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Mediterranean Veggies with Basil Chicken

I was inspired to make this colorful and light veggie dish after having something similar at an organic café in Minneapolis. It was so easy to recreate and pairs wonderfully with a variety of proteins – chicken, shrimp, fish, garbanzo beans – or just by itself. I’ll describe how I made the chicken, but feel free to leave it out or substitute your favorite protein.

You’ll need:

• 2 chicken breasts, tenderized (i.e. pounded flat with a meat hammer)
• 2 Roma tomatoes, cut into 1/8’s
• 1 bunch asparagus, cut in 1/2’s or 1/3’s
• 2 zucchini, spiralized into zoodles
• Feta cheese, to taste
• Butter or ghee
• Garlic, 2 minced cloves or 1 heaping tablespoon of pre-minced
• 1/4 cup water

Use to taste for both the chicken and the veggies:

• Dried basil
• Dried oregano
• Onion powder
• Salt and pepper
• Cooking oil

Directions:

1. Cook the chicken first. First, pound it nice and flat, then season the top with basil, oregano, onion powder, and salt and pepper. Heat cooking oil in a pan on medium heat, and place chicken into the pan. Let it cook halfway through, then flip it to sear the top side.

2. Once seared, flip the chicken back over, add a tablespoon or butter or ghee to the pan, and baste the chicken. Test for an internal temp of 165, and set aside to rest when done or very close to that temperature.

3. Heat oil in a stir fry pan, and sauté garlic. Once fragrant, add asparagus. Add 1/4 cup water to the pan, then cover and steam asparagus for 2-3 minutes.

4. Add in the zoodles and tomatoes, heating through until zoodles are at desired tenderness. While they are cooking, add in 2 tablespoons of butter/ghee, mixing with the garlic and natural vegetable juices to form your sauce.

5. Add in all seasonings to your preference.

6. Sprinkle feta cheese on top and let heat just briefly before serving with the chicken.

At Peace

Her face shrunken,
plastered into a restful seriousness,
wears an expression it never did
when she was alive.
I see no promise of her being at peace.

I can picture the tiny head
of my chameleon, Deacon,
his eyeballs bulged against
the lids that wouldn’t open
as hard as I cried.

Staring at his belly,
counting each breath.
His colors changed from
bright green to brown.

She brought me a blue box,
Anthony’s Jewelers written
on top in sprawling golden letters.
His tail wrapped to his head,
Deacon was laid to rest.

We both wore lipstick to the funeral,
her fancy shade of sunny mauve.
Then under our willow,
she said a prayer for
his precious lizard soul.

Now, her face fake and orange,
the sunny mauve matches
the casket lining too well, I notice,
as I lay my hands
on the shiny mahogany box.

The Queen’s Apple

If you think you know this one
Well, you just wait a minute
‘Cause stories can go many ways
Depending how you spin it

You’ve heard about a gal named Snow
And her seven little friends
But I bet you never heard the way
The story really ends

Snow was sure most beautiful
But she was also bright
She knew the forest inside out
And could put up quite a fight

Somewhere deep inside the woods
There lived a wicked queen
Who envied Snow in every way
Which made her act quite mean

And then one day that jealous queen
Pretended she was poor
She cried and said she needed help
Something Snow might fall for

But Snow was smarter than the queen
And saw through the charade
She knew that it was all a scheme
When she came by the old maid

But Snow felt sorry for the queen
And so she took the fruit
But as soon as she was out of sight
She kicked it with her boot

Through the trees that apple rolled
It’s spell still going strong
It came to rest next to a creek
Just when the queen came along

The queen, exhausted from her scheming
Dipped down to take a drink
And there the apple caught her eye
And she couldn’t help but think

“Why, what a lovely piece of fruit,
Such shiny, crimson skin.”
And before she gave another thought,
The queen just dove right in

It may have been her second thought
(Though clearly not her first)
That this, her lovely evening snack
The queen herself had cursed.

The wicked queen had always known
She’d pay for her life of sin
How fitting then that her demise
Was a dose of her own medicine.

Cheesy Broc-Cauli Rice with Bacon

Get ready- I’m about to up your veggie game in the most delicious way! This dish can be served as a side or eaten as a complete meal. It has all the requirements – protein, multiple servings of vegetables, healthy fat, and spice!

I’ve talked before about making cauliflower rice. You’ll want to do that again here, and also rice up broccoli in the same way. We tried this at home once, and now, that’s all we do. I call it “Broc-cauli rice.” Make it in bulk and store it flat in the freezer. When you’re ready to cook, just thaw for a couple minutes in cool water so you can easily get it out of the bag.

Ingredients:

Avocado oil – enough to coat the bottom of the pan
Garlic – 2 cloves or a teaspoon, chopped
Broccoli – 1 head, riced
Cauliflower – 1 head, riced
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cheddar cheese – 1 cup
Cream cheese – 1 ounce
Jalapeño slices – 10-15, chopped
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Bacon – 5 slices (1/2 pound), chopped

Instructions:

  1. Heat a large pan and add avocado oil. Sauté garlic until fragrant.
  2. Add broc-cauli rice, mixing in garlic. Sprinkle in salt and pepper. Once heated through, broc-cauli rice will begin to soften.
  3. Add cheddar cheese and cream cheese, stir until melted and incorporated throughout.
  4. Mix in jalapeños, red pepper flakes, and bacon.
  5. You know what to do next.

 

 

 

Sweet Dreams Potion

I wouldn’t say I’m a proponent of lying to your kids. Not really. But I am a proponent of greasing their imaginations to stir up courage, positivity, and fun! I admit, the “greasing” is typically spurred on by a desire to preserve my own sanity, but I don’t think that’s selfish. I mean, when Mom is sane, we all win, right? Right.

Our 4 year old is afraid of bugs. More precisely, she is deathly afraid of all bugs. This has been easy enough to navigate during the winter, but with spring (supposedly) on the horizon, it’s getting harder by the day. We had a housefly buzzing around the other day, and she screamed bloody murder, started shaking, and ran for shelter. And she knew it was just a fly. Oh, and ladybugs? Forget it! She does NOT find them cute in the least.

We were dealing with this phobia alright until the other night. At two in morning, she started screaming about imaginary bees and for the next three hours, begged to sleep in our bed. Something had to be done. So, naturally, I made up a potion.

Inspired by a friend’s story of using “monster spray,” I came up with the Sweet Dreams (and no bugs) Potion. This potion, combined with two new night lights, will keep your preschooler’s dreams free from bugs and your bed free from preschoolers. Or at least, that’s how it worked at my house. Anything is worth a shot for a good night’s sleep!

Recipe for:

Sweet Dreams (and No Bugs) Potion:

  • Fill a spray bottle with water, then add:
    • 5 drops lavender essential oil
      1 drop peppermint essential oil
      A pinch of sugar
      A kiss from every person in the house

    Shake it up while saying these words:

    Sweet dreams, no bugs
    Bedtime kiss and lots of hugs
    Bad thoughts out, good thoughts in
    Soon the sun will rise again

    Spray two pumps in your room at bedtime for sweet dreams (and no bugs). Spray more or repeat the words as needed.

    Sweet dreams!

    Go To Nashville

    Y’all, go to Nashville. Seriously.

    I’m from the Midwest and probably have no right to use the term y’all, but I’m going to because y’all need to go there. Even if you don’t like bbq. Even if you think Jason Aldean is a hack. Even if you have never seen one episode of the extremely popular hit series by the same name.

    There is truly something for everyone in this city. Want a laid back lounge? Hit Skull’s Rainbow Room. Want a rockin’ honkey tonk? Check out every corner of Broadway. Just want to eat some great food? Go anywhere in the Gulch, especially for brunch. Want a history lesson? Take a plantation tour, or go through any of the various music museums.

    Where to stay and where to go:

    We stayed at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in the Gulch, which is about a mile off of Broadway (Nashville’s version of “the strip”). As our Lyft driver put it, “Five years ago, no one went to the Gulch without a gun.” Today, it’s a revitalized hipster haven with tons of restaurants/bars/venues within walking distance. The streets are not nearly as crowded as Broadway, and there are no souvenir shops (I looked). I would highly recommend staying in the Gulch. That way, you can take on the chaos of Broadway only after you’ve had your coffee, a nice brunch, and about 10 mimosas.

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    My crew was ready for the bright lights of Broadway!

    Broadway has all the action. There is a party every 10 feet, so if you don’t like one vibe, you can move on to the next. For instance, Acme Feed & Seed has 4 levels, each with its own theme. The main floor has more of a diner feel with a full band every night of the weekend. The second floor is a dance club/lounge. The third is a mystery to me, as it was closed for a private party, but on the 4th level, the rooftop view is breathtaking and worth the climb. We  also loved Benchmark Nashville because of the quality of live music and the relatively laid back atmosphere. It’s basically like anyone’s hometown bar, but there’s a man/woman duo who plays there, and their talent is captivating.

     

    Printer’s Alley is an easy walk just a few blocks off Broadway with a completely different vibe. I was taken by the concept of this area because it started as a place for newspaper printers, then turned into a series of speakeasies during Prohibition. When you enter Skull’s Rainbow Room, you jump right back in time. The peephole on the door, the low ceilings, the cozy booths. Next time I go to Nashville, I will make a reservation at this place. As it was, we could only stand around like morons while the people smart enough to think ahead sat and enjoyed what looked to be amazing food.

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    Skull’s Rainbow Room @ Printer’s Alley  –                                                                                             Doesn’t look like much from this angle, but you get the speakeasy vibe.

    The food:

    I went to Nashville with one food goal in mind – hot chicken. And I never had it! I have no regrets. The restaurants were all top notch. Our first night, we indulged and spent more on one meal at The Chef & I than we normally spend on a month’s worth of groceries. Was it good? Yep. Would I do that again? Nope. I’m glad I did it once though. We ordered the chef’s tasting menu, which was 7 courses of Heaven including pork belly, Lobster Wellington, octopus, and seared Ahi tuna. Our greatest takeaway from that was the concept of avocado rice. I think that was worth the entire bill since we’ve started to make it at home now. (Look for a recipe soon!)

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    Skil fish in a coconut curry sauce

    The food at The Southern Steak & Oyster (just off Broadway) was just as good. The espresso martini was the perfect start, and the fried green tomatoes and cheese grits were the best appetizer I’ve ever had, hands down.

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    The beautiful Nikki with her creamy espresso martini at The Southern.

    Sambuca was another sweet spot in the Gulch. We went there too late (closes at 11), but I would go early and spend a whole night there next time. The Chris Weaver Band played fun dance covers with more energy than my daughter’s preschool class. Check him out when you get a chance. I would have never guessed that voice came out of that cowboy.

    The two hottest brunch spots in Nashville are both in the Gulch. Milk & Honey has a total Joanna Gaines vibe and is just around the corner from the famed Nashville graffiti wings. The two hour wait gave us plenty of time to walk over to Music Row and drink a bucket (yes, a BUCKET) of mimosas at Frisky Frog’s. Happy Anniversary to us!

     

    I don’t know if this is nostalgia talking since it was our last meal in Nashville, but I think my favorite dish of the whole trip was at Biscuit Love…Bonuts. These magical creatures are some sort of mix between a biscuit and a donut, laid upon a bed of blueberry compote and topped with a lemon mascarpone. I literally licked the plate.

     

     

    Other Stuff To Do:

    The Opry – Go to the Grand Ole Opry. It’s so cool. There’s so much history, the building is gorgeous, the seats are comfy, and you get to see 12 different artists perform. Our lineup was amazing, but even if you don’t know a single soul on the stage, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

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    Darius Rucker at the Opry

    The Johnny Cash Museum – I love Johnny Cash, and now that I’ve been to his museum, I love him even more. There’s no tour guide or anything, so you can just walk through at your own pace. If you have some time, there are a lot of fun listening stations. I was especially impressed with Snoop Dogg’s cover of I Walk the Line.

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    Belle Meade Plantation – The only sunny day we had was our last day, so we didn’t get to spend nearly enough time at Belle Meade. The 8 miles between Nashville and the plantation are so different from the city with sprawling lawns, colonial houses, and hundreds of towering Magnolia trees. The plantation itself is several acres, but the family used to own the entire area where the town is now. The family’s mansion still stands, along with several outbuildings, including slave quarters and a distillery. I would have loved to take the “African American Experience” tour, but that was full, so we toured the mansion instead. The tour guides dress in costume, and they’re extremely knowledgeable about the time period and the family. It truly makes history come to life.

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    Formerly a slave, the horse trainer lived here with his family.

    Scooters – I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the scooters in Nashville. Although our traveling was done by foot or by Lyft, we saw these scooters everywhere! Various kinds from various companies, as well as various levels of sobriety in the riders. (P.S. I’ve heard the locals hate them.)

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    I’ll say it again – y’all, go to Nashville! The music, the food, the atmosphere, the history. There is something for everyone! Well… except the kids. Leave the kids at home for this one.

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    Shock Guac

    In case you’ve been living under a rock, I need to alert you to the wonders of the avocado. Rather boring looking from the outside, the avocado contains a bright green “healthy fat” that can take a dish from ZZZZ to yippee! I admit, I’m dorking out on avocado, but it’s SO good. I even use it in place of a banana in my smoothie sometimes, which creates a silky texture more suitable for a spoon than a straw.

    Anyway, my 4 year old could make regular guacamole, but this one is NOT for her tiny tastebuds. I debated on whether to call this Guaca-holy moly, but ended up with the even classier title. The credit for this recipe goes to my husband, but the name was all me. 🙂

    2 ripe avocados, mashed
    4 t lime juice
    10-12 jalapeño slices, chopped
    1/2 t onion powder
    2-3 t crushed red pepper
    3 pinches salt
    2 pinches pepper

    Stir it all together until well blended. Eat on top of basically anything, including roasted sweet potatoes, eggs, rice, or alone with chips or veggies.

     

    5 Things that Surprised Me About Getting Hearing Aids

    Aaahhh!!!!! What the hell is in my ear????

    Oh yeah, I have hearing aids now. No big deal. Or is it?

    I certainly did not think hearing aids would be a thing in the early second half of my thirties (NOT late thirties, mind you). But what do you know, they are. The first two weeks, I thought about them constantly. Will they ever feel comfortable? Are they working? What’s that noise? Can people see them? And if I stopped thinking about them for one second, I would start swatting and say,

    “What the hell is in my ear????!!!!”

    Oh yeah. I have hearing aids now. And the cycle would continue.

    Here are 5 things that surprised me about getting hearing aids:

    1. I didn’t realize how much I needed them until I had them.

    My hearing loss started over 8 years ago when I was in my twenties and pregnant with my first child. My ears started ringing constantly, but my OB told me it would likely go away once I had the baby. (Something about increased blood flow during pregnancy. I don’t know. I couldn’t hear half of what she said. HA!) When it didn’t subside, I headed to an ENT. I had a terrible head cold that day and convinced myself that was what caused the hearing test to show I had mild hearing loss. Frankly, I was just there to rule out a brain tumor, so once I did, I stopped listening. I learned to live with the ringing in my ears (tinnitus), using white noise to mask it when it got bad.

    Then, a few months ago, I started hearing my heart beat in my ears. I found it pretty hard to ignore, and when I discovered that a friend from college had opened an audiology clinic across the street from my office, it felt like a sign. After running the gamut of tests and making me laugh away my anxiety, Melissa told me my hearing loss had gotten worse, and she would recommend hearing aids in both ears.

    Uh, what?

    I was shocked at first because I really didn’t feel like I had that much trouble hearing, but over the following weeks, it started to dawn on me – my husband’s annoyance with having to repeat himself, my preference for taking phone calls on speakerphone (or not at all), awkwardly smiling and nodding after missing half the conversation in a crowded restaurant, looking the wrong way when there was a noise in the distance. It all added up. I did struggle with hearing. I had just thought it was normal.

    1. Hearing aids are not covered by insurance.

    The next shock was sticker shock. Hearing aids are not cheap, especially the most current technology. On top of that, the insurance industry views hearing aids as “nice to have” not “need to have,” which really fired me up. I was insulted by the idea that hearing is viewed as a luxury. Untreated hearing loss is linked to social isolation, depression, lower wages, and above all else, DEMENTIA.  Hearing stimulates specific paths in your brain that will shut down if they aren’t used, which can cause the loss of gray matter. People with untreated hearing loss are 2-3 times more likely to develop dementia! So, we’re not talking about my ears – we’re talking about my brain. I don’t know about you, but I’m fairly protective over my brain, so to me, hearing aids were 100% necessary. Despite what insurance companies think, untreated hearing loss doesn’t come without consequences.

    Vision used to have the same problem. In fact, vision insurance didn’t exist until 1955 when a group of optometrists got together to form a non-profit vision benefit company. Now that we understand more about the effects of hearing loss, I predict the same for hearing coverage in the semi-near future.

    1. Having hearing aids doesn’t make me feel old.

    It might make some people feel old, especially if the hearing loss is age-related, but my hearing loss started in my 20’s (where I still mentally live), so it didn’t make me feel old at all. Actually, with the blue-tooth technology my hearing aids have, they kind of make me feel cool. It’s like having invisible air pods in all the time.

    1. It’s emotional.

    Even though no one can really see them and they don’t make me feel old, getting hearing aids was an emotional experience for me. The idea of needing “equipment” to go through my everyday life was disconcerting. It seemed like news I had to break to people. Sometimes, I was met with an overwhelming amount of sympathy.

    Person: Oh my God, I am so sorry! Are you okay?

    Me: Oh yeah, no big deal. Like 7 million Americans have them, so it’s super common.

    Other times, I was met with a shrug.

    Person: Oh, cool. I know 14 other people who have hearing aids.

    Me: But this is a HUGE deal! Feel sorry for me and give me all your attention!

    In short, it was a rollercoaster, and I really didn’t know how to feel about it.

    1. It quickly becomes normal.

    I’ve never had to wear glasses, but that’s kind of how I view my hearing aids now. Every morning, I put them in. Every night, I take them out. I’ve gotten more familiar with the app that lets me adjust them for any given environment, and it can be fun to play around with it.

    The good part about experiencing something like this is being able to guide other people through it. It can be scary and isolating and just plain confusing, but you’re not alone. Does the physical pain/discomfort go away? Yes. Does your brain adjust to all the new sounds you’re hearing? Yes. Will you still mistakenly think there is a bug in your ear once in a while? Yes. Or maybe that’s just me.

    Asian-inspired Salmon with Stir-fried Vegetables

    For the Salmon:
    Salmon fillets
    Salt and pepper
    Oil
    1 T Butter

    For the veggies:
    Bell peppers, thinly sliced
    Zucchini, cut into small sticks
    1T Sesame oil
    2 T Stir fry oil
    Salt and pepper
    Mongolian fire oil, if desired

    For the sauce:
    1 T Pad Thai sauce seasoning packet
    1/2 C water
    2 T Soy sauce or liquid aminos

    Other:
    Rice or grains of some sort

    I was so grumpy the other day. Just ask my husband. Super grumpy. I knew I needed to do something to get my head on straight, and what better than a super delicious supper (paired with a vodka tonic)? I stopped at a fresh seafood place on my way home (Yes, we have these in South Dakota…okay, we have ONE, but it’s good!) and picked up a few fillets of Atlantic salmon with the skin on.

    I had a few colorful bell peppers and zucchini in the fridge and decided to slice those up in a different way, making them long and thin. You could really use whatever vegetables you want. I just love the bright colors of bell peppers.

    Directions:

    1. Sauté your choice of veggies in cooking oil (I use a mediterranean blend) until they are not crisp but not mushy, adding a little sesame oil, stir fry oil if you have it, salt, and pepper while they cook. To spice it up, add some Mongolian fire oil or other hot oil. Once the veggies are cooked, move on to the salmon. (It’s expensive, so I always make an effort to not do anything else when I’m cooking it, which is very hard for a scatterbrain like me).

    2. Sprinkle the salmon with salt and pepper, then prepare to cook it. (I used a nonstick copper pan, got it nice and hot, drizzled some oil in, and got that nice and hot too so the salmon skin would sear when I placed it in.)

    3. Let the salmon cook skin side down for the majority of the cook time. (I can’t tell you how long that is, since it really depends on the thickness of your fillet, but somewhere between 3-7 minutes.)

    4. While the salmon is cooking, add some butter into the pan and baste the salmon with the melted butter. Flip the salmon when it is getting close to cooked through so you can get a nice gentle sear on the top where you’ve been basting it. (Sometimes I do this too soon and have to flip it back over.)

    5. Set salmon aside to rest, then make the sauce.

    6. Any sort of Asian-inspired sauce would work, but I used a tablespoon of pad Thai seasoning, simmered with water and liquid aminos until it thickened into more of a glaze.

    7. I had a package of seven grain something or another from Costco, so I threw that in the microwave.

    8. Plate it all up and enjoy!

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