Chatterbox

Smiles are Infectious

Sally Sunshine the Sunflower

It’s been a while since I posted anything lately. Not that I haven’t had anything to say. I simply find myself speechless by the state of our country these past 6 months. My fingers can type the words to express my feelings but my smiles have been few and far between.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit a joyful sunflower farm in Eastern Wisconsin. It was a very typical hot, humid and sunny day in August. I kicked the dust up with my flip flops, as I weaved my way along a maze of well worn, dirt paths through the towering sunflowers. Sharing the space with a plethora of bumble bees and small children buzzing in all directions.

I felt a bit like Alice in Wonderland, falling down a rabbit hole, escaping reality and shrinking into a more magical world of childhood innocence. I felt my soul lighten as I came upon “Sally Sunshine the Sunflower”. There was no name plaque or signage naming her. I felt it was my duty to give her a name as she stood patiently smiling down at me in the little kingdom of yellow flowers.

How infectious her smile must be to everyone, I thought to myself…

We all could benefit from seeing a few more smiles today. Such a simple, instinctive human expression a person can share or witness. But now we are encouraged to smile more with our eyes since our faces are hidden under masks. Thank goodness, my age and menopausal crows feet are developing nicely.

So, let’s all convey an infectious smile under those masks! Raise an eyebrow or two, twinkle your eyes (that is if you’re a Kris Kringle), avoid botox. Embrace your wrinkled crows feet. Hey…who knows, there might just be a new cosmetic surgery on the horizon for those who need to enhance those little corner of the eye indentations. I think I will name it “crowsfeetoplasty”. Just remember you heard it here first. (smile).

Thank you for visiting and if you like what you read or want to read and learn more? Then don’t forget to subscribe before you go. You will be notified whenever I post something new on my site. Like and share me on Facebook. Look me up on Pinterest and Instagram. You have something you would like to share with me? Drop me a comment. Remember I don’t do bad attitudes and let’s keep it PG-13. Peace.

Namaste’

MiniMagicalKitchen

Grilled Chicken Shawarma

Replace the hummus in my Middle Eastern Vegetarian Wrap recipe for a meat lovers version and you will have a wonderful smoky Grilled Chicken Shawarma Wrap that will having everyone asking for more!

Grilled Chicken Shawarma

Grilling is something as a Wisconsinite I do in my winter coat and boots. Nothing sounds and smells better than the sizzle of meat hitting the hot grill as it smokes it way to deliciousness. I love Middle Eastern food and Chicken Shawarma is one of my favorites. Chicken thighs have so much more flavor than chicken breasts and usually half the cost. Of course. if you are a dark meat hater this can be made with white meat but it is not traditionally made that way. Marinate the chicken over night and grill the next day. I have made these in the oven and using the last few minutes of cooking to a safe temperature, I broil them to get a nice and crusty brown
Course Main Course
Cuisine middle eastern
Keyword Chicken, Grilled Chicken, Chicken Shawarma, Grilled Chicken Shawarma
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
0 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Equipment

  • Grill

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pound boneless chicken thighs
  • 4 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
  • 1 medium white onion sliced thin
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp cayenne or curry powder
  • 1 tbsp garam masala or Josh Rogan Spice (Penzey's Spice)
  • 1 1/2 tsp chicken bouillon granules
  • 1/2 slice lemon juiced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper California Pepper (Penzey's Spice)

Instructions

Marinade

  • Mix all spices, oil, bouillon, lemon juice in large ziploc bag with sliced onion.
  • Clean and pat dry chicken and place in a Ziploc bag with marinade mixture and mix well to coat chicken.
  • Place sealed Ziploc bag in refrigerator for 1 hour or overnight

Heat Grill

  • Grill chicken thighs on well oiled grill grates for approximately 6-8 minutes per side or until internal temperature of thickest part of thigh reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Save Marinade with onions.
  • Optional: Bake chicken thighs in lightly oiled casserole dish at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-45 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Raise oven grate to broil position and place chicken on lightly oiled cookie sheet spreading out evenly and broil for approximate 5 -10 minutes until thickest part of thigh reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit and starts to form dark crispy edges.

Cook Marinade

  • In small saucepan, on medium high heat, cook marinade with onions until mixture comes to a rolling boil and onions become translucent and caramelized. Add extra olive oil in pan if needed to accomplish.
  • Remove chicken from grill or oven. Slice chicken into thin slices and add to cooked onions.
  • Prepare my Middle Eastern Salad and Tzatziki Sauce from my Middle Eastern Vegetarian Wrap recipe and use the grilled chicken in replacement for the hummus .

Notes

I’m a big fan of Penzey Spices and have a wonderful collection of spices I use in all my recipes.  But if you can’t find Josh Rogan or California Pepper for this recipe, no worries.
Just add a little extra curry powder or garam masala spice and use your own pepper blend.  Or be creative and experiment with other middle eastern spices from your favorite spice or super market store.  
The biggest advice I can give you is that “fresh is best”.  So, check those expiration dates on your spices.  Ground spices lose their flavor after 2-3 years and whole spices in 3-4 years. 
Spices can be very expensive and as a minimalist that cooks and bakes almost everyday. I have a small but elaborate spice collection.  However, if you find out you just cleaned out your spice cabinet and threw out half of your spices, then I recommend keeping a nice collection of your favorite (10) savory spices and (5) sweet spices you use regularly and only buy a new spice for a special occasion recipe or know you will be using it up in the next couple of years.
MiniMagicalKitchen

Middle Eastern Vegetarian Wrap

Middle Eastern Vegetarian Wrap

I always crave Middle Eastern food when I am home in Northern Wisconsin. Multicultural fusion vegetarian restaurants are rarely found in the state, let alone in Northern Wisconsin; which is better known for fish frys, gastropub and supper club food. Spread your favorite hummus on a low carb pita or tortilla, then add a layer of my quick instant pot turmeric and curry rice, garnish with the cool and refreshing Persian mini cuke and tomato salad, and top with a generous portion of garlic tzatziki sauce. This wrap will have your taste buds jumping for joy and satisfying any vegetarian foodie like myself. Make some homemade falafels or chickpea shawarma to replace the hummus, and you can have a hearty protein-nutrient rich healthy wrap that will fuel your day.
Note: I use mini Persian cukes or English cucumbers instead of regular cucumbers due to the low water content and I do not need to deseed or peel them. I recommend not using regular cucumbers in this particular recipe.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian, middle eastern
Keyword Curry Rice,, Easy and Simple Recipe, Fusion Wrap, Healthy, Low Carb, Lunch Recipes, Salad wrap, Simple Recipe, Turmeric Rice,, Vegetarian, wrap
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 0 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes

Equipment

  • Instant Pot

Ingredients

Tomato and Cuke Salad

  • 3-4 each persian mini cukes may substitute English cuke
  • 1/2 cup red onion slice small
  • 3/4 cup cherry tomatoes halve
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp zatar seasoning
  • 1/8 tsp pepper

Tzatziki Sauce

  • 1 1/4 Cup Plain Full Fat Greek Yogurt I prefer Chobani yogurt
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 lemon juiced and seeds removed
  • 1/2 persian mini cuke mince
  • 3 leaves mint washed, chevron and thinly slice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Turmeric and Curry Rice

  • 1 cup jasmine or basmati rice rinse rice until water runs clear, drain
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Additional Ingredients

  • 1 container Roasted Garlic or Red Pepper Hummus your favorite store brand ( I use Sabra) or you can make your own
  • 1 pkg Flax, Oat Bran and Whole Wheat Wraps Joseph's Middle East Bakery Brand or any low carb pita or tortilla wraps
  • 1 bunch cilantro (chopped) optional

Instructions

Make Persian Cuke and Tomato Salad

  • Combine oil, vinegar, lemon juice and spices in a small bowl until well blended. Add cut up cukes, red onion and cherry tomatoes and mix thoroughly. Sit aside in refrigerator for 1 hour or overnight to self marinade.

Make Tzatziki Sauce

  • Mix all ingredients in a separate bowl and refrigerate until ready to use. You can strain your greek yogurt if it is watery. I prefer Chobani yogurt and do not strain it.

Make Rice

  • Combine all ingredients in instant pot and stir until well mixed. Cook in Instant Pot for 4 minutes on HIGH pressure with a 10 minute natural release.
  • Gently stir and fluff rice

Assemble Wraps

  • Layer wrap or tortilla with 1-3 tbsp hummus, 1/4 cup cooked rice, 1-3 tbsp cuke/tomato salad, dollop of tzatziki sauce on top and sprinkle with cilantro (optional). Fold pita in half or fold tortilla like a burrito and Enjoy! I usually serve with a more tzatziki sauce on the side for dipping.

Notes

I like to make a non-vegetarian version of this wrap with Grilled Chicken Shawarma.  You can find this separate recipe under Recipe/Main Dish called Chicken Shawarma Tacos.
MiniMagicalKitchen

Edible Flowered Chèvre

As a nature lover and foodie fanatic, I have a great respect and love for foraging for wild edibles.

I grew up on wild mushrooms, asparagus, berries, vintages of elderberry and dandelion wines, all of which were gathered and prepared by master foragers.

When my children were young, I would pay them one penny for every dandelion blossom, to rid my yard of the so called “weed”. I then would make dandelion jelly from the tender blossom petals, referred to as dandelion honey for it’s sweet honey like taste…that is, if you have the right recipe. Why would I know this? Because it was the 1990’s and I had no internet, computer nor access to social media services like Pinterest. I lived in a small Midwestern town, far away from the cool, hip organic communities of the East and West Coasts, so our town library only had a handful of herbal and forging recipe books for reference.

Often the children and I would head to the forest for hikes and we would gather wild berries for jams and jellies. Sometimes we would find teaberry, and the children would chew the stiff, waxy leaves, sampling the cool refreshing taste of wintergreen.

When working in New Hampshire, I bought foraged wild ramps, also known as wild garlic from a local farmer’s market and learned how to make wild ramp pesto. I froze leftovers in ice cube trays since I was told the picking season was very short. I found fiddlehead ferns packaged in clear bags at the grocery store that I took home cleaned well, sauteed in butter and garlic, surprised how much they tasted like asparagus.

Wild asparagus patches around the homestead is still watched carefully by other neighbors and sometimes picked in the middle of the night before others can get to them.

Foraging skills use to be a way of life and every day our land is being flashed forested, bulldozed for more housing and concrete jungles. So, if you find yourself out hiking more these days and appreciating what mother nature provides us. Why not learn more about how to grow or forage to make some very delicious recipes much like my Edible Flowered Chèvre.

Ingredients

  • 4 – 8 ounces of fresh goat cheese (optional-blue cheese or cream cheese)
  • Variety of edible flowers and herbs*
  • I used dill sprigs, wild pansies/violets, and clover blossom

*NOT EVERY FLOWER/PLANT IS EDIBLE and you should always refer to a medical or plant forage professional. NEVER use flowers from roadsides or any plant that may have come in contact with pesticides or other chemicals.

Identify the flower or plant exactly and eat only the edible parts of the flower or parts.

Use flowers sparingly in your recipes as they may cause digestive complications.

Instructions

  1. Soften cheese to room temperature. Using small ramekins for each 4 ounces of cheese. Line the ramekin with cling-wrap or parchment. Press softened cheese into the ramekin firmly.
  2. Unmold the cheese on a small decorative plate and remove wrap or paper. Decorate by gently pressing edible flowers or herbs into the cheese making a pretty design or pattern.
  3. Serve immediately with crusty bread or crackers.
  4. You may wrap tightly in cling-wrap and refrigerate up to 3-4 days.

Great for Garden Parties, Spring or Summer Picnics, or a Simple and Easy Appetizer served with your best bottle of wine!

Thank you for visiting and if you like what you read or want to read and learn more? Then don’t forget to subscribe before you go. You will be notified whenever I post something new on my site. Like and share me on Facebook. Look me up on Pinterest and Instagram. You have something you would like to share with me? Drop me a comment. Remember I don’t do bad attitudes and let’s keep it PG-13. Peace

Chatterbox

The World I Left Behind

All you need is faith, trust and a little pixie dust.” – J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

I stood at the edge of the green, mossy path looking in at the covered cove of evergreens. The princess pines blanketed the forest floor, hiding the little curled faces of the fiddleheads of fern, peeking up through the needle covered earth, which still held the dew from the early morning frost.

The tangled limbs of the newly budding deciduous trees were dancing and clanking as the whistling wind blew through them. I drew in a deep breath of the sweet, earthy smell of the dirt below my feet as it filled my nostrils.

With a breathy sigh, I thought to myself, “Ahhh… I have missed you my dear forest friend.”

The past winter had been mild compared to other snowy and blustery years. The dirt road that lead to the trail path had healed nicely from the winter thaw and was passable with few ruts and unpredictable muddy potholes. I felt an internal sense of peace and gratefulness, for the opportunity to live far away from the overly-crowded communities of high-rise apartments and cityscapes, as the maddening rampage of the “virus” was stealing lives, like a thief in the night.

The heavily, wooded trail weaved past noisy marsh ponds as the chorus frogs filled the airwaves with their mating song and the matted, brown grass of the meadow, warming itself in the sun, as it seemed to play a game of hide-n-seek amongst the clouds. I shrugged off a small shiver. My exposed skin absorbed the heat of the sun and the cool dampness of the forest left my bones. A smile started forming on my molded, eternally saddened face and for the first time in months, I felt a tiny twinge of glimmering hope filled with happiness and peace.

My thoughts wandered jubilantly with the promise of new beginnings. Knowing soon, that the beauty of woodland flowers would appear, like the purple, blue and white petaled wood violets, yellow buttercups, and the brilliant white tri-petal trilliums. Each Spring, the forest floors, roadsides, parks, and banks of native streams and lakes would be blessed with the welcoming sense of rebirth of their hardy, native wildflowers and plants, no matter how mild or harsh the winter season may have been.

As a child, I would walk barefoot and carefree on muddy and grassy knoll paths near my home, playfully uncovering the new growth of wonderment, gathering nature’s treasures of the forest and meadows, and making fairy houses for magical creatures I imagined would inhabit them later.

This particular day, I felt an emptiness that was left behind from my innocent childhood years. The simple beauty, sound and smell of the forest seemed to flood my mind with memories that tugged strongly at my heart strings. I yearned to return, once more, to that time when my child-like self was able to keep a creeping sense of gloom and doom from surrounding me from a distance.

The late morning air lightened, as the sun glowed an angelic, heavenly ray of sunshine through the forest trees. The narrow trail straightened, became wider and I could see in the distance, a small rocky outcrop of dirt that seemed to draw my curiosity and attention. I quickened my bouncy cadence up the trail when something unusual, abruptly caught my eye. It was a small structure made of twigs, moss, birch bark, pine cones and small rocks slightly tucked under a bed of princess pines.

Fairy House!” , I softly whispered under my breath.

Call it a coinkydink, happenstance or pure serendipity, but I believed my morning’s journey and heavy soul searching may have manifested this magical quantum leap from childhood to adulthood.

I explored the details of the maker’s handy work while pondering its existence. Was it made by a playful child, teenager, or adult? How long had it been there? What inspired the creation? So many questions ran through my mind, as I started to form my own story line and conclusions. Time seemed irrelevant and my imagination became another social media share with one quick click of my smartphones’s camera shutter.

With faith and trust and a little pixie dust, I walked away hesitantly, trying to assure myself that others would treasure and not destroy this little, magical fairy house, that had captured the innocence and fragility of mother nature’s surroundings.

Returning home, I had a renewed sense of belonging and connectivity to the universe. I reminded myself to never forget the world I left behind. My memories will guide me through life and the truth of my future will always be found in the keys of my past.

Namaste’

Thank you for visiting and if you like what you read or want to read and learn more? Then don’t forget to subscribe before you go. You will be notified whenever I post something new on my site. Like and share me on Facebook. Look me up on Pinterest and Instagram. You have something you would like to share with me? Drop me a comment. Remember I don’t do bad attitudes and let’s keep it PG-13. Peace

MiniMagicalKitchen

Cauliflower Shepard’s Pie Casserole

Are you craving comfort foods like crazy, right now, but want to eat something that won’t put weight on while self-distancing and “staying safer at home” during the Novel Coronavirus Pandemic?

Then this nutrient rich casserole is a great way of boosting your immune system with a beautiful array of rainbow-colored veggies and a few simple ingredients that you probably have hanging out in your freezer, refrigerator and/or pantry right now.

A BRIEF LITTLE HISTORY LESSON

Did you know Shepard’s pie originated in Britain in the mid-1800’s as an affordable way to use up all the leftover cooked meat and originally had a crust made of potatoes that were plentiful to the pheasants? Or, that is was once called the “cottage pie” and made with lamb meat? Many of the impoverished lived in humble homes called cottages and lowly shepherds look after sheep. Hence, the name Shepard’s Pie.

Yes, this a very brief summary and there is a lot more you could learn about the history of the Shepard’s Pie. But I hope I piqued your interest and you will look up more interesting facts of it’s origin and the different versions. Remember, this can spark some interesting dinner conversation with the kiddo’s around the family table.

I use garlic mashed cauliflower to replace potatoes to keep it lower in carbs and calories. I find this casserole a great way of not wasting all those little leftovers from meals throughout the week while re-creating something purely delicious that even the “pickiest eaters” and “leftover haters” will enjoy. Not to mention being frugal to help stretch the household budget without sacrificing flavor.

So, let the casserole revolution begin!! Can you imagine the possibilities?!

Call your parents, call your grandparents if you are still lucky to have them. Tell them you love’um. Ask if there were any favorite casserole dishes they use to make or eat when growing up. Write the recipe(s) down and then think of ways you could adapt them with healthier ingredients. Or have a “Pantry Challenge” and create your own casserole recipe just as if you were a participant on Food Network’s cooking show Chopped.

This recipe is very adaptable for anyone practicing Vegetarianism or Veganism and I will provide suggestions at the end of the recipe in the notes section on how you can make this wonderfully delicious casserole that will surely please you and/or family any night of the week.

Cauliflower Shepard’s Pie Casserole

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword Casserole, Cauliflower, Comfort Food, Dairy-free, Dinner, Easy, Freezer Meal, Gluten-free, Ground Beef, Guilt-free, Healthy, Keto, Low Calorie, Low Carb, Make Ahead Meal, Quick, Shepard’s Pie, Supper, Vegan, Vegetarian
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
0 minutes
Total Time 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground sirloin or chuck beef
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp Montreal Steak Seasoning
  • 1 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
  • 1 med-large head of cauliflower washed, core removed and cut into 1 1/2" pieces
  • 1 cup beef, chicken or vegetable broth low sodium
  • 1-2 cups water
  • 1-2 tsp crushed garlic to taste
  • 4 Tbsp butter or vegan substitute*
  • 10 ounces frozen mixed vegetables optional: may substitute canned version/drained
  • 1 cup favorite cheese or Vegan Cheese* shredded
  • 3 cups fresh mushrooms* optional (protein substitute) thinly sliced
  • 2 bulb green onion stalks chopped

Instructions

  • Saute': In a large frying pan, combine olive oil and chopped onion, cooking on med-high heat stirring frequently until translucent. 3-5 minutes
  • Add choice of meat, salt, pepper and Montreal seasoning: To the pan with the onions, cooking until browned and no longer pink making sure to stir frequently to make a crumble like mixture. Drain excess liquid or grease into a separate heatproof container, cool and discard.
  • Boil the cauliflower: Place cut-up cauliflower in a medium pot, add choice of broth and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer until fork tender.
  • Mash the cooked cauliflower: When cauliflower is fork tender, drain liquid, reserving liquid in a separate heat proof bowl.** Add 4 Tbsp of butter to drained cauliflower, mash with potato masher, then and add garlic, salt & pepper to taste.
  • Add: 1/4 Cup of reserved cauliflower broth to meat mixture and stir well. **(Keep remaining cooled broth up to 4-5 days in refrigerator for soup. Or put in a freezer safe bag or container and freeze up to 3 months for future use)
  • Cook frozen mixed vegetables: Follow cooking directions on steamed mixed vegetables package or if using canned version, drain liquid before using.
  • Preheat oven: to 375 degrees
  • Grease: 8 x 13 casserole dish lightly with olive oil or cooking spray
  • Layer: Spread even layers of meat mixture, then top with mixed vegetables. Lightly salt and pepper before adding mashed cauliflower in greased casserole dish. Note: Canned vegetables have plenty of salt, even low sodium varieties so season carefully.
  • Sprinkle cheese: Sprinkle with grated cheese evenly over the top of mashed cauliflower layer.
  • Bake in oven: Place casserole dish uncovered in preheated 375 degree oven and bake for 30 minutes until heated through and cheese is golden brown.
  • Remove from oven: Sprinkle with green onions and serve.

Frozen Meal Suggestion:

  • Prepare casserole as directed in freezer oven safe container. DO NOT BAKE. Cover and seal well with plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Freeze up to 3-4 months.
    When ready to use, remove casserole from freezer removing all plastic and aluminum foil. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. DO NOT THAW. Bake frozen casserole until completely warmed through. Approx 1 hour or more depending on oven. Remove and top with shredded cheese, return to oven and broil for 5-10 minutes until browned and bubbly.
    Top with chopped green onions and serve.

Notes

*Suggested vegetarian or vegan variations
Saute’ 3 cups of clean and thinly sliced mushrooms in butter substitute and chopped onions. Season with salt, pepper and Montreal steak seasoning.
Use a plant based cheese:  I like Daiya brand Mozzarella style shreds (vegan) This cheese is gluten free, soy and egg free, and void of peanuts, fish and shellfish and melts better than other brands I have tried.
Use vegetable broth when boiling cauliflower.
Use a butter substitute.  I know a lot of people who really like and use Earth Balance brands but I prefer Miyoko’s cultured vegan plant butter. Made with cashew cream fermented with live cultures, this butter is crazy amazing!  A close second would be Artisana Organic Coconut Butter.
Like me on Pinterest, share my recipe and PIN with others. Love to see pictures of your “pantry challenge” meals or casseroles. Subscribe and leave a comment below.

Stay safe and healthy everyone!

MiniMagicalKitchen

Rainbow Oatmeal – Overnight Oats

Rainbow Oatmeal

Eat a Palette of Color Everyday for a Healthier You.
Course Breakfast
Cuisine American
Keyword Breakfast, Colorful Breakfast, Easy and Simple Recipe, Fruit and Oatmeal, Healthy Breakfast, Healthy Oatmeal, Hot Cereal, Mixed Fruit Overnight Oatmeal, Overnight Oatmeal, Simple Recipe
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 17 minutes
Servings 4

Equipment

  • Microwave
  • (Four) microwave safe bowls or pint-sized (glass) mason jars

Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Old Fashioned Oatmeal 100% whole grain oats (do not use quick cooking oats)
  • 4 cups Unsweetened Original FlavoredAlmond Milk or any choice of soy or nut milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup blueberries fresh or frozen
  • 2 whole bananas sliced
  • 12 whole strawberries fresh or frozen (sliced)
  • 4 whole kiwi peeled and sliced
  • 1/3 cup sliced toasted almonds or any favorite nut (optional)
  • 4 tbsp chia seeds optional-(overnight oats only)

Instructions

Prepare

  • Add 1/2 cup of oatmeal into each bowl or jar
  • Add one cup of Unsweetened Original Almond Milk into each bowl/jar
  • Add 1/4 tsp salt into each of the bowl/jar
  • Add 1/2 tsp of pure vanilla extract to each bowl/jar
  • Stir well and place in microwave

Microwave on High for 1-2 minutes

  • Remove bowl or jar from microwave and let set for 1 minute until liquid has been absorded.

Prepare Fruit

  • Wash and cut fruit and arrange on top of oatmeal
  • Optional – sprinkle with toasted almonds

Notes

Overnight Oats (version)
You can prepare each pint-sized (glass) mason jar with 1/2 cup oatmeal, 1 tbsp chia seeds (optional) 1 cup almond milk, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp vanilla and stir well.  Place screw top on each jar and refrigerate overnight for at least 6 hours.  Wash and cut fruit and place in refrigerator in a separate bowl.
When ready to eat. Place uncovered jar in the microwave on high for 1-2 minutes, remove and stir well, then let sit for 1 minute.  Place fruit on top and sprinkle with nuts and serve.  This makes a quick, healthy grab and go meal.  Enjoy!
Chatterbox

Eating Healthy with a Palette of Color (30-Day Challenge)

Eating a Palette of Color

The “February Funk” has set in for many of us and we now are longing for warmer, sunnier days and all the wonderful produce we are able to cultivate, gather and forage from our gardens, forests, and farmers market.

When I had a large family garden, I couldn’t wait for the seed catalogs to arrive during the winter months. I would snuggle under a warm blanket and stare out the frosted window, drawing out my rotation plan for the garden while waiting patiently for St. Patrick’s Day to start my seedlings indoors. In fact, a few weeks ago my daughter received her first of four seed catalogs she was waiting to receive for the new year and I could help but giggle as she squealed with excitement.

Red Fruits Protect our Hearts

With the flu/pneumonia season in high swing and daily reports of the climbing number of people testing positive and dying from the dreaded coronavirus – COVID19 and influenza; eating healthy and keeping our immune system in tip-top shape is even more important than ever. That means we need to eat more COLOR everyday.

Obviously, it’s important to get your bum off the couch, sleep at least 6-8 hours a night and practicing good hand hygiene and drink lots and lots of water. YadaYadaYada… Right? Nothing we all don’t already know but how many of us really live it daily?

You don’t have to be a vegetarian/vegan or wait until the warmer weather returns to eat more colorfully. When I modified my daily intake of nutrition by eating low calorie and low carbohydrate foods for several months, I was eating tons of seasonal veggies. I had significant success with weight loss and my fasting blood sugars returned to normal. My psoriasis cleared up and I had more mental clarity and energy like never before.

But maintaining a very strict low calorie and low carb food diet became mundane and eventually unrealistic for any long length of time.

I realized that I felt energized with the vibrant fresh colors bouncing off my food. I no longer was eating “muddy brown” meals. The colorful food was feeding my body and my artistic soul.

Let’s take a look at two different breakfasts I ordered last summer while traveling for my job. Both meals had nutritional value and gave me plenty of morning energy. But which meal do you think is a bit healthier?

This is an example of what I call the “brown meal”. Mostly protein and carbs. It’s missing color, right? What could you add to make it more colorful? How about an avocado with a slice of tomato? Berries, citrus or melons?

This is an example of a “colorful meal”. Also, a breakfast with mostly carbs and protein but it has sweet potatoes, red peppers, green spinach and a vibrant yellow hollandaise sauce.

When choosing or planning your meals, think COLOR.

Do you like peanut butter toast? Who doesn’t, right? But it’s pretty “brown”. Why not add “colorful” fruit to the top instead of honey or jam/jelly.

How about avocado toast? Pretty healthy right? But what if you add some thinly sliced tomato slices, cucumber, RAW yellow zucchini or carrot. (Use a mandolin or a veggie peeler and beautiful veggie ribbons) Be creative!

Take it up a notch! Emeril Lagasse would say.

Do you like waffles, pancakes, oatmeal? Add a triad (a set of three) of colorful fruit or more.

Rainbow Oatmeal

I make a beautiful and delicious Rainbow Oatmeal. Vanilla essence and the fruit provide all the natural sweetener you’ll need.

I can hear many of you saying, “I don’t have the time”, “My kids hate veggies”, “Fresh veggies and fruits are expensive”, “I don’t have a green thumb” .

YOU ARE WORTH IT! Your health and family’s health is what makes my job as a nurse so damn important. Food can be healthy medicine for your body just by adding more color to your meals.

I’m not going to get all science geek here. But there are tons of information bombarding techno-land with Infomercials, Pinterest Pins, Google Search, YouTube, etc. about the importance of eating a rainbow of colors everyday. Micro-nutrients can heal the body from the inside out.

As a inpatient nurse, I am constantly either replacing or reversing major micro-nutrients in my patients. There is a lot of great information and studies done by prestigious medical communities regarding the importance of getting essential vitamins and minerals to prevent nutrient – deficiency diseases and ailments. through eating healthier. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/micronutrients-have-major-impact-on-health.

But how can you make simple changes that don’t eat up paychecks or make you buy lots of expensive pre-made meals or supplements that just leave you wanting to do this:

Below are 5 easy steps to get you and your family to eat more color. *

  1. Go invest in a color wheel or print one off from online. Take it shopping with you and make it a game. How many colorful foods can you find?
  2. Stick with fresh or frozen veggies/fruits. Canned foods are okay, but they do have less minerals and vitamins due to the high heat needed to safely process for a longer shelf life. Just read those labels and look for low sugar/low salt varieties preferably BPA free.
  3. Do a 30-day challenge. Pick one meal, (breakfast, lunch or dinner) and plan a menu. Make what you would normally eat for that meal but the goal will be to add at least 3 colorful fruits or veggies. Example: Mac and Cheese (box dinner) but add no less than three colorful veggies to that meal.
  4. Add a colorful fruit for dessert maybe with a little dab of Greek yogurt. For the kiddos, cut fruit out with cookie cutters or make “Ants on a Log” or Apple/Peanut Butter smiles. Make it fun!
  5. Track your progress. Make a color chart. Hang where you can see it and check off each time you eat something of that particular color. Here you will notice patterns. Are you eating a lot of greener things but less orange? How about purple and blue foods? Greek olives or pickled veggies are a great way to get those unique colors into your diet.

*If you are taking medicine that requires special dietary restrictions, please consult with your primary care provider.

Feel free to like and share this 30-day challenge with others. Please subscribe and share your comments and pictures with me about your experience after adding more color to your meals.

Here’s to a Colorful Healthier YOU, Cheers!

Chatterbox

Gma’s Pod Tour

In 2018, I completely downsized from a 5-bedroom, 3000 sq.ft. home and multi-income property to 200 sq. ft. of living space. This space once was part of a small efficiency apartment and our family business office, then converted to a one-room school room during my children’s homeschooling years and later became my art studio.

Now it has become my co-housing/co-living “Gma (Grandma) Pod, that I share with my daughter’s family. As a baby boomer and grandma, I now spend more time creating in my art studio and writing my blog and less time working on the road as a travel nurse.

I share some living area necessities like a bathroom, laundry area, and running water but I also have my own entrance and live independently from my daughter’s family.

I enjoy the companionship and security of their presence while spending more time with my two grandsons.

Don’t forget to share and like this video on YouTube

Chatterbox

“Drop me a Line”

When was the last time someone said to you, “Drop me a line”?

When was the last time you got a simple handwritten note or letter in the mail?

Heck, I only mailed out two Christmas cards this year which went out to my children and their family’s that live outside of the United States. I find it hard to spend money on things people will just toss out after a few weeks or months. I decided to purchase and send Christmas cards that were Chinese paper quill frameable art, hoping that they will frame them and put out during the holiday seasons for years to come.

As a practicing minimalist, I like to keep a narrow threshold of materialistic things from entering my personal space. Taking me less than 15 minutes this morning. I cleaned my 425 sq. ft. of living area which I affectionately call my “Grandma Pod”. I really don’t regret my decision to keep things minimal after owning and caring for a 5-bedroom, home, rentals, and large yard for almost 30 years.

I enjoy the freedom it brings to my life as I continue as a travel nurse. Technology has been a great way for me to keep the paper clutter minimal and I find myself frustrated at times when I receive unnecessary junk mail. Even more annoyed with political organization advertisements with elections only 10 months away.

It pains me, that even in a more paperless society, we still have so much waste in paper products. Have you ever watched a movie where someone comes across some old box or trunk tucked away in a dusty old attic somewhere?

The actor/actress will gingerly open the treasured box or trunk and sort through the items until they come across a letter or papers. Maybe they find a bunch of letters that have been bound together with a tattered old string, much like presents for the finders to read with muse.

Were they from a lover, a friend, a spouse, a war hero, someone who has passed?

Handwritten letters and notes are a tangible extension of the writer. We try to imagine them as they sat and wrote them. Were they happy, sad, joyful or hopeful? Was their handwriting representative of textbook cursive, printed block letters or swirly and whimsical? Do the stamps on the envelopes have some cultural story of the day and times or hobby/interest of the writer?

I have letters on military stationary from my first husband which he wrote to me while in the Army. I own notes from an athletic boyfriend that are folded in tiny footballs, that he punted to me with a finger flick behind the teachers back across the classroom that landed into my lap. I have “I love you, Mom” notes and cards from my children written in preschool and school age scribbles. Jokes written in my Dad’s whimsical handwriting inside cards.

So, when I downsized, I had to decide what to keep and not keep. I could have easily scanned or taken pictures of all those notes, cards and letters and keep them handy on a flash drive. Or keep a chosen few with significant meanings that could be treasured in their original form. I decided on the later.

So, today as I was cleaning and decided to sort through any unnecessary clutter; which still seems to have a way of accumulating even with practicing strict minimalism decision making practices. I came across these beautiful note cards below. The art was done by my 5-year-old grand-daughter and given as a gift to me last year for Christmas.

Lots of Spots!

Signed on the back by my grand-daughter as the Artist and her Age at the time. This was a wonderful and thoughtful fundraiser gift idea done by her playcentre and printed by www.kidsartworks.co.nz.

I have decided that it’s time to sit down and “drop a line” to those I failed to send a Christmas card to this year. So, if you are lucky to be on the receiving side of this particular card maybe you will be less likely to add it to the rubbish bin and use it as some frameable art. You never know, the artist may be the next Jackson Pollack.