Author Archives: jenn

kindness of strangers

i was finally able to return to church last night after bering a way for months. as i caught up with old friends, they wanted to know why i had been missing for so long. i explained that i now have a second job at ____ and so now work seven days a week.

i must have sounded embarrassed or said this with some hesitation because as we walked into the chapel. a woman i had never met before touched my arm and pulled me aside. she embraced me and told me to never hang my head, i had nothing to be ashamed about, i was doing what i need to do to take care of my family and that is something i should always be proud of.

and then i immeadiately burst into tears because working two jobs is not easy. it is not easy to work at a place which goes against many of my core beliefs. it is not easy to spend so many hours away from my family working at such place. it is not easy to have to work at such a place because i don’t have a college degree. it is not easy being almost 40 and needing to have a second job to pay bills. it is not easy to be tired. it is not easy to have to miss things on a regular basis like going to church. it is not easy to feel ashamed of the situation most of the time.

and this stranger somehow spoke the word i so desperately needed to hear. maybe it was a whisper from God. maybe she just listened and heard something most other people don’t. all i know is that she gave me a beautiful gift last night – one i will be grateful for and won’t soon forget!

 

Happy New Year 2014

My oldest son invited a few of his friends from high school over for New Year’s Eve.  This meant I hosted 8 college freshman for the night!  It was a lot of fun!

One of my favorite things about last night was having so much laughter and love in the house.  The crowd played a game called “Loaded Questions”  (which is A LOT of fun) and a few minutes in a realized these kids had all really grown up.  The tell tale sign?  A year ago all of them would have edited their answers because “Luis’ mom” was in the house.  This year? they were completely themselves even if that meant I had to put up with a few in appropriate responses.  We all laughed our heads off and I had a great time feigning surprise and disappointment in them.  They are all great kids and it is fun to see them grow up.

Since I currently have two jobs and  work 7 days a week, I had to decide on food sort of last minute.  Thank goodness for Pinterest!  I have spent many hours pinning to my boards – many more than I have spent actually executing the pins and it was exciting to finally have a chance to try out some new recipes.  Plus a house full of 18 and 19 year olds meant I had willing guinea pigs ;)

I picked a couple of pizzas and veggie trays and then got to work making a proper mess:

1)  Pumpkin Oat Balls from Stilettos and Diapers

2) Caramel Cheesecake Apple Dip from Cooking Classy

3) Hot Cocoa Popcorn from Shutterbean

4) Crispy Parm Garlic Edamame from Pumps and Iron

5)  Saltine Toffe Cookies AKA Christmas Crack from AllRecipes.com (I couldn’t find a photo I could properly credit)

 

 

 

Farroto With Tomatoes, Corn, and Spinach

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While in Chicago I had the opportunity to eat lunch with the Culinary Round Table chefs from Lean Cuisine. I’m not really a fan if frozen food but I was fascinated to see behind the scenes and see how Lean Cuisine takes the gourmet food from accomplished chefs and translates it into a healthy meal for us at home. I was also impressed with their philosophy that Chefs will be the ones I change the way America eats and their mission to be a major player in that change. Offering healthier options for consumers I am a fan of.

One of the items they shared with us was Farroto – think rissotto but made with farrro instead – and it was absolutely delicious! I never would have thought to prepare farro this way and I came home determined to create this dish at home for my family.

Sweets has given up carbs which I completely support. I am working hard to find healthy whole grain carb options to replace the overly processed breads, pasta, and rice and Farro fits right in to this new plan.

If you’re wondering what farro is – here is some great information for you.  And here is some nutritional value information for you.  The basics? Farro is a fiber and protein rich wheat whole grain.  Like other whole grains, it does take longer to cook but the pay off is worth it.  Make up a large pot at the the beginning of the week to have on hand to add to all sorts of dishes.  Have a bowl of farro mixed with fresh berries or stone fruit for breakfast, toss  a few spoonfuls in your salad, or, of course, have it for dinner.

I made this dish for dinner Tuesday night and have already been asked twice for the recipe. It was delicious, healthy, filling and there was plenty to feed four plus leftovers!

The great part if this recipe is you can basically add whatever beans and veggies suit you and your family best. I just used what I had in hand.

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FARRTO

1 1/2 cups farro, rinsed
32 oz carton Vegetable broth
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15oz can cannelini beans, rinsed*
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups corn off the cob
4 large handfuls fresh spinach, chopped
Pesto for topping

Place farro in medium saucepan with 2 cups broth. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low and summer uncovered for 20-30 minutes until most if the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat. (Keep a close eye on it staring at the 20 min mark)

Hear oil in large skillet and cook onion until it begins to soften – approx 5 min – add garlic and cook for another minute.

Toss in cooked farro, beans, tomatoes, corn and spinach. Add 1/2 cup of the remaining broth at a time until most of the liquid is absorbed and farro has taken on a creamy appearance but still maintains some bite. (Another 10-15 minutes)

Serve and enjoy. Top with a spoonful of pesto if you wish

We’re wilting spinach tonight and serving the leftovers with it.

*I added the can of beans to up the protein content of this dish and make it seem more like a main dish than a side for my meat eating husband.  A good to know tip about beans is that they can only be considered a protein when paired with a grain otherwise our body breaks them down as carbohydrates.

Fun With The Color Run

A couple of years ago I got serious about my health. I changed the way I eat and most importantly, I got moving. I lost 45 pounds, gained a ton of energy, mellowed out my depression and anxiety, and even managed to complete a half marathon!

It was great. But then I stopped. I was just going to “take a rest” after pushing my body to complete 13.2 miles. One week turned into two weeks, turned into two months…. You get the point.

My main problem in getting back to exercise was that I forgot how fun it can be. Yes, that’s right, I said exercise can be fun – if you make it. For me, it’s all about my mindset and attitude. I can approach the gym or the track as a chore or I can see it as a gift to myself. I can grab a friend and have a chat while we jog.  I can set goals and reward myself with a treat – yes treats!  Because if I complete 9 miles in a week, that scoop of ice cream really isn’t going to matter ;)  I can find ways to fit exercise in to my everyday life.  For instance, I purposefully take the baby I take care for on a two mile walk everyday. I turn on my favorite tunes, baby girl loves being outside and I get my heart pumping!   Both of us have a fun morning together.

FUN – that is really the secret for me.  I need something to get me to keep putting one foot in front of the other or to do ‘just one more’ squat. My daughter and I have talked a lot the last few months about participating in a Color Run because really, what can be more fun than running with my kiddo while letting total strangers throw powdered paint colors at me?  (Don’t answer that – my Sweets could give me a whole list of things.  He thinks I’m a little nuts for wanting to do this!) Seriously though, look how fun this seems:

 

Even more fun?  I’ve been giving the opportunity to offer you all $5 off your registration if you decide to join in on the fun.  Find a race near you, used the code COLOR5OFF and you are good to go. If you register as a team of 4 or more, you automatically save $5 but you can use this code to save another $5.

NATIONAL_WEB

 

Here’s a bit more about the Color Run:

-The Color Run™, also known as the Happiest 5k on the Planet, is a unique paint race that celebrates healthiness, happiness, individuality, and giving back to the community.

-Less about your 10-minute-mile and more about having the time of your life, The Color Run is a five-kilometer, un-timed race in which thousands of participants are doused from head to toe in different colors at each kilometer. The fun continues at the finish line with a gigantic “Color Festival,” using more colored powder to create happiness and lasting memories, not to mention millions of vivid color combinations. Trust us, this is the best post-5k party on the planet!

-With only two rules, the idea is easy to follow: Wear white at the starting line and finish plastered in color!

How do you make exercise fun?

I was given two free entries for the Color Run in exchange for this post. However, my excitement about this race is my own.  I was ready to pay when the opportunity to share this with you came along.  My oldest and my youngest will be running the race with me on October 12 in San Diego as part of my birthday celebration.  Let me know if you’ll be there too and I’ll give you a big colorful hug! 

 

I can grow things! Who knew?!?

I have a fantasy in my head of being able to grow a majority of the produce my family eats. We are fortunate enough to have both a front and back yard.  Most of it is covered in grass which looks pretty but I do not like spending money every month and using so much water every month just to keep it green.  Southern California is really a dessert and we’ve been in a drought for years.  I need to either use the water for a better/more useful purpose or get rid of the grass entirely.

The problem is, I usually kill everything I plant.   I’ve read books, purchased gardening soil, applied fertilizer, watered, not watered, attended to, ignored……you name it, I’ve tried it and yet nothing has grown – until now!

You guys, I can grow things!!!!

Maybe it has just taken a while for my green thumb to develop?  Maybe it’s because I finally quit fretting so much and just planted for fun and for the love of it?  Maybe fairies are taking care of my plants while I sleep?  Whatever it is, I’m so happy!

1) The plum tree is the only survivor of the 8 fruit trees I planted in my back yard.  I actually thought it was a goner too until I whacked back all of the branches in preparation to remove it. It was the last tree I was uprooting that day and I was too tired to finish the job.  I didn’t have time to get back to it for a couple of weeks and by then it had grown into a complete monster.  Look at all of those plums.  There are at least 100 of them on the tree!

2) The strawberries I planted months ago and planned to hang them from shade canopy on my back patio.  It was a good plan until I remembered how scared of heights I am – I could only make it up the second rung! I promptly moved the containers next to the fence and completely forgot about them! I went to take a picture of the plums and noticed something red – strawberries were growing!

3) My youngest monkey and I love kumquats.  We tried growing a tree in the backyard but well, see #1.  I’m in the process of creating a new walkway in the front yard and decided to give growing kumquats another try.  We now have two small bushes growing in the front and they seem to be loving it there!  Dozens of bees are currently buzzing around hundreds of blossoms.

4) I planted the artichoke plant on a whim.  It grew and grew and then artichoke season passed.  However, when I came home from our vacation – those little lovelies were waiting for me.  I almost cried!  Artichokes are one of my favorite things to eat but we can’t afford the $3.99 each price tag. Now I can eat them for free.

5) The grapevine seems to be doing well.  I can’t even remember what kind of grapes I planted.  If any grow this fall, I guess we’ll find out.  :D My aunt grows tons of grapes every year and she lives in overcast Washington.  I’m hoping that living in sunny So Cal will work to my advantage here but who knows.  At least it looks pretty.

I also just planted sage, lemon balm, mint, and relocated a blueberry bush.  If they survive, you’ll see them in a future update.

Do you grown any fruits or vegetables?  Any advice for a newbie with a sort of green thumb?

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