My not-too-old Rival crock pot has been put to use the past 3 weekends. I love this kitchen accessory. In the morning, I put in a roast or roaster with some herbs and beer or wine. This time of year dinner slow cooks all day while I work in the yard or garden beds. And the leftovers are awesome. I can usually get 3 or 4 meals for Dean and I from a 5 – 6 lb chicken roaster or turkey breast. Homemade chicken soup, chunky chicken salad, creamy chicken enchiladas. Beef and pork roasts are so tender slow cooked in the crock … Some meals are simple salads or wraps with goodies such as pecans, walnuts, cranberries, or roasted beets along with leftover slow-cooked meats.
I have my first tender leaves of arugula ready to be picked this week! This early crop was sown on February 20. So after about 50 days we will partake in this fresh peppery salad green for dinner, and probably an omelet for breakfast this Sunday morning. Spring is the time of year where my back, legs, arms, and hands ache from the amount of time in the garden and yard. Methodical movements are made the hours I work/play in the dirt. “Gardening has to be as much about contemplation as it is about tilling and toiling. Mental toiling, perhaps … turning things over, quietly thinking, in a place that gives you a peaceful corner for just a moment or two.” ~ Dominique Browning. The birds and fresh air call me to sit on the porch early morning, but pure exhaustion hits the pillow by 9 even on the weekends.
I use my abundant, pungent arugula in my salads as well as egg, pasta, and rice dishes these days. A little goes a long way, so most of my culinary creations as of late include my fresh grown arugula. One important aspect to the culinary arts is that improvisation goes a long way. It is easier to substitute ingredients with cooking versus baking. I find arugula can be used in place of spinach in most dishes and salads. There is a taste difference with these 2 greens, but cooking properties similar. Arugula like spinach is a great source of vitamin A and C as well as potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Arugula grows much like spinach, spring and autumn sowing here in Missouri.
I love creamed spinach! The best I ever had is crafted by the executive chef Gerard Germain. I learned much from the culinary experts while working at Dierbergs School of Cooking. Chef Gerard dazzles his students’ appetites with Italian and French cuisines. A first generation French immigrant applies his old world culinary magic in the kitchen of a fine Italian establishment in St. Louis called Tony’s. The next best thing is spinach in a white sauce over pasta. So here is my attempt to a lighter version of Pasta alla Fiorentina … Pasta Arugula (or the Italians say rucola), but my recipe is American-style. I lessen the butter and use a little olive oil as a base for the slurry as well as use whole milk instead of cream or half & half. Of course, arugula goes in the recipe instead of spinach. Noted for the recipe this evening, I cooked too much whole-grain pasta for the amount of white sauce I made, and did not add enough arugula. Fresh arugula shrinks considerably while sauteed. Tonight I served the Pasta Arugula with locally-made chicken Italian sausage and crusty bread. I sipped a glass of lavender sparkling water, and Dean downed a domestic beer this rainy summer evening.
“Talking, talking, pancakes” is what Dean describes our first morning together. We loves our pancakes! This Saturday morning is no exception. This improvising personal chef had one over-ripe banana in the fruit bowl and one bottle of Wells Banana Bread beer left in the refrigerator from the holidays. This combination created some delicious pancakes. Is it Hermann’s German culture or my German heritage from my deceased grandmothers influencing the weekend menu in this home? Probably a little bit of each. Here it is folks … Banana Beer Pancakes with Caramelized Banana Beer Sauce.
This morning Dean and I talk weekend topics over our pancake breakfast. Errands to run … purchase and install new window blinds in our rejuvenated home, and a tile floor selection for the bathroom. Then dog food and possible organic vegetable and herb seeds to purchase at the local farmers’ co-op with an afternoon run out to our 7-month greenhouse at Boone Hollow Farm in Defiance, Missouri. I will get the organic soil turned up today while Dean looks over the structure for winter wear. February brings us closer to spring. Besides the Groundhog tells us it will be an early spring this year. Spring-like today, but winter returns with frigid cold weather after the weekend. Deanna Greens And Garden Art will start our 4th growing season. In another 4 or 5 weeks, seeds will be planted in our beds for an early crop of lettuces, spinach, and peas. The garage is too crowded with our extra storage during the house renovations to get the gourd and herb seedlings started on the heating pads. All direct sowing this year. Flexibility and improvisations once again. Life requires it.
“Look around for a place to sow a few seeds.” Henry Van Dyke
This weekend Dean and I hibernated in Hermann, Missouri. We were invited to stay at a lovely guest house by some wonderful folks. We took a gander at antiques and patronized a gift shop in the historic downtown area. The friendly salesman at the gift shop greeted us warmly and proceeded to tell us where he was from and why he retired in Hermann. This retired banker from St. Peters, my hometown says the cost of living is so reasonable in Hermann, and so many services cater to the aging population in the quaint German town. Just my thoughts exactly for the past almost 6 years, retiring in Hermann.
“You had me at ‘hello'” was displayed on a wooden sign in the gift shop. That would be my Dean and I. Love at the first sight, e-mail, FB message, and date 6-1/2 years ago. Our garden courtyard wedding took place 5-1/2 years ago just 4 blocks from where I stand at that gift shop. We had to pick up a pastry in this old Old World town. A local bakery was spotted amidst the neighborhood bars and shops. A kringle, “krakeling” filled with strawberry ooze called out our name as we perused the dessert selections. My diabetic diet just went to pot, but back on track come Monday. Besides the small town walking helped, right?
After an early Saturday dinner at the Tin Mill Brewery, Dean and I hung out with the local folks at the firehouse fundraiser mouse races. We fit right in, happy women with full hips and bearded men with a sense of humor. Homemade chili and desserts galore. Bids for cash and guns kept us on our toes. Loads of fun! The laughter got louder as the evening went with the number of empty beer & wine bottles and whiskey & coke glasses. German people know how to celebrate life! Not a need for a wedding or birthday to live life fully.
Sunshine beams through the tall-pane window as I sit in an elegant armed chair. Next to me my cup of hot Earl Grey tea laced with bergamot and half & half while a couple of Italian dark chocolate wafers await my consumption. This crisp January afternoon brings my dream to life once again. The heart dreams where the soul needs to be. Our house and bed & breakfast in Hermann, Missouri. We feel at home, at peace every time we come to Hermann. From the time we cross the lighted bridge over the Missouri River, we are home. Oh Hermann, we will be here to stay within 5 years.
All My Children … Isn’t that the name of a daytime drama? If you had not heard yet, there has been daytime and nighttime drama in St. Louis, Missouri area this past 8 days. A community is at unrest due to the fatal shooting of an 18-year black man by a white police officer in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson. Protests turned to riots have lead major destruction in St. Louis County. Upheaval with law enforcement, prosecutors, government officials locally up to federally, and racial activists have made Ferguson known globally. I work for St. Louis County Government housed in the police headquarters building working in the benefits and retirement office. The sounds of security dogs, helicopters circling, and target-shooting bullets are foreign to everyday Clayton, Missouri which is the county seat of St. Louis County. This week I heard it all. And I felt and heard the turmoil of several civil and police employees. I administer the employee assistance services, make sure counselors are there for any one of them … all my children.
It was the longest week I had worked. On Friday, my husband picked me up from my office building, our usual car-pooling routine. We drove out of St. Louis County homeward bound. Home sweet home. We decided to stop in for a beer and a bite to eat. Old Town St. Peters American Legion Hall, our destination. Americana at its best. Long-hairs and farmers celebrate in unison the weekend with a beer in one hand and a fried chicken wing in the other. All I could hear was happy conversation and laughter. Beer mugs clanging like cymbals. Music. Songs of joy. The most comforting sounds I heard all week. And despite it all, the Ferguson Farmers’ Market continued on Saturday and parishioners congregated and prayed in their churches on Sunday. Foundational truths do not change. Food and faith still remain the foundation of what man and woman needs. With today’s sermon I was reminded of the Biblical story of the Cannaanite woman that others would have ignored, but Jesus paid attention to this mother’s persistant request for her daughter. With faith I pray … Oh God hear my cry for all my children, youngest to the oldest, black, white, simple-minded, disabled, rich, poor. But if not for the grace of God, any one of us are unworthy. But God You give us each the gift of Jesus Christ. Accept and receive His forgiveness, so that you in turn can show the same towards others. So be it.
As a personal chef by nature I wonder if I should name my summer time culinary creations a nosh, dish, bowl, or plate. I improvise when I cook in my kitchen. With the ingredients in hand from the garden or farmer’s market, they make way for creativity. A casual menu on a whim. This summer my herbs climb with the summer humidity. My chicken risotto served in individual bowls one weekend was laced with a leafy green herb Dean brought home from the greenhouse. It had a spicy bite to it unknown to be parsley as I had thought it might be by its look. When returning to the greenhouse mid-week for watering, I discovered on the garden sign it was watercress added to Sunday’s risotto bowl. I had never grown or cooked with this newly discovered herb before, and it paired deliciously with the farm fresh eggs for egg salad on dollar rolls last night. I hear it is the new kale in the farm-to-table culinary world. Just 1 cup of chopped water cress is power-packed with potassium and vitamins A & C. There are only 4 calories in 1 cup of chopped watercress. Calorie breakdown: 8% fat, 42% carbs, 50% protein. Oh, the flavors burst, so it goes a long way!
Fresh sprigs of dill were snipped into the red potato-celery salad. This week a spare bottle of local summer ale went into the crockpot with the turkey breast sprinkled with lemon pepper from the Olde Town Spice Shoppe, slow-cooked for 10 hours. Succulent! Accompanied with farm fresh, roasted yellow beets, red potatoes, and carrots in a bowl! The leftover turkey breast had filled a casserole dish of enchiladas another night. When I cook, I cook for 2 or 3 meals, using one dish to accent another. Rarely does food go to waste in my home. That stock left from the turkey breast is put into the freezer and will make another risotto another rainy night. Tonight it is small plates of Three-Cheese Italian Herb-Veggie Foccocia and Italian Breaded Chicken Tenderloins. What nosh, dish, bowl, or plate are you making tonight with your garden fresh ingredients?
A half plate of veggies, a quarter plate of protein, and the last quarter plate are the carbs at lunch and dinner every day should not be an issue. It can be if the time and food budget is tight. So what is a person to do if the doctor or dietician advises this? So, I am that person and I have begun watching my carbs and protein counts and having that 1/2 plate of veggies at every lunch and every dinner. BTW ~ Everyone’s plate should look like the illustrated. ~ And my 2 snacks a day need to be a carb with a protein every time. My recent blood work shows I am no longer in the pre-diabetes category, but diabetes category. I have 3 months to take off some weight and have my glucose levels below that 100 threshold or I am placed on oral meds. I have to be a good girl for my sake, take care of myself! So my creative juices begin to flow and a practical plan begins. I am a wellness coordinator, look after employee wellness programs at my full-time job. I will be a wellness guru when it is all over. Singer Dale Watson says, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you always got.” So here are the 5 major changes I have made …
First, I have had my ah-ha moment, reality check, whatever you want to call it. I am a diabetic! If I keep on this same road I have been on, I will be diabetic the rest of my life. Who wants that? Not me! I started back to Weight Watchers before the holidays and have that support group. Though Weight Watchers is a great weight management program, the Points Plus system treats fruits equally with vegetables. Fruit has a high sugar content, so I need to treat it as a carbohydrate with the diabetic exchange program. Now that the half plate of veggies illustration is stuck in my head, that visual is what I live by today and everyday the rest of my life.
2nd change, I am daily using a booklet my doctor gave me as well as go online to http://www.calorieking.com for my carb counts. Those winter time pick-me ups like hot cocoa, chai latte, or a pumpkin muffie brought me over the threshold from pre-diabetic to diabetic, I am sure. One hot chocolate from your friendly neighborhood Panera Bread or Quik Trip is over 50 grams of carbs, more than I am to have at one meal setting! I have to “weigh” the immediate gratification to the overall outcome. Believe me, the sweet hot drink is not worth it!
3rd change, herbal tea is my everyday fall to beverage when water is not satisfying my thirst. Soda, diet or sugar-loaded are not good for anyone. Beer and wine are reserved for special occasions like the cocoa and latte. This week Stash coconut mango oolong tea is awesome hot or iced. There are so many other teas to try, of course unsweetened. Many have medicinal purposes as well.
4th change, the dollars I am saving each week from no hot or cold beverage runs I apply to my gardening habit, with this year’s focus on more vegetables and herbs. If I can freeze or dehydrate a supply of vegetables and herbs for the next winter, I will be that much more ahead budget wise. I will literally reap what I sow.
I have upped the ante from my 10-minute 4-3-2-1 fitness routine I started in January as my New Year’s resolution. So the 5th change is if I do not get a 30-minute walk in during the day or gardening is not part of my weekday evening, I will exercise with a swim at the Center of Clayton indoor pool or a DVD exercise tape at home before the day is over. I cannot afford any more excuses for lack of exercise.
I will share recipes for my half plate of veggies in the What A Dish page on this blog. Please share yours!
Hot tea has been the beverage of premium choice for the 3+ long months of winter. Wild cherry is my favorite, seems to cure whatever may ail my body. Then there is the tea garden green or pomegranante green tea that brings a bit of spring or summer into my day, healing to my mind. Of course, the classic Earl Grey with a tad of half & half brings me to my days as a young mother. My sister-in-law introduced me to this tea after spending a year in England. The more contemporary, spicy, citrusy flavor of Chai filled my tea cup several times as well this winter. The tea set in the photo is a gift to my daughter, Elisabeth who celebrated her 30-year birthday a few days ago. I want to share my love for tea. It can change the tone of a day after a few sips. It must be taking those few moments to savor that saves the day. The mentioned teas and tea set are all compliments to the Olde Town Spice Shoppe in historic St. Charles, a local small shop for all your teas, accessories, spices, and gourmet foodie items.
Spring visits Missouri again this week, and a spot of tea does not quite fit the bill. I make a change with the temperature of the day. It is a celebration drink with the good news. My bloodwork showed no auto-immune or cancer! Just an allergy to the cold, which this winter was the worst for me since this allergy appeared over 5 years ago. Pyrmid apricot ale is poured into a clear glass, sharing the bottle with my hubby as I am feeling a bit woozy-headed and tired this evening. The apricot ale pairs wonderfully with the sweet chili Thai noodles with sweet peas and grilled chicken. I think this ale would accompany a dark chocolate dessert very nicely. My Weight Watchers weigh-in is tomorrow, better hold off for another day when I feel up to baking and can work off the extra calories (or points) before weigh-in.
I sip a cinnamon vanilla herbal tea as I write. What is your choice of beverage? And what food do you pair it with? I would love to hear!
Somehow the weather forecasters have the scenerio for tonight incorrect. This winter snow was suppose to clear out at noon today. Sporadic sleet, rain, and snow all morning and afternoon. Gray skies. Earlier I expected to see a romantic full moon tonight after my sweetheart 5:30pm dinner at the Mad Tomato in Clayton, Missouri. Though I have an illuminating backup with a heart-shaped chocolate-scented candle and a bottle of 4 Hands Milk Chocolate Stout awaiting my sweetheart’s and I’s arrival at home. A small miracle. Clear skies tonight, the Valentine ambiance is on. I hope the sun shine forecast for Paducah, Kentucky on Monday is not altered. We are headed as far south as our time and money resources will allow. Sun therapy is the plan with some much needed R & R and a visit to the National Quilters Museum as well as Paducah’s historical markers and artists’ studios.
Late this afternoon my sweet hubby and I visited a local Mexican establishment savoring a “happy hour” margerita and a golden bubbly before heading to the Kirkwood Amtrak train station. Americana at its height. I waved hoping to see him one last time before the train disappeared. I saw him and he smiled his Gall grin and shot off one last wave. I cannot imagine sending my lover on a train to a deployment assignment. So many women have to brave such events. Dean is just visiting his children and parents in Lee’s Summit, MO for the weekend. The photo-of-the-week challenge this week is the word “curve”. It makes me think of a nickname my Dean calls me, “curve-a-licious”. So my curves are more pronounced than some others, good reason to cut the ice cream habit in the evenings. Moving to chamomile tea, a healthy option to settle me down for the night. The photo was taken almost 3 years ago while on our honeymoon in Hilton Head Island, SC. Captured is a free-spirited moment. My love, the moon and stars are awaiting your return!