MJ Monday: Meals-Carol’s Casserole

Welcome to 2019! I’m shaking up my blog a bit this year. Mondays are now MJ Monday…where I talk about food, music, movies, my manuscript in progress, and motivation. This week is the debut of MJ’s Meals.

One of my retreat friends has been on a very restrictive diet, so when we were planning a recent retreat, we had to take her food situation under consideration. I love the challenge of finding and/or creating a meal that meets the affected one’s needs.

I had some leftover garlic scapes, which my friend could have. The only kind of oil she was allowed was olive oil. So the first thing I did was harvest chives (another food she could eat) and add them to the garlic scapes in my blender and pulverized them.

Then I added the pulp to olive oil in glass jar (my husband doesn’t understand my need to save glass jars with excellent lids on them).

I placed the concoction in the refrigerator for a week.  After the week was up, I strained the oil through a fine mesh tea strainer.

Voila! My very own garlic infused oil.

I dusted some chicken breasts with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika and sautéed them in olive oil.  I find pre-cooking as much as I can when going on retreat is the way to go.

On the evening it was my turn to cook dinner, I cubed the precooked chicken and added it to diced sweet potatoes, a sliced sweet onion, and chunks of red bell pepper, all of which were on my friend’s OK-to-eat list. I drizzled in the infused olive oil and mixed it well.

Forty minutes later (in a 400F oven), we had our very first Carol Casserole.

It’s a keeper.

#CrackpotTheory: Color, Food, & the Weather

I love bright  colorsI hate “tasteful” décor: ecru, beige, eggshell, and other shades of brown and white;  deep greens; dark reds. Who gets to decide what’s tasteful? Please!

One thing I’ve noticed is cultures that indulge in bright colors also tend to eat spicier foods. Foods with flavor. Full of taste. Yes, I know curry was invented to hide the taste of rotting food–but so was mayonnaise.

Other correlations I’ve noticed is that cultures with bright colors and spicy foods tend to be in warmer climates. They also seem to be closer to their emotions–more aware of their passions and unafraid to show them.

Color makes me happy. Spicy food makes me happy. Hot summer days make me happy (you can keep the humidity). Maybe I need to move.

 

 

 

 

Recipe: State Fair Pasta

I love to cook. I’m not such a hot baker, but cooking? I do okay.

Here’s one of my favorite concoctions.

Slice Italian sausage (I prefer sweet, but hot will do just fine) and place in a large frying pan and start cooking.

Take 1 sweet onion and two bell peppers (I’m not a fan of green peppers, so I use yellow and red), and cut them into strips.

Cook the sausage thoroughly. When it is done, DO NOT drain the grease from the pan.

Add the sliced veggies to the frying pan. Mix well.

Turn the heat to medium and COVER THE PAN. This is very important. You do not want the juices from the vegetables to evaporate into the air, but to mingle with the sausage grease to form a sauce.

Cook your favorite pasta. I think spirals work best with this sauce.

Stir the veggies occasionally. Let the veggies cook down until they are about half the size they were when raw.

You will have a juicy mix of sausage, peppers, and onions that smells exactly like a sunny day at the State Fair.

Drain the pasta when it’s done, then place in large bowl. Top with the sausage, peppers, and onions and all the liquid from the frying pan.  Mix well.

Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

 

Hydration

The last time I went to the doctor, he told me I was dehydrated. I try very hard to drink water throughout the day, but am not always successful. My solution to that is to keep several insulated containers of cold water at my desk. Doing this has helped.

At home is another story. I was swilling iced tea faster than I could make it and chill it, so I was holding back drinking, so I’d have something cold to drink “later.” I finally decided that was a bogus strategy, since it prevented me from drinking enough fluids.

I went on line and found my favorite iced tea pitcher and purchased it in several additional colors. Then I created a color-coded key and hung it on the fridge.

I like teas from Celestial Seasonings, especially their Cool Brew black teas. I order these by the case directly from Celestial Seasonings, as I cannot find them in stores around here. You don’t need to boil water to make them. I also like their fruit teas, especially the blueberry and acai mango.

So here is what the top shelf of my fridge now looks like:

I never go thirsty.

#UpbeatAuthors: Healthy Eating

Like everything else, defining “healthy eating” depends on one’s point of view. What my niece with celiac disease considers healthy is totally different from the foods her sister who is allergic to casein (milk protein) knows are safe. Peanut butter was a staple in my house when the Chromos were growing up. It would be deadly in other cupboards

Too often we forget mental health when it comes to eating. There are days when nothing less than Chinese for lunch will do. Or a carton of Ben & Jerry’s. Or a jar of Nutella. On those days, these food are healthy. No apologies. No judging.

And what about comfort food? Homemade macaroni-and-cheese? Grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup? Comfort is good for the soul. That’s healthy, too.

Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be conscious of what goes into our bodies. Most of the time, I do try to eat foods generally considered healthy: Greek yogurt for breakfast, green salads for lunch, whole grain breads and low-fat cheese on my grilled cheese sandwiches. This past summer I swapped out making pasta salads for making quinoa salads, and it wasn’t a sacrifice.  My standard pot-luck contribution is a fresh berry/fruit salad. Naked. Lots of antioxidants and vitamins. Y-chromo called me the other night to find out how to cook butternut squash. X-Chromo preferred vegetables to any kind of sugar, even as a toddler. I stopped drinking coffee nine or ten years ago because the withdrawal symptoms when I was fasting were brutal. If I was that addicted to something, maybe it’s not good for me.

But don’t ever try to take away my Nutella.