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

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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My Summer Fitness Plan

 

 

That’s A Wrap for the May Bee (And Why Drinking Coffee Cuts Your Risk of Dying!)

coffee

I came into the May Bee challenge feeling energized and excited about the opportunity to blog every day most days in May. I had felt like I had been slacking on my posts, letting other things edge out my time spent at the computer writing. So I really relished the idea of doing this challenge. And I’m so glad I did! Not only did I learn a lot about the topics I’m interested in, but I also got to share that love with you. So, thanks for coming along on the ride. Maybe I’ll do it again next year.

For my last May Bee post, I want to talk about one of my favorite things in the world — a cup of coffee. If you know me at all you know I relish my coffee with gusto. So I was excited to read this article in The New York Times about how drinking coffee seems to reduce your overall risk of dying. Yay for no dying! As the article states “Coffee drinking was linked to a reduced risk of death from heart disease, stroke, diabetes, neurological diseases and suicide, although not from cancer.” I don’t need any health reasons to drink my two to three cups of coffee a day, but I’m glad to know I don’t have to feel guilty about my habit.

And with that, I bid a fond farewell to May 2017 as I welcome what I hope to be a really fabulous summer for me, and for you. Maybe it’ll be the best one yet.

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Maybe Try Some New Happiness Techniques

Maybe you’re starting your work week after the long holiday weekend feeling not great. Maybe you’re stressed, or sad, or angry, or anxious. It happens to everyone. These are normal emotions that we all have. It’s what we do with them that makes the difference in our happiness levels. 

I just read this article about four things you can do immediately to feel happier. As someone who has researched this topic quite a bit for my wellness writing (and personal interest) I immediately connected with these four rituals

In my opinion, these are simple things you can do every day to help you feel more empowered, in control, and on the right track. 

Maybe give these four rituals a try and see if they work for you?