And so it goes

It’s done. Just like that. Summer’s over. The most glorious 12 weeks of the year. Now I wait. And plan my winter escapes.

I have neglected you, dear readers, and I give you my heartfelt regrets that I simply had too many other things to focus on, namely healing. I am perhaps taunting you with this post which is a summer’s worth of recipes that I didn’t share with you 😢

Blackberry mint shrub

We’re finally an empty nest! Alec (aka Early Bird) has returned to campus for his senior year and Av (aka Second Mouse) heads to Oklahoma to play hockey. We’re planning trips to see both. We’re also doing some projects to repurpose space…I am very excited about a meditation/book nook and Matt can’t wait for his den (aka man cave).

Even the cats chill at the lake

My herb garden and tomatoes went gangbusters this year as we had a hot dry summer. The fake snakes worked too! Kept the critters out.

Fake snake works!

The Thai basil was particularly abundant, beautiful and fragrant in the planter. I used it in a simple cold sesame noodle salad.

Sesame noodles with Thai basil

Still need to do a salad with the nasturtiums. Did you know you can eat both the leaves and the flowers?? They’re quite zippy and peppery. All guests visiting the patio have sampled them. Will definitely plant again. They’re quite a prolific creeping vine once they get going. Beautiful and fun. I like getting people to try new foods 😉

I probably made a dozen pastas with different herbs. Pistachio mint pesto, sage pesto, tomatoes and basil, fresh tomato sauce (still my fav)

Pan roasted gnocchi with tomatoes and basil
Never too many tomatoes
Fresh tomato sauce still #1

I can never resist the baby potatoes and thin green beans at the Farmer’s Market too and they made a great Salad Nicoise. (No fish for me of course!). With a special treat of pink French wine 😉

For the salad, I was trying a new hard boiled egg technique that is supposed to make it “no peel”. Epic fail. Don’t believe everything you read on the Innerwebs! 🤣

Precracking the egg: bad idea.

Speaking of fish…Matt caught a personal record 50” 30+ lb Muskie on their river float trip. It’s scary to think this thing is swimming around! He’s spent a lot of time on the water this summer ❤️

Happy boy

I feel blessed that we have so many local vegetables to create with and love going to the Farmer’s market to get inspired with whatever is fresh. Zucchini, yellow squash and patty pan (such a treat!) make me happy. So do fresh onions and garlic. There’s really no comparison to the dry stuff we get in the store/winter.

All veg gratin. Needs flavor tweaks
Before
After

Am now feeling physically, mentally and emotionally stronger through Lots of self care, Time at the lake, enjoying the last few weeks with the boys, and of course swimming. I am writing a book about these last 2 years of parenting, and that has been fun and therapeutically fulfilling as well ❤️ I hope to get back posting recipes now that it’s fall. 🍁

If something here caught your eye, drop me a note and I will write it up for you 😇

Travelogue: Florida Keys

After a year of being isolated, it felt like a good idea to take a vacation. Basically so we could isolate ourselves somewhere warm, beautiful….and remote. The middle Florida Keys seemed perfect and the weather didn’t disappoint.

Lots of long walks (not on beaches since the Keys have very few of the sandy type beaches but lots of coral) and swimming (long course!!) at the beautiful outdoor pool in Islamorada where of course I made friends and we even ran into fellow Minnesota teammates. I have concluded that no matter where I winter in future years, it has to absolutely involve a good outdoor pool! Australia is most definitely on my list.

The ritual of driving beautiful highway 1 with the windows down to the pool several times a week followed by a late lunch is quite simply meditative soul restoration. I learned the funny little names of the various Keys and harbors. It never got old.

Post swim avocado toast!

Our home base was a secluded rental home in Duck Key, which was absolutely perfect! Morning yoga on the patio, afternoons in the pool or hammock and evenings on the front porch rocking chairs. I couldn’t get enough Vitamin D!! Duck Key is actually a clump of little islands all connected by cute little historic bridges. It’s mostly private homes so walking, biking or golf carts are the primary ways of getting around. I truly love being so isolated.

Charming bridges of Duck Key

It’s also one of the best places to fish in North America. The boys did a day trip to check giant tarpon off the list. They caught 80lb and 100lb fish!! Tarpon are protected and can’t even be taken out of the water for photos (besides they’re too heavy). It’s an interesting style of fishing around the highway 1 bridges, where the bigger fish (and sharks) like to hang out in the strong currents. Timing the tide is key, as is navigating through the bridge structures once the fish is hooked. It takes about 40 minutes to land the fish! They eat once a month so catching one is a pretty big deal.

Giant tarpon fishing

We also went sailing out in Marathon, which is known for its iconic lighthouse and 7 mile bridge. The shallow waters and coral structures mean that in its history there have been tons of shipwrecks. These make for great snorkeling and scuba spots, which I had hoped to check off my bucket list, but seeing sharks changed my mind 😉

Look closely for the rainbow!

Food wise we ate in, cooking healthy bowls, smoothies and of course lots of my favorite avocado toasts with cold press coffee in the morning. Seared fresh blackened tuna and shrimp supplemented meals for the carnivores.

Salad nicoise with fresh tuna
Açaí bowl with dragon fruit
A knife specifically for slicing avocados! ❤️❤️❤️
Dragonfruit mint smoothie
Cold press coffee!

While many things have been difficult about the last year, there are some things that are better. One of them being delivery. I learned that even in remote places in America, you can still get just about anything you need delivered quickly. It amazed me how easy it was to get groceries and house items. I also noticed that once we settled into our routine the people we regularly saw were generally kinder. (The chill vibe in the Keys helps…Island time is a real thing!)

To say that I am grateful for 6 weeks of sunshine is an understatement. Particularly as a way to almost end our yearlong quarantine. The impacts of this year and this trip have been profound for me. A time for inner reflection and gathering energy to grow. My own kind of winter into spring.

❤️🌹🌈🌱🙏🏻

Fragipani tree
Baby pineapples! (Technically it’s autumn in the Keys climate)
Orchids

Is it getting brighter in here? + French onion dip (vegan)

Winter solstice has passed, which is a turning point in the days getting longer. We didn’t have snow on the ground until Dec. 23 so it already feels like winter is shortened. I am choosing to use both of those facts in my mindset….because being inside last March and April was hard. We’re all actively getting outside (even me despite the cold) to try to stave off the winter blahs. The sunshine helps!

Somewhere along the way someone updated the family calendar, which is usually full of activities. By the dates, I am guessing that happened around October. Not sure if the update is funnier or the fact I didn’t notice for 2 months. While each day does feel eerily similar to the previous one, as a family we talk each day about our “roses”—the bright spots.

The daily “rose” is usually the simple things, like literally fresh flowers, or getting a text (or e-card from Esme!) or small self-care like doing my nails or a particularly refreshing video workout. Heck, my rose today is going to be writing this blog post. We all agreed that the things we will appreciate most are “normal” acts of connection during our days. A Twins or Wild game, concerts, plays, coffee or a meal out together, a massage, in person yoga…daily gifts to be treasured. Soon, hopefully.

It was a joy having both boys home for a week at Christmas. Doing the family traditions via Zoom was…..interesting. Not quite the same as watching present opening in person. The highlight was watching my dad open his Kindle with the giddiness of a child. He had borrowed mine in November and discovered the ease of e-reading (and that I am still a voracious reader of good books, which he held all in his hand). My favorite gifts are a t-shirt with one of my favorite sayings on it and some lovely new glassware. 😎

Food was a bit different this year. We ordered prepared items as I am finishing up a big work project. Alec pitched in by making the meatballs (“ew Mom, raw meat is gross.” Yup kiddo. Strategically working on getting him to eat less meat 😇).

5 onion vegan dip

The one thing I did make that was a huge hit was a 5 onion vegan dip. My mother in law always serves French onion dip with Fritos (my absolute favorite junk food) and potato chips for holidays. This fancy vegan version was gone before I could get a pic! Yes they’re still The Hungry Boys.

Vegan butternut squash lasagna
Sweet potato falafel with miso tahini dressing

To save a bit of time, I have been using a new meal planning/recipe service app: Ultimate Vegan Meal Planner. It is working well—making it easier to plan meals for the week and get a shopping list together. Cooking is one of my creative outlets so it’s helping me with a hybrid approach of exploring and time management. Most of the recipes are quick and easy, and some of them will definitely make the rotation (the sweet potato falafel as one keeper).

As the New Year begins, I reflect on the past year with gratitude for the gifts of learning and growth that came from this experience our world has faced. More thankful than ever for the small moments of joy and connection with others each day.

Wishing you peace and hope for a bright(er) 2021.

Vegan French onion dip

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Vidalia onion, quartered and sliced thin
  • Yellow onion, quartered and sliced thin
  • Red onion, quartered and sliced thin
  • 2 shallots, halved and sliced thin
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 8 oz vegan cream cheese
  • 1 cup nondairy sour cream
  • 2 tbsp vegan mayo
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • Cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste (we used a bit of Chipotle Tabasco sauce to kick it up)
  • Sugar or agave if your onions aren’t sweet after caramelizing

Sauté the Vidalia, yellow, red onions and shallots in the olive oil over low heat until brown and caramelized. About 30 minutes. Add a bit of sugar if your onions aren’t sweet enough. Cool until warm and then mix into cream cheese. Add remaining ingredients and season to taste, adding more spice to your preferences.

Serve with corn chips, potato chips or crudités

Serves 8 normal humans, but not enough for 2 Hungry Boys.

Dog days

It’s the dog days of summer. The cats and I are in heaven. Heat. Humidity. Sun. It’s fantastic!

I am so thankful for the pool being open! Swimming outside is a true joy for me and each visit restores my soul.

We’re about one month from empty nest now. Alec goes back to college in Chicago in 2 weeks and Avery has decided on a hockey team in Connecticut. It’s surreal after all of this time together—more than my maternity leave—that soon we will be far apart again. I am glad for the boys to be moving forward and hopeful for their health and safety.

In the meantime I am spoiling them rotten with their favorite foods and trying new ones.

We were honored to try a new local chef’s Mediterranean takeout, Dervish Mazza. Fun tapas style dips and snacks. Winner!

It’s berry season and I found an awesome strawberry shortcake recipe (vegan)! It’s soooooo fantastic!! I use coconut oil for the fat and it really makes for a moist flavorful cake. I ❤️ fresh local strawberries! And can even find great nondairy whipped cream or ice cream.

Speaking of favorites… I don’t know what I love more, fresh local cherry tomatoes (the purple ones especially!) or Door County Wisconsin cherries! I don’t care how much they cost, yes please!

Avocado cucumber soup. Green goop? You betcha! Anything avocado. Thank you Martha, as always, for this winning recipe. It’s like gazpacho but more satisfying. Eating it at the lake helps too. Kayaking amongst the loons is restorative.

In our first happy hour out in public (and his first visit to a cocktail room), Alec and I enjoyed local distillery Dampfwerk. This watermelon/lime gin cocktail “take home” kit was just what we needed for Saturday night patio time. I am going to miss him!!

Peace to you all…

It’s ok! Play with your food

The end of summer is near–Alec returned to college in Chicago this week.

For those of you not from the midwest, a drive through Wisconsin creates the opportunity for comedic experiences. Such as the Mousehouse Cheesehouse that has a giant rat/cheese wheel on it. Interesting enough, this is not the ONLY giant rat/cheese “sculpture” found on the I94 route.

Beer, Cheese, Gifts and Fudge were advertised. None were purchased. This is Wisconsin. They’re serious about cheese. They also sell beer everywhere. I am unclear how fudge got involved except that after beer and cheese obviously one needs fudge to cleanse the palate. We stopped to snap a pic with the rat.

It got me thinking about how much fun we have in our house with food–trying new recipes or restaurants. So this post is a rather haphazard look at some of the experiments from the last few weeks (and hopefully distracts from my lack of actual recipe posts lately 😉).

What happens when you freeze watermelon cubes as mojito “ice”? Delicious drink for the lake

What happens when you puree an entire cucumber for a martini? Great flavor and color, not so great texture 😉

Challenge day: Can you make a breakfast baked good with a half eaten container of yogurt and a random amount of blueberries and no eggs because you haven’t done the grocery shopping at the lake yet? Oh-yes-you-can lemon-blueberry muffins. Could you repeat it because you wrote any of it down or measured? Oh no.

Favorite new food toy: the Jaguar of zoodlers (“leased” from my sister). Alec and I also laughed while doing this, it’s like the old Play-Dough toys.

I need another drink after all of that creativity! But a perfect reminder to stop and smell the roses (jasmine). It goes fast.

Actual recipes forthcoming now that Alec isn’t here to distract me.

Healthy holiday eating weeknight Mediterranean (vegan)

Let’s be honest: This time of year is so hard to eat healthy. The average American gains just over a pound between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, which doesn’t sound like a lot.

But as I get older (sigh–closer to 50 than 40 this year), it gets harder and harder to maintain let alone lose weight. But more than anything, when I gain weight I really feel it. Even in the magical elastic jeans that stretch. I hate that feeling physically.

Going Vegan has made that so much easier. I recently learned through my work project that’s in the Type 2 Diabetes space something about new science–calories in, calories out is old thinking. Huh, good to know!

The new research shows that it’s both easier and more complicated than that…the quality, timing and frequency matter. (Especially for diabetics).

Every person metabolizes calories differently. Therefore different foods and even eating foods in a specific sequence can make a difference. For anyone watching blood sugars exercise also matters, with something as simple as taking a walk after a meal to help stabilize blood sugar. (**This is when I say that I am not a doctor and not giving medical advice!**)

So basically I am learning to stop tracking my food–which is a habit built over the last 5 years–and learning to fast (16 hours off and 8 on). I am also watching my reaction to exercise as it relates to meal timing. I feel best when I exercise midstream during my “on” timeframe.

This fasting process tricks your body into burning fat. It’s working for me slowly and without a ton of effort. It’s not really that difficult since I generally dislike breakfast and black coffee doesn’t count (really).

During the 8 hours on, I feel good about eating whatever fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, limited healthy whole grains, non-meat protein I want. And it’s also easier to not have to track things in detail but know that I have good meal quality generally by being vegan.

As always when it comes to food that fuels my body, I try to let go of the good/bad labels that come with “dieting” and in fact don’t see it as a diet but just the way I like to eat because it feels good.

I also enjoy the creative process of putting a meal together, which can be a challenge in a time starved world. This easy Mediterranean dinner is a good break from heavy holiday foods, and it’s simple to prep ahead for dinner on the table in 5 minutes.

Wishing you health and balance this holiday season!

Mediterranean salad

  • 1 English cucumber, skinned and sliced into half rounds
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Hummus
  • Package tabbouleh
  • 1/2cup chopped parsley
  • 1 can garbanzo beans drained
  • Naan

Prepare tabbouleh according to package. Add most of parsley and juice of 1/2 lemon. Refrigerate for an hour or more. Drain and rinse beans. Set aside. Seed and dice tomatoes, peel and chop cucumbers, adding remaining juice of 1/2 lemon. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Allow to marinate preferably overnight. Assemble salad by putting hummus in center, surrounding with tabbouleh, beans, and cucumber/tomato salad. Sprinkle remaining parsley and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with naan.

Endings and beginnings

With the HS graduation party behind us, I feel like this is the start of my summer! (And yes I am unmistakably crabby in the grad pic…7 valedictorian speeches, ugh!)

It’s an amazing amount of work to host these things and frankly, we crammed several years’ worth of “honey do” list items into one month. I am glad we did it, but we’ll be bribing Av to skip it or host it elsewhere. 😉

The menu was a Chicago theme (he’ll be attending Lake Forest College):

  • Chicago dogs (yes I had a vegan “dog”). We all agreed celery salt and tomatoes really are quite good on a poppyseed bun
  • Fruit kabobs
  • Veggie & hummus cups
  • Mini cupcakes
  • Chicago microbrews

Alec is fortunate through swimming (and his personality) to have many friends across not just our town but the TC area, and many ages. It was fun to see them all in one place. I was VERY thankful swimmers like to eat and we had no hot dog leftovers! ⭐️

It’s hard as an adult not to think about the closing of one chapter and the opening of another. Just yesterday he registered for classes and found out his roommate and academic advisor. Immediately the excitement of everything he’s going to get to learn about replaced any sadness.

Of course we’re very proud of his accomplishments, but really we just love having Alec around because he’s such a kind, thoughtful person. The next 8 weeks are gonna go fast, just like the last 19!

Emotional eating

There’s a time and place for emotional eating. This weekend is one of them. It’s mid-April, and we’ve already taken our winter vacation. I thought it would be downhill after our return. Silly me.

It has snowed 15″ in the last 48 hours. And it’s not done yet. This is definitely stretching my optimism skills, as hockey season is almost done (go Wild!) and baseball is underway (go Twins!) But Avery will be lucky to be practicing and playing outside by the end of the month, roughly half of the HS baseball season. He’s not happy.

By Saturday night I was pretty squirrelly after being stuck inside so long. So I did what I do when my emotions run wild, I cooked. I made chocolate chip cookies and opened a bottle of wine. Fully admit this is emotional eating. And not vegan. Real Irish salted butter made these the best cookies I have ever made (keep it in the fridge for splurges and this definitely qualifies).

When the plows finally came through this morning and Matt had collapsed from shoveling the driveway (spring snow is heavy!), I ventured out to the grocery store to re-stock. And do some more emotional cooking.

We’re having favorites this week –made egg salad for Matty, bought lunch meat for the boys, spaghetti and “meat”balls, roasting a bunch of vegs and making ramen for me, which starts with an awesome garlic vegetable broth. All comfort foods that definitely have meaning for each of us. Is it so wrong to attach emotions to food and use it to perk up oneself from time to time?!

The cooking process itself calms me down. I came out of my rage as the broth simmered, realizing how few “snow days” we have left as a family. That we were all safe and snuggled in wearing pajamas for 2 days straight, gathered round the kitchen laughing and making the best out of it (binge watch recommendation = The Looming Tower on Hulu).

And it’s helping me make my case that our winters (Nov to May) should be spent elsewhere…just 2 more to get through! My suggestion to sell the house and buy a boat to sail the Caribbean is looking a lot less “crackpot”….

Garlic miso broth

  • 8 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 stalks celery (with leaves)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 head garlic, halved
  • 2 scallions
  • 1 bunch fresh herbs, parsley or cilantro
  • Miso individual soup packet (optional)

Sauté smashed garlic in olive oil over low heat until brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic head, water, celery, scallions, bay leaf, herbs and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Strain and add miso packet, salt and pepper as desired. A great base for ramen or any veg soup.

Avocado citrus salad

Dreaming of warmer weather, I am regularly throwing together salads etc that seem more like summer and less like 28 degrees and 6-9″ of snow (forecast for tomorrow). We’re so close to the end of winter I can taste it! Just 2 more weeks until Mexico and when we get back it should be “downhill.”

HS hockey and swimming are now done, both boys finished the season strong. Alec has made his college choice (Lake Forest College), and I have purchased a ridiculous amount of Foresters gear! He will continue swimming, but mostly we are glad for the balanced and practical experience he has chosen for his undergrad experience. Plus Chicago is close but not too close 😉

We’re very proud and excited for this new chapter in his life. Avery has design plans for his “new” car and life as an only child. Oh boy.

Oh, and after all the bragging, here’s the recipe:

Avocado citrus salad

  • Avocado, diced
  • 1 cup citrus segments (grapefruit, oranges)
  • 1 cup hearts of palm segments
  • 1 cup diced cherry/grape tomatoes
  • 16 oz mixed greens
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced, including leaves
  • 1/2 white onion, sliced
  • Citrus dressing (2:1 ratio of olive oil to lemon juice, 1 clove garlic chopped)
  • Salt and pepper

Toss together and pretend to be somewhere warm!

Food as self care

It snowed again today. I hate January in Minnesota. If you’re coming here for the SuperBowl in a few weeks, pack your warm stuff!!

The only good thing about weather like this is that it keeps us inside together and gives us time to read, watch movies/tv and just be together.

It was a day off of school for the boys, and they enjoyed the leftovers from yesterday’s football game (Go Vikes!): Halftime chili and cheesy cornbread. I was surprised to learn that most of the teenage boys who came over to watch the game hadn’t ever had chili “Cincinnati style”, which is served over pasta. Anything that can be served over pasta is in our house!!

I did not partake, but instead made an açaí bowl with fruit and desiccated coconut. It looks awful but is utterly fantastic. I’d had this unique superfruit full of antioxidants in Kauai and was thrilled to find a smoothie ready frozen package. Individual servings make it fast and easy.

For dinner I made grain bowls with quinoa and black beans over mixed greens with whatever vegs I could find. I roasted green beans (20 minutes at 400 degrees), and this is absolutely my new favorite prep for what can be a tasteless veg in winter.

That got me thinking about how much we enjoy trying new foods and techniques, and that our habits have changed pretty dramatically in 15 years (since Avery was born). We used to care mostly about cheap and familiar.

With more time and more adventurous spirits, every week is different now. Food (and food prep for me) has become a form of self care. I truly enjoy learning and exploring, and slowing down after a busy day to pull a meal together.

I’m really feeling so much healthier these days–more energy especially–and think a lot of it is the vegan diet (particularly getting rid of dairy). It’s easy to stick with something that makes you feel better!!

Ps We’re planning our winter getaway, which involved updating my passport. I am thrilled to be getting rid of this photo (12 years ago)!! 40 something is way better than 30.