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.