Thursday, June 12, 2014

Quinoa and Tofu One-Pan dinner

So - no excuses - just haven't been here in a while. But - I have a recipe request, and this is the best place for me to share it. This is one of my original recipes, though I'm sure you can find similar ones elsewhere on the internet. This one is customized for my families preference. So - here goes:

Quinoa and Tofu One-Pan dinner

3 T coconut oil or olive oil (most recipes call for 2 T, but that is never quite enough for me when I'm cooking)
2 cloves garlic, chopped or put through a garlic press
1 med/lg onion, chopped
1 lb firm tofu, drained and cubed
2 C Quinoa (if you don't buy clean quinoa, make sure you clean it before using. The brand I buy comes already cleaned)
1 whole tomato, chopped
1 T curry powder
1 t ground coriander
1/2 t cumin
1/4 t garlic powder or granulated garlic
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
4 C chicken broth or water, or a combination of the 2 (I used 3 cups home-made chicken broth and 1 cup water)
2 C fresh spinach, stems removed and chopped

Using medium high heat and an extra deep 12-inch frying pan, heat the oil and saute the garlic and onion until the onion turns translucent. Add the tofu and seasonings. Continue frying until the tofu just starts to turn brown. Add the quinoa, broth, and tomato. When the broth starts to bubble, turn the heat under the pan down to medium low and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the spinach, and simmer 5 minutes more. Serve! This recipe lends itself to all sorts of variations, especially changing the seasonings. If you're not a fan of curry, but like italian, use oregano and sweet basil in place of the curry powder, coriander, and cumin. If Mexican is more your style, leave out the curry powder and coriander. Increase the cumin to 1 teaspoon and add a quarter teaspoon chili powder. At the end of the cooking time, stir in 1/2 to 1 cup of chopped cilantro and 1 tablespoon of lime juice. Have fun coming up with your own combinations. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

I'll be right back...after these messages!

So, again, it has been a little while - however - this is because I have been preparing for a short-term missions trip to Guatemala. In fact, I leave with a team to go and work in an orphanage in 17 days! I very excited about it - if you can't tell! In the mean-time - I have started a separate blog to document the adventures of my trip. You can follow it here. For the next month, that's where you will need to go to find out what's happening - but don't get the idea that I won't be back here after that. I definitely will, and especially because I will have an important review when I come back. If you have read Shauna Neiquists books Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet, then you have probably been waiting like I have - with baited breath - for the releast of her new book, Bread and Wine. Well, it will be available on April 9th, but having been chosen as to receive an advance copy, I already have mine, and when I come back here it will be to tell you about it! I can hardly wait! In the meantime - ciao, arrivederci, until I come back from Guatemala!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


It's been a bit since I last posted. I'd like to say it was with good reason, but I'm not so sure. I do know that I've been busy - new activities, holidays, a couple of bouts with illness, extra doctor appointments I hadn't planned on - but it seems to me that busyness should not always be equated with occupying well. A famous quote of Vince Lombardi's about priorities goes "God first, Family second, the Green Bay Packers third." This is a great way to express it, but I think it might over-simplify a tad. For instance - which of these categories would you use for exercise? Taking care of your health? Watching TV? I think perhaps the answer lies in looking at the motivation for each. If you don't get enough exercise and eat properly - you won't be healthy. Scripture clearly states that our bodies are the temple of the holy spirit - so that is motivation however, if on the other hand you qualify as an endorphin junky, then maybe the important thing to look at is how balanced your life is. Too much time spent exercising can take away from other activities - time with family, ministry, paying bills - you get the picture. What about watching TV? Sometimes we feel like there's nothing fit to watch, and maybe TV is a BIG time-waster. I'm not saying that isn't true - I think we all have moments when it is - but what about the person who can't go from being active to going to bed and falling right to sleep? For some of us, a good night's sleep depends on taking some down time to relax and clear our heads before hitting the hay. There are other things that can distract us from following the path of living a disciplined life that lines up with Gods call on our life. The important thing is to be conscious of what we're doing, and stop and evaluate occasionally - not just stay on auto-pilot and assume you're on the right track. And - by all means - spend time praying about what God has for you! Still not sure if I've been getting it right, but still wanting to - and am very excited to announce that I will be doing a review in a few short weeks of Shauna Niequist's "Bread and Wine". You can follow her blog here.

P.S. I'll get back to the food blogging in a few days. Tried out a new recipe tonight that I'm eager to share!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Playing in the Kitchen

This weekend has been extremely relaxed at our house, and what a blessing that has been. I have had some time to engage in pursuits that I find enjoyable, including cooking. Saturday morning we took off as we usually do if we are in town to the Dane County Farmers Market, and picked up some fresh vegetables. As soon as we were home from the market, I started making a batch of pesto. I was so excited about it, that I went looking for a recipe to use it in, and in searching through my Moosewood Cookbook I came across a recipe for "Trenette al Pesto". It was out of the norm for the type of dish I gravitate toward cooking, so I felt challenged to make it. Here's what it looked like:

Trenette al Pesto
 I actually used the recipe as more of a guide. I included all of the ingredients listed, but changed the quantities to suit my preferences. I also cooked the potatoes and green beans a bit longer than the recipe stated. If you want to try it, here's my recipe:

Trenette al Pesto

1 1/2 lbs potatoes ( I used small new potatoes that I cut in half)
1/2 lb fresh green beans
1/2 lb spaghetti noodles, broken into short segments
1/2 C pesto (use your favorite recipe)

Boil the potatoes in enough water to cover. Add 1/4 t. salt to the water.  After 10 minutes, add the green beans.  Ten minutes later, add the pasta. Cook for 10 more minutes (for a total of 30 minutes). Remove the potatoes, green beans, and pasta from the cooking water. Reserve the cooking water. Add about one cup of the cooking water to the pesto. Add the pesto/cooking water combination to the potatoes, green beans, and pasta and stir to coat. The combination of pesto and cooking water is supposed to thoroughly moisten the potatoes, green beans, and pasta, but not make it soupy. If needed, add more of the cooking water to achieve desired result. The combination of potatoes and pasta was unusual to me, but the end result was delicious! The recipe said it made six servings, but it qualified as pig-out food at my house!

One thing I enjoy about Sunday mornings in August is that we don't have Sunday School at our church. While I love Sunday School, and especially teaching my class of 3rd through 6th graders, it is also nice to have one month of more leisurely Sunday mornings. This particular Sunday I took advantage of the opportunity to experiment with an idea I had for a frittata. Here is the end result, along with the recipe if you would like to try it.

Summer Vegetable Frittata

Summer Vegetable Frittata

2 T Olive Oil
1/4 C chopped onion
1/2 large tomato, diced
8 zucchini rounds from a medium-sized zucchini
Salt, pepper, dried basil, and granulated garlic to taste
7 eggs
3 drops worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons water
1/2 C grated chedder cheese

Preheat oven to 400°. Using a 10 1/2 inch cast iron frying pan or any non-stick frying pan that can go from the stove top to the oven, begin sauteing onion. Add diced tomatoes and seasonings. Add zucchini rounds, evenly spacing them over tomato and onions. Season lightly a second time, but do NOT stir. Cover and simmer while whisking the eggs, water, salt and pepper and worcestershire sauce. When zucchini begins to turn translucent, pour egg mixture over vegetables. Tilt pan slightly to distribute eggs but - and this is VERY important - DO NOT STIR! Cover and cook for about 2 minutes to set the eggs on the bottom. Remove cover, top with grated cheese, and move pan to preheated oven. Bake for 5 - 10 minutes, until cheese is melted and eggs are no longer glossy. Cut into pie-shaped wedges and serve. Entire cooking time is about 30 minutes. Serves 6. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My "12 Things" List for Newlyweds

It seems to be fairly common these days to run across lists of "10 Things" or, if you are on Facebook, it might be "100 Things". They are usually fun, sometimes light-hearted, and occasionally poignant. Once in awhile, they go viral like Kate Connors "Ten Things I Want to Tell Teenage Girls", which was excellent, by the way.

In the course of my life, social events have tended to come in seasons. One year it will be graduations. Another, weddings. This past year has been one of weddings. I have had the opportunity to witness the beginning of five marriages within the past year, and it has had me thinking about what sort of advice I would give to newlyweds, based on my 33 years of experience of married life. Once I started making a list, it easily came up to twelve things. I expect someone else has had a similar idea and posted it somewhere, but I intentionally did not research it, as I wanted this post to be reflective of my experience. Some of these have a biblical basis, as I think that is important, and others are just what I've learned over time. So here are my

Twelve Recommendations for Newlyweds:

1. Be each other's family. Once you say your vows, you become each other's immediate family. What was your immediate family is now your extended family. Put each other first.
2. Be stubborn. By this, I don't mean stick to your guns in an argument. That can be pointless. What I mean is that you should be stubborn about making your marriage a success. Don't give up easily. There are many reasons why couples throw in the towel. I would encourage you not to give up when one of those things comes into play in your marriage. You will be a better person for having made your marriage work.
3. Build routines together. Routine home maintenance and cleaning is not always fun, especially if we come to it with the wrong attitude. I would encourage you early on to establish good habits for keeping things tidy. If you don't know how to do that, visit the Flylady or Totally Together. They both have some good recommendations.
4. Let your love "grow-up". Typically, relationships that lead to marriage start with romance - that sensation of being "in love." Now don't get me wrong, romance is a good thing, and well worth the effort to keep alive in a marriage, but being "in love" is different than "loving". Loving is what you choose to do when you discover that she doesn't know how to put the cap back on the tube of toothpaste, or when it becomes apparent that he forgets where the laundry hamper is when he takes off his dirty socks. It's a conscious choice, and you know your love is growing up when you choose to love despite the circumstance you find yourself in.
5. Don't go to bed angry. This is biblical - Ephesians 4:26 states "In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry." This can be difficult, especially if you are one, like me, whose anger tends to escalate easily and reverse slowly, but it's worth having a good nights sleep and not waking up grumpy and with things yet to be addressed to take care of your issues as they come up. I would also add a caveat to that - keep short accounts. Don't dig up the past when you argue - stick to the issue at hand.
6. Be each others biggest fan. I don't mean be joined at the hip, or even to do everything together. I mean cheer each other on. My husband has always enjoyed photography. I've never been particularly good at it, but I love the work he does, and I let him know that I'm proud of him and praise his work. He reciprocates with my hobbies that he doesn't actively participate in.
7. Support and defend each other. Do not let anyone else speak ill of your spouse in your presence. Sometimes it is hard enough to keep up a good attitude within the framework of marriage. Do not let anyone else add fuel to the flames of a bad attitude.
8. Keep disagreements private. Don't argue for all of the world to see, and especially not in front of any children you may have. This may seem unpleasant, but this includes supporting your spouse in front of others even if you disagree with him or her. Get behind closed doors before you vent.
9. Be ready to give 100 percent to the success of your marriage. You may have heard that marriage is a 50/50 deal. Not so. If you are not willing to give 100 percent, how will you face the situation when your spouse has nothing to give? One of the vows my husband and I repeated at our marriage ceremony included "in sickness and in health". When the time came that I was sick for two years, my husband picked up the slack. I had little to give, so he covered for us both.
10. Make memories together. Remember all those special times you spent together while you were engaged? That should not end. Keep doing the things you enjoy together.
11. Cultivate your relationship. Keep talking to each other. Stay connected. When the children grow-up, you still want to know each other and have memories together.
12. Be a student of your spouse. Get to know their likes and dislikes. There are many stereotypes of men and of women, but stereotypes are meant to be broken. Find out what is specific to your spouse, and have some empathy for them. You would want them to do the same for you.

I am sure this is not an exhaustive list, nor is it a list of ways to fix your spouse, but hopefully it contains a few kernals of wisdom that you will find useful if you happen to be newly married. And, if you are a newlywed, my hope for you is a long and happy marriage!

What have you found to be important in your marriage? Leave me a comment and tell me about it!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Few Hidden Gems in Wisconsin

So, it's been a little while since my last post. I beg your forgiveness for that. I've been in the field doing research, including a camping trip, so I'd have things to tell you about. [insert big grin, here]. Be warned - this may be a bit longer post than usual. Hopefully you will find these things interesting enough to cut me some slack.

One thing I love about living in Wisconsin - and it may be true of other places, as well, but Wisconsin is what I can tell you about from experience, is that any time you get in your car and go for a drive - and it doesn't have to be very far, you will find something interesting that is worth stopping to investigate. On a recent short trip out to Verona I made a stop at Millers and Sons Supermarket. If you haven't been there and you're in the area, be sure to stop by. While it's easy to find a grocery store in most places in Wisconsin, Miller's is it's own kind of grocery store. It's a local small business, though the store is spacious and offers a good variety of choices. The produce is always fresh and looks beautiful. They also have an in-store deli with a nice selection, and their cuts of meat are mouth-wateringly fresh and ready for the grill. The day I was there, I needed a card for a shower, and was pleasantly surprised that one small corner of the store has not only cards, but some cute crafty-type gifts if that is what you're in the market for. My final stop at Millers was at the Faygo machine on my way back to my car. Anyone who knows me knows I don't drink much soda. Frequently when I go out to eat water will be my drink of choice but, occasionally, a locally made soda tastes really good, and Faygo makes good soda. The red pop I had that day was a real thirst quencher!

Timbers Bar & Grill, Black Creek, WI

On our recent trip up to Boulder Lake, one thing I didn't tell you about was the place we stopped at for lunch on our way home. You won't find Timbers Bar and Grill in Black Creek on Tripadvisor if you're looking for place to eat, but you should still stop. They have reasonably priced bar food that is served fresh and hot. It happened to be a Sunday when we were there, and they had the Sunday lunch buffet set-up, but that didn't appeal to any in my crowd. I had the cod sandwich, and it was excellent. Norm had one of the wraps, and raved that was good. I tried a bite, and could see why. The sauce they use is light and has a really nice tang to it. Definitely worth a stop if you're up that way!

Ledge County Park - Dodge County, WI

Campsite "J" - Ledge County Park

When people camp in Wisconsin, there are many choices, most notably the beautifully maintained State Parks that dot the state, as well as many private campgrounds that typically offer more amenities. One thing that should not be discounted though, is the county campgrounds. One that is located a short drive from Madison is Ledge County Park in Dodge County. The campsites are generally roomy, and the trees help to offer a modicum of privacy. We camped from a Thursday to a Saturday, and there were only about 5 other campsites that were occupied. They have good hardwood for sale at a reasonable price if you want to have a campfire. We were also able to collect some downed dead wood to keep our fire going, which was really appreciated as the first of the cool nights hit when we were camping.

Wine bottle holder at Bugsy's Best

The cheese case at Bugsy's Best

Wisconsin has some great names for it's towns, often with native american roots. You've heard of Waunakee? It's the only one in the world, you know. Or Oconomowoc? I've heard television announcers stumble over that one. How about Kekoskee? If you haven't heard of Kekoskee before, well, now you have. And if you happen to go to Kekoskee, be sure to stop at Bugsy's Best. They carry many Wisconsin-made products to whet your appetite, and when it's as hot as it has been recently, an ice cream cone really hits the spot. I had blueberry cheesecake ice cream in a waffle cone - stupendously awesome! They also carry Wisconsin-made cheese, and a variety of other eclectic choices. Check out the picture with the home-made wine bottle holder. I just have to figure out where I'd put it if I got one of those. The building that houses Bugsy's has been in the Lechner family for some time, and has been used for other purposes, so there is a pictorial history in the building, as well as an old water wheel that you can see through the glass casing. It's a very cool place to stop! 
Beef sticks and cheese curds -
how much more "Wisconsin" can you get?

And that's all for now. Hope you're having a great summer. Leave a comment and tell me about some place unique or special that you've visited this summer.

No compensation was received for these endorsements. These are given because I visited these places and thought them worth writing about.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day!

So, what does Independence Day make you think of? For me, because of the military history of my family, it is deeply personal. I know the sacrifices we have made as a family because of time family members have given. No, our family didn't lose anyone in a conflict, but we certainly know families who have. And then, on a smaller scale, there are the birthday and Christmas celebrations we didn't get to share with loved ones. The relationships we would have liked to cultivate that didn't happen. It's for this reason that I stand and put my hand over my heart when I hear the Star Spangled banner or see the flag flying at a parade. It seems a small thing, to give a moment to remember the cost of the freedoms we enjoy. God bless you if you've given time to serve our country!

And then, of course, there is the food! I've been developing a recipe for baked potato salad, and this last week I finally documented the ingredients. Here's something a little different from the standard potato salad. Give it a try, if you like:

Baked Potato Salad
Baked Potato Salad
2 C. sour cream
1 C. mayonnaise
1 T. horseradish
1 T. brown mustard
1/2 C. milk
1 t. sea salt
1/2 t. granulated garlic (or garlic powder)
1 T. dill weed
fresh ground pepper to taste
1/2 lb bacon, fried until crisp
3 green onions, whites and greens, sliced finely
3/4 C. celery, finely diced
5 lbs potatoes, baked and cooled (I used russets, but red potatoes work well, too)

Mix the first 9 ingredients in the bottom of a bowl that is large enough to mix the entire salad in until thoroughly blended. This helps the flavors to begin blending while you're peeling and dicing the potatoes, and ensures that when you're mixing the salad the dressing gets all the way to the bottom of the bowl. Snip or crumble the bacon into fine pieces. Add bacon, celery, and onion. Stir just to mix. Peel the potatoes and dice as fine as you can stand. The finer you cut them up, the better the dressing will flavor the potatoes, but I can't always stand to cut them too finely just because it takes time.  If you're using red potatoes, leave the skin on. This shortens the work time and adds color to the salad. Sometimes we eat this right after I make it, but it's really better if you have time to refrigerate it for a few hours or overnight. The flavors meld and it becomes comfort food of the first order.

Corn Tomato Salsa
What to do if you serve corn on the cob one night, and have a few cobs left that didn't get eaten? How about this:

Tomato Corn Salsa
1 large tomato, diced finely
2 -3  cobs of corn, remove corn from cob
1/2 t. sea salt
3 T Cilantro, snipped
Granulated garlic, cumin, chili powder, and black pepper to taste.

Stir well and enjoy!

And then, of course, there is the standard summer holiday fare that includes brats. We couldn't live in Wisconsin and not enjoy brats on occasion. Since we had something else in mind for today, we had our brats last night. Doesn't this look good?

Brat and grilled veggies
The brat is a tomato basil brat that I got at Aldi's for a reasonable price. The zucchini and potatoes were sliced thin and coated with olive oil, then cooked on a foil pan on the grill. The zucchini is seasoned with sea salt, fresh ground pepper, dried parsley and basil. The potatoes are seasoned with sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and a few sprinkles of vinegar.

Verdict: all of it was really good. Only thing to improve was that the potatoes could have used a bit more vinegar.

Hope this whets your appetite for that wonderful July 4th you're going to enjoy today!