Crappy Dinner Party (It’s A Good Thing!)

I am #blessed to have the most fabulous neighbors. When we moved in almost seven years ago, my immediate next door and kitty-corner neighbors welcomed us with enthusiasm. Since then our families have played together, eaten together, traveled together and spent Christmas Eve together.

However, we are a busy bunch, and it can be difficult to find time when we can all come together. Between high stress jobs, kids’ activities, and family commitments, weeks and sometimes a month or two can go by before we can see one another. For a couple of years we’ve been talking about the concept of the Crappy Dinner Party, wherein everyone pitches in whatever they have in their fridge (no shopping allowed!) and the host family does no cleaning, no fussing and no elaborate anything. The point is to allow us to spend time with one another without stress. I’m happy to say that this Sunday my family hosted the Inaugural Crappy Dinner Party. I made some vegetarian tostadas from a meal kit service that I was planning on making anyway. Catherine brought turkey taco fixings that she was making for her family that night regardless and some drinks for the kids. Tom brought gin (because, COCKTAILS) and grapes and veggies. I threw some buttered noodles in there for the kids. We cut up a watermelon. I didn’t even wipe up the crumbs from the dinner table from the previous night BECAUSE CRAPPY DINNER PARTY RULES ARE NOT TO BE BROKEN. We used paper plates (that we composted, please don’t yell!) and it was probably the most relaxed dinner party I’ve ever had in my life. And this was with 6 kids and 5 adults!

Some integral people in my friend zone were missing, as I threw the dinner idea together somewhat last minute. Deanna had to work (so she sent her husband and kids), Shawn and family had plans, and Erika (a new friend to me but a dear friend to my friends so obviously she’s on the list!) couldn’t come, but here’s the thing: now that we’ve started this it’s going to happen more frequently. Once you release the pressure of cleaning and putting together an elaborate spread, it becomes a joy and not a burden. Catherine has already planned the next one at her house.

How do you host your own Crappy Dinner Party? Let me summarize the rules for you:

  1. DON’T CLEAN YOUR HOUSE. Move some piles if they get in the way of eating but otherwise hands off.
  2. NO GROCERY SHOPPING. Make what you have, even if it’s beans and rice.
  3. EVERYONE BRINGS SOMETHING THEY CAN CONTRIBUTE. Even especially if it’s gin.
  4. ENJOY YOURSELVES.
  5. REPEAT again and again because it’s fun and you realize your friends just want to see each other, even if the house is messy.

Do you have your own Crappy Dinner Party rules? Let me hear them!

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Cooking? What’s that?

New Recipe! Roasted Salmon with Garlic and Dill

Refrigerator Pickles

I am back in the kitchen this week and it feels great. I usually cook less in summer because our schedules are so weird and unstructured. Also because it’s Minnesota Minnesnowta and when the weather is warm we tend to want to be outside all. The. Time. I’d much rather be drinking a rosé and watching my daughter splash around at the pool with friends than be home in the kitchen. You know?

But this week I felt a pull to the kitchen, and so I went. Luckily we had one day that experienced torrential downpours so I had nothing but inside time to spare. My generous and kind friend Shawn gave me her CSA box when she went out of town and her loss was definitely my gain. It was full of tomatoes that were so sweet we couldn’t help but eat the entire amount in a day. Aren’t these beautiful?

tomatoes 2

The box also contained two heads of kale, which I added to that night’s pasta primavera.

Then there were many cucumbers. So many cucumbers. And dill. So obviously I made refrigerator pickles. Super easy and totally delicious, anyone could make these including a child just learning to cook. Here’s the recipe:

INGREDIENTS:

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Stir the water, vinegar, sugar, and sea salt together in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil. Remove pan from heat and cool completely.

Combine cucumber slices, smashed garlic cloves, and fresh dill in a large glass or plastic container. Pour the cooled vinegar mixture over cucumbers. Seal container and refrigerate for at least 3 days. 

Look at this!

pickles

I’m going to experiment with spicy squash pickles next, because of course the CSA box came with squash. And I really don’t like squash, but I love pickles, so maybe this just might work.

Enjoy!

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Weekend Cocktails: Watermelon Frosé

weekend-cocktails

Watermelon is in season right now, so I think it makes sense to try a cold, icy, refreshing cocktail made out of summer’s most famous fruit. Add the “wine of summer” (I literally just coined this term so I should probably TM it or something) and you have yourself a cocktail that will please just about everyone. Recently, on vacation with extended family, we made this recipe. It was really refreshing and perfect after a long day on the beach.

If you want some health reasons to drink this, just remember that watermelon is full of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. It also has a very high water content so it will help rehydrate you (just remember alcohol is dehydrating and toxic in large quantities so please don’t think you can go drinking a gallon of this or anything). Moderate wine drinkers (no more than two glasses a day) have a 34 percent lower mortality rate than beer or spirits drinkers according to this article. It also tells us we have lower risk of Type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, heart disease, stroke, and brain decline. So, you know, enjoy this drink! I love that this recipe has no added sugar. Watermelon is sweet enough. And wine, while labels aren’t required to list added sugar , almost always has at least a little.

watermelon

+

rose wine

=

fireworks

The thing about using wine in a cocktail recipe is that you can use a less expensive bottle and no one will be the wiser. So grab that $7 bottle of rosé from Trader Joe’s and let’s get started.

INGREDIENTS: (makes 2 cocktails)

4 cups frozen watermelon cubes

10 oz rosé

Juice of one lime

INSTRUCTIONS:

Cube the watermelon (or if you’re feeling really luxurious, buy it already cubed).

Spread the watermelon evenly on a jelly roll pan. Place in freezer for an hour or more, until solidly frozen.

Place the watermelon, rosé and lime juice in a blender. Blend until smooth. Serve with lime wedges and sprigs of mint.

ENJOY!

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SaveSave

Midweek Mashup! A Book Rec, A Favorite Product, and An Insightful Article on Resilience.

MIDWEEK MASHUP

So, how is your summer going? Is it long and lazy and wonderful? Is it busy and hectic and going too fast? Somewhere in between? For me it’s been the latter, and I’m none too happy about it. So, I’ve cleared my calendar for a few days and the plan is to simply relax and enjoy some rest.

First up on my non-agenda is to read the book The Art Of Being Ill: Or How To Be A Better Patient. I won’t bore you with details but the past two months have been an immunological roller coaster. My doctor finally gave me orders to rest, something I have a very hard time doing. I am looking forward to reading this book on the art of self care. Apparently before we entered the age of busy-ness, during the “Days of Yore”, people did a really wonderful job of convalescing. Laying around in bed and resting up was an art form. I’ll write an update soon and let you know what I thought of the book.

Secondly, I want to tell you about a fantastic product that I discovered my friend KC at Word Savvy using. I went to her house to pick her up one morning and her essential oil diffuser was on in her kitchen. I didn’t notice any clutter, or any dirty dishes or anything else because the diffuser made the entire room seem peaceful and calm. I immediately got online and bought one for myself. Depending on my mood and malady, I use different essential oils. I’m still learning about mixing essential oils but when I really need some calm I always just go for lavender. It doubles as a small humidifier so during the winter, next to my bed, it’s a very inexpensive luxury.

And lastly, I highly recommend reading this article from the “Well” section of the New York Times on boosting resilience in your adult years. There’s a lot out there about how we can help kids be resilient, but adults are also capable of building resilience, even in their older years. If you’re going through a traumatic experience such as a layoff, a scary diagnosis, or a family crisis, it is important to realize that you can navigate through it without succumbing to the fear and stress. “There is a biology to this,” said Dr. Charney. “Your stress hormone systems will become less responsive to stress so you can handle stress better. Live your life in a way that you get the skills that enable you to handle stress.”

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Midweek Mashup

Midweek Mashup

This Is 43

birthday-cake-757102_1920

Most years, when I’m on the cusp of a birthday, I have all sorts of goals and ideas swirling around my head for the next year. Read more books, try a new kind of exercise, plan a trip, you get the idea. This year it’s just….blank. It’s not that I don’t have exciting things happening. Namely,  I will finish my Nutrition Consultant program this year (that’s big!). But I made that goal years ago, so it’s not a new one.

This year, though, I’m struggling with getting pumped about any new plans. I’m trying to cut myself some slack, because for the past couple of months I’ve been dealing with a recurrence of mono. Yuck. I’ve been tired, lethargic, and it has been pretty hard to follow through on things that require my brain  (i.e.: school work). Maybe when I’m back to feeling 100% the ideas and excitement will flow.

In the meantime, I’ve turned to some of my friends to ask them for ideas. My friends KK and KC think I should launch a new business after I finish school. My friend Ali thinks I should shoot for running a 10k. More than a few friends have encouraged me to run for office (I need to grow a thicker skin before that is even an option).

So, readers, tell me: what goals do you set each year? What fun or challenging things are you planning on tackling soon? Leave me your thoughts in the comments and maybe we will all get inspired!

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Good, better, best.

Vegetarian Wild Rice Salad

wild rice

Last week when I went with my 12 year old “up north” I had a wild rice salad at the lodge that I thought was pretty good. I liked the textures, with the chewy wild rice and the crunchy water chestnuts. I wasn’t crazy about the honey mustard dressing, but I loved the addition of grapes. This was a true “midwestern salad”, I’m not afraid to admit. I decided I would try to remake it but with a different dressing and the addition of some other favorite add-ins.

One thing I love about wild rice (which actually isn’t rice at all) is that it has far more nutrients than white rice. In one cup of cooked wild rice, there are 7 grams of protein and 35 grams of carbohydrate, including 3 grams of fiber. It’s lower in calories than white rice and the protein it contains is higher quality because it has more of the essential amino acids.

Here is the recipe I came up with, with the help of a different recipe from my local grocery store chain.

VEGETARIAN WILD RICE SALAD

Ingredients:

4 cups cooked wild rice (about 1 cup uncooked). I like to put some Better Than Bouillon in the water to create more flavor.

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon Fine Herbs (or your choice of favorite dried herbs)

1/3 cup sliced green onion

1 (8 oz can) sliced water chestnuts, drained

salt and pepper to taste

2 cups sliced red seedless grapes

1 cup nuts of your choice (I used a mixture of cashews and sliced almonds)

Instructions:

Make the dressing by mixing the mayonnaise, milk, lemon juice and herbs together in a small bowl.

In a larger bowl, combine In larger bowl, combine wild rice, green onion, water chestnuts, salt and pepper. Stir in mayonnaise mixture until blended. Refrigerate, until cooled. Before serving, fold in grapes and nuts. Take to your next potluck. 

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Good, better, best.

I have an insatiable need to better myself. I get excited by new opportunities to make positive changes, whether in nutrition, fitness, personal growth, or simply how to help our home life run more smoothly. I share this with my friend KC over at WordSavvy. She and I spend a lot of our time comparing ways we are working on improvements.  She has a much better handle on her side of things, and she even has a notebook to keep track. Me, I write little lists and post them in places I think I will spot them, like where I eat breakfast, and in the little nook in our mudroom. I think her way is better because I know she is 100% more on top of it than I am. But being around her helps reinvigorate my passion for this. I sort of consider her my improvement mentor.

Speaking of improvements, I’ve decided this summer that if I want to munch on something, I must start with a fruit or a veggie first (if it’s available). The fridge is stocked with sugar snap peas, blueberries, apples, clementines, baby carrots, mini sweet peppers,  and more. Veggies in particular are wonderful because they are full of vitamins and minerals with very few calories. So you can snack on a cup of sugar snap peas and if you decide you’re still hungry, then proceed to a heartier snack. There seems to be no downside to this. Did you know only 10% of American adults get the recommended amount of fruits and veggies each day? If I sometimes struggle, even knowing how good they are for me, I imagine it’s really difficult for most people. So try this approach maybe? And let me know how it goes. (A good portion of our fellow citizens can’t afford healthy foods like fruits and vegetables, or they live in an area called a nutritional desert, where it’s nearly impossible to shop for such items. If you find yourself with extra fresh produce, or a little extra cash, please consider donating it to your local food shelf.)

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