“No more pencils, No more books, No more teacher’s dirty looks” ~ Alice Cooper
Well that’s the kids’ perspective, but what’s in it for us parents? A lot! First, no more getting up before the crack of dawn to make breakfast and lunch. No more limitations on food based on what can sit in a school locker for 6 hours and still be edible. No more cleaning of plastic that’s been sitting in a locker or hot car for a week.
This is my first official day of summer and I am loving every minute of it. I got to wake up at a leisurely pace, with no alarm clock. I didn’t have to rush downstairs and start the morning chores, but instead got to veg out in front of the TV and catch the local morning news. And I didn’t have to answer a bunch of questions about what I was preparing for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
And best of all, I get to prepare whatever my daughter wants (usually something healthy), without a time limit. That is, I will get to prepare it once she returns from beach week. By the way, why do the kids get beach week? Aren’t the parents more deserving?
Well it’s that time of year, graduation parties abound and this year in particular, Penny and I have been inundated with the festivities since both of our babies are celebrating high school graduations. The first of the parties began Memorial Day weekend and will go through mid-June since graduations out east are the latest in the country. Gives us more time to eat, drink and celebrate I guess. Therefore, I’ve put together some suggestions to how we have survived the grad party frenzy. Hopping from party to party is a social joy but can play havoc with your eating habits and your stomach. Although neither of us are experts (except in our own minds) here are some suggestions on how to make it through the celebrations and still feel you haven’t blown your healthy lifestyle.
- Make a plan. Penny’s rule is to limit herself to one alcoholic drink per day. So if you are attending multiple parties in one day, pace yourself. Start with water, club soda, or iced tea as refreshments especially since the heat can cause an increase in thirst leaving us with the desire to consume more liquids.
- Try to keep from constantly grazing around the food table. It’s tempting to stand around the food and talk with folks but when you do, don’t feel like you have to continue to eat or pick at the food. Grab a plate, take your time to eat the goodies while you visit with friends and then stop eating. It’s a common habit to keep eating and then lose track of how much you have consumed.
- Fill your plate with the healthy foods first. Fresh fruits, veggies and hummus; there are usually some nutritional food to choose from, so choose wisely. Heading straight to the chips, dips and cheese trays will only leave you with little room for the good stuff!
- Those luscious desserts and sweets are the things that are the hardest to pass up. I know from personal experience that I will start with a cupcake, then a delicious looking brownie plus JUST TRY a delicious looking taste of baklava all at one party. The temptation is just too great! Again my advice is to sample the dessert you want the most, then walk away from the dessert tray. And don’t start with the munching on the M&M’s because once that starts, well, forget it!
- It’s okay not to eat at every party. Recently, I found myself not hungry by the third party and so I just visited and stayed away from the food presentation. Just repeat after me, “Walk away from the food.”
Finally, remember our motto – moderation, moderation, moderation. I know I need to cut myself some slack since it is a special time of year and I want to partake in the joy of eating. But, by pacing myself and keeping the eating frenzy in check, I find I feel better and hey, isn’t that what it’s all about?
I never thought it would happen. Much to my own shock, I have become bored with cooking. Everyone I have talked to recently feels the same way. Why can’t my family just have a bowl of cereal for dinner? It’s delicious, nutritious and requires no prep time. Maybe it’s the season or the weather. I don’t really know, and I am not inclined to analyze it. I just don’t feel like cooking right now.
Given this new attitude, I need fuss-free meals I can put on the table quickly. I have a few recipes that my family likes and I serve them over and over again. With a little advanced work, I can get them on the table with less than of 15 minutes prep.
When I make cilantro pesto, I make enough for two meals. This sauce will last about a week in the refrigerator.
I usually make salad dressing once a week. It’ll last in the refrigerator for the duration and is ready whenever any of us wants a quick salad. Eggs are boiled in the morning and refrigerated until needed.
I make a big batch of pesto and freeze it in tablespoon-sized portions. One or 2 tablespoons are all you need for this dish.
Fajitas with black beans, cilantro lime rice/quinoa, fresh salsa, avocado and grilled shrimp or fish
I make the rice and black beans in the morning. Salsa is usually just some fresh chopped tomatoes, jalapeno and a little lime juice. And you can’t beat the fresh made tortillas from Whole Foods.
What are you favorite go-to meals this time of year?
Here we sit on Memorial Day, the official start of summer festivities, and we happily are welcoming in the first days of summer. Even though it is not quite June yet, Memorial Day says, “SUMMER” to me. It’s a thought that may or may not be true but nonetheless I wanted to reflect on:
The Top 10 Things That “SUMMER’S HERE!” Means to Me
10. Cookouts become part of a weekly routine
9. Fresh fruit tastes better
8. Fresh vegetables taste amazing
7. Sweet corn –YUM!
6. Impromptu happy hours on the back porch with friends
5. Flowers, oh the lovely flowers are in bloom
4. Juicy, cold watermelon
3. Fresh squeezed lemonade (occasionally spiked with vodka) becomes my official summer drink
2. Flip flops
1. And now I can wear my white clothes, shoes and purse!
Happy Memorial Day Everyone!
There seems to be a day or month to celebrate every type of food you can imagine, including salad. This works for me, I could eat salad for every meal. The trick is finding a great dressing that’s not laden with fat and calories.
Building a great salad is really easy. Here are our tips:
- First start with some fresh greens. When I was a kid, iceberg ruled the market. Today, we have access to so many great greens; peppery, bitter, mild, tender, crisp… don’t be afraid to experiment and try something new. Tip: my grandmother told me never to use a knife on salad greens, it turns the edges brown. I am not sure if this is true, but I have always followed her advice. Just tear the greens into bite-sized pieces.
- Pick your protein. You don’t have to use meat or seafood. Try beans, legumes, grains and cheese. Get creative!
- Add more produce. Fresh, grilled or roasted veggies and fruit are great additions and add lots of flavor
- I love to toss in dried fruit, nuts and seeds for texture.
- The finale – salad dressing. If you are not careful, this is where you can get into trouble. Why use store-bought when it’s so easy to make from scratch. This allows you to control the amount of fat, calories and sodium you choose to take in. A few pantry staples are all it takes to create something that tastes great and is healthy for you.
We have over 40 salads and 15 vinaigrettes for you to chose from. Or create your own wonderful concoctions. Bon appétit.
Watch out, Big Mike is juicing! Okay, I probably should explain myself here. My husband, “Big Mike”, has got a new project – making smoothies using life boosting nutrient extraction. You need to understand once Mike takes on a project, he’s in 110%! At least for about a month’s time, he will concentrate on this new endeavor until he drives everyone around him crazy. But that’s not the point. The point is, he did his homework, bought himself a “Nutri Bullet”, and is now making very healthy smoothies for the entire family. It started with his wild idea that he needed this new blender machine that extracts all the nutrition inside foods we eat, and then blends it all together including seeds, skins, and stems. This process allows this super nutrition to be absorbed by the body thus giving the body the highest possible level of nutrition.
So, as Mike learns how to make his “special smoothies”, we the family are subject to his experiments. We will be his taste testers, and reap the benefits of this health kick. But ultimately, my hope is that he becomes an expert in making tasty, super-healthy smoothies and therefore, will continue to stay on the path to good health. Blueberry Smoothie
¾ cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon flax seed
½ cup ice
Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Add extra ice, or or a little water to adjust thickness.
“The world’s favorite season is the spring. All things seem possible in May.” - Edwin Way Teale
If it were up to me, we would have 11 months of May and one month of winter (but only with snowfall). By May, I have completed my spring cleaning and it’s now time for the fun stuff; setting up the flowerpots and fresh herb garden. I am not much of a gardener, but I love the results so much that I am willing to slog through the dirty work.
I try to be prepared, but inevitably I end up making multiple trips to the garden store to complete my pots. I am still working on getting this year’s plantings completed. But when it comes to fresh herbs, that’s a no-brainer. One trip, a few minutes planting, and I am done.
I like stepping out on my deck and grabbing a few things to toss in a vinaigrette or salad. I like having easy options to change up the flavors of my old stand-by dishes. And I like adding fresh herbs to sweet breads and cakes. Not all combinations work, but the fun is in the testing.
Try adding cilantro or parsley to Banana Oatmeal Bread, thyme or lavender to Blueberry White Chocolate Tart, or mint to Orange Almond Cake.
Or, come up with your own unique combinations. Just get your planting done and start experimenting!
Let us know your favorite combinations.
The month of May is upon us. I’m readying myself for May Day – the official launch of spring. Oh, how I love May. Flowers are beginning to bloom and and the grass is it’s brightest color of green. If May were a color, I’d say it was a soft yellow. Can’t you just feel it?
So, here’s a story about my love affair with May. Having a birthday in early May was always something to look forward to as a child during those April showers. But really, the best thing was starting off the month with a May basket, made out of woven construction papers strips, filled with “flowers” of dandelions, cherry blossoms, lilacs and a few sprigs of lily of valley that I lovingly, patiently created and left for my mom on our doorstep. I think I hid every year in the same place, so my mom would come find me and give me kiss. What a wonderful tradition and one that is embedded in my memory. To this day, my daughter has carried out this tradition with me as well. It is a wonderful way to welcome in the season.
If May were a scent, it would be floral of course, probably that of lilac or lily of the valley. Clean, fragrant, but still subtle and lovely. If May were a flavor, I think it would be that of a sweet strawberry. Savoring, delicious, and lovely to taste.
May…soft yellow images, flower baskets, lilacs, lily of the valley, strawberries…what’s not to love about May?
I love vacationing with my family, but there is something quite special about traveling with the “girls”. These trips tend to be more extravagant and often involve luxury accommodations, spa treatments and decadent meals.
Whether we go to the office daily or manage the house (laundry, car pools, grocery shopping, meal planning, cooking…) we can all use a break from the constant demands for our attention. Getting away with your favorite gal pals can be a stress-reliever and therapeutic.
For the past several years, the girls in our family decided to stop exchanging birthday gifts and start putting that money toward a spa trip. Our first trip was to a luxurious local spa. We are now venturing to some beautiful properties within driving distance. These jaunts always involve a little bit of exercise, plenty of cocktails on the veranda or by the pool and multi-course meals.
We consider these trips to be a gift to our families. They get a break from us and we come back renewed, refreshed and ready to get back to the routine. Everyone wins!
This week marks the 81st Birthday of a very special woman, my mother-in-law, Patricia. “Mother”, is an amazing woman who raised nine children, 7 boys and 2 girls, grandmother to 28 and great-grandmother to 9. Being the wife of a Catholic schoolteacher, administrator and coach, she was a busy woman while the kids were growing up to say the least! I would like to take a few moments to honor her as I am in awe at how she managed to get dinner on the table every single night!
My husband Mike tells me, growing up the amount of food being consumed in that house was massive. The four oldest boys were all athletes, and to put it in perspective, my husband, is 6’5’ and over 225 lbs. I’m told they went through four gallons of milk a week, and about a loaf of bread a day. Dinner was like feeding an army, but it was always prepared and presented with love. For example, on the night of a sporting event, each boy got FOUR cheeseburgers for their “pre-game” meal! That just amazes me. Then, there were still younger children to feed, followed by clean up of dishes which back in those days, meant hand washing and drying everything down to the littlest spoon. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. When Mike and I started dating, many years ago, I was always invited to have dinner at their home with the family, an invitation I would accept because it was such a welcoming and crazy place to eat. Because he was one of the “older” kids, the dinner table usually had around ten people at it and there was always plenty of chatter and laughter in between bites. To this day, whenever we visit, the dinner table, no matter what is served, is the place where we all congregate to eat, but also discuss life, or reminisce about the past.
“Mother”, thank you for your devotion to your family, for all those home-cooked meals, and for all the love that came with it. Happy Birthday to a true “Wonderful Woman!”