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

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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

Tailor-Made Dental Appointment?

Hi all. Hoping all my American friends enjoyed the extended, Independence Day weekend, and that everyone else got to do something productive, fun and/or relaxing too.

Today I’d like to dedicate to my dad, gone twenty years on this date. Rather than get into something long-winded, I figured I’d share a little episode from back in the day when my dad was still here. (If you’re into reading tributes, feel free to access his here, written two years back.)

I am a crafter. I love making pretty things! Back in my hospital-working days, I loved splinting, too. Always found it so cool to take a flat piece of plastic and custom-mold it into an object of healing.

I’ve painted, made photo albums, frames, stenciled—just name it. (Yes, writing absolutely counts. Writing a scene makes me so happy: taking a blank screen and giving it sight, sound, taste, smell. People talking, living, etc, all b/c of a thought or idea that took on life via how words are combined.)

Just recently, I tried my hand at a very simple quilt.

Quilt (front)  05-2014  Made my own binding! (Raise your hand if you love YouTube. 🙂 )

Assembling the pieces with pins reminded me of a time I took my dad to the dentist. (You’ll get the connection very soon, I promise.)

Quilt (back) 5-2014 This is the flip-side. LOVED this simple fabric!

Long story short, the dentist started poking around in my dad’s mouth. After a while, he asked if my dad had worked as a tailor.

I was flumgubbered. “How on God’s earth could you know your patient’s occupation by looking into his mouth??”

Dentist went on to explain that tailors tend to put pins in their mouth, often when measuring clients for alterations. (I’d witnessed that action many times—do it myself every now and again, too.) Over time, the pins leave tiny scrapes on the enamel; these are visible to the dental expert’s eye.

Go figure!

Your turn: have you ever had someone guess at your (or someone else’s) profession, vocation, day job, etc) via some ridiculously seemingly unrelated clue?

Have a great week, friends!

Joanna

Letting Go: They’re Growing Up (Part 1)

Letting ‘Em Go: They’re Growing Up—Part 1

Since I’m still developing the posts I had hoped to get to this week—based on two written by Kristen Lamb at her awesome blog—I’ll allow myself to get sidetracked a bit. Hope you get something out of the next two weeks.

Really loving and relating to fellow blogger and fiction author Stacey Wilkes’ Life Lessons of a Mom posts. One of her most recent touched on her self-imposed role as overprotective mother (a.k.a. chaperone) on her 8th grade daughter’s upcoming trip to Washington, DC.

Stacey and I are both Italian mammas. My mom is off-the-boat, and her family of origin is one of the most loving crowds one could get to know. Unfortunately, anxiety—and hence the need to control their world—runs rampant. (I’m blessed enough to take after my dad’s side. Counseling in my younger days helped too—a lot.)

Not sure how much of this stuff is in-bred, lol. I consider myself a pretty laid-back parent—not to be confused with permissive. I work very hard at giving my kids their space while hovering near enough in the vicinity to be ‘hands-on’ if/when needed (or wanted).

Letting go when it comes to ‘big things’ is another story. Not saying I don’t, but that deep-seated Italian (?) anxiety, upbringing—whatever you want to call it—shows up. Every time Older Son (in particular) wants to do that next thing my mom would have NEVER allowed, I turn into a sobbing fool.

One quick example: In 7th grade, Older Son won a raffled snowboard. Of course I didn’t allow him to attend the ski club’s day trip that year! The thought of a 14-year-old on the slopes with who-knew-what-kind-of-supervision (if any) freaked me out. The next year, the moderator of the club begged me to let him go. She called, left me her cell number, etc. I finally acquiesced. (Hubby might have taken him to a local ski resort in the meantime, so we had a sense of what the kid was like up there in the fine, cold powdery stuff.)

Trip day arrived (a Saturday). Dropped the kid off at the bus in the winter-dark at 6:30 AM and waited a while. Since I was the only parent fool enough to hang out in the parking lot, I decided to go home and save Older Son the embarrassment.

Sat outside my house and sobbed like a fool. Every generation of Italian ladies that came before me channeled themselves through me that morning. Settled for texting Older Son at intervals throughout the day. Thank goodness the boy is kind enough to return his ma’s messages.

We’ll discuss the day said kid got the dreaded DL another time.

So: How do you let go? Are you naturally good at it, or is it a practiced skill? Are you an “Italian” mamma?

Have a great week, folks!

Joanna

Keeping Things Hot in the Cold (With Nutella and Potato Soup!)

What????

Happy Tuesday to all. Hanging in there and hope each of you is doing the same or better!

Okay, I happened by a Nutella recipe that I’m sure I will try at some point, assuming I remember I have it saved in a Word doc, lol. BTW, it’s for a bread-spread. I’m thinking Nutella-potato soup might be a bit strange even for me 🙂

We’ve been dealing with some serious cold snaps here on the east coast, and everybody knows frigid temps bring out the soup-maker in everyone, right? (Huh? Nobody else got that gene?)

So  I’d been wanting to try my hand at creamy potato soup for the longest time. Finally got myself in gear a few weeks ago and looked up recipes online. Came across Ree Drummond,The Pioneer Woman This blogger has a really fun way of delivering the how-to. Actually, pretty sure I stumbled on it a few weeks prior while searching for a quick sweet-n-sour chicken recipe—uh that one is pretty awesome too (but not Ree’s). Uh, now that my brain went back into a cohesive mode, I found a great chicken tenders recipe at PW’s website. Yep, I get a little confused. Too many websites, so little time…

Yes, Joanna is working very hard to stay focused.

I linked you to PW’s potato soup recipe, but you might want to make note of a few easy changes: I skipped the bacon, used 1% lowfat milk and about ¼-cup light cream. I also went very easy on the cheese (sharp cheddar), tossing in a handful or so. Chicken broth I made myself. Liked the milder flavor the soup had using mine. Second time I made this I didn’t have homemade broth, only bouillon cubes. Still tasty, but a tad salty. (BTW, the second time, I tossed all the foods in the processor vs. julienne, chop and all that tedious prep-by-hand that so annoys me during cooking. Worked jes’ fine, folks.)

potato soup

Let me tell you, this was GOOD–nah, it was excellent.  As with any soup, it was that much yummier the next day, after all the flavors got a chance to come together. And yes, it’s starchy, but far creamier tasting than the nominal amount of fat in it.  (The actual fat content has to be pretty low.)

Oh, and here’s the link to the Nutella recipe.

So who’s trying what? I’d love to know how you make out!

For tennis fans, here’s a link to Aussie Open Women’s 2014 Champion Li Na’s speech after being presented the trophy. Take a few minutes, and laugh at this lady’s hysterical way of putting it out there. When she retires her racquet, she might want to consider stand-up.

And congrats to “Iron Stan” Wawrinka, who took the title on the men’s side–all the best to the ATP World Tour’s new #3! 

Joanna

Could We Have Possibly Done Something Right? (Part 6 and Done :)

The Australian Open Tennis Championships are underway! The first Grand Slam of 2014 is here! Tennis in the morning. Tennis after work. Tennis in the evening. Tennis at night.

And everyone wonders why I don’t get any real writing done. (“Yeh,” say the Aussies).

Yes, I’m moving on. Maybe a calming chamomile tea is in order. (Nah. Hate tea. Coffee’s my brew.) Hope everyone is well, this second full week of the New Year.

Can I possibly wrap up this series? I suppose I should have be done, but one incident with Older Son (OS) stands out too much to not share. And it’s so interesting how several seemingly unrelated events came together to help Hubby and me with our responses to the situation.

OS turned 17 this past November. In my state, that means a driver’s license, which he got December 11, 2013.

That means OS has had a driver’s permit since April. Sometime before June he came across a used car for sale, pretty much what he wanted, and a great deal for him. Hubby and I had our misgivings, but we allowed him to use a portion of his savings to buy it.

It got parked at a friend’s house, pronto, not to be registered or insured until he got the DL.

On a mid-June weekend this past summer, Hubby and I were supposed to go to our PA cottage. A dear friend had passed away and we’d hoped to attend the funeral, which was in the vicinity. OS was scheduled to work and Younger Son (YS) is in the ‘bored’ stage in PA (no internet connection for the X-box in the woods).

Because putting together arrangements for a responsible adult to be available to a 14- and 16- year-old was turning out to be more tedious than we figured it should have been, Hubby and I made a last-minute decision to stay home. Neither of us felt all that comfortable leaving the kids home while we were three hours away. And we’d visited my friend twice during her bout with cancer, so I felt better knowing I’d connected with her before she exited this life.

So, there we were Saturday afternoon, June 15th. Kids are both out and Hubby decides to step out—maybe run to the deli or something along those lines.

He came home livid.

He’s spotted OS driving his should-have-been-parked-car, with his girlfriend (GF) in the passenger seat.

OS came in a few minutes later, pleading his case for the necessity of the run.

Hubby grounded him on the spot, including not allowing him to attend a rather formal birthday party he and GF were due at in less than two hours.

Not sure I agreed with Hubby’s choice of handling the situation—he was pretty mad—and the party, as far as I could see, had nothing to do with the transgression. I spoke to Hubby privately (so that OS wasn’t aware of the conflict of opinions Hubby and I had), but supported his decision since it had already been made, and he felt very strongly about not changing it. He believed strong action that showed OS the severity of his transgression was necessary. I did agree with the rationale, but might have chosen a more related form of discipline (i.e., revoked even permit-driving privileges for x-amount of time, or something along those lines).

Aside: GF was kind enough not to attend the party w/o OS.

So, that’s how Saturday, June 15th went. OS probably said something to me here and there, but I reminded him (nicely) that he’d made a choice, got caught and now had to deal with the consequences of his action.

The next morning we realized there was some emergency vehicle activity going on a few blocks from our house. Being the mind-our-own-business folks we usually are, Hubby walked down to scope out the action then texted OS and GF to come down. They took off on their skateboards.

A FIFTEEN-year-old boy had taken his mother’s SUV—she had gone to church—piled in at least three friends and lost control making a turn. He ploughed headlights first into an electrical pole. (Don’t ask how the force at the bottom toppled the top third of the pole, knocking it onto a power line and taking out the electricity to one or more houses on that street.)

OS hung out, and chatted for a while with the tow truck guy, who talked about the law-end of what this kid and his family would be dealing with in the not-so-far-future. And that kid won’t be seeing a driver’s license anytime near his 17th birthday. (He kind of seriously messed up that privilege.)

So what’s my point? Hubby and I could have ranted and raved at OS for making the impulsive choice he did. We didn’t. In agreement or not, we stood united in doling out consequences. (We are lucky. OS takes his lumps like a man (?). YS shows a much more dramatic side, but eventually does his time—often the next day, once he’s calmed down.)

I’m getting at this: LIFE stepped in and demonstrated a real-life example of what could happen when a kid takes a vehicle, especially if said kid is not terribly skilled/experienced at handling it. Sans getting preachy, we used that illustration to point out how flippin’ lucky OS was that his actions the day before cost him a party and little else.

And how crazy was it that Hubby and I stayed home and Hubby just happened to be on the same road at the same time OS had taken out his car? Coincidence? I’m not so sure…

Anyone out there with similar experiences to share? Please do! How did you handle it? Would you have grounded OS from the party? If not, what consequences might you have imposed? Did life show up with a lesson better than anyone you could have given?

Have a great day, folks,

Joanna

Could We Have Possibly Done Something Right? (Part 5)

Happy New Year and Merry Little Christmas, everyone! Welcome to 2014 and the New Year’s first post at ‘da blog.’

I’m hoping to wrap up the parenting topics we dealt with prior to the holidays coming in and taking life over, lol. One li’l Christmas 2013 memory ties in, that of the bag of coal Younger Son (YS) got attached to one of his gifts. Several years ago, he was much more difficult to deal with, so we punked him, if you will, and wrapped up some coal Older Son (OS) found somewhere outdoors.

YS was very offended that Christmas morn. Jumped up, ran away crying—very dramatic. (Okay, we weren’t trying to be so mean. Nor did we expect him to react so, lol. And yes, we felt badly.)

He handled it much better this time. “Again,” was all he said, after I called his attention to the little red bag attached to another gift.

bag of coal

That brings me to where I left off last time: dealing with me when it’s time to dole out the disciplinary stuff.

In my last post I talked about letting Older Son (a.k.a. Dawdle Boy) show up at school in his PJs. (Details on that episode here.) As a parent, sometimes the hardest thing is getting past my feelings when the kids do something that requires some kind of addressing or intervention.

Okay, I’ll admit that during those moments when a kid frustrated me ‘til no end I was happy to dole out discipline, punishment, or whatever you want to call it. I. Was. MAD. At those times, it’s easy to ground them for life, take away TV or whatever—I’m guessing underneath it all, I wanted to get even for him for putting me in a position to feel crazy as I did (and still do sometimes).

Did I mention YS is my challenge-child?

Back to our originally-scheduled next point: Follow-through. It’s the hardest part, folks. Once I calmed down, I had to get past feeling badly that my cherub now has to deal with being punished or disciplined.

(BTW, this isn’t even beginning to touch on the host of sentiments a parent deals with when kids are whining, negotiating, screaming “I hate you!” and all that other fun stuff they dole out when  doing their time, if you will. That stuff, you tune out in any way, shape or form you can—assuming no one will be physically hurt by any of the behaviors going on.

One more thing: if you can’t calm that child–or yourself–down enough to get them to time out or whatever other consequence you imposed–wait. Impose it later, when things have cooled down. It really works.)

Back to feeling badly. That is my problem. Real life demands I deal with the consequences of my actions. The same is true for EVERYONE around me—no exceptions.

When I take a step back and let my kid off the hook I erase a vital opportunity for him to learn that for every action there is (typically) a reaction.

A (quick-Ha!) illustration:

YS was about 8 years old. Hubby and I went out and Nonna (a.k.a Grandma) babysat. As soon as we got back OS was at the door informing us that YS had physically pushed his grandmother when she told him once and for all video game time was up for the night.

Nonna gave OS a look, then admitted she would have kept quiet about the episode. She felt badly about YS “getting in trouble.” (Of course OS, the informant, had no problem insuring li’l bro suffered the consequences. ;))

Now I know grandparents tend to have soft places in their hearts for the grandkids—and y’all know I would never have gotten away with behavior like that.

So, YS had to apologize to Nonna on the spot. Next his video games went away for the following three weeks. (Nonna objected—again, she felt badly—but that’s the fun part of being the parent. My word now carries the weight, lol. And guess what: dealing with feeling badly was Nonna’s problem, not mine or YS’s.)

Was YS a ‘bad’ kid? No, just impulsive—very typical of kids, and of boys in particular. Although not formally diagnosed to date, my inner occupational therapist senses YS has a bit of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) going on; decreased impulse control is typically an issue with that crowd.

To wrap up that incident: YS spent the subsequent three weeks ticking off the days on the calendar. Chances are he whined and begged a bit—or more. (Kids do that! ;)) And yep, at times hubby and I felt badly (there’s that phrase again) but we didn’t give in.

Guess what: YS never pushed his grandmother again either. Plus, he learned hubby and I meant business.

(In case you missed them, links to the posts preceding this one are included in Part 4.)

What about you? How do you handle situations such as these? Do you follow through or fold? One more bigger illustration next time and then I should be done.

Have a great day and week, everyone. If you feel inclined, please SHARE. 🙂

Thanks,

Joanna