Refrigerator Oats: What Does Summer Taste Like?

“Morning is an important time of day, because how you spend your morning can often tell you what kind of day you are going to have.” 
―Lemony Snicket 

WHAT DOES SUMMER TASTE LIKE?

As a writing teacher, I ask my students to think concretely about the abstract. In the first week of June, as the promise of vacation slides into our backpacks, I ask my students to describe summer. Their foreheads crinkle, review-packet- glazed-eyes squint, and the consensus becomes one simple word: F R E E D O M.

By the end of the school year I feel it too. Yet, “What does freedom taste like?” I press.“What does it sound like?” “What does it smell like?” “What does it look and feel like?” How can we make summer tangible in our minds and in our writing?

Ask my family what the freedom of summer feels like and my step kids will say a sticky river of watermelon juice flooding down their face. Or a cup of strawberry lemonade abandoned on the pool deck, now warm and syrupy, complete with a hovering dragon fly.

Avalon will say that freedom tastes like peanut butter cup S’mores – the marshmallow roasted to a golden brown on the fire pit in our backyard. Lukas will lick his lips and say it tastes like tuna steak, grilled to medium rare perfection by Dad, and a lemon sauce made with the dill he planted.

Summer looks like imagination as eight-year- old Lukas and I crouch down behind a stand of maple trees and slink around our pasture trying to out-sneak the alien queen. “Shhhhhhhhh,” Luke whispers,” she cannot see us with our cloaking devices, but she can hear us and she can smell us…”

Summer looks like an air mattress thrown next to the pond, so Avalon and I can memorize a swath of black velvet sky and wish on shooting stars until the grass grows damp and we fall asleep, John later rousing us to go inside.

It is a thick stack of books from the Peter White Library and a tent pitched by two industrious kids in our apple orchard to serve as a reading nook. It is flipping through each book at the end of the day to make sure a snake does not find its way into the house again as a stowaway. It is our lazy Golden Retrievers Ollie and Gracie lounging in a puddle of yellow sun, a whippoorwill’s mysterious call on the Whitefish River, and early mornings at McCarty’s Cove as we comb the icy, lace edged waves for beach glass.

July sounds like Shakespeare our rooster crowing under our bedroom window at 5:00 am as the decision arrives to either sleep in, or rise early (and indulge in an afternoon nap). It is a brown egg, still warm, in the palm of your hand as it plinks into the galvanized bucket to the soothing warble of a plump red hen. It’s the earthy smell of pine shavings in a freshly shoveled coop, the spicy aroma of star gazer lilies, and a humid thicket of sky that aches chartreuse and then bruised plum after an urgent rain storm.

It is a tear escaping your eye when you see veterans marching in the parade, goose bumps when you hear sirens of those who protect and serve, and it is gathering up camping chairs and beach blankets (sometimes for warmth) to watch fireworks sparkle and pulsate across the backdrop of the Ore Dock at the Lower Harbor, over Teal Lake, or in Trenary.

Can you tell that I am a summer girl? Summer takes my breath away and makes me feel that we are part of something magical. Yet, we all know how fleeting our summers are in Upper Michigan. Even when I find myself watering the garden, or packing for a family road trip to Muskegon to visit my in laws, I find that I am always pondering the upcoming school year and planning ahead. What worked last year and what will I repeat? What new resources do I have to gather? How can I more efficiently balance my schedule of work and family? How can I stay healthy and keep up with my classroom full of challenging teenagers?

Last year one of my secret weapons for keeping my energy levels up and being prepared for work was making sure that I had my breakfast planned the night before. We have been told forever that breakfast is the most important meal, yet many people will confess to grabbing heavily processed convenience foods or skipping the meal all together. That is why overnight oats was a game changer for both my husband and I. Since I can prepare the oatmeal days in advance, our mornings are reserved for coffee, taking care of farm chores, getting the kids up, a quick kiss, and hustling out the door to work.

The basic recipe that I am going to share is consumed cold (think yogurt and fruit parfait). I know it sounds strange to not cook the oatmeal, but it softens and takes on a pleasing texture in the refrigerator. If you would rather have a hot breakfast, you can find recipes for warm versions online, or you can omit the yogurt and heat in the microwave. I use wide-mouthed one pint mason jars and prepare them up four or five days in advance. The glass jars keep the ingredients fresh, are easy to wash, I always have them on hand, and make the oatmeal visually appealing. I like to make a couple extra because my step daughter Avalon likes to take the oatmeal to school as a filling and healthy breakfast, lunch, or snack option. They are so easy to prepare that if I did not prep on Sunday, I can throw them together each night when I take care of the dinner dishes.

BASIC OVERNIGHT OATS

*1/3 cup of old fashioned oats (quick cooking oats don’t hold up as well)
*1/3 cup of milk (you can substitute almond, coconut, or any non-dairy milk)
*1/3 cup of Greek yogurt (Greek yogurt often has more protein)
*1 teaspoon of chia seeds (or more)

Add the above ingredients into the jar and stir well. Top with sliced fruit and/or berries (fresh or frozen), nuts, or any other toppings that you want to add.

The oatmeal provides you with filling fiber and packs a punch in helping your body fight cholesterol. The chia seeds and nuts give you Omeg-3 and fatty acids, the yogurt gives you a protein boost, and the fruit provides essential vitamins and minerals. How perfect is that?

When I prepare our refrigerator oatmeal, I often choose ingredients from what we have in the house. My family enjoys the Greek Gods flavored yogurts and I often buy fat free versions for myself. While I normally buy flavored yogurt, sometimes I will buy plain and stir in flavorings.

They are so easy to throw together that you customize them to fit each family member. You can make them healthy, or indulgent, and they are easy to grab and go for work, school, gym, or the beach.

Some of our favorite flavor combinations are:

RED WHITE & BLUE
*Strawberries
*Blueberries
*Caramelized pecans

CHOCOLATE COVERED BANANA
*Peanut butter
*Banana
*Almonds
*1/2 vanilla yogurt and ½ chocolate yogurt

ISLAND OATMEAL
*Mango
*Pineapple
*Coconut
*Macadamia nuts

ZESTY BLUEBERRY
*Blueberries
*Cinnamon
*Lemon zest and juice added to the yogurt
*Almonds

APPLE ORCHARD
*Diced Granny Smith Apples
*Maple syrup
*Brown Sugar
*Cinnamon
*Raisins
*Walnuts

CHERRY JUBILEE
*Cherries (Fresh in the summer and frozen dark sweet cherries in the winter)
*Couple dashes of almond extract mixed into the oatmeal
*Pistachios and cashews

Other ingredient options:

*apple sauce (put those Michigan apples to great use and make homemade apple sauce this fall.)
*protein powder
*flaxseed
*cocoa powder (great with orange segments and zest)
*pumpkin puree
*dried fruit
*Granola
*crushed graham crackers
*chocolate chips (great way to get the kids to eat healthier. You only have to top the oatmeal with a few chips)
*Granulated coffee or a bit of espresso for a mocha flavored oatmeal

What is your breakfast routine? If you are currently depriving your body of nutrition in the
morning, or simply need to change things up, these overnight oats are for you. Make sure to stop by my Facebook page  to let me know what you think and please share your favorite refrigerator oatmeal flavor combinations.

What does summer look like, taste like, sound like, and feel like for your family? Savor July because before we know it – we will be enjoying glorious Upper Michigan snow! Until then, you can find me weeding the hoop house, chasing aliens, or lounging in the pool and working on my teacher tan (as my husband John affectionately calls it). Memorize the feeling of July and enjoy the freedom we have to live in such a charming, wild, and beautiful place.


 

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Our Story

“I don’t know what rituals my kids will carry into adulthood, whether they’ll grow up attached to homemade pizza on Friday nights, or the scent of peppers roasting over a fire, or what. I do know that flavors work their own ways under the skin, into the heart of longing. Where my kids are concerned I find myself hoping for the simplest things: that if someday they crave orchards where their kids can climb into the branches and steal apples, the world will have trees enough with arms to receive them.”
-Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

 

Shakespeare our rooster and one of his girls.

Summer is here and it has been wonderful to the Waldos so far. Year #16 of teaching is in the books and I have been blissfully enjoying mornings of reflection. June translated to a cup of coffee, sleeping kids, snoring dogs, and the fragrance of lilacs and apple blossoms in our tiny, cozy home. I am recharging for the new school year by filling the well with the beauty around me. My focus this summer will be growth – in the garden, in my writing, and in continuing to develop myself as a wife, mother, and teacher.

Our apple trees were loaded with blossoms this spring.

It is going to be a great year for apples!

John and I had have come so far in our time together. Wednesday, June 7, 2017 was a huge financial milestone for us as we closed on our refinance/home mortgage. Yes, the farm is officially ours! Our loan officer at the credit union praised us for what we’ve done with our credit score in our time together. How wonderful it feels for us to finally find a partner who is on the same page with work ethic and commitment to a career and the future. We will continue to work on our financial health together and teach Avalon and Lukas how to be resourceful, penny wise, and independent.

While nothing is perfect, and we have our moments (we are both set In our ways) I am thankful to be building a life with a man who puts providing for his family, and our safety, as his priority. I can’t stress enough how hard John works. Both in his profession and his personal life. Our home is a labor of love – demonstrated by the sweat equity he has put into our land. While the appraisal showed us a dollar amount – the legacy we have to hand down to the kids, because of his steadfastness, is priceless.

Thank you, John for strength in the face of adversity. While many people would have raised the white flag in defeat – you stood your ground to keep
this beautiful farm and give Avalon and Lukas a safe and secure childhood. In doing so you are providing them with the opportunity to learn about the delicate balance of nature, see where their food comes from, and sustainability.

Thank you for allowing me to be part of your world. In a few weeks we celebrate the two year anniversary of our marriage – but in reality – we’ve been searching all our lives for each other. Corny? Yes, but true.

How thankful we are to the family and friends/co-workers who have helped us in countless ways. Through turmoil, heartache, and divorce and onto fresh starts – our network of support has uplifted and kept us going. ♥️

I know we will encounter rough patches, but we are a team. I’m ready for the next chapter of our adventure. After signing the mountain of paper work in June the world looks different. The focus is clearer and the colors are richer. Home has a new definition for me – and I am ready to stretch and fortify our roots together. 🌱🌱🌱

I’ve always believed that dreams combined with hard work pays off – no matter your age. I love John, Avalon, and Lukas. I love our story. 

John is adding a new pond, complete with a rushing river, to our property.

My pensive and talented husband. He truly is a landscape artist.

Check out our GIANT metal rooster. I named him Apollo.

We adopted a duck named Lucky. She was rescued by the daughter of one of my friends. Lucky loves her new pond! Lukas loves her.

Lupine. June was a rainy month and my gardens and flowers are flourishing.

Our new hoop house is our pride and joy!

July 1st we harvested broccoli and peas. We started harvesting lettuce in June.

Happy kids enjoying the pool!

Our apple orchard. Home Sweet Home. ❤

 

Our family picture taken at the Pigs-N-Heat Charity Hockey Game in 2017.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Sweet Potato with Pomegranate Balsamic Vinaigrette

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
-Margaret Atwood

Though I refuse to wish my days away, I am dreaming of dirt season. Each day I watch the snow banks recede (or loom larger) and imagine the bulbs that I planted last fall begin to tingle with life. I can imagine the glossy blooms like plump scoops of pastel sorbet – hyacinth, tulips, and crocus – gracing our breakfast table in vintage milk glass vessels perched atop my great-grandmother’s lace doilies.

In addition to indulging in visions of frothy blossoms, I am researching new vegetables to grow. While in the past we have had good luck with tomatoes, squash, beans, and peas – this year John and I are taking gardening to a new level with a 32×70 foot hoop house. While it is exciting to be able to extend our growing season, it is a bit intimidating as well. I hope to share some of our trials and tribulations on my blog for others who want to grow more of their own food.

Since John and I have an affinity for Brussels sprouts, they are on the top of our to-grow list. While the health benefits of cruciferous sprouts are plenty (Brussels sprouts contain many phytonutrients that promote our health by protecting against cancer and fighting cholesterol), the writer in me marvels over the names of different varieties of vegetables. Even Brussels sprouts are poetic when lavished with titles like Jade Cross, Oliver, and Valiant.
As with much fresh produce such as kale, cabbage, and broccoli – the health benefits of Brussels sprouts are heightened when they are lightly steamed. However, John is wild about my roasted Brussels sprouts. The roasting process caramelizes the sprout and makes them sweet and savory at the same time. For this recipe I decided to incorporate another one of John’s favorites sweet potatoes minus the globs of butter, brown sugar, and marshmallows (sorry, Sweetheart) and a homemade Pomegranate Vinaigrette dressing.

(Printable recipe below)


To roast the Brussels sprouts (I roasted two bags) cut in half and spread on a baking sheet (cover with foil for easy clean up) and toss in the following mixture:  

*2 Tablespoons coconut oil (or your favorite cooking oil)
*2 Tablespoons of soy sauce
*I Tablespoon Dijon mustard
*1 Tablespoon minced garlic
*1 teaspoon cumin
*Black pepper to taste

To roast the sweet potato (I used two large potatoes), cut into small cubes and toss in a Tablespoon of oil, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and a dash of salt and pepper.

I roasted the Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes on separate sheets since the potatoes take slightly longer. Roast Brussels sprout at 400-425 degrees for 30 minutes (depending on oven) and the potatoes for 45 minutes. Turn both at the midway point.

POMEGRANATE VINAIGRETTE
*1 cup pomegranate juice
*1/4 cup of vinegar (my favorite variety of vinegar for this dressing are either red wine or balsamic)
*1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
*1 clove of garlic
*1 teaspoon of red onion
*1 Tablespoon honey (more or less to taste)
*salt and pepper to taste

Blend well (The dressing will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator)

This dish can be made ahead and the sprouts and potatoes can be heated if you want to serve warm.

Arrange the Brussels sprouts and potatoes on a plate and add a few grapefruit segments. Sprinkle with gorgonzola cheese (blue, feta, or goat cheese make great pairings). Drizzle with a couple Tablespoons of dressing and sprinkle with extra crisp bacon or walnuts. Since my husband eats meat, I serve his with bacon, and I like walnuts or almonds with mine.

This dish can be served as a salad or side, and is delicious warm or cold. While fresh Brussels sprouts would be preferred, I used frozen – which makes this a versatile offering year round. Incidentally, frozen vegetables are healthy because they are flash frozen at the peak of ripeness.

For other seasonal twists on this recipe — serve with roasted cranberries, crisp apples, or fresh blackberries in the fall, in the summer toss with juicy cherries; in the spring early strawberries, and citrus segments in the winter for a splash of color, texture, and flavor.

The roasting technique, and the sauce that I use, also turns cauliflower and other vegetables (carrots, green beans, zucchini, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes) into magical creations. The roasting time will be shorter for more tender vegetables such as beans, mushrooms, and tomatoes. Roasted vegetables are versatile ingredients for vegetarians and meat eaters alike and can be served hot or cold and are great tossed into pasta, soups, or as the bed for salads.

Printable RecipeRoasted Brussels Sprouts with Sweet Potato and Pomegranate Balsamic Vinaigrette

As I watch the birds puff up their feathers outside our windows, I know that I am not alone when I say that I am aching for green grass, spring flowers, and the opportunity to poke seeds down into a plot of damp earth. Until then, one of the benefits of cool weather is being to enjoy living inside a cozy house with the fragrant aroma of roasting vegetables. It is my pleasure to share this recipe with you and make sure you check out my other recipes for more ways to incorporate a rainbow of produce to your menu.

Witness to Beauty – It’s All About Perspective

“The conclusion I have reached is that, above all, dogs are witnesses. They are allowed access to our most private moments. They are there when we think we are alone. Think of what they could tell us. They sit on the laps of presidents. They see acts of love and violence, quarrels and feuds, and the secret play of children. If they could tell us everything they have seen, all of the gaps of our lives would stitch themselves together.”
Carolyn Parkhurst, The Dogs of Babel

Meesha is the latest member of our family. <3

Meet Meesha, the latest member of our family. ❤

As a teacher I tend to mark the passing of time in marking periods and school events. This week we are hot-on-the-heels of semester one exams and last weekend finished winter homecoming festivities. The students that I have helped mentor as a class adviser are seniors and I was proud of their efforts decorating their hallway and winning the spirit pep jug for the fourth year in a row. My husband showed his support by offering to help chaperone the homecoming dance Friday night (in spite of a full day of work and an early wake up the next morning). It was entertaining to watch Lukas (seven) try out his slick dance moves and Avalon (ten) was pleased that for the third year in a row that she got to help with hallway decorating. As always, I am thankful that my place of employment is family friendly and I love that our kids get to interact with my high school students and their education stakeholders.

Lukas trying out his slick moves on the dance floor.

Lukas trying out his slick moves on the dance floor.

In my last post, Making Time For Ourselves, I shared my January goals. While I am happy to report that I am knocking my sleep, vitamin, and food journal goals out of the park – the formal exercise and water is still a work in progress. It is always perplexing to me that it is so difficult for me to consume water. I am ashamed to admit that many days the final bell sounds and I have not even touched my water bottle. At home I have been drinking herbal tea (my newest favorite Yogi brand Honey Lavender Stress Relief) so I am thinking that maybe I need to stock my classroom with tea as well.

My food journal has helped me be mindful of what I am eating and I have been keeping a pot of Three Bean Vegetarian Chili in the refrigerator (a filling option for dinner with a veggie burger or salad) and last week I made one of my favorite Mason Jar Salads, Israeli Feast, for my work lunches. Many of the messages that I receive are from people who are tired of eating salads and “rabbit food”. One of the goals of this blog is to help others try a wide-range of ingredients – and that salads do not need to be boring. My best advice is to fill your plate with a rainbow of fresh fruit and vegetables. Not only does eating the same thing over and over get boring, but it also prevents our bodies from getting a wide-range of nutrients. In order to keep myself from repetitive meals, I like to try different combinations. The Israeli Feast is a non-traditional salad recipe that uses hummus and quinoa tabouli in place of salad dressing. For last week’s version I added avocado to the hummus to amp up the nutritional content with healthy fats.

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fullsizeoutput_1139fullsizeoutput_113afullsizeoutput_113cWhile I still need to work on moving more, my Fitbit is showing increased activity. On Saturday and Sunday I made a concerted effort to get outside and make the most of the sunshine and blue skies. In fact, the views from our property were so inspiring that I have to share them with you. The recent addition to our family, Meesha a two-year-old German Shepherd, is a bundle of frolicsome energy. She made an incredible subject for an impromptu photo shoot and her and Lukas made the best workout buddies. We did not even both to put on our snowshoes but traipsed around in the snow. Let me tell you, it was a workout and I sure can feel it today in my legs and back end. 😉

I cannot believe how much energy Meesha has!

I cannot believe how much energy Meesha has!

My step son Lukas loves to play outside - he is 100% Yooper and farm boy.

My step son Lukas loves to play outside – he is 100% Yooper farm boy.

On sunny days we open up the chicken coop so our sweet hens can sun themselves.

On sunny days we open up the chicken coop so our sweet hens can sun themselves.

John has put HOURS into setting up our new hoop house. We are eager for spring to start planting vegetables.

John has put HOURS into setting up our new hoop house. We are eager for spring to start planting vegetables.

Run Meesha!

Run Meesha!

I hope you are doing well on meeting your healthy goals. If you are struggling, do not give up – each day (every hour) gives us the opportunity for a fresh start. This week I am going to work on my water intake and will be striving to get in more activity. Join me in making time for yourself. Do something that you enjoy doing and seek out beauty. When I grab my camera and go for hike it is much more enjoyable than the gym. Not only am I doing something good for my body, but I am also nourishing my creativity and filling my senses.  It is all about perspective. While winter is not my favorite season, I cannot afford to miss the beauty around me. Especially when I have a gorgeous, energetic dog and adorable seven-year-old to keep me motivated and inspired. ❤

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Our little guy Lukas is always up for an outside adventure.

Our little guy Lukas is always up for an outside adventure.

It's a winter wonderland in our backyard.

It’s a winter wonderland in our backyard.

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Making Time For Ourselves in 2017

Greetings, Friends. I hope that the holiday season has been kind to you and that you have spent time with friends, family, and have had more laughter than tears.

My step daughter Avalon selected this tree from our field.

My step daughter Avalon selected this tree from our field. I wanted an old fashioned tree in red and greens. Next year I want to add homemade ornaments.

As 2016 takes its final bow, I find myself full of reflection. Forty-five years of experience has taught me to not have regrets, but to believe that everything happens for a purpose (even if we are too close at the time to realize that gifts come in multiple wrappings and disguises).

I believe that we are our worst critics and that we must focus on the positives in our lives and not wish time away waiting for the things that we long for. We must focus on the now, while planning for the future. Even small changes can impact our tomorrow and help us achieve our dreams. 

I decided that I could reflect on the past year and beat myself up for all the broken promises I made (to myself or others), or I could focus on the strides I made to live a full life. I will be listing my achievements in my private journal and will thank my family and friends for the support and love that they have bestowed on me.

As we pass into a new year, I will continue to plan, grow, and set goals. On the top of my list for 2017 is for my husband John and I to continue making our family’s financial health a priority, to raise the majority of our own food, and to be the best role models that we can be for the two beautiful children that we are raising.

I'm willing to bet that this will be one of Avalon's favorite Christmas presents. <3

I’m willing to bet that this will be one of Avalon’s favorite Christmas presents. ❤

Lukas has his own personal Super Hero. <3

Lukas has his own personal Super Hero. ❤

In 2016 my healthy goals were put on the back burner due to a multitude of excuses and I need to make time for myself in 2017. Are you with me? Are you ready to invest time and energy on yourself? As we know, when we take care of ourselves it enables us to take care of others better. We are better spouses, parents, children, siblings, leaders, bosses – and all the others roles we serve in our lives.

I decided that I needed to put my January goals “out there” in order to commit and achieve them. Studies show that we are more apt to achieve our goals when we write them down and post them in a prominent location.

What are your goals for the next month? Make your goals achievable and realistic. Once we have achieved our goals our success will snowball and we can confidently make the next steps to finding our balance.

Leave a message here (or private message me) if you need support and are willing to give support to a healthy community of individuals. I am willing to create and moderate a private group on Facebook if there’s enough interest (Find and like my FB page in the right corner of the page). There’s nothing to buy – no cost, no strings attached – just the willingness to put yourself first for a few times during the week and focus on your healthy goals.

I promise to make time for myself in the coming days, weeks, months, and years. Join me. We are worth it! 

january-goals

Avalon is a sweetheart and bought this plaque for my classroom. I always tell my students that "Knowledge is Power" - though age gives us wisdom beyond knowledge. Life teaches us many lessons.

Avalon is a sweetheart and bought this plaque for my classroom. I always tell my students that “Knowledge is Power” – though age gives us wisdom beyond knowledge. Life teaches us many lessons.

A couple of months ago we welcomed Meesha into our family. <3

A couple of months ago we welcomed Meesha into our family. ❤

Meesha is a Daddy's Girl. <3

Meesha is a Daddy’s Girl. ❤

Isn't she gorgeous?

Isn’t she gorgeous?

While I love the chicken themed gifts John and the kids selected for me, my favorite is the wrapping. Avalon wrote this sweet message for me. <3

While I love the chicken themed gifts John and the kids selected for me, my favorite is the wrapping. Avalon wrote this sweet message for me. ❤

The Crazy-Chicken-Lady gifts. Love them!

The Crazy-Chicken-Lady gifts. Love them!

Cilantro & Lime Infused Shrimp Tacos with Crunchy Cabbage

Cilantro & Lime Infused Shrimp Tacos“I remember my childhood names for grasses and secret flowers. I remember where a toad may live and what time the birds awaken in the summer — and what trees and seasons smelled like…”
-John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Our gladiolas are blooming which is a sure sign that fall is peeking around the corner.

Our gladiolas are blooming which is a sure sign that fall is peeking around the corner. I love to sit right here and have coffee in the morning and/or iced tea in the afternoon.

While I do not enjoy saying goodbye to summer, I love the feeling of transition that fall brings. There is elegance in autumn that is not present in other seasons. Now that I live on a farm, I am finding that I trust my senses more to announce the transition from summer to fall in the landscape. I watch the birds circling the sky, measure the way the morning light filters through the pasture, and I capture various scents in the air.

August Sky

August Sky

Our spring chicks are now full grown hens.

Our spring chicks are now full grown hens.

I LOVE our duck! Even if he refuses to go in the beautiful pond that John made for him.

I LOVE our duck! Even if he refuses to go in the beautiful pond that John made for him.

It’s truly been a magical summer and I feel like I have so much blogging to do to catch up. June started with a trip to New York City and ended with our belated honey moon to Alaska.

My husband built a pond/waterfall, installed a pool, created gardening spaces for me, and did various landscaping projects. We got approved for a grant from the USDA for a hoop house/greenhouse (which will be delivered in the next few weeks) and we added a new rototiller and sawmill to our farm equipment.

Our hotel was only a few blocks from Times Square and Central Park

Our hotel was only a few blocks from Times Square and Central Park

One of my students won a national writing award with the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and I was presented with a medal and certificate of achievement.

One of my students won a national writing award with the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and I was presented with a medal and certificate of achievement.

Prospecting for Gold in Chicken Alaska

Prospecting for Gold in Chicken Alaska.

One of our "off the grid" camping spots .

One of our “off the grid” camping spots .

Alaskan Fireweed and Mountains

Alaskan Fireweed and Mountains

Our Golden Retriever Ollie even relaxed in the pool this summer.

Our Golden Retriever Ollie even relaxed in the pool this summer.

The beautiful pond John built and my adorable step kids.

The beautiful pond John built and my adorable step kids.

The weather this summer was gorgeous and I walked laps around the pasture for exercise (sometimes while playing “Alien Hunter” with my step son) and we had evening fires in our backyard (which almost always involved a dance party with my step kids).

Lukas received this cool back pack from Uncle Nick. It holds all the essentials that an alien hunter needs: alien proof goggles, food source (snake), guns, and a radio. The radio also serves as an invisibility cloak ray gun (helpful to hide from the Queen..though she can still smell us). I love his imagination!

Lukas received this cool back pack from Uncle Nick. It holds all the essentials that an alien hunter needs: alien proof goggles, food source (snake), guns, and a radio. The radio also serves as an invisibility cloak ray gun (helpful to hide from the Queen..though she can still smell us). I love his imagination!

Speaking of my step kids, I have to give a shameless plug to my sweet stepdaughter Avalon’s YouTube Channel. She is ten years old and I have featured a few of her recipes here on my blog. Not only does she love to help me in the kitchen but we love to shop together and she shares my passion for writing, social media, and being creative.

Avalon and I had a spa day and got our back to school haircuts.

Avalon and I had a spa day and got our back to school haircuts.

Her “House Tour Video” is absolutely adorable and I think that her sparkling personality really shines through. Now that the pool is installed the sunflowers are ready to bloom, I told Avalon that she needs to do an update. Make sure you check out her video, give it a like, and if you leave a comment it will really make her day. This week we hope to record a video together of our new clothes for the school year. Avalon thinks that I need to start adding videos to my blog. What do you think? 😉

Avalon’s YouTube channel.

Autumn marks a time for fresh starts and in our house it means getting back to the basics with a new school year. Since I am a teacher, I join my kids in embracing an early bedtime routine, homework (in my case grading and lesson planning), and setting academic and personal goals.

As busy as our schedules get, I do not want to abandon our family dinners around the table. Last fall Lukas (who is now seven) declared that we should have Taco Tuesdays – and we obliged. Sometimes it may end up being Taco Monday or Thursday – but taco night is a hit in our household. Not only does it suit the meat eaters and the vegetarian in our house, but also the leftovers easily convert into salad, nachos, soup, or pizza. Depending on what we have in the house we prepare guacamole, spicy rice, refried or black beans, seasoned meat, and serve up sour cream, cheese, peppers, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, and a variety of sauces.

Since we have a farm we raise our own pork and chicken (and soon beef), but my husband also loves seafood. For this recipe I came up with a simple marinade for shrimp (that would work well with any protein). Vegetarians could also use it to marinate squash, which is abundant in gardens and the supermarket this time of year.
The shrimp tacos also receive a burst of flavor and satisfying crunch from a cabbage slaw that is dressed with the same marinade as the shrimp.

Lukas helped me plant cilantro this summer and he loves adding it to our homemade guacamole and salsa made from our homegrown tomatoes. Have you noticed how kids are willing to eat healthier and try new foods when they help grow and prepare it themselves?

Lukas helped me plant basil, dill, and cilantro in an old tin tub and it is flourishing!

Lukas helped me plant basil, dill, and cilantro in an old tin tub and it is flourishing!

Ingredients:

I recently fell in love with Penzeys spices. My husband enjoys this Cajun spice in alfredo pasta and on eggs too.

I recently fell in love with Penzeys spices. My husband enjoys this Cajun spice in alfredo pasta and on eggs too.

*1 pound of raw shrimp
*1 bunch of cilantro
*1/4 cup chopped onion
*1/2 small cabbage
*3 juiced limes and zest
*2 Tablespoons of olive oil
*1 Tablespoon of Cajun seasoning
*2 teaspoons of sugar
*Salt and pepper

IMG_4036CILANTRO & LIME MARINADE
Pour the following marinade on the shrimp (remove shell and tails):
*Juice and zest of two limes
*1 Tablespoon olive oil

*2 minced cloves of garlic
*1 Tablespoons of Cajun spice (more if you want extra spice. Since the Cajun seasoning that I added already had salt, I did not add any additional)
*1/2 cup of fresh chopped cilantro

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IMG_4047CABBAGE SLAW:
*Chop ½ of the small cabbage
*Juice and zest of one lime

*1 Tablespoon olive oil
*1/2 cup of chopped cilantro
*1 clove of minced garlic
*2 teaspoons of sugar
*Salt and pepper to taste

Ideally, let the shrimp and slaw sit for several hours in the refrigerator (it works well to make the night before). You can grill the shrimp or cook over the stove top until the shrimp turns pink. Serve the shrimp and cabbage on flour tortillas with spicy ranch dressing. You can buy many versions in the store or add salsa to ranch dressing. For a healthier version you can add salsa or hot sauce to plain, fat-free Greek yogurt.

PRINTABLE RECIPE HERE: CILANTRO & LIME INFUSED SHRIMP TACOS

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I hope your family enjoys the fresh flavors of these tacos as much as mine did. Make sure you check out these other recipes for versatile Taco night: Spicy Brown Rice and Snappy Salsa, Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette Dressing, Homemade Taco Seasoning, Layered Refried Bean and Guacamole Dip, Confetti Salad.

Thank you for following my blog and while I have a lot of my plate in the coming months with a new school year, thesis writing, an internship, and motherhood, but I am going to try my best to keep posting. Until then make sure you follow my page on Facebook, Instagram, and I would love to hear from you! ❤

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Savor Summer with an August Green Smoothie Challenge

Summer Green Smoothie Challenge by Produce with AmyAugust is almost here and I would love for you to join me in savoring the last days of summer by participating in a Green Smoothie Challenge. The goal is to drink one Green Smoothie a day (using my recipes or yours) and you can post on my Facebook page, on your social media accounts (make sure to tag me), or here on my blog to help stay accountable and I will be doing the same!

I have a month’s worth of green smoothie recipes with weekly shopping lists and I tried to keep them simple and affordable by taking advantage what is fresh and ripe at our farmer’s markets and supermarkets. You can swap out any ingredients that you wish and please share your favorite combinations. 

We start Monday and here is the shopping list for week #1.

*Spinach (3 ~ nine ounce bags of spinach)
*Bananas (5-7)
*1 peach
*1 nectarine
*1 fresh pineapple
*1 avocado
*2 limes
*1 ~ twelve ounce bag of frozen raspberries (or 2 containers of fresh)
*1 ~ bag of fresh or frozen cherries
*1 bunch of parsley
*1 bunch of cilantro
*1 bunch of fresh basil
*Fresh ginger root
**Coconut water (optional ~(regular water works fine but there are many health benefits to drinking coconut water. It can often be found in the Latin food or heath food section of the supermarket. I usually buy one large can per two green smoothies…or a couple liter containers).
*Chia seeds (Optional – you may also use flax or hemp seeds)

Find the recipes, the other shopping lists for the month, and tips and tricks if you are new to green smoothies here: http://wp.me/p31v4R-Vb

╰ ☆ ╮ƸӜƷ╰ ☆ ╮Please CLICK SHARE and help spread the green smoothie love!╰ ☆ ╮ƸӜƷ╰ ☆ ╮

Greem Smoothies 3