces, once we discovered the pleasant taste.   Here’s the recipe.  Remember to wash everything first.  If organics are available or affordable, use those.

 

My Daughter’s Green Drink

  • 1   1/2 cups of water
  • one small head of romaine lettuce, torn in pieces
  • a handful of spinach
  • 1 pear, cored and cut in quarters
  • 1 apple, cored  and cut in quarters
  • 2 bananas, peeled
  • one stalk celery
  • a splash of lemon juice
  1. Put the water in the blender.  Add the romaine and blend well.  Use the stalk of celery to help push down the romaine.  It helps to stop the blender occasionally to push down the lettuce.
  2. Add the spinach and blend well.
  3. Add each fruit, one at a time, and blend well.
  4. Add a splash of lemon juice and blend till smooth and no chunks remain.
  5. More water can be added if too thick for one’s taste.
  6. Refrigerate the leftovers and re-blend the next day.  This does keep for two days.

I love responses to my posts. Don’t be shy! You will need to click on an individual post to find the reply box for that post. Looking forward to hearing from you. ( Your email address will be requested, but will not be made public to anyone.

Goldilocks Had the Right Idea

Summer porridge indeed. Porridge brings to mind Goldilocks, who thought ”baby bear’s bowl was just right and so she ate it all up.” I’d always wanted to have porridge when I was young, just like Goldilocks. However, it was never on the menu at our house, unless Quaker Oats counts. Well, I found a recipe for summer porridge at http://www.simpleprovisions.com.au) and it sounded intriguing. My eldest daughter has been espousing the merits of quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”). I’ve had a box of quinoa in my cupboard for several months, waiting for the right recipe. This is such a simple recipe to whip up for breakfast, just two ingredients plus add-ons. Be sure to top it with your favorite healthy nuts, fresh fruit, and a drizzle of honey. I found the rice milk on the shelf at the grocery store. It doesn’t need to be refrigerated until opening. Quinoa has a somewhat nutty flavor and is not heavy like oatmeal, a good choice for summer.

 
As one would expect from me, it turns out that quinoa has many health benefits. The United Nations has declared 2013 to be “The International Year of the Quinoa”. It has been singled out as a food with “high nutritive value, impressive biodiversity, and an important role to play in food security world-wide.” Quinoa has anti-inflammatory phytonutrients and heart-healthy fats. It is a complete source of protein, unlike whole wheat, and provides twice the amount of calcium. It does look like a grain but  is not a cereal grass.  Surprisingly, it is in the same food family as spinach, Swiss chard, and beets.  Quinoa comes originally from the Andes region in South America where it was a mainstay in the Inca diet.  Look for a savory recipe with quinoa soon!

 
Tips
• Store it in an airtight container. It will keep for three to six months in the refrigerator.
• It’s a good idea to rinse it in a fine-meshed strainer to remove any bitter taste that might remain after milling.
• To cook quinoa, add one part grain to two parts liquid.
• It is perfect for a gluten-free diet.

 

 

Summer Porridge with Nuts and Berries

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 cup quinoa

2 cups rice milk

Handfull of pecans, chopped

Handfull of berries

Honey

Method

Rinse quinoa in a fine-meshed strainer and place in saucepan with rice milk. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the quinoa has soaked up the liquid and turned translucent. Serve with pecans, raspberries and a drizzle of honey.

 

 

I love responses to my posts. Don’t be shy! You will need to click on an individual post to find the reply box for that post. Looking forward to hearing from you. ( Your email address will be requested, but will not be made public to anyone.