Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Wish List

A couple of weeks ago, I needed some fresh basil for a recipe. Rather than buy a small container of basil that would go limp in a couple of days, I decided to buy a basil plant (it was in the produce section) and have fresh basil all winter long. I transplanted it into a pot when I got home and tenderly nurtured it. I had never tried growing anything in the winter, but how hard could it be.
Day 1

Day 14

I'm hoping someone will buy me a Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia Herb Garden for Christmas.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Budget Friendly Home Gym: Part 4

The Bosu Ball

The Bosu ball is a great addition to any workout routine. It improves core stabilization and therefore balance. Just standing on it and trying to balance makes you engage a myriad of muscles. You can use it right side up or up side down. You can purchase a Bosu ball for about $100 at most sporting good stores or, of course, you can get it online. It comes with a DVD of four different workouts that are as challenging as you want to make them.

As I have aged, my balance has deteriorated. The Bosu ball is helping me to improve. I know this sounds like an elderly person talking, but as our balance gets worse, we're more prone to falls. With the Bosu ball, I can postpone getting my "Help, I've fallen and I can't get up" button.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Autumn Recipe

My co-worker, Kay, gave me this tasty recipe today. I decided to have it tonight, but since I didn't have parsnips on hand (does anyone have parsnips on hand?), I substituted with carrots. My husband tolerated it (no yummy sounds on this one), but I really liked it. Kay didn't give me a name for it, so I gave it my own. (I thought if I mentioned the apples first, more people might try it.) So here it is:

Baked Apples and Autumn Vegetables

2 Sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
2 Parsnips, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
1 T. Olive oil
1 T. Honey
2 T. Soy sauce
1/2 t. ginger

Cut up vegetables and place in a large baking dish.
Microwave honey and oil for ~20 seconds and mix well. Add soy sauce and ginger. Mix and pour over vegetables. Cover. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

A word of warning: Don't eat orange vegetables too often. Our dietician at work was eating squash and sweet potatoes everyday and as a result, her skin started to turn orange.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Budget Friendly Home Gym: Part 3

Resistance Bands

Resistance bands are a great piece of equipment. They are inexpensive, lightweight, and take up hardly any space. (You can even pack them in your suitcase so you won't miss your strength training sessions while on vacation.) Practically anything you do with dumbbells can be done with a resistance band. They run anywhere from $10-20 and can be purchased at most discount department stores or sporting good stores. They come with an attachment to anchor it in a doorway and with instructions. You can also find exercises on the internet. I've included a few exercises here. WARNING: The model has just gotten up and is not wearing make-up nor has she showered or washed her hair.
Bicep Curls

Tricep Extension

Chest Press

Standing Row

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Decorating the Christmas tree is more than just hanging ornaments. It's a walk down memory lane, reminiscing about the years since my husband and I have been married. Of course, we have a "First Christmas Together", as well as, three "Baby's First Christmas" ornaments. My favorites are the handmade ornaments my children made when they were in elementary and preschool. The sequins have since fallen off the felt Christmas trees and bells, but I still hang them up.

We also have ornaments from vacations--a painted egg from Salzburg, Austria, an ornament from a White House tour, a painted glass ball from Sunriver, Oregon, and so on.

I have the ornaments my sister-in-law had my nieces pick out for me when they were toddlers--Kim picked an angel and Lindsay chose Kermit the frog.

My most recent "memory" ornament is the paw print of our little Border Terrier, Molly. The impression was made when we had her put down. Even though it makes me sad to hang it, it also brings back the great memories I have of her.

I always feel nostalgic when decorating the tree. I wish for those days when the kids were young and at home. When I was a child, I counted down the days until Christmas. Now I count down the days until my children are all home.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Quick Workout

With all the busy-ness of the holiday season, it's hard to find time for those extended workouts. I try to always get my cardio workout done, but the weight training tends to take a back burner. So here's a way to get a little strength training in that will tide you over.

Do three sets of the following:

1. Squats - 30 reps

2. Push-ups - 20 reps

3. Crunches - 75 reps

These exercises will work most of your major muscle groups in a short amount of time.
A few other things you can do: while waiting in line at the grocery store, do calf raises (raise up to your tippy toes and lower back down). You can easily do hundreds of these. Also, contract your abs whenever you come to a red light. Remember to give yourself a day of rest between strength training workouts.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Quick and Easy Salmon

I got home from work a little later than planned and didn't feel like fussing much with dinner. This recipe is great for pulling a meal together in a few minutes. I added some green beans and a Caesar salad and voila! Dinner was ready in less than 30 minutes.

Citrus-glazed Salmon

2 T. low-sugar orange marmalade
1/2 t. balsamic vinegar
1/2 t. Dijon mustard
4 salmon fillets
salt and pepper to taste
Cooking spray

1. Preheat broiler
2. Combine first 4 ingredients.
3. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper. Place salmon on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Broil for 5-6 minutes. Turn salmon. Broil for 2-3 minutes. Brush with marmalade mixture and broil for an additional 2 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Monday, November 29, 2010


"You are my lamp, O Lord;
The Lord turns my darkness into light."
2 Samuel 22:29

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Passing of the Baton

Two weeks ago, my mother decided she was done hosting Thanksgiving. It was time for the next generation to take over. Since I am the only daughter (a position I loved as a little girl), the baton was being passed to me. Thankfully, I love to spend time in the kitchen, searching out new recipes and experimenting with different herbs and spices. Yes, I was ready to take on the challenge. Also, I have a secret weapon--my son.

Dave not only loves to cook, but he's very good at it. While he was in the Coast Guard, he spent several months in cooking school. As a result, he handles a knife with the elegance of a samurai. He also knows how to make gravy, which is something I never do and am still confused about, even though I've read several "how-to-make-gravy" tutorials. After several phone conversations (he is in law school at Villanova and lives in Philly), we had our menu nailed down.
Thanksgiving Day Menu

Romaine with Pears, Walnuts, Blue Cheese and Cranberry Dressing
Cranberry Sauce
Roast Turkey
Dave's Incredible Mashed Potatoes
Sausage, Apple and Cranberry Stuffing
Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust

I decided to skip the sweet potatoes and a vegetable. I've learned from my sister-in-law that you don't have to have a gazillion dishes when entertaining. As it was, everyone was stuffed to the point of loosening our belt buckles.
We had so much fun preparing everything. Our daughter, Anne, and Dave's girlfriend, Danielle, helped out. It was definitely a group effort. (The only thing that would have made it better is if our youngest, Katie, had been home, too.) The meal turned out delicious. The company was even better. I am truly blessed to have a such a wonderful family.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Quick and Easy Chicken

If you need a quick meal, this recipe is for you. You can throw it together in less time than it takes to preheat your oven. Serve it with a salad and you have a great, healthy dinner.

Chicken Roasted with Artichokes and Tomatoes

Serves 4

1 c. cherry tomatoes
1 can (14 0z.) quartered artichoke hearts, drained
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 T. balsamic vinegar
2 T. light butter
1/2 t. dried oregano leaves,
1/4 t. ground black pepper
1/2 c. feta cheese
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In 9 x 13-inch roasting pan, toss tomatoes, artichokes, garlic, vinegar and 1 T. butter.

In a small bowl, blend remaining 1 T. butter with oregano and pepper. Evenly spread on tops of chicken. Arrange chicken on tomato mixture. Roast 25 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly cooked.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Big House Workout

I'm referring to the University of Michigan stadium, not a prison. The University of Michigan has the largest stadium in the United States and third largest in the world. The official capacity is 109,901, although yesterday's attendance was 112,276. We have season tickets to the football games, which makes for a busy fall. Yesterday, we met our youngest daughter, Katie, at the game. She flew in from Boston to meet up with one of her U of M roommates. It was so much fun to have her with us.

Going to the games is not for the faint of heart, although my 79 year old mother came with us yesterday and managed extremely well. First of all, we always park in a parking structure in downtown Ann Arbor. We usually end up on the fifth floor of the ramp, so we have five flights of stairs to navigate. The stadium can be seen in the distance from the parking ramp.
Then we walk about a mile to the stadium.
The stadium is built down into a hole, so we enter at row 73. Our seats are in row 15.

Between bathroom breaks and Kettle Corn runs, we end up climbing up and down several times during the game.

If the game is an exciting one, we do a lot of jumping up and sitting back down (a.k.a. squats).
(The Michigan/Illinois game two weeks ago was, by far, the most exciting game I've ever been to. The final score was Michigan 67, Illinois 65. We must have done thousands of squats.) After the game, we have the mile walk back to town, a run up to the car to drop off seat cushions, plus the trek to a restaurant. By this time, we need to refuel and replace those glycogen stores. (It's important to do that within an hour of your workout.) We connected with Kate's friends at a local establishment and had a great time.
After one more photo-op, we gave Katie hugs and headed home. It was a great day.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Quick Healthy Recipe

I got this recipe from a magazine (surprise--I can't remember which one), and modified it a bit. It's quite tasty. I forgot to get cilantro, so normally it is more colorful than pictured here. (Actually, I don't like cilantro. You can substitute with parsley.) Hope you enjoy it.

Sauteed Shrimp on Warm Black Bean Salad

1 1/4 lbs lg. shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 t. olive oil
1 lime
1 sm. onion, chopped
1 med. red pepper, chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 T. chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

1. Sprinkle shrimp with salt and pepper to taste. In large nonstick skillet, heat 1 t. oil on medium heat for 1 minute. Add shrimp and cook about 6 minutes or until shrimp turn opaque throughout, stirring frequently.
2. Meanwhile, from lime, grate 1 t. peel and squeeze 2 T. juice; Set aside.
3. Transfer shrimp to small bowl; cover with foil to keep warm. In same skillet, heat remaining 1 t. oil on medium heat 1 minute. Add onion and red pepper, and cook 8 minutes or until tender. Stir in cumin; cook 1 minute. Add black beans, lime peel and juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook 3 minutes or until heated through. Add shrimp. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Budget Friendly Home Gym: Part 2

This will take you back to elementary school recess--jumping rope. Of course, we didn't care about our cardiovascular health back then. Jumping rope is a great way to get your heart rate up and burn a few extra calories (about 12 calories a minute). If you haven't done this in a while, you'll need to ease into it slowly.

You can pick up a jump rope for about $15 at most sporting goods stores or discount department stores. To get the right fit, stand on the center of the jump rope and pull the handles straight up. They should come to about 6 inches below your collar bone. Wear good supportive athletic shoes. (FYI-you will want an empty bladder when you do this.) Start jumping in 15- to 20-second intervals and work your way up to 10 minutes. Also, if need be, start with double bounce jumps and progress to single bounce jumps.

Jump Rope Routine

Walk in place for 3 to 5 minutes.

Jump for 15 to 20 seconds; rest 40 to 60 seconds and repeat the sequence for 10 minutes. During your rest cycle, keep moving.

Jump rope 3 to 5 times a week or add it to your current cardiovascular routine.

Another option is to use it to do interval training. Intervals are repeated, fast-paced, brief exercise bouts with short rest periods in between. For instance, if you are working out on a piece of equipment (treadmill, elliptical, Nordic Track, etc.), hop off the machine, jump rope for 30 to 60 seconds, and then continue with your regular workout. Repeat jumping rope every 3 to 5 minutes. This will improve your aerobic capacity and help you burn extra calories. Also, it's a fun way to break up the monotony of your workout.

Does anyone remember this?

Johnny over the ocean, Johnny over the sea.
Johnny broke a milk bottle and blamed it on me.
I told Ma, Ma told Pa.
Johnny got a lickin', ha, ha, ha.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


The other day, I went shopping at the mall. When I went to leave, my car wasn't there. I walked up and down several rows in the parking lot to no avail. I repeated the process--no car. So there I stood. Who moved my car? Did someone steal it? As people were coming and going, I felt like I needed to explain myself so they wouldn't think I was some lunatic waiting to prey on them. Did I really enter through the same door I always do? Yes, I was certain. As I was about to call the police to report a stolen vehicle, I spotted it. My car was in a totally different place than where I had parked it. I NEVER park in that area. I've come to the conclusion that there is a conspiracy out there targeting only the middle-aged and older population. (You never hear of this happening to the younger crowd.) They move our cars while we're shopping to make us feel like we're losing our minds. It's working.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

1001 Uses For Bruschetta

Well, okay, how about four. Sam's Club has THE BEST bruschetta. It's located by the fresh meat, cheeses, and deli meats. It's great, not only in the summer, but all year long. The anemic tomatoes at the grocery store are pitiful in the off season. The bruschetta gives you that fresh tomato taste all year long. Here are some different ways I use it.

1. Traditional Bruschetta
Slice a French baguette into 1/2 inch slices. Brush with olive oil (or spray with olive oil Pam, to save on fat and calories). Grill or broil bread until lightly toasted. Top with

2. Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with Bruschetta Topping
Clean mushrooms and remove stems. Brush with olive oil (or spray with Pam) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill until tender. Top with bruschetta and sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese. Optional: Add cubed fresh mozzarella to bruschetta.

3. Grilled Pork Chops With Bruschetta
Drain liquid from bruschetta. Spoon liquid over pork chops and marinate at least 15 minutes. Grill pork until cooked through. Spoon bruschetta over and serve.

4. Tilapia with Bruschetta
Put each tilapia fillet on a sheet of foil. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with lemon juice. Seal the foil and grill or bake (450 degrees) for 6-10 minutes. Transfer fish to plates and top with bruschetta.

Bon Appetit!

I have to add an addendum.  Sam's Club has changed their bruschetta since I wrote this post and it isn't as good.  The color looks unnatural and it's sweet.  I'm trying to find a new source of ready made bruschetta but haven't had any success.  I'm still searching. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Budget Friendly Home Gym: Part 1

A medicine ball is a great piece of equipment that provides a fun alternative to dumbbells. They can be picked up at any discount department store (Target, Walmart, etc.) or sporting goods store. They vary in price from $15-$50, depending on the weight. You will want to start out with a light ball and work your way up to heavier ones as you get stronger. Medicine ball routines can provide a total body workout in just minutes a day. Here are a couple of exercises to try.

Squat Tap: Works legs, glutes, calves, and shoulders

-Stand with feet shoulder width apart; hold a medicine ball with arms straight down, fingertips pointed toward the floor.

-Bend at the knees and hips to lower into a squat position, keep your back straight, eyes forward, and tap the ball on the floor.

-Rise up to a standing position and onto your toes while you straighten your arms and extend the ball overhead, like you're placing the ball on a high shelf.

-Go back to the starting position and repeat 15 times.

Leg Balance: Works core, balance, glutes, and arms

-Stand on one leg (bend the other leg and hold it behind slightly), holding the weighted ball in one hand with elbow bent, forearm parallel to the floor. Keep the stationary knee slightly bent, contract the abdominal muscles to help balance.

-Maintain your balance as you toss the ball from one hand to the other, pausing with each catch. Repeat 15 times (or until fatigued), then switch feet.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tomato Tart

Fresh Tomato Tart

Basic pastry dough

8 oz. Mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 T. Chopped fresh basil
3-4 Large ripe tomatoes, in 1/4-1/2" slices
1/2 t. Salt
1/4 c. Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 10" loose-bottom tart pan with pastry dough. Spread bottom with cheese and sprinkle with basil.
Cover with tomato slices, arranging to cover as evenly as possible. Sprinkle tomatoes with salt and drizzle with olive oil. Bake 30 to 40 minutes. Garnish with fresh basil. Slice in wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Water Sports

The best part of having an empty nest is when the kids come home to visit. Our son, Dave, arrived last Friday from Philadelphia. It was great to spend time with him before the girls and our son-in-law got home late Saturday night. (Katie, our youngest, flew into Chicago from Boston, and Anne and Jason picked her up.) We had everyone together for only one short day.
Hmm...what to do?

We decided to rent a pontoon boat on Sunday afternoon. We cruised around White Lake, enjoying the sunshine and all-around gorgeous weather. We did a little swimming off the boat after the kids went tubing. Anne and Jason left to go back to Chesterton, Indiana after we got back to shore.

Unfortunately, Dave's visit came to an end on Monday. We got him to the airport Monday afternoon and Katie was left with the old folks. We spent time at the beach on Tuesday. (The guy with the boombox was quite entertaining as he got into the techno music he was listening to.)

Wednesday, we decided to go kayaking on the White River. We rented kayaks at the Happy Mohawk Canoe Livery. We had several options for trips. We chose the 3 hour paddle down stream. The bus would pick us up on the hour at the "trading post".
As we were making our way down the river, I started thinking about what kinds of things they would have at the trading post. I'm always up for a little shopping. I imagined snacks, of course, and maybe moccasins, beaded belts, and other leather crafts. I figured if we had to wait for the bus, we could do some browsing.

After 90 minutes of paddling, with blisters forming on my hands, I eagerly anticipated the trading post. My hopes would be up at every turn in the river, only to be dashed as we came around the bend. Finally, after two hours, we saw the sign. Also, as it was the top of the hour, the bus was there. Of course, that didn't leave much time for the trading post. The couple who was already there said they had just missed the bus from the last hour and had to wait for 55 minutes. I asked them if they went shopping in the trading post. They looked at me quizzically. Then I asked where the trading post was. The bus driver said there was a trading post at this spot years ago (circa 1800's), but it was gone now. I was so disappointed. This was false advertising. They had led us to believe we were going on a kayaking/shopping trip. So much for water sports.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Joy of Summer

One of my favorite things to do in the summer is to go for a walk after dinner with my husband. We usually walk down to Lake Harbor Park and stroll down the old road along Mona Lake. We sit down on one of the benches (we have our favorite) for a while and watch the activity.

Last week, a bird repeatedly circled in the air and then dove from about twenty feet up into the water. He didn't seem to catch anything, hence, the reason he probably kept doing it.
There are usually people fishing amongst the walkers, bikers, and runners. When the weather is warm, there are lots of boats, jet skis, and kayaks on the water. If we have time, we take the woodsy path out to Lake Michigan and walk along the beach. It's about 3-5 miles round-trip. (Of course, I wear my handy pedometer.) As the days are getting shorter, I'm trying to savor it. If only I could stop the clock for a while.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Yummy Broccoli?

Okay, I know it sounds like an oxymoron, but this broccoli recipe is REALLY good. My husband even said after dinner, "I can't believe I'm saying this, but that was a great broccoli recipe." You'll just have to try it and see for yourself.

Garlic Broccoli

1 lb. fresh or frozen broccoli, chopped
2 t. dark sesame oil
2 t. canola oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. soy sauce
1 T. sugar
1 T. balsamic vinegar
1 T. water

Cook broccoli until crisp-tender. Keep warm.
Combine garlic, soy sauce, sugar, balsamic vinegar, and water in small bowl. Heat oils in small saucepan over medium heat or until hot. Remove from heat; add soy sauce mixture, stirring until sugar dissolves. Pour over broccoli, tossing to coat. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Pleasures of Summer

One of my favorite things about summer is going to the local Farmers' Market. Saturdays are the best because there are more vendors and a gazillion people. I always run into people I know, including some of my patients. When I see them at the store, we tend to check out each others' cart. At the Farmers' Market, nobody has to be embarrassed about what they're buying, because most everything is healthy. My only problem is that I end up buying more than we can eat. Everything looks so good, but I'm only cooking for two.

Over the years, I've gotten to know some of the farmers. One guy always asks me about my children. I've shared my tomato tart recipe with his wife. (I'll do a post on it soon.) The best tomatoes at the market are grown by one of my patients' wives. You have to get there early because they go fast. (If her husband comes to rehab on Friday, I tell him how many I want and she saves them for me--a great perk.) Another farmer is in his 90's and still carries bushel baskets of apples to the customers cars. My favorite group to buy from does the most amazing display of their fruits and vegetables. They must have creative genes or else have taken a Farmer's marketing class.

Unfortunately, the market ends in November and we go back to anemic tomatoes. I wish we could get fresh produce all year round. But then I probably wouldn't appreciate it quite as much.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cool Workout

Several years ago, while in Hawaii, the resort we were staying at offered a water jogging class, which piqued my interest. I assumed we would jog in waist deep water, but it was nothing like that. When I arrived at the meeting spot, the instructor had me (I was the only one who showed up) put on a flotation belt and we went out into the lagoon. We got into deep water over our heads and "jogged" back and forth through the water. She had me do different types of movement, like pumping my legs up and down, doing a cross-country skiing type motion, and scissor-type kicks. It was really fun and something totally different from my usual routine. A big bonus was staying cool while exercising in the water.

Once we got back home, I couldn't find anything similar in our area. My sweet and thoughtful husband surprised me with water jogging gear for my birthday.
Now every summer, I put on the radio and jog in our backyard pool. The music makes it fun and more energetic. It's a great adjunct to my workouts. Of course, after my workout is over, it's time to relax.
Thanks to my daughter, Anne, for being a good sport and posing for the pictures.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What a Hoot!

Saturday morning, my husband called to me from the study to come see something. He often does this and I'm not always impressed. It's usually something on the computer, like lions chasing down a baby cape buffalo and then an alligator nabbing one of the lions. But I have to say, this time I was awed.
Outside our window was an owl sitting plainly visible in a tree. At one point, he (I think it was a he) was sitting on the porch railing. He was there most of the morning. His neck mobility was amazing. (That's something I need to work on.) A few times he swooped down, but I didn't see if he caught anything (hmmm, strangely reminiscent of the lion video). I was so glad my husband shared it with me. Next time he calls for me to come see something, I'll more come eagerly.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Roasted Red Peppers

My husband and I both love red bell peppers. They are normally a little pricey, but they were on sale this week for $1/each, a third of their normal price. I had fresh oregano on my patio,
so I decided to make one of our favorite summer recipes--Savory Roasted Peppers.

If you have never roasted sweet bell peppers, it's very easy. First, cut the pepper into quarters. Place them skin side up on a baking sheet.

Broil for 6-8 minutes, or until skin is blackened. (You can also place them skin side down on the grill and cook until skin is blackened.)

Remove from broiler and place in a paper bag for 10 minutes. Remove skin from peppers.
At this point, you can use them in any recipe.
For the Savory Roasted Peppers, whisk together the following:

3 T. Soy sauce
2 T. balsamic vinegar
2 T. olive oil
1 T. finely chopped fresh oregano
1 large clove garlic, minced

Add peppers to soy sauce mixture and marinate 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. To serve, sprinkle peppers with feta cheese.
Every time I serve these, my husband tells me, "I really like this recipe." Never fails!