Linking Up to Some Great Recipes

Hi all,

Think I really like Halloween on a Saturday. I love the colorful, energetic foot-traffic that finds its way to our door every year. A few blocks away, Older Son and his friends did a haunted house. How fun to have a group of younger teenage girls I directed there ring my doorbell a second time. One plopped herself on my stoop as if she’d known me forever–I’d never met them before–to tell me “all about the haunted house” in that bubbly, giggly way girls do! They made my night.

jack-o-lantern-Nic-2015
Older Son’s work. Have a feeling Jack here is sporting Ray-Bans.

One day I’ll get back into a groove–lately all I do is school-related reports. Amazing the domino-effect created by one person’s good intentions. All the reports she sought to get done ahead of her maternity leave are already due for this school year–they just keep on coming. Very frustrating when one wants time to work on non-school-related endeavors.

So…in the interest of brevity, I’ll link you up with some of my latest go-to recipes. (Among the reasons I love oats and the internet!)

Over at bakerita.com, Rachel’s gluten-free banana bread (with chocolate chips and two minor tweaks by me) is absolutely delicious–moist and hearty every time! My tweaks: I replaced honey with brown sugar. (I rarely stock honey. We don’t use it, so it’s usually dried up whenever I go looking for it.) I also tried pumpkin in lieu of applesauce. That worked pretty well too, but I had to increase the baking time by 10-15 minutes. And this treat topped with a little Trader Joe’s almond butter? Breakfast is served!

Found this pumpkin chocolate chip cookie overnight oats this past Sunday morning. Simple and quick. Made it in a few minutes and gave it an hour in the fridge. This was more like a VERY yummy dessert, though I believe it’s meant for breakfast. Can I tell you how awesome it tasted over the pumpkin-banana bread (above) with a little shot of whipped cream? I’m sure vanilla Greek yogurt pairs nicely here as well. (BTW, I substituted brown sugar for the honey in this one too. Worked just fine.)

One more: cinnamon roll baked oatmeal. Easy. Quick. Elegant enough to serve at a brunch (or take to school for a holiday breakfast). My only change-up here was in the glaze. I LOVE cream-cheese glaze, so I searched for a simple one. (Yes, I found one, for cinnamon roll pancakes with cream-cheese frosting–my next venture. Sorry. I didn’t bookmark the site. That might not be a good thing, lol.)

Two more things I really liked about these recipes:

(1) each calls for staples that tend to be on-hand or easily obtained;

(2) each is gluten-free (but not necessarily CGF).

Do any of you have any go-to recipes to share?

Love fall colors and weather! (Wish we could skip straight to spring, though. :) )
Love fall colors and weather! (Wish we could skip straight to spring, though. 🙂 )

Off to my next evaluation!

Have a wonderful day,

Joanna

Quinoa-Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Hi everyone. So sorry I’ve been missing from here since before Mother’s Day. I managed a few posts at my alter-ego’s site, but even that’s been a tad sparse. End of the school year–which wrapped up on 6/23–got a touch busy. I’m already fully in our extended school year and that will take me through to the end of July. Then there’s tennis to keep one busy in between…

So Hubby’s garden has been far ahead of schedule this year—typically by now, he’d be harvesting a few zucchini blossoms and hoping to see a zucch or two beginning to form. Pumpkin flowers usually follow a few weeks later and an actual pumpkin doesn’t form until far later in the month.

Uh…not this year, folks.

zucch blossoms

Every morning brings the same question: where am I going to store all these blossoms? We’ve got them coming in like crazy from zucchini, yellow squash AND pumpkin plants. (That doesn’t include the multitude of zucchini I’ve been giving away–Hubby picked five yesterday afternoon. Maybe it’s the Miracle Gro he treats everything with faithfully. And perhaps I should get a permit for a roadside stand and sell them, lol. Even at $13/lb (or whatever the going rate is), it’s quite the return on the buyer’s dollar, lol. 😉

Anyway, the other night I made a platter of fritters to send to my neighbor’s. I still had some blossoms left to play with—the pumpkin variety, which are at least as big as my hand. These babies beg to be stuffed. (Had them with a ricotta filling for the first time last year—OMG. Just sayin’.)

pumpkin blossom-zoom

Luckily, I lacked ricotta, nor was I in the mood to get into that kind of fat and calorie count. I did, however, have cooked quinoa sitting in the fridge. (Quinoa is my new favorite ‘carb.’)

Hmmm.

I searched a few recipes, started here and wound up concocting something of my own.

Here we go. (Sorry, all amounts are approximates. I made this up as I went. Posted the finished product on Facebook and someone (Hi, Deb!)  asked for the recipe. I did my best to oblige!) 🙂

6-8 intact blossoms (I always remove the stem and pistol or stamen—the part inside the center at the flower’s base—male or female flower, respectively.)

For the filling:

½- ¾ cup cooked quinoa (I had flavored mine with olive oil, a spoonful of butter, parsley and garlic salt)

¼- ½ cup of bread crumbs* (or crushed pre-seasoned stuffing cubes/mix)

Fresh parsley and/or basil (as much or as little as you like)

Grated cheese (I used a mix of romano and parmesan)

Feta cheese (to taste—maybe a ¼ cup?)

Salt and black (pepper to taste)

A squeeze or so of lemon–optional (something tells me this will all work nicely together)

A (table)spoonful of chia seeds–also optional, but why not bump up the fiber and protein count some more?

Mix all the above together and set aside. (If you include the bread crumbs, sauté everything except the basil in hot oil. Stir in basil after the mixture has cooled a bit.

Note: Making the filling a day ahead will increase the flavor big-time.

For the batter:

½- ¾ cup of flour

Grated cheese

Chopped parsley and/or basil (to taste)

Salt and/or pepper (to taste)

½ tsp baking powder (optional)

Water

1 egg

Mix all the dry ingredients in a medium to large bowl. Add water, enough to create a creamy, thin (but not watery) pancake-like batter. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. The mixture should be similar to a tempura batter.

Carefully fill each blossom with a spoonful or two of the quinoa mixture. Fold the flower closed as best you can. Dip and roll it in the batter. Pan-fry in hot oil until golden brown on both sides.

Drain on paper towels.

quinoa-stuffed zucch blossoms

These are best served immediately but are fine a little while later (i.e., several hours). I wouldn’t make these a day ahead. They’ll be heavy and oily.

*I plan on eliminating bread crumbs next time, to keep the carb count down. Don’t think you really need them.

And for dessert…

ooey-gooey choc chips

More to these than meets the eye, and fodder for a future post.

Have a great day and enjoy those special summer delicacies while they last!

Joanna

How Far Will You Go To Impose Order–On Others?

It’s been a busy past two weeks, folks. Between being down with a nasty cold and (good) family stuff going on, last week got away from me. Hope all is well with all of you!

I love when my blogger-pals’ posts spur me toward a post of my own. (I’ve been having a run of that lately. Thanks, friends!) Last week, Stacey Wilk zapped me into action with one of her most delightful write-ups yet. Those who crave order, check it out. You might find a kindred spirit at Stacey’s stop!

Sounds like order makes Stacey’s heart sing. I commented that in my day-gig, we call that one form of self-regulation. That’s a term from ‘sensory integration’, defined as a “calm-alert state that is optimal for learning.” Order makes my heart sing; it helps me self-regulate. Did I mention orderly spaces tend to look good in a calming and soothing sort of way? A friend who is into organizing gave me a term that makes complete sense to me: visual peace.

I totally get that lining things up a certain way in a cabinet creates order and ease of finding things, as well as making it easier to put things away. In my kitchen, most things have a place, but very few items have to be exactly in one spot for the big picture to work. A few things work best lined up a particular way. (My bowls and my pots have to be nested or they won’t fit). My kitchen was remodeled about 5 years ago. Almost everything is still in pretty much the same place I assigned it b/c it works. And unless someone else (Ahem!) doesn’t put things in the designated spot, I never have a problem finding things.

Nabby n Kitty under the counter 10-2014 My girls, just hanging under the kitchen counter. 

So, the question was, how far will you go to impose your need for order on others—outside your house?

Y’all know I work in a school setting. At the school where I work most days, I’m lucky enough to have two large metal closets in the back of auditorium to keep games, papers, etc. (In other schools I have to drag the Barney bag and be grateful to use the lunchroom, a table in the library or a small office space.)

Anyhow, every year these closets wind up a tad messy by the end of the school year. B/c of issues the year before, I never got to put them back in order when the summer program ended (in 2013). That meant the closets started out pretty messy for 2013-14 and only got worse. By the end of the 2014 summer program, those closets were a disaster, especially after SIX people spent three weeks pulling stuff out and stuffing it back. (Two of those folks don’t put foot in my school during the school year, so they had no sense of how things fit together in there.)

One work friend and I spent over FIVE hours cleaning those war zones at the end of this year’s summer program. I decided (threatened, promised—whatever–at the possible cost of my job-buds still liking me) that I’d take pictures of the finished product, blow them up, laminate and hang them in the closets, shelf by shelf. (For once I followed through.)

school closet top shelf (See the chaos under the top shelf? That’s just a hint of what the other NINE shelves had become. Just sayin’.)

One of my co-workers teased me for being so uptight about my desire for order. It was all in good fun, and she’s been very respectful with putting stuff away as per the photos. And there IS a practical reason for order: Putting stuff away at the end of the day goes a whole lot faster when there is “a place for everything and everything in its place.”

school closet (2) Say what you want, but at least there is some kind of reference for insuring all this stuff fits at the end of the day. I have to load up a cart at least twice weekly b/c I don’t have a real ‘home’ at school.  

BTW, we’re six weeks into the school year, and the closets are still looking good.

So…I now pose this question to you:

What will YOU do to insure order either in or outside your home?

Enjoy your day, folks,

Joanna

The Cigarette Trick

Hi all! One more fun story—not a patient/work-related one, I promise. Ironically enough, though, the person involved was studying to be a nurse at the time.

Tess at How the Cookie Crumbles* gets credit for reminding me of this one. After so kindly reading my September 14 post about memorable (good) moments between me and my former patients, she left a hysterical comment, shared with her by her doctor:

“A lady had an ear infection so the doctor prescribed ‘whatever’ (pills). On her return visit he asked how her infection was. Not good. Seems instead of taking the pills by mouth, she stuck them in her ear.”

Many years ago, one of my cousins—then 24 years old—attended a party with Hubby and me.

She and Hubby both smoked. Hubby decided to be his goofball self and showed her a trick I’d witnessed many times: he took a puff on the sly, pretend to draw on the lit cigarette stuck in his ear then blow the smoke out of his mouth.

About an hour later, I spotted her sitting in alone in the yard, cigarette sticking out of her ear and doing her damndest to replicate Hubby’s trick. Who woulda thunk that a nursing student—who should have passed an anatomy course or two, lol—would have taken him seriously? To this day I haven’t figured that one out.

Oh the memories…the golden years, the good ol’ days. We’re living them folks.

*If you get a chance, check out Tess’s blog. She turned a recent visit to China into an awesome virtual visit to the Orient for her readers and followers!

Have a wonderful week everyone!

Joanna

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tis the Season! (For a Jersey Tomato Recipe ;)

Happy Monday, friends. I know, it’s the first day of the work week for many of us—me too—and it’s just easier to grumble. Given the current horror and/or terror show going on in too many parts of the world, I choose to be grateful for my ‘ordinary world’. (That would be ‘writer talk’ for a character’s starting place in any story: his/her normal, every day status quo, before something big happens to rock the boat and change that world forever.)

Looking forward to watching the final match of the US Open Tennis Championships later today. Sorry to not be seeing Roger Federer or Novak Djokavic there, but the tennis guards appear to be changing, one emerging champion at a time. We shall see.

School is underway. Spent this past weekend scrambling to get some cleaning done, school supplies purchased for kids, etc. I’m also working hard at keeping bigger projects manageable by working on them a little at a time.

Somehow, those smaller efforts do add up. I tend to make lists that are far too long anyway. They often end up missing, but (usually) I find them buried in a paper pile. More often than not, a lot of the items can be crossed off b/c I’ve gotten them done, frequently in bits and pieces. (It all counts, right?)

Anyway, four paragraphs later, here’s a super-easy salad recipe for those of us who LOVE summer fare. Tis the season for tomatoes—Hubby always grows a slew of them—so here’s a way to use them up.

20140827_083711(0) Just a sampling of Hubby’s garden fare. There are many more tomatoes coming, and the brussels are about to sprout.

You’ll need: tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese, hummus, pesto, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and sea salt. (BTW, the latter two ingredients are optional, but they really bring the flavors together.

Cut tomatoes and cucumbers into chunks, any size you like, and put in serving bowl. (You can remove seeds. I am too lazy to do so.)

Sprinkle feta cheese on. I use about a tablespoon or two for two medium tomatoes and one medium-sized (?) cucumber.

Add a tablespoon or so of hummus and/or pesto.

Stir.

(Optional) Drizzle with EVOO.

(Optional) Salt to taste with freshly ground sea salt.

tomato and cucumber salad The feta, pesto and hummus kind of blend together into a creamy dressing. (The EVOO and sea salt just bring it all together and make it decadent.) This fast, fresh, vegetarian combo is pretty danged healthy. It functions easily as a side or a main meal. If you need protein, like I do, add grilled chicken or tuna. (It’s also a ‘go-to’ dish almost daily until the tomatoes slow down. Trust me, we can only give away so many ‘Jersey tomatoes.’ Lots of folks in our areas grow them. 

So what is your go-to, summer veggie dish? Do you have a veggie garden? Have you been blessed fare made with Jersey tomatoes?

Have a wonderful day and week everyone!

Joanna

 

The Good Ol’ Days

Greetings! How is everyone?

Yep. We are two-plus weeks into August, folks. Summer has a way of flyin’ by. US Open Tennis Championship qualifying rounds are getting underway. Translation: last week of the month is almost upon us. 😦

“These are the good old days,” says my hubby of nineteen years.

Many times, Hubby talks about looking back on “the good old days,” but when we really stop and think about it, aren’t we living them? Don’t our todays pile into the weeks that amass into the months and years upon which we will reflect and dub “the good old days?”

Hubby got me thinking. When my kids were younger and the days much more mommy-intense, I’d look ahead to the time when they wouldn’t need constant supervision. I would have more time for me. It always bugged me though, to feel I was wishing away not only their childhood but my younger years as well.

Nic n Kev with Kitty small Kitty–aka, Screweball–gave us quite the scare about 10 days ago. I’m happy to report she seems to be back to her 15+-year-old self.

My teenage boys (17 and 15) are quite the independent young men in so many ways. Older Son drives, has a job and can even cook for himself a bit. Younger Son will take off on the bike to go to football practice or just to the convenience store for his Gatorade vs. ask for a ride from either me or his dad. (He’s venturing into cooking but might need a little help in that department.) Alone-time with Hubby is almost the norm.

photo 3 Selfie taken during vacation. (I hate selfies.)

So now I get choked up when I pass a playground and see parents keeping their little ones safe on the equipment. I remember walking behind the boys as they rode their bikes and waited for me to catch up at the end of the block. Occasionally there is a game night, but no more stories read just before bed. They don’t need mom or dad to help with showers, brush teeth, make sure they get to bed on time.

The days when we don’t know how many kids will show for dinner are much more sparse, when Older Son was in middle school. Teens still show and hang out, but not as often—or for as long—as they did before drivers’ licenses became a permanent addition to their wallets and handbags. Luckily, they occasionally seem to enjoy the tennis court—though the regular players nearby might not consider themselves all that fortunate when Older Son’s crowd attempts doubles play.

Joanna 8-2014

I’ve shared holidays with family and just plain ol’ spur-of-the-moment great days. Pulled off one of those just last week, with an impromptu visit to a sister-in-law’s home a few blocks from the bay. Hot dogs, the pool, a bike ride near the water and homemade eggplant parm–eggplant direct from brother-in-law’s garden–gathered into a nice day that will be long remembered.

photo (60)

Hubby was right. Most days are “the good old days.” Sometimes I have to remember I don’t have to recall them. I’m living them.

The Lion Died…

But his memory will linger for a long time–if not always.

Hi all. Hoping all is peaceful with each of you. I was away from Monday through Thursday, so I guess my aspirations for posting twice last week were a tad high.

The lion at the Cape May Zoo died right around Memorial Day this past year. That’s what we heard at the zoo’s entrance as my sons, Older Son’s girlfriend and I embarked on our annual walk-through. (It seems to have become a bit of a tradition during our third-year-in-a-row trek to Wildwood. Is it possible one is never too old for the zoo?)

Wildwood sunset 2014 Sunset in Wildwoodpicture doesn’t do the sky justice 🙂

Uh, that’s when I originally started this post: three years ago. Yes, it had to do with the lion. Until this past Saturday morning the original sat on the notebook laptop that lives in my beloved Camry’s trunk—in case I need to stop on a random road to work on a laptop whose battery won’t recharge anymore.

Anyway, my only problem with family vacations—you moms of boys can probably relate—is that my guys (Hubby included) want to do stuff that doesn’t generally interest me. Boardwalks, beaches, restaurants—they’re okay but none of them floats my boat. Call me a stick in the mud but if there is nothing to actively engage my mind—i.e., learn—most of the time I’ll pass. (BTW, I’m bad at relaxing too.)

Boards at Wildwood 2014

Night-time on the Wildwood boards. As busy as NYC. 

So, the first year, after a family ride on the go-carts followed by brunch on the famed Wildwood boardwalk, I started thinking about how I might like to wile away a few hours. I’d done Cold Spring Village with Hubby years ago and liked it. I also thought about taking a ride to the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse, a ten-minute drive from our hotel. (The gardens behind it are ridiculously gorgeous and quietly peaceful. Follow the walkway pictured below and–surprise!–you’ve stumbled onto the inlet, where the view of the inlet and beach are stunning. BTW, double-clicking on the photos to enlarge them will provide sharper detail, as much as my lowly iPhone 4’s camera can capture.)

Hereford lighthouse front (1) Hereford Inlet Lighthouse

Hereford lighthouse back

Back of the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse

Hereford lighthouse gardens

Hereford InletLighthouse gardens

Hereford lighthouse gardens (2)

Hereford Inlet Lighthouse gardens

Hereford lighthouse inlet

Hereford Inlet Lighthouse inlet

IDKY, but I also kept toying with the notion of a trek to the Cape May Zoo. I’d never visited it, but had always heard nice things. I chose door number three and texted the kids an invitation.

My guys were a couple months shy of 16 and 14 at the time. They came simply because it was “something to do.” (Yep, even the boards and rides get old after a short while. And Older Son probably felt badly his ma was doing something alone. Nah. No such issues. Me-time rocks.)

photo_2[1]   Joanna ‘n’ her boys. Y’all can decide who is who. BTW, this photo is from first trip to zoo, in 2012. Didn’t take any group shots this year. 😦

I certainly enjoyed that afternoon, and since the kids asked to go again on both subsequent trips to the area, I assume they did too. The zoo is pretty danged big, beautifully maintained and packed with about 550 creatures, most of who are easily viewed in their exhibits. I particularly like the zebras; their markings are so stark. I also enjoyed the quiet calm surrounding the giraffes and their new baby.

Aside: the zoo is always free, with non-mandatory donations accepted. (Cash gets tossed into a ‘mailbox.’)

The lion ties into this recounting how, Joanna? Well, it involves Younger Son, who can be the best kid going on his better days. Oy. Not so much when he gets himself in a mood, thinks he’s right or (wants to be). Those are the days I offer him up for Lent, rent, or to the lowest bidder. Hubby and I are much improved reacting to him, but he’s often brought out a side of us we don’t very much like on many occasions.

photo_3[1] This boy be reachin’ the bear’s mouth by now. Bet he could get a live version to growl, too. Just sayin’… 😉

He might have been in that kind of humor that first “annual” trip to the zoo. Guess he couldn’t wait or might have wanted some space from the rest of us when he asked if he could walk ahead to see the lion. (Three years later I don’t remember such minor details.)

Gave him the okay. He was 13+ and old enough to do so.

He was just out of sight when a roar rumbled through the zoo. We surmised it was the lion.

“Figures,” I told Older Son. “Your brother probably got on the lion’s nerves already.”

We caught up with Younger Son, just outside the lion exhibit. Ironically enough, on that very hot day, Younger Son thought the lion was dead. (He wasn’t.)

We made our way through the rest of the zoo. Just before the last leg, Younger Son asked if he could go see the lion once more.

“Sure.”

I kid you not: the kid took off and the beast roared for a second—and only other—time that trip.

We were really saddened to hear that incredible creature was no longer there. But Younger Son will never shake being known as the boy who could inspire the lion to roar.

Do you do repeat vacations? If so, where do you go? Are there ‘traditions’ or go-to activities that are part of every trip, or do you devise new ways to pass the time? Do you have a “challenge child?” Were/are you your parent(s)’ “challenge child?”

Thanks for stopping in and for SHARING if you choose to do so. Have a great week!

All the best,

Joanna