Archive for August, 2010

Creamy potato salad is standard food fare for outdoor summer gatherings, but after consuming it, possibly the only thing gathering in your body is cholesterol. Here’s a potato salad recipe that is low in cholesterol and is easy to make. Plus, it uses sweet potatoes, which are packed with vitamins A and C, and contain almost twice as much dietary fiber than their more common counterparts – white potatoes. Utilizing the clean flavor of grapeseed oil and the fresh flavor of oranges, this sweet potato salad is bright in flavor and light in cholesterol. You won’t miss the mayonnaise, sour cream, and eggs!

Sweet Potato Salad
A Martha Stewart Recipe

* 4 medium sweet potatoes (3 pounds), peeled and cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces (8 cups)
* 3 tablespoons rice-wine vinegar
* 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
* 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
* 1 scallion, trimmed, thinly sliced diagonally
* Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
* 1/4 cup safflower or grapeseed oil
* 1/2 scallion (dark-green part only), thinly sliced diagonally for garnish

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add sweet potatoes, and return to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain.
2. Whisk vinegar, orange zest and juice, 1 scallion, and 1 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until emulsified. Season with pepper. Toss dressing with sweet potatoes in a large bowl, and garnish with remaining 1/2 scallion. Refrigerate until chilled, up to 1 day.

Serves 4.

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I was telling a friend that I should be a cast member on the hit television series Glee. Not because I can sing, because I can’t, but because songs are always playing in my head. Not just the latest catchy tunes, but songs that describe how I’m feeling at the moment. Like this morning the Mamas and the Papa’s song Monday, Monday was playing in my head as I sat down at the computer. Except in my head it went like this, “Friday, Friday, so good to me . . . .” Don’t you think that sounds better than the original? Who doesn’t prefer Fridays over Mondays?

#1 – Thought-Provoking Questions
Here’s a beautiful photo series with thought-provoking questions for all of us to ponder. Which ones hit home with you?

#2 – Food Dyes
Here’s another thought provoking question. Are food dyes safe and if not, why are they still allowed to be put in our food? I’ve mentioned before that one of my favorite monthly reads is the Nutrition Action Health Letter published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. This month’s featured article is titled, Color Us Worried which questions the continued use of food dyes in America and their related health risks. To read the report Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks and to look over a 1,300 dyed foods list, click here.

#3 – Signs of Dehydration
In another health education newsletter that I received from my community hospital, there was an article about dehydration. Since thermometers in my neighborhood hit triple digits this week, I thought it might be a good idea to refresh everyone’s memory on the signs of dehydration. Initial signs of dehydration are obvious – increased thirst and decreased urine output, but if dehydration continues these additional symptoms may occur, but are not limited to:

Lack of perspiration
Increased body temperature
Nausea, vomiting and chills
Dry mouth
Eyes stop producing tears
Muscle cramps
Heart palpitations
Becoming lightheaded
Loss of appetite
Dry skin
Skin flushing

Obviously, a doctor should be called if you have any questions or concerns about any of these symptoms or if you suspect dehydration is a possibility.

Athletes, please remember to hydrate adequately during hot weather. Dr. Gerry Lee, a family practitioner interviewed in the article, recommends that if you must exercise in hot weather you should, “Drink two to four glasses of water or sports drink per hour during activity.”

#4 – 100 Ways to Live a Better Life
I accidentally found this site and so enjoyed reading the author’s list of 100 Ways to Live a Better Life. Many entries on the list are things that I am personally working on to improve myself. Maybe we need to print this list up and reread it every morning as a reminder of the potential we all hold and the promise that each new day brings.

#5 – Bird Songs
“A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.”
Chinese Proverb

“Use the talents you possess – for the woods would be a very silent place if no birds sang except for the best.”
Henry Van Dyke

“If I keep a green bough in my heart, then the singing bird will come.”
Chinese Proverb

Take time to listen to the birds sing this weekend. Have a good one!

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Here’s another quick summertime dish that’s a wonderful accompaniment to grilled meats or is perfect by itself for lunch. It’s a pasta salad that involves only a few steps to make, is full of flavor, tastes better the next day, makes use of sweet summer produce, and is great to take to potlucks or picnics. What more could anyone want? It’s been almost thirty years since I clipped this recipe out of a small town, local newspaper, but it has stood the test of time. I’m asked for this recipe just as frequently now as I was when I first started preparing it!

Spaghetti Salad
Adapted by Linnell

1 pound package spaghetti
8 oz. Wishbone Italian Dressing
McCormick’s Salad Supreme
1 package Good Seasons Italian Dressing
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1/4 red onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/2 orange or yellow pepper, diced
2-3 oz. black olives, sliced

1.  Sprinkle 1/4 package of Good Seasons Italian dressing mix into the bottle of Wishbone dressing and shake to mix. Let sit. Seal the remainder of the package for use at another time.

2.  Cook the spaghetti noodles until al dente. Do not overcook. Drain, rinse, and drain again. Pour on the salad dressing while the noodles are still warm. Toss.

3. Add tomatoes, onion, peppers, and olives. Toss. Sprinkle 1/3 jar (or to taste) Salad Supreme and toss again. Chill until serving.

Note: I’ve found this recipe to be adaptable and forgiving. It’s difficult to botch it up and almost anything can be added to it. For variety, I’ve added a combination of the following ingredients to create an antipasto-type salad: quartered artichoke hearts (marinated or packed in water), diced pepperoncini, sliced mushrooms, and salami, cut into thin strips.

Hope this recipe stays in your recipe files as long as it has stayed in mine! Enjoy!

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Steve loved birds. That’s all I could think of two nights before his memorial service. As I sat in my house dealing with my own feelings of regret and wishing I could do more for his family, I came up with the idea of making birds for Steve. Bird pins to be exact. My creative mission became to make as many bird pins as I could, so that members of his family and selected friends could wear a “Bird for Steve.”

Strangely, as I crafted these pins, I felt signs of Steve’s presence. Just small silly things. Unable to stop the flow of creative juices, I stayed up late the first night working on the pins. My husband and dog had given up on me and had long gone to bed. The house was quiet and still – just the way I like it when I’m in deep, creative concentration. Out of nowhere a gust of wind swept in from a small work area window and caused a pair of paper wings to take flight. They fluttered all around before landing. One wing was easily found on the carpet; the other was never found. I searched and searched for it and finally sighed and said, “Hi Steve, thanks a lot.” The next morning as I was cutting, gluing, and painting my baby birds, a real bird outside my window raised a ruckus like I’d never heard before. It was chattering and squawking like an irate drill sergeant, which made me smile and say, “Good morning to you, too, Steve. Do you approve of my birds?” And then much later in the day when a glob of super glue was growing on my thumbnail and my back and neck were protesting, a subtle wisp of air snuck in around me and scattered all the little birds’ eyes off a piece of paper and onto the floor, while leaving the vial of beads standing on the paper still upright and intact. “Very funny, Steve!” I remarked sadly sarcastic.

Sixty-seven unique little birds were at last ready for their journey. With wings poised for flight, they all found homes on the clothing of those that loved or cared about Steve. During the service I saw some of the birds go up to the church’s lectern and in my head I envisioned Steve grinning and saying, “That’s very cool.” Just for you, Steve.

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I was born on a Friday and somehow Fridays have become my favorite day of the week. Who could resist a day whose doorway holds so much promise for the weekend ahead? Plus, writing my Friday’s Fresh Five posts are always a fun challenge. Finding those helpful (and maybe a bit quirky) tidbits of information to present to you every week keeps me on my toes and nourishes my brain!

#1 – Apple Flavors
Ever wonder which apple varieties are sweet and which are tart and which ones can be baked with, but not cooked with? Print up this chart and post it in your pantry for quick reference.

#2 – Mosquitoes
Sitting outdoors and enjoying summer evening activities can often be ruined by nasty mosquitoes. Looking for a non-DEET repellent, I found a couple of posts that recommended using vitamin B1 or Thiamine as a mosquito repellent. It seems that after ingesting vitamin B1, it is excreted in your sweat which the mosquitoes find repelling. I guess plain old sweat isn’t repelling enough! I haven’t tried this, yet, so I can’t say if it works for sure and if you’re concerned about adding more vitamin B1 to your diet, please check with your doctor.

So that you can read about this yourself, here are a few links:

#3 – Body By Numbers
In an online article entitled 100 Very Cool Facts About the Human Body, amazing properties of our bodies are highlighted. If what the author states is true, then we should be darned impressed with ourselves! Here are a few snippets of information you probably didn’t know:

80% of the brain is water. Your brain isn’t the firm, gray mass you’ve seen on TV. Living brain tissue is a squishy, pink and jelly-like organ thanks to the loads of blood and high water content of the tissue. So the next time you’re feeling dehydrated get a drink to keep your brain hydrated.

The acid in your stomach is strong enough to dissolve razorblades. While you certainly shouldn’t test the fortitude of your stomach by eating a razorblade or any other metal object for that matter, the acids that digest the food you eat aren’t to be taken lightly. Hydrochloric acid, the type found in your stomach, is not only good at dissolving the pizza you had for dinner but can also eat through many types of metal.

By 60 years of age, 60-percent of men and 40-percent of women will snore. If you’ve ever been kept awake by a snoring loved one you know the sound can be deafening. Normal snores average around 60 decibels, the noise level of normal speech, intense snores can reach more than 80 decibels, the approximate level caused by a jackhammer breaking up concrete.

The human body is estimated to have 60,000 miles of blood vessels. To put that in perspective, the distance around the earth is about 25,000 miles, making the distance your blood vessels could travel if laid end to end more than two times around the earth.

#4 – Craftster
Reading the words on a cartoon at the top of a Craftster.org page made me laugh. Unfortunately, this particular Craftster’s phrase, “Save everything – you might need it someday,” describes one of my better known behavioral patterns! What is Craftster? The website explains, “Craftster is an online community where people share hip, off-beat, crafty diy (do it yourself) projects. The term “Craftster” means “crafty hipster” and is also meant to be an homage to the pioneer peer-to-peer sites Napster and Friendster. Check it out if you “save everything” and are looking for ways to use all of your stuff!

#5 – Gracious Living
“Awareness, attentiveness, and appreciation are the energies that light our path toward gracious living.”
~Alexandra Stoddard, Author

Hope today is the start of a wonderful weekend for you!

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A short volley darts across the net. My son starts to run towards the ball. I watch intensely as he scrambles to salvage the point in a district championship tennis match. With baited breath I wait to see if he’ll get there in time. I hear someone yell out, “Get it, Kevie!” Oops! That someone was me! I thought I had my emotions under check, but the words just kind of popped out of my mouth. To put this incident into proper perspective, “Kevie,” the youngster in this photo, is now in his mid-twenties and likes to be called Kevin these days! The point I described above was played just last week. I guess not much has changed – it’s just as hard watching my kids play sports now as it was when they were young.

I thought I’d learned my lesson to “zip my lips” during sports activities when my second child started playing soccer at age five. Because he was stocky and strong, the coach assigned him to the position of goalie. Playing this position was not fun for my son because it involved long periods of time just standing around when the ball was at the other end of the field. And in my case, this was not a fun position for me to watch my child play either. Anxiously, I would keep an eye on him, the lone figure standing in front of a huge goal, trying to fend off a bunch of charging offensive players. Sometimes when the ball came down the field towards him, I would yell out, “Watch out!” or “Get it!” or “Here it comes – be ready!” Then after one particular match, he came off the field crying. Alarmingly, I said, “What’s wrong?” He sobbed, “Mom, why are you yelling at me?” I didn’t think I was yelling at him as much as I was yelling precautions to him. Lesson learned either way. No more calling out from the sidelines and if anything escaped from my mouth it was only positive reinforcement.

Three children and three sports amounted to a lot of sideline sitting. Even though, I don’t play tennis, I always tried to give them a pep talk and remind them of certain strategies before they entered the court for a match. If people asked if I played tennis, I always answered, “No, but I learned the game through osmosis.”  Watching over a decade of lessons, three times over, I was bound to pick up a thing or two.

Moms are their children’s cheerleaders in life. We dream their dreams with them. We live vicariously through them. This cheerleading doesn’t automatically stop when a child turns a certain age. Whatever the endeavor and whatever the age of the child, you can bet there’s probably a mom in the background somewhere silently, or in my case not so silently, rooting for her child. Just ask my mom.

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Take butter and sugar and add chocolate and nuts. Mmm . . . have I aroused your sweet tooth and gotten your attention, yet? Although there are innumerable variations of toffee, the four ingredients just mentioned are pretty much it for toffee purists. But by adding two more ingredients to the mix, you can transform toffee candy into delicious toffee bars. This recipe produces a toffee bar that falls somewhere between a candy and a cookie. I much prefer the the crunch of these toffee bars over the cake-like texture of blonde brownies or the sweet snap of toffee candy.

I received this recipe over thirty years ago from one of my sister’s college roommates. Since then it has become one of my go-to recipes for bake sales and potlucks. My husband likes crumbling these toffee bars over a scoop of vanilla ice cream for an indulgent dessert. Enjoy!

Toffee Bars
1 cup butter or margarine
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups sifted flour
1 C chopped walnuts
1 – 6 ounce package of semi-sweet chocolate chips (I mix semi-sweet and bittersweet chocolate chips together)

1. Thoroughly cream together butter, sugar, and vanilla.
2. Add flour slowly and mix well.
3. Stir in chocolate and walnuts.
4. Press mixture into an ungreased 9″ by 13″ pan. The layer of dough will be thin.
5. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
6. Cut into squares while warm and still in pan. Cool before serving.

Makes 5 dozen.

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Originally the words embedded in the wall struck me as being cute, but after a little more consideration, I thought they were perfect. I spotted this sign in the village of Oia in Santorini, Greece – a no hurry and no worries destination. In Oia it’s okay to be slow and to rest. How many restaurants in America boast slow food? My guess is not very many, but maybe that’s what our country needs to return to – savoring our food and enjoying the company of others.

#1 – Slow Food and Eco-Gastronomy
Coincidentally, I found an organization online called Slow Food that has a snail as its logo. Read Slow Food’s philosophy below and if you want to find out more about the organization, click on the link above.

We believe that everyone has a fundamental right to pleasure and consequently the responsibility to protect the heritage of food, tradition and culture that make this pleasure possible. Our movement is founded upon this concept of eco-gastronomy – a recognition of the strong connections between plate and planet.

Slow Food is good, clean and fair food. We believe that the food we eat should taste good; that it should be produced in a clean way that does not harm the environment, animal welfare or our health; and that food producers should receive fair compensation for their work.

#2 – Slow Dancing
Do you remember the song you danced your first dance to as a married couple? Looking for a perfect song to slow dance to at your daughter’s wedding? Here’s a link to a D.J.’s list of his most popular and most requested slow dance songs. Is your favorite slow dance song on his list?

#3 – Slow Cooking
Most of us own slow cookers and enjoy the convenience of this type of food preparation. To remind everyone of food safety tips when using a slow cooker, here’s the link to the USDA’s article on slow cookers and food safety.

#4 – Slow Brain?
Is your brain a little sluggish these days? Sharpen them up with some brain games! I’ve posted links to sites with brain games before and here’s another one I just discovered.

#5 – Slow Down
“Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.”
Eddie Cantor

Enjoy a slow weekend!

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Endless miles of ochre-colored mountains speckled with tufts of arid vegetation line the interstate and provide the only interesting bits of scenery outside the car window. As I gaze at the slopes in search of signs of life, I half-heartedly listen to the blood-and-guts detective thriller playing in the background. My husband and I are wearily making the long haul back home. The four letter word “haul” is such a small word for such an exhausting accomplishment and it barely describes what we had been through over the last 72 hours.

Our daughter moved again. This time, though, her plans involved moving into an unfurnished apartment which when translated into consumer-talk means “IKEA” and when translated into parent-talk means truck. Murphy’s Law dictates that when you reserve a ten-foot truck, you are given a 16-footer, with the extra 6 feet for free, of course. Our nightmares of negotiating a behemoth throughout heavily-trafficked urban streets would soon become a reality.

Flying her home so she could sort out her belongings, unceremoniously dumped on the garage floor prior to her departure to Greece eight months ago, seemed like a good idea. With only four days in which to do all of this, I transformed into a drill sergeant whose words “pick” (through) and “pack” resounded throughout the house. “Sorry, no time to visit with friends,” I reprimanded her – although how could I not let her? After sorting through box after box, we had finally consolidated enough stuff to fill the truck.

With my husband and I enjoying the bone-rattling, earsplitting ride of the truck, my daughter and a friend turned our comfortable sedan into a karaoke fest. “Since you two are driving so slow, is it okay if we drive on ahead and meet you there?” my daughter asks. “Why not” my kind husband says while I’m thinking to myself, “Wait, if we have to crawl along, the least they can do is keep us company!”

As night fell we arrived at the first of many destinations. The objective here – to pick up more cast-off furniture from brother number one. We hit the road again and soon arrived in her college town. She and her friend went happily to a friend’s place to stay the night while my husband and I tried to fit our unruly vehicle into our motel’s dinky parking lot.

Bright and early the next day we met our daughter at her new digs. Noting that her apartment was on the second story, my husband and I heaved a sigh and began to unload the truck. Before we could give our muscles a rest, we were off with the truck to help her roommates move. If I’ve learned anything in the last decade of moving kids, it’s having a tool kit or a truck makes you very popular.

Although spending hours in Ikea is not my idea of fun, I have to admit I enjoyed watching my daughter and her roommates excitedly select furniture for their new place. Plans for their post-college futures brightened their faces and peppered their conversations. Any trip to Ikea for our family is always followed by a marathon assembly and pizza party and this time was no exception. The somewhat shabby apartment began to look like a home.

Our last day with her was filled with visits to rental offices, banks, and the bookstore. Soon it was time to leave for the long car trip home. I’m sure many parents can relate to this story and as much as I grouse about the hassles of moving my children, I don’t think I would want it any other way. For as long as I can, I want to be there for them during these times of transition. I enjoy helping them get settled and it’s reassuring to me to see that they are in clean, safe places. I’m a mom – I’m used to being a work horse. Making order out of chaos is my specialty.

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” Smash it! Smash it! Smash it!!” the crowd chanted. Goaded on by his peers the bridegroom smashes a piece of wedding cake into his young bride’s face and then ducks to miss her intended aim. What you don’t see is the next frame in which the angry young bride (angry that he had the nerve to duck) grabs another handful of cake from the bottom-most tier and firmly plants it on his face. Turnabout is fair play after all, right? And thus our marriage began. Amazingly, we celebrate our 33rd year of marriage today and through the years we’ve learned the art of compromise and diplomacy, and that there’s no ducking when the cake flies!!

#1 – Two Foods
The Two Foods site offers food nutrition comparisons. In one space type in a food item and in the other space type in the other food item you want to compare it with. The site will give you the calorie, carbohydrate, fat and protein breakdown of both foods.

#2 – Running the Numbers
Okay, here’s my seemingly weekly link to a photo series. Had to pass this one along because it depicts the huge environmental impact of our “throw away” society.

#3 – Color Scheme in a Snap
In my Friday’s Fresh Five post dated 10/23/09 I wrote an entry called Simple Color Theory about determining complementary colors based on primary colors. My son, the artist, told me that this site makes a snap out of determining color schemes for projects and has almost infinite possibilities. Well maybe not infinite, but close to it!

#4 – Making Cut Flowers Last Longer
A. Cut garden flowers early in the morning, avoiding the heat of the day.
B. Remove all the leaves from the part of the stem that will be submerged under water.
C. It is better to cut the stems under water. Cut at a 45 degree angle with sharp pruners/scissors.
D. Change the water everyday to keep the bacteria level low.
E. Adding a teaspoon of sugar to the water will help refresh the flowers. Some use a crushed aspirin instead of sugar.
F. Avoid placing the flowers in direct sunlight and or in drafts.
G. At night store them in the refrigerator or in the coolest room of the house.

#5 – Soul Mates
“A soul mate marriage does not at all mean that you have found someone
you match up with on all the cards – on all the issues, on everything. That
would be the most deadly dull thing to even imagine. Instead, it means you’re
with someone who wants to take care of your soul – they want to make sure
your soul continues to grow, they don’t ever want to blow out that little light
inside you. And you feel the same way about them.”
Diane Sollee, NPR, The Real Life Survival Guide

All’s well that ends well . . .

Celebrate your weekend!

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